REPORT-BACK MEETING BY THE HON. DAVID COLTART M.P. on 27 June,
2003 (Up-dated 12 August 2003)
Mr Coltart said that it was a
reflection of the state of our “democracy” that the last report-back meeting
scheduled to be held in Barham Green had been banned. Two other meetings: one a
Christian meeting and the other to be hosted by Bulawayo Dialogue had both been
similarly banned. The last six months had seen deterioration in the Zimbabwean
environment in many different ways. People across the board had been affected
and the level of gloom and depression was unprecedented. Inflation had reached
300%; there continued to be a dramatic emigration of skills and a variety of
institutions were under great threat. Where such high levels of repression
existed, it was inevitable that everyone was depressed. When people awakened in
the morning, they immediately had to confront these enormous strains in their
Ironically, this stressful situation had been further
unintentionally compounded by the actions of the MDC, who had wrongly raised
expectations. Some of the language relating to the mass action had been
deliberately positive … it had been referred to as the “final push”. Telling
people to turn out in their millions had created expectations that a dramatic
miracle would occur in the space of five days, which was hoped for but which did
not materialise. Mr Coltart had felt that the stay-away would be a success, but
had experienced reservations about the prospect of thousands of people turning
out to confront the regime. The regime was vicious and levels of fear intense.
What had happened in June should rather be described as the beginning of the
The stay-away in March had been a gamble. Fortunately,
people had responded and had sent out a powerful message internationally. This
had emboldened Zimbabweans. A five day stay-away (such as that that took place
from 2nd to 6nd June) was a very long time, and no civic or political
organisation had succeeded before in doing this in Africa. It had been a huge
gamble asking people to stay away in their thousands. Wealthy people and the
middle class had been able to cope, but poor people without fridges and without
stocks of food had struggled. The Wednesday morning of the stay-away had been
the real test. At first it seemed to be waning, but then it strengthened by the
end of the week. Expectations had also been raised about people turning out in
their thousands and hundreds of thousands to protest, but state repression
There had been increased levels of brutality; increased
levels of torture and an increase in the number of people being detained: signs
that the regime was redoubling its efforts to oppress the Zimbabwean people. In
the 1930’s Dietrich Bonhoffer had opposed the Nazis and Hitler. He had been
detained in the early 1940’s in Berlin. Two weeks prior to the collapse of Nazi
Germany, far from releasing him, they had taken him to a concentration camp and
had shot him. This was one example of a tyrannical regime that got more vicious
the closer it got to its demise. One would expect such a regime to decrease its
human rights abuses as it came closer to its end. Increased oppression,
however, was a desperate move to quell the opposition. Ironically, we should
feel encouraged by this. The shortage of bank notes, the lack of fuel and the
increase of human rights abuses were all signs of a regime on its last
The reality was that ZANU PF was weaker and the opposition
stronger. The lowest ebb of the MDC was reached in January this year. Zimbabwe
had disappeared completely from the international radar screen. Mr Coltart had
been staggered by the arrogance displayed by ZANU PF during December 2002. They
were confident that the MDC would lose both Harare by-elections: those in
Kuwadzana and Highfield, and that they would be able to crush the
In December, the NCA had called for stay-aways, which had been a
But, from the beginning of February 2003, things had
Ironically, two events that ZANU PF had thought to
capitalise on had had the opposite effect. The first was the treason trial, and
the second was the World Cup Cricket. The intention of ZANU PF was to use the
treason trial to put the MDC on the back foot. They intended to show the world
that Morgan Tsvangirai was involved in some nefarious activity. They had seen
the treason trial as something to relish – an opportunity to get the focus back
on the characters of Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube. This was precisely
what had happened, but not in the way they had anticipated. From the dock,
Morgan Tsvangirai had been able to shut down the country twice. Having George
Bisos to represent Morgan Tsvangirai and the others accused of treason had been
a masterstroke, as constant linkage was made between Nelson Mandela’s trial and
this one. Mr Bisos was a fine advocate, who exposed evidence that relied on the
testimony of a scoundrel. The trial did not show ZANU PF in a good light
especially in the minds of South Africans, but most importantly, it drew
international attention back to Zimbabwe.
