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Violence guts opposition to Zimbabwe's Mugabe

Beatings by government security forces, arrests and jailings have driven
some stalwart members into exile.

By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

Last update: October 06, 2007 - 4:01 PM

TEMBISA, SOUTH AFRICA - They were some of the toughest front-liners in
Zimbabwe's opposition, people who previously had been beaten and tortured by
state security forces and had come through it stronger.
Now they are broken men.

Nhamo Musekiwa sits hunched like a frail old man in a chair on a small strip
of dirt in this township outside Johannesburg. The 34-year-old wears black
slippers and jeans that hang like an empty sack. He had to flee his country
after security forces "full of madness" nearly beat him to death in March,
along with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and dozens of others.

All he talks about is going home to his beloved Zimbabwe to continue the
struggle against President Robert Mugabe's regime and resume his work as
Tsvangirai's bodyguard. But the truth is, he can barely walk.

He struggles for breath as he tells his story in a pitch so low it is often
inaudible. Forty minutes of conversation exhausts him, and he drifts off to

During an interview with the Los Angeles Times in May, Musekiwa had appeared
robust and strong, although he acknowledged having difficulty sleeping since
the beatings. By the end of August, he had shrunk into himself. His skin
hung off his bones, the flesh and muscle eaten away. His face was like a
skull, with deep hollows under sharp cheekbones and a protuberant chin.

"One month ago, I could not even stand upright," he said. "It just hurt."

For his wife, Edna, summoned to his Johannesburg hospital bed from Zimbabwe
six weeks ago, the transformation was shocking. At that point, he was
expected to die of complications of a ruptured kidney, but somehow he
crawled back from the grave.

"Any day now, I'll be rolling into Zimbabwe," he wheezed. "I have no option.
That's my home. But I just get tired when I walk along these days."

There are others like him, some physically destroyed, others psychologically
shattered. This winter, which is winding down in the Southern Hemisphere,
you would find them in a back room of a Johannesburg church rented by a
Zimbabwean anti-torture group, a huddle of gloomy men curled around a hot
plate that offered scant comfort against the bone-chilling cold.

Dozens of members have fled to South Africa in recent months, some of them
with severe injuries, leaving the opposition a shell of itself with
elections less than seven months away. Most of them are afraid for family
members still in Zimbabwe, but too terrified to go home themselves. Or too

The assaults and abductions in the lead-up to the March elections are seen
by human rights organizations as a deliberate strategy by the Mugabe
government to cripple democratic opposition. The Human Rights Forum, which
unites 17 Zimbabwean organizations, recently reported that 2007 looks to be
the worst year for political violence and torture since 2001.

"I know a couple of people who were beaten on March 11, and to be honest I
don't think they're quite the same people they were before," said Andrew
Meldrum, an American who wrote a book on his 23 years as a journalist in
Zimbabwe before his 2003 expulsion. "They're also frightened. I have seen
many people who have left the country. They're frightened that they could be
at home doing absolutely nothing and that they could be taken out and beaten

Negotiations between the ruling party and opposition over electoral reforms
are still going on and produced some symbolic compromises from the
government in September, with a deal that saw Mugabe's term cut from six
years to five. But many saw it as an indication of the ruling party's
supreme confidence of winning an election, rather than a sign it is willing
to meet opposition demands for elections to be free and fair.

Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe has endured a long descent into economic chaos, with
hyperinflation of more than 7,000 percent and chronic shortages of
medicines, food, fuel and other basic necessities. Mugabe blames the West
and calls Tsvangirai a puppet of white colonialists.

But to his supporters, Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic
Change, is simply known as the president, a reference to 2005 elections,
widely viewed in the West as a sham, that saw Mugabe returned to power.

"They got full of madness, and they just wanted to kill us," said Musekiwa,
describing the March beatings. He had been beaten several times before, but
never like this. "They said, 'There's only one president, and that's
Mugabe.' They beat me all over the body using different weapons: iron rods,
rubber batons, sticks, wooden batons and clenched fists and boots. They beat
us repeatedly until Morgan Tsvangirai was unconscious."

