Comment from The Mail & Guardian (SA), 2 September
Where is the
It is only too easy to argue
that Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) did the right
thing in deciding last week to suspend any further participation in polls
until President Robert Mugabe's government adheres to the electoral standards
laid down by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state
in Mauritius last month. It is more difficult to say the party did the wrong
thing. But it is beginning to look like that.
The MDC was right in
claiming that any future election would place it at an unfair disadvantage
given Zanu PF's refusal to do anything more than submit to pressure from the
SADC leaders for technical reforms in the conduct of polls. While those
reforms, providing for independent electoral institutions, non-discriminatory
voter registration, and accessible voters' rolls, among other things, will do
much to improve the electoral process in Zimbabwe, they don't address the
wider context. Mauritian Prime Minister Paul Berenger spelt that out when he
said "really free and fair elections mean not only an independent electoral
commission, but also include freedom of assembly and absence of physical
harassment by the police or any other entity, freedom of the press and access
to national radio and television, and external and credible observation of
the whole electoral process".
The MDC will argue that none of those
broader, but essential, requirements are in place. More to the point, Zanu PF
appears to have no intention of putting them there. Even before the ink was
dry on the Grande Baie protocol, Zimbabwean ministers were planning new ways
of closing democratic space by further restricting freedom of expression and
association ahead of a general election scheduled for March. A proposed NGO
Bill plans to do to civil society what Mugabe's media law did to the press -
muzzle it. Both the SADC and the African Union share a commitment to popular
participation in the political process. But voters cannot make an informed
choice if they are denied access to competing views or don't know what their
rights are. NGOs perform a vital public service as electoral monitors and in
telling voters what rights they have. Now they will be closed down if they
are foreign-funded, leaving the electoral terrain wide open to
Mugabe's blandishments - and his militias.
The SADC principles
require equal access to the media for contesting parties. Far from tolerating
dissent, Zimbabwe's public media pour forth a daily diet of calumnies and
hate speech directed at the opposition and civil society. Partisan policing
and a judiciary subject to constant threats make for a toxic political
climate that is designed to discourage people from exercising their rights.
It is, therefore, understandable that the MDC should wish to draw a line in
the sand, refusing to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the ruling party's
electoral chicanery. But the timing is terrible. Whatever we might say about
the reluctance of SADC leaders to make a stand against misrule in Zimbabwe,
the fact is they have now succumbed to patient prodding from President Thabo
Mbeki and set down benchmarks on electoral reform that are
What was required was for the MDC to test the water. It
should have used Parliament to showcase the government's recidivism over the
NGO Bill. And then explained to the country and the region the implications
of stunted electoral education and monitoring as Zanu PF's militias move into
action. It should have applied for access to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation and monitored professional standards in the broadcaster's
coverage well ahead of the March poll. It should have seen who Mugabe
appoints as head of the new electoral commission. This was an ideal
opportunity to test the government's sincerity against the SADC electoral
principles, step by step. Each new travesty could be documented - but only if
the MDC waved a yellow card. As it is, SADC heads will feel their efforts
were ill-rewarded. But worse, they now have the perfect excuse to nod through
the March election outcome, however un-free or unfair. The MDC has let them
off the hook just as they were showing a hint of firmness. MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai's assurance to his followers this week that "the political
electric fence that denied you access to the watermelon has rusted away" may
prove a tad optimistic. If the MDC decides to re-engage early next year when
SADC leaders might secure a political opening ahead of the March poll, it
could well be too late to make a difference.
Iden Wetherell is group
projects editor of the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard newspapers
NON - GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS PLOT NATIONWIDE
PROTESTS Sat 4 September 2004
HARARE - Non Governmental
Organisations (NGOs) are set to meet this weekend in the resort town of
Victoria Falls to plot nationwide protests next week against a proposed law
that will severely curtail their work in the country.
association of NGOs executive director Jonah Mudehwe said that besides the
protest scheduled for Tuesday, they had also briefed United Nations
Development Programme's resident representative in Zimbabwe, Victor Angelo,
in a bid to harness international support against the draft NGO Bill expected
to become law next month.
