|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|Friday February 22, 01:16 PM|
Zimbabwe militants evict farmerBy Cris Chinaka
HARARE (Reuters) - Southern African election observers say a wave of political violence in Zimbabwe threatens chances for a free and fair presidential election next month.
The run-up to the March 9-10 poll, in which President Robert Mugabe faces his strongest challenge in 22 years of power, has been marred by opposition allegations of state-sponsored violence and intimidation.
In the latest incident, a white farmer and his family fled their farm southwest of Harare early on Friday after invading militants demanded they leave and fired shots at neighbouring farmers who had rushed to their aid.
In protest at Harare's refusal to accredit the head of proposed EU election observer team, the European Union pulled its team out of Zimbabwe this week, leaving mainly African observers to do the job.
Earlier this week, hundreds of Mugabe supporters stoned the Harare headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), smashing windows and forcing bystanders to flee.
"Political-related violence of the type witnessed in the past week, in and around Harare, continues to rear its head," said Duke Lefoko, leader of an advance team for the 50-strong Southern African Development Community (SADC) parliamentary observer mission due to arrive this weekend.
"Intimidation, murder, destruction of properties and all other forms of violent conduct are likely to impact negatively on the electorate's capacity to freely express their will in the forthcoming presidential elections," Lefoko told reporters.
"It is vital that the political situation changes in a manner that will remove fear to enable the people to freely exercise their electoral rights," he added.
The MDC says over 100 of its supporters have been killed in political violence since February 2000 when militants loyal to Mugabe began invading white-owned farms.
The government has denied responsibility for the violence and accused the opposition of fuelling civil unrest.
"WE ARE TAKING YOUR FARM"
In the early hours of Friday, about 30 militants smashed through the security gate at James Ogden-Brown's farm near Chegutu, southwest of Harare, and ordered him off the land, a spokesman for the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) said.
"They told him: 'Mr Ogden-Brown...you have 30 minutes to leave. We are taking your farm'," the CFU spokesman said.
The group then entered the farmhouse and seized six firearms. As the 35-year-old Ogden-Brown, his wife Cheryl and their two children packed their belongings, a group of farmers arrived on the scene after being alerted by radio.
Some of the militants rushed to the farm gate and opened fire at the farmers, who fled. There were no injuries, but one car was hit by shotgun pellets, the CFU spokesman said.
ANNAN APPEALS FOR FAIR VOTE
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has added his voice to growing international pressure on Zimbabwe's leaders to ensure the elections are free and fair.
"For the sake of the people of Zimbabwe, of its neighbours and the entire continent of Africa, I appeal to the government to let the people make their choice, and to live by it," Annan said in a statement issued late on Thursday.
Annan made no reference to European Union sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle after the government refused to accredit the head of the EU observer team.
The U.S. is considering similar targeted sanctions.
The EU withdrawal has left monitoring of next month's elections to mainly African and Commonwealth countries. The 14-member SADC and South Africa, which are sending the largest number of observers, have been criticised for being too soft on Mugabe.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was shown leading Mugabe in one poll released this week, has accused SADC of endorsing Mugabe and ignoring a flawed electoral system.
Earlier this year, the government pushed through parliament a controversial package of electoral and media laws which critics say is aimed at ensuring a Mugabe victory.
"We call upon the SADC observer team and all the other international monitors in the country to persuade ZANU-PF even at this late hour to abandon its violent agenda," the MDC said.
Zimbabwe's police have been criticised for standing by while the violence unfolds. But Lefoko said the SADC advance team had been assured by authorities that the police and other security forces would act professionally.
"We trust that the pledge made by the Zimbabwe government...to ensure a conducive electoral atmosphere, including a commitment to investigate fully and impartially all cases of alleged political violence, shall be undertaken ahead of the elections," Lefoko said.
The incident occurred when two observers were visiting offices of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the central town of Kekwe.
It comes only days after observers from the European Union left Zimbabwe, complaining that they were not being allowed to do their job properly by the authorities.
The EU has imposed sanctions on the Zimbabwean leadership in the run-up to the critical presidential election in two weeks' time.
About 200 pro-government supporters armed with stones and iron bars are reported to have attacked MDC offices in Kekwe.
The MDC said two South African observers were injured, along with five of the party's supporters. The extent of the injuries was not immediately clear.
The party said the attack was unprovoked.
The spokesman for the South African election mission, Mbulelo Muzi, said it was a despicable act which he strongly condemned.
According to opposition spokesmen, police broke up a rally with tear-gas saying there had been no authorisation for the gathering.
President Robert Mugabe faces a stiff challenge to his 22-year grip on power from MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the 9-10 March election.
