15 September 2000
In this issue :
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 15 September
MDC offices raided, officials picked up
IN the first major confrontation between the government and the MDC in the post-election period, police yesterday raided the party’s three offices in Harare, arrested four party officials and ransacked the home of the party’s Zengeza MP, Tafadzwa Musekiwa. Dozens of armed policemen armed with search warrants raided the MDC offices in St Martins and in the Avenues during the early hours of yesterday in search of arms of war, grenades, pistols, rifles and teargas. Another unit ransacked the MDC support centre at Eastgate but failed to find any arms.
In the afternoon the MDC filed a chamber application to overrule the search warrants issued by a magistrate. Police called off their investigation after being served with a court order declaring their search unlawful. Earlier there had been a stand-off as MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said the police could not carry out a search on the basis of a second warrant which he said was too generalised. The second warrant sought to give the police access to search computers and any other documents.
In Chitungwiza, Musekiwa said nine armed policemen made a visit to his parents home in Unit J. They demanded to see Musekiwa who was not at home at the time. They then searched the house including quarters used by lodgers. They told Musekiwa’s parents they were looking for arms of war which they said the youthful MP was keeping. After a whole day’s search in vain at the MDC’s three offices in the capital, police picked up the party’s national youth leader, Nelson Chamisa, and personal assistant to Morgan Tsvangirai, Gandi Mudzingwa, for further questioning in connection with their enquiries. Two others from the party’s security department were also taken in. The police then tried to seize documents at the Eastgate office which the original search warrant did not authorise them to do. Some officers left while others maintained a vigil at the office as another warrant was sought to allow the officers to seize documents and search computers.
MDC lawyer Sheila Jarvis tried to resist the arrest of Chamisa and Mudzingwa but party officials later agreed to let them go. The police search was prompted by suspicion that MDC officials were in possession of arms of war. Those cited in the warrant were "Socks Ncube", Noah Mdlongwa and MDC security personnel. The police’s interest in taking in Chamisa and Mudzingwa, who were not mentioned in the warrant, was not clear. The move left MDC officials and lawyers worried as two of those cited, director of security John Nkathazo and "Socks Ncube"(real name (Solomon Chikowore), had already been taken in.
Assistant Inspector, CID Law and Order Maintenance Section, Victor Hwati, said the police were keen to interview Chamisa and Mudzingwa in connecction with arms theft and possession of pistols and rifles, an allegation the two said had no basis in fact. "The issue we are dealing with here is of arms of war and we want Chamisa and Mudzingwa to come with us to our offices for further interrogation about arms of war," charged Hwati, who looked confused after announcing that he had concluded his search but found nothing. However, MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube immediately sought a parliamentary motion to stop the searches. The motion was tabled yesterday evening. "Noting that the police officers armed with AK47 assault rifles raided three offices of the MDC on September 14 2000 to search for arms of war including rifles, grenades and tearsmoke canisters on spurious and baseless grounds and found nothing of the sort, I call upon this house to condemn the harassment of the MDC by the police," said Ncube.
The search, which took almost the whole day at Eastgate, was prolonged because of confusion within the police force. After the search Hwati asked if MDC officials or lawyers had any comments. A few minutes later, in a sudden turn of events, Hwati ,who had done the search single-handedly, received instructions from his superiors to look for documents. Hwati, who during the search process had been receiving and making numerous calls, refused MDC officials permission to receive calls. It is believed he was getting instructions from his superiors, particularly Detective Inspector Boysen Matema. When Matema briefly appeared at Eastgate offices, Hwati tried to bulldoze into Tsvangirai’s office but failed as Jarvis stood firm and blocked him. "Whether you like it or not I am going into the office to search for the documents I am looking for," declared Hwata. "We will stay here until we find a solution," he said. Police later departed after being served with the court order setting aside their search warrants.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyaria told Reuters yesterday that the MDC was keen on tarnishing the image of his party by alleging the bombing of its Fife Ave office was the work of Zanu PF militants. "These people are just smearing the reputation of our party. We have nothing to gain from these things," said Shamuyarira. Ncube said he was saddened by yesterday morning’s events but not surprised. "Over the past 20 years Zanu PF has consistently abused its powers and used violent and unlawful means to maintain its hold on power. The actions we have seen this morning are identical to the strategy employed by the ruling party against Joshua Nkomo and his Zapu party in 1985," said Ncube.From The Star (SA), 14 September
Zim police hunt for weapons in MDC offices
Harare - Detectives and intelligence agents escorted by armed paramilitary police raided offices of the main opposition party on Thursday, saying they were looking for weapons. Two officials of the MDC were arrested and taken to Harare main police station for questioning, party secretary-general Welshman Ncube said. They were identified as Join Nkhatazo, the party's chief security officer and an assistant, Socks Ncube. A search warrant handed to party officials said police suspected three buildings in Harare were used by the opposition to store "arms of war."
