The Foreign Office summoned the Zimbabwean High Commissioner in London, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, to express its concerns about the expulsion of Joseph Winter.
On Saturday, Mr Winter was threatened by a gang and given 24 hours to leave the country, as part of a media crackdown ahead of presidential elections expected by next year.
Foreign Office minister Brian Wilson warned that Britain, along with the rest of the international community, was "extremely concerned" about the treatment meted out to journalists, particularly the BBC correspondent.
Another foreign journalist, Mercedes Sayagues, who reported for a South Africa-based weekly newspaper has also been expelled.
Mr Wilson said on Monday: "I reminded the High Commissioner that scenes like this do Zimbabwe no favours in the eyes of the world.
"A free press is essential in any democracy and the government of Zimbabwe cannot prevent the world from seeing what is happening there."
He said he had sought assurances that there would be no further removals from Zimbabwe.
The minister also used the meeting to voice concerns over government harassment of the judiciary and a bomb attack on the country's leading independent paper the Daily News.
President Robert Mugabe, who faces a re-election campaign by next year, is said to have been intensifying the pressure on dissent.
His government accused Mr Winter, who has worked for the corporation's African Service for four years, of having his work permit extended fraudulently - a charged the BBC journalist had denied.
A BBC spokesman later said Mr Winter's work permit was renewed three weeks ago, and is valid until February 2002.
Mr Winter obtained a court order allowing him to stay until Friday, but decided to leave at once after a group of men called at his home in the middle of the night.
"We were terrified, and we thought they were going to kill us," said Mr Winter, whose wife and small daughter were in the flat at the time of the incident.
On Sunday, a lawyer representing Mr Winter obtained a ruling from a court in Harare delaying the expulsion order for five days and preventing the journalist from further harassment.But government officials, including the Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo and Chief Immigration Officer Elasto Mugwadi, said they would not abide by the order.
"Court orders and what judges say in Zimbabwe these days count for increasingly little," said Mr Winter from Johannesburg.
"But with people breaking in to my house and apparently armed people looking for me, I thought it was just best to leave the country."
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, told the BBC that the government was intent on doing everything possible to ensure President Mugabe emerged victorious in elections.
"They are preparing ground for an early presidential election and therefore they are creating conditions of isolation of the international community to know what's happening here," he said.
There has been a history of bitter exchanges between the British and Zimbabwean governments.
In his latest remarks, Mr Mugabe said the image of rampant violence and instability in Zimbabwe which was "peddled" in Britain was completely false.
Monday, 19 February, 2001, 15:10 GMT
I felt an enormous sense of relief flowing through my body as the doors closed on the plane taking my family and I to South Africa.
We were now safely out of the reach of the state security agents who had been trying to get hold of us since the early hours of Sunday morning.
The last I heard was that six or seven men, both police officers and others from the secret service, some armed with machine guns, were waiting for us inside our house.
It was obvious that there was very little to gain by trying to stay in Zimbabwe and a great deal to lose.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told our lawyers that he would not be bound by a court order which gave us until next Friday to wind up our affairs in a country where we had spent the last four years.
The so-called 'security' officers had a similarly low esteem for what the judges and the government's own lawyers had decided.
It remains to be seen whether all foreign journalists based in Zimbabwe will go through a similar ordeal, or whether this was only aimed at myself and Mercedes Sayagues, of the South African Mail and Guardian.
But it does come after the bombing of a local newspaper, the intimidation of judges and the indictment of senior figures in the opposition.
What is certain is that the period leading up to presidential elections next year, will not be an easy one for the many Zimbabweans not seen as 'politically correct' in the eyes of the government.
|middle east and
Since long before independence, the media in Zimbabwe have operated under severe restrictions. A number of laws, put in place by the colonial regime, were maintained after 1980, and used for the same purpose; to tightly control information, and the analysis and comment produced in the media, especially in the publicly owned ZBC, the national news agency, ZIANA, and the largest newspaper chain, Zimpapers.
And perhaps, one of the most damning achievements of the colonial government was the creation of an information department whose major preoccupation was to coordinate its propaganda. This department has been maintained as an instrument of state control over the media in postcolonial Zimbabwe and is now operating under the direct control of the office of the President. The effects are there for all to see. The developments in the media environment point to journalism in crisis.
The new broadcasting regulations (Presidential Powers (Temporary) Measures: Broadcasting Regulations (Statutory Instrument 255A of 2000) were introduced by Presidential decree in October last year. These were introduced soon after ZBC’s monopoly over television and radio broadcasting was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But the new regulations, whose lifespan has been extended up to June, impose impossible operating burdens on aspiring broadcasters and actively discourage the opening up of the broadcast media, at community and national level. They place effective control of new broadcasters in the hands of the Minister, who can change the terms of the broadcasting licences and withdraw them at will. Meanwhile, government’s control over the ZBC remains intact. Key elements in the democratization of the broadcast media in South Africa and elsewhere- including the establishment of truly independent, transparent and representative Broadcasting Authorities- are missing from Zimbabwe’s new laws.
Uncertainty continues at the Mass Media Trust, the body set up by the government in 1981 to take control of Zimpapers and ZIANA, and to protect these media from government political interference. While the Trust failed in its duty, in recent months there have been reports that the body has been dissolved altogether. Yet there has been silence from the main body under its authority, Zimpapers, as to who is now in control of this important national asset.
According to the Minister of State for Information and Publicity, a Freedom of Information Bill is being drafted by the government for presentation to parliament early this year. The Minister has indicated that the Bill will include provisions for the licensing of all journalists and the establishment of a government appointed press complaints council, with powers to punish offending media journalists. If this is the case, it will represent a further, very serious incursion on freedom of expression and access to information.
