The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

Back to Index

Back to the Top
Back to Index

New Zimbabwe

Britain urged to halt Zimbabwe deportations

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 12/15/2004 16:44:23 Last updated: 12/15/2004 12:22:39
BRITAIN was last night accused of "engaging in a costly blood sport with human lives" as Zimbabweans planned a huge demonstration at noon today protesting the deportation of asylum seekers.

A group of Zimbabweans leading the protests said they were "dismayed and outraged" at the deportations which hit top gear this week with several raids at properties across Britain.

"Zimbabwean exiles are both dismayed and outraged at this immoral policy by a government which on a daily basis condemns the excesses of Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical regime," the group said in a statement. "On one hand, the British government admits that 'future prospects in Zimbabwe are not good', and on the other, Zimbabweans seeking the protection of Britain are being sacrificed in the most reckless fashion and in total defiance of standing international laws on refugees."

The group seized on comments by Junior Foreign Minister Chris Mullin in the House of Commons on Tuesday as evidence that the British policy on deportations was at odds with the government's view of President Robert Mugabe's regime.

Mullin said: "The people of Zimbabwe are regrettably at the mercy at the moment of a very rotten Government. It is true that for the immediate future the prospects in Zimbabwe are not good.”

The Zimbabwe group also warned British authorities that the heavy-handedness displayed by immigration officers and the police during the removals would cause Zimbabweans in government accommodation to go underground.

"The actions of the British Immigration Department and the Police to raid women and children in the wee hours of the morning and herd them into waiting trucks as if they were terrorists will breed a new group of Zimbabweans who are hostile to law enforcement," they said. "Many other Zimbabweans will flee their government-provided accommodation and stop reporting to the police. Life on the run in Britain is better than life in Mugabe’s jails and torture chambers."

Refugee agencies and human rights groups have roundly condemned the British government for resuming the deportations which had been suspended for two years pending political reforms in Zimbabwe.

Those reforms are yet to happen and President Mugabe is still firmly in power. On Tuesday, his government continued its crackdown on the opposition with the arrest of Glen View MP Paul Madzore. Just this week, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said seven Members of Parliament, 53 party officials and hundreds of activists had been subjected to arrest, intimidation, beatings and torture since January.

Arthur Molife, one of the organisers of the demo said last night: "Zimbabweans should seize this moment to send a clear and loud message to the British government that this policy is unwise and immoral. These deportations affect everyone and if we don't stand up in unison, we are all doomed."

Starting at noon on Wednesday, demonstrators will converge at the Zimbabwe embassy in London before heading for 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office where a petition will be handed over to the Prime Minister's representatives.

1200 hrs at Zimbabwe House, 429 Strand, London. Near Charing Cross Station.

1400 hrs: We depart from Zimbabwe House past South Africa House, Trafalgar
Square and then head for No: 10 Downing Street and then to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and end up at Parliament Square.

Nearest Tube Stations: - Embankment: (Bakerloo, District & Northern Lines).

Charing Cross: (Bakerloo & Northern Lines).

British Rail Station: Charing Cross.

There are numerous Bus Routes past Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station: 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 23, 24, 29, 53, 77, 77a 88, 91, 176, 453 to mention a few.

For more information: Contact Numbers are: - 07960126028. 07969449760. 07916155604. 07958015610
New accepts no responsibility for errors or changes to this programme

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Zim Online

Wed 15 December 2004
  HARARE - President Robert Mugabe will reassign his abrasive information
minister and propaganda chief, Jonathan Moyo, to a top diplomatic post,
possibly as Zimbabwe's new ambassador to the United Nations (UN), sources
told ZimOnline yesterday.

      The sources said other senior ruling ZANU PF party leaders, long angry
with Moyo over what they perceive as his arrogance and disrespectful manner,
had taken advantage of his fallout with Mugabe to push for his dismissal
from the government altogether.

      The senior ZANU PF leaders, who the sources said include party and
state First Vice-President Joseph Msika and chairman, John Nkomo, wanted
Moyo replaced by his permanent secretary and long-time Mugabe spokesman,
George Charamba.

      "The President (Mugabe) agrees to stern measures against Moyo but he
feels he can benefit from his combativeness and hardworking nature by
tasking him to defend his policies at the UN," a senior ZANU PF official
said yesterday.

      According to the party official, who did not want to be named, Moyo
was likely to replace Boniface Chidyausiku as Zimbabwe's ambassador at the
UN only after the March 2005 election.

      "He (Mugabe) will keep Moyo here until after March because he knows he
needs him for the election," the official said.

