"The Zimbabwe Situation" news page

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Invasions (new and revisits) - 78
Work stoppages (mainly tobacco) - 42
Unofficial eviction notices - 12
Poaching incidences on farms - 32
Cases of theft on farms - 19
Properties with hut building - 26
Properties with tree cutting - 28
Cases of abductions on farms - 0
Beatings on farms - 4
Veld fires on farms - 11
Cases of intimidation on farms - 17
Centenary - A group of war vets were cutting down trees on Dolphin Park and have been stopped by the Police. War vets have re-occupied Mwonga Farm and are beginning to build structures.
Horseshoe - The home of the BSO facilitator involved in the Out Reach Programme on Red Lichen Farm has been broken into and approximately $100 000 worth of goods taken. Police and CID have recovered some of the stolen items, but continue to investigate.
Victory Block - Support Unit have been called to investigate the theft of asbestos roof sheets, fence, fence standards and wide spread wood cutting on Mt Fatigue Farm.  The owner of Vivelkia Farm has reported the theft of 1495m of fencing. The owner of Msitwe River Ranch has reported the theft of fencing, fence standards and wide spread wood cutting.
Mvurwi - War vets are erecting structures on Ruia Farm. There have been unconfirmed reports of hand over ceremonies on Dandajena Farm and Ruia Farm although Section 8 Orders have not been received for these properties.
Shamva - Yesterday afternoon the owner of Glencairn was assaulted by a war vet. He later had to be evacuated from the property when war vets broke through the homestead security fence, and damaged the vehicle and broke the windows of the house.  Police responded to both incidents, but no arrests were made.  Propol has been informed and are investigating.  It has been reported that Bindura Police are giving false RRB numbers and using old, previously issued RRB numbers.
Marondera - Mr. Majuru arrived on Monora to say that he would return with 12 other people to reoccupy the farm. He also told the owner of Daskop that he was to stop all land preparation until he had heard from his Head Office what part of the farm the owner was allowed to farm.
Marondera North - 50 of the occupiers that left Chapunga have now returned under Mr. Chiweshe and are aggressive. The Police have said that they will react to any further problems.
Beatrice - Ploughing with a Chinese tractor has started on one farm. A Police detail is investigating. There is another tractor ploughing on Evergreen.
Harare South/Featherstone - Unable to contact.
Wedza - Another cow was slaughtered on Poltimore, and tree cutting continues.  On Fair Adventure, Msasa and Collace the building of huts and cutting of trees continues.Yesterday unknown people arrived on Bickley in a white Peugeot pick up and stopped a farm trailer with wood on it. They assaulted three of the workers, threw the wood on the ground and let the air out of the tyres . Marondera Police reacted this morning, with no result as yet. On Plymtree three people in a white Peugeot pick up arrived at the farm gate yesterday demanding that the guard open the gate. The guard refused and the people left but returned later with a second vehicle and 11 extra people. They told the guard that if he did not open the gate they were going to shoot him. He opened the gate, they did their pegging and then left saying that they would return today to talk to the owner. As of this morning nothing had materialised.
Yesterday people arrived on Devon in a white Nissan Sunny and told the workers to stop work and to stop pulling down their houses. The workers refused and there ensued a lot of shouting. In one of the splinter actions one of the cattle workers chased and thrashed a farm invader after the invader threatened violence. There seems to be an increase in criminal activity on Devon as in the last week 6 beasts have been snared, plenty of trees cut down and an upsurge in hut building and resident squatters.
Enterprise/Bromley/Ruwa - Unable to contact.
Macheke/Virginia - Support Unit has been placed in the district to deal with the ongoing problems being experienced there.  Yesterday there were 12 work stoppages in the district and one four day eviction notice. Two of the work stoppages continue this morning on the Zee's farms. This has spilt over and there is a new work stoppage on Lamjung and Showers (previously unaffected). On Welcome Home war vets and occupiers (96) demanded that the farm owner deliver firewood to him, but he had no diesel. They then wanted to move into a shed that had all of the farmer's tobacco bales in it. He told them that if they were willing to move the bales as he had no labour they could move in. They then noticed that the reservoir that serves the particular shed with water was used for the cattle to drink as well and they told the owner that he was racist and they got very aggressive. The owner told them that he would clean the trough for them. The instigator is Rino Moto who is amicable when the Police are around but as soon as they leave he becomes aggressive again.
Mtorashanga - There is a mine demonstration of about 200 people. Be cautious travelling through this area. 
Mhangura - Two scotch carts, dogs and more cattle have been moved onto Highbury Estate.  The war vets' cattle are grazing with the Highbury cattle. Occupiers on Chiremba Farm are building. 
Norton - There was a new occupation on Serui Source.  Police have received the directive to stop new invasions but do not know how to do this, and say that they need clarification on whether people can be arrested/fined.  On Carolina Extension there was a new occupation and occupiers say they will return to build houses.  Six vehicles arrived on Tilford Farm. Police are reacting. On Blandale there was pegging yesterday.
Selous - There were new occupations on Railway Farm 5 and Bedale.