Mudehwe said: "We have agreed to stage
protests on Tuesday against the Bill. Members have agreed to team up in
resisting the intentions of government aimed at shutting down most
The draft law requires NGOs to register with a
government-appointed council. Under the proposed law, civic groups will be
barred from receiving foreign funding and from engaging in work related to
human rights and governance issues. NGOs say the law will virtually force
about 90 percent of them to shut down.
Mudehwe refused to say
what help, if any, Angelo had promised the NGOs in their fight against the
Bill. He would only say: "We met as part of the development issues, and
naturally the issues of the Bill came up.
"But it would not be
proper for me to discuss what came out of the meeting. Talk to the resident
representative himself." Angelo could not be reached for comment on the
The National Constitutional Assembly, which is
part of Mudehwe's NGOs association, this week handed a petition to South
Africa's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Jeremiah Ndou, requesting Pretoria to take a
more robust approach to help end Zimbabwe's crisis. ZimOnline
MDC surrenders Seke without a fight Sat 4 September
HARARE - The ruling ZANU PF party's Phineas Chihota yesterday
won the Seke parliamentary seat unopposed after the main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) stuck to its decision not to take part in
elections until the country's electoral laws were changed.
PF's victory brings to 98 the total number of seats controlled by the party
in Zimbabwe's 150-member House. The ruling party now needs only two more
seats to reach the crucial two-thirds majority that would enable the party to
change Zimbabwe's constitution.
The MDC, which held the Seke seat
before the death of its parliamentarian Ben Tumbare Mutasa about two months
ago, now controls 51 seats. Another smaller opposition party holds one
The MDC, which emerged four years ago as the biggest threat
to President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party's 24-year hold on power,
says it will not take party in elections including next March's
parliamentary polls unless the country's electoral laws are genuinely
The party wants Zimbabwe's electoral processes brought in
sync with Southern African Development Community (SADC) norms and standards
for elections. The regional norms require the setting up of
independent electoral bodies to run elections. The electoral processes must
be transparent while human and individual rights must be upheld
during elections, according to the SADC norms.
promised to appoint a new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which shall be tasked
with running elections. The MDC says Mugabe is insincere as the proposed new
commission will lack independence because its chairman will be answerable to
HARARE - An Amnesty International official arrested by police two days ago at
Porta Farm squatter camp just outside Harare was yesterday released from
Obert Chinhamo, who works for Amnesty in Harare and an
official of the local Non-Violent Action for Social Change, Masanho
Maruwacha, were arrested on Wednesday.
The two had gone to the
squatter camp to check on reports that the police, aided by ruling ZANU PF
party militia had set the camp on fire in a bid to evict the squatters
despite a High Court order prohibiting them from doing so.
lawyer representing the two men, Alec Muchadehama, said they were released on
Z$100 000 (US$17 at the official rate) bail each. They will return to court
on 20 September to answer to charges of public violence.
squatters were dumped at Porta Farm by the government in 1991 after being
rounded up from the streets of Harare and another squatter camp which was
located nearer to the capital. ZimOnline
Group helps orphaned children reclaim lost homes Sat 4
BULAWAYO - Ivy Sibanda's home resembles a refugee
camp for residents of Ward 23 in Bulawayo's Nkulumane suburb. Toddlers,
teenagers, parents and grandparents stream in and out all day to play, chat
about their health and welfare or get something to eat.
"Everyone is welcome here anytime of the day. I've somehow become
the neighbourhood granny," explained Sibanda while a four-year old boy plays
on her lap. The boy is not her grandson but one of over 600 orphans
that Sibanda assists through a community-based organisation that she
A nurse by profession, Sibanda is chairperson of Silundika
AIDS Health Project. The project was set up in 2000 to help feed and send to
school orphans in the suburb. Each month, the project gives the orphans
food, soap and helps with payment of rent, water and electricity
The food and money comes from various international
donor organisations and is channeled through the Matabeleland AIDS
The 20 members of the project also offer home-based care
to bed-ridden AIDS patients in the Ward.
