EU withdrawal leaves dangerous gap
THE withdrawal of European Union observers has
left a gaping void in the
electoral monitoring process which could have
serious consequences for next
month's poll, it was learnt this
Other observer groups now claim they are too thin on the ground to
The sudden withdrawal of the EU team, which was
due to total 150 observers,
has left a gaping hole. Of all the observer
teams, only the EU had the
capacity to manage a comprehensive exercise. And
it was also providing
logistical support to other teams such as that from the
Human rights watchdog Amnesty
International has expressed concern over the
probability of human rights
violations in the country.
"It is alarming that the largest contingent of
international observers will
not be on the ground during these crucial days
leading up to the election,"
Amnesty International said in a
"By their very presence they (EU) acted as a check to
violence and intimidation occurring on a daily
In the run-up to next month's poll, policing has been undermined
Government has increased the number of
polling stations from 4 000 in 2000
to 5 400, the majority being mobile units
operating in the new resettlement
areas. Commentators said this increased the
possibility of rigging.
A new provision that the "absence of election
agents, polling agents,
monitors and observers at the opening and closing of
ballot boxes shall not
prevent the electoral officer concerned from
proceeding in the absence of
such a person", has also been put in
Dr Pandlelani Math-ma, chief deputy director in South Africa's
Foreign Affairs responsible for southern Africa, admitted they
fully stretched due to the withdrawal of the EU team.
will not be able to cover the whole country. Zimbabwe is a very big
It is regrettable that the EU have pulled out. They could have
helped us to
cover the breadth of the country," he said.
Deputy head of the South
African Observer Mission, Brigalia Hlope, confirmed
"We do not have the capacity to cover the whole area. At
present we do not
even know the number of villages in Zimbabwe."
Africa is providing the second largest team after the Commonwealth
least 50 observers drawn from all sectors of society.
Abubakar could pay millions for rights
HEAD of the Commonwealth election observer
mission in Zimbabwe and former
Nigerian military ruler General Abdulsalami
Abubakar could be required to
pay millions of dollars in damages after he
refused to appear in court to
answer allegations of human rights
Abubakar, who was last week found liable for rights violations
and 1999 by United States district court judge Bernard Friedman,
was sued by
a group of Nigerians for US$100 million for alleged torture and
However, the former dictator - whose wealth is estimated at
US$2 billion -
snubbed the court prompting Friedman to enter a default
Hafsat Abiola, the late Nigerian tycoon Chief
Moshood Abiola's daughter,
Chief Anthony Enahoro, a former MP, and Dr Arthur
Nwankwo, a renowned
author, filed the suit in February 2001 under a federal
law which allows
foreigners to seek damages in the US for crimes committed in
Enahoro and Nwankwo said they were arrested,
beaten up, denied medical
treatment and held incommunicado after they
protested against the military
regime's decision to annul the outcome of the
1993 presidential election
believed to have been won by Chief
Hafsat said her father languished in solitary confinement for
after General Sani Abacha arrested him in 1995 for declaring
1993 poll winner. She said Abiola was tortured and denied medical
before he died in 1999 under controversial
Nigeria's last military ruler was served with papers last
year when he made
a public appearance at Chicago University. Although
Abubakar only ruled for
a short stint from June 1998 to May 1999, the
plaintiffs argued that he was
a powerful general who, as a member of the
military council, served under
three past dictators.
attorneys, Kayode Oladele and Austin Agomouh, have slammed
succeeded Abacha after his sudden death in 1998, for his
failure to appear in
"This man thinks he is above the law," Oladele said. Agomouh
added: "He has
thumbed his nose at the Nigerian courts and has tried to do
the same thing
here. In Nigeria, the courts won't do anything about it but in
no one is above the law."
However, Abubakar's lawyer,
Kevin Duckworth of Chicago, dismissed the
produced one scintilla of evidence that Abubakar violated
their rights or
commanded anyone to violate their rights," Duckworth said,
Zanu PF targets commuter bus drivers
COMMUTER omnibus drivers are the latest targets of President Robert
campaign of electoral intimidation.
