|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
WIRE: 09/12/2001 3:37 pm ET
Farms truce still fails to take hold in Zimbabwe, farmers say
The Associated Press
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) Ruling party militants assaulted a white farmer on Wednesday despite a government promise to end violence on white-owned farms.
The farmer, evicted from his farm by militants last month, had been advised by police to return home Wednesday in wake of the promises to ensure the safety of landowners, the Commercial Farmers Union said.
But on his return to his farm near Marondera, about 45 miles east of Harare, the militants "immediately set upon him," forcing him to barricade himself inside his house, a union statement said.
It said there was no reaction from police. No immediate comment was available from the government or police.
However, in a sign that the police were beginning to crack down, a four-day siege by militants on a farm near Beatrice, 50 miles south of Harare, was broken up by the police. Police freed the white farm manager who had been barricaded in his homestead, the union said.
Since March, the militants have occupied more than 1,700 white-owned farms, spurred by a government campaign to take 4,600 white-owned farms about 95 percent of all white-owned land in Zimbabwe and give the land to blacks.
At least nine white farmers have died in clashes since June.
In an accord brokered Sept. 6 by Commonwealth ministers in Abuja, Nigeria, Zimbabwe pledged an immediate end to violence and farm invasions in return for British funding for orderly land reform.
President Robert Mugabe promised Sunday to abide by the accord, but there were doubts the government could quickly rein in violence by militants.
Eighteen months of violent land seizures have brought Zimbabwe's economy to its knees.
Mugabe has maintained that Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial master, must compensate 5,000 whites whose farms he wants to redistribute to black Zimbabweans.
Mugabe has been in power for 22 years and plans to seek another six-year presidential term in elections in April, but his support has waned.
Leaders from southern Africa say they will establish a special ministerial task force to monitor Zimbabwe's commitment to stop the violence and intimidation of white farmers.
The announcement came at the end of a two-day summit in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.
The Malawian president, Bakili Muluzi, who chairs the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC, said there was a commitment from the Zimbabwean government to work with the opposition to resolve the land issue.
But the BBC southern Africa correspondent says there is little evidence of that on the ground.
Our correspondent adds that the direct criticism of President Mugabe by his southern African counterparts was very unusual.
From the newsroom of the BBC World Service
Violence continued on Zimbabwe's farms, despite a promise from President Robert Mugabe to fellow African leaders to reign in his militant war veterans.
As the presidents of South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana and Malawi left after two days of talks with President Mugabe to resolve Zimbabwe's land crisis, analysts warned that the attacks on white-owned farms, which resumed on Monday, would continue.
The chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, said land redistribution in Zimbabwe had to proceed on the basis of the rule of law. He added: "If democracy is to work in Zimbabwe, then violence and intimidation must be halted."
The Malawian leader also said Mr Mugabe had pledged to end violence and chaos on the farms and to establish an inter-party political conference to create dialogue on contentious issues among all the major political players in Zimbabwe.
But analysts said they doubted that Mr Mugabe would implement the promises made to his African colleagues and those made at a summit of Commonwealth ministers in Abuja, Nigeria, last week.
A University of Zimbabwe law professor, Lovemore Madhuku, said the incidents of violence on the farms, after the meeting Abuja and as the African leaders met in Harare, were testimony that Mr Mugabe would not repent.
On Monday, just after the SADC leaders had started meeting in Harare, Jane Williams, a spokeswoman for the Commercial Farmers Union said a Zimbabwe National Army truck, carrying war veterans, rammed through the security gates of Alex Van Leenoff's Protea Farm. The invaders assaulted four workers on the property.
On the same day, a group of about a hundred war veterans attacked Dave Joubert, at Potwe Farm in Inyahti, northern Matabeleland, and warned him to leave Zimbabwe.
Ms Williams said the war veterans trapped Mr Joubert inside a courtroom for almost two hours in what the CFU spokeswoman described as a well-planned and executed attack. Mr Joubert was appearing in court to face three charges of assault stemming from a clash between his game scouts and illegal settlers on his eco-tourism farm last month.
Ms Williams said the war veterans chanted anti-British and anti-white slogans during the siege, and while Mr Joubert was trapped another group stormed his farm and harassed his workers.
On Tuesday, Ms Williams said, operations at Ruzawi Park Farm ground to a halt after war veteranschased away about 100 farm workers. The invaders demanded diesel from the farm owner and ordered him to plough their plots in exchange for his safety.
The owner, Kobus Van Rooyes, said the occupiers also uprooted two hectares of tobacco already in the ground.