Already some journalists working for foreign media organizations have been expelled from the country pending the finalization of a new system for accrediting journalists by the information ministry. No deadline for finalizing the new accreditation system has been set.Recent attacks on privately owned media and journalists give cause for alarm. The bombing of the Daily News printing presses on 28 January 2001 was only the latest and most brutal in a series of events which point to a systematic assault on journalists, and targeted media institutions. In the past two years alone, journalists have been held illegally, tortured, beaten, threatened and otherwise harassed and intimidated, preventing them from carrying out their professional duties. Government has failed to guarantee media workers’ right to security and in some cases; the state itself has been accused of perpetrating these crimes. Leading non-government media have been vilified and threatened by senior government officials. An atmosphere of anxiety has been created.
Recent remarks by senior government officials indicate that any form of foreign investment in the media will be prohibited. These statements seem to be intensifying after concerned individuals began raising contributions towards the recently bombed Daily News printing press.
All these restrictions have denied Zimbabweans their basic rights to freedom of expression and communication, two pillars of real democracy which are enshrined in our constitution. Without adequate information and the right to share and debate in the media and other public fora, the people’s participation in democracy itself is necessarily limited. Without all national voices represented dutifully in the national media, the nation never has the opportunity to engage in an authentic discussion, leading to informed national decision making.
Independent media analyses by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe confirmthat the reporting of key national events by the public media has become dangerously distorted. The non-partisan news content that Zimbabweans have a right to expect from their nationally owned media has all but disappeared. These media have become propaganda tools of the state.
Reforms leading to a more democratic media - and a more democratic Zimbabwe - should not be the preserve of government. The right to information and to the basic freedoms of expression and communication are the concern of all Zimbabweans; therefore, all should have a role in protecting them.
To this end, civic organizations should aim to involve a wide range of Zimbabweans in debate about what they expect from their media, and how they would like to see the media structured to enable this to happen. A broad public advocacy campaign should be supported by all, and should aim to educate and inform policy makers and parliamentarians directly on the interests of civil society, concerning the operation and aims of the media.
Public discussion is especially needed in the case of the publicly owned media, notably the ZBC and Mass Media Trust. These are national assets, belonging to all Zimbabweans. Like other public institutions, therefore, they have to be reformed to reflect the views and interests of all their stakeholders in the nation at large. To date, the management, objectives and content of the ZBC have been jealously guarded by government. This must end. Any meaningful reform of our public media must include a wide-ranging discussion on why and how they must be made to meet the needs of all the owners and their audience.
Particular attention needs to be given to broadcasting and freedom of expression regulations, both of which are now in the process of drafting and implementation. Attempts to impose further restrictions on broadcast media and journalists, in the wake of recent assaults by the State, requires a concertedpublic response.
Meanwhile, debate on the future of the Department of Information is urgently required. It’s role and functions in a democratic Zimbabwe need to be re-examined within the context of the Zimbabwean’s constitutional right to freedom of expression, information and communication. Ends
From CNN, 18 February
Zimbabwe court extends stay for banned journalists
Harare - The Zimbabwe High Court on Sunday ordered President Robert Mugabe's government to extend the stay of two foreign journalists it is expelling from the country and not to harass them before they go, one of the journalists said. BBC correspondent Joseph Winter, who had been given until Tuesday to leave the country, told Reuters that Justice Ishmael Chatikobo had issued a court order saying he could stay until Friday. He said the order also applied to Mercedes Sayagues, correspondent for the South African Mail & Guardian newspaper, after she was told on Saturday she had 24 hours to leave. The order, applied for by the two journalists, was issued with the consent of the government's lawyers. "The order says we are allowed to remain in the country up to Friday...and the state or its agents are restrained from harassing or in any way interfering with my person or property until I depart from Zimbabwe," Winter told Reuters. "The same applies to Mercedes," he added.
A gang of men tried to break into Winter's flat early on Sunday, forcing him and his young family to take refuge in the British High Commission (embassy). Winter said the men climbed a wall around his garden and began banging on doors and shouting for him to open up as a car waited outside with its engine running. Winter phoned his lawyer, British officials and journalists in Harare. A Reuters reporter and other journalists arrived at the scene and saw a half-dozen men in civilian clothes flee from Winter's garden, climb into a Mazda car and drive away. "We were terrified, and we thought they were going to kill us. We don't know who these people were," said Winter, who was with his wife and small daughter in the flat at the time of the incident. The family were whisked away in a car by an official from the British High Commission soon afterwards.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told state television on Saturday that Winter had been ordered out because his work permit was invalid, and that Sayagues' permit had expired. Winter, who has worked in Zimbabwe for four years, called that charge "absolute rubbish." The government has stepped up a campaign against dissent in recent weeks as the country sinks deeper into economic crisis. Political analysts say Mugabe has targeted the media, the judiciary and the opposition in a crackdown ahead of the 2002 presidential elections.
Earlier this year, Moyo's new Department of Information in the President's Office said it would cancel press cards issued to journalists and would announce new requirements. It said the government would favour Zimbabwean journalists over foreigners in accrediting correspondents working for the foreign media. Media organisations have condemned the move to expel the journalists, saying it heralds further repression in the troubled southern African country. In other signs of a clampdown, three leaders of the opposition MDC have recently been charged with incitement. The country's courts are also being purged as the government tries to hand-pick judges who will support its confiscation of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.From The Zimbabwe Standard, 18 February
Ware vets to raid judges' homes - "Just a publicity stunt by idiots, says Moyo
War veterans have threatened to raid the homes of Zimbabwe's judges to force them out of office, following government's failed bid to secure their resignations. But the government itself has dismissed the threat as a "publicity stunt by idiots".
Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association Harare province deputy chairman, Mike Moyo, told The Standard on Friday that members of his association would soon be descending on the homes of "hostile" judges. "We are going to deal with them. We are now moving to our next strategy and we will occupy their properties. We will only vacate their properties after they have boarded planes back to Britain. All white judges will have their homes occupied. Those black judges who sympathise with whites also need to watch out. Vana Makarau takavapromota kuti vaite maJudge asi hatisikufara nematongere ake. Handizvo zvatakamuisira ipapo. (We didn't promote people like Makarau to be judges so that they can pass judgments that are against us)," he said.
Newly-appointed High Court judge, Rita Makarau, recently ordered Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri to evict war veterans and Zanu PF supporters from commercial farms they had forcibly occupied in Hwedza since February last year. Contacted for comment, Professor Jonathan Moyo, the minister of state information and publicity, said the threat was just a cheap shot, adding that no one would be allowed to compromise the security of any citizen. "That is nonsense. What you are describing to me is a crime about to be committed and should be reported to the police. The people who are saying that should have limits. I don't even understand why you are bringing the issue to me. Am I the one to comment on criminal issues? Go to the police. The fact that you are calling the minister of information on a security issue shows that it is just a publicity stunt. A crime is reported to the police, period. Only idiots will go to newspapers and tell them that this is about to happen. Only a malicious person can do that," said Professor Moyo.
But war veterans have already compiled a list of "hostile" judges whom they want to force out by compromising their security. While Zanu PF has made it no secret that it wants all Supreme Court judges out, four High Court judges - George Smith, Michael Gillespie, Fergus Blackie and James Devitte - are also on the list of those to have their properties invaded. A number of black judges have been included on the list, although The Standard failed to confirm their identities. Despite Moyo's assertions, Mike Moyo said war veterans were in the process of mobilising to undertake this "special assignment" which would see them camp outside the judges' residences until their efforts yielded the desired results. He said they were taking to confrontation because the judges had refused to go on their own.
Two weeks ago, Zanu PF MPs tried to force Justice McNally and Justice Ebrahim to quit the bench. This was after the party had passed a vote of no confidence in Supreme Court judges. Justice McNally however, refused to go before the end of his term, while Justice Ebrahim said he would consult his family before making a decision. Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay has already resigned from the bench following intense pressure from the government. He is currently on leave pending retirement in June, and Judge President Godfrey Chidyausiku is tipped to succeed Justice Gubbay.
From The Star (SA), 18 February
Zimbabwe tightens ban on dual citizenship
Harare - The Zimbabwean government said on Sunday it would tighten a law against dual citizenship in a move likely to hit thousands of whites of British descent. A government spokesman told state-run radio that an amendment to the Citizenship Act would be tabled in parliament this week to close loopholes being exploited by some people to retain dual citizenship. The move comes after the government said it would withdraw passports from critics who were undermining its image abroad and pushing for international sanctions against it.
The spokesman said the amendment was necessary after the Supreme Court ruled that a law prohibiting dual citizenship was impractical as it did not contain a provision requiring a person to present evidence of having renounced any other citizenship. "The effect of this (new bill) is to amend section 9 so that now a person who wishes to retain Zimbabwean citizenship will have to renounce his foreign citizenship," the spokesman said. The official Ziana news agency also said the government was cutting to five years from seven the time in which a citizen could stay out of the country "without lawful excuse" before losing Zimbabwean citizenship. It quoted a government spokesman as saying President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party - which faces an unprecedented challenge sparked by a severe economic crisis - had been forced to tighten the rules to sideline opponents hiding under dual citizenship.
"There are concerns that those with dual citizenship are behind efforts to discredit the government to use diplomatic and other means to topple the Zanu-PF. Lines of credit, aid and other forms of assistance have been systematically stopped over the last couple of years to pressure the government," added the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper. Government officials estimate that up to 20,000 whites with Zimbabwean passports also hold British passports or can claim British citizenship. Whites make up less than one percent of Zimbabwe's 12,5 million people, but are currently under pressure from the government, which accuses them of bankrolling the main opposition MDC.
Self-styled independence war veterans have invaded hundreds of white-owned farms in the past year in support of a programme to seize and reclaim land "stolen" from blacks when the country was colonised by the British in the 1890s. Political analysts say Mugabe and his supporters have embarked on a campaign to intimidate and muzzle the media and opposition ahead of next year's presidential elections. The government has ordered the expulsion of two foreign journalists, one of them a BBC correspondent, but a court on Sunday ruled they could remain in the country until Friday.
Comment from The Chicago Tribune, 19 February
US Shouldn't rush to protect Mugabe
By Henry J. Hyde. US Congressman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) is chairman of the House International Relations Committee
Diplomatic courtesies occasionally conflict with support for basic human freedoms abroad. The State Department must be careful that its desire to support the tradition of reciprocal diplomatic immunity does not lend aid and comfort to a brutal regime's political war on its own citizens. Nowhere is this more true than in the strife-torn African nation of Zimbabwe.
Consider the civil suit of Chiminya vs. Mugabe, filed in New York's US District Court last fall. The State Department, ever alert to protect the prerogatives of the international diplomatic elite, may next week file a letter with the court that would make the US appear shockingly callous to Zimbabweans fighting for political freedom under an increasingly despotic regime. Chiminya Tachiona is the widow of a Zimbabwean activist with the MDC opposition party. While campaigning for parliamentary elections held last June, he was beaten with metal bars, doused with gasoline and set on fire.
The lawsuit alleges that his attackers acted on instructions from President Robert Mugabe and other leaders of the ruling party. It also alleges that on June 3, 2000, Mugabe's defense minister threatened opposition crowds with the words, "We killed Chiminya. What happened to us? Nothing. . . . We have our machines that will see where you voted. After the elections, we will follow all MDC members and kill them." The widow and four other plaintiffs are suing for damages under the 1992 Torture Victim Protection Act, a law that allows foreigners to file civil suits in US courts for injuries suffered in violation of international law.
