I feared the worst, says Tsvangirai October 16 2004 at
Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, has
been acquitted of treason in a long-awaited judgment met with jubilation in
Harare on Friday.
The ruling surprised Tsvangirai and many
others who had believed Zimbabwe's discredited courts would retain a guilty
verdict against the firebrand opposition leader who faced the death penalty
if he had been convicted.
Tsvangirai in an interview: "I am
frankly surprised. This whole trial was political and, although I had hoped
for the best, I cannot hide that I had largely feared the
The treason charge arose from an alleged 2002 plot by
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), to kill
President Robert Mugabe.
High Court Judge President Paddington
Garwe dismissed the case for lack of evidence. He said the state had failed
to prove high treason beyond reasonable doubt.
South African lawyer, George Bizos, described the ruling as "a victory for
justice in Zimbabwe". But Tsvangirai is not yet completely off the hook
because he faces a second treason charge over demonstrations he called early
last year to protest against Mugabe's tyranny.
government alleges Tsvangirai called the demonstrations to remove Mugabe's
government from power unconstitutionally.
The acquittal in the
first treason case has nonetheless come as a huge relief for Tsvangirai and
his supporters who had been severely curtailed from organising any forms of
resistance against the Mugabe regime while two treason charges hung over
their leader's head.
In the courtroom, Tsvangirai's supporters
swarmed the smiling opposition leader soon after the verdict was announced
and broke into song and dance.
But chaos reigned outside the
court complex where more than 20 MDC supporters were arrested as well as
Associated Press journalist Angus Shaw and two photographers from the local
Hordes of heavily armed riot police fired teargas at groups
of MDC supporters as they celebrated the judgment around
Police sealed all streets leading to the court before the
judgment and mounted roadblocks on others. Zimbabwe airforce planes flew
around the city as the judge prepared to announce his verdict.
The entire Zimbabwe army had also been put on standby in anticipation of
chaos if Tsvangirai was convicted.
The MDC was quick to warn
against regarding the acquittal as the arrival of a new dawn of independence
for Zimbabwe's largely corrupt judiciary.
MDC spokesman Paul
Themba Nyathi, said: "The fact remains that this is a case which should not
have gone to court in the first place...
"Furthermore there was not
an iota of evidence on which any judge could have justified a
Tsvangirai's first treason charge came just before the
March 2002 presidential election when he was accused of hiring a
Canadian-based political consultant, Ari Ben Menashe, in a "mission" to kill
Mugabe and stage a coup d'etat.
Evidence against Tsvangirai
focused on a grainy video tape secretly recorded by Ben Menashe at a
Montreal meeting at which the opposition leader allegedly discussed Mugabe's
.. This article was originally
published on page 2 of Cape Argus on October 16, 2004
The leader of Zimbabwe's main
opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai, was cleared on Friday of charges of
plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe, a step he said could pave the way
for a national reconciliation in the deeply divided nation. But the
government reacted by saying the verdict had been wrong and said it might
take further legal action.
"After perusing the judgment, the government
of Zimbabwe is of the strong view that the accused, Morgan Tsvangirai, has
been wrongly acquitted," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in a
The minister said the government "accepts and respects the
verdict but reserves the right to exercise other options available to it in
terms of the law".
Charges of high treason were brought against
Tsvangirai based on a secretly filmed meeting he had in 2001 with
Canadian-based political consultant Ari Ben Menashe in 2001. The government
alleged the videotape of the meeting showed Tsvangirai seeking help to kill
Mugabe and stage a coup.
But Tsvangirai, who could have faced the death
penalty if found guilty, was acquitted on Friday by Judge Paddington Garwe
of the Harare High Court.
"The state has not been able to prove high
treason beyond reasonable doubt," the judge said, triggering thunderous
applause from onlookers in the packed courtroom.
A beaming Tsvangirai
went over and hugged his lawyers before walking out of the courthouse
hand-in-hand with his wife and driving away.
Judge Garwe said the
testimony of Menashe, the government's star witness, had been suspect and
the main evidence -- the grainy videotape of the meeting with Tsvangirai --
had not proved the latter had asked for help to "eliminate" the country's
long-time head of state.
"What is clear is that this evidence has to be
treated with circumspection," Garwe said. The videotape did "not give a
complete picture of what was discussed", the picture was "hazy" and the
sound was "broken", he said.
"It is common cause that nowhere in the
videotape is there a direct request made by the accused ... to assassinate
the president and arrange a coup," he concluded. The justice minister
rejected Garwe's verdict.
"There was enough evidence contained in the
video and the transcript of the video to secure and justify a conviction in
the case," Chinamasa insisted.
During his marathon trial, which began in
February 2003, Tsvangirai's defence argued Menashe had been hired by the
government to frame the opposition leader ahead of a presidential election
in March 2002, which Tsvangirai lost to Mugabe.
Tsvangirai, a former
labour leader, blames the government lead by Mugabe, who has been in power
for 24 years, for the economic and political problems that are crippling the
southern African country.
Addressing reporters during celebrations at his
home after the verdict, Tsvangirai said he had been "prepared for the
"As it turned out, justice has taken its course. I have been
vindicated," he said. Tsvangirai told reporters his political party, the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had yet to decide whether or not to
run in the general election scheduled for next March.
government) have six months. When we come to the elections they cannot make
an excuse that 'we did not get sufficient time to correct the electoral
environment so that it becomes level, so that it becomes free and fair',"
He said a decision on whether the MDC would contest
the ballot would be taken "when we have made the holistic assessment of the
situation then --but not now".
"The elections I think are going to be
an opportunity and a challenge for the MDC," Tsvangirai added.
upbeat about the future prospects of his party, which some observers said
was losing steam ahead of the crucial parliamentary poll.
"Some of the
people who have decided to write off the MDC have to think again," he said.
"This party is an alternative. It's an idea whose time has come. It cannot
be wished away."
Security was tight across Harare on Friday. Police and
paramilitary forces patrolled areas around the High Court - which is
opposite key government buildings -- and put up roadblocks on streets
leading to the court complex.