Then in May, the opposition headquarters in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, were
targeted, everyone in the building was arrested, and 22 computers as well as
documents and files were seized. Dozens of activists were jailed for
"terrorist" bombings of gasoline tankers, until a judge ruled in July that
police had concocted the evidence.

After the March beatings, one government official, Nathan Shamuyarira, said
of Tsvangirai, "If you ask for that kind of trouble, you'll get it." Mugabe
later said the opposition had deserved the beatings and that Western critics
could "go hang." The government routinely portrays those seeking to oust his
regime as criminals.

Like many other opposition activists, Musekiwa got his grounding in the
union movement in the late 1990s, when Tsvangirai, a former miner and
secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, organized
anti-government strikes. In 1999, the MDC emerged from the union movement as
the first real political challenge to Mugabe, now 83, who has been in power
since independence in 1980.

A searing memory changed Musekiwa forever in the late '70s, during the
liberation war in the country, then still known as Rhodesia. He had to watch
as two dozen of the rebels fighting the minority white regime beat his
father to death, a farmer who supported the rebel cause but was a suspected

"He was tied to a tree. He only cried when he passed out. We were just
sitting in a half circle. We weren't crying, because they said, 'If you cry,
you'll go with your father.' I didn't cry when I buried him. We didn't cry
until after the struggle was over and we went and put a concrete tombstone

Musekiwa said that after the killing, the rebels checked his father's
papers, acknowledged that he had been innocent and apologized.

"I was so angry. That is why I never supported ZANU-PF," he said of Mugabe's
ruling party, which grew out of the rebel movement.

Musekiwa says he has not lost hope. "My spirit is not broken. In the
struggle, you can be injured and stay alive, or you can die. I'm happy to be
one of those, because now you will remember me as a hero. Even if I die, I
will not die a painful death. I mean, my spirit will at least say I played
my part in Zimbabwe."

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Merkel says Mugabe has right to attend summit

Tracy McVeigh, foreign editor
Sunday October 7, 2007
The Observer

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is entitled to attend a Europe-Africa
summit in December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this weekend. Her
pronouncement puts her at odds with Gordon Brown, who has threatened to
boycott the talks if Mugabe goes.
During talks in Pretoria with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who has
been mediating between the Zimbabwean opposition and Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF
party, Merkel expressed disquiet about the worsening crisis in Zimbabwe.

'The situation is a very difficult one. It's a disastrous one,' she said.
But she did not back calls for Mugabe to be barred from the summit between
African Union and European Union leaders in Lisbon. 'The President of the
republic of Germany wanted to invite all African countries to that summit,
and it's up to countries themselves to decide how they are going to be
represented at the table,' she said.
'Obviously we will make all our assessments heard. We will also raise all
our criticisms. We would do so in the presence of each and everyone.'

However, her refusal to back efforts to ban Mugabe may now mean it is Brown
instead who does not attend the summit. A Foreign Office spokesman said the
Prime Minister's position had not changed and that he would not attend if
Mugabe was present.

Merkel's comments brought a harsh response from Zimbabwe. The state-owned
Herald newspaper reported yesterday that Mbeki had staved off pressure from
the German leader. It said Merkel had been expected to take a tougher
stance, but left the meeting with Mbeki 'singing from a different hymn

The Zimbabwe government hit out at Merkel for labelling the crisis
'disastrous' and said Germany should not pass judgment on anyone.

'It is ironic that Germany, with a history such as it has, has the temerity
to see a speck in Zimbabwe's eye,' Secretary for Information and Publicity
George Charamba said.

Last week the Zimbabwe government averted a strike by civil servants and
junior doctors after negotiations lead to unions cancelling a walkout
planned over salaries.

Also yesterday, Zimbabwe's police revealed that more than 23,000 people have
been arrested for flouting price controls imposed by the government three
months ago.