Although this is a civil matter, some in the State Department regard it as their duty to submit to the district court judge a "suggestion of immunity" that Mugabe may not be sued. In an earlier letter arguing against service of the complaint, State Department Legal Adviser James Thessin expounded on the "particular importance attached by the United States to ensuring the immunity of President Mugabe" and asserted that Mugabe has "complete personal inviolability" and is "immune from the jurisdiction of the US courts."
On the narrow customary international legal grounds of foreign sovereign immunity, Mugabe may have an argument. But the State Department should let him make it for himself. The 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act deliberately transferred these kinds of decisions from the State Department to the courts, and the judge is fully capable of deciding the matter on its merits. The involvement of the State Department is worse than unnecessary, for it will inadvertently reward a corrupt, ruthless regime with a propaganda victory over a struggling democratic opposition.
Last year the US provided $5 million in foreign assistance to Zimbabwe "to increase opportunities for citizens' participation in economic and political decision-making." It is justified because, according to the 2000 budget, our government recognizes that "single party domination and excessive executive control have limited competition in the party system, economy, and society." If the State Department truly wants to support democracy, the rule of law, and better governance in Zimbabwe, then it can best do so at this time by doing nothing: Put away the suggestion of immunity and sit this one out. The first law of diplomacy, as of other fields of endeavor, should be to do no harm.
Editorial from The Bangkok Post, 19 February
Time for Mugabe to make his exit
In every country around the world there are people who choose, or in some cases are forced by circumstances, to rise from everyday obscurity and lead their nation. The vast majority enjoy a modicum of success; a very few win the honour of having their names listed as national heroes in the history books for their exceptional contributions to their countrymen's welfare.
But for every shining success, there are stunning failures who, for whatever reason, bring disaster instead of glory to their nation. And some, like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, abuse their time on the political stage and take their country from a state of economic and social promise to the very brink of catastrophe. Faced with an election next year which he almost certainly will lose if the ballot is held fairly, Mr Mugabe, 77, has tried nearly every dirty trick known. The Zimbabwean president has written new chapters in the book on bankrupt politics, from arresting opposition leaders on trumped-up charges, to loosing his party thugs to harass and intimidate judges, to resorting to presidential decrees when his government's own laws stand in his way.
Last year, after the economy tumbled into the abyss, the avowed Marxist imposed state controls on the price of bread, forcing bakers to produce the staple at below cost. The bakeries, of course, stopped making bread. So then he demanded that flour millers lower their prices, but then wheat suppliers stopped delivering. When the people protested the lack of bread, he threatened them with tear gas and police truncheons. Faced with empty public coffers, he ordered private companies to surrender their foreign currency reserves so he could pay for petrol imports and the salaries of his foreign diplomats.
Under pressure from the opposition's legal challenge to the results of the June 2000 election, which international observers described as one of the worst they had ever seen, he decreed in December that courts could not nullify the polls "even if corrupt or illegal practices were committed". Last month, on the day after a protest march by thugs from Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party on Harare's Daily News newspaper that left a reporter beaten, a bomb rendered its printing presses damaged beyond repair. There was little doubt who was behind the attack, since the newspaper had been critical of the Mugabe administration and one of his own ministers called it a "threat to national security".
Recently, two supreme court justices resigned under pressure from the government and the nation's chief justice quit after he was told that his safety could not be guaranteed. When Harare on Saturday suddenly ordered Joseph Winter, a BBC correspondent who has worked in the country for four years, and nine-year Zimbabwe veteran Mercedes Sayagues, of South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper, to get out of Zimbabwe within 24 hours, Mr Mugabe's government showed that it was willing to extend its brazen harassment of local journalists to include the foreign press.
Mr Mugabe has responded to vociferous international condemnation by saying that all of his actions are somehow necessary to weed out the vestiges of decades of oppressive rule by British colonialists, and maintains his local support by promising impoverished black Zimbabweans much-needed land redistribution. Why, after 20 years in power, it has suddenly occurred to him to solve this urgent problem is a mystery. The answer, according to opposition leaders, is that Mr Mugabe is obsessed with staying in power. Should he manage to stay in office after next year's election, very little may be left of his country and, like all despots, his victory will be a Pyrrhic one, leaving a people impoverished, the economy in tatters, and a society beggared and on its knees.
Editorial The Daily Telegraph (UK), 19 February
Standing up to Mugabe
WHAT more does Robert Mugabe have to do to jolt the international community into action? His expulsion of foreign journalists, combined with his repression of the Zimbabwean press, is intended to clear away the last remaining obstacle in the path of totalitarianism. The Zanu-PF regime has already trampled over the judiciary, traduced property rights, flouted international law and brutalised the democratic opposition. Now, by silencing the media, Mr Mugabe is making clear that he will not tolerate criticism, let alone opposition.
Journalists must guard against a certain deformation professionelle when writing about other journalists. The travails of newspapermen are plainly less monstrous than the wanton murders which accompanied last year's land seizures. But Mr Mugabe's latest move is most worrying because of what it presages. It is not an accident that the expulsions should be ordered now. The president is plainly ready to resort to new levels of thuggery in order to remain in office at the next election and he does not want any witnesses around.
That is why it is so important that Britain, and above all South Africa, should act. When, last March, Mr Mugabe ordered the violation of Britain's diplomatic mail, he was not just engaging in anti-colonial posturing; he was also testing our will. On that occasion, the United Kingdom's reaction was limited to some disapproving words; within weeks, Mr Mugabe confidently extended his campaign against the white farmers. It is true that Britain's influence in Zimbabwe is limited; but it is not zero. We are the second largest contributor of international aid, and the only country to provide Zimbabwe with military support. And yet, with the honourable exception of Peter Hain, our Government has responded to every new outrage with milk-and-water protests. At the very least, Britain should by now have withdrawn its military mission and sought Commonwealth support for a policy of calibrated sanctions to be operated according to the behaviour of the Mugabe regime.
