By one of the few remaining white citizens of Zimbabwe
Last updated at 00:28am on 23rd September 2007
Gordon Brown says he will not attend December's Europe-Africa summit in
Portugal if Robert Mugabe (below) is invited
You might think he wants to help. You'd be wrong. Because the time for help
is long gone and he knows it. This is gesture politics, designed not to
damage the rule of Mugabe but to promote the rule of Brown.
We who endure the daily tragedy of Zimbabwe live amid a quiet genocide. It
could have been stopped if the British Government had come to our aid before
the 2000 elections when our emergent black middle class fought for economic
prosperity, political democracy and racial harmony.
But the man who today advertises himself as Africa's saviour sat on his
hands back then and let Mugabe crush democratic change. Now he's trying to
diminish our President's power.
Yet that is the only thing holding the tattered remnants of this country
together. When Mugabe goes, we will become the next Rwanda, such is the
hunger and fear and desperation of the people abandoned by Britain seven
years ago who now face near 100per cent unemployment and a life expectancy
of 40 or less.
The British High Commission in Harare is currently updating its register of
British citizens in Zimbabwe. My guess is it's because they know they might
have to orchestrate a mass evacuation of UK nationals.
I won't be going with them. I am a fourth generation white African. I belong
to Zimbabwe, it's my home and I'm still in love with what it once was. It
was always a special place, a backwater, a mixture of England in the Fifties
and tropical Africa.
But let me tell you about it now, about the country it has become, little
pockets of paradise and hell in between.
These days I hate getting into lifts or standing too close to someone in a
food queue. You can smell their foul breath and see their mouth ulcers and
you know they are the one in four who has Aids. It's like walking among the
The cemeteries stretch for miles. There are no official statistics but Aids
takes a lot and malnutrition takes the rest. Government-run hospitals don't
have so much as an aspirin. If you have an accident they ask you to bring
your own bandages and whatever drugs you have at home.
My house gets water once a week and my routine is interrupted by around
three power cuts a day. I went to my supermarket on Friday morning and all
it had was grapefruit segments, American hot dogs and boiled sweets. There
was no bread or milk, no meat, no cooking oil, salt or sugar. Nothing you
actually need to live.
I spend most of my day phoning around friends to see what's available on the
black market. You risk arrest or you go without because the shelves are
empty. Once storekeepers would stretch packets of loo rolls or something
equally incongruous around the shop but now they've stopped pretending
there's anything to sell. A child was killed last month in a stampede for
I am still working so I try to help where I can. There was an elderly white
lady last week buying one tomato, one potato and one onion and hesitating as
to whether she could afford them. Her clothes were at least 30 years old.
It's a common sight. You just pass the money to the shop assistant and hope
the old lady's hunger overcomes her pride.
The professional generation before me, the doctors and lawyers and the
engineers who built Zimbabwe, are all starving to death on their pensions.
And yet there is money for those in power. The obscenity of it is
mind-boggling. Recently I was sitting in a coffee shop - it's the nature of
the place that you can still get a decent cappuccino while scenes of
medieval barbarity unfold outside the door - and I overheard a conversation
at an adjoining table.
Three big fat government guys were slurping coffee and eating their full
English breakfasts - yes, we still call them that - and boasting about their
They had withdrawn dollars at the official rate from the Reserve Bank,
($30,000 Zim to $1 US), converted them on the black market (where it's
$350,000 Zim to $1 US) and made such a vast profit they'd all bought
themselves new Hummers, Harare's motor of mark.
Their kind take what they want. A couple I know were recently turfed off
their farm two weeks before they were due to get married. They simply got
home one day to find everything the new owner fancied locked in their house
and everything that wasn't being looted dumped on the lawn.
A government minister had commandeered it as a graduation present for his
daughter. She took her degree at a British university, by the way.
Another friend of mine who owns a meat distribution business was confronted
by a minister last month and told he, the politician, was the new owner. It
happens all the time, this state-sanctioned theft of homes and livelihoods.
This, then, is our life. It's surreal but it's real. Most people have
surrendered. There are so few whites in Zimbabwe now - maybe 7,000 to
10,000 - we are probably outnumbered by the Chinese.
Those of us who remain don't give a damn whether Gordon Brown goes to
Portugal or not. We expect nothing from him. Why should we? He's given us
nothing in the past and while he's a new Prime Minister, he's been at the
heart of British government for more than a decade.
We see straight through him. He's a man in search of a cause. He wants to
make a dramatic entrance on the world stage and he wants voters at home to
think he empathises with our once cherished belief that as the old colonial
power, Britain has a moral obligation to the former Rhodesia.
Last month when China, one of Zimbabwe's oldest diplomatic friends, told the
Foreign Office it was turning its back on Mugabe's regime, Brown simply
thought he could do the same without antagonising Beijing. That's not a
heartfelt political statement, that's flyboy opportunism.
History tells us of great turning points at which people and countries have
failed to turn. He's missed ours. If we had the time or the energy we'd be
angry that our betrayal is now being subject to convenient revisionism. But
we're too busy trying to find a tankful of petrol and some bread.
The truth is the British Government wants nothing to do with Zimbabwe. They
will let this drama play out. They don't really care about another failed
state in Africa - just as long as the ink is dry on those evacuation plans.
And they shouldn't really believe all that stuff the Chinese have been
telling them. In Beijing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs went on the record
three days ago to say it was business as usual with Zimbabwe, with normal
state-to-state relations. That means both economic and humanitarian.
The Chinese could teach New Labour a thing or two about spin. They want our
platinum. Of course they're staying. A friend of mine who works for the UN
lives near a houseful of Chinese soldiers. Every morning they jump into a
truck with their AK47s and drive away.
What's going on? I think it's fairly obvious they're using their wide
experience in putting down civil revolt. Actually I believe they are
training a new Fifth Brigade (the elite military unit created by Mugabe
specifically to wipe out political opposition in the early years of his
government) to quell what's left of the dissenters.
Mugabe wants a ruling class of Zanu PF in the towns and a countryside filled
with peasants totally dependent on food aid, and therefore compliant. There
has to be a total breakdown of society in order to achieve that, the rending
apart of the very fabric of our lives, and it's almost complete.
So no, we don't care if Gordon Brown cancels his plane ticket to Portugal
but we'd quite like him to stop printing this counterfeit compassion for his
own political profit while we're struggling to survive.
travelled around Zimbabwe in 1990 and was horrified about what was going to
happen there in the future. It was so obvious the government was made up of
complete scum. The people I met were so nice and it makes me boil with anger
that this has been allowed to happen. This government has not done enough
and I believe a lot of this is down to a "white" government being too afraid
to challenge Mugabe because he is black. Please God, let this monster die
soon and meet his appointment in hell.
- A Withers, London, England
I am in regular contact with both black and white Zimbabweans - here in the
UK and in Zimbabwe itself. This piece is heartrendingly true of the
situation in Zimbabwe and the absolute disgrace of Western governments and
the United Nations for playing their fiddles while Rome burns.
- Sue Shaw, Morpeth, UK
A very sad account of what was once the bread basket of Africa. The Uk has
ignored the brutality of Mugabe for years. People also seem to conveniently
forget that for all Brown is the new PM he has been complicit in every act
of this government for years. As said I think it's just political spin from
an old master.
- Duncan Walker, Thailand
The Sunday Times
September 23, 2007
A Harare taxi driver, Tafadzwa Nyatsanga, was negotiating fares with
passengers outside an agricultural show when a policeman arrived and
demanded to be taken somewhere for a fare of just Z$50,000, about 10p.
When Nyatsanga refused, pointing out that other people had been queuing for
hours, the officer, Michael Masamwi, began beating and punching him,
whacking him round the head with his truncheon.
There was nothing unusual about this in the Zimbabwe of President Robert
Mugabe. But then something strange happened. Someone from the crowd stepped
forward and told the officer that what he was doing constituted "a human
rights abuse" and he should stop.
Masamwi laughed and hit him too. The man again told him that what he was
doing was wrong as there were hundreds of people waiting. This time the
crowd joined in, turning on the policeman and beating him.
The officer called in riot police. They dispersed the crowd violently and
arrested the taxi driver, who is still in jail two weeks later.