      Mugabe, who two weeks ago blocked Moyo's nomination to ZANU PF's
central committee, is expected to punish him further by dropping him from
the party's inner politburo cabinet on Friday.

      Until three weeks ago, Moyo was one of Mugabe's most powerful and
trusted confidantes. But the two fell out after Moyo led a secret plot to
block plans by Mugabe to appoint Joyce Mujuru as the second vice-president

      Mugabe, who publicly voiced his displeasure with Moyo, has since
suspended six of ZANU PF's 10 provincial chairmen because they had worked
with Moyo in his plot to scupper the appointment of Mujuru.

      Mujuru, who has since been appointed state second vice-president is
now firmly positioned to succeed Mugabe as ZANU PF and possibly Zimbabwe's
president given that Mugabe and Msika are set to retire at the same time in

      According to the sources, parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa,
whom Moyo wanted appointed vice-president was however going to keep his job
as ZANU PF's secretary for administration and possibly at Parliament as

      A fierce proponent for democracy and arch-critic of Mugabe, Moyo
swapped sides in 1999 to become the chief defender of the Zimbabwean leader
and his policies.

      Appointed information minister in 2000, Moyo has in the last four
years crafted tough media laws that have seen hundreds of journalists jailed
and three newspapers including Zimbabwe's biggest and only independent daily
paper, the Daily News, shut down. - ZimOnline
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Zim Online

Army to slash troops
Wed 15 December 2004

      HARARE - The Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) is considering massive troop
cuts because it has no cash to pay its about 45 000 soldiers, defence
ministry permanent secretary Trust Maphosa told a parliamentary committee
last week.

      In a closed session with Parliament's Committee on Defence, Maphosa
said the cash-strapped ZDF was also relying on antiquated equipment
inherited from guerrilla movements that fought for independence under
President Robert Mugabe and the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo and from
the former colonial army.

      According to the defence official, the government was now considering
retiring some of its soldiers into reserve troops only called up when need
arose.   "The Ministry was exploring possibilities of moving to the
reservist system. (The ministry) wished to have a small, well-trained,
well-equipped and well-administered army," Maphosa told the parliamentary
committee according to a record of the meeting leaked to ZimOnline.

      "The Ministry of Defence needs new equipment because it is using old
equipment which was inherited from ZANLA, ZIPRA and the colonial era," said
the defence official, who was pleading with the parliamentary committee for
more money to be allocated to the country's army and air force.

      ZANLA was Mugabe's guerrilla army while ZIPRA was commanded by Nkomo.

      The Defence Ministry was allocated $3 trillion under the 2005 national
budget tabled in Parliament last month by acting Finance Minister Herbert
Murerwa - the second highest vote after the Ministry of Education, Sport and

      Besides its cash problems, an arms embargo imposed on Zimbabwe by the
European Union, United States, Switzerland, Australia and Canada over
Harare's failure to uphold human rights, democracy and its controversial
land policies have helped cripple the ZDF.

      The ZDF has sourced some of its equipment from China and other former
Eastern bloc countries but still has a huge Western-manufactured arsenal for
which it can no longer get spares.

      Zimbabwe's army is said to have lost weapons and equipment worth
billions of dollars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was
helping that country's government fight off an armed rebellion that was
backed by Uganda and Rwanda. - ZimOnline
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Zim Online

Government, business, labour resume talks
Wed 15 December 2004
  HARARE - The government, business community and the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions (ZCTU) resume dialogue today in a desperate bid to cobble up a
solution to economic hardships afflicting both business and labour alike.

      The tripartite talks acrimoniously broke up 21 months ago after the
government sharply raised fuel prices to save its ailing and
corruption-riddled National Oil Company of Zimbabwe - which was solely in
charge of fuel supplies then - without consulting business and labour.

      ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibhebhe told ZimOnline that the
talks at which the three parties discuss solutions to pressing economic
problems such as inflation and the ever-rising cost of living were only
resuming after the intervention of the International Labour Organisation

      Chibhebhe said: "The ILO director for social dialogue had to come here
in October to assist in the dialogue. I am sure the Minister of Labour (Paul
Mangwana) learnt one or two things on the importance of dialogue, not to
mislead the nation as he was doing earlier in the year."

      The Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe, which represents business,
also confirmed yesterday that it will be represented at today's meeting.

      Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa, Trade Minister Simbarashe
Mumbengegwi and Mangwana are expected to represent the government side.

      The Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, a surrogate of the ruling
ZANU PF party set up by the party after tripartite dialogue collapsed last
year, is also expected to attend today's talks.

