|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 25 April
Mugabe 'vandalism' hits tobacco sales
Harare - Zimbabwe’s annual tobacco auctions got off to a muted start yesterday, providing stark evidence of the accelerating economic collapse under President Mugabe. The bids of buyers and sellers echoed loudly across the six square miles of the Tobacco Sales Floor in the Harare suburb of Willowvale as just 2,800 bales were sold. Before the crisis, 18,000 bales were routinely sold on the opening day. Tobacco is the mainstay of Zimbabwe's economy and the largest single export earner. After more than a year of chaos that has seen the invasion of 1,700 white-owned farms by squatters, tobacco production has fallen by 20 per cent to less than 187,000 tons.
The decline, which industry figures blame on "official vandalism", represents a loss to the nation of more than £70 million - disastrous for a tiny economy already in free-fall. Buyers, sellers and their valuable produce covered barely one third of the sales floor yesterday. Craig Neilson, the floor manager, said: "Normally by now we would be fully booked. The uncertainty is the worst. Who is going to grow tobacco next year?"
As well as the invasion of their land by axe-waving squatters, tobacco farmers have had to cope with fuel shortages. Their profits have been destroyed by an artificially fixed exchange rate. One buyer said: "A lot of these stumbling blocks have been deliberately placed by the government. It's a miracle that we have a crop at all, given all that has happened over the past year." Perhaps most disastrously of all, many of Zimbabwe's best tobacco farms are among the 2,800 properties listed for "compulsory acquisition" by the government. Once a farm is earmarked, banks will not provide loans and landowners may be forced to end production. At least 20 tobacco farmers have left Zimbabwe in the past year.
Asked to explain the decline in production, Pat Devenish, managing director of the tobacco sales floor, said: "The exchange rate was an important factor but the primary driving force was the farm invasions. We've lost a lot of growers to New Zealand and Australia and those who are still here grow less." Farmers suspect that the onslaught on the tobacco industry is part of Mr Mugabe's wider attack on the white minority. He has pledged to end what he calls "white control" of the economy and tobacco - largely grown by white farmers and sold to white buyers - has always fed his paranoia. By wrecking the formal economy, Mr Mugabe could reinforce his grip on power by creating a Zimbabwe where everyone was dependent on government patronage. One industry figure said: "This is official vandalism with a political purpose."
From The Star (SA), 24 April
Zimbabwean war vets storm private hospital
Harare - Zimbabwe war veterans stepped up their campaign against private business on Tuesday when they stormed the capital's leading private hospital to demand money for retrenched workers, witnesses said. "The war veterans arrived at Avenues Clinic today and demanded the re-instating and full pay of 16 workers who lost their jobs in 1998," an official who declined to be named told Reuters. "The hospital's administrator - mindful of the safety of patients and employees at the centre - was forced to pay Z$5-million (about R730 000) to the war veterans," the official added. Police spokesperson Bothwell Mugariri said he was unaware of the incident.
The veterans, who fought a seven year war for independence from Britain in the 1970s, have besieged private businesses over the past month to mediate on behalf of retrenched workers. Their campaign has not been condemned by President Robert Mugabe's government. The privately owned Daily News reported that war veterans abducted the white owner of a local steel company on Monday and forced employees at a dental clinic in Harare to stop working for unspecified reasons. The war veterans - who with government support have also led the illegal occupation of white-owned farms since February 2000 - say their latest campaign is meant to protect workers from unfair labour practices.
But critics say the drive is meant to garner support for Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party in the country's major urban centres, which voted overwhelmingly for the opposition MDC at last June's closely-contested parliamentary elections. The main Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) said it had been inundated with reports from its members "concerning external interference in labour matters" and urged the government to intervene. "CZI is extremely concerned by this latest development by partisan groups. (This) arbitrary...intimidatory activity shows complete disregard for Zimbabwean laws and will drive the nation into total anarchy and irreparable damage to industry," the industry group said in a statement.