A few days after the incident, however, Masamwi received a legal summons.
Then last week about 500 people gathered outside his police station to
demonstrate. This protest was also broken up by riot police and 11 people
were arrested, but the demonstrators returned the next day.
Such unprecedented public action is the result of a new movement that has
been launched in Zimbabwe to try to end police brutality by naming and
shaming the most violent officers and taking them to court.
Restoration of Human Rights is the brainchild of two Zimbabweans, one white,
one black, who were living in Britain.
Until a few months ago Justin Shaw-Gray, 33, was in Godalming working in IT
sales; Stendrick Zvorwadza, 38, was a business studies teacher at a college
in Bradford. But the two men were so shocked at the repression in their
homeland that they decided to give up their jobs and do something.
"We're saying enough is enough of police brutality," said Shaw-Gray. "We
felt you might not be able to get rid of Mugabe, but we could make people
aware of their rights and how to act.
"It seemed to us there were plenty of human rights organisations documenting
abuses, but none actually doing anything about it."
Using their savings and contributions from friends, they have spent the past
two months meeting district leaders and recruiting members. This is no easy
task, given Zimbabwe's notorious public order laws that require police
licences for gatherings of more than five people.
The pair have been arrested several times. "My mum is so scared she can't
sleep at nights," Shaw-Gray said. Yet so far they have signed up more than
"We tell people if you stand up alone you're at risk; if five of you stand
up, you're at risk, But if we stand up in our thousands, they can't do
anything," said Zvorwadza.
"There are around 45,000 police, of which maybe 5,000 are bad guys. The rest
want to do their job. What we want to do is start weeding them out and
naming them so they can no longer hide behind the cloak of the system and
will be living in fear."
The plan is to hold demonstrations outside offending officers' homes and
workplaces, and to sue them, working with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
On one occasion last month the two men were driving with three colleagues to
donate footballs at a match in Gutu, south of Harare, at which they hoped to
spread their message.
Police roadblocks had been set up to prevent people travelling to a memorial
service for a leading member of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC). About 15 miles from the match venue, they were stopped as the
game had not been approved by police.
"We explained that we were a nonpolitical group working with orphans and
children, but they refused to let us go on," said Shaw-Gray.
Loveness Matapura, the district police chief, then arrived. She called in
armed riot police who surrounded the men and pointed guns against their
heads while others searched the car.
"All they found were footballs," said Zvorwadza. "We told them this is an
abuse of our human rights, but they replied that if we attempted to go on we
would be shot."
After two hours the men were allowed to go, but only if they returned to
Harare. The following Sunday they took out a full-page advertisement in the
Standard newspaper, recounting the incident and explaining that they were
taking Matapura to court.
"We know where she lives. If she does not respond to the summons we will
hold mass peaceful demonstrations outside her house, preventing her from
leaving," said Shaw-Gray.
When asked about the risks, he said: "Zimbabwe has the lowest life
expectancy in the world and people are starving. We're explaining to people
if you don't stand up you'll be dead anyway in six months, 12 months, maybe
18 months, because the economic situation is so bad. You must stand up or
Inflation is estimated by bankers to be about 13,000% and a military-imposed
campaign of price controls has left nothing on the shelves. As the economic
crisis grows, police brutality, long a feature of the Mugabe regime, has
In a typical incident nine days ago, police descended on Nyaradzo funeral
home in Harare and prevented a service taking place for 24-year-old Memory
Jenaguri. Her home had been destroyed in Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out
the Filth), a government demolition campaign that began in 2005, and she had
been living in the open for the past two years until dying of hunger. The
police arrested all 60 mourners.
More such repression is expected in the run-up to next year's parliamentary
Some wonder if the government will make it that far. A report published last
week by the International Crisis Group described Zimbabwe as "closer than
ever to complete collapse".
It stated: "Four out of five of the country's 12m people live below the
poverty line and a quarter have fled."
David Coltart, an MDC MP from Bulawayo, said: "There might not be blood in
the streets, but people are just falling off the edge everywhere.
Pensioners, orphans, child-headed families are literally starving."
Few see any likelihood of a Ukraine-style uprising. "It's like asking people
in intensive care, why aren't you protesting," said Coltart.
Pointing out that there are no guards on the Zimbabwe side of the border, he
believes the regime is encouraging people to flee. "Mugabe knows every
person who crosses the border is one less vote against him."
Coltart welcomed Gordon Brown's stance in threatening to boycott the
EU-Africa summit if Mugabe is invited. "If Mugabe is allowed, he will think
Europe has lost its resolve. It will encourage him to run for office again."
By Stephen Bevan, and special correspondents in Harare and Bulawayo
Last Updated: 1:00am BST 23/09/2007
Wilson Mangoma sighed as he looked out over the pool of raw sewage
that had formed in the back yard of his tiny tin-roofed house in a suburb of
A shortage of petrol has prevented the water authority from driving to
the burst water pipes. As a result Budiriro, one of the capital's poorest
suburbs, has also been without drinking water for more than a month.
"I last took a bath three days ago," said Mr Mangoma, 30, a shopkeeper
in Harare city centre. "My wife has been up and down looking for water, but
in two days she has failed to get a drop."
Outside, barefoot children played in the streets amid swarms of large
green flies, undeterred by the stench of sewage. Many have dropped out of
school because their parents can no longer afford the fees.
It is among the residents of townships like Budiriro that Zimbabwe's
seven-year economic decline is hitting hardest. Under President Robert
Mugabe, a country that once supplied food to half of southern Africa cannot
even provide water for its own people. Public services are grinding to a
halt, with interruptions to both power and water supplies now part of daily
"My wife has to walk seven kilometres to Glen Norah (a neighbouring
area) to buy water from a borehole at 200,000 Zimbabwean dollars a bucket
[30 pence at the unofficial rate]," complained Mr Mangoma, who earns less
than Z$2million (£3) a month. "But where do we get the money? Our salaries
never last three days."
The crumbling infrastructure has also led to health problems. In
Harare Central Hospital more than 60 infants - many from Budiriro - are
crammed into a makeshift ward, victims of the severe diarrhoea that has
swept the city in the past month. The outbreak was caused by raw sewage
being diverted into Lake Chivero, the city's main water supply, because
there is no money to repair Harare's sewage treatment plant.
At the hospital, too, the squeeze on public finances is taking its
toll. A notice by the entrance warns that financial constraints mean
patients may have to bring their own medicine. A nurse, who cannot be named
for her own safety, said: "We handle more than 300 hundred cases per week,
but there are no drugs here to treat these children or other patients. This
government has let us down."
Moments later the silence was torn by the wails of a young mother
watching her sick child die before her eyes. "The doctor says he cannot
help. There are no drugs," moaned a relative.
Outside the main cities it is even worse. At the district hospital in
Kezi, 70 miles south west of the country's second city, Bulawayo, patients
sleep on the floor and must provide their own food and medicine.
Where once 12 doctors would have been on duty, there is only one. The
rest have joined the 3.4 million professionals who have fled the country.
Here in the south-west, a double tragedy is unfolding. Food production
in the countryside has collapsed since 2000, when Mr Mugabe began the
seizure of land from white commercial farmers.
A government campaign launched in June to force businesses to halve
prices led to empty shelves and closed factories. Bread, corn meal, cooking
oil and other basic foodstuffs are now only found on the black market, which
few here can afford.
Combined with a prolonged drought, there are all the ingredients for
disaster. According to the World Food Programme a third of the population
will need food aid by next year.
Twelve miles from Kezi, in the village of Mayobodo, hungry villagers
surged forward as trucks arrived bringing grain donated by the charity World
Among them were 16-year old Thamsanqa Zulu and his three siblings:
Sipho, 10, Melusi, eight and Thabani, six. "We haven't had food for a long
time and our rations from donor agencies aren't enough to last us a month,
because our crops failed last year due to poor rains," said Thamsanqa, whose
family eats only one meal a day. While World Vision does provide each
villager with corn meal, a bottle of cooking oil and a sachet of beans, it's
not enough to feed a large family.
Peter Sibanda, the village headman, said the state-controlled Grain
Marketing Board brings in grain to sell every four months, but there is
never enough for everyone.