      Besides discussing labour and business issues, today's talks will also
discuss issues of governance that must be addressed to facilitate the
revival of Zimbabwe's crumbling economy. - ZimOnline
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Zim Online

Opposition legislator arrested
Wed 15 December 2004
  HARARE - Police yesterday arrested opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) party legislator Paul Madzore at the party's Harvest House
headquarters in the capital.

      Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena could not be reached for
clarification on the arrest of Madzore who is Member of Parliament (MP) for
Glen View constituency in Harare.

      MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the party was unsure yet about
the reasons for Madzore's arrest.

      Police sources told ZimOnline that Madzore was arrested in connection
with violent clashes between ruling ZANU PF party and MDC supporters in Glen
View last Sunday after a meeting the MP had addressed in the constituency.

      Political violence is on the increase in Zimbabwe as the country draws
closer to a crucial general election scheduled for March 2005. The MDC has
said it will not contest the ballot unless Zimbabwe's electoral laws were
democratised and political violence ended. - ZimOnline
Back to the Top
Back to Index



Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to: with subject line "For Open Letter Forum".
Thought for the Day:

"The European nations should have only one objective, to spread throughout
the entire world the priniples of justice revealed by Christianity, for the
emancipation and happiness of all mankind." a reporter.  1882 (Revue des
Deux Mondes - March to April 1977)

Letter 1: copy sent to TESCOS, received 12 December 2004

Dear Sir/Madam

Subject: TES17515X

I have just read, with incredulity, a communication written by one Sue
Shearer of your Team Tesco Customer Service about Tesco's sale of produce
from Zimbabwe.  The communication was re-printed on the Zimbabwe Justice
for Agriculture website on 9 November.

Correspondents had raised concerns about the actual origin of mange tout
sold in Tesco from Zimbabwe.  It was their suspicion that the mange-tout
was grown on land seized from its owners by the Mugabe regime.  If this
were to be the case then Tesco would, de facto, be subsidizing and
endorsing Mugabe's theft of land, his destruction of his country's economy
and his impoverishment of the Zimbabwean people.  The occupation of land by
Mugabe's thugs is not only contrary to universally accepted standards on
human rights but is, in most areas, even illegal under Mugabe's own twisted

Your Ms Shearer's reaction to this charge showed an astonishing lack of
insight and of sensitivity.  She wrote: 'we work with four suppliers who
are all involved with the government at the highest level.' I cannot
believe that there is another organization of the size of Tesco in Europe
or beyond that has actually boasted of its links to Mugabe's ZANU regime in
five years or more.  That line alone justifies an indefinite boycott of
Tesco by my extended family and by any decent, reasonable person.  Ms
Shearer goes on to say: 'If we ever decided to pull out, it would cause a
major deficit to the income of the area, causing it to revert to a Third
World State.' Over the past five years Mugabe's destructive and
self-serving policies have made Zimbabwe the most third-world of all third
world states characterized by merciless poverty, economic collapse and
agricultural decay.  Does Ms Shearer really not know this?  Furthermore the
main actor for this has been Mugabe's so-called 'Fast Track' land reform
program which, it seems, Tesco endorses.

Ms Shearer's communication then ventures even further into the surreal:
'our growers in Zimbabwe provide much-needed jobs for many people.we work
extensively with the ETI to ensure worker' welfare is maintained and
regular meetings are held to discuss the wider political situation.' It may
be that a small group of workers in Zimbabwe do benefit from Tesco's
patronage.  But they, sadly, must count for little against the millions
displaced and rendered jobless by Mugabe's Fast Track.  There can be no
defence in the employment of 500 or 1000 people if that employment is part
of a program responsible for immeasurably wider hardship.  As for the
regular meetings to discuss the wider political situation: are these
pastoral affairs ones within which workers can stand up and criticize the
ZANU PF government?  Of course they are not.  To wheel such a defense onto
the field is in appalling taste.

Subsequently a letter from one Jillian Burns, again of your customer
services staff, (reference TES17515X) was posted on the Justice for
Agriculture website on 10 November.  This was a more coherent letter and
did claim that Tesco had no further dealings with Kondozi Farm and did not
support illegal farm seizure.  It did concede that Tesco was 'working with'
growers who were 'working under constant threats.' This was an improvement
upon Sue Shearer's letter.  Indeed it seemed to directly contradict it and
I am forced to wonder which communications reflected Tesco's true position.
Do you now disassociate yourself from the Shearer letter?  Will you do so

Whether you do or not, the Burns letter still does not go nearly far enough
and leaves considerable room for doubt.