Chegutu - There was a new occupation on Kalembo and on La Forte there was a lot of activity yesterday.  On Donore there are seven cattle missing and the owner, having received a Section 8 Order, is selling his entire herd tomorrow.  On Damvuri there are approximately 200 people assembled waiting for a directive regarding the allocation of the land from Government.  This property was not gazetted and has not received a Section 8 Order. On Leny Farm there is a lot of activity and the occupiers are waiting for the D.A. to come out to allocate them plots after a Section 8 Order was received. 
Chakari - On Blackmorvale there are approximately 757 people at last count.  Dispol attended yesterday and has assured the farm owners that the wholesale tree cutting and wood selling will be acted upon.  No arrests have yet been made.
Kadoma/Battlefields - Police eventually arrived on Kanyemba Farm regarding war vets setting fires.  They burnt the kiosk on the side of the road last night.  On Alabama there is quite a lot of activity - war vets are reported to be very confused with some coming, some going and some not sure what they are doing at all! 
Masvingo East and Central - There are increased numbers on Marah and Yettom Farms.
Mwenezi - Situation remains the same.
Chiredzi - There are people all over Buffalo Range, Samba Ranch and Bangala Ranch. The ZRP in Chiredzi were meant to visit to assess the situation, but they were dealing with a strike at the time. Their vehicle then broke down and they had to wait for another, which broke down on the way to Bangala Ranch. The Officer in Charge at Triangle is to visit the ranch this morning. There has been a new occupation on Dombedeena Ranch. Numbers on Dawlish Ranch are estimated to be approximately 56 people.
Save Conservancy - Grass and trees are being cut, poaching continues and there is a lot of movement of people everywhere.
Chatsworth/Gutu -There are increasing numbers on Bath Farms, and more structures being erected.
Middle Save - The war vets on Glocca Morra have tried to evacuate the labour from their houses. The labour, who are now tired of being pushed around, retaliated and a tense situation developed. The situation is being resolved. War vets in the district are building many structures, as well as burning bush. 
Odzi - War vets set alight bush on Alma Farm, which the owner quickly tried to back burn to kill the original fire. The war vets are now accusing him of trying to burn them out.  The war vet leader for this area has been replaced and the ex-leader is now travelling around with Mbada in an army issued truck visiting the war vets on farms.  War vets on other farms continue to burn bush.
Mutare - On Friday 11 August four war vets visited a farm and queried the labour on why they were working on such an important holiday. The labour explained that the baby corn had to be picked twice a day.  The war vets then left and returned with numbers on Sunday for a meeting with a Government official. This is a new occupation, and Police are refusing to react. 
Chipinge - On Chipinge West Farm 780 head of cattle were driven 10km by war vets to Luipers Vlei Farm with one of the animals being trampled to death in the process. Some of the animals were later returned.  In addition, 385 head of cattle have been held in a 5.5ha paddock for over a week now and the animals are on the brink of starvation.
Ravenswood Farm and Groenvlei Farm are both having daily visits, and on Groenvlei Farm the cattle are being driven onto the main road.
Nyazura - This morning the owner of De Rust Farm, the farm manager and the cattle foreman were abducted.  The cattle foreman was on his way to another farm to start grading when he came across a blockade of stone and trees in the road.  He fetched the owner and manager of De Rust Farm to help him remove the road block.  About 40 people emerged from the bush, surrounded them, split into three groups and marched them off one per group.  The owner and the manager were verbally abused, and the cattle foreman was badly assaulted. He has two breaks in his left arm, the fingers on his right hand are broken and he is bruised.  The Police reacted, the Member In Charge, Dispol, war vets and the CID arrived and the situation is being defused.  The assailants invaders threatened to return tonight with more people to burn everything down.
On Ongegend Farm, where the occupiers have their base, there is a definite increase in numbers today and it is believed that the new occupiers from Ongegend were involved in this incident.
Headlands - There is a work stoppage on Wakefield Farm and Gwaai Farm. The Police have been informed.
Mzingwane - Section 8 Orders have been received on a number of properties (six) in the district.
Nyamandhlovu - Locals from town are being trucked onto Bells Farm. Gates have been broken for entry and the locks stolen. The occupiers are cutting trees, clearing lands and stating claim to the property on a daily basis. They are led by Ncube. 
Kwekwe - On Saturday a Plaza bakery truck was stopped by war vets on its delivery route. The driver was wearing an MDC t-shirt and was severely assaulted and the vehicle damaged. On Monday occupiers on Bonsted were building on irrigation land due for land prep for early maize. On Machakwi and Mooirivier there is building taking place around the irrigation lands presently in wheat production. War vet Courage is responsible. Machakwi labour phoned the Police to complain about war vets and were reprimanded by the Police for being "sellouts".
On Caberfeigh a lease agreement was reached with war vet Augustine Chetipfu. War vet  Hove chased Chetipfu's group off. Chetipfu says he will report to CIO. There is concern about farmers  jeopardising the CFU resettlement programme with private arrangements. Two cattle were snared on Milsonia and 58 snares picked up. Numbers have increased from 10 to 70.
Gweru - 2 beef heifers were slaughtered on Berkshire over the weekend. Police were informed and investigated.
Gweru East - Three men in a white Isuzu visited the end of Wildebeeste 49 to survey for plots. They are reported to have said that it is their tradition to have a rural as well as an urban home. One permanent hut has been built.
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Zimbabwe court nullifies election postal votes
Reuters - Aug 15 2000 2:06PM ET

