|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Police in Zimbabwe say that the minister for youth and employment, Border Gezi, has been killed in a car crash.
Mr Gezi was appointed to the cabinet after last year's elections.
He had recently been put in charge of supervising efforts to restructure the party following the heavy setback suffered last year when it only narrowly defeated the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The minister's driver was also killed in the accident, which occurred on the Harare-Masvingo road.
He said a report published on Thursday in the Financial Gazette, which quoted him as saying that foreign organisations would be the next target for his supporters, was not true and had damaged his reputation.
His reported threats led to condemnation from Western powers and calls for the rule of law to be upheld in Zimbabwe.
The European Union expressed concern over the issue and called on President Robert Mugabe's to heed the Vienna Convention, which stipulates that host countries should provide full security for diplomatic missions and personnel.
Embassies tightened security, while several aid agencies have closed their offices in Harare and pulled out families of expatriate staff.
The Zimbabwean Government had already warned that could not guarantee the safety of diplomats and aid workers who, in its words, became involved in local politics.
President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party has accused Britain, the United States and the EU of backing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The government advised that aid workers who allowed themselves to "indulge in partisan political work" would not be helped if they got into trouble.
Zimbabwe this Week.
This is not a country; it’s a nuthouse! This past week we have seen widespread invasions of company premises, NGO operations and threats against the whole diplomatic community. Beatings, insults, abductions and extortion have followed these invasions. The Police – they have stood by and said that these activities are "political".
There was the case of a white woman who stood next to the road when Mugabe swept past in a 30 vehicle motorcade and waved her hand at him – just as you have seen the Queen Mother wave her hand at her subjects from time to time. The reaction – she was arrested, thrown into jail where she spent a whole night despite the protest of her lawyers. The charge, sedition, under the Law and Order Maintenance Act, for waving her hand at the Presidents motorcade (this is genuine) and the Miscellaneous Offences Act for failing to stop when ordered to do so by a Policeman! You really have to have a sense of the absurd to appreciate these activities by our crazy administration. So now you know – you can force your way into an office, insult a senior executive, beat and abduct him to a nearby Zanu PF office where you can force him to make out a cheque in favour of Zanu PF and this is not an offence. Wave at your President as he sweeps by in his huge Mercedes with bulletproof windows, and its jail without any possibility of recourse. The lady was fined $200; her legal fees will be thousands of dollars.
Then there was the hotel manager (5 star) who had Zanu PF thugs force their way into his establishment. He had them ushered into his air-conditioned, secluded office where he allowed them to abuse him verbally for an hour, then politely asked them if they would like some lunch? They said yes and lunch plus unlimited booze arrived. After an hour and a half of this hospitality, the very drunk pseudo "war veterans" were escorted and half-carried out onto the street. The hotel guests were none the wiser and we do not know how the culprits ever got home.
As for the diplomatic community, they are angry – really angry about what is going on now. I attended a function last week where, when the host invited the three hundred or so guests to toast Mugabe’s health; not a single guest complied. At least 70 per cent were diplomats and their senior staff and standing with our host was a Zimbabwean Minister.
A senior diplomat asked I what do you want us to do? I said – keep the country as stable as you can in the run up to the elections and then ensure that we are allowed to vote freely for the leader of our choice. He screwed up his face and said how do we do that? What can anyone do about this errant government? How do a people get rid of a administration that flaunts the rule of law, violates the principles of democratic practice and is fully prepared to kill and maim in the pursuit of power? If we go out onto the streets we will face guns and tear gas, if we protest we will be detained in overcrowded prisons. We have no access to radio or TV; the national press is state owned and sings his masters tune to the exclusion of all else. The rural poor are bribed with offers of land and food and free inputs if they support the "government". Confused and pliant, they do not understand what has happened and their leaders are all on the government payroll and subject to appointment and dismissal by Zanu PF officials.
I had dinner with a friend from Europe in a local restaurant; he now seeks a permit to work on an international programme in Harare. When he went into the Embassy in Europe to seek the support of the Embassy for his application, he was told "it does not help your application for you to be seen in public in Harare with a member of the opposition". Anyone who supports the democratic process in Zimbabwe is now under threat. Civil servants who are not Zanu PF enthusiasts are persecuted and dismissed or transferred, Policemen who are not "politically" reliable are demoted or retired, businessmen making donations are targeted in a dozen way – tax investigations, threats, actions taken through disgruntled staff. Its now illegal to receive donations from abroad for a political party, despite the fact that we won 57 seats in the June election, we still have not received a dime from the state under the program for funding political parties. The money stolen from us last year by Zanu PF has still not been returned to us.
Well at least it is now clear to even the most moronic that the country is ruled by a megalomaniac and that there is nothing normal about what is going on. The land invasions have nothing to do with redressing past injustices; the company invasions have nothing to do with labour disputes. Its all about how to retain power when you can see your popular mandate melting away and know that to lose power at this juncture is to lose everything.
I can see very little that the international community can do in addition to what they are already doing – but I think the regional community could do much, much more. I listened to the speeches and statements of the President of Botswana when he was here this past week and was given the cooks tour. It was not encouraging. We are waiting for Mbeki to act but so far nothing but talk despite all the recent consultations and wringing of hands. So much for the African Renaissance – it will not even get out of the box, if they continue to procrastinate like this over these gross violations of the principles of good governance. As for the EU/ACP group of States – surely the time has now arrived when they should invoke the terms of the Cotanou Agreement and call the Zimbabwe government to account for its behavior.