There is but one statement that Tesco can make to resolve this matter and
it goes as follows:

'We are able to confirm that all Tesco products from Zimbabwe are produced
on land which is owned by the producer or upon which the owner has freely
and without pressure agreed that the crops might be produced.  Tesco
officers, visiting Zimbabwe, have visited the growers and have either:

Confirmed that they are in fact the registered owners of the land through
scrutiny of original title deeds or

Confirmed that those who the title deeds show to be the owners of the land
have given formal and legal agreement, obtained without any inappropriate
pressure of any kind, that the product may be produced on that land.

The properties upon which a Tesco product is grown are: X farm, Y farm, Z

If you can do that, or something like it, then I would suggest you do so at
the earliest possible opportunity.  If you cannot I would be grateful for
an appropriate explanation.  Should I not receive such an explanation I
will write to your board of directors until such an explanation is
forthcoming.  Should such also prove unproductive then I will be obliged to
assume that your operations in Zimbabwe are essentially indefensible and
will seek, with others, to organize the maximum possible public exposure of

Yours faithfully

John Hickson

2. LETTER: Termites amongst us, received 11 December 2004

Dear Family and Friends,

It is just weeks now until Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections and to be
honest, things are not looking at all good. The opposition MDC have still
not said if they are going to participate in the polls and the electoral
playing field has not shown any signs of improving and this week 3 more
pieces of repressive legislation were rammed through parliament.

There is little doubt that all is not well within ZANU PF as we approach
the elections and in-fighting and power struggles seem to be the order of
the day. Zimbabweans have been watching with widening eyes and growing
amusement as even the state media has been reporting on "plots", "secrets
meetings", "the tug of war for succession", and "the night of the long
knives". For a change none of these dire and dirty deeds are being
committed by our usual enemies who the State say are The British, The
Americans, The Rhodesians, The Selous Scouts or The Neo Colonialists, but
this time the evil doers are people within Zanu PF itself. The most graphic
way to describe the atmosphere is to give you some of the more quotable
quotes from the just ended ZANU PF Congress and leave you to draw your own

At the opening of the ZANU PF congress, Reverend Obediah Musindo set the
tone by saying: "It's my prayer that President Mugabe should live longer to
deliver us to the promised land."

Vice President Joseph Msika said about suggestions that President Mugabe
should step down: "Mugabe go? Go Where? He should rule even if it means he
is walking with the aid of a walking stick. He is the father of our nation;
he is entitled to rule us forever."

President Mugabe speaking about the top party officials he suspended
because they tried to oppose the appointment of Joyce Mujuru at a secret
meeting in Tsholotsho: "minds that can be bought, hearts that can be sold,
are political prostitutes. This party has no room for political

Jonathon Moyo's response to accusations about the secret meeting at
Tsholotsho : "Ugly lies" , "pure fiction". "It was a mere speech and prize
giving ceremony."

Enos Chikowore reporting on Zimbabwe's top ministers and politicians who
grabbed multiple farms: "Top members of the party ignored even calls by the
presidency to surrender the extra farms." "There are termites within our
party, they are not people."

Enos Chikowore reporting on the dismal production on Zimbabwe's grabbed
farms: "I am calling for attitudinal change within our newly resettled
farmers. Under the regime of Ian Smith and up to 1999, 4000 white farmers
produced enough food for the nation and had more left over for export.
Today, after the land reform programme, there are over 12 000 farmers (A2)
but they are failing to do what their predecessors did."

And, to anyone who thinks Zimbabwe has a chance of a free and fair election
in March, we wonder why the budgetary allocation to the CIO (secret police)
has just been increased from 62 billion dollars this year to 395,8 billion
for the coming year.

Until next week,
love cathy.

3. LETTER: CONTACT FOR MR SHARON of Oxford Farm Banket

Please can anybody help.
I am wanting to contact Mr Sharon from Oxford Farm in Banket.
Contact Tisha on 705551/3 or e-mail

All letters published on the open Letter Forum are the views and opinions
of the submitters,
and do not represent the official viewpoint of Justice for Agriculture.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Navy denies mutiny as ship returns without its captain

Jamie Wilson and Richard Norton-Taylor
Wednesday December 15, 2004
The Guardian

If the forecasters are right, the sun will be shining when HMS Somerset
makes its way up the English Channel and into the naval docks at Devonport
tomorrow morning after an arduous six-month tour of duty patrolling the
perilous waters off the coast of Iraq.
But there will still be a large black cloud hanging over the ship and its
company after navy chiefs took a step unprecedented in modern times -
ordering the captain of a warship to hand over his command and ordering him
home to face allegations of bullying and intimidation.

