From The Guardian (UK), 10 February
Supreme court justice defies Mugabe threat
Harare - One of Zimbabwe's supreme court justices, Nick McNally, refused to cave in to threats from President Robert Mugabe's government yesterday and announced that he would stay on the bench until his retirement in December. Mr Justice McNally, 69, said he would not be bullied into resigning just one week after the Mugabe government forced out Anthony Gubbay, the chief justice of the five-member supreme court. Mr McNally confirmed that the justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, urged him to take early retirement yesterday and issued a not-so-veiled threat if he decided to stay.
"I was told very politely and very nicely that I should go - take my leave and go, otherwise anything could happen. It was said very frankly that they didn't want me to come to any harm," he said. "I've been trying to think of a gesture that would be appreciated and not futile... I've decided not to go." Mr Chinamasa also paid a visit to the supreme court justice, Ahmed Ibrahim. It is not known if he decided to resign.
The Mugabe government is attacking the supreme court because it has reversed some of its policies. In December the court ruled that Mr Mugabe's "fast-track" land seizures were illegal and ordered the police to uphold the rule of law and remove squatters from privately owned farms. In January, it said that Mr Mugabe could not amend the law to prevent the results of parliamentary elections being challenged on the grounds of violence, intimidation and fraud. Mr Mugabe, cabinet ministers and the leader of the "war veterans", Chenjerai Hunzvi, have bitterly denounced the supreme court justices, calling them "relics of Rhodesia". It is understood that Mr Mugabe is to appoint a new, more compliant, supreme court.
"[Forcing Chief Justice Gubbay to retire] is a signal to the rest of the world that Zimbabwe's government fears the law and is determined to subvert it," the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper said yesterday. Harare's efforts to neutralise the courts coincide with its moves to muzzle the country's independent press. Two weeks ago it called for the critical Daily News to be closed down; an explosion then destroyed its printing presses. Harare's legal community, however, is taking heart at Justice McNally's stand. "It was distressing when Chief Justice Gubbay succumbed to the government's threats. If the chief justice cannot stand up for principle then who can?" one Harare lawyer, who did not want to be named, said. "That is why the legal community, lawyers both black and white, are so pleased that Justice McNally has decided to stand up for what is right."
From The Daily News, 9 February
Gubbay dismissal unlawful
The forced resignation of Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay was unconstitutional and illegal, senior lawyers said yesterday. Lovemore Madhuku, a University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, and Advocate Adrian de Bourbon, the chairman of the Bar Association of Zimbabwe, said other than through death or voluntary retirement, the Constitution clearly states procedures for the removal of a judge from office. Section 87 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, says: "If the President considers that the question of the removal from office of the Chief Justice ought to be investigated, the President shall appoint a tribunal to inquire into the matter."
Madhuku said: "In terms of the Constitution, no one can force a judge to resign. It is unlawful. A government can only remove a judge on the recommendations of a specially appointed tribunal." Gubbay was allegedly forced to leave after a tense meeting with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa last week. Details of the meeting were not made public. His successor is yet to be appointed. De Bourbon, the chairman of the 35 advocates in the bar association, yesterday condemned the interference by the government in the Judiciary and what he called the perverse role played by the Executive in the forced early retirement of Gubbay. "This bodes ill for the future of our country and especially for the maintenance of the respect which is needed in the judicial system as a cornerstone of the democratic system in Zimbabwe," said de Bourbon.
The association said Gubbay's 22-year service to the Judiciary was exemplary. "His approach has always been without fear or favour, irrespective of colour, creed, political affiliation or race, despite suggestions to the contrary," de Bourbon said. Madhuku said if the government did not agree with certain judgments, or if they felt that Gubbay's interpretation of the law was wrong, they should have instituted a tribunal. Said Madhuku: "Where a judge makes a wrong decision, it is the prerogative of the Judiciary to make the final say on what the law should be. The Executive cannot come in and say it was a wrong judgment because if it does, it will be undermining the principle of the separation of powers." Madhuku said the government was capitalising on race to confuse issues. "They say those supporting Gubbay are puppets of whites, while those who support his removal are seen to be progressive," said Madhuku.
Editorial from The Financial Gazette, 8 February
Signs Of The End
Harare - A terrified government sensing the end has launched an unprecedented assault on fundamental freedoms of all Zimbabweans, hoping to stave off the inevitable. The onslaught against dissenting political voices has scaled new heights in both ferocity and magnitude since the governing ZANU PF party was stunned by a near defeat in last June's parliamentary ballot. It is clear that law-abiding Zimbabweans, who sought the only legal route possible to get rid of a failed party, are now the targets of its venom and terror.