Last month former workers at a textile firm stormed a company board meeting and assaulted white directors, accusing them of racism. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said last month she was concerned about the erosion of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. A report by the International Bar Association on Monday condemned Mugabe's government for intimidating the judiciary and encouraging a culture of lawlessness.
From Topper Whitehead, spokesman for the plaintiffs in the suit against President Mugabe
With regard to the Civil Law Suit filed against Robert Gabriel Mugabe and others, a brief we filed yesterday in the United States District Court of New York
The plaintiffs' lawyers argued that, under the law, the defendants were not immune for private acts of political terror committed outside of their official capacities. Moreover, the law does not give the State Department the power to immunize them for these acts.
The complaint here notes that the political party defendant - ZANU PF - led by the individual defendants, conceived, planned, orchestrated and implemented a campaign of violence to intimidate and suppress its burgeoning but peaceful political opposition, the MDC.
The defendants’ response to being served with legal process was of a piece with their wholesale disregard for the rule of law everywhere. Press reports shortly after the service of process quoted defendant Mugabe’s office as labelling this action a "nonevent."Indeed, defendant Mugabe’s Minister of Information - who is also a named defendant in this case but who was not served with process in New York - has called the reports on the case by Zimbabwe’s independent papers "not only false and malicious, but also criminally defamatory," and stated that "under the circumstances, Government has instructed the Attorney-General to file criminal defamation charges against the two newspapers with immediate effect."
Defendants have chosen to default, without a single notice of any kind to the Court or to the plaintiffs. The Suggestion reports that the State Department received a request for immunity on behalf of the defendants in this case on November 1, 2000 - fifty-four days after service of process and over a month after the deadline for answering plaintiffs’ complaint. Although neither the Court nor the plaintiffs were informed of this request, and although it would not have been timely enough to avoid default even if it had been filed in Court, the Suggestion honours it, and tells the Court to dismiss the plaintiffs. It does not dispute that the plaintiffs have suffered extrajudicial killing and torture in violation of international law, but it tells the Court that, in this case, immunity trumps justice.
Law without politics is all the plaintiffs want. Plaintiffs seek a judgement under law. Simple justice requires nothing less.
From Business Day (SA), 25 April
Unit seizes Rautenbach's luxury car
The asset forfeiture unit yesterday seized a luxury motor vehicle belonging to fugitive transport operator Billy Rautenbach. The black Volvo C70 coupe, worth about R340000, was confiscated by investigators at Rautenbach's mother's house, called Northfork, outside Pretoria. Investigators are already in possession of "realisable assets" of Rautenbach's worth R40m. The investigative directorate for serious economic offences is preparing to extradite Rautenbach from Zimbabwe to face charges involving more than R100m relating to his Wheels of Africa company. The directorate has already arrested five of his former employees and associates, including a senior customs official.
From The Daily News, 24 April
Gweru - Elphas George, the policeman who allegedly threatened to shoot Gweru businessman Patrick Kombayi last Thursday after accusing him of denigrating President Mugabe, failed to appear in court yesterday. Curiously, the police were yet to record statements from witnesses. Officials at the Gweru Magistrates' Court yesterday said the police were still recording statements from some of the people who witnessed the alleged attempt on Kombayi’s life. This is the second time that an attempt has been made on Kombayi’s life. George, an assistant inspector in the CID at the Gweru Central Police Station, is now expected to appear in court today on a charge of attempted murder. Kombayi alleges that the policeman approached him at his hotel on Thursday night and pulled out his service pistol, threatening to shoot him because of what he called his "political outbursts". Two weeks ago, Kombayi called for Mugabe's arrest and the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 25 April
France denies writing DRC report
Paris – France has denied that it is behind a damning UN report accusing Uganda, Rwanda and rebels fighting in the DRC of looting the country's mineral resources. French Cooperation Minister Charles Josselin described as "totally aberrant" accusations by rebels that Paris had dictated the conclusions of a 56-page UN report, which accused rebels and their backers of plundering valuable minerals such as coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold - and thereby fuelling a war that has raged in the DRC since August 1998.
The rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) in Goma said the report's conclusions "seem clearly to have been dictated to a group of people put into place by the UN Secretary General ... and whose intellectual author was France, whose moral responsibility in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has caused it to lose all common sense toward Rwanda." France was accused of having politically and militarily supported the Hutu government in Rwanda before the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu officials, soldiers and militia participated in a mass slaughter campaign that killed up to 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Josselin said Rwanda was trying to deflect criticism away from its role in the DRC. "The Rwandans are accepting badly the report's conclusions which incriminate them," Josselin said, adding: "We know the close ties between Rwanda and RCD rebels."
The UN panel of experts who wrote the report were from Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, the United States and Switzerland. In presenting the report last week, UN chief Kofi Annan called on the Security Council to impose sanctions on the rebels and their backers and for an immediate, temporary ban on exports of minerals and timber from and to Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. The assets of rebels and their supporters should be frozen, and an arms embargo imposed, he urged.
|Border Gezi causes chaos in Zanu PF|
4/25/01 10:14:48 AM (GMT +2)
ZANU PF in President
Mugabe’s home area of Mashonaland West has been thrown into disarray after
Border Gezi, the party’s national political commissar, fired the 17-member
provincial interim committee over allegations of “poor performance”.
Gezi is alleged to have
conducted a “kangaroo court” in Chinhoyi on Friday before dismissing the interim
committee, hardly two months after it was appointed.
His actions are said to have created discontent and further division in the province.
Gezi fired the interim committee after receiving a report compiled by Mudhomeni Chivende, the chairman of the interim committee. But Chivende too was fired despite presenting the damning report about his colleagues.
Members of the dismissed committee said the report was full of rumours. But Gezi went on to impose members of the politburo to run the province, they said.
Among those dismissed were Mavis Chidzonga, former secretary of the committee, Webster Shamu, the MP for Chegutu, Reuben Marumahoko, the former deputy chairman of the committee, Brighton Musaka, the treasurer, and Peter Chanetsa, the governor for the province.
The interim committee was appointed on 25 February.
The restructuring of the party nationwide is said to be in preparation for the 2002 presidential election. Only leaders with proven loyalty to Mugabe are being retained to ensure Mugabe wins against the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai.
Yesterday, former committee members said their dismissal had entrenched factionalism. “For the past three months we devoted our time to party duties,” said one former committee member. “We were given only $200 000 when we needed $2 million. We had to use our own resources, such as fuel, to move around.”
Trouble started when the interim committee split into two factions, one led by Nathan Shamuyarira, the Zanu PF secretary for information, and another by Ignatius Chombo, the MP for Zvimba South.
Before the dismissals, committee members were asked to respond to allegations from Chivende.
“Gezi handled the meeting as if it was a kangaroo court,” said one of the dismissed members. “Before a member had finished giving evidence, they had already been condemned. The truth is there is a power struggle. It was suspected some of us were aligned to Shamuyarira, and this did not go down well with Chombo,” said the dismissed committee member.
Gezi yesterday refused to comment. “What has that got to do with The Daily News?” he asked. “You don’t support Zanu PF, so what is your interest?” Gezi appointed Enos Chikowore, a former Cabinet minister, to head a new interim executive to administer the party in Mashonaland West.
Edna Madzongwe, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Sabina Mugabe, the MP for Zvimba North, and Shamuyarira were co-opted into the committee. Elections were set for 13 May.
“All this won't work,” said a dismissed member. “It is only dividing the party. People were beginning to leave the MDC, but now they are confused.”
Chivende said yesterday the report he presented to Gezi was meant to “correct things”.
Asked if the dismissal of the interim committee was the solution, he said:
“It was not meant to cause that. But those in charge felt it was the right move.”