Reports that the conduct of Commander David Axon had led to a near mutiny on
board the Type 23 frigate have lent the unfolding drama the air of a bygone
age, when captains would be tossed overboard by disgruntled crew members.

But instead of finding himself adrift at sea, the captain of HMS Somerset is
back in Britain where he is preparing to put his case to a Royal Navy
inquiry after an equal opportunities investigation was instigated following
a complaint from a junior officer.

According to yesterday's Sun the skipper is accused of operating a brutal
style of management, ridiculing and belittling junior officers. The
newspaper said navy chiefs feared a potential mutiny, and quoted a navy
source saying: "There was a dangerous situation brewing on the ship."

Yesterday the Ministry of Defence was characteristically reticent about
revealing the precise nature of the allegations, other than to say there was
no indication that they were racist, sexist or physical in nature. "It seems
to have been along the lines of verbal intimidation rather than anything
else," a source told the Guardian.

But the MoD did deny talk of a rebellion. "There has been no question of a
mutiny on board HMS Somerset," a spokesman said.
The maritime drama began to unfold in late November when a male junior
officer made a complaint about the conduct of Cmdr Axon. A Royal Navy
investigations team was dispatched and met up with the ship when it next put
ashore in the Italian port of Civitavecchia, near Rome.

By now another junior officer, this time a female, had also filed a
complaint against the captain. The investigation team are understood to have
interviewed members of the crew, including both of those who filed
complaints, before returning to the UK to file their report.

By the time their findings reached naval high command, HMS Somerset had
already sailed, and was making its way down the Adriatic into the
Mediterranean, towards Gibraltar, the ship's final port of call.

The MoD refused to reveal what the report said yesterday, but it was clearly
incendiary enough for the navy to take the almost unprecedented step of
ordering Cmdr Axon to hand over command to the executive officer - his No
2 - and return to the UK at the earliest opportunity.

That arose when HMS Somerset stopped to refuel and take on supplies in
Gibraltar. Cmdr Axon flew back to Britain and is now on leave.

Yesterday there was no sign of him at his semi-detached house in Southsea,
where he lives with his partner Gail, a naval barrister.

Born in Leicester, Cmdr Axon was raised and educated in Zimbabwe and South
Africa. He returned to England to join the Royal Navy in 1986, serving on
board the Royal Yacht Britannia and several other ships before being
selected for command in 2000. Now in his 40s, he took over HMS Somerset in
December last year.

According to his homepage on the ship's website (which yesterday made no
mention of the sudden change in command), his spare time "was once filled
with skiing, diving, team sports and travel but is now confined to
decorating (when allowed and only under close supervision) and extensive dog

A spokesman for the MoD said Cmdr Axon was facing an administrative rather
than a disciplinary procedure.

If he were found to have breached the rules the possible penalties range
from guidance and retraining to dismissal. If he were cleared of any
wrongdoing he could return as commanding officer of HMS Somerset.

"There is certainly no question of him being hung out to dry," a navy source
said. "We have a duty of care to this guy as well as those who have made the
allegations, and a naval barrister has been put at his disposal."

Commodore Steven Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, said he had
never come across another case of a commander being removed from his ship.
"In my experience in the navy I have never known it happen before, although
as far as I can see the CO has not been dismissed.

"He is still technically in command, he has just handed over command to the
XO in order to sort this out."

Another former senior officer with a long career in the Royal Navy also said
the move was unprecedented, but suggested that the navy was "feeling cuddly
and warm post-Deepcut" - a reference to the charges of abuse that have beset
the British army at its barracks in Surrey.

"Any squeak of bullying and it is jumped on," the former officer added.

Back to the Top
Back to Index


Enough is Enough



We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!