With regard to the World Cup
Cricket, Mr Coltart had found himself at the time in a moral dilemma. It had
been clear that the morally correct stance was for countries to decline to come
to Zimbabwe. Yet, it was anticipated that, if national teams came, the world’s
attention would be focused on Zimbabwe, and the country and the situation here
would merit a couple of useful days’ coverage. As it happened, the benefit
derived from the teams coming here was immense. The World Cup, in a powerful
way, focused the world’s attention on Zimbabwe, and won us a powerful ally in
the Caribbean block. It was Henry Olonga’s statement and his subsequent
treatment that led to their allying themselves with Jim McKinnon’s successful
attempt to extend Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Council of Ministers in the
Commonwealth. Huge benefit was derived from ZANU PF’s treatment of a sporting
icon. Thus, in February, the world’s focus was back on Zimbabwe.
March and April, Zimbabweans needed to demonstrate to the international
community that they were not happy. While the international community was
deeply sympathetic, it was hamstrung in a variety of international fora, needing
tangible evidence of the people’s dissatisfaction. The stay-away in March
changed its attitude.
It had become clear that people were not acting in
good faith, and that certain leaders in Africa were paying lip service to calls
for justice in Zimbabwe and trying to ignore the MDC. After the stay-away, they
could no longer do this. The stay-away led to the extension of the Commonwealth
ban. The MDC went on to confound its critics and the prophets of doom by
winning the two Harare by-elections. Mr Coltart had not expected the MDC to win
these – because of massive electoral fraud.
The significant event in
March was the Iraq war, an event of short duration. At the commencement of the
war, both sides in Zimbabwe gambled. ZANU PF nailed its colours to the mast
early on in the proceedings. Jonathon Moyo indicated publicly that the ZANU
regime was against what was happening. Mr Coltart reminded us of the way the
Zimbabwean soldier, who died in Iraq, was treated by the regime.
contrast, Morgan Tsvangirai, on the day after the war started, when addressing
diplomats at a meeting, thanked the United States for promoting democracy in his
country for the last few decades. In the early days of the war America was very
isolated. We had nailed our colours to the right mast. This was the right and
principled thing to do. It was necessary to rid the world of dictators and
terrorism. Colin Powell telephoned Morgan Tsvangirai in acknowledgement of the
friendly statement made by him in a time of need. This regime did not
understand just how deep the wound created by the destruction of the World Trade
Centre and the Pentagon was. The stand taken by ZANU PF was noted by the
American administration and would bode ill for them. If one was seen to support
the American government, as had been the case with the MDC, then enormous
benefits would flow. Long term ramifications would be evident.
the first effects of the stay-away were seen in the reactions of Presidents
Obasanjo, Mbeki and Maluzi. President Mbeki met Morgan Tsvangirai for the first
time. These leaders stated that they wanted to meet someone who was on trial
for allegedly wanting to assassinate a fellow “President”. Their action
undermined the entire treason trial. This would never have happened, but for
the May stay-away and the two by-elections which forced Mbeki’s hand. For all
the support that the anti-apartheid movement achieved, they never closed down a
single city in South Africa and Mbeki simply could not ignore the MDC’s
The stay-away resulted in a knee-jerk reaction from the regime.
Instead of trying to ignore it, they arrested Morgan Tsvangirai at the beginning
of the week, just before the G8 Conference was to take place. Then at the end
of the week on Friday, the last day of the five-day stay-away, they detained him
again. Their action once again focused media attention on Zimbabwe.
Everyone was desperately concerned for him and about his treatment in
prison. The reality of the situation, however, was that his detention had
raised his profile and stature. This was especially so in Zimbabwe. He had
been unfairly criticised for not leading the mass action more vigorously. The
attitude of the people changed to one of sympathy, as they realised that the
road to State House went through prison.
In June Colin Powell wrote an
article in “The New York Times” likening Morgan Tsvangirai to Aung San Suu Kyi,
the leader of the opposition in Burma and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr
Powell’s article was one of the most significant pieces of writing concerning
Zimbabwe to come out since the struggle. “The New York Times” sets the
benchmark of American opinion. Attention would thus be focused on Zimbabwe,
just before President Bush embarked on his first trip to Africa. President
Mbeki had staked his reputation on NEPAD and hoped that billions of US$ flowing
into Africa would boost his domestic standing.