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's Supreme Court on Tuesday nullified all postal votes for last June's elections, a move the opposition said would boost its chances of successfully challenging some of the seats won by the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Supreme Court Judge Nicholas McNally declared invalid the issuing of ballot papers to 11,000 troops which President Robert Mugabe has deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The facility was not extended to other Zimbabweans living outside the country.

``In consequence it is further declared that all votes cast on such postal ballot papers are void and invalid,'' McNally said.

Before the parliamentary poll on June 24-25, the High Court had overturned an application by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change not to allow the postal vote.

The MDC won 57 of the 120 parliamentary seats contested in the toughest election ZANU-PF has fought since assuming power at independence from Britain 20 years ago.

Zimbabwe Court Throws Out Postal Votes by Soldiers, AFP Says
Bloomberg News - Aug 15 2000 5:22AM

Harare, Zimbabwe, Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe's Supreme Court nullified as many as 12,000 postal ballots cast in June's parliamentary elections by Zimbabwean soldiers fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Agence France-Presse reported.

``All votes cast on such ballot papers are void and invalid,'' Justice Nicholas McNally said in his ruling. Soldiers and diplomats were the only Zimbabweans living outside the country who were allowed to vote in the elections.

The ruling is the latest in a series of legal victories by the Movement for Democratic Change, which narrowly lost the election to the ruling Zanu PF party.

The MDC has challenged the results in 37 of the 62 constituencies won by Zanu, and at least two recounts have been ordered so far. The party's lawyer, Antony Brooks, told AFP the ruling on postal ballots could boost the number of challenges.

(Agence France-Presse, 7/15/2000)

Zimbabwe farm union says members still under siege
Reuters - Aug 15 2000 11:20AM ET

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's land invaders are wreaking havoc and disrupting vital agricultural production on farms despite government orders to police to clamp down on lawlessness, a farmers' union said Tuesday.