During the past year,
Silundika members have been forced to expand their activities to include
helping orphans reclaim lost family houses. According to Sibanda, an
increasing number of minor children find themselves homeless when their
parents die of AIDS because unscrupulous relatives would have sold off their
late parents' houses.
In the past year alone, Silundika members
have helped repossess 15 homes which had been sold behind orphans'
Kundai Madyahoto is one of the orphans that Silundika is
helping at the moment. Kundai's parents died of AIDS-related illnesses.
According to Kundai, her aunt sold her late parents' home in February this
She said her aunt, who is an informal trader, said she was
selling the property to recover money she had spent taking care of Kundai's
The new owner of the house has vowed to evict Kundai and
her four siblings. She said some months ago the new owner came to 'their
house' and threw their belongings onto the street. They are still at the
house today only because the police ordered the new owner not to evict them
until the ownership dispute was resolved, said Kundayi.
the help of neighbours and Silundika, Kundayi insists she and her siblings
will fight to have back their parents' house. "We are not leaving. Where do
we go if we leave our parents' home? If we move out we will end up as street
kids. We will be forced to steal or become prostitutes to survive," she
Kilibong Nkomo, another member of Silundika blamed the
problems Kundayi and many other such orphans across Zimbabwe have to face
when their parents die on greedy and selfishness. She said: "It is greed and
lack of feeling. Relatives do not care about the children's welfare. They
just want to grab the property."
Nkomo complained that helping
resolve the house disputes takes up too much time and money as they have to
shuttle between the police, courts and non-governmental organisations such as
Childline and Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association to get expert help to have
the disputes resolved. And this leaves little time to focus on their core
According to Sibanda there was need to revise property
transfer rules to save orphans from losing their homes and the hassle of
claiming them back. She said most sick parents would have been coerced or
cheated to enter into agreeing to sell their properties.
said: "Most of the times, the relatives use forged papers to transfer
ownership. Also, the parents will be very sick and disorientated and unaware
what they will be signing for (when they agree to sale houses). Surely, such
agreements should not be valid. The practice is inhuman." ZimOnline
Harare - Zimbabwean Christians from
many denominations on Friday joined in strong public support of Roman
Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo who has been denounced as
"satanic" by President Robert Mugabe for demanding tougher international
pressure to end human rights abuses.
In a series of statements
which defied Zimbabwe's draconian security legislation, the archbishop's
supporters accused Mugabe's government of intolerance which "amounted to
persecution of the church".
Ncube says 10 000 Zimbabweans have
already died of hunger and malnutrition as a result of 80-year-old Mugabe's
use of famine relief as a political weapon and disruption of commercial
agriculture by "fast track land reform".
Ncube also alleges
state-sponsored agitation surrounding the seizure of 5 000 white-owned farms
was exploited as a "smokescreen to intimidate opposition".
'A humble man of God who speaks the truth' In a speech in Harare on
August 21, in Ncube's presence, Mugabe accused him of "joining hands with our
erstwhile colonial masters to peddle lies" and allowing the church "to be
infiltrated by the British".
Three organisations on Friday placed a
joint advertisement in the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent describing
Ncube as a "true patriot" and "a humble man of God who speaks the
The organisations included the Catholic Commission for
Justice and Peace, Christians Together for Justice and Peace, and the
Solidarity Peace Trust. The latter two are groupings, including Protestants
and some South African churches and religious organisations dedicated to
helping victims of violence.
They condemned recent claims by
state media that Ncube's words "border on treason" and that he should be
banned from travelling outside Zimbabwe.
In a similar statement
eight Catholic and Protestant groups and ecumenical associations, likewise
denounced the "calculated, hateful and unjustified criticism of Archbishop
"This amounts to the persecution of the church and its
leaders as a ploy to silence it from voicing the glaring evils perpetrated
against the generality of the population."