Police raided the party headquarters north of the city centre, an administrative support centre in downtown Harare and offices in the southern suburb of St. Martins around dawn. Searches continued for several hours. No weapons were found. Lawyers acting for the opposition prevented police from scrutinizing documents and reading computer files, Welshman Ncube said. Magistrate David Manguta's warrant allowed police only to search for suspected weapons listed as grenades, pistols, rifles and tear gas canisters. Uniformed police armed with automatic weapons remained at the opposition offices, and Ncube said party officials suspected that police were seeking a further warrant to seize documents and computer data. Police refused to comment on the operation.
Ncube said the opposition viewed the raids as a pretext to seize information on party strategies ahead of presidential elections next year and details of its funds so supporters and donors could be targeted for harassment. "That must be one of the reasons behind this nonsensical operation," he said. Police at the downtown offices accused youth leader Nelson Chamisa and Gandi Mudzingwa, a personal assistant to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, of gun running. Tsvangirai is out of the country on party business. On Monday night, a grenade was hurled into the yard of the opposition headquarters. Windows were blown out and cars were damaged but two security guards escaped injury. No one claimed responsibility for the grenade attack. No arrests have been made.
From Pan African News Agency, 14 September
British Customs Officials Confiscate Mugabe Tapes
Harare - Reporters for the state-run ZBC said Wednesday British customs officers had seized, without explanation, television tapes of President Robert Mugabe's address to hundreds of supporters of his controversial land reform programme in New York during last week's UN Millennium Summit. Assignments editor Happison Muchechetere said the customs officers subjected him and cameraman Noel Musoni to a rigorous body search at Gatwick International Airport before confiscating the tapes. Mugabe, who has locked horns with the British government over his plans to seize white-owned land to resettle landless blacks, told his African-American supporters in New York he would not bow to international pressure on the issue. He was invited to address them in Harlem, a poor neighbourhood of the city. Muchechetere said he had since contacted the British customs officers to release the tapes, but had not received assurances this would be done.From The Daily News, 14 September
Farm workers beat up war vets
HEAVY fighting broke out yesterday between farm workers and war veterans occupying Mara Farm, near Ruwa, leaving a number of the ex-combatants injured, some seriously, and their makeshift shacks razed to the ground. The injured ex-fighters, including their base commander, identified only as Comrade Sigauke, were rushed to Harare Central Hospital. Police arrested 23 farm workers and shielded some of the war veterans who fled in terror from the farm. Groups of war veterans were seen at Dombo Police Post and Hatfield Police Station where they sought refuge. Sigauke allegedly sustained a broken arm. Other ex-fighters were admitted to hospital with fractured limbs.
The fighting began shortly after midday yesterday. Witnesses said the war veterans allegedly drove to the farm in a Nissan Hardbody vehicle belonging to Zanu PF. The registration number of the truck is 720-764N. The truck was damaged during the clash. The workers said they would continue to fight the war veterans until they move out of the farm. Officers from Hatfield Police Station were openly hostile towards the farm workers, pushing and shoving the arrested suspects, and accusing them of being antagonistic to the war veterans' cause.
Wilson Muchenje, the farm manager, said about 20 ex-fighters arrived at the farm, wielding grenades, revolvers and assorted weaponry. He said the group was supposed to meet the farmer, Arthur Harley. The meeting was arranged by Joseph Chinotimba, the self-styled commander-in-chief of farm invasions. When Chinotimba failed to turn up, the war veterans started to harass the workers. The workers, who have lived with the war veterans on the farm since April, said they simply could not take it any more. They moved onto the group and allegedly attacked them with hoes, sticks, bricks, kicking and punching them.
When The Daily News arrived, the situation was tense with hundreds of farm workers gathered outside the farmhouse. They said the war veterans were disrupting their life and farming operations. Chinotimba later arrived at the farm, flanked by about a dozen police officers. He told the workers in the presence of the police that war veterans were going to kill Harley. He further accused the farm workers of inciting violence. But Muchenje denied this. Instead, he accused the war veterans of stealing 225 chickens, seven dairy cows, nine sheep and of looting a tuckshop in the farm compound. "We should have planted at the beginning of this month, but right now we can't because the war veterans are very hostile and they are disrupting all the farming operations here," said Muchenje. Harley went into hiding last night.
From News24 (SA), 14 September
Soaring paraffin prices send Zimbabweans logging
Harare - Casper Nyikadzino spends his winters selling firewood on the side of a road leading from Harare, but paraffin shortages have led to his business booming into spring in a trend that environmentalists warn could be disastrous. "Usually, we are not selling at this time, it's so hot," said Nyikadzino, as his two friends cooked dinner on an open fire, on what for Zimbabwe is a spring night. "But there's no paraffin," he said, nodding at a nearby Shell station that has not had any fuel to sell in days. Paraffin is what the vast majority of low-income city dwellers use for their cooking, heating and even lighting at home.