From the low point in
January, a progression of events had led us to a situation where the regime in
Zimbabwe was in reactive rather than in proactive mode. “The Chronicle” of
Monday 23 June featured a collage of photographs of Mr Mugabe’s rally in Kezi.
Behind him on the dais was a huge sign that said “No to Mass Action – Enough is
Enough”. A political party needed to focus on its own message. In the last few
months, ZANU PF had been drawn into our territory and was re-acting to our
policies as in their “No to Mass Action”. Their message was no longer “Down
with the Whites” and “Land for the People”. Marketers’ skill lay in creating
concepts and slogans that were easily remembered. Thus the coverage that the
MDC was getting in “The Chronicle” and “The Herald” was incredible. The MDC’s
name was being mentioned all the time. One should not raise the profile of the
enemy, a trap ZANU PF had fallen into. The MDC was setting the agenda. It had
shut down the country and had been responsible for bringing out the airforce.
On the Saturday morning (after the stay-away ended at 5pm on the Friday), the
helicopters went back to their bases. The power to call out helicopters and to
keep them at base thus lay with Morgan Tsvangirai and the
Admittedly, Mugabe did control the military, but he did not control
the people. The following were two examples of the way ZANU PF was trying to
control the situation: 1. They had embarked on a series of campaign
meetings, an indication that they were feeling jittery. They were looking for
encouragement, so shaken were they by the success of the stay-away. Threats of
closure of businesses had not worked. People had been bussed to the meeting at
Kezi – they had been forced to attend the meeting. Their mood had been one of
silent dissatisfaction. 2. Nathan Shamyarira had announced that he was
going to discuss a Government of National Unity. This was a positive
development, as it was the first sign of major weakness, very different from
their attitude in December. Whist the MDC would never participate in a
Government of National Unity it was a sign that ZANU PF was now forced to deal
with the MDC.
Mr Mugabe had flown to Libya to try to source fuel. He
would not be able to resolve the economic fundamentals, even if he succeeded in
the short term.
The economic situation was unsustainable. It was
inevitable that if the productive sector was interfered with and productivity
stopped and if the flow of foreign exchange was brought to a halt, the economy
would collapse. Inflation would continue to rise and bank notes would become
even more scarce. Only through this economic trial would this regime be brought
to its knees.
What was the way ahead? Mr Coltart said that we were
close to the end of the nightmare. Economic collapse was speeding up and
international pressure was building. This would lead to the collapse of the
regime and to a restoration of democracy, the ultimate solution to our
There had to be a transitional authority. The best solution
would be for Mr Mugabe to resign and for a new election to be held in 90 days.
The bottom line was for a transitional authority to have a finite term of
office. and a limited mandate. There must not be a Government of National
Under a transitional authority, Zimbabwe could not be governed
in terms of POSA and other such restrictive laws. Humanitarian relief must be
allowed into the country. Early signs of serious malnutrition were being seen
in children in some rural areas. While some areas had surplus crops, experts
agreed that there was, overall, a massive food deficit. Because the regime was
living a lie, it had not taken the measures it needed to take in terms of
humanitarian aid. Our contact with the rest of the world must be restored. The
electoral playing field must be levelled, so that a free and fair election could
America had called for exactly the same conditions as those
mentioned above: Robert Mugabe’s resignation: transitional authority and new
elections. The United States had the power to call on African leaders to help
to resolve the crisis.
Prior to 1976, Ian Smith was talking of “Never in
a Thousand Years….”. But after a meeting with Kissinger in Pretoria, he was
forced to return speaking of majority rule. Huge pressure had been brought to
bear. This was a typical example of the pressure and power the US is able to
exert with regard to the Zimbabwean impasse. This pressure will result in a
solution to the crisis.
Mr Coltart said that we must remain true to our
principles, the two most important being non-violence and the determination to
go through the courts, even though they had been subverted. He said that if we
had moved into Robert Mugabe’s territory of violence, we would have been removed
long ago. He said that we had all been put to the test. Fifty-two of the
fifty-seven MP’s elected had been subjected either to detention, torture,
oppression or imprisonment. Despite this, the core of the MDC had remained
intact. Whilst in Zimbabwe, we were all hanging by a thread, we needed to go
the final lap in our goal of bringing democracy to this country.