The one good thing about this past week is that it has brought home to people in the cities just what the Ndebele people went through in the 80’s and what the farmers and their staff, have gone through in the past year. Its one thing to sit on the sidelines and watch with concern, its another to be thrown into the trenches with the rest and get the same treatment. For the diplomatic community this week has put another nail in the coffin of this government and made it even more difficult for them to claw their way back into acceptance as a player in the world community.
Its strange to see how silent the main Zanu PF leaders of the past twenty years have become in this situation. They have been replaced a most peculiar group – the mad Polish trained Doctor Hitler Hunzvi, who ran a torture chamber at his surgery in a township. Chinotimba, a bearded ex war veteran who until recently, was a security guard (night watchman) in the Harare city council and who is simply a thug. Border Gezi (who died last night in a car accident) a linesman for the Electricity supply commission and a rather nutty and eccentric academic with dubious qualifications, Jonathan Moyo who has suddenly become the golden boy of the Mugabe administration.
The rest of the Zanu PF Administration is either silent or invisible. Certainly the small group who really run the country are ignoring their views. The "good guys" in the administration (and there are a few) are silent or acquiescent – why I do not know or appreciate. I can understand the long term servers like Nathan Shamuyarira who are simply part of the concrete and know no other life, but not Olivier Muchena or Simba Makoni or Nkosana Moyo. These are intelligent and principled people who cannot be so completely part of Zanu PF that they cannot cut adrift and start to stand for what is right. Others simply do not have the brains or the guts to do so or are so deep in the mire of corruption that they dare not leave the ship.
28th April 2001.
Please note that this note is personal and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Movement for Democratic Change.
HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwe came under international pressure Friday to uphold the rule of law after attacks on foreign businesses and threats against diplomatic missions.
Zimbabwe's ambassador to Britain was summoned to hear London's "deep concern" over raids orchestrated by self-styled war veterans who led the violent and deadly seizure of white-owned farms last year.
British Junior Foreign Office Minister Brian Wilson said he told High Commissioner Simbarashe Mumbengegwi that Britain was "deeply concerned about the further deterioration of events in Zimbabwe over the last few days."
Britain, the former colonial power in Zimbabwe, has led international criticism of President Robert Mugabe over the farm seizures and intimidation of the media and judges.
The war veterans, who are backed by Mugabe, have recently turned on private firms in Harare to demand that they reinstate fired workers and warned this week that foreign embassies were their next target.
Veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi has accused some companies and embassies of backing political opposition to Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 and is seeking re-election next year.
Hunzvi has threatened to deal "once and for all" with foreign missions and organizations that back the opposition.
"Businesses, individuals and nongovernmental organizations from Britain, South Africa, Australia and several European Union countries have been attacked," Wilson said in a statement.
"There has been clear evidence of intimidation, extortion and in some cases, physical violence," he added. "I reminded the high commissioner that we expect the government of Zimbabwe to uphold the rule of law and to fulfill its responsibility to ensure the safety of all those targeted by these attacks."
He said Britain and its EU partners would be monitoring Zimbabwe's response extremely closely.
The British move followed a similar protest by South Africa Thursday and by Germany after offices of a German charity were looted.
Harare-based staff and families of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had also been subject to a campaign of harassment, the aid group said.
The United States urged Harare to observe the rule of law.
"If Hunzvi's threat is in earnest, we expect the Zimbabwean government to enforce the rule of law and provide protection for embassies and international organizations," U.S. Embassy spokesman Bruce Wharton said.
Zimbabwean Foreign Ministry officials were unavailable for comment.
EMBASSIES SEEK ASSURANCES
Western diplomats in Harare worked to devise a joint response to the threats.
"There's ongoing contacts today between the diplomatic community on how best to jointly respond to the threat," said a European Union diplomat. Many foreign businesses in Zimbabwe were consulting their embassies.
Zimbabwe's Foreign Ministry warned foreign diplomats Thursday it could not guarantee their protection if they supported the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition party.
At least two major Western embassies have reviewed their security in the light of the reported threat.
Zimbabwe's main opposition party claimed victory in its campaign to show that Mugabe's election victories last year were built on systematic violence when the High Court ruled that a seat won by ZANU-PF had been secured through intimidation and violence.
HARARE, Apr 28, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Zimbabwean Industry and International Trade Minister Nkosana Moyo Saturday said the involvement of war veterans in the settling of labor disputes will have a negative impact on trade and investment in the country.
Moyo told reporters at the on-going Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in its second largest city of Bulawayo that attempts by war veterans to solve disputes between employees and employers could scare away potential investors.
He stressed that it is the Ministry of Labor, Public Service and Social Welfare will "solve such disputes", not the war veterans.
It was reported that a number of companies in various cities have been forced to reinstate retrenched or dismissed workers by war veterans who said they have assumed the role of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union.
Moyo said that his ministry was aware of the difficulties that some exporting companies have. These companies are facing to try to do their businesses and meet their quotas since their properties have been occupied.
He urged the companies to explore new markets that are opening up within the Common Market for East and Southern Africa and utilize them to help improve trade and boost the economy.
