|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From Associated Press, 17 September
Mugabe: Zimbabwe to take stake in mines
By Michelle Faul
United Nations - Zimbabwe's embattled and isolated leader said Friday that his government will take a stake in privately operated mining enterprises in the mineral-rich southern African nation, but he does not intend to nationalize the industry as he has commercial farmland. In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Robert Mugabe claimed his people - including hundreds of thousands made homeless by a recent controversial slum clearance and others facing famine because of disastrous land reform - are "very, very happy." Mugabe, 81, who has ruled since a guerrilla war brought independence 25 years ago, said he plans to retire when his term expires in 2008 and live between the countryside and the city, farming and writing. He spoke in a 75-minute interview at the UN World Summit, which he said he was pleased to have attended even though it produced "very little by way of expectations" toward promised goals to fight poverty and eliminate trade tariffs. For that he blamed the United States, saying it should not be allowed to derail the agenda of dozens of other nations "just because they are the strongest and wealthiest. The United Nations isn't owned by them." He said Africa's 52 votes at the UN - more than a quarter of all votes - and the Non-Aligned Movement's more than 100 member votes should be mobilized to ensure that the "very important, sacrosanct goals" are not dismissed. Mugabe also railed against the US-led war in Iraq: "Iraq was attacked and attacked in violation of international law. ... They went on this rampage, on this campaign, which has destabilized Iraq, on the basis of lies," he said. With globalization and the fall of the Soviet Union, "the world is fast becoming a world in which small states are threatened by the bigger ones, by the bullies." Mugabe himself has been the subject of international condemnation. His government is accused of stealing elections, most recently in March, and of gross human rights abuses to suppress opposition.
On a national level, Mugabe said his government would take a share in private mining enterprises because it wants Zimbabweans to benefit from their own natural resources. And he expects companies currently mining there, including the multinational Anglo American, to understand that desire. "What we intend to do is for the state to have a stake in the production of some of our minerals - gold, platinum, diamonds," he said. "We are behind countries like Botswana and Namibia ..." "We just want to be partners. We are not doing anything unusual, and this is the practice in many countries," he said. Zimbabwe mines coal, chromium ore, asbestos, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium, tin and platinum group metals as well as diamonds, emeralds and semiprecious stones. Zimbabwe has also signed several agreements for state-owned Chinese companies for mining under joint ventures with the government, he said. But he stressed there are no plans to nationalize the industry, as he had threatened to do when first was elected, and dreamed of created a one-party Marxist state. Mugabe also said his government has no plans to seize white-owned businesses, as Transport and Communication Minister Christopher Mushohwe was quoted as threatening in a ruling party-allied newspaper this week. Mushohwe reportedly said they would take over the businesses as they did commercial farms, if business owners did not cooperate with the government. The government already has seized thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans, leaving thousands of acres of once-cultivated land to run fallow. Together with years of drought, the often violent campaign has crippled Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy and brought banks carrying farm mortgages to their knees.
The Zimbabwe dollar, once traded at the same level as the greenback, is in free fall and collapsed this week to 52,000 to the US dollar. Fuel shortages reached chronic proportions, with queues three miles long. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country. Yet Mugabe denied he has destroyed an economy that once was one of the most vibrant on the continent. "You describe it as if we have a whole cemetery," he exclaimed. "We are very much alive, very agile and very very happy in spite of the difficulties we are having with continuous years of drought." Last week, the International Monetary Fund decided to defer a decision to expel Zimbabwe after Mugabe made a surprise partial payment of millions of dollars toward arrears. He indicated there were financial problems, saying it's become very difficult to find the kind of soft loans that would help him exploit Zimbabwe's natural resources without foreign investors. Still Mugabe insisted his policies were correct, ignoring charges his government steals elections to stay in power, most recently in March, and grossly abuses human rights to suppress opposition. Instead he told a story about a traditional chief, from the minority Matabele tribe that his Shona-dominated government has repeatedly abused: "He said to me: 'Mugabe, we are born chiefs, you were chosen. We have it in our blood to be chiefs. You don't have it in your blood but you depend on the people (for your power).'"
From Reuters, 16 September
US plans to punish Mugabe with travel sanctions
By Sue Pleming
United Nations - The United States plans to slap tough travel sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, members of his government and their extended families, a senior US official said on Friday. The move is aimed at further isolating Mugabe and is a sign of growing US impatience with Zimbabwe, whose relations with the West are at an all-time low because of human rights abuses. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said the US Treasury was putting the final touches to an order that would bar Mugabe, his senior officials and their families from visiting the United States. Travel visas for study purposes would also be affected. "We are continuing to try to call attention to the human rights abuses, that the last election was not fair and that there was not a level playing field there," Frazer, a former US ambassador to South Africa, said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Mugabe has been at the gathering, where he spoke earlier this week. Last month, Washington froze the US assets of 26 Zimbabwean farms and businesses it said were controlled by key members of Mugabe's government, accusing them of undercutting democracy.