UP-DATED AFTER A FURTHER MEETING ON 7 AUGUST
Since its formation on 11 September 2003, the MDC had been
subjected to a baptism of fire: an unrelenting and vicious assault by ZANU PF,
who had tortured, abducted, kidnapped and murdered its members. Almost four
years on, the MDC was not crushed; in fact the core of the party was stronger
than ever. Council elections were to be held in Bulawayo at the end of August.
The MDC was in control of the cities in Zimbabwe, where 30/40% of the population
was to be found. The cities generated over half the GDP in the country, and
therefore were an important power base. There was great danger, however, that
in the current climate of economic collapse, depression and apathy would
prevail, a situation that would adversely affect voter turn-out. (Urban
councils the world over were blighted by voter apathy.) ZANU PF would be
delighted if there was a poor turn-out. They must not be allowed to win by
Mr Coltart reminded the meeting that Martin Luther King had
said “Freedom never comes without some form of sacrifice”. Zimbabweans had
never known true representative democracy. Bulawayo’s elections were yet
another step towards this goal. The development of democracy was an incremental
The MDC would not enter into a
Government of National Unity. After what happened to ZAPU in the 1980’s such a
government was against the national interest. ZANU PF was responsible for the
absence of fuel, food and money. They had created all the problems we were
facing today. The MDC would not be prepared to go down that route and be
swallowed, as ZAPU was, only to have its bones spat out and its leadership
corrupted. The Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project was a pipe dream. Not two
sods of earth had been turned at the confluence of the Gwaai and the Zambezi.
Yet for ten or twelve years the subject had been talked of constantly and
numerous promises had been made. Nothing had happened. Significantly, only a
small percentage of the students at NUST, our University in Bulawayo, came from
The MDC envisaged a Transitional Authority – a Government
of National Unity would simply be a continuation of ZANU PF. A Transitional
Authority (not a Government) had a limited mandate and would exist for a finite
period, during which it would govern the country. It would be a mandate to take
the country through to free and fair elections. It was imperative that the
country be stabilised, law and order restored, the police force de-politicised,
the youth militia disbanded and the way paved towards adhering to the SADC
standards for free and fair elections.
With regard to the meeting
between Presidents Bush and Mbeki in South Africa in July, ZANU PF had spewed
out a lot of propaganda and lies. Mr Coltart had been in South Africa at the
time and had had two meetings with the Bush administration team. Two very clear
agreements had emerged from the Press Conference given by the two presidents.
Both men acknowledged that the Zimbabwean crisis required urgent resolution.
Both stated that they shared the same objectives. President Bush had certainly
not changed his objectives. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had clearly set
out how the crisis needed to be resolved. Mugabe needed to stand down, there
should be a transitional authority and free and fair elections needed to be
held. Bush repeated these conditions in Botswana. President Mbeki had never
said what his objective was. He had spoken of “quiet diplomacy”, but had never
offered a “road map”. In essence, free and fair elections in the country were
needed to resolve the crisis. President Bush had said that he was not going to
second-guess President Mbeki, but had referred to him as “my point-man”. This
term was a reference to American football and to an active not a passive role.
He meant you are the person in the region, and you must run with this. Bush had
said that he believed that President Mbeki could be an honest broker not that he
was an honest broker. They would be reviewing the situation in September. Bush
had, in fact, secured two key concessions. We could expect to see close
ZANU PF was desperate for the MDC to recognise the
legitimacy of Robert Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe. The MDC had said that IF
the International Community endorsed talks and they got underway and IF there
was tangible evidence of ZANU PF’s demonstrating good faith, then the MDC would
consider suspending the Presidential Challenge. The trial was due to start only
in November, so this gave interested parties a three-month window. The
Presidential Challenge was the best non-violent, lawful leverage the MDC had,
and so it would not be discarded lightly.