The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) reported enforced work stoppages, threats of violence, poaching and orders to vacate farms from war veterans who have invaded almost 1,000 farms since February.

``The war vets (veterans) are now demanding their share of the land. The police are refusing to act,'' the CFU said in a statement.

The CFU said the war veterans were ignoring Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri's promises to union president Tim Henwood that there would be no more invasions, threats or lawlessness.

Yet the owner of a farm where school children were abducted and allegedly sexually molested by war veterans last week had been forced to leave his property, the CFU said.

Pay Strike Shuts Half Zimbabwe's Mines, Employers Say
Bloomberg News - Aug 15 2000 8:50AM

Harare, Zimbabwe, Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Almost half of the mines in Zimbabwe, Africa's third-biggest gold producer, have been shut since yesterday after 15,000 workers went on strike over pay, said Zimbabwe's Chamber of Mines.

The Associated Mineworkers Union of Zimbabwe called the strike after the chamber, which represents the country's 40 mines, said employers wouldn't necessarily raise wages that are already above the minimum wage. The union has demanded that the mines double all wages as inflation is running at 59 percent and is expected to surge.

``The majority of the mines are gold mines but it's across the board,'' said Doug Verden, manpower resources adviser at the Chamber. ``We reached a deadlock with the union.''

The strike is cutting inflows of foreign exchange into the already cash-strapped economy as minerals account for as much as 35 percent of export earnings, rivaling tobacco as Zimbabwe's biggest source of foreign exchange. The dearth of foreign exchange has already caused a nine-month motor fuel shortage and an inability to pay for power imports.

Companies affected by the strike include Lonmin Plc, Rio Tinto Plc, Anglo American Plc-controlled Bindura Nickel Corp. and the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Corp., which mines for iron ore. The country's chrome producers and Wankie Colliery Co., Zimbabwe's sole coal miner, are not affected.

The strike is the latest in a rash of pay disputes in Zimbabwe, which is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in more than two decades. Postal, telecommunications and security workers have already struck this month.

The chamber met with Zimbabwe's mines minister, July Moyo, today and hope he will intervene to halt the strike, said Verden.

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15 August 2000

In today's issue :

From The Daily News, 14 August

Tsvangirai attacks commercial farmers

MORGAN Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition, has attacked the commercial farming community in Zimbabwe for being indecisive, evasive and for failing to take a principled stand in the political affairs of the country. Tsvangirai, president of the MDC, told The Daily News yesterday that white Zimbabweans had as much right to participate in politics as any other citizens and there was no reason or justification for them to be non-partisan. He said: "As far as support for political parties, they should be clear. This is not a question of sitting on the fence. They should make a choice as Zimbabweans. They cannot become opportunists. I think that all the whites who have remained in Zimbabwe are committed Zimbabweans."

Commenting on reports that the CFU had withdrawn all the litigation that it had instituted in the law courts against President Mugabe, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and the leader of the war veterans, Chenjerai Hunzvi, Tsvangirai said: "Commercial farmers want to sup with the devil with the hope that they can buy time. There is no buying time here. The white commercial farmers are so evasive and it is their evasiveness that is going to expose the membership of the CFU." In a statement last week, the CFU president, Tim Henwood, said the withdrawal of the litigation was meant to improve the environment for "meaningful dialogue" with the government.

As he campaigned for Zanu PF candidates in the run-up to the parliamentary election in June, Mugabe accused commercial farmers and industrialists of funding the MDC. Mugabe accused commercial farmers of mobilising their black labour force on the farms to vote for the MDC during the election. Yesterday, Tsvangirai denied the MDC was controlled and manipulated by the large-scale farming community and industrialists. He said: "We of the MDC do not need any patronisation by whites or commercial farmers. This assumption that we are patronised by the whites is totally false and ridiculous."