In practice, however, South Africa is the only foreign state with real power in Zimbabwe. It was South Africa's withdrawal of support from Ian Smith's regime that effectively brought an end to white rule. Zimbabwe depends on its southern neighbour, not only as a trading partner but also as a source of electricity and other vital supplies. And, of course, criticism from an African government that has gone through its own liberation struggle will worry Mr Mugabe far more than the disapproval of the former imperial power.
Until now, the government in Pretoria has tended to tiptoe around Mr Mugabe's excesses. Indeed, the ANC is pursuing exactly the same policy of "constructive engagement" that it condemned when Margaret Thatcher applied it to South Africa during the 1980s. But Mrs Thatcher was at least clear in her condemnation of apartheid: it is inconceivable that she would have offered political support to the Botha administration. How odd that sanctions that the ANC decried as insufficient then should now be considered excessive.
From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 19 February
Despots are notoriously sensitive to criticism
Johannesburg - To those who have covered African affairs for any length of time, the only surprise about President Mugabe's expulsion order against the BBC's Joseph Winter and Mercedes Sayagues, of South Africa's Mail and Guardian, is that it did not happen sooner. Old Africa hands covering the post-independence upheavals and the rise and fall of the continent's despots worked under the maxim: "If they don't throw you out, then they will find any old excuse to throw you in."
Most African leaders in what were known as "emerging" states moved inexorably and swiftly towards some form of autocracy. Despite their excesses, they tended to be thin-skinned when it came to criticism, particularly when it came from journalists from the former colonial power. In Idi Amin's Uganda, I and other correspondents were arrested at gunpoint, roughed up and thrown into his military prison for a week before being deported on the ludicrous charge that we were would-be assassins. In Hastings Banda's Malawi, the former north London general practitioner banned me "for life" from his country but later invited me to return to lecture me on the values of accurate reporting. In Julius Nyerere's Tanzania, I spent a very uncomfortable night in a cell before being put on the first aircraft out of Dar es Salaam. Even in Kenneth Kaunda's Zambia, we were hauled out of our beds in a midnight police raid and locked up for a few days, charged with being "saboteurs".
Mr Mugabe has effectively banned foreign coverage of his country before. In the Eighties, when he first manifested the symptoms of ruthless dictatorship by sending his army on a genocidal mission to Matabeleland, he decreed that foreign correspondents could cover Zimbabwean affairs only if they were based in Harare. White minority governments were often as keen to clamp down on the press. In the "illegal" Rhodesia of the Seventies, Ian Smith banned the entire BBC from entering the country. All foreign correspondents were closely watched, some were barred and Peter Niesewand, one of the best Rhodesian-born foreign correspondents of the era, was tried and jailed on spurious charges of treason. In apartheid South Africa, its newspapers operated under a welter of legal restrictions, often appearing with white spaces, making it as clear as they could to their readers how constricted they were in reporting what was actually happening. Foreign correspondents were subjected to rigorous checks. But there was never an attempt to throw out all correspondents, as Mr Mugabe now appears set on. In such situations, the foreign correspondents are usually the luckier of the journalistic fraternity. In Zimbabwe now, the more courageous of the locally born and bred editors and reporters face jail or torture.
Christopher Munnion was The Daily Telegraph's Africa correspondent from 1968 to 1990.
From The Sunday Telegraph (UK), 18 February
Mugabe cult celebrates as Zimbabwe nears collapse
Harare - Robert Mugabe this week initiates a day of unrestrained celebrations to mark his 77th birthday in the hopes that it will distract attention from Zimbabwe's deepening economic woes. The plan is for a carefully marshalled army of the President's youthful followers - called the 21st of February Movement - to descend on the deserted resort of Victoria Falls to celebrate Mr Mugabe's birthday. Aged between four and 14, they will all wear bright red scarves and chant undying loyalty to their "one authentic and consistent leader".
Modelled on the youth brigades who pledged obedience to Kim Il-sung, the late North Korean despot, the 21st of February Movement was formed in 1986 to commemorate Mr Mugabe's birthday. Each year, about 120 children vie for the coveted "Youth of the Year Award". This year's Victoria Falls celebrations, marking the culmination of several days of festivities for his birthday, will serve the purpose of diverting attention from Zimbabwe's spiralling economic crisis. Power cuts last week plunged Harare into darkness, petrol stations across the country have run dry, and bread prices have risen, adding to the hardship of the poorest households.
The signs of collapse are everywhere. Streets in Harare are blocked by cars queuing to fill up at the few forecourts with supplies. Most factories are working a three-day week, buses are stranded, the distribution of food is breaking down and the pavements are filled with beggars and destitute children. A desperate shortage of hard currency to buy imports has brought the economy to its knees. Noczim, the notoriously corrupt state oil company, has no cash to pay suppliers and is sinking under debts of £200 million. Unable to buy vital raw materials, industry is gradually shutting down. Showcase investment projects, such as the Mazda car assembly plant at Willowvale, have closed and at least 100,000 jobs were lost last year, bringing unemployment to 60 per cent.