South Africa and the 14-member Southern African Development Community have the largest number of foreign observers in Zimbabwe since the EU pulled out earlier this week.
Mr Mugabe said on Thursday he can resist the EU sanctions imposed on him and his close associates, and that he does not need Europe.
He enjoys the backing of many African leaders who regard EU sanctions as an attempt by Europe to undermine Africa's democracy.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 22 February
Zim diamond deals exposed
Senior Zanu PF politicians and members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces have with the help of Canadian lobbyists Dickens & Madson turned Zimbabwe into a hub for trade in "blood" diamonds illegally brought into the country from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it emerged this week. The Zimbabwe Independent has been told how gemstones from the DRC have been laundered to line the pockets of Zanu PF big-wigs. American international diamond buyer, John Marsischky, managing director of gemstones company Flashes of Color, revealed in an interview this week that Dickens & Madson, the company which last week claimed it was hired by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai to assassinate President Mugabe, has been working as a conduit for the transfer of funds between Zimbabwean officials and buyers. Dickens & Madson, Marsischky said, were employed to do security checks on international diamond buyers.
Marsischky said he met representatives of the lobbyists last year when they did a security check on Flashes of Color before he met businessman Bob Codrington who said he represented ZDF commanders in the diamond trade. Codrington yesterday confirmed meeting Marsischky but denied having any links with the diamond trade. He said Marsischky came to Zimbabwe wanting to buy a parcel of diamonds from Zimbabwean officials. He said because of his business, he frequently visited the DRC to sell plant equipment but he had "never handled a single carat from the DRC". Marsischky said he and his team came to Zimbabwe on January 16 last year at the invitation of a ZDF diamond buying operation, Mineral Business Company (MBC), fronted by Major General Dauramanzi and Brigadier General Moyo who wanted him to buy diamonds which, it transpired, did not have proper documentation. Diamonds coming from war-torn countries like the DRC, Sierra Leone and Angola should have letters of certification from those governments. Diamond traders must also have permits from governments where gemstones originate.
Marsischky said MBC wanted to fly him to the DRC on a military aircraft to view gemstones. "We refused to fly by military transport or helicopter without the required entry visa to DRC," said Marsischky. "It was explained to us that as Zimbabwe was in control of security in Kinshasa and in particular Kinshasa airport, if we were in the company of Brigadier General Moyo then no travel documents would be required," he said. He said he decided to stay after being convinced the diamonds could be brought from the DRC for him to view and that there were other sources of diamonds in Harare. Subsequent meetings with government officials revealed their involvement in the illegal diamond trade with uncut stones being flown to South Africa where they were cut and fake documentation obtained to facilitate export to Europe. "One of these individuals named Major Bright arranged two conversations with (a named senior airforce officer) who told us personally that he had a parcel of more than 2 000 carats of rough diamonds.
"In addition to asking an exorbitant price, he told us that no export documents or certificates of origination for the stones could be made available," said Marsischky. He said contacts identified as Mandy Majoni and Herbert Janje put him in touch with Codrington who claimed to have a diamond-cutting machine, which he used to cut stones belonging to the senior ZDF commanders and a leading politician. "Codrington explained that the financial transaction would take place with the aid of the security consulting firm Dickens & Madson," said Marsischky. "He said they would designate accounts that we would transfer money to and when receipt by electronic transfer or letter of credit was confirmed, the diamonds would be released to us in the designated country such as South Africa. "We again made our point that we must have proper export documents and certificates of origination. Codrington explained that in South Africa, his associates would be able to supply us with the proper South African export documents. We said the certificates of origin had to come from the DRC since these are Congolese diamonds. Codrington said 'No one cares about that'," Marsischky said. Codrington yesterday denied owning a diamond-cutting machine. Marsischky said he returned to the US empty-handed as he refused to buy the illegal diamonds.
From ZWNEWS, 22 February
Who is Ari Ben-Menashe?
Ari Ben-Menashe, the Iranian-born political lobbyist responsible for allegations that the Zimbabwean opposition leader plotted to assassinate President Robert Mugabe, is a notorious international conman, intelligence sources report. His shady African adventures include maize deals in Zambia and continuing contacts with ex-President Frederick Chiluba. Ben-Menashe’s company, Dickens and Madson, based in Montreal, Canada, has in fact been working for Mugabe’s regime, intelligence reports show. Ben-Menashe was introduced to Mugabe in 2000 by Zimbabwean air force chief, Perence Shiri. For an international fixer-for-big-fees and arranger of kickbacks, Ben-Menashe came with impressive credentials: a phoney claim to have been a former officer in the Israeli secret service, Mossad; a 1990 acquittal in the United States on charges of illegally selling Israeli-owned C-130 Hercules aircraft to Iran; dubbed by Time magazine as a "veteran spinner of stunning-if-true-but yarns"; and attacked in Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal.