Tsvangirai said the government's intention to now take more than 3 000 commercial farms to resettle landless blacks was Mugabe's punishment against the whites. He said: "I think that the farming community is in total disarray. They do not know whether or not to proceed with farming. They realise that they are now the target of Mugabe. He wants to get rid of them. Whether the economy is going down on its knees, he does not care. This is an act of revenge against perceived support of the MDC by white commercial farmers." He said in the long run, it was the nation that would suffer as farming production would cease with some banks and financial institutions collapsing.

The MDC leader said his party would not support a government-sponsored motion in Parliament condemning a law that is being proposed by the United States government to enforce economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Democracy Act of 2000 currently before the US Congress is due to be tabled in the next few weeks. If the proposed law is passed, no US assistance may be provided to the government of Zimbabwe and no indebtedness by the government to the US government may be cancelled or reduced. Conditions for restoration of eligibility for assistance and debt relief were that the rule of law must be restored and that there must be an end to the lawlessness, violence and intimidation sponsored, condoned or tolerated by the government, Zanu PF and the party's supporters. Tsvangirai said the same conditions noted in the proposed US law were exactly what the MDC has stated - that pre- and post-election violence was being orchestrated by the State.

From The Star (SA), 15 August

Land plan on impossible deadline: black union

Harare - Zimbabwe's government will find it impossible to resettle landless blacks on 3 000 white-owned farms before the summer rains, the president of the union representing black commercial farmers said on Monday. "I would say certainly we would not be able to settle that number in one season. It's impossible," said the president of the Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU), Thomas Herrera. He defended the government's plans for land reform while unveiling his own union's position on the issue, saying such a programme was "necessary for economic growth in the agricultural industry" which contributes 16 to 18 percent of Zimbabwe's gross domestic product. He saw a time frame of five years as more realistic: "If we did it in five years, that would be very good."

President Robert Mugabe's controversial land redistribution programme, launched last month, has received international condemnation for its potential risk to productive farming. Two weeks ago, the Zimbabwean government unveiled plans to seize more than 3 000 white-owned farms for resettlement of landless blacks under a fast-tracked resettlement programme. About 804 farms were initially earmarked in June for resettlement. Herrera said that a fast-track system of land distribution "has its good and its bad" points, but emphasised that it "may be necessary". "There is need at times to take off pressure, and an accelerated, fast-track, call it what you will (is) a way of taking off pressure." The ICFU represents about 1 500 black farmers.

From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 14 August

Zim poll report to be redrafted by delegates

Two months after the Zimbabwean election, the South African parliamentary monitors still haven't decided if it was fair. The multiparty South African parliamentary delegation that observed the Zimbabwean elections in June is approaching consensus that the poll was credible and reflected the will of the people. But, because of the violence that marked the runup to Zimbabwe's elections, the delegation is unlikely to characterise them as having been "free and fair", according to MPs on the delegation.

The delegation - criticised for not having completed its report nearly two months after the elections - met this week to consider a draft report, to which far-reaching amendments were suggested. A new draft is due to be presented at a further meeting of the delegation within the next two weeks. The final report will be presented to Frene Ginwala, parliamentary Speaker, and will then be debated in the National Assembly. Twenty MPs - from the ANC (12), Democratic Party(2), National Party (2), Inkatha Freedom Party (2) and African Christian Democratic Party (1) - visited Zimbabwe for a few weeks in June. The delegation was led by ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni.

A majority of MPs on the delegation are understood to have taken the view that they could not condemn the outcome of an election which had, in the main, been accepted by all the major Zimbabwean political parties. Although the delegation was concerned at the level of violence and intimidation in the run-up to the election, its members are generally agreed that the conduct of the actual polling on June 24 and 25 was good. In its report on the election, the Commonwealth accused ZanuPF of using "a strategy of systematic violence" to crush opposition support, but gave no clear judgement on whether it believed the elections free and fair. European Union monitors noted that the scale of violence and intimidation in the run-up to the campaign and during the election period had marred the final result, while United States monitors said the elections fell short of free and fair. 