"The situation is terrible," he added. "Children no longer go to
school because it's impossible to go on empty stomachs - most of them faint
in school." As he searched for his name on the long list of recipients for
the food, Thamsanqa told how the four children had to fend for themselves
after their parents succumbed to Aids.
An estimated 3,000 Zimbabweans a week die from Aids-related
conditions, worsened by lack of proper nutrition and weakened immune
In a nearby home, Melda Ndlovu, 32, was feeding porridge to her son
who has Aids and was visibly weak. "We are watching helplessly as my son
wastes away," she said. "There is no food to give him and no medication is
available. It is painful to watch my son waste away like this." Meanwhile in
Harare, Shamiso Chonzi, 28, looked disconsolate as she emerged from a
supermarket empty-handed. Even with her job as an accountant at a leading
bank, her salary cannot keep pace with inflation that last month hit 6,500
She had just withdrawn Z$2million from her account, just enough for
basic groceries. But the bundle of newly printed notes was still bulging in
her purse: the shop was empty.
"We're living from hand to mouth," said Mrs Chonzi. "What you see in
my hand are just valueless papers called Zimbabwe dollars. They cannot buy
anything. My children are starving because the government has failed to
import mealie meal and the shops are empty. On the black market a bucket of
maize costs $1million, which is about half my salary. Mugabe has made us all
But not everyone in Zimbabwe suffers. Tawanda Ndoro, 25, a gardener,
sees the president pass each day in his armoured Mercedes-Benz limousine..
"City life is becoming unbearable for low income earners like me," he
said. "My marriage has broken up because this man has mismanaged the
economy. My wife ran away because I could not provide. But surprisingly, the
man who has ruined the country lives like a king."
Sunday September 23, 2007
Robert Mugabe is a tyrant who has crippled Zimbabwe. He has oppressed its
people, degraded its constitution and vandalised its economy. Millions of
Zimbabweans face famine; their basic freedoms are denied; 80 per cent are
unemployed; life expectancy is 37. Mr Mugabe's continued rule over the
wreckage of the country is a brake on economic development and an affront to
hopes for a democratic renaissance in sub-Saharan Africa. He has committed
crimes against his nation and so forfeited his right to represent it on the
That is why Britain is right to be leading moves to exclude Mr Mugabe from
an EU-Africa summit in Portugal in December. The Prime Minister has said he
will not attend if the Zimbabwean President is there.
Britain has tried to lead diplomatic moves against Mr Mugabe before and they
have proved either ineffective or downright counterproductive. That is
because, as a former imperial power, Britain's claim to moral authority is
vulnerable to attacks of hypocrisy. Neighbouring African leaders, in
particular Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, have
been quick to show solidarity with Mr Mugabe, remembering his credentials as
a veteran of the region's struggle for independence. The argument is simple
and emotive: having colonised and exploited Africa, Britain is in no
position to lecture African leaders on how they manage their independent
Given the sensitive history of colonisation and exploitation, European
leaders must be wary of appearing arrogant in their prescriptions for
Africa. But African leaders must also be wary of confusing past solidarity
with present-day criminal collusion. Britain does not seek to reassert its
hegemony over Zimbabwe - it seeks the empowerment of Zimbabwe's own people.
This is not a replay of the old independence struggle, it is a new struggle
for political freedom within Africa. That should not be seen through the
prism of race.
The cause of liberating Africa from the legacy of imperialism is helped not
by solidarity with a veteran-turned-despot; it requires solidarity with
Zimbabwe's beleaguered opposition movement. That opposition has called for
Mr Mugabe to suffer international isolation. The call must be heeded.
The Prime Minister's decision to boycott a Europe-Africa summit in Lisbon if
the Zimbabwean leader attends caused a diplomatic row and reopened old
wounds. Tracy McVeigh and Nicholas Watt report
Sunday September 23, 2007
'Mugabe stands very tall and black,' boasted Nathaniel Manheru yesterday.
'Brown stands white and colonial.' Words are not minced among President
Robert Mugabe's allies. And this weekend they were knife-sharp. Manheru,
political commentator for The Herald, the mouthpiece newspaper for
Zimbabwe's government, wrote an especially lengthy and furious column, laced
with historical references, blatant racism and antipathy, decrying the
arrogance of the 'infantile' British government. It even sneered at a
'Scottish moment' in British politics, drawing a comparison between Gordon
Brown and Zimbawe's white minority rule leader, Ian Smith - both Scots, both
But although such rants are commonplace in the much ridiculed but none the
less avidly read state-owned paper, it does act as a reminder of the painful
wounds of colonialism that have contributed to keeping the 83-year-old
dictator President of Zimbabwe in power for 27 years; to making his African
neighbours slow to condemn as they watch the country collapse; and to the
intensity of the diplomatic row that has erupted over Gordon Brown's
unilateral decision to boycott a Europe-Africa summit if Mugabe shows up.
The row is over who will be looking at whose empty chair at the meeting,
planned to be held in Lisbon in December and intended as a key moment for
European countries to try to recover ground they have lost to China - whose
influence is now soaring across Africa on the back of billions of pounds
applied in aid and investment. There have been three African-China summits
in as many years.
No one wants a repeat of 2000 when Tony Blair boycotted a conference over
Mugabe's presence, or of 2003 when a summit in Lisbon was abandoned over the
same issue - EU sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002 included a travel ban
on the dictator. And this year, the Portuguese hosts say, the potential
rewards of closer ties between the two continents outweigh antagonism
between the leaders of Britain and Zimbabwe.
Whitehall sources insist Brown's decision to boycott is not meant as a
rebuke to Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who will host the
meeting. 'In the coverage it has been about the Prime Minister and Mugabe,'
the source said. 'That is not how he sees it. The assumption is that Mugabe
is going. If he is there, the Prime Minister doesn't want to attend. But he
is not saying he should not go. He is not dictating who should attend. He is
just saying he will not go.'
Other nations have weighed in - Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa has
stepped up to say if Mugabe doesn't go, then he won't either, and two empty
African chairs would cause considerable embarrassment to fledgling African
There is now the possibility that the Nordic countries will line up behind
Tom Cargill, the Africa Programme manager at London-based think-tank Chatham
House, said the quarrel was hijacking the summit - and had potentially
doomed it. 'It's looking like it's going to be a mess either way,' he said.
'It's a real problem, because they need to have a summit, but already the
Zimbabwe issue has clouded things.'
Zimbabwe's UN ambassador, Boniface Chidyausiku, was quoted as telling the
BBC that Mugabe would attend. 'Gordon Brown has no right to dictate who
should come to Lisbon,' Chidyausiku said. 'Definitely we are going if we are
invited, because we are part of Africa.'
But despite the great political rift he has opened, Brown isn't for budging.
A source close to the Prime Minister said that for Brown 'this is a personal
passion' that has arisen out of his loathing for a man he holds personally
responsible for the destruction of a country which was once on course to be
Africa's greatest post-colonial success story. 'He is more than happy to
make a stand alone if need be,' the source said.
It has drawn admiration from some - Labour MP Kate Hoey called his stance 'a
breath of fresh air' - and accusations of manipulation by others - the
Tanzanian president of the Pan-African Parliament, Gertrude Mongella, said
'arm twisting' would do no one any good.
Since Labour first came to power it has had an uneasy approach to Zimbabwe -
every criticism seemed only to boost Mugabe's standing at home as a man who
stood up against the old colonial white power trying to meddle in African
But this week Britain will ratchet up the pressure on Mugabe and his ruling
Zanu-PF party, and set a challenge to Africa's other nations by calling on
both the UN and the EU to appoint humanitarian envoys to Zimbabwe to provide
regular reports on the state of human rights there. Britain will make its
move in New York at Tuesday's meeting of the UN Security Council, whose
current members include South Africa.
A month later David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, will call for stronger
European action when he uses the next meeting of EU foreign ministers to
call for an EU envoy to Zimbabwe.
The call for humanitarian envoys is not just another powerful signal that
Brown is abandoning Britain's softly-softly approach to Zimbabwe; it is also
seen by some as a gauntlet thrown down to Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's
President, who has been charged with finding a quick-fix solution to
Zimbabwe and stop it becoming an out-and-out failed state.