And Ben-Menashe produced results: on Feb. 13, just weeks before Zimbabwe’s presidential elections, an Australian TV network SBS broadcast a grainy video purporting to show Ben-Menashe and other company officials meeting opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Montreal in December and discussing how to remove Mugabe from power. Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s challenger in the March 9-10 poll, issued a detailed rebuttal. He described how Ben-Menashe last year approached the MDC, pressing his company’s services as a lobbyist. Tsvangirai said there were four meetings – and at the last one Ben-Menashe ``from nowhere introduced discussion around the issue of elimination and kept asking strange questions.’’ Suspicious, Tsvangirai stormed out of the meeting and subsequent MDC investigations revealed that Ben-Menashe, author of a book on political dirty tricks, had been hired by the Zanu PF government to set up the MDC. All contact was immediately broken off.
Ben-Menashe, 51, was born in Tehran to comfortably off parents of Iraqi origin who emigrated to Israel when he was 15. He did compulsory military service in 1978 – was never a member of Mossad - and afterward operated as a minor arms dealer, according to intelligence sources. Records in Israel show he left the country in March 1988 and never returned. His involvement with Chiluba, then Zambian president, began with a US $24 million deal for a Canadian company represented by Ben-Menashe, Carlington Sales, to supply 100,000 tonnes of white maize, intelligence sources report. Chibula was introduced to Ben-Menashe by Rajan Mahtani, a supporter, former business associate and owner of the Finance Bank and Professional Group of companies in Zambia. Carlington also had contacts with Zambian former Finance Minister Edith Nawakwi and Chiluba’s economic adviser, Donald Chanda. Carlington staff include Alexandre Legault, a vice-president who with Ben-Menashe and a Canadian, Charles Tritt, are directors of a London-based company, Assorted Metals and Gems Ltd., whose activities are listed as "mining and quarrying." Legault is also a principal with Ben-Menashe in Dickens and Madson, and is a fugitive from the law. He has been indicted in three US states for fraud committed 18 years ago, involving a US$13 million scam which defrauded over 300 old-age pensioners of their life savings. Most of the victims were over 75 years old.
The first Carlington maize deal in Zambia involved a sizeable commission for Chiluba and Mahtani, intelligence sources report. The government would put down 10% in a trust account supervised by a Canadian lawyer, Marie Larin, and have six months credit for the balance. Relations between the government and Mahtani soured when the government accused him of taking $240,000 from the trust account. He denied this. The deal collapsed after an October 1997 coup attempt, and Carlington tried to withdraw the six-month line of credit. Since the fallout, Mahtani has been subjected to harassment, was temporarily jailed in Zambia and his now suing Ben-Menashe in Montreal for defamation of character. Carlington later signed a new maize deal for which the Zambian government paid $7.8 million. In another deal reported by intelligence sources, Chiluba, learning of Ben-Menashe’s arms trading background, gave him a $1 million contract to use his contacts in the CIA and United Nations to play down Angolan charges that the UNITA rebel movement was involved in gun-running.
According to well-placed sources in Zambia’s business community, Chiluba continues to use Ben-Menashe. Dealings include, according to the sources, a plan to split the proceeds of a lawsuit that Carlington filed against the Zambian government. The suit stemmed from a contract with Carlington to hunt for potential buyers for copper mines. When Anglo-American signed a memorandum of understanding with the government to buy Nkana and Nchanga mines, Carlington asked for its fee. The government refused, saying Carlington had not been involved. Carlington is now suing for $10 million, represented by a London solicitor, Robin Lloyds of the firm Saunders and Co. According to a source close to Ben-Menashe, he expects the case to be settled out of court and to receive the first payments soon. In July 1998, the Zambian government acknowledged that Chiluba had used Ben-Menashe to try to corrupt Human Rights Watch. A statement from a Ministry of Finance official read: "We should learn a lesson from President Chiluba’s experiences with these characters (middle men). The President’s use of Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli Mossad officer, to import maize failed. And his use to try to corrupt Human Rights Watch at the last Consultative Group meeting to do a deal with the Zambian government and stop pressing the donors on good governance issues also failed. He was also used in the sales of mines, but nothing positive came out of it."
