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From The Star (SA), 29 December

Mugabe warns would-be coup plotters

Harare - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has accused the opposition of using undemocratic means to try to win power and warned against any attempt to overthrow him. In a New Year message, the veteran leader said his controversial drive to seize white farms for blacks would continue. The speech, delivered at a state banquet on Wednesday evening, was carried by official media on Thursday. "I do not want to be overthrown and I will try to overthrow those who want to overthrow me," Mugabe said at the banquet, which was boycotted by deputies of the main opposition MDC.

He called on the MDC, which almost broke 20 years of dominance by Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in parliamentary elections in June, to build its power legally. He condemned the MDC for using mass protests and strikes as a political weapon and suggesting the president could be ousted by violence. "One would think they (the MDC) would build up as a party in parliament. Why would they want to resort to violence?" Mugabe said. He was referring to a speech in September by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in which he said Mugabe would be forced from office if he did not quit peacefully in the face of a deepening economic crisis. Tsvangirai later said he did not mean the MDC would organise Mugabe's overthrow but that this would happen spontaneously. Last month, the MDC indefinitely postponed plans to call for strikes and street protests against the government. Political analysts said the party feared there would be a bloodbath after Mugabe threatened to use "the might of the law" to stop any demonstration.

In his New Year message, Mugabe said his government would respect different political views but not tolerate the use of protests because they hurt people and property. "Democracy has its vital weapon - the vote. If it's not the vote then obviously that method cannot be democratic," he said. State media said Mugabe had promised that the violence that hit Zimbabwe during the June elections would not be allowed to happen again. "Comrade Mugabe regretted the loss of lives due to political violence and said this should not be allowed to happen in the future," it said.

Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, which has dominated Zimbabwe's political scene since the former Rhodesia won independence from Britain in 1980, narrowly beat off a stiff challenge in June parliamentary elections in which the MDC won an unprecedented 57 out of 120 elected seats. The June poll followed five months of political violence in which at least 31 people - mainly MDC supporters - were killed. These included five farmers killed in violence linked to the invasion of white-owned farms by self-styled war veterans backed by Mugabe.

From The Star (SA), 29 December

Election of Zim bishop was fixed, says Neill

Harare - Anglican supporters of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party were on Thursday accused of breaking church canonic law to block the election as the new Bishop of Mashonaland of a prominent white critic of Robert Mugabe's human rights record. While independent of the Church of England, the denomination - with an estimated 40 000 active members - belongs to the worldwide "Lambeth Communion" and risks suspension or expulsion if political irregularities in its affairs are proven. Supporters of the election of Timothy Neill, 47, vicar general of the diocese, want to nullify the alleged last-minute nomination on December 22 of a theologian, Reverend Norbert Kunonga, until recently based in the United States. He is alleged to support Mugabe's militant black empowerment policies, including "fast track" redistribution of 3 000 white owned farms to black Zimbabweans.

"I have put this in the hands of lawyers. I have told Archbishop Bernard Malango that the process was a disgrace," said Neill. "The church has to set a moral tone for the nation. If the church conducts its business in the same way that Zanu-PF does, then there is no hope." Attempts will be made to refuse confirmation of Kunonga as bishop when the consistory court meets for this purpose on January 20, he said. Archbishop Malango, based in Ndola, Zambia, is the senior among eight bishops in the Church of the Province of Central Africa, founded by 19th century English missionaries. Kunonga, a theology lecturer at Africa University, Mutare, could not be reached on Thursday for comment but Bishop Sebastien Bakare of Bulawayo described the allegations of electoral impropriety as "very serious". "There is no way the counting could have been rigged," said the bishop.

Supporters of Neill said Kunonga was not among three approved, short-listed candidates put before 21 electors who met in the Zimbabwean midlands city of Gweru on December 22. They allege canonic law was breached by intense lobbying for Kunonga and by circulation of a highly defamatory letter accusing Neill, one of the short-listed three, of racism. Neill was prominent in an April 1 march by human rights activists that was attacked by ex-guerrillas while police looked on. In October, he helped launch a new pressure group demanding Mugabe's resignation as an essential first step towards ending corruption, Zimbabwean participation in the Congo civil war, and the violence by "war veterans" that has claimed 40 lives since February. Bishop Jonathan Siyachitema, who retired in October, was controversially quiet during the bloodshed surrounding a February constitutional referendum, lost by Mugabe, and June parliamentary elections that Mugabe narrowly won.