Contracts entered into by ZANU
PF that were not considered to be in the best interests of the country would not
be honoured by the MDC. The MDC had built a huge body of evidence that clearly
demonstrated how the election was stolen from us. The aim for the future was
for Zimbabwe to have a government that represented the majority of the people
and not a tiny, rich, corrupt elite.
ZANU PF was engaged in a vigorous
process to elect a new leader. It had been claimed that Robert Mugabe would
stand down from his party position in December. It should be noted, however,
that this was different from standing down as president. The South Africans,
the MDC understood, wanted an election in Zimbabwe as early as March, not June,
since the ANC had to fight an election themselves in June. The MDC would fight
an election only if the electoral process conformed to SADC and international
It was interesting that President Mbeki’s concluding remark
was to thank President Bush for agreeing to invest in Zimbabwe’s “transitional’
current crisis ie rehabilitation.
No investor would invest in Zimbabwe
until we restored our judiciary.
Concert for a free
Zimbabwe from 7pm to midnight on 20 September 2003 at CONWAY HALL, 25
Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL (nearest underground: Holborn). Zimbabwean
musicians, Zimbabwean food. Cheap beer, wine, soft drinks. Tickets: £10
(includes food) - available from the Zimbabwe Vigil, 12.00 - 18.00 Saturdays -
outside Zimbabwe High Commission, 429 Strand, London WC2 (opp. Charing Cross)
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com or phone: 07941 980
139, 077799 60588.
Editor Moses Magadza The man who served as a legal advisor to President
Mugabe and Zanu-PF during the Lancaster House Conference of 1979 in London
has blamed Britain and America for the "hurried but inevitable" manner in
which Zimbabwe implemented the land reform programme.
Dr Simbi Mubako,
a former Zimbabwe High Court Judge and Minister of Justice, Legal and
Parliamentary Affairs, who is now the country’s Ambassador to the United
States, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with The Herald
He said the violence, conflict and tension that
characterised the initial stages of the land reform exercise could have been
averted had former colonial master Britain and America kept their word on
funding the programme.
"The West is opposed to our land reform
programme and argues that it was accompanied by violence and was not properly
planned, resulting in people being resettled without adequate
"However, this issue has to be understood in its proper
context. First of all there was a delay of 22 years because Britain and the
United States broke the promises they made at Lancaster, leading to the end
of the war.
"Zimbabweans were restive and the Government was left with no
choice but to compulsorily acquire land and distribute it among the people,"
Dr Mubako said.
He said the land issue was "central" to the Lancaster
conference and had Britain, with the help of America, not made the commitment
it made — which it later broke — the guns would not have fallen silent in
"I recall that there was so much heated debate and disagreement
over the implementation of land reforms in Zimbabwe.
Front (Zanu-PF and Zapu) wanted Britain to provide money for land reforms in
Zimbabwe as it had done in Kenya.
"Britain, on the other hand, was saying
it did not have money to fund such reforms in Zimbabwe, which it feared would
be on a grander scale than was the case in Kenya.
"The Patriotic Front
made it clear that they would not tax Zimbabweans to buy back their
"After the parties failed to reach a consensus, the conference
broke up for two days and President Mugabe began to pack his bags to go back
to the bush. That’s how important the land issue was," Dr Mubako
He said word that the talks were about to collapse spread as far as
"(Former) American President Jimmy Carter then pledged to help
Britain find the money and sent a message to that effect to the conference
through the US embassy in London."
He said Britain undertook to
provide money to acquire land, compensate white farmers, resettle and finance
At that time the cost of implementing a land reform
programme in Zimbabwe was estimated at US$2 billion.
As fate would
have it, Mr Carter did not last and was replaced by Ronald Regan, who was
rabidly anti-Africa and refused to have anything to do with his predecessor’s
"This left the British alone and for a while, to their
credit, they provided about 72 000 pounds which, however, fell far short of
what was required and enabled the Government to resettle a few people over a
period of 10 years," Dr Mubako said.
The British then stopped
providing any money citing budgetary constraints and when Tony Blair’s Labour
Government assumed power it dissociated itself from the agreement made at
Said Dr Mubako: "Claire Short bluntly said the Labour
government had no obligation to pay for land reforms in Zimbabwe. This was a
repudiation of an undertaking made not just by the Conservative or Tory party
but by the British government."