The South African government has been criticised at home and abroad for not
taking a tougher line with Mugabe over human rights and electoral fraud. But
everyone admits that talking to Mugabe, so conscious of his position in many
parts of Africa as a revered anti-colonial freedom fighter, is no easy task.
President Mbeki - in charge of a country riven by crime and by HIV/Aids -
has privately said that dealing with 'Bob' is the single most difficult task
of his office. Even that most diplomatic and forgiving of all men, Nelson
Mandela, when asked what he would miss least about being President is
reported to have said simply: 'Bob Mugabe.'
South Africa is currently one of 10 elected members of the security council
and will have an immediate chance to reply to the British initiative.
Britain does not share the criticism of the South Africans. Officials insist
Britain supports Mbeki's efforts to apply gentle diplomatic pressure to its
neighbour. But Brown's call for a UN envoy indicates that Britain is
thinking, if only in private, that the policy of leaving Zimbabwe to its
neighbours may not be working. One Whitehall source highlighted Brown's
determination to appoint a UN envoy by saying: 'At the UN Security Council
meeting on Tuesday we will raise Zimbabwe. We will call for a humanitarian
envoy who would report back to the security council on a regular basis.'
Frustration with Mbeki is not entirely fair, according to the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change inside Zimbabwe. 'Talks are going well,
Mugabe has made some major concessions,' said one MDC figure. 'Although on
the key one over the elections in March 2008, we are nowhere.'
And South Africa's Aziz Pahad, Deputy Foreign Minister, defended his
country's policy of 'quiet diplomacy'. 'All our interventions on the
Zimbabwean issue have been to prevent a failed state on our doorstep,' he
Brown has been thinking for months about changing tack, a process which has
taken place without the knowledge of many old Africa hands in the Foreign
Office. The Observer understands that some senior diplomats were caught by
surprise by Brown's announcement about the boycott and opinions are varied
as to the wisdom or otherwise of his stance.
'I don't think you can talk about Brown's decision in terms of right or
wrong. I think this situation has been, and is being, handled very badly on
both sides of the world, and although Africa draws much strength from these
summits it is at the African meetings where most progress is made on the
Zimbabwean situation,' said Martin Rupiya, a former senior lecturer in
strategic studies at the University of Zimbabwe. 'The problem is that no one
has seen any evidence of any progress in the South African talks, so we see
Mugabe being cheered by crowds across Africa and you do not see the progress
for his people, so Africans lose faith too.'
And so the impasse continues - Mugabe's critics accuse him of economic
mismanagement, failure to curb corruption and contempt for democracy, Mugabe
accuses his domestic opposition and the West of colluding to destroy his
economy, which suffers acute shortages and inflation that, according to the
International Monetary Fund, may hit 100,000 per cent by the end of the
year - and now of being Scottish.
Meanwhile yesterday, on the outskirts of Zimbawe's capital, Harare, where
food shortages are rife and transport services and energy supplies are
crippled, the police were occupied with curbing a situation of civil
unrest - trying to stop a hungry crowd of desperate people from killing 'for
the pot' an adult giraffe that had wandered into a township.
I BET Jack Straw still has nightmares about the moment in New York three
years ago when an elderly African chap at a lunchtime reception at the
United Nations offered him an outstretched hand in greeting.
Straw, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, was working the room and
instinctively grasped the hand and shook it, muttering a pleasant "nice to
see you". It's still unclear how many nanoseconds it took Straw to realise
that the elderly chap was in fact President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the
megalomaniac tyrant who had brought one of Africa's proudest nations to its
For fans of car-crash television, Straw's subsequent explanation of what had
happened was essential viewing, coming perilously close to an admission that
"all these African fellows look the same to me, y'know". In fact, he said:
"I was sort of being pushed towards shaking hands with somebody as a matter
of courtesy, and then it transpired it was President Mugabe." Apparently,
he'd also passed Osama bin Laden on the stairs and stood next to Saddam
Hussein in the gents.
Understandable, then, that Gordon Brown wants to avoid a similar encounter
at the European Union summit on Africa, scheduled for Lisbon in December.
Downing Street last week made it clear to the organisers: if Mugabe's going,
the Prime Minister isn't.
Brown's decision was not taken lightly, nor should it have been. There is
serious business to be done in Portugal, and Africa's problems do not begin
and end at Zimbabwe's borders. HIV, poverty, education, climate change,
economic development, corruption - these are all areas where Europe can make
a difference across Africa, and in the process save countless lives.
The stay-away strategy is an unusual one for Britain to pursue. It goes
against the diplomatic orthodoxy that the Foreign Office adopts elsewhere in
the world - in China and Iran, for example - where no matter how serious the
disagreement with a troublesome state, the Brits will still engage. Yet the
sheer scale of the calamity visiting Zimbabwe now demands that the usual
diplomatic niceties are junked.
As we detail in our report on page 23, the country is close to economic and
political collapse, with 80% unemployment, inflation at 6,500% and the thugs
in the ruling Zanu-PF party resorting to ever more brutal tactics to retain
power. Half the country's remaining population of nine million is in need of
emergency food aid.
Brown's decision will not be consequence-free. Ghana, currently leading the
African Union, wants Mugabe to be treated as any other African leader in
Lisbon. There's a risk that in the parts of Africa where Mugabe is still
regarded as a freedom fighter against white tyranny, resentment towards
Britain will harden. Gertrude Mongella, Tanzanian president of the
Pan-African Parliament, last week said of Brown's stance: "I think this is
again another way of manipulating Africa."
Mugabe himself will continue to bleat about "British imperialism", knowing
full well the buttons that presses in the white liberal conscience. But can
we really allow our moral choices to be swayed by notions of collective
guilt for events that took place before we were born? It would be cowardly
to use that as an excuse for doing nothing.
Brown is taking a risk in another sense as well. There is something about
British public opinion that's instinctively sceptical about politicians
attempting good deeds in Africa. In the summer, David Cameron was traduced
in the London press for having the audacity to be in Rwanda when England
mopped up after its floods. How dare he try to save African children from
starvation, cried Middle England. Doesn't he know my cellar's knee-deep in
And before we in Scotland congratulate ourselves on our moral superiority,
let's just remember the widespread sneering at Jack McConnell's laudable
initiatives in Malawi when he was First Minister, bringing teaching
materials and Scots medics to one of the poorest nations on the planet.
Beset with practical difficulties the McConnell schemes may have been, but
they couldn't be faulted on the justness of the cause.
Enlightened self-interest should be reason enough for us taking a close
interest in Africa. The growth in economic and political power seen in India
and China in recent years will be replicated in Africa in due course. The
continent offers vast reserves of natural resources and cheap labour. China
has already recognised the need to forge new alliances with African states
and is starting to eclipse the influence of the British and French in some
Of course, there is an element of gesture in what Brown is doing. If the
Prime Minister himself does not attend the Lisbon gathering, there will
still be a British delegation at the conference. If Mugabe does stay away he
will be represented by some other representative of his tawdry regime,
possibly one of his closest cronies in the form of foreign minister
The risks in alienating opinion at home and abroad have been weighed by
Brown, a cautious man by instinct, and still he has decided to take a stand.
It's a commendable decision, and a heartening one for anybody who believes
that politics can still be a power for good in the world. Here at Scotland
on Sunday we have made our own small contribution with our successful
campaign to have Mugabe stripped of his honorary degree from the University
of Edinburgh. Another gesture, perhaps, but in the pursuit of an honourable
goal even gestures have their place.
IAN MATHER (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The country is standing on the edge of a cliff which threatens to
irreversibly take us downhill if we do not boldly move forward with speed to
address most of our shortcomings.
ON THE surface it seemed a welcome concession to a grateful, if not broken,
opposition. President Robert Mugabe, for once heedful of international
opinion about his brutal Zimbabwean regime, last week relinquished some
control over his country's parliament.
Those who have closely observed the wily Mugabe in action for decades,
however, soon realised that the price was high.
The president, now 83, knows that despite his stubborn refusal to give up
power, the end game is fast approaching. Last week, even as western leaders
led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown once again condemned his record, the
parliament gave him what he wanted.
