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Zimbabwe this Week.

Our weekend in the Matopos Hills was a great success. No war vets, CIO or
any other undesirables. We got 93 out of a target of 100 delegates there and
the presentations on education and health policies were outstanding. The
subsequent discussions were focused and stimulating and a very high degree
of consensus was reached on many key issues. The location was perfect - no
telephone or TV and no cell phone coverage! We worked 12 hours a day and the
food and surroundings were superb.

It was an Amandebele weekend - and when Morgan got up to leave us on
Saturday night to go to Harare for a rally, the entire staff of the Lodge
discarded their clothes and in full regalia, including their famous long
shields (Amandebele is Zulu for the "long shields") and fighting sticks,
they gave Morgan a royal send off with dancing and singing. It was an
emotive moment as Morgan joined in with the "Amadoda" in the dance, replete
with a shield and knobkerrie. We had Eland and Sable in the vicinity - were
told there were Giraffe and we saw a fine pair of Black Eagles in the hills
behind the Lodge. It rained on us - a good omen.

On Sunday we spent the whole day talking health policy. A panel of medical
people told us about the state of the health system and during this
presentation I turned to Rensen Gasela our shadow Minister of Agriculture
and said to him "do we really want to win this election?" All the indicators
are negative - life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, TB,
Malaria and Aids in epidemic proportions. Women attending ante natal clinics
are over 50 per cent HIV positive, deaths from Aids now reaching 1700 a
week, the list goes on and on. The community health care system hijacked by
the Ministry of National Affairs who operate out of Zanu PF headquarters and
have taken over the posts for Community Health Care workers who now do
political work (for you know who). More than 90 per cent of all Zimbabwean
trained doctors leaving the country for greener pastures, thousands of
nurses leaving for overseas jobs. No drugs, no food, no spares for equipment
and now high charges for non-existent service in state hospitals and
clinics. This is Zanu's promise of "Health for all by 2000".

Education is in better shape but is still not functioning as it should and
is an advanced state of decay. This is especially true in the tertiary
sector where poor management and political interference has crippled the
main institutions. Without the total dedication of thousands of
professionals the system would have collapsed a long time ago.

How to put it all right? Can we achieve this impossible goal? How to go
about the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction? Well we made a good
start and when you see the results in a few weeks time I think you will like
and appreciate what we intend to do. Certainly I was excited about the
sensible ideas floated at the retreat and the absence of any unrealistic
goals. If anything I often thought we were not ambitious enough.

We also spent time talking team building and tactics for the fourth coming
elections. That was fun and we laughed a lot at ourselves and the state of
the Nation. This was led by an academic from NUST (the National University
of Science and Technology) who was excellent. I will not forget the squares
and the worn out face cloth illustrations for a long time!

I have just seen the program adopted by the Commercial Farmers Union for
their efforts to get out of the situation they are in at present. What a
document - only 9 pages but packed with good ideas and sound proposals. It
fits very well with the MDC proposed Agrarian Reform Program and I think we
will find a lot of synergy in this when we start to implement our policy in
early 2002. After all the battering the farmers have had over the past three
years and the constant pressure from government, the CFU proposals are a
tribute to their nationalism, commitment, courage and intelligence. If
Mugabe thought they were going to lie down and give up - he was wrong.

The first sign that Zanu PF is beginning to break under the relentless
pressure on the land issue came this week - a body called the NECF met and
discussed the land issue with all stakeholders present. This was after
Mugabe and his dumbbell Minister of Agriculture had said "no" to any
dialogue. My guess is that the SA Ministers laid down the law when they met
with their Zimbabwean counterparts in Pretoria two weeks ago. What they did
was to say that SA had two fundamental requirements before there could be
any accommodation on the Zimbabwe situation. These were - the land question
and the issue of a democratic presidential election. I think that these two
questions are not negotiable as far as the South African government is
concerned. They will accept a lot of other nonsense but on these two, they
are demanding that Zanu PF come to the table. My own view is that if there
is no agreement on these two issues there will be no meeting between Mbeki
and Mugabe. If that turns out to be the case then they will put Mugabe into
a completely untenable position and it is unlikely that Mugabe will allow
this to happen, there will be some movement - and soon, the question is "how
much?"

