25 September 2000
In this issue :
From News 24 (SA), 24 September
Zim cop in court over bombing
Harare - A policeman, also said to be a member of the opposition MDC, appeared in court in Harare for his alleged involvement in the recent bombing of the offices of the party, newspaper reports said on Sunday. Lazarus Nkomo, described as a Harare-based policeman, appeared before a magistrate on Saturday on allegations of terrorism, sabotage and illegal possession of offensive weapons, the state-controlled Sunday Mail said. He was not granted bail on the grounds of "the seriousness of the crime."
Nkomo's appearance in court is the latest in a confusing series of claims and counter-claims between the MDC and police over a hand grenade that was thrown at the party's headquarters near midnight on 11 September, causing little damage. The MDC has already identified Nkomo as a police musketry instructor who, it said, was infiltrated into the MDC's youth wing on the orders of senior police officers. Party president Morgan Tsvangirai said on Friday last week the grenade attack was to give police a pretext to carry out raids on the party's offices. He said Nkomo had been issued with hand grenades, and instructed to plant them in the party's offices and in the homes of senior officials.
However, police affidavits in court claimed that the policeman had joined the MDC in May and became a member of its security department. Earlier this month he was given grenades by a senior member of the security department and told to "engage in subversive activities aimed at discrediting and tarnishing the image of the government of Zimbabwe," the newspaper reported. Police were still looking for the senior security official. The actions "were meant to show the local and international community that there was no order, security and tolerance of opposition parties in Zimbabwe," police alleged in court.
During the raids, police removed all the party's records from its main offices in Harare, returning them only 24 hours after a high court order barring their action was issued. Shortly after, home affairs minister John Nkomo claimed police had found "weapons of war." Among them were hand grenades, he said, but he also listed a Daisy pistol, a child's toy, and pellets for the pistol, as well as hand-held radios. The searches were carried out in full view of MDC lawyers and party officials. "Police found nothing, and they know it," Tsvangirai said. "Let them prosecute members of the MDC, and the courts will prove that this is nothing but a conspiracy."
The raids, by heavily armed paramilitary police, were the first action against the pro-democracy party since parliamentary elections in June when it won 57 out of 120 elected seats, breaking President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu(PF) party's near absolute grip on power. Observers warn that the latest moves signal a crackdown on the MDC by the government, ahead of presidential elections in 2002 that the opposition party is tipped to win.
From Pan African News Agency, 24 September
Mugabe Says Paid His Children's Airfares for New York
HARARE - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, under sharp criticism at home for wasting huge sums of money on frequent foreign trips he makes, said at the weekend he paid the air fares for his children from his pocket during a recent trip to the UN in New York. Local media accused the Zimbabwean leader of gobbling Z$13 million (US$200,000), at a time of the country's worst economic crisis, on his trip to the UN Millennium Summit three weeks ago. But Mugabe's spokesman refuted the claims, saying the president had paid for his children's airfares, while the Libyan government had provided his delegation with a charter flight to New York. "The reporter of the story never bothered to check all this with us and we want to put it on record that the president always pays for his children just like anyone else. They are saying it cost 13 million, implying that commercial flights were used throughout the journey and this is not true," the spokesman said. Mugabe, who has since been to neighbouring Mozambique and is scheduled to travel to Namibia shortly, has come under attack for frequently undertaking expensive foreign trips.
From Pan African News Agency, 24 September
Zimbabwean Commander Thanks BBC for Saving His Men
HARARE - The Zimbabwean commander of southern African allied troops that Congolese rebels had besieged for more than a year in the northern town of Ikela said the BBC played a crucial role in saving his men from capture by over- estimating his garrison's strength by more than 2,500 men. Maj. Lizwe Nyathi said there were only 168 Zimbabwean soldiers at Ikela throughout the town's siege by rebels, and the whole allied troop strength based there was 500, with other forces from Namibia and the DRC government itself. Angola is also part of the southern African military alliance backing President Laurent Kabila, but had no soldiers at the strategic northern Congolese town during the siege.