From The Daily News, 28 December

Fireworks sends war vets scurrying for cover

Bulawayo - War veterans and villagers squatting on Fountain Ranch in Nyamandlovu got the scare of their lives when the farmer lit fireworks at his home which they mistook for gunshots. The farmer, Harry Grieves, hosted a party for his family and staff and as part of the entertainment, threw a fireworks display in the evening. The war vets immediately rushed to the police, about 10km away, to alert them that they were under attack from the farmer. The police rushed to the farm, only to discover that there were no gunshots, but ordinary fireworks. Most people in the neighbouring farms, including the police, found the whole episode amusing. Said Grieves: "It's surprising that these so-called war vets cannot distinguish between gunshots and fireworks." Between 700 and 1 000 squatters have settled on the farm and have threatened to kill Grieves for allegedly disrupting the land resettlement exercise.

Meanwhile, one person was arrested by police in Nyamandlovu for allegedly killing and slaughtering two cattle from Umkulunge Farm. The suspect is a squatter at neighbouring Redwood farm. He almost got away with it but the scouts watching out for poachers on the farm came across the innards of one animal strewn all over the ground where it had been slaughtered. They collected the remains and made a report to the police. One suspect was arrested as he was found cooking some of the meat.

From The Times (UK), 29 December

Zimbabweans turned away by Britain

THE Government was accused of turning its back on the plight of Zimbabweans yesterday after immigration officials refused to allow in scores of visitors to Britain over the holiday period. In four days over the Christmas weekend, 65 Zimbabweans were refused entry by immigration officers. Most were sent home, but 19 asked for political asylum and are now waiting for their cases to be decided.

The move has caused great concern among Zimbabweans, who have long regarded Britain as a second home and haven in times of trouble. Opposition members can operate freely in Britain, whereas they face restrictions and intimidation under the Mugabe regime at home. Many others simply want a break in Britain from the political and economic turmoil that has gripped their country for the past year. A Home Office spokesman said yesterday that immigration officers were showing "greater vigilance" towards Zimbabweans suspected of moving to Britain as economic migrants. "Visitors from Zimbabwe do not require visas to enter Britain," the spokesman said. "But we are aware that there are more people coming who may seek to remain here than before."

The move has angered the small but active Zimbabwean community in Britain, which insists that at this time of trouble, the former colonial power should show greater sympathy for the plight of the Zimbabwean people. "It is not true that people are coming here for economic reasons - they are coming here purely to seek protection," said Arthur Molife, a Zimbabwean exile whose father was killed in Matabeleland by the army in the early 1980s. He said that in his work of helping asylum-seekers to remain in Britain he had detected an element of racial discrimination in the way Zimbabweans were treated by immigration authorities. "The evidence points to discrimination. I think it is a scandal that, when it comes to blacks, the authorities say it is economic motivation that brings them here, but when it is whites the reason is political," he said.

Eldridge Culverwell, the head of the British branch of Zimbabwe's main opposition MDC, said that there was also a risk of sending back asylum-seekers whose applications had been refused. "If the authorities find out you were an asylum-seeker your life can be in great danger," he said. To help the British authorities to understand the scale of the problems in Zimbabwe, he said that the opposition was compiling a detailed list of all those harassed and would present the findings to the Foreign Office.

In Zimbabwe there is little sign that the flight abroad will end soon. The authorities still refuse to concede that anything is wrong, despite the continued occupation of hundreds of farms and the failure of the authorities to prosecute anyone for the murders of 40 opposition supporters this year. In a new year message on Wednesday, President Mugabe vowed to continue his efforts to seize by force white-owned farms and made new threats against the opposition. "I do not want to be overthrown and I will try to overthrow those who want to overthrow me," he said at a banquet that was boycotted by MDC members of parliament.

From The Daily News, 28 December

Mutare farmer receives threats

Mutare - BRIAN James, a Mutare farmer locked in a legal dispute with Governor Oppah Muchinguri over his occupied farm, said yesterday he had received an anonymous call, warning him that Zanu PF militants on his property would soon be armed. "I don't know whether this is a mere threat or a genuine tip-off," James, owner of the Grange Farm, told The Daily News. "But I am taking the necessary precautions," he said. The warning comes at the peak of speculation that the key agricultural industry was set to be jolted by a wave of fresh farm invasions.

James said he received the telephone call shortly after 8am yesterday. The man who called had not identified himself, but simply said a shipment of firearms was destined for his farm where Zanu PF activists have clashed repeatedly with his workers. "Word has been going around that I will leave the farm at the end of January," James said. Police in Penhalonga said the matter was under investigation. James said the caller had told him before hanging up that the weapons were to be issued to the Zanu PF supporters who have occupied a portion of his 750 hectare property. "About 150 ha of the farm is now a no-go area to us," James said. "We don't want trouble, so we have left the invaders alone," he said.

A group of ex-combatants and peasants have often clashed with the farm workers in recent months, forcing the police to intervene on numerous occasions. James has said his vehicle was stoned on 26 November as he drove on the main road to the farm. He was not wounded, but his vehicle's windscreen was damaged. Three days later the police provided James and his workers with an escort to allow them to work at the farm. "Hardly a day passes without us being called to the farm," a senior police officer said recently. "We are playing hide-and-seek with them."