We can only hope that these efforts will give Zimbabweans an opportunity to
vote for the candidate of their choice in a free and fair manner with
international supervision to ensure that the rigging is not too excessive.
Some relief for the farmers would also be nice - when you read the weekly
reports on the incidents on farms, the blatant disregard for any form of
legal rights and the rights of the thousands of human beings on these
properties, your hearts just ache.

There were several other significant things on the agenda this week - a
visit by young Kabila and our boycott of his speech in the House. It was
clear to observers that Mugabe was trying very hard to impress the young
man. Why? Then the National Constitutional Assembly (I can hear a load groan
from State House) sat on Saturday and resolved that they would go ahead with
the drafting of a new constitution with the demand that this be placed in
front of the country by the end of the year in the form of a referendum.
Finally, a superb presentation of "Pride and Prejudice" by Girls College and
CBC in the Bulawayo theatre. It ran to packed houses for a week and just
goes to show that life goes on - whatever. It's marvelous. Mrs. Bennett was
outstanding - definitely Oscar material in a few years time.

On the negative side, some NGO's are trying to get food to the worst
affected people in the south of the country. They were frustrated in their
attempts by local administrators who insisted that the food go out only
under the Zanu PF banner. I have news for them this time - that is not going
to happen and if there is any more of this kind of nonsense affecting the
poorest of the poor in this country, I am going to get really angry. On the
positive side, I listened this morning to the BBC and heard of the arrest of
the former leader of Serbia and his impending appearance in front of a Judge
on criminal charges. What a way to go - are you also listening to that Mr
Mugabe, because you are next.

Eddie Cross

31st March 2001.

Please note that this note is personal and does not necessarily reflect the
views of the Movement for Democratic Change.

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From the Sunday Times (UK)
April 1 2001 AFRICA
Line

STN012503 ©
Building up a pile: the cost of Mugabe's mansion in Harare raises questions over how a man, below right, on a salary of £15,000 has amassed such a fortune

Mugabe builds £6m 'pauper's palace'

Jon Swain, Harare

UNDETERRED by mounting criticism of his autocratic rule, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is building a huge mansion, estimated to be worth nearly £6m, on an annual salary, including perks of office, of only £15,454.

The construction of the house, which according to one surveyor covers more than 10,000 square metres, raises questions about how he has managed to scrape together the cash.


STN012504
Although his presidential salary was doubled in 1999, it is far too low to pay for a mansion in the exclusive, leafy suburb of Borrowdale. His wife, Grace, has no earnings.

Mugabe told an interviewer last year that, if ever he found himself out of a job, he could go back to teaching and Grace could earn a living by sewing. But the house into which he will move when he retires - or if he is defeated in the 2002 presidential election - suggests he is a very wealthy man indeed.

It is the latest addition to a constellation of private homes and state residences dotted around Zimbabwe that Mugabe, 77, and Grace, 36, have acquired over the years. Unlike ordinary Zimbabweans suffering from high unemployment, soaring inflation and petrol queues, the Mugabes show no signs of a cash crisis. Their new house will further insulate them from the despair sweeping the country as its economy declines under his misrule.

The Borrowdale house, close to a golf course, occupies a 10- hectare plot bought and given to Mugabe by Zanu-PF, the ruling party, which, as well as being in power, runs an enormous business empire stretching to Britain and beyond.

No extravagance is to be spared on the three-storey mansion, with many of the luxurious fittings being imported: marble from Italy, crystal and sunken baths with Jacuzzi fittings and oriental rugs will all be part of its ostentatious decor. "Mugabe has spent a lot of time having to restrain his wife from buying more and more luxury fittings," said a family friend.

Grace, who was Mugabe's secretary, married the president following the death of his first wife, Sally. They have two teenage children who go to a local Dominican convent. Prior to their marriage Grace was mired in scandal when she accepted a loan from a public housing project to build her own substantial home. She later sold the property and said she had repaid the debt.