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Farmer fights land grab

From Business Day (SA), 6 October

One of Zimbabwe's last remaining white commercial farmers has, in a last
desperate bid to stop Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe giving his farm to
Zanu PF cronies, taken his case to the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) Tribunal in Windhoek. Central to Michael Campbell's
application to the tribunal is the contention that the land acquisition
process is racist and illegal under a host of international legal
instruments, not the least being the SADC treaty and the African Union
Charter. The action will be a major test for the SADC and the tribunal,
which is established through a protocol attached to the SADC treaty. It
empowers the tribunal to adjudicate disputes between member states, and
individuals and member states. It is apparently the first such dispute to be
taken to the tribunal since it was established in 2000. Zimbabwe is a
signatory to both the treaty and the tribunal. In papers, Campbell contends
that the tribunal has jurisdiction because the treaty and other instruments
outlaw arbitrary government action based on race. The papers, which will be
lodged with the tribunal on Monday, contain a litany of abuse by Zimbabwe's
security forces, invasions of the Chegutu farm and the comprehensive failure
of the supreme court of Zimbabwe to rule on an application by Campbell to
have the acquisition declared unlawful. The case is to be argued before the
tribunal by top South African advocate Jeremy Gauntlett SC. Also in the
papers is a shocking list of "chefs" who have taken over the arbitrarily
confiscated farms in the Chegutu district. Campbell's farm is earmarked for
N Shamuyarira, a Zanu PF spokesman and minister.

The number of white commercial farmers has shrunk from 6000 to about 500.
White farmers are also being steadily driven off their farms in a process
that has accelerated in recent weeks. Those who fail to leave are arrested
and some imprisoned. So far about 500 000 farmworkers and their families
have been forced into limbo and they survive in either rural or urban slums
in dire conditions. The outcome of the action is vital to the future of
remaining farmers and those workers who remain on the farms. The papers say
that while hundreds of thousands of workers have been forced off the land,
"the land reform programme has benefited only the elite - security force
officers, Politburo members, their family members and (most regrettably)
judges". At the heart of the case is the amendment to the Zimbabwean
constitution, rammed through parliament by Zanu PF MPs, which allows
arbitrary acquisition of land and companies. This, the papers claim,
"undermines the fundamental structure and violates the essential or core
values of the constitution, which previously recognised and provided
protection to these human rights through an assertion of those rights
through due process". The point is that Zimbabwe's parliament was not
authorised by the constitution to change the constitution in this way. The
application seeks an order from the tribunal declaring that the changes to
the constitution violate the human rights protections of the SADC treaty.
They also seek a "declarator" that the treaty has been violated, because
article six says that "member states shall not discriminate against any
person on the grounds of gender, religion, political views, race, ethnic
origin, culture, ill-health or disability or such other grounds".

A restraint or interdict is also sought to stop the Zimbabwean government
from arbitrarily acquiring the Campbell farm. Ironically, the farm was
purchased in 1999 and the Zimbabwean government declared at the time that it
had no interest in the property. Mugabe's land grabs began a year later in
2000. The farm was first hit by summary unlawful invasions in 2001 and since
then there have been threats of violence against which the law enforcement
authorities have failed to act. The entire process, which has seen multiple
applications to the courts in Zimbabwe, has not been without pain and
tragedy. The papers record that malaria brought onto the farm by invaders
was responsible for the deaths of a daughter-in-law and her twin children.
"Personal suffering of the farm's employees, their families and my family
has been acute," Campbell says in papers. A Supreme Court action mounted in
March this year had judgment reserved. Since then, the court has not
responded to inquiries about the case, meaning that the court had declined
to exercise its jurisdiction. "The applicants have clearly exhausted their
remedies under Zimbabwe municipal law and . must seek, before this
honourable tribunal, to enforce compliance by the president of Zimbabwe,
representing this government, with the international law obligations he
himself accepted for Zimbabwe when he personally signed the SADC Treaty on
Zimbabwe's behalf," the papers claim.