Township residents live in fear of midnight raids by soldiers and police officers whose actions are reminiscent of the last days of Ian Smith's cruel regime. In ZANU PF's desperation to cling to power, not even opposition legislators are spared the humiliating beatings which have become a common treatment of residents of the townships. The men in uniform, whose missions are increasingly being executed under the cover of darkness, this week came back to haunt the residents of Chitungwiza's St Mary's suburb, viciously assaulting legislator Job Sikhala, his pregnant wife and even the couple's housemaid.
But the assault on MDC legislators - and indeed on all peace-loving Zimbabweans - is a strategy just beginning to unfold. It is quite evident that some members of the police, at best toothless bulldogs when challenged to act against well-documented crimes committed by ruling party members, have another new role. Typical of their blind faith to ZANU PF, the police have started to round up the most effective members of the opposition and to employ the draconian Law and Order Maintenance Act that Smith used so effectively against the majority blacks. That is why this week MDC leaders Gibson Sibanda and Nelson Chamisa were quizzed for ostensibly inciting violence and have been charged over the alleged offence.
And yet an impartial police force not intent on a relentless pursuit of selective justice would have long arrested ZANU PF stalwarts such as war veterans leader Chenjerai Hunzvi and his followers for openly preaching violence too many times before. If the law was indeed being applied fairly and fully, President Robert Mugabe would have been the very first to stand trial for repeatedly inciting violence against political rivals. He should have been censured for his hate speech in Bindura just before the June poll when he threatened death and violence on the MDC - his latest at the time. Then at ZANU PF's congress in December, he urged his supporters "to strike fear into the hearts" of some Zimbabweans - and they have done exactly this since then! Then and now, no one has acted against him for not only wilfully inciting violence but violating his own oath of office and Zimbabwe's constitution, an impeachable offence.
With most Zimbabweans cowed by the iron fist, the government has turned its focus on the remaining bulwarks of democracy and freedom: the judiciary and the media. Journalists have been assaulted and harassed to prevent them from doing their work; newspapers have been burnt in front of law enforcement officers by known and organised mobs and a printing press of a newspaper critical of the government has been bombed out of action. Zimbabweans also rightly view last week's forced departure of Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay as the greatest assault on the judiciary - that pillar of democracy which so far has refused to bend the rules to accommodate tyranny. ZANU PF hawks saw Justice Gubbay as an impediment to the party's chaotic land policy that is meant to benefit cronies because he chose to stick to the law authored by none other than the government itself.
The disruption by police of a peaceful march by journalists protesting against rising lawlessness is another sign that the time for pretence is over: the government is determined to ban all protests unless organised by itself and its war veterans. Although Zimbabweans should obviously defend themselves against the violence wherever possible, they should tread carefully and not fall into the government's trap. The violence, intimidation and assaults on the nation's freedoms are a calculated ploy to plunge Zimbabwe into chaos and create room for a declaration of martial law ahead of next year's presidential plebiscite.
Law-abiding Zimbabweans should remain resolute and keep the faith in the face of this provocation and be ready to use the only weapon that is left at their disposal: to vote overwhelmingly in that ballot to end tyranny and mayhem. These acts they are witnessing are the last acts of a regime on its way out and are meant to divert their attention from the country's collapse.
From The Financial Times (UK), 10 February
Zimbabwe in new exchange controls
Harare - Zimbabwe on Friday announced exchange controls which require all export earnings to be paid to the central bank or the state-owned National Oil Company. In a surprise announcement, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said existing foreign exchange regulations had been suspended and that 75 per cent of all export earnings must be paid to the central bank "to meet embassy payments" and the balance to NocZim to finance imports of fuel.
Initial market reaction was one of disbelief. The suggestion that the country needs $125m (£85.60m) a month to pay its offshore embassy costs was greeted with derision. Instead, market operators believe the panic measure was introduced to finance fuel imports when even the official, government-owned media admits there is a shortage of petrol and diesel. But central bank officials insisted otherwise and said the controls (effective immediately) would last for no more than a week to 10 days.
Business leaders were also shocked by the announcement. Exporters said that until now they had been able to sell the bulk of their export proceeds in the parallel market at exchange rates of around Z$75 to Z$80 to the US dollar. But as long as the new regulations are operational they will have to sell to the central bank at only $55 to the US unit. The official claim that the measures are only temporary was seen as yet another attempt to disguise the severity of Zimbabwe's foreign currency crisis. "The truth," said one money market dealer, "is that no one trusts this government. If the move is only temporary, you can bet that exporters will delay repatriating their earnings until the policy is changed."