From The Daily News, 14 August

Detained Mazowe farmer finally back on property

DUNCAN Parks, a Mazowe farmer, has now returned to his property, just over a week after war veterans detained him and 16 other farmers at his Maypark Farm. Hamish Turner, the chairman of the Harare West Farmers' Association, said Parks returned to his farm last Monday with his family. "All the farmers are back on their farms. The general situation in the area is not ideal because of the presence of war veterans but one can work on one's farm," he said. Turner said, however, there were no new invasions in the Mazowe area. He said although Parks and his family were not staying at the farm last week, they had made regular visits there without incident. They, however, had not slept at the farmhouse as they feared for their safety. War veterans at Maypark Farm detained 17 farmers for 24 hours and only released them after police and CFU officials intervened. The 17 included Parks' wife Isra, 53, and their son Stuart, 25. The war veterans held up the farmers overnight after Parks alerted his neighbours that the war veterans were threatening to break into his house. When Parks' colleagues arrived at the scene, the war veterans accused the farmers of trying to attack them and held them prisoners for the night. They were released the next day in the presence of CFU officials.

From The Daily News, 14 August

Zanu PF now bedroom party - Nkala

Bulawayo - Former Cabinet minister Enos Nkala, a founder member of Zanu PF who held various portfolios in different ministries since independence, says the ruling party is headed for doom. "Zanu PF structures have died all over the country," said Nkala, "and the party had to use violence to force a marriage with the voters. Zanu PF is in the grave, it is not possible to resurrect a dead body - my party is finished."He was referring to the violence unleashed by war veterans on innocent civilians in the name of the ruling party in the run-up to the June parliamentary election in an attempt to force the electorate to return Zanu PF to power. He said: "What remains is the spirit of the party, the body framework is all rotten. Robert Mugabe is the biggest killer of Zanu PF." He said Mugabe had not failed because he was a bad leader but because he was surrounded by "hyenas" who did not tell him the truth. "His ministers tell him a million lies and he likes those lies," said Nkala. "Resignations have started and many more will follow. Zanu PF will be a bedroom party. It's disgraceful to stand in front of people now and talk about Zanu PF. You can only talk about it in the bedroom." He said his perception of the future was that a party would be born out of the "Zanu PF fragments. The economy has been Zanu PF's deathbed," he said.

From The Financial Times (UK), 14 August

African leaders meet on Congo

African leaders gathered in the Zambian capital on Sunday for a make-or-break Monday summit to revive a peace deal for the DRC. Analysts say failure in the Lusaka talks could lead to a resumption of full-scale war in the former Zaire, a country the size of Europe. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who heads a three-nation southern African military alliance backing Congolese President Laurent Kabila, was the first to arrive in Lusaka and called for quick action. "If we have a fast-track (method of resolving the crisis) as an option to follow, that would be the best. I think all of us realise now that it doesn't serve any purpose in continuing the war," Mugabe told reporters at Lusaka airport. Mugabe has sent 15,000 troops, along with tanks and warplanes, to support the government of the Congo, Africa's third largest nation. Angola and Namibia have sent smaller numbers of troops to help it fight sharply splintered rebel armies who have the backing of Rwanda and Uganda.

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa arrived shortly after Mugabe and was followed by presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Zambian officials said they expected Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni later on Sunday. Mbeki said regional leaders wanted to see the Lusaka peace agreement signed a year ago fully implemented and believed the belligerents in the Congo war were keen to resolve the crisis. "We must make sure that it (peace) happens. We can't proceed on the basis that it won't," Mbeki told reporters. "The agreement reached (in Lusaka) is an important agreement, endorsed by the UN and the OAU, and we are all operating on this basis - and it's got to happen," he said. Kagame added: "It is important that all the players show up and that we meet and frankly discuss these problems. And we should be able to find solutions to the many outstanding problems."

A Congolese government spokesman confirmed Kabila was planning to attend the summit. "The president will be in Lusaka, that is certain" he said. Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and former foreign minister-turned-rebel leader Bizima Karaha had also arrived. Mediator and Zambian President Frederick Chiluba expressed confidence the talks would rescue Congo's collapsing peace deal, signed in Lusaka in July 1999. "I am confident. I never give up...A boxer never gives up his punch bag. I am a punch bag for peace," said Chiluba adding that commitment and will were crucial for success.