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African diplomats defend Mugabe's attendance at EU-Africa summit

Yahoo News

by Emmanuel Goujon Sat Oct 6, 7:02 AM ET

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - African diplomats presented a united front Saturday to
support Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's presence at an upcoming
EU-Africa summit despite strong European reservations.

"The African Union wants all African countries to take part" in the summit
in Lisbon in December, an official from the pan-African body's headquarters
in Addis Ababa told AFP.
The official, who requested to remain anonymous, contradicted comments by
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who claimed the African Union had
offered to talk Mugabe out of travelling to Portugal.

The 83-year-old firebrand Zimbabwean leader has come under a barrage of
international criticism for violating political and human rights in his
country and plunging it into a disastrous economic crisis.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has made it clear Mugabe was not welcome
at the summit but Mugabe has brushed away criticism from his country's
former colonial power and shown no sign of backing down.

"Zimbabwe, in spite of the crisis, is an African country and we are
defending principles here. We have asked Mugabe to talk to his opposition
but the AU respects the principle of non-interference," said one official
from the African Union's Peace and Security Committee.

"We resort to interference only in extreme cases of violence or genocide."

"It is not the only country not to respect democracy, look at Togo, Niger...
Zimbabwe's problem is mainly with London, it's a bilateral issue and is none
of our business. If the Europeans really insist on this point, the summit
risks falling through," the official added.

Originally planned to take place in April 2003, the summit was repeatedly
postponed due to the adamant refusal of several European countries to host
Mugabe over his rights record.

Britain and other European powerhouses have urged the African Union to use
its leverage and convince Mugabe to let his country be represented at the
summit by another official, so far in vain.

"On this file, the AU's position is clear and resolute: all member countries
should take part in the Lisbon summit. As Zimbabwe head of state, Robert
Mugabe should take part," another high-ranking AU official told AFP on
condition of anonymity.

On Thursday, AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare and the current
president of the organisation, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, had
reaffirmed their position to visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"We want the next EU-Africa summit to be a success and herald a new
partnership. All Africans should be invited, this is the basis of this new
partnership," Konare said.

Merkel, who is now in South Africa, where she was expected to urge President
Thabo Mbeki to use his influence on Mugabe, lamented the plight of
Zimbabweans but stopped short of backing Brown's tough line.

"The situation is a very difficult one. It's a disastrous one, which I very
clearly stated in our conversation," she said Friday.

She said African countries themselves should be left to decide who attends
the talks in Portugal.

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Mozambique keeps Zimbabwe in the dark

Business Report

October 6, 2007

Maputo - Radio Mozambique said in a report that the decision to reduce the
amount of energy to the economic and politically beleaguered country was
decided by the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric dam administration at a recent

Manuel Tome -- one of the administrators of the hydroelectric dam which is
situated on The Zambezi River -- said Zimbabwe had failed to pay the power
utility for a lengthy period.

He said measures to reduce the amount of power that country received would
be taken at the end of October.

Electrical energy from the dam, which is one of the largest in southern
Africa, is also sold to Malawi, South Africa and locally.

Recently, ownership of the dam was transferred from the Portuguese
government to the Mozambican government. - Sapa

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Fruit Flies

Saturday 6th October 2007

Dear Family and Friends,
There are fruit flies in my fridge! Stupidly I keep putting things there to
keep them cool in Zimbabwe's searing October heat but at last the reality is
sinking in. After the second week of having electricity for just five of
every twenty four hours, fridges and deep freezes have finally given up. In
my area the electricity has only been on for 25 of the last 120 hours and
then only in the middle of the night. Now we have no choice but to live from
hand to mouth. Planning and preparation have gone out the window and short
term thinking has taken over - just like our government.