Bankers said they believed the move foreshadowed devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar as well as the imposition of selective currency controls. In the equity market, the price of Old Mutual shares in Harare compared with their price on the London Stock Exchange implies an exchange rate of Z$150 to the pound, compared with the official exchange rate of Z$79.5, one analyst noted. Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government intensified its campaign against the judiciary, when its 63 members of parliament passed a vote of no confidence in the Supreme Court. The vote was prompted by a Supreme Court decision overturning an order by President Robert Mugabe, preventing opposition parties from challenging the results in 37 constituencies at last June's general elections.
From The Cape Argus (SA), 9 February
Global Economist Predicts Catastrophe
Cape Town - The situation in Zimbabwe is "pre-revolutionary" and developments there could send "a great shadow" across the entire SADC region unless drastic action is taken soon. This is the view of David Hale, chief global economist for the Zurich Insurance Group in Chicago, who was delivering the keynote address at the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba 2001 Conference in Cape Town yesterday.
In a speech entitled A View of Africa 2001 and Beyond the American economist, who has just spent nearly a week in "simmering" Zimbabwe having discussions with leading role players, predicted catastrophe unless firm steps were taken to democratise the country, or even oust President Robert Mugabe. Hale said he had been in Indonesia before really serious strife broke out there, and he knew the signs. He called on President Thabo Mbeki and other regional leaders to act constructively and aggressively to change the direction in which Zimbabwe was headed.
Hale said Mbeki had done tremendous damage to himself and South Africa by not taking a firmer stand early on. He suggested Mbeki should now threaten to hold back subsidies unless there were changes in Zimbabwe. "Mbeki should say: 'Get rid of political intimidation, or get a new leader.' South Africa has tremendous influence". He said a drought had taken hold in Zimbabwe and wide-scale starvation and ensuing protest action seemed imminent. This could result in martial law. "They are facing a showdown. Something has to give."
Zimbabwe had lost about 1.2 million people to emigration in the past couple of years, he said. South Africa faced the prospect of hosting a million refugees in 12 to 18 months. What was happening in Zimbabwe had a negative economic effect on South Africa. Even though the situation in the two countries was vastly different, many overseas investors said that if things could go so wrong in one country, the same could happen in the other. The partial destruction of the farming industry and the closure of a number of mines in Zimbabwe had caused a serious drop in that country's foreign exchange..
But Hale said Zimbabwe had the potential for a great comeback if the political situation improved. Earlier at the conference Titus Nyatsanga, director of promotions and development for the Zimbabwean government's mining ministry, said the country was going through a tough period but it would be "shortlived". He said a new fiscal regime would increase business interest.
From The Star (SA), 9 February
Kabila's killer still at large, says paper
Paris - The killer of Congolese President Laurent Kabila escaped from the scene of the shooting in Kinshasa's presidential palace and was not killed as stated by Congolese authorities, a French newspaper said on Friday. The daily Le Monde, in a long two-page report, did not give the name of the killer but said he was accompanied by a Second Lieutenant Rachidi Kasereka, a member of the presidential guard, who was shot dead covering the killer's escape. Le Monde said much of its information about the January 16 killing came from a plot leader it identified as Second Lieutenant AH. The newspaper published a hand-scrawled three-page note which AH said was the plan for the killing and involved several dozen men who wanted to overthrow the government.
Le Monde said the killers were former "kadogos", or child soldiers who had served Kabila for many years but the only age it gave for any of them was that of AH who was 27. According to the newspaper the soldier who killed Kabila went over as if to speak to him in his office and then shot him once in the neck, twice in the chest and once in the leg before running away. AH told le Monde he was stationed outside the palace with 35 men who gave covering fire but then fled when it was became clear armed loyalists were firing back at the killers. Le Monde said some of the conspirators had crossed into the Congo Republic but others had remained in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The new Congolese President, Joseph Kabila, set up a commission of inquiry this week to look into the circumstances of his father's assassination. Congolese authorities have said Kabila was shot by one of his bodyguards who was himself shot before he could shed any light on the motive for the killing.
From The Independent (UK), 9 February
Rwanda and Belgium meet in bid to end fighting in the Congo
Rwandan President Paul Kagame opened talks with the Belgium government in Brussels today as part of renewed efforts to end fighting in the Congo where Rwandan troops are backing anti-government rebels. Kagame's visit comes less than a week after Congolese President Joseph Kabila made a similar visit to Belgium, the former colonial ruler of both Congo and Rwanda which is seeking to advance peace talks.