After the verdict, police fired teargas and
used batons to disperse some 200 supporters who were celebrating outside the
court and blocking traffic, witnesses said.
Three journalists were
arrested but later released. Twenty opposition supporters, mainly women and
young men, were also taken in and held for several hours. Most were released
after paying 'admission of guilt' fines, said an opposition official. -
Observers see Zimbabwe's economic decline as a classic case of
By Shakeman Mugari in Harare (AR No. 01,
Despite latest figures showing a halving of the country's
rampant inflation rate from a peak of over 600 per cent in June, Zimbabwe
shows no signs of recovering from its biggest economic crisis since
independence. If anything, given fears of failing banks and a collapse in
water pumping stations around Harare, things could even get
The country's economy is in its fifth year of recession with most
analysts here blaming the current government for the crisis. The economy
they say has crashed due to poor policies and misrule by President Robert
Mugabe. However, he insists the problems have been caused by droughts and
western sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The country's economy has slumped
by more than 70 per cent in the last four years with analysts predicting
that the slide is likely to continue if no new policies are put in place.
This year alone, GDP is expected to fall a further five per cent.
story of Zimbabwe is both complex and sad. It is the tale of a country once
regarded as a shinning example of a prospering African economy that failed
due to poor governance. Just half a decade ago, the country was the
breadbasket of Southern Africa. Producing on average three million metric
tonnes of maize per year, it was able to feed itself and its
According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, RBZ, in the late
1990s the economy was growing at an average of five per cent per annum with
a thriving agricultural sector as the anchor of growth. Its currency was
relatively stable against the dollar and the British pound. The
manufacturing and tourism sectors were also flourishing. At their peak,
Zimbabwe's exports were worth more than 3.4 billion US dollars.
in 1999 the economy crashed. Suddenly, the country became a classic example
of economic dissolution. For the first time in its 19 years of independence,
Zimbabwe could not feed itself. Production in the manufacturing sector hit
rock bottom while the tourist industry came close to collapse. The question
of what went wrong is still a subject for public debate and serious
discussion in political circles.
Despite the fact that his economic
crisis came first, President Mugabe blames the current malaise on the
international community's imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe following its
land reform, which began in 2000. He says Britain and the United States
wanted to undermine his government for taking land from white
But analysts insist that the current problems are a result of
the government's muddled land reform; the breakdown of the rule of law; and
poor fiscal management. The combination of factors helped to scare off
potential investors and cause a massive brain drain.
"It is Mugabe's
chaotic land reform, violence against the opposition and unsustainable
expenditure that has caused the meltdown," said independent Harare-based
economist John Robertson.
"We are in the current mess because of poor
governance. We have lost many international friends. Our export capacity is
at its lowest and we have a foreign currency crisis."
As well as the
emigration of the brightest and best people, the HIV\AIDS pandemic has
seriously contributed to Zimbabwe's woes. The Zimbabwe Aids Council reports
that a quarter of the country's 13 million people are infected. More than
1200 deaths are recorded each day.
The remaining pool of professionals is
ever shrinking as people continue to leave for the United Kingdom, New
Zealand and the United States. Some have also skipped into neigbouring
countries such as South Africa and Botswana. A recent brain drain report by
the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions estimates more than 4 million
Zimbabweans are now living in the diaspora.
The crisis in Zimbabwe's
agricultural sector started when the government began seizing land from
commercial white farmers who at that time held more than 60 per cent of the
country's arable land. Ignoring the promises made by donors to support the
land reform at a donor meeting in 1998 in Harare, Mugabe allowed the war
veterans to invade white-owned farms bringing production to a
The Commercial Farmers Union, a grouping of mostly white
farmers, says the sector which used to employ a third of the country's
workforce has been completely destroyed. Only a tenth of former commercial
farms remain partially operational. Production of tobacco, once the
country's chief foreign currency earner, has plunged by more than 76 per
cent over the last four years to a paltry 60,000 tonnes in the season just
The last few years have also seen a sharp fall in the production
of maize - the staple food - from about three million tonnes in 1999 to
290,000 tonnes this year. As a result, Zimbabwe is now expected to survive
on maize imports from Zambia, which has recorded a surplus for the first
time in history. Harare has already started importing maize from South
Godfrey Kanyenze, Director for Labour at the Economic Development
Research Institute of Zimbabwe, an independent labour institute, says the
economy has been "systematically destroyed" by a combination of two
"Firstly the government borrows for consumption purposes and
then puts reactionary measures that stifle investors and industry," he told
IWPR. The problem has been worsened by the leadership's continued support
for its debt-ridden large state-owned enterprises.
Over the past
three months, substantial amounts have been doled out to the manufacturing
sector and other troubled companies - a move which, the government says, is
meant to boast the ailing economy. A further 90 million dollars has been
handed to troubled banks.
Anthony Hawkins, a University of Zimbabwe
management graduate school lecturer, says the leadership is making a huge
mistake by dishing out unbudgeted funds to such state-owned
But Mugabe insists that it is the West that most
contributed to the crisis when it "tricked" him into taking up an
International Monetary Fund, IMF, programme. In 1990, the government
followed the African bandwagon when it embraced the Economic Structural
Adjustment Programme, ESAP.
It was the IMF that demanded African
countries devalue their currency, cut public expenditure and open up their
markets. Zimbabwe did just that and the results were disastrous. The
programme led to the closure of mines and industry - throwing thousands of
workers onto the streets. The government finally abandoned the restructuring
programme nine years later in 1999 and relations with the IMF soured. Mugabe
told the IMF to "go to hell" and refused to repay the country's
The fund reacted by cutting off its balance of payment support and
Zimbabwe now owes the IMF more than 280 million dollars with arrears
constantly mounting as Harare battles to service the loan.
president has continued to blast IMF policies at both local and
international fora despite domestic pressure to re-engage with it. At a
recent United Nations meeting in New York, he again lashed out at the IMF
for "spreading lies" about Zimbabwe.