Sitting in the dark one evening this week listening to the first gentle rain
of the season washing the dust off the roof, I knew that this sound of life
and renewal wasn't going to help Zimbabwe this year. We have yet again
arrived at the main growing season without any clarity over who can farm and
who can't and with no guarantees for black or white, old or new farmers.
Electricity for pumping water, running cold rooms or drying crops is neither
regular nor guaranteed. Fuel for ploughing, cultivating and transporting
crops is not freely available or guaranteed. Vital inputs of fertilizers and
chemicals are scarce or unavailable. Stockfeed for all types of livestock is
virtually unobtainable and even securing enough food for farm workers is
nearly impossible.

The few remaining farmers on the land who hold Title Deeds to their
properties continue to face each day with apprehension and insecurity. Court
orders are ignored or disobeyed and people with political clout still have
the ability to evict at will and seize at leisure. For the people who don't
hold Title to the farms they are on, the insecurity is just as great. Just
as politics put them there, so too politics can take them away. These
farmers must surely be wondering if the March elections are finally going to
make them answerable for their actions and hold them accountable for what
they have done.

The insecurity and uncertainty of everything is all encompassing and none
are spared - from farmers to businessmen and miners to civil servants. We
don't say things like the government "can't do that," "won't get away with
that," or "it's against the law" anymore. After 7 years of first hand
experience, we all know that they can and will take private property, change
laws to suit themselves, turn a blind eye as assets are stripped,
infrastructure falls apart and human rights are disregarded. But, as absurd
as it sounds, there is hope because our memories are long and elections draw
ever closer.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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The longer we keep quiet, the more complicit we become

The Zimbabwean

 While it is encouraging that President Mbeki and Deputy President
Mlambo-Ngcuka have both been in contact with Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe and Vice President Joyce Mujuru, it would be far more reassuring if
our country was advised what our representatives told their Zimbabwean
Zimbabwe is fast approaching meltdown point; millions of Zimbabweans have
already sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Millions more are expected
if this crisis is allowed to continue. Zimbabwe has reached a point where
millions do not have enough to eat and yet while this goes on, our
government continues treating Robert Mugabe as an honoured elder statesman
instead of the disastrous leader that he is.
President Mbeki should consider South African public opinion. It is not only
the two million DA supporters who are appalled at conditions in Zimbabwe;
millions of people within that country and in other African countries share
the feeling that action is necessary to bring Robert Mugabe's government
face to face with the political realities.
In the final event, it is only the Zimbabweans who can solve their problems.
Such a solution is not helped while SA and many other countries pursue quiet
diplomacy which Robert Mugabe regards as silent acquiesce.

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South Africa blocks UN debate on Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean

 South Africa's decision to block a request for a United Nations Security
Council briefing on the economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe is another
example of South Africa bending over backwards to defend Robert Mugabe's
increasingly tyrannical rule.
Britain's ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry last week requested a
"humanitarian briefing" for the UNSC following the attack on Zimbabwean
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, as well as the deepening economic and
political crisis in the country. South Africa is the current rotating
President of the UNSC - Dumisani Khumalo, South Africa's ambassador to the
UN, blocked the request.
In a repeat of South Africa's indefensible blocking of a UN resolution on
the human rights crisis in Burma, Khumalo argued that the turmoil in
Zimbabwe does not affect international peace and security and therefore does
not belong on the UNSC's agenda.
Apart from the extraordinary irony that this reasoning was often the excuse
used to block UNSC debates on Apartheid South Africa, it is also a
fundamental misreading of the extent of the crisis in Zimbabwe. As the
situation continues to get worse on a daily basis, there is a distinct
possibility that the southern African region will be negatively affected by
the fallout from Zimbabwe's implosion. This fallout could in all likelihood
constitute a threat to international peace and security.
South Africa, as the leading nation in the region, has a moral
responsibility to tell Harare that its brutal intolerance of legitimate
opposition will no longer be accepted. By shielding President Mugabe from
international scrutiny, Pretoria has become complicit in suppression of
democratic freedoms in Zimbabwe.
South Africa is rapidly developing a reputation as a defender of the world's
pariahs; our tenure at the head of the UNSC is characterised by an
indifference to human rights and temporising with tyranny. We have now all
but lost much of the moral high ground we once had under President Mandela.
As South Africa prepares to commemorate Human Rights Day on Wednesday, we
must urgently reassess our position and make sure that Zimbabwe is placed
back on the UNSC's agenda.
Our window of opportunity is fast closing, as Britain will next month assume
the UNSC chairpersonship. If they put Zimbabwe on the agenda when we refused
to do so, our moral high ground will be lost completely.