MPs voted through a reform package that for the first time gives parliament
the right to choose a president if the incumbent resigns. Mugabe can now
pick his own timing to step down in the full knowledge that the parliament,
still dominated by his ruling Zanu-PF party, will vote in his chosen
It means that although Mugabe may not be around for very much longer, his
regime will continue.
The vote came on the same day that Brown made it clear he would not attend a
special EU-Africa summit in Portugal in November if Mugabe was invited. His
offer to attend if someone else other than the dictator represented Zimbabwe
was designed to hasten Mugabe's departure.
Brown's statement represented a significantly harder line by the British
Government after years of soft-peddling by his predecessor Tony Blair.
But a more immediate challenge to Mugabe is the impact of his advancing
years and failing health. His daily routine now involves arriving at his
office by 10am and heading home before lunchtime. Public appearances are
Even party loyalists are beginning to desert him because of fears his
continued leadership will threaten their own eventual hold on power.
And the country's health is far worse than the dictator's. Mugabe is blamed
for an eight-year-long economic crisis, marked by unemployment at over 80%,
inflation of nearly 6,600% and chronic food shortages. Crops are failing, a
price freeze has cleared supermarket shelves of most staple foods and
starvation is rife.
Nearly a third of the country's 13 million citizens have fled to
Last week, the governor of Zimbabwe's central bank sounded the alarm on the
crumbling economy when he warned of possible food riots. Gideon Gono, a
Mugabe appointee, said: "The country is standing on the edge of a cliff
which threatens to irreversibly take us downhill if we do not boldly move
forward with speed to address most of our shortcomings. We must do
everything to ensure the army does not one day have to face angry, hungry
people on the streets."
Political analysts said Gono's stark forecast revealed deepening fears
within Mugabe's inner circle. "Beneath the veneer of a brave face, there is
underlying fear of political unrest," said Eldred Masunungure, chairman of
the political science department at Harare's University of Zimbabwe. "The
fact that they are now discussing their fears in public is a demonstration
of the growing anxiety."
Hence last Thursday's parliamentary vote.
Analysts say that it will allow Mugabe to handpick his successor, the
assumption being that a candidate endorsed by Mugabe would protect him from
Behind the move lies the influence of South African President Thabo Mbeki,
to whom the Southern African Development Council (SADC) gave the job of
trying to find a compromise in Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) have been holding talks behind closed doors in
Pretoria for several weeks.
That the MDC is going along with the compromise is a surprise to many
observers since it is dedicated to bringing an end to Mugabe's 27-year rule.
Yet the agreement could yet cause open civil war within the MDC, which is
already so divided it cannot agree on a single candidate to challenge Mugabe
in presidential elections due next year.
Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of an MDC-allied political pressure group, the
National Constitutional Assembly, has branded the parliamentary deal an "act
of treachery", while rights campaign group Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition has
accused the MDC of selling its soul.
Morgan Tsvangirai, a former trade union leader who has led the MDC since its
formation eight years ago, is Mugabe's main challenger. But analysts say
Tsvangirai, badly beaten and hospitalised by Mugabe supporters earlier this
year, has squandered his opportunities and been outflanked by Mugabe.
In any case, the proposed deal fits in with South Africa's desire to ease
Mugabe from power while remaining reluctant to force him out because of the
need to show African solidarity against former colonial powers.
Mugabe's anti-colonial rhetoric still has resonance with his power base,
including the 50,000 veterans of the war of independence who have benefited
from Mugabe's largesse through cash gifts and parcels of white farmers'
Mugabe also knows he has no reason to fear international military
intervention. Britain and the US have no stomach for more military ventures,
and the African nations have neither the interest nor the funds.
The chances of a domestic uprising against his rule are also virtually nil.
The extent to which the population has been cowed was demonstrated again
last week when a strike call by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was
largely ignored. Most workers are only too aware that the security forces
are given carte blanche to beat up strikers.
Yet insiders at SADC say Mugabe has confirmed to regional leaders that he
will leave "soon" after the 2008 elections. He is said to have told SADC
leaders that he needs to ensure a smooth transition both within Zanu-PF and
in the country.
Mugabe is now well past the peak of his power. William Gumede, research
fellow at the Graduate School of Public and Development Management,
University of the Witwatersrand, said: "Zanu-PF's politburo - the powerful
organ in charge of party affairs between national conferences - is now
hostile towards him. Earlier this year he was humiliated by his own party
when he tried to stay on until 2010. Even the party's old guard, its
so-called 'elders', are rebelling. For example, Enos Nkala and Edgar Tekere,
surviving founding members of Zanu-PF, have denounced Mugabe."
In a secret briefing to the Zanu-PF leadership, Zimbabwe's Central
Intelligence Organisation, which is notoriously loyal to Mugabe, said that
extending his term of office beyond next year would destabilise both Zanu-PF
and the country.
The security forces, which are crucial to Mugabe's long reign, now see his
leadership as a danger to their economic interests. In January, Mugabe was
forced into sending a memo to senior police commanders, threatening to
discipline them if they rebelled, as they had threatened to do.
The entire Zanu-PF party is now on the verge of implosion, and a breakdown
into separate entities is possible.
For a long time now, the glue that has held the party leadership together,
the wealth from governing an agriculturally and commodity-rich country, has
been weakening. Last week, there were clashes in Masvingo province between
groups supporting rival factions of the party.
One MDC official said that Mugabe has run out of tricks to ensure his
survival. "We are watching Houdini finally drowning in his chains," he said.
Who could follow Mugabe?
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the secretary of the ruling Zanu-PF party, is a key
political ally of Mugabe. He has been at his side since the 1970s, fighting
alongside Mugabe during the Marxist guerrilla offensive against white rule
in what was then Rhodesia. He became known as 'The Butcher of Matabeleland'
for allegedly masterminding the slaughter of more than 25,000 civilians in
the region in the mid-1980s.
Zimbabwe's first female vice-president, Joyce Mujuru, has also expressed
ambitions to succeed Mugabe. Mujuru, who joined the former guerrilla leader
at the age of 18, and now heads a faction of the ruling party, says the
recent election success of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to head Liberia, "shows
that Africa has come of age and that women are as good and competitive as
their male folk."
Former finance minister Simba Makoni is also a possible choice for the
Mujuru faction and has powerful supporters within Zanu-PF. He is favoured by
the US and Britain because he opposed Mugabe's land reform programme.
Morgan Tsvangirai, 55, is president of the mainstream wing of the Movement
for Democratic Change, the main opposition party in Zimbabwe. Earlier this
year, Tsvangirai was arrested on his way to a prayer rally in the Harare
township of Highfield. TV footage that shocked the world later showed him
suffering from deep gashes on his head and a badly-swollen eye. His wife
claimed he had been heavily tortured by police and his skull had been
The Sunday Times
September 23, 2007
On the face of it, Gordon Brown's determination to boycott the Europe-Africa
summit if Robert Mugabe is invited, seems thoroughly decent and principled.
The meeting, due to be held in the sort of halfway house of Portugal, would
not be a very agreeable affair even without Zimbabwe's Big Bob; a few days
of European leaders being blackmailed for money by a bunch of unscrupulous
thugs and culminating in some ghastly, cringing statement of apology from
whitey for slavery, or colonialism, or not letting Egypt into the Eurovision
But given our official disgust at Mugabe's regime, Brown surely cannot go;
he will have to send a suitably down-market underling. I suggest Margaret
There's a bit of truth, too, in the allegation that the prime minister has
attempted to "multilateralise" our problems with Zimbabwe and has unfairly
singled Mugabe out for special opprobrium.
This point has been made by the president of neighbouring Zambia, Levy
Mwanawasa, and he knows well of what he speaks. His own "election" to high
office in 2002 was, of course, rigged, according to independent observers.
His party - called, hilariously, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy -
apparently used vast sums of state cash in its electioneering and happily
tampered with the ballot boxes.
Since the election, Amnesty International report that there is "widespread
harassment and intimidation of people perceived to be critical of the
government" as well as continual and flagrant abuses of human rights,
opposition leaders peremptorily locked up and plenty of beatings from the
police for anyone who steps out of line.
Meanwhile, some 75% of Levy's benighted subjects live in what the United
Nations describes as "absolute poverty", on less than a dollar per day.