The Mugabe's new house is crowned by a pagoda-style roof and will have a sprawling entertainment area, a master bedroom and apartments for the children, as well as servants' quarters, a pool and garages.

Like many leaders in Africa, Mugabe is obsessed about his security. The road outside State House, where he presently lives, is sealed off by troops from 6pm to 6am. The private house will have a secure underground area and will be ringed with a wall topped by razor wire.

The house is designed and built by Energo Projekt, a privatised Yugoslav company with a long history of construction in Zimbabwe.

The Sunday Times has learnt that, at the end of each month, Milos Boskovic, Energo's managing director, goes personally to State House and presents Mugabe with a bill. "Mugabe is paying him on the nail with his own personal cheque book," said a knowledgable source.

Energo, which also erected Zanu-PF's Harare headquarters, is building the house "at cost" as a special favour to Mugabe. Even so, the costs have escalated sharply since work started in 1999 with an estimate of £350,000. A leading Harare firm of architects puts them as high as £5.9m.

While Energo would not comment, a source close to the company said that the value and size were "gross exaggerations". "To be quite honest, nobody knows what the cost is yet - even probably Energo itself," he said. "It works on an expenses basis only, and a lot of the materials have been imported separately by Mugabe and the Yugoslav company just put them in."

The hidden overseas business holdings of Mugabe and his political and business cronies remain a tantalising mystery. Corruption is rife and growing in Zimbabwe, and there have been a number of scandals involving relatives, ministers and top civil servants.

But nowhere has Mugabe been implicated, except around the time of Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, when he and the late Joshua Nkomo, a fellow guerrilla leader, were said to have been bribed by the now-collapsed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) to facilitate the opening of a branch.

The story of the alleged £500,000 bribe came out in 1993 American Senate hearings into the criminal activities of BCCI and led to a furious Mugabe making a formal protest to the US embassy in Harare.

"We paid Mugabe and Nkomo," one BCCI official told the Senate hearings. "I drove one of my colleagues in London to a hotel, and he went with a briefcase and came back without a briefcase, and I asked him, 'What happened to your briefcase?' He smiled and said, 'This was for those people.' I said, 'What, did you carry gold bars?' He said, 'No, cash . . ."

All that was a long time ago and still does not explain how Mugabe may have acquired the the money to build his mansion. What is beyond doubt is that it is an affront to many Zimbabweans on the poverty line who remember with despair his government's slogan: "Housing for all by the year 2000."

A fund set up by The Sunday Times to help Zimbabwe's leading independent newspaper replace its bombed out presses reached £57,000 last week. More than 500 readers across the world have contributed to the fund, which was launched after the presses of The Daily News were destroyed nine weeks ago.

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From News24 (SA), 31 March

UK military mission pulls out

Harare - A British military training mission spent its last day in Zimbabwe on Saturday after 20 years in the southern African nation. The mission, called the Military Advisory and Training Team, was pulled back in protest of "the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe," British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said. Cook also announced a ban on weapon sales to Zimbabwe.

The British training team, set to fly to London on Saturday evening, played a crucial role in 1981 in welding together the forces involved in the bush war leading to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. Two guerrilla forces, one led by President Robert Mugabe and one led by Joshua Nkomo, fought with the white minority government's Rhodesian army and with each other. In the last decade, the team has focused on training the armies of Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries in joint peacekeeping operations. Zimbabwe's information minister Jonathan Moyo said the withdrawal means "good riddance to rubbish."

From The Sunday Independent (SA), 1 April

Mbeki faces unfamiliar role as Mugabe critic

The Commonwealth's determination to send a mission to Harare to probe Zimbabwe's apparent departure from the organisation's principles of democracy and respect for human rights is posing a dilemma for President Thabo Mbeki in his role as chair of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the Commonwealth's internal disciplinary body, decided on March 20 to send the foreign ministers of Australia, Barbados and Nigeria to Zimbabwe "to convey its concerns" especially about "recent reports of intimidation of the judiciary and media". Zimbabwean foreign minister Stan Mudenge angrily rejected CMAG's plan. Sticking to its guns though, CMAG, chaired by Botswana, said it would await an 'official' response from Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to its request for full co-operation from the Zimbabwean government so it could visit the country as soon as possible and report to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Brisbane later this year.