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"Home Affairs purposefully lowering border-crossing numbers to hide Zim refugee crisis"

The Zimbabwean


 The Democratic Alliance stands by its contention that an average of 6000
people per day came through the Beit Bridge border post during the period
1-15 July 2007. The Department of Home Affairs has disputed this number,
claiming that it is far too high.

This is blatant and unfortunately commonplace government denial, in the same
vein that government has been denying the Zimbabwean crisis since the land
invasions began seven years ago.

However, the DA has proof of the numbers, which were presented to the DA
delegation and a reporter from Jacaranda FM who visited the border post
earlier this week. I was personally told by a border post official, whose
name is known to us, who did not want to be named, that over 6000 people a
day were coming through the post. These are just the people entering

In addition:
 Farmers near the border estimate about 4000 Zimbabweans are illegally
crossing into South Africa every night;
 They also claim that the local police and military privately acknowledge
that between 3000 and 4000 Zimbabweans are jumping the border every day;
 Both the SABC and Limpopo police recently reported that 6000 Zimbabwean
refugees were deported every week from Musina and these are just the people
caught. The actual number is much higher. The police are no longer allowed
to release figures on deportations in Limpopo; and
 This July, the National Assembly safety and security committee chairperson
Maggie Sotyu and other MPs visited several border posts. They found that no
could give them exact figures of illegal immigrants crossing the border each
day, but one border official said the number could be between 2000 and 3000.

Either all these sources are involved in an elaborate conspiracy against the
Minister of Home Affairs, or there is a massive problem that the Minister is
denying. Perhaps the Minister should visit some of the Home Affairs offices
where she will see thousands of people lining up every day trying to apply
for refugee status.

Whether the number is 1000 a day or 10 000 a day, there is still a huge
number of people streaming into the country as a result of the total
meltdown in Zimbabwe. The Department of Home Affairs is legally and
constitutionally bound to make provision for these people. But before they
do that they have to admit there is a problem.

The Minister's denial has now reached the stage where it is tragic, wilfully
ignorant and quite frankly, malicious.

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"African governments begin to acknowledge that Zimbabwe is in chaos"

The Zimbabwean

 Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister Mundia Sikatana should be commended and
supported in his drive to get his country's counterparts in the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) to stop pretending that "all is well in
Minister Sikatana's acknowledgement of the problems in Zimbabwe is one of
the frankest, most upfront so far by any political leader in southern Africa
since Zimbabwean President Mugabe first began his despotic ways in 1999.
President Mbeki, now more than ever, needs to break his curious silence on
the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe or face
further ridicule in this regard.
The Democratic Alliance wholeheartedly agrees with the following key
assessments by Minister Sikatana reported in the media:
.       that the issue of the confiscation of white-owned farms was key in
averting greater catastrophe in Zimbabwe, exacerbated by flooding and
droughts; and,
.       that SADC states had a responsibility to make Zimbabwean President
Mugabe realise that he needs to enter into dialogue.
Indications from Lusaka diplomats confirm the DA's long held suspicion that
the government's of our neighbouring countries look to the South African
government for leadership in dealing with the Zimbabwean crisis and, in
particular, with President Mugabe's hostility towards the political
opposition and the press in his country.
The loyalty that some SADC members, including South Africa, might still feel
towards their erstwhile comrade-in-arms, President Mugabe, is completely
misplaced when more than a quarter of Zimbabweans have had to flee their
country to escape the oppressive regime and economic situation in their
country. This goes against the "African Renaissance" vision.
The DA looks forward to Zambia's reign as chairing member-country for the 12
month period, beginning in August of this year. If Minister Sikatana's
comments are anything to go by, then the SADC may at long last be tackling
the bull by the horns when it comes to Zimbabwe

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"SADC meeting fails to protect democracy and human rights"

The Zimbabwean



 Once again South Africa and the SADC have been taken hostage by President
Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF.