James accuses the Provincial Governor, Oppah Muchinguri of encouraging peasants and Zanu PF activists she resettled on the farm in November where they had been evicted by the police. The families were evicted after the High Court issued an order barring Muchinguri from resettling people on the property under the controversial fast-track resettlement programme. But Muchinguri went ahead and resettled 66 families on a section of the farm, saying she was merely implementing government policy to accommodate the landless. The farmer, however, successfully challenged the families' resettlement at the High Court. Judge Paddington Garwe overturned the resettlement decision and ruled Muchinguri, the first respondent should bear the full costs of the court action. Senior Assistant Commissioner Rudo Muchemenyi, chief of police in Manicaland, was cited as the second respondent. Muchinguri has said that any lawsuits arising from the resettlement programme should be directed to the offices of the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement.

Meanwhile, chiefs in Manicaland, met in Mutare last week where they resolved to rally behind Muchinguri in her legal fight, saying they were prepared to be jointly sued with her as the "custodians of all land in Manicaland". The chiefs said they, and not Muchinguri, should be held directly responsible for any problems arising from the land issue.

From The Star (SA), 29 December

DRC planes bomb rebel-held Katanga

Kigali - Congolese rebels of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) said on Thursday that forces loyal to President Laurent Desire Kabila have intensified air raids on towns under their control in south-eastern Katanga province. The latest of the bombings occurred on Wednesday night and targeted Pweto, a senior RCD official said. "The bombing was carried out at around 10.30pm but did not cause any casualties," Moise Nyarugabo, head of RCD's legal affairs department, said. Rebel officials in Goma also said that for the last three days air raids have also targeted Pepa and Nyuzu, located in the north of Katanga province.

It has been reported that the air raids were carried out by Russian-built Antonovs and MiG jet fighters that dropped about 30 bombs. A dozen houses were demolished by the bombings that missed all military targets, rebel officials said. This campaign of air raids by Kabila's forces on rebel-controlled towns came in the wake of threats by Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, on RCD rebels and Rwandan troops to evacuate Pweto town that fell in their hands early this month. Mugabe said that he will use force to drive the RCD rebels and Rwandan troops out of this Congolese town near the border with Zambia. The fall of Pweto to RCD rebels forced up to 8 000 Congolese government troops to flee to Zambia.

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Zimbabwe this Week.

Scenario planning is a natural part of everyone’s lives. We all have to take a position on the immediate outlook and will largely act in accordance with that view. Talking to all and sundry over the Christmas period the general consensus is that "2001 will be more difficult than 2000". That much I think we will all agree on – but how difficult, so tough as to be unbearable? Or just tough enough that we will somehow survive and see the New Year in in 2002 with more hope for the future. My own views are as follows: -

In the past two weeks Mugabe has moderated his tone somewhat – probably realizing that he went overboard at the Zanu PF Congress and afterwards. But he has not changed direction in any way – he was very militant on the Congo after talks with Kabila and threatened the rebels with action to punish them for their recalcitrance. What he can do in a country that stretches from London to 300 kms east of Moscow and is covered in tropical forest and swamplands is anyone’s guess. In the most recent clashes the rebels seem to have the upper hand and are steadily expanding the territory they hold. As I have said in the past, the Tutsi leaders in the Great Lakes region have a great deal at stake in this game and it is this factor, more than any other that will dictate the eventual outcome. Rhetorically Mugabe seems to be depending on the UN deploying their observers and 5000 troops to protect them as a pretext for picking up his military shirttails and running. He is going to be disappointed as I cannot see the UN doing anything of the sort, or Kabila allowing the deployment to take place and see his only real protection disappear across the Zambian border. So the first aspect in the 2001 picture is that we are stuck in the mud of the Congo and are unlikely to be able to withdraw unless we are forced to withdraw by military failure or financial stringency.

This then dictates the Zimbabwe budget scenario which very simply will entail a repeat of the past years experience. Finance Minister Makoni will have to revise his budget upward to take account of both increased military expenditure and also higher civil service salaries. This will then plunge Zimbabwe into round two of its budget crisis and both inflation and the depreciation of the dollar will accelerate as the government is forced to print money and to borrow heavily from the local market. We will have another year of negative growth – the fourth in a row and this will take our real GDP down to 70 per cent of what it was in 1997 when the land crisis and the war vets scene was introduced to the Zimbabwe stage by Mugabe. The IMF and the World Bank together with the great majority of donors will remain on the sidelines wringing their hands with despair.