In a visit to UN headquarters in New York this week, Kagame said Rwanda was ready to withdraw its troops from Congo, if the UN or others step in to disarm and hunt down the former soldiers and Hutu militia members responsible for the 1994 genocide of some 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Kagame told the Security Council the inauguration of Joseph Kabila as president of Congo following the January 16 slaying of his father, Laurent Kabila, had created a new opportunity for the peace process to be revived.
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel took a lead in trying to revive peace when he became the only western minister to attend Laurent Kabila's funeral, then embarked on a tour of African nations involved in the conflict. Kagame was holding a series of meetings with Michel and will also meet Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and King Albert II. Congo's war began in August 1998 when Uganda and Rwanda turned against Laurent Kabila after supporting his successful bid to overturn the 36-year rule of Mobutu Sese Seko. Kabila kept Ugandan and Rwandan-backed rebels at bay with the help of new allies Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia. All sides signed a peace agreement in 1999 in Lusaka, Zambia, but it has not been implemented.
From The Nation, (Kenya), 8 February
Museveni To Order Congo Pullout Soon
Kampala - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has hinted at withdrawing his troops from the Congo because "the objectives for the deployment have been met." President Museveni's remarks came a day after he held talks in Kampala, with South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma. Addressing an audience of soldiers and diplomats during celebrations to mark army day, President Museveni said supply lines and bases where Ugandan rebels trained their forces in the Congo had been overrun by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces while the Sudan-backed Lords Resistance Army had been neutralised.
"With those achievements, our objectives in the Congo have been met. We can even declared a unilateral ceasefire and hope to leave the Congolese people to sort out the remaining problems," said President Museveni who also lashed out at the international community for exerting pressure on his regime. "We have solved our security problem and I am now in a position to tell those who malign us to go to hell. Some of our regional aims for going to Congo have been met and we are ready to lend a hand in solving the remaining problems but our partners abroad should stop maligning us," said President Museveni who warned that he would withdraw his troops without notice within 24 hours, if abuse directed at him did not stop. "They want us to leave Congo yet they do not want to go there themselves. We are tired of lack of seriousness in the world. All these problems are simple if we had serious people but instead of solving them, they are busy walking up and down in meetings. Even before you go to the meeting, they have already prepared a communique," President Museveni said.
Meanwhile, former South African president Nelson Mandela will meet DRC President Joseph Kabila next week, his office said today. Mr. Mandela will travel to Kinshasa on Tuesday for talks with President Kabila ahead of the next round of Burundi peace talks in the Tanzanian town of Arusha on February 26 and 27, his office said in a statement. It said the first day of the Arusha meeting would be attended by several heads of state of countries in the Great Lakes region, including President Kabila. "Mr. Mandela invited President Kabila to join other heads of state at the meeting in Arusha on the 26th upon which the president accepted the invitation.
In Kinshasa, Mandela will "brief President Kabila on the achievements in the peace process up to now," the statement said. Mr. Mandela's spokeswoman Zelda la Grange said he was not planning to become involved in the peace process in the DRC but wanted to speak to President Kabila because "obviously the DRC situation has got an influence on Burundi." Burundi, which has troops in the east of the DRC to combat Burundian rebels, also backs rebels fighting the Kinshasa government along with Rwanda and Uganda. "It is not Madiba's (Mandela's) intention at all to involve himself in the DRC as such. He's rather looking for the inclusion of President Kabila to help solve Burundi's problems," she told AFP.
According to the statement, the upcoming Arusha meeting will focus on two "outstanding issues" in a peace agreement that was signed on August 28 - a ceasefire and the question of who will lead a transitional government in Burundi. President Pierre Buyoya wants to be transitional head of state but parties that signed the peace deal would not accept him for the post. The deputy president said that South African former president Nelson Mandela, the Burundi peace facilitator, would call a summit soon of all belligerents in that central African country.
From The Star (SA), 9 February
DRC peace summit to take place next week
Lusaka - Zambian President Frederick Chiluba will host a regional summit next week focused on peace negotiations for the DRC, diplomatic and security sources said on Thursday. They said Tuesday's summit in the Zambian capital will make an attempt to kick-start the stillborn 1999 Lusaka peace agreement with most of the region's leaders in attendance. "We expect a majority of the presidents, with the possible exception of Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, to attend," one Western ambassador said.
Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia have poured equipment and men into the DRC to fight a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda. New DRC President Joseph Kabila has made a return to negotiating for peace a major priority for his government after he succeeded his father Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated last month. The Lusaka summit will be preceded by a meeting of ministers and military officials representing countries and rebel factions involved in the 30-month war.
