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

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The Times
As Mugabe's net closed in, I was forced to flee the country I love

With sadness in his heart, a journalist reflects on the increasing intimidation that finally drove him out of Zimbabwe
AT 11.30AM on Wednesday I completed my flight from Zimbabwe. After 30 years in Harare, and a final, frantic overnight drive to the border, I had left the sad, wrecked country that I love, and I don’t know if I will return.

For years President Mugabe’s regime had been making it increasingly difficult to work in Zimbabwe as a journalist, and of the foreign press corps I was one of the last survivors. But this week it become obvious that with an election looming, and Mr Mugabe wishing to steal it with a minimum of prying by the outside world, my time was up as well.

The intimidation had begun at 2.30am on Monday with loud banging on the locked gate to my home. Two men tried to force it open. I kept my light off and waited until the car finally drove off.

Later that morning two young plainclothes policemen appeared at the run-down office I shared with Angus Shaw, of the Associated Press, and Brian Latham, of Bloomberg — what we called “the Old Gentleman’s News Co-operative” in No 20 Birdcage Walk.

They said that they were investigating a tip-off that there were spies inside. Beatrice Mtetwa, my indomitable lawyer, laughed when she heard this, and told the young policeman: “My friend, if you are looking for spies, you should go to Zanu (PF) headquarters.” He guffawed, gave her a high-five and left.

An hour later, three more detectives arrived in a large white Toyota with no numberplates. They were not friendly. They refused to identify themselves and tried to chase Beatrice away. They said that we were working illegally as journalists — an offence that carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

We had applied for accreditation, but the state Media Commission had sat on our applications for the past three years.

On Tuesday the authorities stepped up the pressure. A gang of ten policemen arrived for an intensive search while none of us was there. A young computer hacker was digging into Angus’s hard drive when Beatrice arrived. She asked whether they had a warrant, and was told to go to hell.

When the telephone rang the hacker answered: “This is the new receptionist.” Later, believing that she had found details of foreign currency transfers ordered by Angus, she shouted: “Now we’ve got him!”

For three days they poked around our office and tried out four possible offences. It was obvious that they were looking for anything they could stick on us. On the third visit, they were led by the head of the CID’s “Law and Order” section, suggesting that the orders to raid us must have come from the very top.

The consecutive raids had made me begin to turn over the vague emergency plans we had all discussed as the repression increased over the past five years.

Then a colleague who talks to tame operatives in the Central Intelligence Organisation, Mr Mugabe’s secret police, asked me to meet her urgently. In my car, she said she had been told that they were “gunning for you”.

She went on: “This time they are going to be rough. You must get out now.” She was crying.

Shortly after Beatrice telephoned to say she had information that they wanted to lock all three of us up.

The warnings induced the sensation of having a large, cold knife pushed down the middle of my stomach that I get when seriously afraid.

Since Monday I had not slept at home, and was talking in code over the telephone. I was alarmed by the sight of strange cars passing slowly outside. At times like these, making a distinction between paranoia and reality is hard. I made up my mind. I had to leave.

Officials at the South African Embassy promptly processed a visa for my Zimbabwean passport. I parked my car at a friend’s home, and borrowed his to slip home.

In 15 minutes I had packed clothing for a week, toiletries, personal documents, my laptop, shortwave radio, binoculars, camera, penknife — most of which would be pounced on by zealous policemen as a standard espionage outfit — and Z$1.5 million. A few years ago that would have bought several houses. Now it is worth about £130.

I revealed my plans only to my closest friends, and then only face-to-face, and set off through the night for the 342-mile (550km) drive to the border, exhausted and in a state of acute anxiety.

At the Plumtree border post into Botswana, I held my breath as the Zimbabwean immigration officer rifled through the pages of my passport, stamped it forcefully and smiled back at my frozen grin.

He sent me to a door marked CID to present my police vehicle-clearance certificate. The officer asked where my name came from, and I said that my Dutch ancestors had settled at the Cape 300 years ago. “You are an African,” he said pleasantly.

Mr Mugabe had for the past five years been telling me and all other whites to “go back to Britain”.

I drove slowly away towards Botswana, and at the first opportunity telephoned my girlfriend, Sarah, in Cape Town. She burst into tears of relief, but my own relief was tempered by immense sadness at what had become of my country.

When Mr Mugabe was first elected in 1980, he was unlike any African leader. He spoke with a plummy accent and won my heart with his policy of reconciliation between whites and blacks, and between the two sides of the seven- year guerrilla war against the minority rule of Ian Smith’s colonial regime.

But gradually, as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the new regime grew more repressive and authoritarian than the one it replaced. In 2000, Mr Mugabe was challenged for the first time, and very nearly beaten. Since then his Government has become blatantly tyrannical, determined to stamp out any opposition, and a byword for misrule.

Most white farms have been seized in the name of land redistribution, and left to rot. Millions of black Zimbabweans now live in hunger and abject poverty, with the country’s dwindling food supplies used as a political tool to reward supporters.