While taking punitive action that targeted Mugabe and his cabinet, US officials said Washington would continue to provide food aid and other humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, which is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain 25 years ago. The latest crisis was triggered by government seizures of white-owned farms for resettlement of landless blacks and allegations of vote rigging in the last election. "Despite what may be taking place within the political context of that government, President Bush is not going to allow people to starve or to face those kinds of abuses," said Cindy Courville, special assistant to President George W. Bush on African affairs. Last month, the United States sent 73,500 tons of food aid to southern Africa with much of that expected to go to Zimbabwe, where about half of the rural population is estimated to need emergency help. On Saturday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be meeting South African President Thabo Mbeki and Frazer said Zimbabwe would be a topic during their talks. Mbeki has in the past been accused of being too supportive of Mugabe and not taking strong enough action against South Africa's neighbor.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 17 September
Mugabe spurned loan 'in fury over conditions'
By David Blair in Johannesburg
President Robert Mugabe rejected South Africa's offer of emergency cash to bail out Zimbabwe's collapsing economy and "humiliated" his officials when they presented him with a draft rescue package, it emerged yesterday. Mr Mugabe was "apoplectic" when he learned of the stringent conditions attached to a loan from South Africa. The conditions are believed to have included Mr Mugabe being required to open talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, repeal a series of repressive laws and implement ambitious economic reforms. A senior western diplomat said that Mr Mugabe's rejection of this offer had "exasperated" President Thabo Mbeki's government. But he added that South Africa would continue to refrain from public criticism of Mr Mugabe. The loan would have covered Zimbabwe's debts of £160 million with the International Monetary Fund. About one third of the country's economy has been wiped out in the past five years and inflation runs at 265 per cent. When Zimbabwe opened talks with South Africa, it faced expulsion from the IMF, a measure that has not been taken against any country for five decades.
But the western diplomat said that Mr Mugabe had "furiously" cast aside the outcome of weeks of negotiations carried out by Gideon Gono, the governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank, Herbert Murerwa, the finance minister, and their South African counterparts. The president deliberately "humiliated" Mr Gono and Mr Murerwa by making them read out the conditions before adamantly rejecting them, the diplomat said. Mr Mugabe's aides were left to try to find a way of preventing Zimbabwe's expulsion from the International Monetary Fund. Sources in Harare said that the Reserve Bank raided the foreign currency accounts of exporters, seizing american dollars and paying for them in the worthless local currency. One mining company is reported to have lost £5 million. These draconian measures, together with other devices, succeeded in raising £65 million. This was handed over to the IMF on Aug 31, in time for the organisation's executive board meeting last Friday. That gathering decided to defer Zimbabwe's expulsion for another six months. The country still owes the IMF £95 million.
From The Times (UK), 17 September
Just a single fire engine keeps going in the city without fuel
From Jan Raath in Harare
Harare is a city grinding to a halt for lack of fuel. The Zimbabwean capital has just enough petrol to keep one fire engine running. Prison officers have been unable to drive prisoners to court this week, there have been no refuse collections for a month, ambulances can be seen queueing outside dry petrol stations and thousands of taxis and buses lie idle because they have nothing to run on. Yesterday, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, walked the four miles from his home to his Harare office in a gesture of solidarity with the tens of thousands of Zimbabweans for whom there is no longer any public transport. He said: "This is an intolerable situation. We cannot continue to endure this…The Government must realise it has turned Zimbabwe into what it is today." Zimbabwe’s deepening fuel crisis is not immediately obvious. At peak hours there is still enough traffic on the roads to cause congestion. But those vehicles are mostly running on black market petrol that sells for about 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars (£5) per litre - eight times the official price. At that price Zimbabweans buy no more than they have to. In half a mile yesterday I came across three vehicles stranded by the roadside after running out of petrol.
The true scale of the crisis was revealed this week by Nomutsa Chideya, clerk of the city council, who said that the situation was so bad that all the fire brigade had left was a quarter tank of fuel in one fire engine. "If there is an emergency, we won’t be able to attend," he said. "We have to pray there will not be a crisis. We have not received diesel for the past four weeks. We are not able to attend to any sewerage or water pipe bursts because all our vehicles are grounded." Council sources confirmed that there had been no refuse collection for more than a month. Mr Chideya said that the city council had been forced to buy 10,000 litres of diesel on the black market. "We will face the consequences later. At the moment we will have to deal with the situation." The fuel shortage is crippling Zimbabwe’s industry, too. Last week, Patison Sithole, the chief executive of the country’s only sugar refinery, said that it had halted exports. It has stopped receiving deliveries of coal needed for the refining process because the National Railways of Zimbabwe does not have the diesel to move the coal. Farmers’ unions said that the country was facing the worst agricultural season since independence in 1980. Already devastated by President Mugabe’s mass land grab, the farming industry is facing unprecedented disaster because what little fertiliser, seed and crop chemicals are available cannot be delivered for lack of fuel.