From News24 (SA), 21 February
Smart sanctions spare some vets
Harare - The European Union's personal sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle target some of his closest political allies, but also spare several veteran lieutenants. Mugabe apart, the senior figure on the EU list is Emmerson Mnangagwa, the speaker of parliament who is seen by many in Zanu PF as the president's preferred successor. Analysts say Mnangagwa is probably Mugabe's closest political ally, who has been trusted with his security and sensitive programmes, including supervising Zimbabwe's military intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mnangagwa served as Mugabe's personal assistant in the 1970s when he led a guerrilla war for independence, became security minister at independence in 1980 and later justice minister. Human rights watchdogs accuse both Mugabe and Mnangagwa of allowing a crack army unit to kill thousands of innocent civilians in the 1980s while trying to suppress an opposition rebellion in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland and Midlands provinces. The two leaders deny the accusation.
The 15-nation EU decided on Monday to freeze assets held in their countries by Zimbabwe's ruling elite. The penalty, imposed after the head of the EU election observer mission was expelled from Zimbabwe on Saturday, also impose a ban on travel to EU countries by Mugabe's inner circle. Government officials say Mugabe and Mnangagwa, whom he promoted to the powerful position of administration secretary of the ruling Zanu PF party in December 2000, operate on the same political wavelength. Other sanctions' targets are: home affairs minister John Nkomo, defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and security minister Nicholas Goche, who preside over government departments that have been accused of allowing a wave of lawlessness in Zimbabwe in the past two years; information minister Jonathan Moyo, who has led Mugabe's propaganda campaign in the last two years and piloted what his critics see as an unrelenting drive against the independent media. Government critics say agriculture minister Joseph Made has implemented Mugabe's controversial land-seizure drive with enthusiasm, while justice minister Patrick Chinamasa has spearheaded the executive's attacks on the judiciary and in forcing out of office a number of judges.
The list also includes cabinet secretary Charles Utete, foreign ministry permanent secretary Willard Chiwewe and information secretary George Charamba, who also doubles as Mugabe's spokesman. Harare-based Western diplomats say the three were probably included on the EU list because they were regarded as the leaders of Mugabe's backroom advisers. Foreign minister Stan Mudenge has carried Mugabe's fierce attacks abroad, defending his policies and attacking his opponents, including the EU, for alleged racism in response to the Zimbabwe crisis. Youth affairs minister Elliot Manyika, who turns out at ruling party rallies in military dress, is responsible for training a national youth brigade, which the opposition says is spearheading a violent campaign against its members. General Vitalis Zvinavashe, who is also on the EU sanctions list with other top army officers, came under the international spotlight last month when he vowed that Zimbabwe's security forces would not allow anyone who did not take part in the liberation struggle to take over power. The statement was seen as a clear warning that the army would not endorse main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who poses the greatest challenge to Mugabe in the March elections.
The EU list of 19 Mugabe associates notably omits his two vice-presidents, Simon Muzenda and Joseph Msika, several long-serving cabinet ministers and some top military officers. Muzenda, 79, has been Mugabe's deputy since he came to power in 1980 when the former white-ruled Rhodesia gained independence from Britain. Many analysts regard Muzenda as one of Mugabe's most loyal deputies, a key adviser and a hardworking political foot soldier whose contribution is often under-estimated. Muzenda has served as Mugabe's senior deputy in the ruling Zanu PF party since the mid-1970s, officially carrying the title Deputy President and Deputy First Secretary. Msika, a veteran politician, was named state vice-president after the death in 1999 of Joshua Nkomo - the grand nationalist of Zimbabwe's black liberation struggle. The 80-year-old Msika is chairman of the government cabinet task force on Mugabe's controversial land reform, and officials say he is as committed to the programme as his political boss.
Political analyst Solomon Nkiwane said the EU had probably omitted Muzenda and Msika from its sanctions list because it believed they were not playing a prominent role in Mugabe's drive against the opposition. "I know that the government line is that their omission is part of a programme by the EU to create suspicions and cause divisions in its ranks," said Nkiwane, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe. "But I believe there is a strong opinion among foreign diplomats (in Harare) that both Muzenda and Msika are no longer playing a big role in terms of strategy and so on, and that they are taking a back seat in preparation for possible retirement. They are no longer seen as key players anymore," he added.