Yesterday,a farmer, who was evicted from Arcadia Farm in Marondera, south-east of Harare, two weeks ago, returned, only to be detained and barricaded in his house.
The CFU said the farmer, whose name it refused to release, had been encouraged by the outcome of the Abuja meeting and had even been persuaded by the police to return to his farm. He was still barricaded in his farm late yesterday. The police had not come to his rescue.
The CFU said trouble had also continued at Wenimbe Farm and Malaba Farm in the same area with war veterans assaulting farm workers. Logen Lee farm in Beatrice, south of Harare, had not recovered from the weekend violence in which war veterans burnt farm workers' homes and destroyed tobacco crops.
A University of Zimbabwe political scientist, Professor John Makumbe, said there was no sign that Mr Mugabe was acting to stem the violence. He said: "Those who believe he will change his ways are engaging in wishful thinking". Mr Madhuku said the SADC leaders and Commonwealth ministers might have given a "veil of legitimacy" for Mr Mugabe's violent policies by agreeing to meet him in the first place.
Mthuli Ncube: CEO, Barbican Group Asset Managers, Zimbabwe
September 11, 2001
Posted to the web September 12, 2001
Mthuli Ncube is the chief executive of the Barbican group. Good to have you in the studio Mthuli, but clearly not the best of days. You're in town, as have been a number of our other guests today, for the Investec conference. We were hoping to speak to Jeffrey Sachs, the professor from Harvard University, who addressed your conference via video link. Was there anything in particular that he said that might stand out for you?
MTHULI NCUBE: Well, frankly, it's really about how South Africa should work hard to attract investment in Africa in general. I think it's fair to say that the South African government has done enough to stabilise the macro economy, the macroeconomic environment, but we need that investment to come through. I come from further north in Zimbabwe, where he remarked that the thawing of relations there, the issues there, the scenario there, is going to improve quite a bit of the region.
MONEYWEB: Is it starting to improve in Zimbabwe? Just today we had a report out that Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president, walked out of a meeting with Robert Mugabe.
MTHULI NCUBE: Well, that's news to me. I don't know much about that, frankly, but to me it's the beginning of the thawing of the ice between the government, the farmers, the British and so forth, and I think the regional leaders are trying to help the whole situation, as well as the Commonwealth, as well as Nigeria. I think it is the start of good things to come and a peaceful arrangement afterwards.
MONEYWEB: How bad are things on the ground?
MTHULI NCUBE: The economy, I think, is in freefall frankly. I think inflation is quite high, officially 70%, but I think the latest figures will show a much higher figure. Interest rates are still low. We have a negative interest rate [indistinct]. Fuel queues are beginning to reappear, but I think some fuel deals have been put in place, so I think that's going to arrest the fuel situation a bit. So the economy is in freefall and a bit of trouble.
MONEYWEB: But why is the government, in your opinion - now remembering that Mthuli Ncube is chief executive of the Barbican Group, you're an asset manager, in fact - why do you feel that the government is not yet listening to the signals?
MTHULI NCUBE: Well, frankly, I think it's fair to say that this is politics and politics is always a fight. That when you talk about listening, it's is about listening to the other side as it is perceived by the other side. So that's what it is - it's politics, frankly.
MONEYWEB: But there comes a time in any political situation when people say "enough!" Have we reached that?
MTHULI NCUBE: Well I'm not too sure. I think that there is a constituency that is supportive of the incumbent, the current government there. There is also a constituency that is supportive of the opposition. I'm not too sure that people are on one side - or some on both sides.
MONEYWEB: When we last spoke to you, probably a year ago, you said it was a good investment opportunity in Zimbabwe. Indeed it worked out that way, one of the best-performing stock exchanges. But then things worsened with Robert Mugabe's "antics", as we would call them in South Africa. Are you now at a situation again where there's hope to make an investment.
MTHULI NCUBE: Oh, definitely. I think that property is a good investment right now in Zim. Always, when you've got a crisis, immovables are a good investment. Even investing in a Mercedes Benz is a good investment, frankly. Obviously, I would stay away from the agricultural sector. I think that's been hard-hit, it's obvious to everybody. The equity market has run quite hard, as you remarked earlier, but I think it's topping out now. I'll be looking to get out in a couple of months.
MONEYWEB: There are many South African companies that have operations in Zimbabwe on a number of balance sheets. Dunlop is an example. The total investment has been written off. Is that a fair indication of the value of those assets?
MTHULI NCUBE: Oh, definitely. You can imagine, I think the writing-off has been done on the back of the parallel market exchange rate, which of course has been in freefall, so in rand terms or US dollar terms I think that investment has come to nought.