The government has created the crisis by undermining agriculture, tourism and mining, the three pillars of Zimbabwe's economy. The invasion of white-owned farms by thousands of squatters, repeatedly encouraged by Mr Mugabe, cost tens of thousands of jobs. The wave of accompanying violence and a brutal election campaign that claimed 37 lives caused the number of tourist arrivals to fall by 70 per cent. Without the hard currency to buy crucial equipment, mines were forced to cut production and three closed altogether. By the end of last year, the budget deficit ran at 22 per cent of gross national product, inflation was 56 per cent and inward investment had plummeted by 89 per cent. Although Simba Makoni, the reforming finance minister, has made a genuine effort to address the crisis, a president who appears to have thrown common sense to the winds has continually sabotaged his efforts.
None of this, however, will feature when Mr Mugabe gives his annual birthday interview to state television. On Saturday he will fly to Victoria Falls to join the 21st of February Movement for the final celebration. Opponents have remarked on his choice of venue. Victoria Falls has seen its livelihood wiped out by a 70 per cent fall in the number of tourists following Mr Mugabe's incessant attacks on whites. The resort is in Matabeleland North province, where Zanu-PF does not hold any parliamentary seats and mustered barely 30 per cent of the vote in the last election.
Mr Mugabe will address an adoring audience on the importance of education and self reliance. After traditional dances, which The Herald, the pro-government newspaper, reported "always send the crowd wild", a large birthday cake will appear and Mr Mugabe will present the Youth of the Year Trophy to the most dedicated member of his movement. Mr Mugabe makes few concessions to informality. He dresses for these occasions, as for all others, in a double-breasted suit. He will also receive tributes from Zanu-PF functionaries before climbing into his helicopter and returning to Harare. The national rejoicing will be over for another year.
By Basildon Peta
Harare - All foreign journalists are expected to be expelled from Zimbabwe before the end of the month as the government's crackdown on the media and political opponents intensifies.
And the weekend attack on the Harare home of BBC journalist Joseph Winter was carried out by members of Zimbabwe's feared secret police, sources said last night.
Winter, his wife and young daughter were on Sunday holed up in the British High Commission, to where they were whisked by British officials after the attack on Saturday night.
On Sunday, a court order was issued restraining the government from harassing Winter, as well as another foreign correspondent, Mercedes Sayagues, who writes for the Mail & Guardian. Both had been told by the government to leave the country within 24 hours, but the order from High Court Judge Ishmael Chatikobo allows them to stay until Friday, when a new accreditation system for foreign journalists that will effectively expel them all is expected to be announced.
Winter and his family fled their home after four men, said by sources in Harare to be members of the Central Intelligence Organisation dressed in civilian clothes, scaled a fence before trying to force their way into the house.
The CIO has over the years been used by the government to harass political opponents and activists. Winter, who works for the BBC Africa Service, apparently attracted their ire by contesting his expulsion in court.
The attackers fled when friends and colleagues Winter had telephoned for help began arriving. "We were terrified, and we thought they were going to kill us," he said.
Four hours later, with the Winters safely in the high commission building, the men returned to the house and broke in. They were still in the house late on Sunday, apparently waiting for Winter to return.
Immigration officials had earlier told the two journalists that they were deporting them on the orders of the Department of Information and Publicity in President Robert Mugabe's office. The government said Winter was being deported because his employment permit had expired and a renewal issued last month was invalid.
Sayagues, 47, was initially barred from re-entering the country on Saturday when she returned from a two-day visit to South Africa, but was allowed in after she pleaded that she wanted to collect her daughter, whom she had left behind.
Information and Publicity Minister Jonathan Moyo has said his department is putting a new accreditation system in place for all foreign journalists working in Zimbabwe.
He is expected to cancel the work permits of all foreign journalists and deport them from Zimbabwe by the end of the month. The journalists would then be asked to reapply for new work permits in their own countries. Indications are that all of them are unlikely to get their permits back . - The Star Foreign Service
The United States condemns the recent attacks on the independent press, the judiciary, and the political opposition and its supporters in Zimbabwe. In many cases the Government of Zimbabwe itself has harassed the judiciary while tacitly encouraging or condoning violence against its political opponents and the media. The Government of Zimbabwe has ignored court rulings, and security forces have been increasingly responsible for serious human rights abuses. The deterioration of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe occurs at a time of increasing economic hardship in the country due largely to policy decisions of the Mugabe government. The United States is consulting with international organizations, donor states and other concerned countries to find ways to promote respect for the rule of law and for basic human rights in Zimbabwe.
Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 18 February
Tsvangirai warns Mugabe again
MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai, has reiterated that if President Mugabe clings on to power against mounting criticism from discontented masses, he faces the danger of being removed violently through a popular uprising. "A popular uprising cannot be ruled out because there comes a time when people feel that enough is enough. And this time the uprising can be more ferocious because of the intensity of the current public discontent. Where a government disregards the courts, disregards the laws it has made, then that government is illegitimate. The people of Zimbabwe are determined that this government goes. When the police are helpless, the judiciary under attack, the opposition harassed and the media under attack, what sort of political discourse can you have in such a country that calls itself a democracy?" Tsvangirai told The Standard on Friday.
A defiant Tsvangirai said the state cannot convict him for inciting violence, arguing that court proceedings against him were tantamount to harassment. "I can't recall verbatim what I said then, but I know the context, which is that Mugabe has to accept to go peacefully or else people will violently remove him through an uprising. It was a hypothetical option for the president to think around. I don't know where this court action comes from because there have been numerous utterances by Zanu PF leaders, government officials, war veterans and others, that would be considered treasonous under normal circumstances. But no action has been taken. Here we have the law being applied selectively, but as far as I am concerned there is nothing treasonable about the statement I made. It was not categoric and the state cannot secure a conviction using that kind of law, the Law and Order Maintenance Act," said Tsvangirai.
He said the hauling of various opposition members before the courts over the past few weeks, marked the beginning of a violent presidential campaign which would see the persecution of the opposition. "It is consistent of a Zanu PF that is scared and is panicking, but one has to understand that the MDC, as a party, does not rely on the benevolence of Zanu PF. Come election time we will seek the mandate of the people, which is what elections are all about."