Cheated in elections, beaten by the police and starved. You can understand
Mwanawasa's genuine puzzlement: just what is it, exactly, that Mugabe is
doing that's so wrong?
Indeed, according to Amnesty International, Zimbabwe does not figure in the
top 10 of African countries for what it calls "horrendous" human rights
abuses; it comes instead towards the top of the second division for unlawful
detentions, beatings, torture and executions. According to Amnesty, there
are at least 24 other African countries in which, like Zimbabwe, freedom of
expression simply does not exist and there are none at all where it is
entirely free and untrammelled.
And all is not exactly rosy in Nelson Mandela's South Africa, where the
white liberals who fought for the overthrow of apartheid are now getting the
hell out as quickly as they can.
It is true that with an inflation rate of a commendable 7,500%, Zimbabwe
punches slightly above its weight in the great African league of staggering
economic incompetence. But that alone should not be enough to cast the
country as a terrible anomaly. It is anything but: it is, if we're honest,
If Robert Mugabe has his invitation withdrawn, the European leaders will
still be sitting down for talks with megalomaniac and corrupt bullies,
tyrants, despots, criminals and purblind Marxist ideologues, a substantial
proportion of whom will depart office having fleeced their country of every
last penny they can lay their hands on.
Never mind worrying about Big Bob - just stay at home, Gordon.
The Sunday Times
September 23, 2007
Judith Todd, the daughter of a former prime minister, had a ringside seat on
the rise of the Zimbabwean tyrant. Contrary to popular myth, torture and
corruption were his tools from the day he took power, she tells RW Johnson
When Judith Todd was 10, her father Garfield Todd became prime minister of
Southern Rhodesia. "We then had a few short years in which we weren't
ostracised," she says. "When I first went to school and I was asked what my
father did, I would say, 'He's a New Zealander', so as not to mention his
being a missionary, because missionaries were generally despised by whites
for being 'kaffir-lovers'."
As prime minister Todd planned to extend the franchise to blacks, which soon
made him hugely unpopular with white voters so Judith told classmates her
father was a missionary, not letting on that he was prime minister.
In 1958 Todd was ejected from power and ostracism began in earnest,
culminating with his being restricted to his farm by his successor, Ian
Smith, once Smith had decided to declare independence from Britain in 1965.
In 1972 both Todd and Judith were arrested for their continuing opposition
to white minority rule. Judith went on hunger strike, which was forcibly
broken, and was then allowed to leave for exile.
When Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and gained its independence in 1980 both
Judith and her father were feted as heroes of the liberation struggle.
Gradually, however, they both fell foul of Robert Mugabe and in 2002 Sir
Garfield (he had been knighted in 1986) was deprived of his citizenship and
his right to vote. Judith, though she had been born in Zimbabwe, was also
deprived of her citizenship and would have been stateless but for the
generous grant of New Zealand citizenship by that country's prime minister,
Judith's new book, Through the Darkness: A Life in Zimbabwe, is a surprise
to many who expected it to be all about the traumas of the past few years in
Zimbabwe. Mercifully - for the story of the land invasions and subsequent
economic collapse has been told and retold elsewhere - she says little about
that. Instead the book deals largely with her life in the 1980s and 1990s as
she threw herself body and soul into the work of rebuilding the country
after its long civil war.
The effect is powerful because she knew the whole top political elite,
frequently interacted with them and is able to be detailed and accurate
about her dealings because she kept an extensive file of the memos and
letters. "The lucky thing was I had no computer, just an old manual
typewriter and I kept carbons of everything. In a way the book existed long
before I wrote it," she says.
The book blows sky-high the usual picture of Zimbabwe as having been run
more or less reasonably by Mugabe, until his defeat in the constitutional
referendum of 2000 caused him to pull down the pillars of the temple. As
becomes all too clear, the worm was in the apple from the start, with the
new regime adopting a totali-tarian and often violent attitude towards
Torture, corruption and disregard for the rule of law were the norm right
away - indeed, the real question is how on earth Lord Soames, Britain's
proconsul in charge of the transition to majority rule, could have permitted
the 1980 election.
Mugabe broke all the rules - his guerrillas roamed the villages when they
should have been at assembly camps, there was widespread intimidation and
open violence against many opposition candidates: one such candidate was
last seen pinned to the ground having red hot coals rammed down his throat.
What fooled many people was that once Mugabe had forcibly incorporated
Joshua Nkomo's Zapu into his ruling Zanu-PF the country was so close to a
one-party state that Mugabe simply didn't need to show the iron fist, but it
was always there. "As I try to show, there were a few people, like the
guerrilla veteran, Aaron Mutiti, who understood Mugabe from the start. Aaron
said in 1980, 'Family life, religious life and economic life as we know it
will progressively disappear if Mugabe gets to power'.
"But most people thought this was way over the top. That was the problem.
The opposition was naive about what Mugabe might do if challenged. They
threw themselves into elections, really believing that Mugabe would allow
himself to be voted out of office. Everyone underestimated the depth of his
There are several oddities in this. So many of the politicians Judith helped
free from Smith's clutches or, later, from Mugabe's jails, soon joined the
government and became little Mugabes themselves.
How could Judith stay friendly with such people - and how to explain that
the patient, long-suffering Shona people have produced such a brutal and
ruthless regime? "None of those people are still friends of mine. I've lost
them all. It is a conundrum about the Shona producing such a regime - one
friend once asked me in horror, 'How did all these monsters find one
"I spend a lot of time Googling Pol Pot, trying to understand. The
opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, recently said that 'Mugabe wants to
push us all into a hunter-gatherer subsistence mode of life and to scatter
whole communities in the countryside in search of food'. I think that's
about right. Mugabe was friendly with Pol Pot, Ceausescu and Kim Il-sung
while Mengistu, the former Ethiopian dictator, is one of his advisers.
"All these men seem to have had the same mindset. But there's something else
too. When Mugabe was ruthlessly imposing himself on his party in the
guerrilla camps in Mozam-bique, the worst punishment was to be put 'in the
pits'. No one who's suffered that is willing to describe it; it just stands
for unimaginable horror and cruelty. It's something to do with water. But
quite a few of his lieutenants are men who suffered that and that experience
has made them so frightened of him that they obey him implicitly."
Judith willingly agrees that her own 10-year marriage to banker Richard (now
Lord) Acton, heir to one of Britain's most famous Roman Catholic peers,
pales beside the way she has been married to Zimbabwe. "I was always wanting
to live up to my parents. My father was so brave and principled. My mother
designed the whole national school system. And they were such fun. Zimbabwe
has been my full-time commitment ever since 1965."
But hasn't what happened fully justified Ian Smith and the white racists who
predicted that black rule would mean dictatorship, corruption and chaos?
"You have to say they called it right. But if I had my time all over again I
would oppose racism just as strongly as I did then.
"The funny thing is that some of those old Smithites are friendly to me now.
They've changed too - they don't want to be racists any more. Smith and
Mugabe are symbiotic, though. The fear of something like Mugabe created
Smith and Smith's ruthlessness called forth a Mugabe, who has in turn now
validated Smith. It goes round and round. But Smith did love the country
which was why he gave way rather than see it destroyed. Mugabe is destroying
it rather than give way."
Now is the hardest time. "I remember the Queen saying to me how during all
the time Smith's Rhodesia was out of the Commonwealth 'we kept a candle in
the window for Rhodesia' - and how, while apart-heid South Africa was also
estranged, she kept a candle in the window for South Africa too.
"But all those years we could always look forward to the ultimate triumph of
majority rule. Now there's no such inevitable light at the end of the
tunnel. And at that time Zimbabwe seemed to have so many friends - the
Commonwealth, at the UN, other African countries and so on. Now the
Zimbabwean people seem to have no friends."
As if in confirmation, Gordon Brown threw the preparations for the
forthcoming EU-African summit in Portugal into turmoil last week by
announcing that he would boycott the meeting if Mugabe was welcomed. In
response, African leaders closed ranks, saying they would not attend if
Mugabe was barred.