Employment Minister Killed in Car Accident
Harare - Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party was plunged into mourning on Saturday following the death in a car accident of a stalwart credited with reviving its electoral fortunes. State radio, quoting police, said Employment Creation Minister Border Gezi had been killed on Saturday morning in a car accident near the central city of Gweru. President Robert Mugabe appointed him into cabinet after last year's troubled parliamentary elections in June, and later to the powerful position of secretary for the commissariat in the policy-making Politburo of the ruling party.
He used both positions to extensively restructure ZANU-PF, and campaign to win back supporters who had defected to the main opposition MDC throughout the country. Gezi was credited with reviving the flagging electoral fortunes of Mugabe's party, which only narrowly won last year's parliamentary elections, as it prepares to face the MDC in presidential polls next year. "He is a cunning political artist we are going to miss badly," a senior member of ZANU-PF, who declined to be named, told PANA. The two parties are likely to be locked up in gruelling campaigning for several parliamentary seats whose results the High Court nullified this week on grounds the ruling party used violence and intimidation to win. Gezi was instrumental in winning back two parliamentary bye-elections at the end of last year and this year through his effective campaigning.
From BBC News, 29 April
Zimbabwe veteran denies threats
The leader of Zimbabwe's so-called war veterans, Chenjerai Hunzvi, has denied that he threatened to attack foreign embassies and aid agencies. He said a report published on Thursday in the Financial Gazette, which quoted him as saying that foreign organisations would be the next target for his supporters, was not true and had damaged his reputation. Mr Hunzvi, whose movement spearheaded the illegal invasion of white-owned farms, told Zimbabwean state television that his group could not be seen to be terrorising foreign embassies.
His reported threats led to condemnation from Western powers and calls for the rule of law to be upheld in Zimbabwe. The European Union expressed concern over the issue and called on President Robert Mugabe's to heed the Vienna Convention, which stipulates that host countries should provide full security for diplomatic missions and personnel. Embassies tightened security, while several aid agencies have closed their offices in Harare and pulled out families of expatriate staff. The Zimbabwean Government had already warned that could not guarantee the safety of diplomats and aid workers who, in its words, became involved in local politics.
Correspondents say that the rule of law has steadily collapsed in Zimbabwe, with farm invasions and attacks on white farmers spreading to all-out violence and intimidation against anyone who opposes Mr Mugabe's rule. President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party has accused Britain, the United States and the EU of backing the opposition MDC. The government advised that aid workers who allowed themselves to "indulge in partisan political work" would not be helped if they got into trouble.
From The Star (SA), 28 April
Zim militants ordered to stop raids – report
Harare - Zimbabwean militants have been ordered to stop their campaign of raids on private businesses, the state-controlled press reported on Saturday. The Daily Herald quoted Joseph Chinotimba, a militant at the forefront of mobs storming businesses as saying that "he had instructed war veterans to stop interfering in the disputes." This follows international outrage over the raids, and over government threats that it would withdraw protection from diplomats who supported ruling-party opponents.
On Thursday, South African Foreign Affairs director-general Sipho Pityana summoned Zimbabwe high commissioner Simon Moyo, in Pretoria, to lodge a protest against raids on eight South African-owned companies. During these raids police allegedly either refused to answer pleas for help, or stood by and did nothing. Britain, Germany and the European Union also issued formal protests. On Friday militants were about to extract Z$5-million from the factory of Dutch communications multinational Phillips. However, officers of Mugabe's secret police, the CIO, intervened and told the company not to pay. On Friday a militants' march on Border Timbers sawmill, which has a large German shareholding, in the south-eastern village of Chimanimani, was called off. The militants sent a delegation to say they no longer needed to attend to the company's alleged labour dispute.
In late March, the militants began raiding companies, assaulting and abducting management and extorting huge sums of money demanded by disgruntled workers, with the militants usually extracting a "commission". Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party claims the mobs were part of its "labour committee" and were resolving labour disputes. It has been denounced as a crude campaign to try and dislodge the opposition MDC from the country's urban areas where it won every seat in last June's parliamentary elections.
From News24 (SA), 28 April
SA 'encouraged' by assurances
Johannesburg - The foreign affairs department on Saturday described as "encouraging" the statements by Zimbabwean Labour Minister July Moyo and permanent secretary in the foreign ministry Willard Chiwewe in which they called on Zimbabweans not to take the law into their own hands. Moyo and Chiwewe called on their countrymen to seek to resolve labour disputes within the framework of the Zimbabwean Labour Relations Act. Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said Zimbabwean authorities gave their assurance to SA high commissioner to Zimbabwe Jerry Ndou that the current occupation of businesses in his country by war veterans would come to the end.
Mamoepa said South Africa regarded this as a positive outcome of construction engagement, within a framework of quiet diplomacy with the Zimbabwean authorities. He said the government remained confident that working closely with the Zimbabwean authorities yielded a favourable response. However Zimbabwe-based aid groups were more pessimistic and said on Saturday they feared more violence from veterans of the country's independence war, who have already attacked the offices and staff of several volunteer organisations.
The National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) said it was also concerned over a government warning to stay out of Zimbabwean politics and attempts by Harare to restrict aid groups' work. "Nango is concerned with the growing suspicion between government and NGOs and the threats being made to NGOs," Nango chairman Alexander Phiri said in a statement. "A report...stating that war veterans are targeting NGOs is equally alarming," Phiri said.