From The Observer (UK), 18 February
'I've been caught up in a hurricane'
Mugabe is ridding his country of its critics to maintain a grip on power. One person who has been forced out is the Observer's correspondent, who tells of her sudden exit
My mouth was dry as I walked up to the immigration officer at Harare airport. My future as a journalist in Zimbabwe was hanging on the officer's reaction. He just took a look at the name on my passport and said: 'Go to Line 8'. Then I knew. My valid work permit was revoked and I was denied entry into Zimbabwe. 'My nine-year-old daughter is in the country. How am I going to get her?' I asked. 'I don't know,' replied the officer. 'I have no instructions concerning your daughter. I only have instructions to deny you entry.'
I had been out of Zimbabwe on a two-day business trip to Johannesburg. I learned while there that the Mugabe government had given me 24 hours to leave the country. I was never officially notified by the Immigration department. I only learned of the trouble through the state-owned Herald newspaper. After nine years in Zimbabwe I was ordered to wrap up our lives in a day. Why? No answers have been given but I can only assume it is because of my reporting on the growing lawlessness and gross human rights abuses committed by the Mugabe regime. By the time I was boarding my flight back to Harare, a BBC reporter had also been kicked out. It appears the Zimbabwe government does not want any foreign journalists to record how it turns into a full-fledged dictatorship.
As a journalist in Latin America I lived under military regimes. I've seen the signs in Zimbabwe. The illegal arrests and torture of journalists. The intimidation of the judiciary. The rise of extra-legal militia and the terror they inflict across the country. Gross disregard of rule of law. Gross corruption. The list could go on and on. It pains me to see this. When I first came to this country in 1992 I would say proudly: 'Zimbabwe proves that an African country can work.' I was happy to see Esmeralda, my daughter, grow up in what was a friendly and peaceful country. She had something so special: childhood in Africa.
I am not panicking. During Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections last year, I wrote about ordinary Zimbabweans who had their homes wrecked by the Zanu-PF militias. They were threatened and beaten up. Even while their bruises were still fresh, they were queuing up to be registered as poll monitors to try and ensure that the voting was free from intimidation. They had fewer material possessions and opportunities than I do, but they stood up for their principles and so can I. My daughter will understand. The immigration officer made a couple of phone calls and I was allowed 24 hours to collect Esmeralda and leave. I feel as if I am caught in a hurricane and yet I am strangely calm.
Editorial from The Sunday Times (UK), 18 February
Mugabe raises the stakes
Robert Mugabe's regime has lost no time in stamping its feet at this newspaper's appeal for funds to help Zimbabwe's independent newspaper, The Daily News. That brave paper continues to appear despite the bombing of its presses. But Mr Mugabe loathes a free press and he continues his repression of its few remaining outlets in his sad and bankrupt country. Our fund offends because it offers financial and moral support to a paper determined to report the truth about his rule. He cannot bomb us, although he would doubtless like to try. So he threatens to make it illegal for well-wishers to aid The Daily News. South African investment is also being banned in Zimbabwe's media.
Nor is that all. His propaganda chief talks of making every journalist in Zimbabwe apply for "accreditation" - a weasel word for a licence. Until its introduction, foreign correspondents whose work-permits expire will have to leave the country. Last week, a South African correspondent was barred from working after spending nine years in Zimbabwe. She had reported the bullying of journalists and voters by Mr Mugabe's mobsters.
Mr Mugabe's so-called justice minister tried last week to force two supreme court judges to quit using a tactic long favoured by mafia bosses. He told two of their colleagues on the bench that they should retire because he was worried that harm could come to them. On Friday, the regime said it would withdraw the passports of Zimbabweans who undermined its image abroad. It also charged a third leader of the Movement for Democratic Change with a trumped-up offence against public order. As the opposition party rightly says, Mugabe is pursuing "an evil programme to undermine political rights and gag us" before next year's presidential elections.
South Africa faces a growing problem over its northern neighbour. It fears looking too interventionist but it shirks its regional responsibilities at its own peril. Despite Mugabe's bluster, we shall continue to raise money for The Daily News. Zimbabwe's real freedom fighters need our help more than ever.
The Sunday Times has set up a fund to support The Daily News in its appeal for at least £1m to replace its bombed presses. If you would like to contribute, please send a cheque made out to Daily News Appeal, 3rd floor, Midgate House, Midgate, Peterborough, PE1 1TN, or contact the Sunday Times foreign desk at 1 Pennington St, London E1 9XW, telephone 020 7782 5700 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, send a bank transfer to the following account:
Daily News Appeal - NGN Ltd, Account no: 61865773, Sort code: 40-36-15, Bank: HSBC, Branch: Cathedral Square, Peterborough, Swift: MIDL GB 21 08R
From The Star (SA), 18 February
Zim war veteran to hang for land-grab murder
Harare - A Zimbabwean judge has sentenced to death a member of the militant War Veterans Association for killing a policeman during the occupation of a white-owned farm last April. Human rights lawyers believe the sentencing of retired army major Givemore Katsande, 41, by Judge George Smith will up the campaign by militants against the judiciary. Death threats recently issued to a number of judges led to the acceptance of early retirement next month by Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay.
Smith on Friday found no extenuating circumstances for Katsande's fatal shooting of Constable Tinashe Chakwenya, 25, at Montecristo Farm, Marondera, 90km east of Harare. The owner, Ian Kay, was critically injured by members of the officially-recognised "Liberation War Veterans Association". Following President Robert Mugabe's defeat in a constitutional referendum last February, the group vowed to ensure that Mugabe won June's parliamentary elections. It threatened a "return to war" if his ruling Zanu-PF party was ousted by Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC. The veteran's association received official funding for the task. In the wake of the elections, Mugabe gave amnesty to members of the ex-guerrillas' organisation for 8 000 crimes including abduction, assault and arson. None have been prosecuted for the murder of up to 40 opposition supporters and white farmers, although detailed identification evidence has been given.