Yet despite this vitriolic
attack, Mugabe appears boxed into a corner and seems to secretly admit that
he cannot go it alone. Last month he sent two of his most trusted economic
advisors to the IMF head office, in what analysts believe was a last ditch
effort to save Zimbabwe from pending expulsion from the fund.
officials, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, RBZ, governor Gideon Gono and the
acting finance minister Hebert Murerwa, left the country at the same time to
meet IMF directors on the sidelines of the fund's annual winter meetings to
plead for more time to put their house in order.
While the IMF states its
October 1 decision to close its office in Harare is not linked to the
country's overdue financial obligations to the fund, it is clear time is
fast-running out for the government to cut a deal that will stop Zimbabwe
plunging further into the economic abyss.
Shakeman Mugari is a Business
and Financial journalist with the Zimbabwe Independent.
Dear Family and
Friends, By all accounts Friday the 15th of October looked like it was going
to be an historic day for Zimbabwe. From as early as 7am radio news
bulletins were heightening the tension and ratcheting up the fear factor
with warnings from the police that unruly behaviour would not be tolerated.
This was the day the verdict would finally be handed down in the treason
trial against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The headlines on one
newspaper were: "Police put on high alert" and the atmosphere was tense with
reports of roadblocks throughout Harare and police standing in pairs or
groups at every intersection in the capital city.
When the not guilty
verdict was handed down just before midday, there was a national, audible
sigh of relief. Talking to the press after the acquittal, Morgan Tsvangirai
said the verdict was unexpected and came as a relief. These were words that
were echoed by us all. Although no one could see how any court would find
Tsvangirai guilty with the evidence the way it was, we don't take anything
for granted in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai voiced all our thoughts when he said
that we were all hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. The
opposition leader also said that the verdict signaled a "good basis for
national reconciliation," and I hope and pray that he is right.
four and half years that Zanu PF has been turning itself inside out in order
to stay in power, almost everything has reached the point of complete
collapse and ruin. We have crumbling health and education systems,
collapsing banks, crippling inflation; massively high unemployment and a
life expectancy which has plummeted to just 34 years. We have very dubious
food security and complete and utter chaos on our farms with resettled
people continuing to be thrown off land even now when the rains have started
and everyone should be planting.
Perhaps now that Morgan Tsvangirai
has been formally acquitted, regional and international leaders will put
pressure on the Zimbabwean government to hold free and fair elections in
March next year - without them not a thing can or will change in
I end this week with a message of condolence to the families
and friends of the Zimbabweans who were so tragically killed in the air
crash in Canada a few days ago. Happy times from years gone by will never be
forgotten and I write this letter today in memory of Dave Lamb. Until
next week, with love, cathy
For the Tonga people of Matabeleland North province, a
stronghold of political opposition to Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party,
drawing water for the household used to be a job reserved for women and
These days, however, elderly men join in the trek to the
nearest source of clean water - a 15 kilometre hike from the town of Binga
down to the Zambezi River.
"I cannot allow my wife to go to the river
alone," explained David Mdenda, a pensioner. "There are vicious crocodiles
there and so men have to always be close by. I end up carrying some
containers, and of course, I can't just walk back
Government investment is notable for its absence in this
part of Zimbabwe. Villagers in nearby Siasundu used to get their water from
the Mangani Dam off the Zambezi, but now it is all silted up, full of algae
and livestock waste.
"Water is a big problem here," said Mdenda. "It
is dirty at the dam because cattle and goats drink there and the pump is
always out of fuel. So we take our chances and go to the river."
returning from the river, the women cook porridge made out of sorghum, a
grain grown in the arid fields around Binga. They spend most of their day
preparing it with a pestle and mortar or grinding it between two
"I have to do it myself because I cannot afford to have it done
at the market," said Mary Mwembe from Mangani village. "They charge 5000
[Zimbabwe] dollars, [about 90 US cents], and I don't have that kind of
Mary's monthly income from doing odd jobs for richer villagers is
around 2 US dollars and that is quickly spent on such basics as soap, salt
and school fees for her son, News, who is in his first year of secondary
"I want my son to go to school so that he can get a good job.
I want him to be a policeman," she beams while seated on a bed made of
sturdy poles and covered with a single blanket.
Above the bed a piece
of string runs from one end of the hut to the other. It serves as Mwembe's
"The [education] ministry's policy of each child walking a
maximum of seven kilometres to school doesn't work here because the nearest
school is 15 to 20 kilometres away," said Joel Gabhuza, a local Binga
councillor and member of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for
Democratic Change, MDC. "As a result, parents delay sending their children
to school to make sure they are able to cover the distances and still have
enough energy to learn."
When they do go, children find both
textbooks and teachers in short supply here. The economic crisis in
Zimbabwe, whose education system once was the envy of the continent, coupled
with the AIDS pandemic, has led to a severe shortage of teachers. Like the
rest of the country, where an estimated one in four of the adult population
is HIV positive, the people Matabeleland North province have been deeply
affected by this dual crisis.
Outside every house in Mangani there is at
least one freshly dug grave. "People are dying each day. We have no
knowledge on how to help them live so we just watch them die," said village
headman Julius Siavhurandu. He says that while people know about the
disease, they have little understanding of how to protect themselves or how
best to live being HIV positive.
The pandemic is highlighting the paucity
of local health care services. Only one assistant nurse works at the local
clinic and when she takes time off or goes home at night, the clinic closes.
Most villagers do not have money to travel to Binga hospital some 80
kilometres away. And, in any case, there seems little point since it is
staffed only by nurses. Patients requiring doctors must travel to Zimbabwe's
second largest city, Bulawayo, 400 kilometres to the south.
overall suffers from a shortage of medical staff with many nurses now taking
up jobs in Britain. Those that remain prefer to find work outside of the
region, fearing victimisation and intimidation from ZANU-PF supporters as
they seek to increase the party's influence in this part of the
Matabeleland was the scene of large-scale massacres of civilians
by government troops in the late Eighties as President Mugabe sought to
consolidate his power and neutralise his opponents.
official practise, people here privately complain how they are often refused
free medical treatment unless they can show a ZANU-PF party membership card.