Self-styled war veterans, who led violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms last year, have already raided volunteer groups that they say support political and civic opposition to President Robert Mugabe. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has pulled families of its expatriate staff out of the country because of what it said was a campaign of harassment and threats against them by war veterans. The son of the federation's head of delegation was evacuated to Geneva this week after he was assaulted and robbed by unknown assailants. Veterans have stormed the group's Harare offices. German and Australian aid groups' premises have also been looted by veterans who have the broad support of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.
Veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi this week warned he would target aid groups and foreign diplomatic missions that supported the opposition MDC, which has emerged as the biggest opponent to Mugabe. Mugabe, a former guerrilla leader, has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980. Hunzvi's men stormed scores of private businesses in Harare this week seeking payment as compensation for workers who had lost their jobs. MDC supporters, the judiciary and journalists have also been targeted for attack by the veterans, whose leaders fought a guerrilla war against Rhodesia in the 1970s.
Britain on Friday summoned Zimbabwe's ambassador to London to express "deep concern" over raids on foreign businesses and threats against diplomatic missions. Zimbabwe's foreign affairs ministry this week said it could not guarantee the safety of NGOs or diplomats who supported opponents of the government. Nango said its work was vital for Zimbabwe's poor. "At a time when the country is experiencing numerous problems ranging from natural disasters, (an) AIDS pandemic and growing poverty the work of NGOs is cushioning communities," the statement said.
The European Union on Saturday expressed "great concern" about reports that Zimbabwean war veterans were planning to raid foreign missions in Harare and demanded an explanation from the government. "The European Union notes with great concern recent media reports on warnings by a member of the Zimbabwean parliament that the next target for 'visits' by the war veterans will be foreign embassies and non-governmental organisations," the Swedish EU presidency said in a statement published here. "The European Union would welcome the government of Zimbabwe's early comments and views on the reports," it said. In addition to EU member states, the embassies in Harare of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and the Slovak Republic all aligned themselves with the statement, the EU said.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 29 April
"Moyo is a liar"
International Bar Association member and veteran South African human rights lawyer, George Bizos, has said information minister, Jonathan Moyo, lacks credibility and is a liar. The IBA sent jurists on a fact-finding mission on the state of lawlessness gripping Zimbabwe. The delegation, of which Bizos was a member, produced a damning report which was released last week, but this was dismissed by Moyo who said the report was just meant to legitimise claims by the opposition and commercial farmers. In an interview with The Standard on Thursday, the international award-winning lawyer defended IBA’s damning report on Zimbabwe, saying the report was based on "facts on the ground". Bizos, who featured prominently when representing victims of apartheid atrocities in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, said Moyo should not be taken seriously as he was a liar. The respected lawyer was responding to personal attacks made on him by Moyo on Tuesday. The minister had charged that Bizos had joined the IBA with preconceived ideas about land reform in Zimbabwe.
But the lawyer said Moyo was least qualified to question the credibility of IBA members because they were more credible than the minister himself. "Minister Moyo is not telling the truth. He is a liar and he should stop lying. He has no right to question my credibility. People should judge my credibility against his. Moyo has no credibility," said Bizos, who is internationally-recognised for fighting human rights abuses.
Moyo, however, immediately countered Bizos’ allegations saying the lawyer was a "small mind" who should not be taken seriously. "It is absolute nonsense. The issue is not about Moyo or Bizos. Only small minds deal with personalities and make stupid comments. He has shown that he is a small mind. It is disgraceful for him to defend that silly report. The idea is that we are supposed to believe the report because Bizos was Mandela’s lawyer. We don’t care. He could have been God’s lawyer; that is not worth a pen in Zimbabwe. Bizos should know that Africans don’t care that he was Mandela’s lawyer. It is the contents of the report that we care about. It shows that the team was not serious at all. You have to be illiterate to believe that report. We will expose them in a manner that will be devastating. How can you have a fact finding mission that is unable to investigate and just repeats claims that have already been made and are proved to be false?" said Moyo.
The controversial report noted that rule of law and democracy in Zimbabwe were "in the gravest peril". The jurists accused government of undermining the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law by ignoring court orders and forcing Chief Justice Gubbay into early retirement. "The events in the last 12 months have put the rule of law in the gravest peril. The circumstances which have been disclosed show, in our view, conduct committed or encouraged by government ministers which puts the fabric of democracy at risk," read the report. The eight-man mission met government officials, the opposition, commercial farmers and civic organisations. After meeting President Mugabe, the mission was verbally attacked by legal, justice and parliamentary affairs minister, Patrick Chinamasa and Moyo, in full view of cameras. Yesterday Moyo said Bizos should not personalise the issue. He said the IBA team had failed to grasp the issues and was concentrating on personalities.
Bizos, however, said the IBA report was not based on sentiments by the opposition only but from various sources, including government officials. "The report speaks for itself. People must judge our report, not Moyo. We did not rely on statements from the opposition. Information came from various people, but mainly judges and members of the legal profession," said Bizos. Bizos, earlier this month was crowned the International Trial Lawyer of the Year by the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a grouping of the world’s trial lawyers. At the ceremony held at the United States Supreme Court building in Washington DC, the president of the academy, Robert Parks, quoted the president of the South African Constitutional Court, Judge Arthur Chaskalson, as saying: "No South African lawyer did more to challenge the abuse of power by the security forces under apartheid." The award was given as a recognition of his 45 years of service to the legal profession. "For a lawyer to be honoured by his colleagues is an achievement and I feel great about winning the award," said Bizos.