Instead of taking action on the massive human rights violations in Zimbabwe,
the SADC leaders decided to call for a lowering of sanctions in what could
possibly be interpreted as open support of the Mugabe regime.

The leaders at the summit should have called for smart sanctions against
President Mugabe, his wife and members of his government, such as a travel
ban within the SADC, and the freezing of all their externally held assets.
This call should have been led by President Mbeki, as an acknowledgment of
the vicious poverty, deprivation and human rights abuses that the people of
Zimbabwe are suffering as a direct result of the actions of President Mugabe
and his government's policies.

Calling on President Mbeki to be the mediator between Zanu-PF and the MDC is
pointless. President Mbeki has already been called upon to be the point-man
in negotiations in Zimbabwe, and he has achieved nothing. This is because
President Mbeki's policy choices with regard to Zimbabwe are fundamentally
flawed. If they were not flawed the situation there would have improved. It
has not.

The problem is the process, not the individuals running it.

The policy of quiet diplomacy has failed, and it will continue to fail in
the future. Only real action, such as condemning the attacks on the MDC,
smart sanctions and a tough government and SADC line on President Mugabe's
actions in his country, will work.

Furthermore, no mention was made of the attacks on the democratically
elected opposition party members, who were assaulted by government forces.
The fact that this was not addressed at all is a further indictment of the
SADC meeting.

Instead of condemning the human rights abuses and the shameful state of
democracy in Zimbabwe, the leaders of the SADC put out a statement stressing
that "the extraordinary summit reaffirms their solidarity with the
government and the people of Zimbabwe".

This sentence is highly revealing because the people of Zimbabwe are
effectively at war with their government; they are not one and the same.
This suggests that the Zimbabwean government and its president behaved in a
legitimate manner. This is totally unacceptable. It is a reminder of the
lack of political backbone in both our country's President and the leaders
in the SADC.

History will severely judge all the leaders who show solidarity with
President Mugabe and Zanu-PF at the expense of the basic human rights of
ordinary Zimbabweans. Those who deny rights to others should face the full
consequences of their actions. It is an indictment of the Zimbabwean
leadership that those who were meant to protect democracy turned out to be
the ones who damaged democracy the most.

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Zimbabwe: SADC must act, and now

The Zimbabwean


  [This week's letter is written by the acting leader of the Democratic
Alliance, Joe Seremane MP. DA leader Helen Zille is away.]

Today, President Thabo Mbeki is scheduled to report on the progress of his
mediation with Harare to the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
This presents South Africa with an excellent opportunity to intervene
decisively and positively in the affairs of that unhappy country.

If the President is honest, he will have to admit that the talks he has
brokered have gone nowhere, for the selfsame reason that his interventions
have failed in the past. President Robert Mugabe has - as usual - refused to
show any sign that he is committed to resolving the crisis in his country.
It is time to change gears.

Mbeki must tell his fellow SADC leaders that the ZANU-PF delegation - who,
like the opposition MDC faction, are being hosted at our expense in
Pretoria - have often not even bothered to arrive for the scheduled round of
talks. Moreover, our president must alert his fellow regional leaders to the
fact that Mugabe has unilaterally proposed constitutional amendments that
are the very subject of the mediation.

In light of the failure of his brief, Mr Mbeki must now use the meeting as
an opportunity to persuade regional leaders that the time has come for SADC
to impose limited sanctions against Harare. These would include travel bans
and the freezing of assets of senior ZANU-PF officials in the SADC region.