This sort of standoff just seems to justify Todd's pessimism about Zimbabwe's
isolation. "The EU invites Mugabe to Portugal, the UN says nothing, no
country in Africa is willing to stand up to Mugabe and Zimbabwe isn't even
on the agenda for the coming Commonwealth heads of government meeting in
But surely the Mugabe nightmare will be over one day? "Yes, of course. But
right now it's a genocide. What else can you call it when you pull down
people's houses, deprive them of the means to look after themselves and make
it impossible for them to find food? What are you trying to do then except
commit mass murder?
"I had a dreadful dream last night. I was in Bulawayo with my parents and
great big garbage lorries were being filled up with the bodies of dead
children. Actually that is pretty much what is happening."
Will she go back? "Yes, of course. As soon as I can" - though her book may
well have made it very unsafe for her to do that: her forthright criticism
of the regime is unlikely to go down well.
In the early 1980s, when she had done far less to provoke its wrath, she was
raped as a punishment.
Doesn't she look forward, when the nightmare is over, to helping reconstruct
Zimbabwe from the ruins? "At times I don't think I can do that again. I came
back in 1980 to help rebuild the country after a civil war. When Mugabe goes
the rebuilding will have to start from a much lower level. It's so
discouraging. But I know that in the end I will.
"It is my country and the minute I see people I know I can help - and
Zimbabweans are such lovely people - there'll really only be one answer,"
By Stephen Bevan
Last Updated: 1:00am BST 23/09/2007
Zimbabwe's already fractured opposition is further divided over the
wisdom of Gordon Brown's threat to boycott the forthcoming European Union
Africa summit if Robert Mugabe attends.
Some said it played into the hands of the Zimbabwean president, as he
would portray himself as standing up to his country's former colonial
Others welcomed any more pressure that could be brought to bear on the
83?year-old dictator, who has presided over two rigged elections, the brutal
suppression of political opponents and the virtual collapse of the economy.
Zimbabwe is to be invited to the meeting, to be held in Portugal in
December, along with other African countries, though it would be free to
send a senior minister if Mr Mugabe chose not to attend.
Gabriel Chaibva, spokesman for Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway
faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was scathing about
Mr Brown's statement. "If the British Prime Minister does not wish to go to
the EU Africa summit because Mugabe will be there, then he needs to tell the
world what is his alternative to solve the crisis in Zimbabwe," he said.
"In any conflict, at the end of the day, there must be dialogue. I
don't know how Gordon Brown thinks his boycott will help resolve the crisis,
and it will again buttress the view among African leaders that the British
and Americans are always telling us what we can and can't do."
However, David Coltart, MP for Bulawayo South and a member of the
Mutambara faction, said Mr Brown was right to take a stand as it would
undermine Mr Mugabe's standing with Zanu-PF colleagues. "For Mugabe to keep
the support of his own party he has to show that European and Western
resolve is weakening," he said.
By Graham Boynton
Last Updated: 1:00am BST 23/09/2007
I spoke to old friends in Zimbabwe this weekend. They sounded pleased
with themselves, mainly because they'd managed to scavenge 25 chickens and a
bottle of Teacher's whisky from some unnamed connection.
They'd shared the chickens among friends and, having had a few shots
of Scotch, were barbecuing their catch and feeling relatively contented.
Last week they'd killed a cow and set up an informal butcher's shop
for the neighbourhood in their back garden.
This is life under Robert Mugabe for people who were once
entrepreneurs, teachers and traders. And they say they're the lucky ones,
because their connections and foreign exchange mean they can get hold of
food and smuggle in alcohol from South Africa. Most of their fellow citizens
are not so lucky - they are, quite literally, starving to death.
I grew up in Bulawayo, then a beautiful colonial town with avenues so
wide you could turn an ox wagon in them and streets lined with majestic gum
trees, kigelia trees and hedges of bougainvillea.
At the time it was run by a white colonial minority, who had carved a
modern infrastructure out of raw African bushveld and created a thriving
economy, benefiting both themselves and the black majority.
Of course, minority white rule could not last and when Ian Smith's
Rhodesia became Mugabe's Zimbabwe it was a self-sufficient, prosperous
economic success - a rare beacon of hope in Africa's bleak 20th-century
Today, the trees and the flowers remain but the city is in ruins. In
less than a decade Robert Mugabe has torn the heart out of this lovely
country and reduced it to the fastest-declining economy in the world.
Statistics offer a stark outline of the catastrophe, but do not
adequately describe the sadness that this despot has visited on his people,
the very Africans he was supposed to have liberated.
An estimated 3,500 people are dying in Zimbabwe each week which, says
David Coltart, the opposition MP who was in London last week, makes it "a
humanitarian disaster more serious than Darfur".
Most of my old friends have gone, scattering to the four corners of
the earth. Those who have stayed are the African optimists, an
ever-diminishing tribe who hold on to the belief that Mugabe will be
This weekend my stoical friends are saying that it can't go on like
this for much longer, but admit they've been saying that for years.
Meanwhile, the former middle-classes - black and white - will continue
to spend their days scavenging for food and drink, but the poor and
dispossessed, the huddled masses for whom Mugabe was supposed to be a
saviour, face disease and starvation on an unprecedented scale.
The dream of a free and prosperous Zimbabwe has truly turned sour.
Last Updated: 1:00am BST 23/09/2007
Robert Mugabe has put the BP's Zimbabwe operation at the top of the
list for takeover under a new law to bring foreign companies under local
control, write Michael Gwaridzo and Stephen Bevan.
He told a meeting of his ruling Zanu-PF party's politburo that the oil
giant would be one of the first companies to be targeted, The Sunday
Telegraph has learnt.
Ministers said the move was intended as retaliation for what they
claim is Britain's "invisible hand" in a recent decision by Australia to
expel eight students whose parents are senior Zimbabwean officials.
BP Zimbabwe, which is jointly owned by BP Africa and Shell, runs a
network of 37 service stations and boasts that it has been "one of the
biggest brands in Zimbabwe" for 40 years. It also supplies fuel and oil
products to the aviation industry.
Mr Mugabe is said to have told the party meeting: "Britain and
Australia have businesses here and we shall act accordingly to show them the
way out. Their BPs will soon be a thing of the past because we have capable
local entrepreneurs who can do a better job." He said the seizures "must be
sudden and without notice".
Under the "indigenisation" law, likely be approved by parliament in
the next few weeks, foreign-owned companies can be required to give up 51
per cent of their shares to "disadvantaged" Zimbabweans. However, the real
beneficiaries are likely to be Mr Mugabe's cronies and Zanu-PF officials.
HARARE, Sept 23 (AFP)
Zimbabwe's divided opposition was pressured by international mediators into
accepting the framework for next year's elections in a move that will likely
condemn it to defeat, according to analysts.
The Movement for Democratic Change, which previously denounced the planned
constitutional amendments as a means to rig the legislative and presidential
elections, made a surprise U-turn last week and voted for the legislation.
While conceding it might appear that it had "abandoned its principles," MDC
lawmakers insisted the real significance lay in the fact that President
Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party were now engaging with the opposition.
However analysts believe the apparent climbdown was due to pressure from
South African President Thabo Mbeki who has been mandated by his peers in
the Southern African Development Community to help ZANU-PF and the MDC
resolve their differences before the polls take place, probably in March.
Takura Zhangazha, a Harare-based analyst, said it was no surprise the MDC's
announcement came after some of its leaders met Mbeki in Pretoria last
"The MDC has been pressured by the Southern African Development Community
into a power-brokering initiative which may cost them next year," he said.
Zhangazha said the MDC were naive if they believed they could ensure a
level-playing field by negotiating with a party which has been in power in
the former British colony since independence in 1980.
"There is no way ZANU-PF can negotiate itself out of power," he said.
Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe,
agreed pressure from Mbeki rather than the prospect of concessions from
ZANU-PF about the conduct of the election was behind the opposition change
"ZANU-PF can celebrate after this because they have locked the MDC in and
they are assured of their full support in the constitutional reforms," he
Other opposition activists have been dismayed by the MDC's move, including
the National Constitutional Assembly, which has been pushing for a
completely new constitution.
"Both formations of the MDC seem to be out of touch with the aspirations of
ordinary Zimbabweans who are clamouring for an open and genuine process of
democratisation," it said in a statement.