Comment from The Daily News, 28 April
Terror campaign explains Mugabe’s "never ever" vow
When war veterans and their hangers-on launched their violent campaign to forcibly occupy white-owned commercial farms early last year, quite a sizeable proportion of Zimbabweans were taken in by President Mugabe’s glib explanation for the unlawful actions. Mugabe said then it was a legitimate demonstration to press his government to speed up land acquisition. The land-hungry black majority, he said, were angry at the slow pace the government was going about resettling them.
However, the marauding invaders soon started intimidating and assaulting not just the white farm owners - who, ironically, had never resisted the occupations of their land – but also their black workforce and forcing everybody to chant Zanu PF slogans. It was then that even those who had been duped by the "anger-of-the-land-hungry-peasants" lie realised the move was not as innocent as it was claimed to be. Everyone started wondering why anyone would want to harass farm workers, who had nothing to do with the land ownership argument, if all the war vets wanted were white-owned farms.
In fact, people started to have strong suspicions that there was a hidden political agenda; that it was a thinly-veiled election campaign - a violent one at that - for the ruling party. Those suspicions were soon confirmed when the campaign was extended to the communal farming areas, where villagers were violently "persuaded" to support and vote for Zanu PF in the June 2000 election. And when, after the election, the terror was further extended to Harare's high-density suburbs where, assisted by their State security machinery, the ruling party descended on residents with a vengeance for having rejected it at the polls, it became obvious Zanu PF was determined to literally beat everyone into submission.
In its warped logic, out of sheer fear of the consequences, everyone would troop back to Zanu PF, thus ensuring it remains in power until, as Vice-President Simon Muzenda put it, "donkeys grow horns". Warped as it may be, though, it is most probably the only sensible explanation for Mugabe's oft-repeated "never ever" vow with regard to the possibility of an MDC government in the near future. He is banking on this evil Zanu PF scheme to terrorise the whole population into accepting its rule for eternity to turn his wish into reality.
The current invasion of companies and private institutions is supposed to be the final act in that evil scheme to whip everybody into line - behind Zanu PF. All this, however, is exactly the opposite of what governments are supposed to be there to do - which is to do everything possible to make every citizen’s life as comfortable as possible. That is what legitimises the levying of taxes on all citizens regardless of political affiliation. It is both immoral, criminal as well as a gross abuse of power for the Zanu PF government to use taxpayers’ money to pay its party thugs to terrorise the very people who pay those taxes and, in the process, turn their lives into a virtual hell on earth.
Further, it is self-destructive to use taxpayers’ money to pay those same thugs to destroy the source of that money. That is precisely what the invasion of companies by the so-called war veterans is doing. Through their unlawful interference in various companies and institutions, on the pretext of settling labour disputes, "at the request" of supposedly wronged current or former employees, they are forcing companies to close down. Soon there will be no companies left. Without companies there can be no workers. Without workers there will be no one to levy taxes against. A perfect case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
Somehow, the international community must find a way to end the anarchy and lawlessness, now gripping every facet of Zimbabwean life, before this country goes up in flames. The government is driving everyone to the wall. And, unless it is stopped in time, everyone whose life is threatened will have no choice but to do whatever is necessary to protect themselves. In short, they will take the law into their own hands. Such a scenario could easily spark off a civil war. No one wants that to happen. The United States, the Commonwealth and the European Union must act now and come to the assistance of the majority of Zimbabweans, who are now prisoners in their own land. Foreign diplomats, who now also stand threatened by the lawlessness, have it in their power to stop the slide into a full-scale conflagration. They should implore their countries to rein in Mugabe.
From Pan African News Agency, 28 April
Thousands of Displaced Congolese Emerge From Forests
Kigali - At least 15,000 war-displaced people have emerged from the thick forests of Shabunda area 300 km west of Bukavu town, officials of the rebel Rally for Congolese Democracy in the DRC’s South Kivu Province reported on Friday. "These people were being held hostage by Rwandan Hutu militia, former Rwanda government soldiers, and Congolese Mayi Mayi fighters," Norbert Basingizi Katintima, governor of South Kivu province, told PANA in a telephone interview from the rebel-held town. Katintima said that among those who came out of the forests in the past few days were 150 Mayi Mayi fighters who handed four assault rifles over to the rebels. "These people have been living under harsh conditions in the hands of the militias for about five years," Katintima lamented. He said 2,300 women, who claimed being raped by their captors, were among the displaced who returned to Shabunda town. "They are in need of immediate assistance to alleviate their suffering," Katintima said, soliciting food and non-food items including medical care.
But humanitarian agencies in the said the figure of 15,000 displaced might be an exaggeration. "That movement of people was not a recent phenomenon. People have been coming out of forests to town and going back to their fields in the jungle," Claude Jibidar, a WFP representative in South Kivu, told PANA in a telephone conversation from Bukavu. "Just a week ago, our agent on the field observed between 5,000 to 6,000 people in the area of Shabunda," he said. However, Jibidar said the office co-ordinating humanitarian agencies, with the supervision of the head office in Kinshasa, is planning to provide the displaced of Shabunda with relief aid in the near future. The area of Shabunda in eastern DR Congo has been constantly insecure due to the presence of various militia fighting rebels of the Rwanda-backed RCD rebel group.