He said for the Government and people
of Zimbabwe, this was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and
increased the sparks flying between Harare and Number 10 Downing
The rest is history, he said.
On the hate campaign against
Zimbabwe by Britain and America, the ambassador said it was predictable but
there was a noticeable realisation by the two western governments that the
land reform programme is not reversible.
"Britain and America are
beginning to realise that the programme can not be reversed without igniting
a new uprising. Even at Lancaster they conceded that the status quo, where
vast tracts of land were in the hands of minority whites, could not be
sustained. The justice of the programme is, therefore, common
Dr Mubako said his general observation was that the west was no
longer supporting and funding the MDC as zealously as it did towards
the parliamentary and presidential polls.
"Then they were trying to
halt a process that would result in their kith and kin abruptly losing land
on which they were making millions of dollars. They were under the illusion
that there would be a quick fall of the Government of Zimbabwe."
said rather than admit that they were wrong, Britain and America were waiting
for an opportunity to break their evil union with the MDC and normalise
relations with Zimbabwe.
He hazarded that the proposed talks between Zanu
PF and MDC could present such an opportunity.
"In my view the west
does not want to continue spending money fanning conflicts in the country
because, unlike Iraq, we are not of any strategic importance. We have neither
oil nor weapons of mass destruction."
Dr Mubako said the main objective
of the proposed talks should be to develop a common purpose and show that
Zimbabweans could fight their political battles and resolve them on their own
within their borders.
He said thanks to the lies being peddled by MDC
activists and some Zimbabweans masquerading as asylum seekers when they were
economic refugees, the country’s reputation had taken an unprecedented
The wrong message had been sent and received in the west, he
said, that Zimbabwe was a pariah state and the onus was on all Zimbabweans to
correct that impression.
"I hope people have learnt a lesson (not to
rubbish their own country). Now we are under sanctions, which are hurting
everybody from the Government to the opposition.
We should learn to be
patriotic and united, even from our foes. In the US Republicans and Democrats
fight each other but when they leave the US they are united as Americans. In
Britain it is the same with Labour, Conservatives and Democrats."
Herald Reporter The Government will finance the purchase of
agricultural inputs by peri-urban farmers under the existing crop input
scheme as part of measures to increase food production in the country, the
Minister of Lands Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Cde Joseph Made said
It would also provide tillage services and the necessary
extension and research support needed by the farmers.
and technical assistance is expected to boost urban farming which, despite
its significant contribution to national food security, continues to be
Cde Made said urban agriculture was a vital component of
the country's food production sector and as such should be given all the
necessary support to ensure its success.
"The decision to provide this
form of assistance for peri-urban agriculture is long overdue and we intend
to implement the programme in all cities throughout the country.
Government fully supports peri-urban agriculture and has come up with
a number of initiatives to increase the capacity of urban farmers," he
The decision by Government to finance urban farming activities
comes at a time when the country together with 11 others in the region
recently signed a regional declaration on urban and peri-urban
The declaration to be known as the Harare Declaration on
Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture was mooted at a two-day regional conference
on urban agriculture held in the country last week to come up with strategies
to enhance urban food security in the region.
The declaration is
expected to encourage local authorities to promote urban and peri-urban
farming in their cities, develop appropriate incentives and other policies
necessary for growth.
It is also expected to promote collection and
dissemination of information on urban agriculture activities in their
territorial planning areas.
The declaration would encourage participating
governments to include urban agriculture in their programmes to alleviate
poverty and economic development, food security, promotion of local economic
development, environmental and health improvement.
It was signed by
Botswana, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Ethiopia and
The Government has over the years rallied behind organised and
well-planned urban farming and has helped with the allocation of land to
those intending to grow crops.
Two years ago, the Government allocated
60 hectares of land for urban farming in Harare. It also pledged to apportion
more land for the activity should the need arises.
This was after the
Government realised that many families in the urban areas were surviving on
the maize and other foodstuffs planted on the small patches of
Economic hardships being faced by the majority of people in urban
areas and high levels of unemployment exacerbated the demand for land in
urban areas with some residents cultivating on prohibited
Families who had no patches of land before have invaded areas
like community patches, dump sites and any unused piece of land.
farming continues to grow every year and it is estimated that about 100 000
tonnes of maize are realised from peri-urban agriculture every year.