To be "Cmagged" in this way is an expression of major Commonwealth disapproval that could lead to further disciplinary action including the possible blacklisting of Zimbabwe at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Brisbane in October. Countries currently on the blacklist include Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Fiji and Pakistan. Commonwealth sources say that the three foreign ministers might visit Zimbabwe individually to see what is happening, even if the Zimbabwean government refuses to receive an official mission. There is also a possibility that the Commonwealth secretary-general could visit Harare.

The standoff between CMAG and Zimbabwe presents a dilemma for Mbeki who, as current chair of the Commonwealth, may find it difficult to avoid getting embroiled, Commonwealth sources say. Mbeki has chosen the route of quiet diplomacy for Zimbabwe in the standoff. As chair of the Commonwealth he faces the risk of being dragged into a more openly critical stance by the organisation. Abdul Minty, the head of multilateral affairs in the department of foreign affairs, disagrees. He says that the problem belongs entirely to CMAG and the Commonwealth secretariat in London and that the chairman is not obliged to become involved.

Some government sources agree with Zimbabwe that CMAG has gone beyond its mandate in seeking to probe Zimbabwe's human rights record since it has only been mandated to discipline military governments that come to power though coups or other unconstitutional means. Some Commonwealth members, though, believe that CMAG's mandate should be extended to embrace ostensibly democratic countries that use undemocratic measures to stay in power, like Zimbabwe. Such an extension of the body's mandate is under review and will be considered at Brisbane but in the meantime some members believe the organisation's credibility is at stake if it does not give attention to Zimbabwe.

Significantly, CMAG's statement expressing its intention to visit Zimbabwe was tagged onto a longer statement about its deliberations on Commonwealth countries that have military governments, such as Pakistan and Fiji. That was a way of saying that although Zimbabwe did not fall directly within its explicit mandate, it was still a legitimate subject of concern since it appeared to be departing from the Commonwealth's fundamental democratic principles - enshrined, ironically, in the Harare declaration. The move is being seen as a manoeuvre to "Cmag" Zimbabwe by the back door and therefore also extend the Commonwealth's disciplinary powers.

Commonwealth sources said the strict approach by South Africa and other countries to CMAG's mandate was too legalistic and ignored the spirit of the Commonwealth. One source pointed out that there had been no CMAG or any mandate for the Commonwealth to become actively involved in the struggle against apartheid, but it did so out of an implicit understanding that apartheid was an offence to the spirit of the organisation. These sources also say that it is not just developed countries that want to discipline Zimbabwe. They point out that Botswana, Bangladesh, Barbados, Malaysia and Nigeria are members of CMAG - along with Australia, Canada and Britain. CMAG, backed by the Commonwealth secretariat, tried to extend its mandate at the last Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Durban two years ago, but several countries with dubious democratic credentials strongly opposed the move.

From The Sunday Telegraph (UK), 1 April

Mugabe stifles artistic heritage

Harare - Zimbabwe's art and music scene, one of Africa's finest, is in danger of disappearing as President Robert Mugabe continues to stifle opposition in his quest to retain power at all costs. Many artists, struggling amid economic collapse and fearing a beating, are halting work or fleeing abroad.

Obert Muringani, 35, a leading abstract painter, said: "There's no foreign currency for imports so we can't get oil paints or brushes. The textile industry has collapsed because farmers cannot plant cotton so we can't get canvas. All we can get are planks and animal skins. Then, even if we do manage to paint, no one here has money and there are no tourists any more to buy them." Mr Muringani, who has exhibited his work abroad, recently had to cancel a display in Holland because he was unable to obtain materials for painting. "Robert Mugabe is starving artists by kicking our buyers out of the country," he complained. "He created this country and now he has ruined it."