Zimbabwe's foreign currency crunch has left the national oil company NOCZIM unable to import enough paraffin to meet the country's needs. The shortages have made many people turn to firewood, which has led to widespread illegal tree-chopping around the country. Even when paraffin is available, after the latest round of fuel price increases on September 1, a 750 ml bottle now costs about 50 Zimbabwean dollars. That lasts only one day in a typical family. The cost is slightly less than one US dollar, but in a country where the lowest-paid workers earn only about 800 Zimbabwean dollars a month, the expense is crippling. A day's worth of firewood runs to about 20 dollars, and even large bundles rarely top 80 dollars, buyers around Harare said. "Some, they can't pay the 20 dollars so they go to the veld to find some wood for free," Nyikadzino said. "Firewood is better for cooking anyway," said one wood-burner in Harare, who asked not to be named. "But then you have to clean the pots very hard, they get very dirty. With paraffin or an electric stove, they stay cleaner."
Forestry officials said they had no estimates of exactly how many trees are being felled or how much land is affected. Environmentalists say hundreds of thousands of trees have been chopped down. "The ecological balance is going to be affected. We are going to have a desert in Zimbabwe. It's going to be a disaster," said Selestino Chari, logging officer for the Environment 2000 Foundation. Much of the illegal logging began with the farm invasions in February, when militant veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war began invasions of more than 1 600 white-owned farms. The squatters cut down trees to build homes, to cook with, and for heating during the southern winter.
Police have largely refused to act against the squatters, which has created large swaths of land where anyone can cut down trees without fear of arrest. Some local leaders have started handing out their own punishments. Chief Nhema, in the southeastern village of Zaka, has begun ordering illegal lumberjacks to brew beer and tea for the entire village – a punishment he has imposed 15 times in recent months, according to the state-run Herald newspaper. Scavenging for firewood has also proved dangerous. Fifteen-year-old Emelly Musapingura died last week when she was caught in a brush fire while searching for firewood. She had climbed a tree in an attempt to reach safety, but finally fell as the smoke overpowered her, newspaper reports said. "We have not been happy with the authorities' response," said Chari, who blamed the government for failing to control prices and provide enough fuel. "With the price increases, definitely people are going to choose the firewood," he said. "Everyone is going for the trees."
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 15 September
Hunzvi’s comeback bid for top job foiled
Dr Chenjerai Hunzvi’s comeback bid for the chairmanship of the war veterans association seems to have suffered a knock as his efforts to solicit the support of Zexcom shareholders to boot out his arch- rival Endy Mhlanga were snubbed last weekend. Out of the 5 000 shareholders in the war veterans’ investment holding vehicle, Zexcom, only 32 attended the meeting called by Hunzvi on Saturday. Mhlanga, the Zexcom managing director, was quick to point out that this showed that Hunzvi had lost the support of the war veterans. Hunzvi had earlier announced at a number of meetings the dismissal of Mhlanga as the secretary-general of the war veterans association and also as the managing director of Zexcom. Mhlanga, who is still heading Zexcom, denied that he was dismissed.
The majority of the shareholders who attended Saturday’s meeting came from Matabelaland North and Harare. Others came from Chikomba. "Those who came from Matabelaland North were bribed by Hunzvi by being given a lorry to use for whatever they wanted," said Mhlanga when contacted for comment. Mhlanga repeated his charge against Hunzvi, that he swindled millions from the war veterans association. In a report to 1 500 Zexcom shareholders at a meeting held in March, Josphat Terera, who is the Zexcom finance manager, said he had been asked to sign cheques amounting to $3 million by Hunzvi. He also gave a breakdown of the amounts given to Hunzvi month by month from January 1999 to March this year.
This meeting suspended Hunzvi for financial misappropriation. Hunzvi subsequently suspended Terera for allegedly leaking information of Zexcom financial transactions, especially the misuse of Zexcom assets at Murewa hardware branch. The hardware store is said to be managed by Tangai Hove, who sources within the war veterans said is a close associate of Hunzvi. Narrating the genesis of their animosity, Mhlanga said that his differences with Hunzvi mounted in March after the shareholders suspended the chairman as a Zexcom bank account signatory. Hunzvi in turn counter-suspended Mhlanga, but this suspension was never effected. "I have nothing personal against Hunzvi. When he was in jail I actually facilitated his release and raised money for his legal bill, but the problem with Hunzvi is that he is naturally a cruel man and he will turn against you no matter how helpful you have been" said Mhlanga…