The continued collapse of the economy will maintain the domestic political pressure on Mugabe and he will have to continue to use force to maintain his position as president. Since the year will be crowded with bi elections caused by continuing legal action, the violence on the ground will be ongoing. This will affect all sectors of the society in different ways – lawlessness will intensify in the cities and the farm invasions will be maintained despite the legal and political implications. This means we will have to add food shortages and other pressures to the economic scene unless we can persuade the international community to do something to help while we work towards the 2002 presidential elections. They will probably do something and this might alleviate the worst effects of the farm invasions but the farming community will see little relief and will continue to suffer under enormous pressure.

South Africa will remain ambivalent and will continue to assist with supplies of fuel and electricity. This will not overcome fuel shortages completely and we will have to struggle with this for another year. They will intensify the blockade along the Limpopo to slow down the flood of economic refugees with little success and South Africa’s domestic position will deteriorate. Mozambique and Namibia will join Mbeki in this exercise and will simply sit on their hands and pray that the final outcome of the struggle in Zimbabwe will not be too damaging to their situation. These three will pin their hopes on a reformed Zanu PF with a modified program and will be disappointed.

The Zimbabwean people are amazingly resilient – I was always surprised when they finally took up arms against Ian Smith and his crew. But that does not mean they do not have a mind of their own. Basically Mugabe is finished politically inside the country and with him Zanu PF because they failed to take the steps in 2000 which would have enabled them to restructure and reorientate themselves to face the MDC in the presidential elections. External observers (including all the SADC countries) underestimate the depth of the rejection that is taking place in homes and villages across Zimbabwe. A very senior political advisor to a major European power who was made available to the MDC, said to us after observing the situation on the ground and with some 40 years of political experience "what you want is a presidential election in April 2002 with Mugabe as an opponent." What we have to do is to stay alive until then and then be ready to pick up the pieces and start scoring a few goals of our own instead of the steady stream of own goals that Zanu PF has been inflicting on us all.

The Supreme Court ended the year with a defiant note and issued a 35-page judgement, which condemned the farm invasions as illegal and ill advised. They went on to say that they were, for the third time, ordering the Police to act in accordance with the law and to remove the illegal squatters on commercial farms. They also said that the government had six months to put a proper land reform program in place or they would nullify all farm acquisitions and order government to go back on the fast track program. Since the Judges have tenure constitutionally Mugabe cannot remove them and unless he is prepared to use force against them, he has no choice but to take the medicine they dish out. This legal battle will continue all year and it is unlikely that either side will win. But I do not think that the Bench will yield to threats and coercion. It is however probable that this will be one of the major pressure points for Mugabe throughout the year.

As for the domestic political scene there will be no rest for Mugabe and Zanu PF. They will be fighting for their political lives at two levels the whole year – the presidential race which will end in April 2002 and the bi elections expected to come out of the court actions of the MDC after the June 2000 elections. It is very probable that the MDC will increase its share of the Parliament as a consequence of this action. Because we need a clear majority, this will not allow the MDC to make laws through Parliament, however it will be a constant worry for those who occupy "Shake Shake" (the Zanu PF building in Harare). Remember – all we need is 18 more seats and then we have more than 50 per cent of the votes in the House. Then you can be quite sure – Parliament will shake, rattle and roll and although we will not be able to appoint government, we will make this current collection of clowns really work for their living in the ring.

MDC has come in for a bit of a bashing in recent weeks in both the Independent and the Gazette. Those of us on the inside feel this is a bit unfair and ill informed and certainly not justified. We are accused of ill-considered swings in policy and programming and "leaving our members in the lurch". Our position on the issue of mass action – threatened by Morgan on several occasions, is that, on careful reflection, (we agonized on this issue for weeks) as follows: -

  1. You only pursue such strategies if you are sure you will win the subsequent conflict with the state. Under present circumstances we felt we would not win a contest on the streets and in the process we would take casualties – perhaps in large numbers.
  2. Our intelligence told us that Mugabe was keen to stage a street confrontation, that he was ready and willing to use arms and live ammunition against his people.
  3. We were told that regulations establishing a state of emergency under the Law and Order Maintenance Act were drafted and ready to be implemented in the event of street violence.
  4. In the event that such a state of emergency was declared, the MDC would be banned and its leadership jailed or driven into exile.
  5. Our friends throughout the world advised us to stay on the high ground and fight using democratic and legal means.

No one better than ourselves knows what that decision will cost us in terms of having to wait another 15 month before we can thrash Mugabe at the ballot box with the whole world watching. We will face 15 months of painful and violent campaigning in all areas. Our personal security and that of our families will be constantly at risk. Our people will suffer terribly under the yoke of Zanu PF and the harsh economic conditions that will prevail. The MDC leadership was unanimous in its decision and we must now do all that we can to help those who will suffer as a consequence.

28th December 2000.

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

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