Last Updated: Monday, 1 September 2003
President leaves for UN conference in Cuba
Editor President Mugabe left Harare yesterday for Havana, Cuba, to
attend the sixth United Nations Conference on Desertification and
The summit comes at a time when desertification has become
an economic, social and environmental problem that is threatening human
Because of woodland deforestation, inappropriate use of
farming technology and the reduction of organic material in the soil, the
size of land suitable for agriculture is falling every year.
This is threatening the food security of one billion people, increasing
poverty and extending environmental deterioration.
At least 25
million people in the world are suffering directly from the effects of
desertification and a third of the earth’s surface — more than 4 billion
hectares — is under threat.
The subsistence of 1,2 billion people
in 110 countries who depend on soil is in danger.
More than 170
countries are participating at the conference which began on Monday last week
and runs until Friday.
Last week, meetings focussed on measures to
implement the UN Convention on Combating Desertification and
Discussions also centred on exchange of information on
traditional knowledge and warning systems to strengthen the scientific
capacity of parties to the convention in anti-desertification
President Mugabe will join about 20 heads of state and
governments who are expected to attend the summit. At least 3 000 delegates,
including government ministers, representatives of international
organisations, non-governmental organisations, environmental experts and
journalists are attending the conference.
Heads of state and
governments will share views on ways of strengthening development in rural
areas and the link between poverty and desertification.
summit is expected to come up with resolutions to cement measures taken at
last year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development.
It will also
take important decisions to reinforce the global anti-desertification
Previous summits have been held in Rome (Italy), Dakar
(Senegal), Recife (Brazil), Bonn (Germany) and Geneva
The UN Convention on Combating Desertification and
drought was adopted in 1994 and came into force in 1996 and 187 countries
have ratified the convention to date.
Zimbabwe and other
southern African countries have been experiencing droughts over the past few
years as a result of poor rains and floods.
Desertification is also
a problem in the region and in Zimbabwe new challenges are presented by the
on-going land reform programme with the need to raise awareness among new
farmers to preserve the environment.
Cde Mugabe is being
accompanied by the First Lady, Cde Grace Mugabe, the Minister of Environment
and Tourism, Cde Francis Nhema and senior Government officials.
Price rises hold the key to Zimbabwe's fiscal
riddle By Tony Hawkins Published: September 1 2003 5:00 | Last
Updated: September 1 2003 5:00
On the face of it, Herbert Murerwa,
Zimbabwe's finance minister, should be the envy of his counterparts around
the world. How many of them could virtually double public spending without
raising taxes, and simultaneously reduce the budget deficit from 11.5 per
cent to 7.3 per cent of GDP?,p> The answer to the riddle,
however, is that Mr Murerwa's supplementary budget, presented last week, is
driven primarily by inflation. The projected fall in the budget deficit as a
ratio of GDP was achieved by doubling the GDP forecast for 2003 on the back
of expected average inflation of 400 per cent.
Real GDP has
fallen some 37 per cent from its 1998 peak so that real per capita incomes
will be little different from those of mid-1960s.
growth projections for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe suggest that it will take 15-20
years to regain the living standards of the mid-1990s.
social consequences of the economic collapse are dire," the IMF warned in a
recent report on Zimbabwe. Shortages of basic goods, fuel, electricity and
foreign exchange are "pervasive".
There is little productive
investment, two-thirds of the population needed food aid last year and in the
months ahead the World Food Programme says 5.5m people (47 per cent of the
population) will need food aid.
Amid signs of chaos and collapse -
banks without bank notes, let alone foreign currency, filling stations
without fuel and supermarkets without basic foods or with supplies at prices
that only a minority can afford - the Mugabe government continues to insist
that its unorthodox policies will save the day.
Mr Mugabe wants
banks to cut interest rates, currently 95 per cent - less than a quarter of
the inflation rate.
Last week's partial relaxation of fuel price
controls and import restrictions may help ease shortages and restrict the
budgetary cost of subsidising fuel.