MONEYWEB: So if you invested rands in Zimbabwe you wouldn't be looking very good now because of the way that the exchange rate has gone?
MTHULI NCUBE: Oh definitely. Not only that, the shortage of foreign currency means that you can't take out your dividends, even for an investment that you've realised. So there's a bit of a problem. I think the message that we have for the investment community is that you must look ahead, look 12 months ahead and beyond. Definitely not six months or three months.
MONEYWEB: What is the situation with people who are considering investing in that country? How long might it take for the events of the past couple of years to be digested?
MTHULI NCUBE: That, I would say, has stabilised - I would say six months.
MONEYWEB: So it's six months from here before you can start looking at a possible recovery in the economy. How much is the economy down this year?
MTHULI NCUBE: I would say a negative 3%.
MONEYWEB: Three per cent? That's not terribly bad.
MTHULI NCUBE: It's got to do with the lowering of interest rates that we saw at the beginning of the year. Companies were de-gearing and it did arrest quite a few companies, which were well on their way out, frankly.
MONEYWEB: What's going to pull Zimbabwe out of its current crisis?
MTHULI NCUBE: Political stability.
MONEYWEB: And how is that going to be achieved?
MTHULI NCUBE: Presidential elections will resolve everything, in my view. I think that for the corporate sector it doesn't matter who wins, frankly. We don't care who wins. But what we all believe is that, after that, there will be stability, even from the current party, or from the alternative party. We believe that there will be stability. That's what will resolve everything.
MONEYWEB: I'm surprised when you say it "doesn't matter" who wins, when the current government is the one that's got the country - or appears to have got the country - into the fix it's in.
MTHULI NCUBE: Frankly, this is also about next year's elections. That's where we understand it - that the current government feels that it has to deliver on the land issue, upon which part of the liberation struggle was fought. And that should be done before the elections, and then it can also maybe campaign on the back of that as well. As I said, that's politics, and it should be resolved at the presidential elections. I think beyond that there won't be any need, in my view, to carry on with this type of policy, even from the current government. If it's a new government, then obviously I presume they have different policies.
MONEYWEB: Will it get worse before it improves?
MTHULI NCUBE: I don't think it will get worse from here, no.
MONEYWEB: Mthuli Ncube is the chief executive of the Barbican Group, a Zimbabwe-based asset management company.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won mayoral elections in the second city of Bulawayo, while Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF retained its parliamentary seat in the eastern constituency of Makoni West.
Last June, Zanu-PF only narrowly won Makoni West against the MDC but its margin of victory has now increased to 66%.
The seat became vacant when Defence Minister Moven Mohachi died in a car crash in May.
Following the announcement of the Bulawayo result, there were reports of Zanu-PF supporters beating people up in the streets for having voted for the opposition.
The privately-owned Daily News says that its vendors in Bulawayo were attacked for selling a newspaper deemed to be anti-Mugabe.
Zimbabwe's president has never enjoyed strong support in Bulawayo, the capital of the minority ethnic Ndebeles.
In the early 1980s, thousands of Ndebeles were killed in a conflict between the forces of Mr Mugabe and supporters of his ethnic Ndebele rival Joshua Nkomo.
Reacting to the Bulawayo result, Clement Moyo of the human rights group Zimrights said: "The message is Zanu-PF is not wanted anymore."
But analysts say that Zanu-PF's increased share of the vote in Makoni West shows that the MDC is having difficulty making headway in rural areas.
Zimbabwe's trade union movement was instrumental in forming the MDC, explaining its strength in urban areas.
Zanu-PF has always concentrated on rural issues and areas, such as the question of redistributing farmland.
This urban-rural divide was the pattern last June.
Overall, Zanu-PF gained just 70,000 more ballots than the MDC out of the 1.5 million votes cast.
Analysts say the winner of next year's presidential elections will be the man better able to reach outside of his traditional strongholds - either Mr Mugabe in towns or MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the countryside.
Southern African leaders to monitor talks between Mugabe and Zimbabwe opposition
The Associated Press
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) Zimbabwe's government and opposition will embark on a "national dialogue" aimed at ending 18 months of violent unrest, the chairman of a regional summit on the crisis in the southern African nation said Wednesday.
President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi, the head of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community and chair of the summit, said nations in the region will monitor a special committee that will include representatives of President Robert Mugabe's government and the opposition.
Speaking at a late-night press conference at the close of the two-day meeting, Muluzi said regional leaders accepted Mugabe's assurances that there would be an end to violence and intimidation linked to the transfer of some 5,000 white-owned farms to landless blacks.