They rejected plans
to enact legislation strictly controlling the work of charities and voluntary
organisations, and banning those focused on "issues of governance and human
rights" from receiving foreign help. - Sapa-dpa
Zimbabwe Court Stops Evictions from Harare Shantytown Peta
Thornycroft Harare 03 Sep 2004, 16:29 UTC
Residents of a
shantytown on the outskirts of Harare have clashed with police and municipal
workers who, the residents say, were trying to evict them. The police were
acting despite a court ruling Wednesday temporarily barring the government
from evicting the residents or destroying their property. Porta Farm, a
shantytown on the edges of Harare, was actually started by the government,
which moved homeless people from the streets of Harare to the outskirts of
the city ahead of British Queen Elizabeth's visit in 1991. The government did
not want the queen to see the homeless on the streets of Harare.
the years, the residents created their own infrastructure, including schools
and some health services. They also constructed homes.
As poverty gripped
the country in the last five years, many people could no longer afford to pay
rent in the city and moved to Porta Farm. About 10,000 people live there
today, according to government estimates.
Last month, the minister of
local government, Ignatius Chombo, issued an ultimatum to them to vacate the
area and make way for what he said would be a new sewage works. He gave the
families until August 15 to move, and many resisted.
argued the only income they had came from fishing at a large lake nearby, and
the area they were due to move to, on the east of Harare, was dry. They also
said there were no schools or infrastructure on the land.
This week a
group of them went to court, which ordered that they be allowed to stay in
Police spokesman Wyne Bvudzijena said the settlers had
attacked government employees and so tear gas was used against them. Police
have stopped all visitors to the informal settlement.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the
views of the United Nations]
HARARE, 3 Sep 2004 (IRIN) - Police in
Zimbabwe on Thursday torched homes and fired tear-gas in a bid to evict some
10,000 residents from Porta Farm, a long-standing illegal settlement 20 km
south of the capital, Harare.
An elderly man, believed to have been
sleeping in his shack, died, and several police officers were injured when
the residents resisted removal. Two human rights workers from Amnesty
International and an NGO, Non-Violent Action for Social Change, were arrested
and charged with inciting public violence.
The police action was in
defiance of a High Court ruling on Wednesday, ordering the government not to
evict the squatters or demolish their dwellings.
A statement by Crisis
Coalition, a pro-democracy NGO, noted: "The Coalition once again reiterates
that the government must be committed to the rule of law, and that there must
be an end to the continued disregard of judgements that are passed by the
courts, as is the case involving Porta Farm residents."
one of Harare's poorest communities, was established in 1991 by the
government as a transit camp for homeless people taken from the streets of
the capital. The clean-up was done ahead of a visit by the British monarch,
Queen Elizabeth II, to open a Commonwealth Heads of
After more than a decade of being denied official
status, the government announced last month that the residents would be
relocated to make way for a sewage treatment plant to be constructed in the
area. The community, ordered to move to a new farm lacking basic public
facilities, vowed to resist.
"We were shocked by the government's move to
evict us and build a sewage plant ... We have been living here at Porta Farm
for 14 years," the chairman of the residents association, Khumbulani Khumalo
said in an earlier interview with IRIN. "How can the government take us to a
land where there are no toilets and water?" he asked.
employment opportunities, fishing in nearby Lake Chivero provided some income
for the Porta Farm community.
"We have been fisherman for several years
and we had established good markets in Harare which we were supplying with
fish. If we are moved to a new area, most people will have to find new ways
of making money and I know most people will just resort to criminal
activities to make money," resident Michael Tinarwo told IRIN.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has repeatedly accused Western powers
of trying to unseat him, has warned the new British, US and Australian envoys
to Harare against trying to effect a regime change, reports said
"You are suspected to be coming for regime change and it's
your responsibility to correct that," Mugabe was quoted by the state media
as telling Britain's new ambassador Roderick Pullen on Thursday, when
he presented his credentials.
"You cannot go about the Kosovo,
Yugoslavia way. Your predecessor tried and failed," Mugabe said, referring to
former high commissioner (ambassador) Brian Donnelly, who was accused by the
Zimbabwean government of trying to help the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) to oust Mugabe.