Sokwanele reporter
13 December 2004
(The Non-Governmental Organisations Bill had its third reading and was passed by Parliament at a late night sitting on 9th December.  It now requires only the signature of the President and to be gazetted before it comes into force)
We used to have welfare organisations, but in the past few years we have become more familiar with the term “non-governmental organisations”. The new designation reflects the emergence of public activities which go far beyond traditional charitable works of providing sustenance and services to the poor.  Not-for-profit organisations now include development agencies, church welfare programmes, environmental protection agencies, human rights organisations, advocacy groups, savings clubs, AIDS organisations and others too numerous to mention. 
Together these organisations generate a vast amount of activity and financial resources which fall outside the purview of government.  They make the Zimbabwe government extremely nervous, for two reasons:  they provide development and other assistance to communities outside government structures, showing the people that government does not have to be relied on for everything; and they do not lend themselves to easy control.  For a government inclining more and more toward the totalitarian, they represent a threat to its very existence, for they show that something else is possible.
Immediately after Independence in 1980 and for the following ten years, the state of emergency  allowed the new government effectively to subvert the constitution by keeping in place restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association and expression   Independent print and electronic media did not exist, and people were accustomed to seeking government approval before acting independently. 
There were of course a large number of charitable and development-oriented organisations, but those promoting rights or good governance were conspicuous by their absence.  At the time of the massacres in Matabeleland in the mid 1980’s, there were few organisations in a position to report on what was going on and speak out on behalf of the people; this role fell to medical staff and clergy employed in churches, primarily the Roman Catholics.  No written reports were published in Zimbabwe until the mid 90’s.
In the 1980’s charitable organisations were expected to register with the Social Welfare Department as welfare organisations.  They were given a registration number after being scrutinised by the Registrar of Welfare Organisations, and this allowed them to collect funds from the public, and even receive assistance for staff salaries.  They could benefit from tax-free status for their investments, and from import duty rebates.  They were required to provide reports and audited accounts to the Department. 
A large number of development organisations found a legal existence in this way. Alternatively, they could simply form a Trust using a Trust Deed, and register it with the High Court.  This entitled them to operate without any approval from the Social Welfare Department, or from anyone else.
As the 1980’s gave way to the 90’s, and the state of emergency was removed, a new type of non-profit organisation began to appear – these were formed specifically to act as watchdogs of government or to lobby for changes in government policies.  They focussed on issues such as environment, the media, human rights, democracy, civic education and the constitution.  While they advocated for specific policies, they were often engaged in development work as well and undertook to educate communities on their issues of concern.  Many produced information sheets on their work and the situation in Zimbabwe.  Increasingly foreign and international NGOs also took an interest in Zimbabwe. 
Government grew increasingly uncomfortable at the proliferation of organisations criticising their policies especially as the negative effects of the Economic Structural Adjustments Programme (ESAP) began to manifest themselves.  Rather than welcome the healthy participation of many civil society voices in public debate, ZANU PF became ever more paranoiac, intolerant of dissenting views, and looked for ways to silence those they felt most threatened by.
Their first move was to replace the Social Welfare Organisations Act with new legislation which would make control of welfare organisations much easier.  In late 1994, the Private Voluntary Organisations Bill was gazetted, and by March 1995 it was law.  It is the direct precursor of the current law, and introduced some of the control mechanisms that government wishes to make use of now.  The new terminology, “private voluntary organisation” (PVO) in place of “welfare organisation”, was intended to embrace developmental and advocacy organisations in addition to charitable organisations.  It removed the registration of these organisations from a single civil servant in the Ministry and established a Private Voluntary Organisations Board composed of 13 representatives of  Private Voluntary Organisations and 1 from each of 6 ministries, all appointed by the Minister.  The Board’s role was to consider applications for registration, to issue registration certificates, and cancel registrations.  No organisation could begin activities or seek funding without registration; to do so would be an offence.  However, a long list of organisations were exempted from registering, including “any trust established directly by any enactment or registered with the High Court”.  It was this exemption which allowed many organisations to continue functioning and many others to be formed, without coming directly under the control of a government ministry.
Those which did register as PVOs were subject to potentially stringent control:  in the first place, registration could be refused, secondly, registration could be cancelled by the Board, and finally, the Minister could, “on information supplied to him” suspend all or any of the members of the executive committee of a PVO and appoint whoever he chose to run the organisation as a trustee, receiving whatever salary the Minister determined from the organisation’s funds.  This action could be taken on various grounds, including if it appeared to the Minister that “it is necessary or desirable to do so in the public interest”.  While NGOs made protests about this aspect of the Bill in particular, they were ignored.  The legislation sailed through Parliament, without a single sentence of debate.  The second reading, committee stage and third reading were all covered on the same day, and must have taken not more than 30 minutes to complete.  We must remember that Parliament at that time was virtually a one-party Parliament, after the 1990 elections following the Unity Accord, and there were very few voices of dissent.