He denied he was aligned to the Chombo faction. Chombo could not be reached for comment.
The purge of committees, aimed at revitalising the party's sagging fortunes, has also created confusion in Matabeleland. The Zanu PF interim provincial executive led by Swazini Ndlovu was booted out on Friday.
Zanu PF members said they were surprised at the dissolution of the Ndlovu executive, only a month after it had been appointed. The party's elections in the province, scheduled for last Sunday, were postponed to 28 May.
The dissolution of the committee was announced by Jonathan Moyo, the Zanu PF deputy secretary for information.
The new executive is led by former MP for Magwegwe, Norman Zikhali. David Ndlovu, the acting mayor of Bulawayo, was elected secretary for administration.
|Only justice can bring about true peace|
4/25/01 9:07:34 AM (GMT +2)
LAST week’s attack on
Gweru businessman, Patrick Kombayi, by an armed police officer, as reported in
this paper on Monday, brought into sharp focus the fallacy of those among us who
think Zanu PF can be reformed.
It’s simply an illusion.
Kombayi’s only crime, in the eyes of the ruling party, is that he has dared to
tell the nation and the world that, to save this country, the only solution is
to remove President Mugabe from the government.
To all intents and purposes, the attack was yet another assassination attempt, similar to the one made on him in the run-up to the 1990 general election, which left him crippled.
It must pain everyone who knows the extraordinary lengths to which Kombayi went, first when he was in Zambia and then back here, to provide material and logistical support for Zanu PF leaders.
Perhaps more poignantly, what the party is doing to Kombayi provides ample evidence of the chilling charge made by the likes of Edgar Tekere and James Chikerema
that the current Zanu PF leadership will stop at nothing in its determination to retain political power.
As they say, a leopard will never change its spots.
Violence is part of Zanu PF’s very nature and it would be folly in the extreme to entertain the school of thought that we should resign ourselves to it because that, according to that fatalistic belief, is the only way to end the violence.
Earlier this year, there was a perplexing move in the white commercial farming community.
A former president of the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU), Nick Swanepoel, with the active support of businessman John Bredenkamp, tried to remove Tim Henwood from the CFU presidency.
The reason why they sought his ouster was that Henwood and the rest of his executive did not want to give their blessing to Mugabe’s fast-track land resettlement scheme in return for the removal of lawless Zanu PF supporters from their farms. Apart from the fact that such a move would have been despicably unprincipled and a betrayal of everyone in this country determined to see true democracy take root, there also was the sobering fact that the Zanu PF government could never be trusted to keep its side of the bargain.
As suggested by the MDC’s David Coltart, the Bulawayo South MP, there was an even more despicable motive behind the move to oust Henwood. It was motivated by shameless self-interest.
Coltart’s submission is that those whites in Swanepoel and Bredenkamp’s camp both of whom are known to have been behind the initiative to give in to the government’s attempts to subvert the Judiciary are campaigning for a Zanu PF victory in next year’s presidential election. They are doing this on the callously self-serving and flawed reasoning that it is “the best way out” to bring violence to an end “so that life can come back to normal”.
Those who seek to accommodate or abet the violence of the past 14 months need to be reminded first and foremost of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s very wise counsel that the sort of heedless self-interest, such as the one in whose grip they are, can be not only tragically bad politics, but also disastrously bad economics. While it can work well for them in the short term as business people, it spells economic doom for the nation in the long run because, as has been pointed out many times before in the recent past, far from Mugabe being the solution, he is the problem.
As the late American human rights activist, Martin Luther King Jnr, said, peace is not just the absence of conflict or war, but the presence of justice. In any event, peace without prosperity which it is bound to be for the majority of us in the absence of justice would be as meaningless and empty for us as a bone without marrow is to a dog.