Pullen meanwhile said he would
work to improve the strained relations between Zimbabwe and its former
Mugabe also received credentials from the new US
ambassador, Christopher Dell, saying there had been media reports that his
mission was to unseat the government.
"There is that cloud of
suspicion and you have to clear it. We want to see from your deeds and
utterances what your real mission is. If you have been misrepresented, you
have to prove it," Mugabe told Dell.
But Dell reportedly denied ever
speaking about regime change.
"I will work to restore friendship between
our two countries and I have no intention to effect regime change in
Zimbabwe," Dell told Mugabe.
Mugabe separately told the new diplomat from
Australia, Jonathan Sheppard, that he was concerned about false perceptions
created by Australia and Britain on the situation in
"Britain and Australia say I am illegitimate. Africa says I am
legitimate. So could all these people (African leaders) be wrong?"
we don't accept that. If only the truth could be basis of the
judgment," Mugabe told Sheppard while denying any crisis in
Mugabe vowed to fight any attempts to remove him from power by
external forces "armed with weapons of mass destruction".
bullies even though we are little fellows in the international community," he
said, adding "even little fellows have rights too".
[ This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]
HARARE, 3 Sep 2004 (IRIN) -
Non-governmental organisations in Zimbabwe will have an opportunity next week
to raise their concerns about a proposed law that seeks to clamp down on
local groups receiving foreign funding for the promotion of human rights and
Rights groups have argued that, if passed, the law would
further restrict civil liberties, but the authorities have countered that the
draft bill is meant to regulate the operations of NGOs for national security
President Robert Mugabe has long accused the NGO community of
meddling in the country's politics.
Groups involved in human rights
work are concerned that without international aid their operations would be
The Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and
Rehabilitation (ZACRO), an NGO running rehabilitation programmes in prisons,
has remarked that since the proposal of the bill donors had become
increasingly nervous about their association with groups tackling human
rights or good governance issues. Many were now "fence sitters", Edson
Chihota, the national treasurer of ZACRO, told IRIN.
grant to ZACRO of Zim $1 million (about US $180,000) a year has proved
inadequate for a prison system involving 42 prisons and more than 20,000
inmates, and the money allowed ZACRO to do little beyond operating a skeleton
staff and paying for administrative costs such as electricity, water and
Chihota said they were sometimes allowed to operate a
casino, from which they obtained "a few [Zimbabwean] dollars", and received
some assistance from organisations such as the Prison Fellowship, who were
also funded by churches and donors. However, there was a need for strong and
continuous donor support.
Government had shown interest in the idea of
a comprehensive donor-assisted HIV/AIDS programme in prisons, but this was
now uncertain because of the NGO Bill.
A report compiled by the
Institute of Correctional and Security Studies said more than half of all
prisoners in Zimbabwe were HIV positive.
The government funds HIV/AIDS
programmes through a levy administered by the National Aids Council (NAC),
but not much money finds its way to the prisons. "Government is getting money
from NAC funds, but why is it used only for peer education in the prisons?
Why not for the purchase of drugs? Why not for identifying a special diet?"
The authorities are also reluctant to provide employment
for ex-prisoners, even those possessing nationally recognised certificates in
"motor mechanics, tin smithing, carpentry, welding, O and A levels" but, at
the same time, ZACRO funds from government were insufficient to
provide ex-offenders with real security upon release.
that ZACRO had unsuccessfully lobbied the land ministry for a farm to serve
as a halfway home for ex-prisoners, where they could acquire hands-on
experience in their chosen fields and generate some income before branching
out on their own. ZACRO would have expected to source funds for this project
Rachel Rufu, an official of the NGO section of the ministry
of labour and social welfare tasked with administering the bill, said donors
and NGOs were being unnecessarily "jittery".
"They have nothing to
worry about. They should carry on with their work. It still has to be debated
in public and parliament in the next three months, and changes may be
effected. No one can be prosecuted now on the grounds of the bill - it's not
yet law," she told IRIN.