Unbridled inflation has left the currency worthless. The independent media has been silenced. Those who can have abandoned the country in droves.

There has been no joy in recording Zimbabwe’s steady descent into a subsistence economy.

Changing view of a state in crisis

How Jan Raath cronicled the rise of a tyrannical regime:

The economy remains the most sophisticated in black Africa, and the Government, headed by President Mugabe, represents a leading political and military force in one of the world’s most complex regions, holding the key to a wide range of vital issues . . . the predictions that “the wheels will fall off” five years after independence have been more than disproved
Friday, September 2, 1988

The party political side of Mr Mugabe is the enigma in his character, and in direct contradiction to the erudite, articulate diplomat, negotiator and efficient technocrat who has adhered meticulously to the restraints imposed by the Lancaster House Constitution, retained the vigour of black Africa's most sophisticated economy, and acceded readily to appeals from the genuinely aggrieved if they are unrelated to party politics.
Thursday, March 29, 1990

The bullet-proof black Mercedes-Benz comes to a halt and from behind the limousine’s black curtains emerges President Mugabe, acknowledging the adulation . . . A plainclothes policeman notices me counting the number of vehicles in the motorcade, and demands to know why. ”So you want to report negatively on Zimbabwe,” he says. The contents of my wallet are minutely scrutinised, and the group of men in sunglasses swelling around me writes down details of my press card and my blood donor's card. An hour later they let me go.
Monday, March 11, 1996

Coins have become a nuisance. The only useful unit of currency is the Z$500 note, which is called the Ferrari because it is red and goes fast. Ask after the health of any Zimbabwean below the rank of executive and invariably the reply will be: “Hungry.”
Thursday, September 5, 2002

My maid, Nyarai, failed to turn up for work yesterday. There was no public transport and private minibuses have doubled their charges since a 283 per cent increase in petrol prices a month ago. She was unable to call because the telephone boxes no longer work . . . Zimbabwe is a country rich in resources and with great potential . . . but it has now reached the point of collapse.
Friday, May 16, 2003

“Anybody who can get a job overseas has left,” said John Mufakare, the director of the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe. “The spark that distinguished Zimbabwe from the rest of Africa has gone.”
Monday, August 16, 2004

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Intelligence Services Searching for Journalist Thought to Have Videotape
With "Sensitive" Footage; AP Stringers Threatened With Arrest On Spying

Reporters sans Frontières (Paris)

February 18, 2005
Posted to the web February 18, 2005

RSF has protested the manhunt for Cornelius Nduna, a Zimbabwean reporter for
foreign news media outlets, and the 14 February 2005 police raid on the
Associated Press (AP) office in Harare, in which Jan Raath, Tsvangirai
Mkwazhi and Angus Shaw - all stringers for the AP and other foreign media -
were threatened with arrest on spying charges.

"The government has once again shown that it likes to treat journalists as
enemies of the state, this time just six weeks before parliamentary
elections," the organisation said. "This paranoid behaviour in which the
foreign press is routinely accused of spying for western countries is
disgraceful and unacceptable at a time when Zimbabwe should be conforming
with the Southern Africa Development Community's (SADC) democratic

The manhunt for Nduna, who is a stringer for several foreign newspapers and
international news agencies, was launched a week ago by the Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Zimbabwe's secret police. Upon failing to
find him at his office, the CIO suspects he may have left the country with
two "very sensitive" videotapes that could be dangerous for the government
if they were to fall into "enemy" hands, Nduna's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa,
told RSF.

Nduna reportedly obtained the videotapes from the state-owned Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) with the help of an employee of the public
holding company Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holding (ZBH). Mtetwa said they
contained "sensitive" footage from "youth training camps", where militia
groups responsible for the attacks and killings of members of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) during the past three years are
reportedly trained. In the past, the militia have also been responsible for
burning various publications, including "The Independent", "The Daily News",
"The Financial Gazette" and "The Standard", and for preventing their
distribution in rural areas.

Meanwhile, during the 14 February raid on the AP offices in Harare, police
interrogated the journalists present for two hours. They accused them of
"spying" and of being "hostile" toward President Robert Mugabe's government.
The police then attempted to seize satellite communication equipment, which
they said could interfere with state security transmissions. However, the
arrival of Mtetwa, the journalist's lawyer, served to calm the tense

The police nonetheless insisted on checking the press accreditation status
of Raath and Mkwazhi, who have applied for but not yet received their
accreditation from the government-controlled Media and Information
Commission (MIC). Under the repressive Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Act (AIPPA) journalists may be sentenced to up to two years in
prison for working without MIC accreditation, but may continue to work if
they can provide proof that their application is in process.

Before leaving, the police promised to return to deal with "the spies", but
when they went back on 15 and 16 February, there was no one present at the
AP bureau. Mtetwa said her clients are now in a safe place.