From The Times (UK), 28 April
Western envoys fear attack by Harare militias
Western diplomatic missions and foreign aid agencies were reconsidering their presence in Zimbabwe last night after President Mugabe refused to protect them from attack by pro-government militias. As relations deteriorated further between the isolated regime in Harare and the international community, diplomats stepped up security for their staff. In London, the Foreign Office summoned the Zimbabwean High Commissioner to register Britain’s "extreme concern" for the safety of its diplomats.
A British official in Harare said that there were no plans for the High Commission to relocate staff yet, but it was keeping security under review. An African diplomat said: "These people have gone mad. The Foreign Ministry’s warning is as close as you can get to a declaration of hostilities." The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies confirmed that it was pulling out all seven of its expatriate families based in Zimbabwe. "From a security point of view, we consider this is not the best place for the regional delegation to function, if there is no guarantee of protection," Gorkhmaz Huseynov, its acting director, said.
The move came after the Zimbabwe Foreign Ministry said that diplomats who supported political opponents of Mr Mugabe’s regime "may not hope to receive assistance" from the Government. "Partisan" diplomats "would have chosen to meet and live with the fortunes of the party they would have chosen to support", it said. The statement was immediately seen as an endorsement of threats by Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, the leader of Mr Mugabe’s mobs of so-called guerrilla war veterans, to storm foreign embassies. On Thursday he declared: "Our next target will be to deal once and for all with foreign embassies and non-governmental organisations who are funding the (opposition) MDC".
Since Britain is regarded as Mr Mugabe’s main foreign enemy, there are fears that its diplomats will be the first to be targeted. Ruling party officials have also denounced the United States, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland as being supporters of the MDC. Brian Wilson, the Foreign Office Minister responsible for Africa, summoned Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, the Zimbabwean High Commissioner, for a reprimand and a warning. Mr Wilson said. "I told the High Commissioner that we were extremely concerned by the threats to target diplomatic missions. We expect Zimbabwe to honour its obligations under the Vienna Convention to protect both staff and property of accredited diplomatic missions in Zimbabwe." The move was criticised by Francis Maude, the Conservative foreign affairs spokesman. "From Robin Cook’s silence, Mr Mugabe is able to draw strength and from his country’s membership of the Commonwealth Mr Mugabe is able to draw respectability," he said. "Zimbabwe should be suspended from the Commonwealth immediately, a travel ban should be imposed on Mugabe’s close associates and their overseas accounts should be frozen." Mr Maude has set out his proposed punitive sanctions against Zimbabwe at the request of senior figures in the Bush Administration, with whom he had talks on a recent visit to Washington.
Other countries are also becoming increasingly concerned. President Mbeki of South Africa, widely criticised for failing to confront Mr Mugabe over his lawless repression, has signalled his deep disquiet over the dramatically worsening of events in Zimbabwe. Sipho Pityana, South Africa’s Director-General of Foreign Affairs, summoned Simon Moyo, the Zimbabwe High Commissioner, for what diplomats said was "a very severe dressing down" over militia raids on eight South African companies, where police either refused to answer calls for help or stood and watched as veterans assaulted and threatened management and extorted large sums of money from them. William Bango, news editor of the independent Daily News, Zimbabwe’s largest-selling newspaper, made a statement to police yesterday in answer to charges of "criminal defamation" of Mr Mugabe and was allowed to return to work. He had been arrested on Thursday in connection with the newspaper’s reports of an attempt to sue Mr Mugabe in the United States over the murder last year of four MDC supporters.
From BBC News, 28 April
EU warns Zimbabwe over threats
The European Union has expressed concern over reports of threats against foreign diplomats and aid agencies in Zimbabwe. The EU statement follows a warning by Chenjerai Hunzvi, a ruling party legislator in Zimbabwe and leader of the country's so-called war veterans, that foreign organisations would be the next target for government supporters. In its letter, the European bloc called on President Robert Mugabe's government to heed the Vienna Convention, which stipulates that host countries should provide full security for diplomatic missions and personnel. But the Zimbabwean Government has already said it cannot guarantee the safety of diplomats and aid workers who, in its words, become involved in local politics. The issue has aroused widespread international concern, with the Zimbabwean high commissioner in London being summoned to the Foreign Office to be told that the UK expects the rule of law to be upheld. Embassies and aid agencies in Zimbabwe are warning staff to be vigilant.
Correspondents say that the rule of law has steadily collapsed in Zimbabwe, with farm invasions and attacks on white farmers spreading to all-out violence and intimidation against anyone who opposes Mr Mugabe's rule. President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party has accused Britain, the United States and the EU of backing the opposition MDC. Mr Hunzvi, whose movement spearheaded the invasion of white-owned farms, says his supporters will visit embassies and aid agencies which back the MDC to "express their displeasure".
For its part, the government says that while diplomats accredited to the country would receive the full protection of the law, those who chose to side with one political party against another could not hope for assistance from the foreign ministry. It also advised that aid workers who allowed themselves to "indulge in partisan political work" would not be helped if they got into trouble. The International Federation of the Red Cross responded by moving its staff to safe locations. And, earlier this week, two German aid agencies closed their offices in Harare, after one of them was attacked by militants. British Foreign Office minister Brian Wilson told the Zimbabwean high commissioner that Britain was "deeply concerned" by recent events. The UK, the EU and other countries would be monitoring Zimbabwe's response very closely, Mr Wilson added.