Zanu PF's youth militias
are demanding that commuter omnibus drivers wear
ruling party T-shirts and
display Mugabe's campaign posters on their
vehicles to demonstrate their
The threats have prompted some commuter omnibus drivers to
on an indefinite strike in protest. The youths are now
targeting bus drivers
in Harare, Mutare and Marondera, having carried out a
campaign in the rural areas.
Zanu PF youths are
moving around termini in Harare handing out ruling party
T-shirts to rank
marshals and drivers.
"They came and addressed us and told us to vote for
Zanu PF in the coming
presidential poll," said Tom Mataka, a
"Their leader said we should not vote for the Movement for
for it will only lead to war in the country and they cited
made by (army general Vitalis) Zvinavashe as clear testimony
that they meant
The militias also threatened to take over
the running of the commuter
omnibuses if the drivers and conductors failed to
heed their call.
"We were all given the ruling party T-shirts and badges
portrait. We were told these were 'new uniforms' which must be
worn at all
times," said one rank marshal who spoke on condition of
The party militia has also swooped on rural areas-bound buses
which have to
carry Mugabe's campaign posters.
In Marondera, virtually
all commuter omnibus drivers are displaying Mugabe's
campaign posters after
being told their permits would be cancelled if they
Said one driver: "The youths said nothing will be done to them
police were on their side and they feared no one."
last year's parliamentary election a bus belonging to Tauya Bus
burnt and several drivers attacked by Zanu PF supporters who
were not happy
with support messages for the MDC pasted on their windows.
plying the Muzarabani route this year have been forced to
campaign posters for them to be allowed into the Zanu PF
SA observers blast Zanu PF
2/21/02 9:03:31 AM (GMT
By Sandra Nyaira
THE South African election observer
mission yesterday said it was highly
disturbed by reports of violent clashes
in Epworth outside Harare over the
weekend when Zanu PF supporters blocked an
MDC rally at Domboramwari.
In addition, the mission said it was
very concerned about the attack by
thousands of Zanu PF supporters on the MDC
headquarters in Harare three days
ago, the declaration of no-go areas for
some political parties and the
refusal by the government to accredit South
Former Ambassador Sam Motsuenyane, the head of the
mission, said: “We have
been able to attend rallies of the ruling Zanu PF and
the MDC. We were,
however, very disturbed about the clashes and the violence
in Epworth and in
the city, that took place a few days ago, where windows of
the offices of
the MDC were broken and some people were injured.
is alleged that the police were present and did not act to prevent
incidents. This is a matter of great concern. We will look into the
with the relevant authorities.”
The MDC has been unable to
penetrate most rural areas where Zanu PF
supporters and war veterans have
kept the opposition party out. The MDC has
been prevented from staging over
50 of its rallies countrywide.
Thirteen more South African observers
arrived yesterday, bringing the number
to 50. “Critical at this stage is the
accreditation of the South African
media, in particular. We believe that the
media should be given free access
to the electoral process.
experience in South Africa tells us that it is vital for the success
building democracy, to inform the public and the world at large
Motsuenyane said he would talk to government
officials over the need for
accreditation of the journalists. While a blanket
ban had originally been
placed by the Ministry of Information on all South
African newspapers, as of
yesterday the ban remained effective on Cyril
Ramaphosa’s Sunday Times and
The Star and other newspapers in Tony O’Riley’s
Motsuenyane said his mission’s main focus was the
so-called no-go areas
where violence and intimidation reports had been
recorded. “We have received
reports of the existence of no-go areas for some
parties and we are taking
up the matter too,” said Motsuenyane.
have already deployed our observers to some of these areas. We will
our presence accordingly in order to ensure that an environment
intimidation and violence is created.”
He said his mission’s mandate was
to assist “as much as we can in supporting
the people of Zimbabwe to have
free, credible and legitimate elections”.