But if people feel ZANU-PF is still victimising the region for its
continuing opposition to the government, they are careful not to say it out
loud. Talking politics is taboo with villagers fearful of
Most women like Pauline Sibanda profess a lack of
interest in the subject. "I don't like politics," she said. "I know we have
to vote next year, but I will wait for the leaders to tell us how to
Others are too afraid to talk about their political views. "Ah,
politics is not a good topic to discuss here," said Ben Ndlovu, not his real
name, a temporary teacher, in hushed tones. "You don't know who is listening
and who they will go and tell."
Miriam Madziwa is a freelance
journalist based in Bulawayo.
Archbishop Ncube of Bulawayo tells IWPR that Mugabe must stop
torturing and raping Zimbabweans.
By Basildon Peta in Johannesburg
(AR No. 01, 16-Oct-04)
Archbishop Pius Ncube is a man of very firm nerves
and has over the past few years emerged as the most convincing opponent of
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's autocratic government. Many describe
Ncube, the Roman Catholic prelate for Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo, as
the country's Desmond Tutu, after the South African cleric who was one of
those at the forefront of the anti-apartheid struggle.
Ncube is one
of two most senior ranking Catholic clerics in Zimbabwe. He refuses to be
silenced and his anti-Mugabe rhetoric seems to be getting more rigorous by
the day. Ncube shared his thoughts on the Zimbabwean crisis with IWPR
correspondent Basildon Peta in Johannesburg.
Peta: What is the current
state of human rights in Zimbabwe?
Ncube: It is pretty bad. Things keep
on getting worse, with no respite in sight. We have an election next year
and I can tell you that I don't hold any hope for the opposition. There is
definitely no chance for a free and fair election. Mugabe has oiled his
rigging machinery. The repressive media and security laws are firmly in
place against the opposition. The youth militias are at work. He [Mugabe]
will manipulate food aid and use it as a political tool. He is telling the
world there is enough food in the country when everyone knows that this is
not the case. His plan is to kick out all donors and be in charge of food
aid distribution himself. He will then use it as a political weapon to buy
votes. The playing field is so uneven that I don't see anyone other than
ZANU-PF winning the election. The opposition (the Movement for Democratic
Change - MDC) will be lucky to walk away with a dozen seats.
What would it take to ensure a free and fair election in Zimbabwe?
Pressure must be put on Mugabe to reform. Our regional neighbours,
particularly South Africa, are letting us down. They don't seem to realise
that a peaceful and stable Zimbabwe is in the interests of the entire
region. They must insist that Mugabe abides by the SADC (the Southern
African Development Community) norms on free and fair
Peta: What kind of pressure should they
Ncube: They must threaten sanctions against Mugabe. South
Africa must threaten to cut off electricity and fuel supplies if Mugabe does
not change. We surely cannot have this quiet diplomacy (by South Africa)
which has failed. The MDC must also bring pressure to bear on Mugabe. They
must influence change from within the country. They have been a bit passive.
A combination of internal and external pressure is what is
Peta: You have acknowledged the constraints that the opposition
faces. The draconian laws, the militias and other forms of repression used
against the opposition. How can you then accuse them (the MDC) of being
passive in light of all the difficulties they have to endure?
Yes the MDC have a difficult time but they have to be more active. They have
to be able to organise civil action to confront Mugabe. The opposition
should sacrifice more. They should be with the people. They could certainly
do more in providing real leadership. I travel to the rural areas [of
Zimbabwe] and I get the feeling that people feel leaderless. They feel as if
they are on their own. There is little to show that the MDC is with the
Peta: What is the challenge therefore for the opposition and for
Ncube: I think the challenge for Zimbabwe is to find a new
leader who can inspire the people. Wherever you go, people are grumbling.
They say they have no strong leader who can stand with us. MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai is there but he is not punchy enough, not convincing enough. Look
at how Mahatma Gandhi inspired his people to die for their cause. Mahatma
was a great leader who managed to achieve what he did because he was able to
inspire his people. In Zimbabwe, we need to find such a leader. We don't
seem to have one. We have no one inspiring the people; we have no one
telling them to die for their cause.
Peta: Aren't you being unfair on
Mr Tsvangirai? He is a man in chains. He faces two treason charges. Anything
he tries to do is labelled treacherous and he is jailed. He can't really do
anything under Mugabe's reign of terror, can he?
Ncube: He must
convince people to be self-sacrificing, even in the face of trouble. Look at
what happened during apartheid. People, including schoolchildren, were
self-sacrificing. They came out in full force to confront the apartheid
police. The problem in Zimbabwe is we want to play it safe. There is this
tendency among Zimbabweans of leaving everything to God. That is very
fatalistic. God works through human beings and thus this business of
deferring everything to God is perilous. I put this challenge to Tsvangirai.
If he organises people well enough to confront Mugabe and tell him he is no
longer wanted, I don't think Mugabe will shoot everyone.
Peta: So if
Zimbabweans are not self-sacrificing, as you say, and if there is no
sustained action from them to liberate themselves from the shackles of this
regime, why should you expect South Africa and other foreigners to put
pressure on Mugabe?
Ncube: I say so because Zimbabweans need help
from their neighbours. Even during apartheid, South Africa got a lot of help
from us. Zimbabweans are tired and discouraged. They therefore need all the
help they can get from outside so that they can regain their confidence to
confront this regime. This is a human rights issue after all. The African
Union should take a stand where human rights are abused. Unfortunately, they
are not doing that. They cover up for each other and use their summits to
enjoy tea and coffee.