From The Star (SA), 28 April
Red Cross evacuates expatriates from Zim
Harare - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies confirmed on Friday it was moving its seven expatriate families out of Zimbabwe because of concerns over their security. The Federation's decision followed an incident this week when Sam Talbot, the 19-year-old son of a senior member of the delegation, was robbed and assaulted in central Harare. He was flown to Geneva for treatment on Thursday. "From a security point of view, we consider this is not the best place for the regional delegation to function, if there is no guarantee for the security of members of staff," said acting director Gorkhmaz Huseynov. On Thursday two German government-funded aid agencies closed after incidents with veterans.
The Zimbabwe foreign ministry warned on Friday that it had withdrawn protection of foreign missions who, it said, supported opponents of President Robert Mugabe's regime. Diplomats who backed opposition parties "may not hope" to expect protection from the government in case of attack. The warning followed threats by Hitler Hunzvi, leader of guerrilla war veterans, that they would storm foreign missions that supported the opposition MDC. "Our next target will be to deal once and for all with foreign embassies and non-governmental organisations who are funding the MDC," Hunzvi said on Thursday.
On Friday, High Court judge James Devittie annulled the seat won by deputy minister Olivia Muchena in last June's elections on the grounds of "corrupt electoral practices." This followed testimony of rampant violence by Mugabe's militias in the Mutoko South constituency in north-eastern Zimbabwe. It was the third challenge won by the MDC out of a total of 36 legal contests being brought by the opposition party. Devittie ruled that in the Shurugwi South constituency in central Zimbabwe the challenge did not succeed and Zanu-PF cabinet minister Francis Nhema was "duly elected". It was the second challenge to be lost by the MDC. The court challenges come after a national election campaign in June last year in which 37 people were murdered.
From The Star (SA), 28 April
Three more SA firms invaded in Zimbabwe
Harare - As Zimbabwean police arrested four opposition party officials, three more South African companies in the country were invaded on Friday, despite talks between South African High Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou and the government over the latest outrages committed by Zimbabwe's rampant self-styled war veterans. Ndou said: "I was approached by four companies that have had problems with war veterans. We took up with the government our serious concerns on the investments of South Africans in Zimbabwe." "There was a discussion where we agreed that everything possible must be done by the Zimbabwean government to normalise the situation. It was also agreed that if indeed the problems arising at the moment are labour disputes, these will be dealt with through the local labour ministry and following the properly laid down procedures and labour regulations," Ndou said.
The invasions have left the business community unsettled, with some of the eight South African companies affected refusing to talk to the press for fear of reprisals. On Friday, there were reportedly 186 companies under siege. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries said this week it had been inundated with reports from its members concerning "external interference in labour matters". Although the organisation didn't indicate how many companies were affected, this week alone, militants visited at least six firms in Bulawayo and Harare, demanding the reinstatement of workers or the payment of retrenchment deals. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been extorted from affected firms to ensure the safety of employees and clients.
Economic commentators said this week that if this new threat to business was allowed to flourish unabated, it would be the final straw for Zimbabwe's economy, already under extreme stress. Security fears caused by the farm invasions and political violence have also seen tourist arrivals plunging over 50 percent, forcing more than 100 tourism firms to close last year and putting about 5 000 people out of work. In an effort to woo urban voters in the run-up to the presidential election next year, the ruling Zanu-PF has unleashed wholesale violence against white-owned businesses on the pretext that it is looking after the welfare of disgruntled and oppressed workers.
It has also stepped up its campaign of harassment against the opposition MDC. Within hours of a high court ruling this week nullifying results of last year's June parliamentary poll in two constituencies, the police raided the party's offices and arrested four officials. MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai said 12 heavily armed policemen from the law and order section of the Criminal Investigations Department raided the MDC's support centre in central Harare, where they demanded to see the party's security officers. Over the past few weeks, the government has alleged that MDC supporters were receiving military training from Uganda.
This follows High Court Judge James Devittie's nullification of election results in Hurungwe East and Buhera North constituencies won by Zanu-PF in last June's poll, citing widespread violence that preceded the election. The militants' campaign is also threatening what little donor aid Zimbabwe has left by targeting international non-governmental organisations that are perceived to support the MDC. Earlier in the week, the head of the European Commission in Harare, Asger Pilegaard, and German ambassador Erik Flim complained in the strongest possible terms to the Zimbabwean foreign ministry about the looting of food aid and the general lack of security of humanitarian workers.
From The Daily News (SA), 27 April
Hold-up horror for SA men on Zim trip
Harare - In a day of high drama in Zimbabwe on Thursday, eight South African men were shot at and robbed, South Africa warned war veterans to stop attacking South African-owned businesses and the veterans' leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, threatened action against foreign missions and embassies. The eight South Africans were attacked near Bulawayo on Thursday afternoon. At the time of going to press only seven of the men had been identified. A traumatised Neil van Zijl said he and Zeke Weaver, Albert Scholtz (from Pretoria), Nick Joubert, Scottie Fenwick and Roger Blevin (from Johannesburg), all executives from Privest, had been on a fishing expedition to Kariba Dam when the incident happened. "We've had a harrowing day. About 40km from Bulawayo we were pushed off the road by two cars with their occupants firing at us. They jumped into the car, ransacked all the valuables and made off again in the direction of Bulawayo," Van Zijl said. "I was threatened with a pair of scissors and the driver, Mr Martin Cloete from East London, was staring down the barrel of a 9mm," he said.