On the flip side: SADC leaders must also propose a series of steps to be
taken if the Mugabe government does agree to the necessary constitutional
reforms and the holding of properly monitored elections. Such measures would
include the provision of aid and debt relief, as well as agreeing to lobby
the international community to provide financial and other assistance.

Lest anyone at SADC be in any doubt, our President must drive the point
home. The need for punitive measures has arisen because the Mugabe regime
simply does not respond to polite pressure. It is only when Zimbabwe's
president feels that he can no longer act with impunity that he is likely to
agree to the kind of reforms that are so desperately required.

In light of the economic and political collapse in Zimbabwe, it is clearly
in the self interest of all SADC members to take firm steps against Harare.
In the past, SADC leaders have justified their inaction on the pretext that
they wanted to maintain stability in Zimbabwe and therefore avoid a surge in
refugees coming into their countries.

Now, it is no longer merely South Africa who is bearing the brunt. Given the
current dispersal as well as the rate of those fleeing Zimbabwe, it is clear
that this excuse wore thin a long time ago.

The situation is so dire that even our Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Pahad -
normally the chief apologist for the Mugabe government - has expressed alarm
at the number of Zimbabweans coming into our country. He is on record as
saying that South Africa and neighbouring countries will not be able to
sustain the levels of incomers.

The whiff of realism in his words is so rare as to bear quoting in full. He
said: "We must do more to deal with the large influx of refugees. If we do
not begin to assist Zimbabweans to solve their problems, the flow into South
Africa and other neighbours will increase. It is in our interest, nationally
and morally, to see what we can do to facilitate."

Indeed, both South Africa and Zambia are currently experiencing a flood of
Zimbabweans across their borders. If not checked, this will ultimately place
an intolerable burden on the local infrastructure. Border authorities in
Livingstone have said that the number of Zimbabweans crossing daily into
Zambia has risen from 60 to 1000.

Failure by government to take proper action and to acknowledge the extent of
the refugee problem is forcing local farmers on the South Africa/Zimbabwe
border to deal as best they can with an extremely difficult situation. In a
security vacuum, they are obliged to patrol their property against the
possible depredations of trespassers.

In contrast to the sense of urgency expressed by Pahad, our border
authorities in Limpopo are trying to downplay the numbers of refugees. Yet
it is clear from unbiased reports (including the DA's own investigations in
the area) that there are at least 3000 people a day crossing the frontier.

That living conditions in Zimbabwe are dire is hardly in dispute: 80% of the
populace currently live below the poverty line. People are so desperate in
that country that a man was recently beaten to death in a battle over a loaf
of bread.

The UN World Programme has announced that it is planning a tenfold increase
in the number of beneficiaries of food aid in order to try and avert the
looming hunger crisis.

The situation is only likely to get worse - if such a thing is credible. The
IMF has predicted that Zimbabwe's inflation rate could increase from the
current 4500% to 100 000% by year's end. This prospect is so devastating as
to be almost impossible to imagine.

The result will be obvious. Even more Zimbabweans, those that still have
power in their legs, will flood into neighbouring SADC states.

To conclude: Zimbabwe has now been in crisis for seven long, lean years. The
steady erosion, not only of the features of a free society, but of the
elements that sustain life itself - food, water, housing, power - has been
all too plain for her neighbours to see.

It is frankly a disgrace that President Mbeki and his fellow SADC leaders
have allowed the situation to deteriorate this far. If this regional
organisation and our government in particular, is serious about avoiding a
human catastrophe, they must act at once, and with resolution.

It is not merely that South Africans are tired of the tragedy that is
playing itself out to our north; we are all exhausted by the effort of
trying to get our government to face the facts. The time for talk - both
between the delegates from Zimbabwe, and between SADC leaders about
Zimbabwe - has passed. The time for deeds is long overdue.

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