Let the Bredenkamps of this world be warned that while theirs may probably be a deceptively seductive line of thinking for the few “haves” in the business community, it ignores the overwhelming desire of the vast majority of poor black Zimbabweans for fundamental political and economic change and the now deep-rooted anger against Zanu PF.
The way ahead is not to entertain naive thoughts of giving in to Zanu PF in the hope somehow it will reform.
Violent to the core, it is incapable of reform. What is needed is a new government.
However, for the second season running, some commercial farmers stayed away from the floors in anticipation of further devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar.
The managing director of Tobacco Sales Floor, who handle at least 80 percent of the crop, Mr Pat Devenish, said farmers withholding their crops had taken "a conscious business decision".
The opening prices were significantly higher than last year’s with sales at the TSF averaging about US$1,66 per kg or about $91,30 compared to US$0,98 or $54 last season.
At the Burley Marketing of Zimbabwe, the prices averaged US$1,80 per kg ($99) while the newly licenced Zimbabwe Industry Tobacco Auction Centre had an encouraging start.
Although Zitac only laid out 218 bales and sold 192, prices averaged US$1,87 per kg, about $102,85.
Only 3 010 bales were laid out for sale at the TSF with 2 537 sold compared to the traditional 10 000 laid bales. BMZ laid out 1 950 and sold 1 685 bales.
Bookings by farmers were actually thinning out at a time when more bookings were expected.
About 600 bales will be offered today and only 100 bales on Friday.
It is estimated that farmers who sold their crop before devaluation, mid-season last year, lost a total of $2,2 billion.
The industry is hoping that some kind of arrangement, as happened with the gold mining sector recently, will be struck so that farmers, particularly smallholder growers, are not prejudiced as happened last year.
Although it was still too early to predict the average crop price for this season, the farmers expected slightly higher prices compared to last year when the crop fetched an average of US$1,69 per kg, about $92,95.
TSF chairman, Mr Dave Morgan, claimed the Government had "created problems" that had negatively affected the agricultural sector.
He said there was need to restore law and order, reduce the rate of inflation and properly adjust the level of the local currency if the industry was to remain viable.
President of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, Mr Kobus Joubert, said: "As tobacco growers let’s focus on what we do best, and not waste our time on what we can do nothing about."
He said while producers had produced a crop of more than 190 million kg "of some of the most desirable flavoured tobaccos in the world" under severe inhibiting circumstances, it was time for other players in the sector to play their part.
At Zitac, although not many bales were lined up on the floor, the prices were exceptionally good and management expressed confidence that better days were in the offing.
Managing director, Mr Artwell Seremani, said they were encouraged by the opening sales, which he hoped would foster confidence in growers with the new player.
Executive director of the Farmers Development Trust, Mr Lovegot Tendengu, said unlike commercial farmers, smallholder growers could not afford to sit on their crop.
"They have got loans to service, school fees to pay and so on. These people don’t have cash reserves so they have no option but to bring their crop to the market," said Mr Tendengu.
He added that the smallholder growers borrowed money from financial institutions while lending rates were still high. The growers were still repaying at those rates.
Mr Tendengu expressed satisfaction at the prices offered yesterday saying the quality crop produced by smallholder farmers was attributable to intensified training and assistance on inputs such as labour, coal and wrapping materials.
In an extraordinary Government Gazette published yesterday, the Exchange Control (Tobacco Finance) Order, 2001, says buyers authorised to access onshore funds shall do so through authorised dealers.
A tobacco buyer without capacity to access offshore funds may only access onshore funds provided he signs and submits a letter to the authorised dealer confirming his incapacity.
The dealer then advises the central bank of the buyer’s name and the money to be accessed but the buyer is not permitted to access the money before the bank’s clearance.
The order also compels the dealers to comply with any directions that may be issued by the central bank relating to any foreign currency that comes into their possession. However, the order allows a buyer to retain the export proceeds realised from the sale of exported tobacco in his foreign currency account.