From IRIN (UN), 21 February
Voters ready to resist violence
Zimbabweans are not likely to be cowed into changing their vote on polling day, despite reports of widespread politically motivated violence and intimidation, a regional analyst told IRIN. Richard Cornwell, a senior researcher at the South African-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), believes that the violence will not change the way people vote in Zimbabwe's presidential election on 9 and 10 March. "Although the situation is extremely violent and people are frightened there is a growing suspicion that whatever [happens] ... the poll will be fairly open," he said. President Robert Mugabe faces the toughest challenge to his two decade rule in Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Cornwell also rejected an alarming report by a US-based organisation, Genocide Watch. The rights group said the situation in Zimbabwe had reached a point where genocide was a possibility, contending that Mugabe's regime was pitting the majority Shona ethnic group (representing 80 percent of the population), against the Ndebele, who are perceived as backing the MDC. Genocide Watch said the current situation raised the spectre of mass killings on the scale of the Matabeleland massacres in 1982-1983, when government troops brutally suppressed a dissident campaign in the south of the country, the Ndbele heartland.
But Cornwell rejected the assertion. "We know there's political killing going on [but] I don't agree [with Genocide Watch] ... quite frankly it's a far different situation to what we've seen in Rwanda, Burundi and even West Africa, [where] there was the targeting of ethnic groups," he said. "In Zimbabwe Ndebele tend to be targeted because they are known to be opposed to Mugabe's rule but a large number of Shona are also known to be targeted [by Zanu PF], this [Genocide Watch] sort of analysis does nobody any favours." "The greatest threat to human life is not the political situation. It is the outgrowth of the political situation, in the form of economic collapse and the dearth of staple foodstuffs and/or the means to acquire them," he added.
Cornwell forecasted that a Mugabe win in the presidential elections was far from certain. "There's a groundswell, although this is anecdotal and impressionistic, there [in Zimbabwe]. There are certain signs that Mugabe could be in a lot more trouble than he imagines, whether this will dawn on him and prompt him to take more drastic measures, such as the banning of Tsvangirai's candidacy, remains to be seen," he said. Like many analysts Cornwell believes that the withdrawal of European Union election observers this week "certainly makes it easier to commit [human rights] abuses" for the purpose of political intimidation. Cornwell's view on the poll outcome has some support, judging from a recent report in Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper. The Daily News published the results of a poll in which nearly 20 percent of the 1,693 people surveyed in rural and urban areas said they would vote for Tsvangirai. This was against 11 percent who said they would vote for Mugabe. Tellingly, or not, in a climate in which it's dangerous to openly declare support for Tsvangirai, nearly 60 percent refused to say how they would vote. The poll was conducted by a university-based organisation called the Mass Public Opinion Institute.
From SAPA, 21 February
Independent newspapers not allowed into Harare
Johannesburg - Zimbabwe would not allow journalists working for the Independent Newspapers group to cover the presidential election in that country, a Zimbabwean government official said on Thursday. "We would not include such a paper," said Eddie Mamutse, an official in the Information Ministry where applications for accreditation to cover the polls are processed. He said the reason was that Independent employed prominent Zimbabwean-born journalist Basildon Peta. Peta, 30, is a Zimbabwe correspondent for the British Independent daily newspaper and the Independent Newspapers group in South Africa. The award-winning journalist previously worked for the independent Financial Gazette in Zimbabwe. Mamutse was quoted on Tuesday, saying a very large newspaper or organisation "whose reporting on us may not have been favourable" would likely be rejected.
His comment followed an announcement by the Zimbabwean government that it had lifted a ban it imposed on SA journalists covering the elections. On Monday, Harare told the Sunday Times, the Independent Newspapers group and Beeld that their applications to cover the presidential polls were turned down. However, Mamutse said on Thursday applications for Rapport, Beeld, the SABC and e.tv were now approved. He said the Sunday Times and many others who have applied would have to wait to learn their fate. "We can only act from a letter indicating that (those organisations) are interested to cover the elections," Mamutse said. "We have a difficulty with the former Zimbabwean journalist. This is to say his employers would not be able to cover the elections." When asked for more details, Mamutse said he was speaking off the record and therefore could not be quoted. He had already been told he was speaking to a Sapa journalist.
Alan Dunn, an editor at the Independent News Network (INN), said he did not know whether his organisation would be allowed to cover the election on March 9 and 10. "We don't know yet. We were told that we would receive a letter from Harare in the next few days. We don't know what is in that letter," he said on Thursday. He said that Mamutse might have referred to the Independent Newspaper in London. However, he added that they were related. The Independent Newspapers group owns 14 titles in South Africa, including The Star and The Argus, the Independent in London, and has newspapers in New Zealand too -- for which Peta wrote articles. Deon Lamprecht, who spoke on behalf of Beeld and Rapport, said he was delighted that their application had succeeded and hoped other journalists would be able to go as well. "We are obviously relieved, we expected the difficulties but we are grateful to Sanef (SA National Editors Forum) and the (South African) government," he said. The Sunday Times could not be reached for comment.