Motsuenyane said the withdrawal
of the European Union mission was
unfortunate and regrettable. “We would like
to urge the international
community to assist the people of Zimbabwe in a
most constructive way to
determine their best destiny,” he
“Zimbabwe will need a stable political and economic environment
elections, irrespective of who wins. “A stable Zimbabwe is in the
interests of all the people of Zimbabwe, the region and indeed the world
Baptist church protests against GMB maize
A BULAWAYO church, whose maize grain was
impounded by the Grain Marketing
Board (GMB) from the premises of a local
company where it was stored, last
week threatened to halt its feeding
programmes in the province amid
revelations of harassment of its officials by
state security agents.
The GMB and police in January seized Baptist
church maize from the warehouse
of heavy engineering company Hubert Davis
where the grain was stored before
distribution to starving
After the maize seizure the state alleged that the church,
cahoots with Hubert Davies, was hoarding the maize in a bid to
"We are contemplating stopping the food
distribution exercise until after
the election but such a move will
disadvantage ordinary people who are
already starving," said Raymond Motsi, a
pastor at the church responsible
for food distribution.
however has sourced mealie-meal as an alternative to the
Motsi told the Independent that members of the Central
Organisation were phoning him and church officials enquiring
source of the mealie-meal, pretending they were phoning from
"No amount of intimidation can stop us from saving the
lives of these
people. Even if they arrest or harrass me I would never tell
them where we
are getting our mealie-meal from," he said.
seized the maize consignment from the local company despite
the company's management that the maize was for
The Zanu PF government, which is seeing enemies at every turn,
included religious groupings on its list. This follows the arrest of
pastors for organising a prayer meeting in Bulawayo last weekend.
clergymen were charged under the Public Order and Security Act on trumped
charges that they had staged an illegal demonstration.
and the Midlands are faced with famine as a result of poor
rains coupled with
disruptions to farming operations by President Mugabe's
fast track land
African Election Observers Due in
By Cris Chinaka and Stella
HARARE (Reuters) - African election observers fly into
Zimbabwe on Friday
for the troubled country's March 9-10 presidential
election when President
Robert Mugabe faces the biggest challenge to his
Mugabe, 78, is running against former trade union leader
leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) for the right
to run the country for the next five years.
run-up to the poll has been marred by opposition accusations
state-sponsored violence and intimidation amid signs of growing
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said on
Thursday it had started
handing out emergency food aid to 40,000 poverty
Zimbabwe is facing a severe food crisis partly due
to the major disruption
to farming caused by the controversial seizure of
white-owned farmlands by
government supporters. Drought and a sharp economic
downturn have added to
the country's misery and food shortages.
has blamed the perilous food situation on drought and insists the
will not let people starve. He has repeatedly accused white
worsening the crisis by hoarding grain.
The European Union has slapped
sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle
after Mugabe's government refused to
accredit the head of a proposed EU
election observer team.
is also considering sanctions against Zimbabwe's
The EU pulled its team out of the southern African
country earlier this week
in protest at Harare's actions, leaving the
monitoring of next month's
elections to mainly African and Commonwealth
An election observer team from southern Africa's main regional
economic bloc are due to send observers on Friday.
14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) has maintained
support for Mugabe in the face of growing international criticism,
regional analysts say SADC leaders have been tough with him behind
But at a rally earlier this week, Zimbabwe's main opposition
the group of endorsing Mugabe and ignoring a flawed electoral
"We call upon the SADC observer team and all the other
monitors in the country to persuade ZANU-PF even at this late
abandon its violent agenda," the MDC said in a statement.
20-member multi-party parliamentary delegation from South Africa is
expected in the country.
The Brains Trust
ELECTIONS IN ZIMBABWE "MOSTLY FREE
As the last EU
observers are expelled from the country, Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe,
has appealed to the EU to lift the sanctions which it has recently imposed,
promising that forthcoming elections will be "free and fair" but also "uniquely
Zimbabwean" in tone.
peaking to the world's media as they were "gently but carefully
frogmarched" onto their flights home, Mugabe delivered a "democratic pledge" in
which he promised that in the run-up to the election, and for the first time,
all parties will be able to campaign openly through all forms of media. He also
assured western leaders that voting and counting would be conducted openly and
fairly. However, The Brains Trust has learned that certain words in his
statement require special definition to be properly understood - especially
including "parties", "campaign", "openly" and "voting".