The dangers inherent in the new Act became evident the following year.  Section 21 allowed the Minister to suspend executive committee members of an NGO.  The committee of African Women’s Clubs (AWC), the chair of which was the firebrand Sekai Holland, was removed by the Minister on allegations of mismanagement.  There were clearly problems within the organisation, but that was hardly a unique situation in an NGO.  AWC was targeted specifically because Holland was a thorn in the flesh of ZANU PF.  Previously a staunch ZANU PF member, she later became a founding executive member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  Holland challenged the suspension in the Supreme Court.  She argued that the section contravened sec 18 of the Constitution (protection of the law) on the grounds that no fair hearing was provided for, and also contravened the right to freedom of assembly and association and the right to freedom of expression.  The court agreed with her first argument and declared sec 21 of the Act unconstitutional, but did not comment on the contravention of the other rights.
Government backed down and respected the ruling of the court. But since that date in 1997, government had on its agenda a tightening of control of NGOs by bringing in another amendment to this Act.
The NGO Bill was gazetted in August 2004 after years of drafts, consultations and lobbying.  Much had transpired over those years which made government more determined to close in on the NGOs.  During those years, a new type of NGO had come to prominence – those in the field of governance which were lobbying heavily and carrying out country-wide education which would make people more aware of the “democratic deficit”.  The most effective at the time was the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), which forced government to embark on its own, ultimately unsuccessful constitutional reform programme, and also spawned the highly successful opposition party, the MDC.   ZANU PF began to blame NGOs in general for their loss of popularity, and the “governance” NGOs in particular.  As the NGO’s  pressed for greater democratisation, and the opposition gained strength, government responded with legislation which would clamp down on their activities, specifically the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).  Virtually all the new NGOS registered themselves with Trust Deeds at the High Court, knowing that their chances of being registered through the government-controlled process under the PVO Act were slim.
Initial drafts of the NGO Bill caused concern among NGOs because the proposed Council to register NGOs would be entirely controlled by government, with a majority of government members, and a minority of NGO members.  The NGO umbrella organisation NANGO proposed a Council controlled by NANGO.  But all lobbying attempts were ignored.  Government knew what it wanted, and was not going to be deterred.
The real sting in the new Bill when it was finally gazetted was the attack on the organisations concerned with human rights and governance.  The definition of an NGO is expanded by the addition of institutions whose objects include “the promotion and protection of human rights and good governance” and “the promotion and protection of environmental rights and interests and sustainable development”.  And, critically, it no longer exempts Trusts registered with the High Court.  Furthermore, a new section prohibits any local NGO from receiving “foreign funding or donation to carry out activities involving or including issues of governance”.  Thus a local human rights organisation, such as Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) or Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), can be registered, if the Council approves it, but cannot receive foreign funding for any of its human rights or governance activities.  So even if the Council registers it, it will not be able to function due to lack of funds.  Foreign NGOs will be totally banned from operating in the field of governance and human rights.
The sections of the Bill regarding the powers of the Council and the Minister in relation to NGOs are slightly changed from the PVO Act, but it is clear that the powers remain very wide.  The Council can cancel a registration or can undertake an investigation if the Registrar “has reasonable grounds to suspect maladministration”, a term which is broadly defined.  The Council can then, if it wishes, recommend that the Minister suspend any or all of the NGO’s executive committee.  The Minister may do this if he “is satisfied that it is in the public interest”.  The Bill carefully provides for a hearing by the NGO executive when under investigation by the Council or the Minister, thus correcting the flaw identified in the previous legislation by the Supreme Court in the Holland case.  But, when allowing the Minister to provide his own trustees to replace a suspended executive, it makes no provision for a time limit, and does not exclude the disposal of property from the powers of the appointed trustees.  Such safeguards were included in the PVO Act.
These sections give excessive power to the Minister and his appointees in the Council.  If there is maladministration amounting to criminal activity in an NGO, the police are the proper authority to carry on an investigation and bring the guilty parties before a court.  Administrators do not have such skills.  Suspending an entire committee for the misdeeds of one person smacks of collective punishment, and the provision for making representations does not mean the Council or Minister will consider it fairly; nor does the legislation require them to do so.  The sections are clearly an attempt to take political control over NGOs and they certainly violate several rights guaranteed in the Constitution – freedom of association, protection of the law, and freedom from arbitrary deprivation of property. 
The intention behind the new Bill is clear – it specifically targets NGOs which put government under pressure by exposing abuses of human rights and misgovernance, and further allows the executive arm of government (synonymous with the ruling party as far as the latter is concerned) to close down and take over NGOs which it perceives to be threatening to its own interests. Furthermore the mechanism used to achieve this is administrative action which provides no recourse to any impartial legal procedure.  While these control sections are not very different from those in the PVO Act, where they do differ, they give more power not less to government, and the sections allowing for representations to be made are cosmetic rather than substantial.