The war in the former Zaire moved into a third year a week ago with no sign of an early end in sight. The UN, which agreed in February to send 500 ceasefire observers and 5,500 troops to protect them, called off plans to deploy the first unit last month after Kabila refused to let them go to areas under his control. Botswana's former president, Sir Ketumile Masire, given the task of organising all-party national dialogue by the OAU, says the Congo government has blocked him from starting the job. Kabila's government refused to attend a meeting he called in Benin and stopped local political leaders leaving to attend. Kabila toppled veteran dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 with the help of Rwanda and Uganda, who were keen to stop cross-border raids by opponents based in the then Zaire.

But Kabila fell out with his neighbours, whose alliance raised hopes of a fresh start in the troubled heart of Africa after the horrors of the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda. Rwanda and Uganda then fomented a revolt by members of Congo's ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge minority and sent troops to support them. The revolt, which began in the east on August 2, quickly escalated into a regional conflict. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia sent troops to prop up Kabila. Chad briefly joined the pro-government alliance. Today the rebels control the east and parts of the north of the Congo.

From The Daily News, 14 August

Bridget Mugabe appeals to Sally Mugabe for help

PRESIDENT Mugabe's sister, Bridget, caused a stir at the National Heroes' Acre on Heroes' Day when she performed a ritual at the grave of Sally, President Mugabe's first wife. Her actions at the late First Lady's grave left many of the small crowd gathered at the shrine to pay their respects to Zimbabwe's fallen heroes shocked. As her brother wound up his speech, Bridget detached herself from the crowd and headed for the grave of her late sister-in-law, who died of a kidney ailment in January 1992, and is the only woman buried at the National Heroes' Acre. With one hand on her hip and a finger pointing at the grave, Bridget broke into an improptu song. She demanded to know why the late Sally did not seem to realise that her husband was now under siege, troubled by so many people, especially by MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Acting as if she was in a trance and in direct communication with the spirit of her departed sister-in-law, Bridget, who works in the Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation, asked why the late Sally had abandoned her husband. Bridget is one of Mugabe's two sisters. Her elder sister, Sabina Mugabe, is Member of Parliament for Zvimba South. Wearing a purple and white outfit, Bridget took many at the shrine on Friday by surprise. Intoning in Shona she said: "Sally, Sally, how can you afford to sleep while your husband is troubled by some people? What is wrong? Why are you angry?" The President's sister literally blamed the late Sally for neglecting Mugabe in the face of mounting challenges facing Zanu PF and government, especially from the opposition MDC. "Do you know of a person called Tsvangirai?" she asked almost in tears. "Did you ever hear of him during the time we were fighting and struggling to free this country from its former colonial masters?" This was in reference to Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, and his party which won 57 of the 120 contested seats in Parliament in the June election and nearly unseated Zanu PF, which got 62.

When he addressed an unusually sparse crowd which failed to fill the terraces at Heroes' Acre unlike on previous such commemorations, the President, who wore a black suit befitting the occasion, wondered aloud whether the nation still supported him and stood by his "revolutionary ideals". His face downcast, he said in a sombre voice: "I ask a question which everyone of us must answer and if the answer is positive, then you must cherish it in your heart. I am a Zimbabwean. I am equal to anyone who is Zimbabwean. I am for the values, revolutionary values of the past, for the continuance of the revolution that preserves those values. Are you with me or are you against me, I ask?"

The President laid a wreath on Sally's grave as Bridget, called him by their totem, Gushungo, and continued to implore her departed sister-in-law to take care of her husband. The First Lady, Grace, did not accompany the President as he went around the graves of the fallen heroes and greeted their families. Kiki Divaris, of the Child Survival Foundation, and Josiah Chinamano's widow, Ruth, stood beside Bridget as she performed her ritual at the grave. "Muroora, why don't you slap with the back of your hand those that speak ill of your husband? Why should you let him be tormented?" Bridget appealed to Sally. At that point a relative tried to stop her from continuing with her graveside drama. Muroora is Shona for daughter or sister-in-law. According to African beliefs, a deceased person has the power to watch over and protect the surviving members of his/her family, especially the children and spouse and to counsel them when in time of trouble.

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