However, the Murerwa budget
excludes such subsidies, described by the IMF as "quasi-fiscal" and forecast
by the fund at Z$440bn ($550m, £350m, €503m) this year. If included, that
would lift the actual budget deficit to about 18 per cent of
In an effort to recoup something from the controversial
land resettlement programme - fewer than 400 commercial farmers are
still operating out of the previous 4,500 - the budget includes Z$27bn to
provide cheap inputs to the new farmers.
But with seed companies
announcing maize seed prices up 645 per cent over the year, such subsidies
are unlikely to pump-prime the promised agrarian revolution. Indeed, the
Zimbabwe Farmers Union, which represents smallholders, says that the
government needs to provide Z$600bn in pre-crop finance.
the finance minister claims that, the 30 per cent collapse in commercial
production notwithstanding, agricultural output will increase 2.3 per cent
this year, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, an NGO, says prospects
for the coming season - planting will start in October - are "bleak",
regardless of weather conditions.
Ironically, the heavy cost of
land resettlement is exposing the government to new economic pressures and
forcing it into policies bitterly opposed by Mr Mugabe himself, such as
The small-scale tobacco growers are leading the charge
in demanding the official exchange rate of Z$824 to the US dollar be devalued
to at least Z$1,600, if not Z$2,000. The black market rate is at least
Z$5,500. Outside the tight circle of Mugabe loyalists and those able to "work
the system" - speculating in foreign currency, fuel, food, real estate and
bank notes, which trade at a premium of 20 per cent and more over their face
value - there is a sense that the economy is nearing "tipping
In its own way Mr Murerwa's budget validates this view by
highlighting not only the degree to which the government depends on inflation
to finance public spending, but also the fact that the authorities have run
out of options.
For all his promises to tackle inflation, the
finance minister knows that a serious anti-inflationary stance would bring
the whole rickety edifice crashing down.
It seems that
inflation, which economists expect to reach at least 700 per cent by year
end, is a price that the Mugabe government is willing to pay for political
Reuters in Harare Monday September 1,
2003 The Guardian
A low turnout in Zimbabwe's municipal elections at
the weekend - probably no more than 30% of registered voters - was blamed
last night on apathy and the long-running economic crisis. Analysts said
the poor showing might favour President Robert Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF, in
the 16 towns where it was contesting some mayoralties and 130 council seats
with the Movement for Democratic Change, because its urban activists have
been more dedicated voters since the MDC was formed in 1999.
The MDC took
the majority in the parliamentary elections in 2000. But even if it manages
to strengthen its position in the urban elections the victory will be mainly
symbolic, since the Zanu-PF central government exercises control through the
sweeping powers held by the minister of local government affairs.
MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who is on bail awaiting trial charged with
plotting to assassinate Mr Mugabe, said after casting his ballot on Saturday
that many people were more concerned with bread and butter issues than with
On Saturday thousands were stuck in bank queues waiting for cash,
the latest everyday item put in short supply by the economic
But a political analyst at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development
Studies said: "Yes, there is some truth that the economic crisis has affected
the turnout ... but today is a Sunday and people are still not voting, and
that to me is because of general apathy. It's apathy from people who are
saying that these elections are not that important."
began the MDC accused Zanu-PF of violence, intimidation and tampering with
the voter register.
The party denied the charges.
On Saturday the
MDC information secretary, Paul Themba-Nyathi, said voting had been marred by
violence in some districts, including the stoning of a vehicle driven by an
opposition MP and an assault on some party activists.
supervisory commission said yesterday that the elections had largely been
smooth but it was "looking at a couple of complaints".
The 14 members of the
Southern Africa Development Community have agreed on single-digit inflation
Limits on budget and current account deficits are part of
an ambitious plan to integrate the region's fiscal and monetary policies,
according to Tito Mboweni, the Reserve Bank governor.
the area would need to cut inflation to single digits between 2004 and 2008,
cut government debt to below 60% of gross domestic product, reduce fiscal
deficits to below 5% of GDP and ensure the deficit on the current account on
the balance of payments was about 3%.,p> Me'chanisms for peer
review still needed to be established. Mboweni said the approach would not be
punitive. Zimbabwe did not send a representative to Friday's meeting.