The other major change in the legislation is that wherever an offence is created, a penalty is now given.  For example, a person involved in “management or control” of an unregistered NGO is subject to a fine up to level 4 or imprisonment up to 5 months or both.
There was predictably an outcry from NGOs on publication of the Bill, and an intensive lobby was mounted.  Representations were made to the Parliamentary portfolio committee and NGOs felt that they had been received sympathetically, but some failed to appreciate that Parliamentary committees have little power.  This became obvious when the Bill was presented in Parliament.  On the first reading, no changes had been made from the originally gazetted Bill.
This time, in contrast to the situation in 1995, there was no easy passage for the legislation through Parliament.  After first reading, the Bill, according to procedure, was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee, whose report was scathing.  Describing the bill as “a most serious attack on the Declaration of Rights”, the Committee expressed the view that it “seeks to control, to silence, to render ineffective and ultimately to shut down NGOs.  In a clause by clause analysis it concluded that the registration process proposed would contravene sections 17 (protection from arbitrary search or entry) 19 (protection of freedom of conscience)  20 (protection of freedom of expression) and 21 (protection of freedom of assembly and association) of the Constitution, but most particularly the freedom of association, while the restriction on foreign funding for “issues of governance” would contravene sections 19,  20 and 21. 
In spite of this adverse report from its Legal Committee, Parliament, controlled by a ZANU PF majority obedient to the dictates of the executive, voted to ignore the report.  Instead, on second reading, some amendments were tabled.  The Minister, Paul Mangwana, presented his proposals, as did the acting chair of the Portfolio committee, and the MDC shadow minister for Justice, David Coltart.  The only substantive change that was ultimately accepted in a fiercely-fought all-night confrontation was to allow organisations operating as Trusts or in any other fashion, a six-month period in which to continue to operate before their applications for registration were processed.  Organisations already registered as PVOs can continue to operate for the time being, but will be subject to the funding restrictions and the threat of cancellation of registration. Those not registered will have six months to apply for registration.
At the present moment,  while the Bill is awaiting gazetting as an Act, NGOs are desperately studying the implications of the new law for their operations and trying to decide how to respond.  Several made representations at the 36th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Senegal in late November.
The NGO community obviously represents a very wide diversity of interests. There are those NGOs which think they will not be seriously affected and are not interested in risking their own activities to stand up in support of others who are.  There are others which engage in a variety of activities, some of which will fall under the prohibition of foreign funding and others which will not. Some may be prepared to give up a number of their activities in order to save those which do not involve “governance issues”.  Others, whose activities consist solely of “governance issues” may be expected to change their structures and become companies or institutes, or to simply give up and dissolve themselves.  Some may relocate to neighbouring countries.
It is widely believed, and in fact has been admitted by ZANU PF that certain NGOs are to be targeted under the new legislation.  They are the ones that have been most effective in challenging government excesses, such as ZESN, ZLHR, the NCA and Crisis in Zimbabwe.  In a response to the NGO presentations to the African Commission, government said it would not countenance the NCA and the Crisis Coalition because they were trying to change the government.
We saw special targeting being applied under the PVO Act, and since then we have ample experience of selective application of the law in many spheres of life in Zimbabwe.  It is particularly sinister when applied against NGOs.  It allows those which are considered “non-political” to operate without any interference, pretending nothing is abnormal. Meanwhile all NGOs are forced into a position where they will censor themselves, reducing activities which might put them into the government’s line of fire, and depriving the Zimbabwean public of the rich diversity of views and sources of information to which they have become accustomed in the past decade. In short Zimbabweans are to be starved of  healthy debate and of the challenge to government policy so essential to a true democracy.
NGOs have become the lifeblood of civil society.  Certainly, they exist primarily on foreign funding, an imperative in a collapsed economy where any surplus is seized by the political elite and disappears rapidly into conspicuous consumption, much of it outside the country. But they have undertaken so much of the essential work of development and social welfare, which should be but is not being carried out by government that their existence is now crucial to the health and very survival of much of the population.  Their work in the areas of governance is evident when one compares the response to the Gukuruhundi massacres in the 1980’s when such organisations did not exist, and the response to the current terror generated by ZANU PF.  They have become the conscience of the nation, and a nation without a conscience is a tragic phenomenon.
As NGO boards search their souls for the correct response to their dilemma, we find ourselves in the same position as liberals and churches, even academics, in Nazi Germany in the mid 1930’s.  Helpless against a determined regime holding all the levers of power, we watch aghast as one after another of the spaces formerly providing  independent thought and action are closed down, and a fascist regime takes control of every aspect of social existence. 
Back to the Top
Back to Index