Muluzi said militant veterans of the independence war that ended white rule in 1980 would curb farm invasions that have jeopardized an accord reached last Thursday under which Britain Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler was ready to resume funding of land reform.
"Please be assured that the war veterans are going to cooperate, and from what I can see they are really working together with the government to adhere to the rule of law," Muluzi said to applause from militants who attended the press conference.
However, white farming leaders reported new violence and raids on farms Tuesday. The militants have occupied 1,700 white-owned farms over the past 18 months with tacit government approval, and human rights organizations say the turmoil has claimed more than 100 lives.
Mugabe, 77, looked tired and unsteady, declined to answer questions. None of the other leaders attended the press briefing. The Zimbabwean president has been in power for 21 years and plans to run in a presidential election next year.
Muluzi said the United Nations Development Program would send a team to Zimbabwe next week to discuss plans for orderly land transfers.
From ZWNEWS, 12 September
Suspension still on the cards
If the sceptics are right and President Robert Mugabe fails to implement the agreement reached in Abuja, Nigeria, on halting farm invasions, human rights abuses and restoring the rule of law, reprisals from the Commonwealth loom. Even if Mugabe had not claimed he will deliver on the agreement, it appears certain he could have fended off any immediate attempt to suspend Zimbabwe during the Commonwealth summit in Australia in October on grounds that his administration is constitutional. In other words, there has not been a military coup, as happened in three countries suspended in recent years: Nigeria, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. However, Zimbabwe under Mugabe could be suspended within months of the meeting.
Key to the vague mechanisms for suspending a country is the Commonwealth's Harare Declaration of Human Rights which specifies that member states should be democracies, and observe fundamental principles of good governance and the rule of law. Before striking a deal in Abuja under pressure from other African nations, Mugabe's administration had taken the stance that interventions by Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries were a means to get more British funds for land while continuing farm seizures. Mugabe was adamant that issues such as good governance, democracy, respect for property ownership and human rights should be off the agenda - and many believe that whatever Mugabe signs, these key issues remain off his agenda.
The Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration adopted at a summit meeting in Auckland, New Zealand in 1995, set up a Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to monitor and recommend measures against member-states that persistently violate human rights. And it is the Millbrook programme also provides scope, constitutional experts believe, for suspending Zimbabwe if Mugabe fails to implement the Abuja agreement, and if presidential elections due by April are not held, or take place in the current atmosphere of violence and intimidation.
"Much as we deplore the nature of the policies of President Mugabe, his government is in power constitutionally - although that will change if elections are not held within a specified time," Robin Cook, then British Foreign Secretary, told the House of Commons May 3. Section 1B of the Millbrook Action Programme states that: "Where a member country is perceived to be clearly in violation of the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, and particularly in the event of an unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government, appropriate steps should be taken to express the collective concern of Commonwealth countries and to encourage the restoration of democracy within a reasonable time frame."
Steps include exclusion from Commonwealth ministerial meetings, suspension of technical assistance if progress is not made within two years; and "in exceptional cases, suspension from the association." The Millbrook wording suggests that, apart from military coups, a country could be suspended if it fails to deal with violations of the Harare declaration within two years of being alerted about Commonwealth concerns. Nigeria was suspended immediately during the Auckland summit in 1995. The trigger was the execution of nine minority rights activists, but there was also concern about human rights. When Commonwealth leaders next met in 1997, reforms were underway in Nigeria, and the country was reinstated after elections and the inauguration of President Obasajano in May 1999.
Similarly, on the recommendation of the Ministerial Action Group, Sierra Leone was suspended "from the councils of the Commonwealth" after a military coup in May 1997 and reinstated 10 months later when civilian President Kabbah was restored to power. The phrasing of the suspension is intended to allow a country to remain part of the Commonwealth while preventing representatives of the offending regime from attending Commonwealth meetings. Pakistan was suspended in the same way after a military coup in October 1999, and Commonwealth leaders confirmed the suspension at a summit in Durban, South Africa, a month later. As Commonwealth summits are held only at two-year intervals, Zimbabwe could be dealt with after the October meeting by coming under the purview of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (as happened after the Pakistan coup). The ministerial group could recommend suspension at any time, and the Commonwealth Secretariat could consult with other member states to seek a consensus. Meantime, Mugabe is set to head for Australia, featuring in the "family" photographs and enjoying the traditional meeting each Commonwealth leader has alone with Queen Elizabeth II. All that will be missing - because Australia refuses to admit them - are his armed bodyguards.