Peta: Are you frustrated that all your efforts in
getting the Zimbabwe crisis resolved and your outspokenness have not
Ncube: No, I have no regrets at all. I feel one man (Mugabe) has
no right to hold to ransom an entire nation. He is killing our young people
and destroying their future. He is an octogenarian who has had the best of
life but is now trying to block everyone else from doing the same. But I
will not keep quiet. I won't be frustrated into silence. For as long as
Mugabe remains an embodiment of evil, I will speak out against him - or
anyone else for that matter.
Peta: What has happened to all the
victims of violence in Zimbabwe?
Ncube: Some are suffering in silence...
Some are being rehabilitated in some church-run projects in Zimbabwe and in
South Africa. As you know, many have fled the country. They flee immediately
after their experiences. I have met a lot of them here in South Africa and
their plight is very bad. Many are being housed by churches. Even blind
people have left. They are living a horrible life. Imagine a group of 30
people living in one house.
Peta: What is the challenge for human rights
workers? Are they still able to function normally in Zimbabwe?
Mugabe has been restricting the work of NGOs. It is difficult for anyone who
is not a ZANU-PF sympathiser to work in this environment. But the NGOs have
to keep trying. They have to go to the people. They can't give up.
Have you appealed to the Vatican for help?
Ncube: I personally have not
appealed to the Vatican but I know the Pope is very worried about the human
rights situation in Zimbabwe. He summoned the Zimbabwean ambassador to the
Vatican to register his concerns about the abuses in Zimbabwe.
And why is the church in Zimbabwe not speaking with one voice? It appears it
is only you that is speaking out.
Ncube: There are others who try to
speak out. There are church leaders who have been trying to help resolve the
crisis. But there are also others who have been bought out by Mugabe. So we
have cowards as well.
Peta: Has Mugabe tried to buy you out as
Ncube: They offered me a farm and I refused to accept
Peta: If you meet Mugabe, what would you tell him?
his time is up and he must end the suffering he has visited on the people of
Zimbabwe. His government must stop torturing, raping and murdering our
Basildon Peta is the Zimbabwe correspondent for the London-based
Independent & Independent On Sunday.(AR No. 01, 16-Oct-04)
African leaders still remain close to Mugabe.
By Nevanji Madanhire in
Harare (AR No. 01, 16-Oct-04)
The regional response to the situation in
Zimbabwe has been "shameless", according to a leading Harare-based human
Brian Kagoro Chairman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition, a steering group of local NGOs and trade unions, has criticised
leaders of the Southern African Development Community, SADC, for turning
their back on his country and failing to speak out against the government of
President Robert Mugabe.
But other independent figures based here believe
that the complex nature of SADC-Zimbabwe relations do not realistically
allow for an unequivocal regional response based on moral
The crisis in Zimbabwe has manifested itself in government-led
acts of political violence and the general collapse of an economy once the
envy of Africa. According to the coalition, which collectively claims to
represent more than 500 local civil society groups, there have been more
than 630,000 cases of serious human rights abuses reported over the last
four years. They include 180 instances of politically-related
Records kept by the coalition date back to February 2000 when
President Mugabe lost the national plebiscite he hoped would endorse a new
constitution that would have further strengthened his 20-year grip on
And two years later, organisations observing the presidential
election - from the Commonwealth through to Transparency International -
concluded that Mugabe had effectively stolen it from Morgan Tsvangirai,
leader of the Movement For Democratic Change, MDC.
But SADC endorsed
the result - a move heavily criticised by those who expected it to tighten
the screws on Mugabe, such as introducing a trade embargo. Zimbabwe sits
right at the heart of the southern African subcontinent and is the nerve
centre of regional trade because of its relatively developed
South Africa is Zimbabwe's biggest trade partner in the
region and its trade routes to countries in the north such as Zambia, the
DRC and Angola, pass through Zimbabwe. South Africa could have then been the
bigger loser had it put in place an embargo.
But to mention sanctions
is to misunderstand the mandate of SADC, according to Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, a
political analyst and Professor of Mathematics at the University of
Zimbabwe. "We must understand that SADC is not a legislative body but simply
a facilitator that gives member states general guidelines aimed to quicken
development," he told IWPR.
And Thomas Deve, chairman of the Media
Institute of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe, argues that there was no way SADC
leaders would have taken a stance against Mugabe given they are similarly
faced with post-colonial problems such as land-reform.
"The MDC and
the western media underestimated the legitimacy of the land reform programme
which the SADC leadership understood only too well," he
According to Dzinotyiweyi, SADC's response to the situation in
Zimbabwe can only really be understood in the context of the country's fight
for independence. As the Liberation War intensified in the Seventies, the
countries which subsequently formed SADC were known as the Frontline States
and were used as bases to fight the regime of Ian Smith as well as launch
the struggle against apartheid in both South Africa and
Given the mindset of any SADC leader says Dzinotyiweyi, to come
out against Mugabe would mean "straying horribly from the line established
by luminaries of pan-African liberation struggle such as [former Tanzanian
president] Julius Nyerere".
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni perhaps
summed up the prevailing African position on Mugabe during a recent visit to
Harare when he attacked western leaders and media for their criticisms of
Mugabe, "When I hear these people I say you can't demonise a leader of the
liberation struggle and expect support from us, you are just stupid," he
Mugabe's confrontational response to western criticisms has
impressed an African continent which sees the West through the prism of
continuing interference in the political process, via its support for
oppositional parties and the occasional coup. For the first time, Africans
saw a leader standing up against the old colonial powers. Rightly or
wrongly, the western media too have been criticised for perceived racial
overtones in their reporting -particularly on the suffering of white
landowners in Zimbabwe.
"The western media and its allies in South Africa
are mostly rightwing and have the capacity to influence political opinion.
Daggers had already been drawn against other southern African leaders
causing them to take a united stand," said Deve.
Efforts were already
being made to deny South African president Thabo Mbeki a second term in
office by amplifying his response to the AIDS epidemic seen as a great
weakness of leadership. Criticism of Namibia's Sam Nujoma was also
increasing because it was thought he could import wholesale Mugabe's violent
land reform model.