But Fambai Ngirande of the advocacy team for the
National Association of NGOs (NANGO) said NGOs had reason to be concerned and
aware of the current interpretations of the bill.
He said NANGO was in
discussion with the labour ministry and would participate in a public hearing
on 7 September to put forward a request for a "redraft of some of the
Mugabe warned the incoming ambassadors from Britain, the United States,
Australia and Nigeria not to meddle in his nation's political life, state
Mugabe, receiving the diplomatic credentials of the
ambassadors, who were newly posted to Harare, challenged US ambassador
Christopher Dell "to dispel reports he is on a mission for regime change" in
Zimbabwe, the radio said.
It said Mugabe told the ambassadors at their
accreditation ceremony that Zimbabweans had the right to determine their own
destiny without the interference of outsiders.
Mugabe also took to
task incoming ambassadors Rod Pullen of Britain and Australian Jonathan
Britain and Australia have been among the harshest critics of
ruling party policies, including the often-violent seizures of thousands of
white-owned farms, that have led to political violence and economic
Mugabe said their perceptions of lawlessness and electoral
violations that saw him narrowly win presidential polls in 2002 were based on
"The lion of Britain might roar, but we will not hear it.
Britain and Australia say I am illegitimate. Africa says I am legitimate. Can
all these people be wrong?" Mugabe said.
Last year, Mugabe threatened
to expel Pullen's predecessor and close down the British diplomatic
The radio said the government had pondered whether to reject
Dell's diplomatic credentials but decided to "give him a chance to prove
As ambassador-designate in June, Dell told the US Senate
Foreign Relations Committee he wanted to see Zimbabwe re-emerge "as a country
with a legitimate, democratically led government that respects the rule of
law and human rights".
Afterward, Dell was criticised by Zimbabwean
government officials and the state media as having prejudged the nation's
record on human and democratic rights.
The state Herald newspaper
reported that Mugabe remonstrated with Dell.
"So, sir, there is that
cloud of suspicion and you have to clear it with your deeds. If you have been
misrepresented, you have to prove it," he said.
He said if there was any
foreign military intervention "we will turn our people into guerrillas again
should the need arise".
Mugabe, addressing new Nigerian ambassador
Anthony Ufumwen Osula, said there was a need to "preserve the spirit of
brotherhood" between their two nations.
Once firm allies in the
African Union and other continental bodies, Zimbabwe has accused Nigeria of
funding activities of opponents of Mugabe, accusations denied by both Nigeria
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Zimbabwe has also
accused Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo of siding with Britain and
Australia in its dispute with the Commonwealth of Britain and its former
Zimbabwe pulled out of the Commonwealth last year after the
body refused to lift the country's suspension on grounds of vote rigging and
violence reported by its observers surrounding both the presidential polls in
2002 and parliamentary polls in 2000.
Mugabe has vowed to allow only
African observers to monitor the next parliamentary poll in March.
Outbreak of Newcastle Disease in Zimbabwe ZIMBABWE -
Newcastle has broken out in some parts of Mashonaland Central Province and
killed thousands of chickens, veterinary officials
Provincial veterinary director Dr Josphat Nyika said a
team of veterinary officers had been dispatched to Matope and Kamutsenzere
districts, where the outbreak is most severe, to monitor the
Dr Nyika said the diagnosis on the birds had been based on
post-mortem and symptoms. "We have taken brain and blood samples for
confirmatory laboratory diagnosis in Harare," he said.
people in affected areas not to move chickens, as they are susceptible to the
disease, which is spread by an airborne virus.
He urged farmers to report
any suspicious death of chickens to the nearest veterinary
Newcastle, a disease that is characterised by nervous [symptoms]
and pneumonia in poultry, can wipe out entire flocks in a very short time,
and chickens need to be vaccinated against it.
Dr Nyika said they were
awaiting delivery of the Newcastle vaccine they had ordered and would move
into the affected areas as soon as the consignment arrived.
2004, the disease wiped out a flock at a farm in Harare's