Nyathi, a Captain then, said the BBC's reference to his garrison's troop strength as 3,000 mainly Zimbabwean soldiers demoralised the rebels in their repeated attempts to over-run Ikela. But he admitted the rebels, who at times poured up to 7,000 men into the battle for Ikela, came close at one point to capturing the town. Nyathi said the rebels, who are fighting with Rwandan and Ugandan backing to topple Kabila, attacked the town ferociously on several occasions, but they managed to hold on in spite of their numerical disadvantage.
But he added that the BBC's report equally made it important for the allied troops to fight hard to keep misleading the rebels that they numbered 3,000. Nyathi, now a decorated soldier who also took part in Zimbabwe's seven-year guerrilla war of independence, said at one point his garrison ran out of both food and ammunition, and could not be re-supplied because the rebels had cut off all river and road routes to Ikela. The rebel siege was broken early in the year by Zimbabwean commandos.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 24 September
Invaders pay dearly for trusting Zanu PF
AS police continued with the eviction of squatters at occupied farms last week, evicted families began to feel the pinch of playing to the tune of politicians. Columns of smoke at a farm outside Harare where huts had just been torched by police, signalled the end of life as a squatter for Dennis, who like thousands in other parts of the country, saw their hopes of taking over the farms they had occupied literally go up in smoke. More importantly though, the smoke signalled one thing - time for politicking was over as government saw the threat posed by the invasions to the country's agricultural sector and its tarnished reputation as a lawless country.
Police last week swept the country's farms, removing invaders in a move that was condemned by the war veterans leadership, who accused the police of being pro-MDC. Guarantees by self serving politicians that the war veterans would not be removed from the farms without being resettled elsewhere, were not forthcoming. President Mugabe, who actively encouraged them to go on the farms, was nowhere to be seen. This was the man who only recently was telling the whole world that he would never remove the invaders from the farms: "I will never set the police against my own people." Professor Jonathan Moyo was not there either; neither was home affairs minister, John Nkomo. Chenjerai Hunzvi, Endy Mhlanga and the whole war veterans leadership could not help.
The once gallant and violent invaders, some who had declared the farms as no-go areas for the opposition were reduced to mere spectators as their plastic shacks and mud huts were reduced to ashes. These were the people who were used by the ruling party in the run up to the election to intimidate and harass farm owners and workers for supporting the MDC. Some of the invaders were in tears during the evictions. This was understandable. One family said they had already sold their Gokwe homestead having "found better and bigger land".
At least some of them learnt one lesson during the evictions - never take politicians' promises seriously, especially those made during election time. With 2002 around the corner, it remains to be seen whether it was a lesson well learnt. "We were told that we would never be removed here. It is the government that provided us with the transport to come here but now we are being disowned. It seems they need us only when it comes to elections. Tichaonana pakuyambuka (We will meet at the crossroads)," said one very bitter woman. "At the end of the day, we have been the losers. The politicians got what they wanted and they do not care about us anymore," said another invader.
Nkomo said government wanted to restore order at the farms. Government also wanted farmers to start preparations hence the evictions. However, the settlers had plans of their own. They were looking forward to preparing their newly "acquired" land for the planting season. Some, having abandoned their homesteads, however, said they would find it difficult to settle down and start serious farming this year: Others, mainly those occupying farms around Harare, had been lodgers and were relieved when they were allocated stands. Last week, after some months as proud stand owners, they were back to square one - they were lodgers again, that is if their landlords would have them back. "I do not know where to go. This had become my home and I will have to look for a place to stay again," lamented one invader who previously stayed in Kuwadzana. She also admitted that it would be difficult to get back the monies they had paid war veterans who had allocated them the stands.
Because of farm invasions, the future of agriculture in the country has been seriously disrupted. Already the country faces an acute shortage of wheat due to the invasions and whether the evictions will bring life back into the industry remains to be seen. One thing is clear though - Zanu PF benefited from the invasions and the invaders lost. That is the price of trusting politicians at election time.