Alongside the solidarity sound bites, it is probably
true that SADC leaders' continuing support for the Zimbabwean president is
at least in part led by a fear of who among them might be next were Mugabe
to be removed from power. But there are also the personal relationships to
consider: Mozambique remains highly indebted to Mugabe for helping it win
the war against the insurgent Mozambique National Resistance, Renamo, in the
1980s. Mozambique's president Joachim Chissano was best man at Mugabe's
second wedding in 1996.
The regimes of father and son Laurent and Joseph
Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo meantime have been substantially
supported by the Zimbabwean army. The young president still sees Mugabe as
But it now seems the SADC may now finally be involved in
intensive behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to bring change to Zimbabwe. Late
last month, Mbeki said he will jump on a plane and "do whatever it takes" to
help resolve the crisis in Harare. The recent heads of state and government
summit held in Mauritius is evidence of this. Realising the contentious
issue in Zimbabwe was the running of elections, the SADC leadership put out
its so-called Protocol on Elections. It sets minimum conditions for the
holding of elections in the region and seems almost tailor-made to put
Mugabe in a fix. Already in full page adverts entitled "SADC Watch", carried
by Zimbabwe's private newspapers, the MDC appears to be taking great delight
in showing readers how the government is so far continuing to break each and
every principle set down in Mauritius.
"While SADC protocols are not
binding this one is a positive step forward and sets a significant basis and
terms of reference from which useful comparisons can be made to drive
change," said Dzinotyiweyi.
Nevanji Madanhire is a novelist and editor of
The Tribune, a Harare newspaper shut down in July under Zimbabwe's media
I wonder if Robert Mugabe is
aware of the repression and suffering of the people of Zimbabwe, I heard a
listener to the BBC World Service say today.
2 weeks ago I went to
support WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) as a woman and a physiotherapist.
They had been walking from Bulawayo to Harare, in an enormous effort and
sacrifice to draw attention to womens issues and how, the NGO Bill, if
passed, would affect them even more severely.
After a triumphant arrival
and peaceful prayer holding hands in Unity Square, 9 of us and baby Trish
Tafadzwa (4mths) were arrested.
We were treated like criminals. During
the next 2 days and nights I realized the suffering and sacrifice of these
Mothers and Grandmothers and children. They are used to being abused and to
living in appalling conditions. The intimidation, the filth the lack of
respect by many (not all) of the officers. I was humbled and envigorated by
These ladies do not deserve to be abused, ground down and
oppressed. They deserve our admiration and support, they deserve to be
listened to, to be uplifted and to be cherished.
Despite the acquittal of its leader, the Harare opposition is
crippled, writes David Blair. Moments of triumph have been rare for
Morgan Tsvangirai during his tempestuous years in the dangerous occupation
of being President Robert Mugabe's leading opponent, and his acquittal was a
desperately needed boost.
But although the shadow of Mr Tsvangirai being
jailed or even hanged for treason has been lifted, at least for now, nothing
can disguise the appalling realities of Zimbabwean politics.
Mugabe has succeeded in crushing the opposition's challenge, and his
regime's mastery of violence, intimidation and outright ballot rigging
almost guarantees that he will never lose an election. Mr Tsvangirai's
acquittal does not change this central fact.
Moreover, the case has
already succeeded in inflicting immense damage on his Movement for
Democratic Change. The treason charges were first laid in February 2002 and
legal wrangles have dominated the past 32 months. The cost of defending its
leader in court has financially crippled the MDC.
Mr Tsvangirai has been
confined to Zimbabwe, preventing him from putting his case to African
leaders, notably South African President Thabo Mbeki, who remain publicly
supportive of Mr Mugabe.
The opposition leader's bail conditions have
limited his ability to campaign and travel within Zimbabwe. The immense
strain of the trial sapped his morale and consumed his time. The MDC has
been paralysed and effectively rendered leaderless. The party, which has
now lost six seats in byelections, has been driven to announce that it will
not contest parliamentary polls due next March, although Mr Tsvangirai
suggested otherwise after the court verdict.
Zimbabwe's full panoply of
repressive legislation, which amounts to a state of emergency by the back
door, continues to make normal political campaigning almost
Mr Tsvangirai may have been acquitted simply because the MDC
has already been crippled. Had he been jailed, the opposition would have
been handed a rallying cry.
But Mr Tsvangirai's ordeal is not over.
He faces a second charge of treason in relation to a general strike
organised by the MDC in June last year. This accusation is even more
spurious than the one for which he has been cleared.
will lift the party's morale, but the cards of Zimbabwean politics remain
firmly stacked in Mr Mugabe's favour.
ICC could hold key to Zim tour Saturday October 16
2004 Lahore meeting may prove crucial
England's last realistic hope of
avoiding their controversial tour to Zimbabwe next month rests with the
decision-makers of the International Cricket Council as they meet for their
executive board meeting in Lahore this weekend.
The world's governing
body is assembling in Pakistan to discuss a number of leading issues, but
England's interest will be centred on the report into racism within Zimbabwe
cricket which may give them an escape route from a five-match one-day tour
starting at the end of November.
Despite strong reservations about the
terrifying regime of president Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, England have been
unable to persuade the British Government to issue a decree forbidding their
tour and leaving them open to possible financial sanctions from the ICC
should they withdraw for anything other than safety and security
John Carr, the England and Wales Cricket Board's Director of
Cricket Operations, and Professional Cricketers' Association chief executive
Richard Bevan are flying out to Zimbabwe this weekend to inspect the safety
and security measures available prior to the tour.
But their findings
are unlikely to be anything but positive with Zimbabwe desperate for the
tour to go ahead, leaving England waiting anxiously for the outcome of a
report into claims of racism which could yet prompt the cancellation of
ECB chairman David Morgan is England's representative at
this weekend's meeting when the Board will consider the report from India's
solicitor general, Mr Goolam Vahanvati, and South African High Court Judge,
Steven Majiedt, into the racism allegations.