The pressure is not merely economic. Mr Muringani is among a number of artists living in Chitungwiza, a township near Harare which voted heavily for the opposition MDC in last year's parliamentary election. To teach residents a lesson, soldiers, self-styled veterans of the war for independence and thugs from the ruling Zanu-PF party have staged night raids on the area, storming houses of suspected activists and beating people, including teachers and pregnant women. "We're afraid to go and hang out in the local bars because you never know when a huge truck of soldiers is going to turn up, offload and beat everyone," said Mr Muringani. "If they see three people or more together they think they're discussing politics."

His only recourse has been to paint with an increasingly political theme, using wood and cowhide as canvas. One recent work, showing an African landscape behind bars, is entitled Economic Prison. Another features a wide-open mouth, reminiscent of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream, except that inside the mouth is a large shoe. The artist explained: "It's a presidential shoe. People are trying to speak, but the government is stomping on them." Sculpture parks, once a tourist draw in a nation renowned for stone art works, are closing down. Nicholas Mukomberanwa, a leading sculptor said: "We're being squeezed dry. We're having to live off friends. I fear that the situation is preventing young artists from emerging. The economic crisis, the problems obtaining cutting tools and the constant oppression is stifling creativity."

Artists are not the only ones to feel besieged. Thomas Mapfumo, Zimbabwe's leading pop star, recently left for the United States, vowing never to return while Mr Mugabe remained in office. Mapfumo, whose songs inspired the black liberation movement and who was once declared a national hero by Mr Mugabe, said in a recent interview: "The government has done nothing good for the people. There's no light at the end of the tunnel." So disillusioned was he during last year's election campaign, the most violent in the country's history, that he released a song called Disaster. It was banned from the airwaves, a throwback to Ian Smith's white regime which suppressed his music.

It is against this grim backdrop that a group of people is trying to organise the Harare International Festival of Arts next month. Harare's city council has raised rents for city parks tenfold in an attempt to deter them, and has warned them that if anything remotely political is staged, the festival will be closed down. Many international performing artists have dropped out. Upsetting Zimbabwe's art community may backfire, however. Figures such as Mapfumo are heroes among the young. In a country where 60 per cent of the population is under 20, the youth vote will be crucial in next year's presidential election.

From IRIN (UN), 31 March

Harare Denies Its Forces Violating Disengagement

Nairobi - Zimbabwean troops in the DRC are in full compliance with existing disengagement treaties and do not plan to pull back further, a defence force spokesman said on Friday. Despite reported concerns that allied forces had by Thursday not withdrawn from frontline positions as stipulated in the Kampala and Harare disengagement plans, Colonel Mbonisi Gatsheni said Zimbabwean troops were "exactly where they are supposed to be, outside the line of conflict".

He told IRIN that the ceasefire plans identified "contested areas" from which all sides were due to pull back. He alleged that allied forces withdrew, but Rwandan and Ugandan troops advanced. "Where should the allies move to that they haven't moved to already? As of now, allied forces are in positions that weren't contested before, they are not on the frontline." Gatsheni said part of the problem was that the UN observer mission to the DRC (MONUC), "does not have the full capacity to monitor the situation on the ground".

Meanwhile, 281 UN military observers on Friday began verifying the 15 km pull back of the various armies fighting in the DRC. However, the UN mission has not yet observed a withdrawal of government-allied forces from Kananga in south-central Kasai province. The Ugandan-backed rebel group, the Congolese Liberation Front, has also reportedly failed to withdraw from its positions in Equator province.

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B ,
I have had a phone call from D, his folks in Glendale have just a few minutes ago had their whole house cleaned out by warvets.† They arrived in trucks, and just loaded all the house hold furniture and house† goods on to their trucks.† We are standing by to hear what is happening, apparently the farmers in the area are rushing there for support, so we are probably going in there to help as well !
I†feel so bad for Dave's folks because they really cant afford it financially, they are old now and also and can't handle these sort of trauma's.
Will keep you posted !
Cheers
W
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