According to the order, the authorised dealer will from now on be required to complete a loan return form every Tuesday relating to the preceding week and send it to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Some exhibitors said that while there was a general decline in attendance compared to the previous years, they hoped to make enough business to justify their presence at the fair, whose theme this year is: "Welcome to the Opportunity Zone".
Botswana President Festus Mogae, who will officially open the fair on Friday, arrives in Harare today on a four-day State visit.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said President Mogae’s visit was at the invitation of his host President Mugabe.
The two leaders will hold talks on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern to their countries.
While here, Mr Mogae is expected to visit some resettlement areas and the Kariba resort before returning home on Saturday.
He will be accompanied by the Botswana First Lady Mrs Mogae, Foreign Affairs Minister Lieutenant-General Mompati Merafhe, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr Tebelelo Seretse, Foreign Affairs Secretary Mr Ernest Mpofu, and other senior government officials.
Last year's fair was officially opened by South African President Thabo Mbeki.
A total of 524 exhibitors from 18 countries are participating this year compared to 622 from 19 countries last year.
"In terms of global coverage, we have a country from virtually every continent with the exception of Latin America," said the chairman of ZITF, Dr Mthuli Ncube.
Although the United Kingdom, a major trading partner, is not represented this year — as has been the case over the past 10 years — Germany, Austria and Italy are present. Other countries taking part include Botswana, China, Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia, the United States, Zambia and South Africa. Poland is exhibiting for the first time.
Exhibitors from South Africa were still putting final touches to their stands late yesterday, saying the stands could not be completed in time because their wares had not been cleared by the Department of Customs and Excise.
"We do not know what to expect yet because our goods are still being held by Customs. If they are not cleared by tomorrow (today) then we would have lost an opportunity to make any business and this effort will be worthless," said an official at the Sixis International and S. J.
Andrews Electronics stand.
The ZITF marketing manager, Mrs Cecilia Jumbe, said the matter had not been brought to their attention.
The trade fair company had made a special request to the Department of Customs and Excise to facilitate fast-track clearance of all goods for exhibition at the fair.
The fair, described as "compact" by the ZITF general manager, Mr Graham Rowe, has taken up halls one, four and five, a reduction from the usual six in previous years. In Hall One, a fair amount of space was not taken up.
Meanwhile, the Government has ordered urban councils to stop taking big delegations to the ZITF to save ratepayers’ money.
The Secretary for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Mr Finnie Munyira, gave the directive after realising that a lot of ratepayers’ money was being put to waste by councils sending huge delegations to the Trade Fair.
Harare at one point sent 15 councillors and their spouses to attend the annual show. In 1999 Chitungwiza sent 12 councillors and six officials to the ZITF.
Besides sending big delegations, some councils have also spent a lot of money exhibiting at the fair.
"It has been noted by the ministry that over the past few years, urban councils have been sending huge delegations to attend the annual Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and the Urban councils Association of Zimbabwe annual conference."
While this might have been necessary for councils strategic business partnership, networking and sharing experiences, this practice requires revisiting," said Mr Munyira in a circular to all urban councils.
He said only the mayor, one other councillor and an official should attend the trade fair to save money.
"The current economic climate has forced councils to hike tariffs across the board in order for them to come up with meaningful and implementable budgets. At the same time however, we have witnessed a rapid decline in infrastructure and service provision in all our major centres."
He said residents in almost all urban councils were writing to the ministry complaining about the poor service being provided by the councils.
"In light of the above, there is need by councils to re-examine all their cost centres in order to reduce expenditure and utilise the limited resources as efficiently as possible."
Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe President Clr James Bwerazuva, said the directive was within the powers provided to the minister by the Urban Councils Act.
He said most councils were sending small delegations and only a few were "hiring buses" to take councillors to the trade fair.
"We are going to go through the circular as an association and come up with a position, but it looks like there is nothing new because what is contained in the circular is what the majority of us have been doing," said Clr Bwerazuva.