The report was supposed
to be based upon evidence submitted to a hearing in Harare at the beginning
of October, but that had to be abandoned after witnesses claimed they had
been intimidated and discouraged from giving evidence.
remaining rebel cricketers, which include former captains Grant Flower and
Heath Streak and have refused to play for Zimbabwe since first making
allegations of racism last April, have already written a letter of complaint
to the ICC protesting at how the inquiry was conducted.
claimed that two of the men accused of racism - Zimbabwe Cricket Union
managing director Ozias Bvute and chief selector Max Ebrahim - attended the
hearing and refused to leave despite being asked to do so by the two-man ICC
Witnesses were unwilling to testify in front of the pair and in a
letter to ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, the rebels claimed, "We had 12
witnesses waiting, some who had travelled great distances. The inquiry could
still have proceeded with certain witnesses giving evidence in front of all
the directors, but they were never given the chance."
claims not to have read the report, dismissed the rebels' claims and
criticised the letter from Chris Venturas, the lawyer representing them,
being made public to try and influence the decision of the ICC this
"These allegations are amongst the gravest claims that can be
made against an individual or an institution," said Speed.
process that the ICC put in place has provided you and your clients with
repeated opportunities, beyond a single hearing in Zimbabwe, to provide this
essential evidence to support your claims."
The globetrotter, the videotape and the
By COLIN FREEZE Saturday, October
16, 2004 - Page A19
OTTAWA -- For years,
Ari Ben Menashe swore up and down that he had procured definitive -- and
videotaped --proof of a bizarre allegation: A Zimbabwe coup plot was hatched
within the confines of his non-descript Canadian office.
Harare judge finally dealt Mr. Ben Menashe's credibility a haymaker
yesterday by tossing out the treason case against the alleged coup plotter,
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The court found
that the prosecution's star witness from Montreal was not the least bit
credible. That left Mr. Ben Menashe, a former Israeli arms dealer who has
lived a strange and controversial existence in Quebec for the past decade,
with uncharacteristically little to say.
"I'm just saying I'm not
going to second-guess the court," he said in a telephone interview from
Montreal. "We said the truth. We said what was in the tape. We showed the
tape. It was not doctored. It was not touched. And I'm not going to
second-guess the court."
Mr. Ben Menashe is a 54-year-old
globetrotter with vast powers of persuasion and a deep knowledge of world
events. Over the past 20 years he has always vouched for his own
Until yesterday's ruling, it looked as though Zimbabwe
might yet emerge as his masterstroke.
In December, 2001,
Zimbabwe's opposition leader travelled to Montreal to talk about the
impending election with Mr. Ben Menashe and his entourage, whom Mr.
Tsvangirai at the time believed to be friendly Canadian political
consultants intent on polishing his image ahead of the Zimbabwe
Around the boardroom table, Mr. Ben Menashe and his
partners kept steering the discussion toward the odd topic of "eliminating"
the Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe.
Equally odd was the
pinhole camera that had been secretly inserted in the ceiling tiles to catch
the Montrealers' exchange with Mr. Tsvangirai.
In February, 2002,
the resulting videotape found its way to an Australian TV show that
presented it as the shocking proof of a secret Zimbabwe coup
A day later, Mr. Ben Menashe's firm, Dickens & Madson,
sent a press release titled "Tsvangirai attempts assassination of Mugabe" to
The Globe and Mail and other newspapers.
"Dickens & Madson
felt itself morally compelled to assist the embattled people of Zimbabwe and
their President Robert Mugabe," Mr. Ben Menashe's statement said, suggesting
a certain righteous indignation at the situation into which Mr. Tsvangirai
had placed them.
Because they "were not in the business of
arranging assassinations," the statement explained, Dickens & Madson had
handed the tape over to Mr. Mugabe, who would have his rival charged with
treason by the end of February.
At the time, however, Mr. Ben
Menashe had more-than-moral motivations for making Mr. Mugabe look as good
as a dictator possibly can, while making his rival look like a dangerous
The Montrealer was getting hundreds of thousands of
dollars to do just that.
According to Dickens & Madson,
records filed under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act -- a law that
obliges all foreign entities to tell Washington just what kind of lobbying
efforts they are doing -- the company's press releases and communications
activities were paid "political activity on behalf of
According to the FARA filings, the original contract was
for $225,000 (U.S.), but Zimbabwe's payments quickly exceeded
In the U.S. FARA filings, the Montrealer stated he issued
pro-Mugabe news releases with titles such as "Tsvangirai attempts
suppression of evidence." And, yes, the "Tsvangirai attempts assassination
of Mugabe" statement.
Zimbabwe govt may 'exercise other options' HARARE -
Zimbabwe's justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said the government "is of the
strong view the accused, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been wrongly acquitted" and
"reserves the right to exercise other options available to it in terms of
Chinamasa was reacting to the Harare High Court's verdict
yesterday to acquit the Movement for Democratic Change leader of treason
The charge of high treason was brought against Tsvangirai based
on a secretly filmed meeting he had in 2001 with a Canadian- based political
consultant. The government alleged the videotape of the meeting showed
Tsvangirai seeking help to kill President Robert Mugabe and stage a
But Tsvangirai, who could have faced the death penalty if found
guilty, was acquitted yesterday by Judge Paddington Garwe, who said the
state had not been able to prove its case "beyond reasonable
There was little reason for cheer as Tsvangirai faced a second
set of treason charges which also carries the death penalty, the Democratic
Alliance said yesterday.
The DA's Joe Seremane said it was clear from
the outset that "this was a political trial, designed to discredit
Tsvangirai and to limit his ability to operate as the leader of the
Seremane said the charges stemmed from Tsvangirai's role
in leading a mass action campaign against Mugabe's rule.
appears likely that the Mugabe regime will try to use this set of charges to
convict Tsvangirai and ensure he is unable to challenge Mugabe in the 2008
Seremane said Tsvangirai's effectiveness as the
MDC leader was crippled by the fact that these charges remain up in the
"He is unable to travel overseas to lobby support and to raise funds
and his movement within Zimbabwe is strictly controlled and monitored.