Chiluba is the internationally-appointed chief mediator for the Congo. However, in recent months friction has developed between Zambia and South Africa on whether the Zambian leader should continue in that role given his heavy domestic agenda. Zambia will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in the last quarter of this year and Chiluba is encouraging a campaign to extend his rule beyond the two five-year terms the constitution allows, African diplomats say. The Lusaka peace deal has been persistently violated by both sides in the conflict.
Coming to Zimbabwe in September 1998 showed a remarkable lack of judgement. I envisaged a fairly quiet life in a well-organised, reasonably prosperous country.
Everyone kept reminding me that this was "Africa for Beginners", not like the majority of other war-torn, corrupt or impoverished states which litter sub-Saharan Africa.
Zimbabwe's descent began just before my arrival, with President Mugabe's decision to send more than 10,000 troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in support of the late president Laurent Kabila.
It is a war which has helped to destroy the economy here and fatally undermine support for Mr Mugabe.
The government's panicked response in the run-up
to last year's elections was to attempt to divert attention by playing up the
already highly contentious land issue, while simultaneously unleashing a
campaign of violence against the increasingly popular opposition.
Playing with fire
Last April I attended a ruling party rally at which President Mugabe, dressed
army-style in olive green, warned the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, that
he was playing with fire.
"Let him not start the fire which may engulf him!" said Mr Mugabe, to cheers
of approval. A week later, the police stood and watched as government supporters
blocked the path of Mr Tsvangirai's campaign manager, Tichaona Chiminya.
The crowd beat Mr Chiminya unconscious before pouring petrol over him and
setting him alight. He was one of the more than 30 people killed during the
election campaign, nearly all of them from the opposition.
It is, of course, Mr Mugabe and his government which started the fire and are
still busily fanning the flames. In a desperate attempt to stay in power,
apparently unable to imagine a Zimbabwe without it in charge, the ruling party
haz resorted to intimidation on a national scale.
War Veterans' campaign
The War Veterans Association has, it seems, been given a free hand to do
whatever is necessary to keep the opposition at bay.
Playing with fire
Last April I attended a ruling party rally at which President Mugabe, dressed army-style in olive green, warned the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, that he was playing with fire.
"Let him not start the fire which may engulf him!" said Mr Mugabe, to cheers of approval. A week later, the police stood and watched as government supporters blocked the path of Mr Tsvangirai's campaign manager, Tichaona Chiminya.
The crowd beat Mr Chiminya unconscious before pouring petrol over him and setting him alight. He was one of the more than 30 people killed during the election campaign, nearly all of them from the opposition.
It is, of course, Mr Mugabe and his government which started the fire and are still busily fanning the flames. In a desperate attempt to stay in power, apparently unable to imagine a Zimbabwe without it in charge, the ruling party haz resorted to intimidation on a national scale.
War Veterans' campaign
The War Veterans Association has, it seems, been given a free hand to do whatever is necessary to keep the opposition at bay.
Civil servants and teachers are viewed with particular suspicion, mainly because they are well-educated. The police response is usually to do nothing - this, they explain, is political. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.
My most vivid image of my time here is of the war veteran leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, leaning from the passenger window of a truck, wild-eyed and screaming.
He was trying to persuade the driver of my car to pull over. This was in the middle of a by-election campaign which, even by Zimbabwe's standards, was remarkably violent.
Opposition members of parliament said Mr Hunzvi had personally thrown a petrol bomb at them as they attempted to campaign.
Given that, we declined his invitation to stop, and instead performed a hasty U-turn, neatly avoiding another truckload of jeering government supporters in the process. It was all a little too close for comfort.
Fear and secrecyAlmost as uncomfortable was a telephone interview with the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, two days after the bombing of the printing presses of the Daily News newspaper.
I asked if the government intended to abide by the latest Supreme Court judgement - as usual, the court had ruled against President Mugabe.
The minister tends simply to hang up when he hears my name, but this time he launched into a tirade against the BBC in general and me in particular. His final shouted words were, "You should be more careful!"
The consequences of President Mugabe's decision to abandon the rule of law are obvious - car-jackings and other armed robberies are now routine.
Far more serious, though, is the collapse of the economy, which contracted by four per cent last year, and will continue to shrink.
It's no longer a question of whether Zimbabwe will suffer food shortages this year, but how severe they will be - and this in a country which traditionally exports food.
The government's cynical attempts to undermine race relations are equally depressing.
Yes, the fire is well and truly raging, and could well engulf Mr Mugabe along with everybody else.