Democracy personified? I should
controversial new Bill submitted to the Zimbabwean Parliament -consisting of Mr
Robert Mugabe and several dieseased gnats - requires any political party
contesting the election to be "accredited" by the sitting Government. This
"accreditation" requires that all would-be politicians must (a) be Zimbabwean
nationals, (b) sign sworn statements that they will not impugn the good name of
the government, (c) pay an "administration fee" of Z$1,000,000 (£13,000) and
(d)have at least four year's experience of running an African nation (or nearest
equivalent, Lesotho notwithstanding.) Once accredited, they are then banned from
speaking to any form of media whatsoever as "this could tend to bias the outcome
in their favour."
"campaigning" must therefore be conducted covertly, as Mugabe believes that the
electors should be free to make their own decisions without being influenced by
the media, politicians - or indeed each other as public discussion of the
election is now a crime carrying a 20 year sentence. "My people can work out who
they should vote for," proclaimed the Zanu-PF leader "without having their minds
cluttered by such details as policies, the names of the other candidates, or
where the polling booths are."
parties which survive the accreditation process will find themselves on the
ballot papers, and here again Mugabe is keen to demonstrate that the spirit of
fairness runs through every aspect of the election process. To this end, all
ballot papers will be printed in extra large type for the benefit of
partially-sighted voters. Mugabe regrets that if the number of parties
contesting a particular seat should be very high (more than one) there may be
insufficient room on the paper to print the name of more than one party, but he
is committed to equal opportunities and will not let this problem deter
He also notes that tampering with ballot papers is a very serious
crime, which will be punishable by death, and to this end, armed guards will
stand over each voter as the ballot paper is filled in, in order to protect them
and give them a necessary sense of security. The count, likewise will take place
under heavy security, with highly trained squads surrounding each counter and
making sure he feels completely protected by pointing automatic weapons at his
head and idly toying with the safety catch.
citizen of Zimbabwe is eligible to vote, simply by travelling to the polling
card processing centre at Harare, producing a valid Zanu-PF membership card,
making a "courtesy payment" of Z$50,000 (£650) and completing a 14 page general
knowledge test. Rumours are denied, but persist, that failure to pass the test
is an offence punishable by public flogging which, Mugabe regrets, has deterred
some citizens from applying. "We too have to combat this voter apathy," he
"In this way," proclaimed Mugabe, as he picked out new wallpaper
for the Presidential Palace, "Zimbabwe will have the freest, fairest elections
in the world. Now piss off out of the country before I set the dogs on you."
|21 Feb 2002|
By Busani Bafana
|Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe speaks at an election
Photo by HOWARD BURDITT
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Feb 21 (AlertNet) - The start of emergency food
aid deliveries provided by the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) this month is the
tangible sign of a crisis denied by the government but which NGOs fear may
Stocks are low as a result of floods two years ago, combined with a long dry
spell and patchy rains that have led to revised yields expected this year.
Norbert Dube, spokesman for six NGOs working in Zimbabwe, told AlertNet: "The
food situation we are facing is an open secret. The situation is bad, there is
no funding and the food has run out in some areas. We are likely to record some
deaths of children in some of the areas."
Zimbabwe said last week that the country had received more than 4,280 tonnes
of maize by road and rail from South Africa out of 200,000 tonnes it was
importing from its neighbour to offset a shortage of the staple grain.
Zimbabwean farmers said earlier this month that the region faced a food
disaster and the country's stretched financial resources and limited
infrastructure meant a quick solution was unlikely.
"The situation is bad. We are likely
to record some deaths of children"
"As food supplies grow scarcer and scarcer, hunger is becoming a grim
day-to-day reality for hundreds of thousands of people," said Pierre Saillez,
officer-in-charge of WFP's Zimbabwe country office.
The WFP has announced plans to feed some 558,000 hungry Zimbabweans.