Meanwhile, in its strongest diplomatic censure of Zimbabwe so far, South Africa summoned the country's high commissioner on Thursday to protest over violent attacks on businesses in Harare, senior officials said. South African Foreign Affairs Director-General Sipho Pityana said he had met Zimbabwean High Commissioner Simon Moyo after receiving calls from South African companies in Harare that had been attacked by "war veterans". "For us, the principal thing is that whatever the circumstances, the threat to economic activity of these businesses is a concern - the intimidation is unacceptable and has to stop," Pityana said. His comments contrasted with South Africa's perceived mild approach to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's controversial economic and political policies that have been blamed at least in part for the rand's steep slide in 2000. Officials in Pretoria said eight South African companies and their staff had reported being attacked by "war veterans" in a stepped up campaign against businesses apparently designed to secure urban votes for Mugabe's party. Hunzvi threatened action against foreign missions as the next move. "Our next target after solving workers' problems in factories and companies will be to deal once and for all with foreign embassies and non-governmental organisations who are funding the MDC", the Financial Gazette quoted Hunzvi as saying. Zimbabwe's foreign ministry warned foreign diplomats it could not guarantee their protection if they supported the MDC opposition party.
From UPI, 24 April
Mugabe's air force disaster
Johannesburg – The assassination two months ago of Congolese President Laurent Kabila was a great blow to the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Kabila had been very accommodating to Zimbabwean commercial interests in the former Zaire in return for the support of Harare's 14,000 troops. His son and successor, Joseph Kabila, seems far more open to influence from Washington and the way has opened up for a possible end to the Congo's endless war, which would see the retreat of Zimbabwean and other foreign troops and might well threaten those commercial interests.
But it now emerges that Kabila's death was also a military disaster for Mugabe, who announced that the Zimbabwean Air Force would provide the fly past at Kabila's funeral. Five Shenyang F-6s (ie. the Chinese version of the Soviet MiG 21) were to be provided and there was an instant scramble by senior ZAF officers to perform the prestige duty and make potentially valuable contacts with the new Kabila regime before it settled in. Unfortunately, while most such officers are technically licensed to fly the F-6, few of them are still flying routine missions and their pilot skills are thus a little rusty.
The F-6 is a very fast aircraft of short endurance and thus has a very limited range. The flight from Gweru to Kinshasa required no less than five hops for each aircraft, so an Antonov tanker aircraft had to fly with them for continual refuelling at one airstrip after another. Because the Antonov is a slow and lumbering aircraft - and because the F-6 has a very slow refuelling turnaround time – this meant a very slow progress across Central Africa, with the last leg having to be made in the dark. One of the pilots - a wing commander, without recent night-flying experience - became disorientated and ejected from his aircraft, which crashed and was written off. (Amazingly, he was found alive in the jungle by Zimbabwean troops five days later.)
The remaining four F-6s performed the fly past and then had to head back to Zimbabwe. On an early leg at Lubumbashi airfield the first two F-6s landed successfully but the third, piloted by a group captain, misjudged his landing and ploughed his plane into the ground, writing it off. This left the fourth F-6 circling the airfield. He was told to divert to an alternative airstrip 30 minutes away, but informed ground control that he had only 20 minutes more fuel and would have to try to land on the Lubumbashi airfield, though the last 300 metres of it were now strewn with wreckage and was also wet. He got down but skidded off the strip and ploughed into a tree. Thus while all three officers survived, three F-6s were written off.
China is flying in five new F-6s and Libya is sending three Mig-23s - all on credit. No Zimbabwean pilots are licensed to fly Mig-23s. This leaves the ZAF in a very poor state with British aircraft grounded for lack of spares, and many other aircraft unserviceable. Transport aircraft to ferry Zimbabwean troops and equipment in and out of the DRC are now borrowed from Angola. These are mostly Antonovs flown by Russian pilots with Afghan experience. They groan into the sky, hugely overloaded, but the Russians seem to know what they are doing. Meanwhile there are constant reports of Russian mafia involvement in both the Congolese arms trade and diamond smuggling.
From IRIN (UN), 27 April
Bemba Alleges 'Secret Plans' By France, Belgium
The leader of the Congolese Liberation Front (CLF), Jean-Pierre Bemba, on Tuesday alleged that the French and Belgian governments were involved in a "secret plan" to strengthen the DRC government, help it consolidate its power and eliminate "certain" opposition leaders. "It is true, and I even have the name of the coordinator or the master planner of this scheme," he told IRIN. "I cannot give out the details yet, because I am waiting for a reaction," he said. According to Bemba the plot was mooted because of the wealth in the DRC and the foreign interests at play. "The Belgians, for example, want someone they can manipulate because of their mining interests in Katanga and Kasai regions," he explained. "The French have never accepted the Anglo-Saxon interference in the DRC," he noted. "The strategy of controlling Congo has been on for 40 years," he said. "But before I am killed, I want people to know that I will be killed and why I have been killed," he added. Bemba was quoted by AFP on Monday as saying that there was a secret plan by the French and Belgian secret services code-named "Malachite" aiming to support the current regime in Kinshasa and which would plan the physical elimination of certain leaders of the Congolese armed and unarmed opposition.