For further information, contact Léonard Vincent at RSF, 5, rue Geoffroy
Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51,
e-mail:, Internet:
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Zimbabwe journalists flee threats

Andrew Meldrum in Cape Town
Saturday February 19, 2005
The Guardian

Three prominent Zimbabwean journalists who wrote for the international press
have left the country after several days of police questioning and threats
of prosecution.
Angus Shaw, correspondent for Associated Press, Jan Raath, of the Times, and
Brian Latham, who wrote news reports for the Bloomberg agency, were
interrogated, had their offices searched and were told they would be charged
with various offences that carry jail terms.

Their lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, described the police action as harassment,
adding: "It is clear the police were just searching for something to charge
them with." Now that they have left for South Africa, only one correspondent
for a British newspaper remains in Zimbabwe: Peta Thornycroft, who writes
for the Daily Telegraph.

The news agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse still maintain offices in
the country.

President Robert Mugabe's government has expelled all other foreign
journalists and closed three newspapers. More than 70 Zimbabwean journalists
have been arrested and charged with crimes.

The action against the journalists comes only six weeks before the March 31
parliamentary poll.

The government has faced growing accusations that the election cannot be
credible because of its repression of the media and the main opposition
party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Security laws prohibit public meetings of more than three people without
police approval.

This week, police broke up a meeting of the MDC's 120 parliamentary
candidates and arrested the party's elections director.

The government has also been criticised by legal experts for instructing the
army to administer the elections.
Civic organisations say that of the 5.6 million registered voters, more than
two million are suspect - citing high numbers of deceased and multiple
listings on the electoral roll.

South African government officials said this week that they thought free and
fair elections in Zimbabwe were still possible.

However, a leading South African lawyer, George Bizos, and other election
experts said they believed that the current conditions there made genuinely
democratic polling impossible.

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MDC to launch election campaign

February 19, 2005, 06:30

Zimbabwe's main opposition party will launch its election campaign this
weekend. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) yesterday registered its
candidates for the March 31 poll.

President Robert Mugabe has told supporters of his Zanu-PF party he wants to
score an overwhelming two-thirds majority and deal a major blow to the MDC
which currently holds 52 of the 120 contested seats in parliament. The MDC
campaign launch is to take place in Masvingo.

The MDC says they are confident of victory as people are disenchanted with
Mugabe's nearly 25-year rule. - Sapa

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Bush should use Zimbabwe as lab for his global policy

Published: Sat, Feb 19, 2005

One of the six countries Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently
labeled as "outposts of tyranny" will be having a democratic election next
month and the world will be watching to see if the Bush's administrations
actions will match its words.

After all, Rice took her criticism of Zimbabwe, Cuba, North Korea, Burma,
Iran and Belarus a step further by saying, "We cannot rest until every
person living in a 'fear society' has fully won their freedom."

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, whose iron-fisted rule has brought the
once rich African nation to its economic knees, wasted little time in
thumbing his nose at the new secretary of state, saying, "The white man is
the slave master to her."

If the Bush administration is to have any credibility with its foreign
policy goal of spreading freedom through democracy around the world, it must
become actively engaged in Zimbabwe's election.

The president should lend the United States' support to South Africa, which
is attempting to ensure fair elections by sending a top-level mission to the
country for a pre-election assessment.

Mugabe, who set March 31 as the date for key parliamentary elections, and
his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party have been in power
since the country's independence in 1980. While the president and his
henchmen have consolidated power, largely by clamping down on opposition
parties and crushing dissent, the country has suffered. His policy of
nationalizing white-owned farms and handing them over to inexperienced black
operators has resulted in the destruction of a key component of the
country's economy.

Africanization initiatives

That policy and other so-called Africanization initiatives have triggered an
exodus of educated, experienced workers. And yet, Mugabe has been able to
not only remain in power, but to tighten his grip on the nation's treasury.

Political and human rights are non-existent, and the once wealthy nation has
been reduced to a state of ruin, desolation and isolation.

Against this backdrop, next month's parliamentary elections will be a joke
shared by the Bush administration's "outposts of tyranny" unless the world
community steps in and ensures that the opposition parties are free to
campaign and that the restrictions Mugabe and his thugs placed on voters in
the past are lifted.

The Southern African Development Community had wanted to send in a team to
assess whether the electoral guidelines it had developed were in place in
Zimbabwe, but this week Mugabe told the SADC the team would only be
permitted to be a part of the regional bloc's poll observer team.

In other words, in the weeks leading up to the election there will be
nothing to stop the president and his ruling party from so intimidating the
voters that only his supporters show up at the polls.

As the historic election in Iraq demonstrated, turnout depends on how safe
people feel on election day. The assurances given by the Bush administration
that the insurgents would not disrupt the voting, and the actions taken by
American troops to secure the polling places, contributed to the success of
Iraq's election.

The people of Zimbabwe, whose lives have been destroyed by a megalomaniac,
deserve no less.

If nothing else, Mugabe's reaching out to the rulers of Iran should be a red
flag for the Bush administration.

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