It made its initial delivery of maize meal, the staple food in Zimbabwe, on
Anna Shotton, WPF spokeswoman in Zimbabwe, told the media that deliveries of
groundnuts, beans and vegetable oil would also be arriving from South Africa.
The cash-strapped government is grappling with a food shortage before a
presidential election on March 9 and 10, when President Robert Mugabe's 20-year
grip on power faces its first real challenge from opposition leader Morgan
The European Union (EU) froze assets held in its countries by Zimbabwe's
ruling elite on Monday, two days after the head of the EU election observer
mission was expelled. The sanctions also ban travel to EU countries by Mugabe's
The emergency food aid follows an international appeal by the government last
October under the Humanitarian Assistance for Drought Recovery Programmes.
The two-phase emergency food operation is expected to benefit 558 000 people,
mostly in Manicaland, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Mashonaland West
and Central, Masvingo and the Midlands provinces.
According to the Secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare,
Lance Museka, food supplied under the WFP programme would be distributed to 19
The aid programme is expected to continue until November and the WPF has
allocated U.S.$36 million of the total aid package of $60 million for non-food
expenses such as import and distribution costs.
The government has denied reports of a looming food shortage and starvation.
"Queues of people registering for
food aid, dwindling grain stocks and a booming black market are signs of growing
However, queues of people registering for food aid,
dwindling grain stocks and a booming black market in maize grain and other basic
commodities are signs of growing desperation.
SHORTAGES ARE THE NORM
With the imposition of government controls on the prices of basic
foodstuffs such as cooking oil, sugar, milled maize, flour, soap and milk,
shortages have become the norm.
In late January, a 10kg bag of mealie (maize) meal was selling at Z$550 (just
over U.S. $9) on the black-market, compared with the official price of Z$248.05
(about U.S. $5). Consumers have had to buy at the black market price or starve.
The first WFP distribution was carried out by the Zimbabwe-based Organization
of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP).
The WFP is also working with CARE Canada, World Vision and Christian CARE. It
said in a statement: "Through a process of public meetings and lengthy
beneficiary registration exercises, the partners have been working closely with
community-based organisations to ensure that food aid will be targeted to the
most... vulnerable people."
Norbert Dube, spokesman for a consortium of six NGOs working in Zimbabwe --
ORAP, the Red Cross, World Vision, Christian Care, the Lutheran World Federation
and the Catholic Development Commission -- confirmed that NGOs were now focusing
on facilitating the distribution of the emergency food aid to desperate areas of
Two of the consortium's six members -- ORAP and World Vision -- were
implementing partners. Orap was set to move 1,515 tonnes of food aid mainly to
Umzingwane, Hwange and Tsholotsho districts of Matabeleland.
"Most of our own programmes are on hold mainly due to lack of funding but we
have continued with the feeding of under fives, for whom corn soya blend has
been imported. We are involved in the WFP food distribution effort," Dube told
LACK OF FUNDING
"We hope to be able to distribute the food as quickly as and when it
comes to distribution points in the provinces."
"Our partners have been working
closely with community-based organisations to ensure that food aid will be
targeted to the most vulnerable people"
Dube said the consortium of NGOs was unlikely to realise anything close to
the Z$100 million (U.S. $1.8 million) needed for food aid and humanitarian
assistance programmes in the country.
The consortium expected to raise the money through its international partners
but little had been received so far.
Government representatives quote official figures that they say show Zimbabwe
will only need to import between 100,000 and 200,000 tonnes of grain, a far cry
from independent figures that indicate it will need up to 600,000 tonnes of
Zimbabwe is one of 10 countries in southern Africa set to benefit from a
U.S.$13 million humanitarian programme global appeal made by the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Geneva last
The IFRC's regional delegation in Harare said the organisation had budgeted
U.S.$1.9 million to enable it to respond to disasters in the region.
Zimbabwe, formerly a regional breadbasket, has been reduced to poverty blamed
by the government on poor rains but by the opposition on seizures of white-owned
commercial farms, an economic downturn and political instability.
Saillez said: "Food is now arriving at a steady pace, but without quick food
and cash distributions, we will soon face a rupture in food