The shooting of Chakwenya, who had gone to Kay's farm to investigate a report of stock theft, appeared finally to trigger official action in an effort to maintain police morale. "To combat the increase in acts of violence the perpetrators must be brought before the courts and punished for their crimes," said Smith, sentencing Katsande to the gallows. "They must be shown they are not above the law." Human rights lawyers believe Mugabe is certain to invoke his presidential clemency prerogative if Katsande loses an automatic appeal to the Supreme Court, likely to take up to 18 months. At least 30 men have been hanged in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, but no executions have been announced since the last hangman died three years ago.
Smith heard that Katsande shot the police constable dead with a shotgun without giving him a chance to explain himself, and while he had his hands raised in a gesture of surrender. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, and many commentators allege invasions of white-owned farms and the agitation for land reform have been used as a pretext for intimidation of government opponents.
From The Sunday Times (UK), 18 February
Mugabe blocks foreign aid for media
Zimbabwe's government has reacted to the Sunday Times campaign to help the independent Daily News replace bombed-out presses by announcing legislation to ban foreign investment in the media. President Robert Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said the aim was to shut down any media organisation that "survives on foreign funding". The measure would bar The Daily News from accepting foreign help to buy a new press.
Judith Todd, once a heroine of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle and now a director of ANZ, which owns The Daily News, said: "They'll do anything now, absolutely anything. But the campaign for the press mustn't stop. The day is going to come when this nightmare is over, when we have to start all over again - and the press will be needed then." The Sunday Times appeal fund reached £18,000 last Friday, but it will cost at least £1m to buy the press, and the paper's backers say they need substantial donations from anyone concerned to defend the right to free speech in Zimbabwe.
The latest move against The Daily News was only part of a concerted onslaught last week against those perceived as opponents of Mugabe. Jonathan Moyo, the minister of information, announced the government would withdraw passports from Zimbabweans it considered "unpatriotic", and that work permits for foreign journalists would be frozen. Mercedes Sayagues, the Harare correspondent of South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper, had her permit revoked and was given 24 hours to leave the country in which she has lived for nine years. "I'm just the first of many," she said. Joseph Winter, a correspondent with the BBC's Africa service, who has worked in Harare for four years, was also given 24 hours to leave yesterday.
Earlier, pressure had been exerted on supreme court judges, who have upheld their independence, to resign. Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay was forced out after a minister told him he "could not see his way clear" to protecting the judges against threats of violence. Most dramatic of all was the decision of the Zimbabwean authorities to charge Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition MDC, with incitement to violence - a crime that carries a sentence of up to 20 years' imprisonment. The moves appeared to be part of a co-ordinated strategy aimed at destroying the opposition's hopes in the coming presidential election.
In the space of three weeks - during which Mugabe has remained out of sight - two MDC MPs, including Tsvangirai's deputy, have been charged with incitement, the Daily News presses have been bombed, and the CFU has been presented with an ultimatum: either its "recalcitrant" leadership must resign or white farmers must face more killings. The charge against Tsvangirai relates to a speech he made before a party rally last September. He warned that so great was the popular discontent caused by the repression and economic misery the ruling Zanu-PF regime had inflicted on the country that Mugabe might well be removed by force if he did not go voluntarily.
"It's quite clear that Morgan was warning about spontaneous popular reactions, not calling on people to act in such a way," said David Coltart, the MDC's legal spokesman. "But the real question is: why charge Morgan now with something that happened five months back?" According to Coltart, Mugabe plans to have hand-picked loyalists from his Zanu-PF party in the high court and supreme court by the time Tsvangirai's case is decided. "Our election law says you can't be a presidential candidate if you have had a jail sentence of six months or more," he said. "The reason they've waited until now to proceed against Morgan is that they needed time to start forcing the judges out."
This is the environment in which the embattled Daily News hangs on. Since the bombing on January 28 its editorial team has managed to print a much-reduced paper on two other presses. The paper was then informed that one of these, run by Natprint - 51% owned by the government - would no longer be available. "What we've managed since January 28 is a sort of daily miracle", said Geoff Nyarota, the editor. "Staff morale remains sky-high but we couldn't bring out the paper in much more difficult circumstances. We know that the government is just waiting to attack us again. We expect things to get tougher."
Many trace the regime's current strategy to Mugabe's declaration to a Zanu-PF congress on December 14 that the party "must continue to strike fear into the heart of the white man, our real enemy". On that day a white farmer, Henry Elsworth, was shot dead. Mugabe, although treated in a British hospital for throat cancer three years ago, is in apparent good health and is expected to hold his usual children's party for the television cameras this Wednesday, his 77th birthday. Usually The Herald publishes photos of the president and his young wife, Grace, surrounded by children and smiling beneficently, but it is not expected that The Daily News will be invited to the party.
The ferocity of attacks on opponents has prompted speculation that Mugabe may call a snap election this year rather than wait until 2002. Observers say the worsening economic situation suggests he might be well-advised not to wait. Not only are petrol, diesel and paraffin queues longer than ever but Harare residents have again been warned of power cuts. Maize production is down by at least 30% and, by October, the country will need to import it. But there is no foreign exchange to pay for it. The economy is in free-fall, job losses mount from week to week, and already many urban poor are close to starving in a country once regarded as the breadbasket of Africa. "Mugabe and Zanu-PF have their backs to the wall," Nyarota said. "They're paranoid and they can feel things slipping away from them."