"The inescapable conclusion is that the so-called agreement on the amendment
is nothing but a power game. It must therefore be rejected."
The MDC has been riven by divisions with two factions now sitting in
parliament, sending rival representatives to the South African-led mediation
A report by the International Crisis Group released on the same day the MDC
announced it would not oppose the legislation highlighted how the divisions
were playing into ZANU-PF's hands.
"A divided opposition offers ZANU-PF the prospect of an easy electoral
victory, while harming its own bargaining power in the SADC mediation," it
"In the present environment, it is difficult to see how the MDC can regain
any ability to influence events as elections approach."
Bill Saidi, deputy editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, said outside pressure
was crucial in breaking the impasse but detected concessions from both
sides, given ZANU-PF's willingness to talk to a party it has denounced as
stooges of Mugabe's critics.
"I think both parties are under tremendous pressure from SADC to make
concessions," Saidi said.
"Mugabe has at last accepted he cannot continue telling everyone to go to
hell, that's why he has agreed to dialogue with the MDC."
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa also portrayed the development as a ZANU-PF
"They are the ones who were saying the MDC is made up of puppets and they
would not negotiate with puppets but we have managed to put pressure on them
and bring them to the negotiation table."
Mugabe, 83, is seeking a seventh term at a time when Zimbabwe is grappling
with the world's highest rate of inflation, widespread food shortages and
Sunday Times, SA
Comment : Brendan Boyle
Published:Sep 23, 2007
China's money often is followed by China's men
Africa is laying out a red carpet for China and its money, which is never a
bad thing to do for a rich benefactor.
But the continent has been wounded by foreigners bearing gifts and a little
more circumspection might be in order as Beijing pursues its interests on
Chinese President Hu Jintao promised African leaders at a summit in Beijing
last November, though without giving figures, that he would double aid to
the continent by 2009. He said China also would extend an additional
5-billion in loans and export credits over the same period.
Two-way trade between Africa and China has rocketed from 10-million in 1950
to 1-billion in 1970, 10-billion in 2000 and 55-billion last year. With
Africa's share of Chinese oil imports up in a decade from 9% to 30%, the
balance is slightly in Africa's favour.
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is in Beijing, heading a team of
ministers who will be trying to make sure South Africa gets its share of the
aid, trade and skills development China is offering in return for fair and
preferably preferential access to its resources.
Africa and its individual countries clearly stand to benefit massively from
China's spectacular growth, but there is nothing about China's pursuit of
resources that will automatically protect this continent from the abuse it
suffered when European nations began their scramble for Africa.
Yet, at the many conferences that discuss the effect that this emerging
giant will have, there is an assumption by many Africans - and sometimes an
assurance - of trust.
That was the dominant attitude this week when the Centre for Conflict
Resolution brought a panel together in Cape Town to discuss the potential
effect of China's growing enthusiasm for Africa.
Underpinning the two-day debate was a consensus that Europe and the US had
exploited Africa in the race for its riches. Delegates reminded themselves
that the roads and railways the colonial powers built were designed to
facilitate control or to extract raw materials and get them to the nearest
port - and never to facilitate development or intra-Africa trade. It was all
about them, not us.
Implicit in the consistent criticism was an assumption that the colonial
powers should have been more considerate of Africa's interests when they
came to claim a share of its wealth. But, when discussing China, many apply
a different standard and the most common theme is that Beijing's interest is
Chen Wenbing, first secretary at the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria, sought to
drive home the point.
"We are being told by our policy makers and government to take more care of
the morality and to give more back to Africa. In our relationship with
Africa, we do take into account the morality. We are asking what we can do
to improve the image of China in Africa," he said.
China's money often is followed by China's men. Though the country pretends
it sends only the skilled people it needs, Africans say that is seldom true.
It is usually Chinese labour that assembles Beijing's latest demonstration
According to Cornell Law School's Professor Muna Ndulo, it is up to the
recipient states to legislate a place for their own people and not China's
There is a danger in the acceptance of China's largely unconditional trade.
When an economically weak nation such as Zimbabwe pawns its mines to a
foreign government in exchange for short-term relief, and without a clear
plan to redeem the pledge, sovereignty is at least weakened.
The good news is that Beijing is keen to compensate for the weak domestic
standards of governance and human rights that few governments dare openly
condemn by creating a record of good global citizenship.
Xu Jian, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies in
Beijing, said his country was anxious to improve its reputation and claim a
space on the global stage without surrendering its own values.
"The Chinese experience, on the domestic front, is to choose China's own way
while borrowing insights from others in line with Chinese culture. Study the
experience of others, but don't copy it," he said.
Clearly, as China pours billions into a continent slowly being released from
the burden of colonialism's odious debt, it is acting with the benefit of
Global relations are different now to the period of empire.
Partnership has trumped paternalism and this nation seems to promise it will
act differently to its predecessors.
In contrast to the deeply self-serving interventions of the European
colonial powers and the geo- political opportunism of the US during the Cold
War, China promises a policy of supportive non- interference that is music
to the ears of a Mugabe or an Omar Bongo in Gabon.
Professor Alaba Ogunsanwo, of the University of Lagos in Nigeria, said
bluntly it was up to Africa to ensure that the revenue from trade with China
went towards the sustainable development of its societies and not into the
pockets of its elites.
If African countries allowed themselves to be ruled by rapacious autocrats,
that was their own responsibility and none of China's concern. Under its
policy of non- interference, China was entitled to strike deals with the
rulers of any country.
Not everyone was as sanguine about China's African adventure.
"When I see what your country is doing in Africa today, it reminds me of
what my country was doing 20 years ago," Professor Daniel Bach, a political
scientist from the University of Bordeaux in France, told Xu.
He softened the blow slightly, adding: "I think this might be a transitional
phase. China is on a very fast learning curve regarding the socialisation of
China into the global economy."
China might be new to this game, but Africa is not. In their understandable
enthusiasm to break old and unwelcome ties to the West, many African states
seem to forget that loans might be interest-free in fiscal terms, but rarely
in political terms.
The colonial powers came, took what they wanted, and left little more than
inappropriate traditions and their trappings. The absurd morning dress and
ancient Rolls Royce in which Mugabe arrives each year to open his country's
Westminster-style Parliament is just one example.
There is a risk that the competition for China's business will encourage
Beijing to play a poor Peter off against an even poorer Paul. African
governments have an opportunity to ensure, together, that this does not
Xu argued strongly against Bristol University Professor Amitav Acharya's
assertion that China preferred to deal bilaterally with its African clients.
"Attitudes to multi- lateralism have changed significantly, if not
fundamentally, since the late 1990s," he said.
But Acharya's warning is sound: "Africa will suffer if it deals with China,
including its demand for resources, exclusively through bilateral channels
and as a house divided against itself, with individual African nations
competing among themselves for Chinese economic aid or political backing."
The petroleum-exporting countries discovered nearly 50 years ago that it was
better to combine than to compete .
We need to treat China as the valued client of Africa that it is, to respect
its ways and appreciate its support. But China is doing business here for
many reasons all of its own . Africa should contain its gratitude and drive
the best bargain it can for a continent that needs to follow and not just
fuel Chinese development.
Mlambo-Ngcuka and her team should be wary of yet another bilateral deal
which leaves neighbours in the cold.
Together, the African mouse could roar. Separately, its nations can only
By Ndimyake Mwakalyelye
22 September 2007
The International Federation of Journalists called Saturday on the
government of Zimbabwe to guarantee the safety of 15 journalists it has
The organization cited a leaked government report saying 15 journalists were
working "hand in hand with hostile anti-Zimbabwean Western governments."
Entitled "2008 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections," the report said
the journalists should be "placed under strict surveillance and taken in on
various dates set."
The journalists include Foster Dongozi of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists;
reporter Gift Phiri of the London-based Zimbabwean paper, who was abducted
and beaten by police; editor Abel Mutsakani of Web-based news agency
ZimOnline, recently shot by unknown assailants in Johannesburg, South
Africa, and Standard editor Bill Saidi.
Saidi, who earlier this year received a brown envelope containing a bullet
and a warning to "watch out," told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the report reflects "panic of the worst kind" in