Air travel is frequently disrupted. A German diplomat recently had to scrounge lifts on each leg of a three-stop trip with Air Zimbabwe because there was no jet fuel. Zimbabwe’s fuel crisis is now entering its sixth year. Economists say that it has never been so bad and can only worsen as the economy deteriorates and hard currency earnings needed to import fuel grow scarcer. Mr Mugabe’s Government appears to be juggling its dwindling resources ever more desperately. Last week Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank governor, said that funds earmarked for fuel imports had been temporarily diverted to make a partial repayment on the country’s debt to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF was threatening to expel Zimbabwe. Mike Davies, the chairman of the Combined Harare Residents’ Association, said that Harare’s ambulances may have run dry, "but you can bet that the tanks of Sekesayi Makwavarara are full". Mrs Makwavarara, a Mugabe loyalist who heads the commission that runs Harare, is awaiting a US$27,000 (£15,000) allocation from the central bank for an official visit to Moscow. That sum would pay for 35,000 litres of fuel, more than the Harare council’s monthly needs, said Mr Davies.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 16 September
Killer war vets sentenced to 4 years
Three Lupane war veterans accused of kidnapping and assaulting MDC MP, David Mpala, who later died of injuries sustained during the attack in 2003, were recently sentenced to four years in jail each. War veterans Seith Themba Jubane, Nicholas Minenhle Ncube and Patrick Ndlovu were part of a group of six who kidnapped and assaulted the former Lupane MP in 2003. Two other accused, Raymond Gumbo and Boyana Ndlovu, have since died while Ndaba Mpofu was acquitted of all charges. Lupane magistrate, Sikhumbuzo Nyathi, sentenced the war veteran trio to two years each in prison for the assault charges and another two years each on the kidnapping charges. The three were however not jailed for the third offence relating to the theft of $15 000 that was in Mpala’s vehicle when he was attacked. The state prosecutor, Sanders Sibanda, told the court that war veterans were at a meeting at Lupane business centre when they were alerted that there was an MDC vehicle around. The group is alleged to have seized Mpala and dragged him to a bush behind the business centre where they assaulted him and stabbed him until he lost consciousness, leaving him for dead. Mpala was hospitalised and never fully recovered and later died of injuries that he sustained during the attack. It is alleged that after the attack the group drove off with Mpala’s vehicle. Police in Tsholotsho discovered Mpala’s vehicle in the possession of the accused the following day. Recently Zanu PF thugs in Mbare and Umguza attacked MDC MPs Edward Mkhosi and Gift Chimanikire but the perpetrators have not yet been brought to book.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 16 September
Air Zim flies three passengers
Problems at Air Zimbabwe continue to mount after revelations that the airline managed to fly only three passengers on its Bangkok-Dubai route on Friday, September 2. On the same day the airline cancelled its flights to Bangkok from Beijing after it had been notified that there were no passengers from the Chinese capital to Thailand. The national airline flew the three passengers in Bangkok to Dubai on its leased 245-seater plane. On arrival in Dubai the airline managed to pick up 80 passengers from the Emirate city for the trip to Harare. Bangkok was recently added to the airline's Asian destinations after earlier efforts to launch the route failed due to lack of passengers to the Thai capital. The Independent heard that the three passengers on the flight from Bangkok were over-weight on their luggage allowance and Air Zimbabwe wanted them to pay extra for the surplus. "That was not all," said one of the passengers on the flight. "We thought because there were only three of us on the plane, there would be free seating in business. But we were told to go to the economy class." After protesting, the passengers were eventually allowed to take business class seats.
The airline's problems have been worsened by its leasing of a Boeing 767-200 from PB Air of Thailand at a total cost in excess of US$2 million for the duration of the three-month deal. Air Zimbabwe is also said to have committed itself to servicing the Bangkok route during negotiations for the plane with the Thailand company in return for the company charging below market rates for the lease of the plane. Air Zimbabwe spokesperson David Mwenga could not comment on the issue saying he did not have the figures and information on the flight. "I am sorry I cannot comment without having the information on the date in question," Mwenga said. The airline is currently being charged US$3 200 per flight hour compared to the Iata rate of US$8 000 for planes in the 245-seater range. The airline will also be subjected to insurance costs which are pegged in US dollars over the duration of the lease arrangement. Currently Air Zimbabwe is charging $25 million for a return ticket to Beijing, $12 million for a return ticket to Dubai while Bangkok travellers will be expected to fork out $28,4 million for a return ticket.
From The Zimbabwean, 16 September
I see not
By Mufaro K Mangono
Mugabe Wants Share of Zimbabwe Mining
(September 18, '05, 5:16 Edahn Golan)
|Zimbabwe's Mugabe: Claims of Humanitarian Crisis Unfounded|
18 September 2005
|Robert Mugabe (file photo)|
Mr. Mugabe said those who criticized Zimbabwe's recent program to demolish illegal dwellings and street stalls were trying to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and depict it as a failed state.
A recent U.N. report called Mr. Mugabe's so-called urban cleanup campaign a disastrous policy that left 700,000 people without homes or jobs.
President Mugabe told the General Assembly that what he calls "Operation Restore Order" cleared the way for a vast reconstruction program that would lead to new factories and homes.
He also criticized what he called Zimbabwe's "detractors and ill-wishers" for reporting starvation in the country. He said those reports were not true.