Today's decision does not retract from the fact that democracy has collapsed
in Zimbabwe and that the opposition remains under grave threat."
Freedom Front Plus said the acquittal will prove a turning point in
"The decision is good for Africa, and indicates
that Mugabe is slowly losing his grip on the country ... Everything points
to the fact that the final chess end game has now started in Zimbabwe," FF
Plus leader Pieter Mulder said in a statement.
The United States
yesterday welcomed the acquittal and said it hoped the verdict would mark
the end of the authoritarian Mugabe's crackdown on dissent.
the government rejected the acquittal and said it might seek further legal
action against Tsvangirai, the State Department said Washington saw the move
as a sign that political reconciliation might be possible but only if
substantial reforms were enacted.
"We would hope that this signals the
end of the politically motivated prosecutions and that it would open the
door to constructive dialogue between Zimbabwe's political parties,"
spokesman Richard Boucher said.
"This acquittal we see as a positive
development and we would hope that it signals the government of Zimbabwe is
ready to approach the upcoming parliamentary elections in the spirit of
election guidelines that are prevalent in the region," he
Boucher said reforms would have to be enacted to ensure the March
polls meet international standards and expressed concern that changes to
election regulations now being considered by the government "fail to address
fundamental flaws in the election environment".
For the elections to
be free and fair, Zimbabwe needs an independent election commission, rules
to enforce equal media access for all political parties, commitments to
ensure freedom of speech and assembly during the campaign, and a halt to all
political violence, he said. - Sapa-AFP
Jan Raath, The Times Correspondent in Zimbabwe, describes the
scenes as opposition political leader Morgan Tsvangirai was acquitted of
treason this morning.
Only a small group of supporters of the
Movement for Democratic Change had been able to get into the courthouse this
morning to hear the verdict on their leader. When he was declared not
guilty, they got to their feet and cheered. It was an emotional moment.
George Bizos, Mr Tsvangirai's chief defence lawyer and a man who defended
Nelson Mandela in his treason trial in South Africa 40 years ago, had tears
running down his cheeks. There were very few people outside the courthouse
when the verdict came through, because they had all been driven away earlier
by riot police with dogs and batons. Three journalists were arrested by the
police: two local photographers and Angus Shaw, the very experienced
Associated Press correspondent, who was dictating a story over his mobile
phone when a plain clothes police officer came up and demanded to know what
he was saying about Zimbabwe. He was bundled into a white Land Rover and
driven off. Police are denying any knowledge of him. This kind of
harrassment happens all the time. He probably will be held in a filthy cell
all weekend and released on Monday, because they have nothing to charge him
When Mr Tsvangirai left court, he was stony-faced. All he would
say was: 'Not guilty.' Then he got into his car and was driven away. It was
only once he got home that he was able to show the elation he was feeling,
after all the pressure he has been under. People were dancing in the street
outside his home in the suburbs, and Mr Tsvangirai was out on the lawn with
his wife, beaming and smiling as he greeted people. He was altogether in a
happy, expansive mood, such as I have not seen him in for a long time. His
first words at his press conference were: 'What a relief.' This is an
important moment for the MDC and will certainly restore life to the party.
The tactics of Mr Mugabe's Government have so far been all about eliminating
hope for any change, and keeping up constant, heavy and unrelenting pressure
on the opposition. That is why they have banned all newspapers critical of
the Government. I was surprised that he was acquitted because it has not
been in this Government's nature to let people off or to show
Yet all the MDC people I have spoken to, apart from Mr
Tsvangirai, say that they believe the Government made it clear to the judge
that he should arrive at a fair verdict. If this is the case, it may reflect
the indirect pressure that is increasing on Mr Mugabe from other African
states. An African Union report a couple of months ago was very critical of
him. He recently had to sign a regional treaty committing Zimbabwe to hold
free and fair parliamentary elections next March. Mr Mugabe is becoming more
and more isolated and he is aware of it. I think he is becoming an
embarrassment to other African states. I am sure that he intends to use this
verdict to defend himself when people accuse him of ignoring the rule of
law. Meanwhile it was interesting to hear Mr Tsvangirai talk about how this
moment could mark a change in stance by the Government, and if so, it could
form the basis of new, national reconciliation.
Hussain in warning to Vaughan over
tour of Zimbabwe
By Pat Gibson
Michael Vaughan, the
England captain, was last night told by Nasser Hussain that his name and
that of English cricket could be tarnished for a long time if the
forthcoming tour to Zimbabwe provokes violent unrest. In a direct plea to
his successor, Hussain, who was captain when England refused to travel to
Zimbabwe for a World Cup match last year, said: "If something happens,
Michael, and you lead a side out there and someone gets killed, it will
tarnish English cricket and your name for a long while. "Like Michael
Atherton advised me, get as much information on the place and find out if
there are going to be protests, if things are going to happen out there."
Hussain suspects that Vaughan might be feeling compelled to go against his
better judgment through a sense of responsibility towards his players and
pressure from the ECB. "Michael was part of the group which decided last
time he didn't think it was right to go and I don't see what has changed,"
he said on BBC radio. "As Steve Harmison said when he pulled out: 'I had a
difficult week in Cape Town deciding I didn't want to go and nothing has
changed. If anything it has got worse.' I would guess Michael doesn't want
to go and he has been told by his board that he has to go. Basically, the
ECB are his bosses and if you rang up Michael now and said 'you don't have
to go to Zimbabwe', I think he will have a huge sigh of relief." Hussain
described how he was told by the ECB that he was effectively holding the
future of English cricket in his hands in not wanting to play the World Cup
game in Zimbabwe. John Carr, the ECB's director of cricket operations, and
Richard Bevan, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association,
are flying to Zimbabwe this weekend to inspect the safety and security
measures. Ray Jennings, the former South Africa wicketkeeper, was installed
as national coach last night, replacing the sacked Eric Simons. His
appointment comes less than a month before the squad travel to India to play
two Tests, and two months before they begin a five-Test series against