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

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Mugabe supporters disrupt rally
February 25, 2002 Posted: 4:09 AM EST (0909 GMT)

Tsvangirai accused the ruling party of acting like "animals"   
CHINHOYI, Zimbabwe -- Hundreds of supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attacked people leaving an opposition election campaign rally.
About 500 Mugabe followers, armed with clubs and stones, swarmed around the exits of a stadium in Chinhoyi late on Sunday after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had left the venue.
Tsvangirai had vowed to end a "reign of terror" if he took power in the March 9-10 election. Mugabe hopes to extend his 22 years in power by being re-elected.
Supporters of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party also threw rocks at cars leaving Chinhoyi, Mugabe's hometown, including one that observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said was carrying members of their election monitoring team, Reuters news agency reported.
Police dispersed the ZANU-PF crowd at the stadium in Chinhoyi, a ZANU-PF stronghold.
  Tsvangirai has accused Mugabe of intimidation and planning to rig the vote, criticisms shared by the U.S. and European Union, which have imposed personal sanctions on Mugabe and his close associates.
The EU pulled out its election monitors last week saying they could not carry out their job freely.
Tsvangirai said ZANU-PF were acting like "animals," peppering his speech with swear words as his anger grew at the rally.
"We will not allow them to run around the country like wild animals," he said.
"Mugabe wants to be the only choice and he wants to achieve that even through his reign of terror....
"We are going to inherit a country in a mess, a country that has been raped by political violence."
The Nigerian head of the Commonwealth observer team said a car used by one of his officials was attacked after the rally and he urged the government to act against political violence.
"It is critically important to ensure that there is a peaceful atmosphere in which all parties can campaign freely without fear of violence," said former Nigerian head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
"I trust that the authorities will take the necessary steps to ensure that voters are able to freely express their will and all observers are able to perform their duties for which they have been invited by the government of Zimbabwe without feeling threatened," he said in a statement issued on Sunday night.
Although the European Union pulled out its observers, saying they were not being allowed to work freely, a mission from the Commonwealth, which groups mainly Britain and its former colonies, began its monitoring programme in earnest on Sunday.
Abubakar, said he would be sending 20 teams of two throughout the country soon.
"Our concern will be purely with the electoral environment and the process rather than the outcome," he said.
Chinhoyi, about 115 km (70 miles) northwest of Harare, was the scene of fighting last August when Mugabe's supporters forcibly seized white-owned farms as part of the president's controversial land-reform programme.
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change said on Sunday that the government had slashed the number of polling stations that would operate next month in MDC strongholds and increased them in areas where ZANU-PF did well.
In a rally on Saturday, the 78-year-old Mugabe defended his land reform programme and accused Britain of backtracking on a promise to help redistribute land in its former colony, where he says the white minority still owns the greater part of the land.
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Zimbabwe observers injured in bus attack

THREE foreign election observers were injured in Zimbabwe yesterday when they were caught up in an attack by supporters of President Mugabe on the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party.

Duke Lefoko, the head of the observer group from the Southern African Development Community, a 14-nation economic bloc, watched as a minibus filled with members of his delegation drove through a barrage of rocks, at least one of which smashed a rear side window.

“The vehicle was clearly identified as the SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer Group,” Mr Lefoko said. At least four more cars had their windows shattered with rocks as they drove through a gauntlet of youths identified as Zanu (PF) supporters.

Three members of a Botswana Government delegation — Simon Hirschveld, Professor Sera Ramogwe and the Rev Felix Mokobi — were hit by flying glass fragments. Mr Hirschveld is a former Botswana Commissioner of Police. Their injuries were slight, Mr Lefoko said.

Yesterday’s attack came after a mob of 200 ruling party youths stormed the MDC’s offices on Friday in the central town of Kwekwe while two South African observers were visiting. Neither of them were hurt, but their vehicle was stoned.

Among the group of cars hit yesterday were those occupied by journalists and MDC officials, all of whom had been returning from an MDC rally in the town of Chinhoyi, about 70 miles north of Harare. An MDC official suffered a deep cut to the head.

“I watched it as it happened,” Mr Lefoko said. “I saw these youths with stones at the side of the road. We passed them. I was looking through the back window at our other vehicle, which was following us, and they started smashing the windows.”

He would not comment on the identity of the attackers.

Edwina Spicer, an independent television producer whose vehicle had its windscreen smashed by a rock in the attack, said: “I was too busy removing the glass from my face to notice who it was. But after we all stopped further down the road, I spoke to another man whose vehicle was also hit. He said the youths were wearing Zanu (PF) T-shirts.”

Before the rally, Job Sikhala, an MDC MP, and three members of the party’s national executive had to race through a Zanu (PF) roadblock mounted on the national trunk road at about the same place where the observers were stoned.

About 20 observers, also from the United States, Norway and South Africa, were able to watch later as hundreds of Zanu (PF) militiamen converged on the gates of the small stadium in Chinhoyi’s township while those attending the rally were trying to leave. The ruling party youths seized election materials, harassed MDC supporters and vowed “to deal with them” when the observers had left.

“There is going to be trouble here tonight,” Gift Konjana, a local MDC organiser, said. “That crowd has been watching who goes to the rally and they are going to go to their houses and beat them and beat their families.”

Chinhoyi is in Mr Mugabe’s heartland and adjoins the 78-year-old President’s communal home. The town is under the control of ruling party militias, with one group encamped in each of the town’s 13 wards. Before the rally, they launched new terror on the town.

At 1am yesterday James Chinyai, a local youth organiser, was putting up posters to advertise the rally when he was abducted by Zanu (PF) youths, who beat him with whips of heavy electric cable. He removed his shirt to reveal fresh cuts, over older scars, weals, long dark bruises and scabs all over his chest and back, as well as a huge burn mark, all inflicted in his two previous abductions. Yesterday he was able to flee to escape further injuries.

Also at the rally, on crutches and with his foot heavily bandaged, was Tobias Chimuka. He was dragged from his home on Thursday after militias forced their way in and found eight MDC posters, a party T-shirt and two bandannas with the MDC logo. He was beaten on the soles of his feet until two toes were broken.

Lovemore Moyo had his home searched on Thursday, but the intruders could not find the MDC membership card that he had been accused of hiding. Nonetheless they inflicted the same torture on him and also broke two of his toes.

Next to him was a colleague with a bandage over a hole in his head.

“We have six more people still in hospital,” Mr Konjana said. “People who come to this rally are very brave.”

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Mugabe offered safe passage

Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Monday February 25, 2002
The Guardian

African leaders are negotiating with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to arrange a safe passage out of the country for President Robert Mugabe if he loses the hotly contested presidential poll on March 9 and 10, according to diplomatic sources.

Mr Tsvangirai is leading Mr Mugabe in opinion polls with support from nearly 70% of voters. Several political analysts say it would be difficult for Mr Mugabe to reverse such a wide margin of support for the opposition leader, either through pre-poll violence or extensive vote-rigging.

But a defiant Mr Mugabe, who turned 78 last week, refuses to countenance defeat and has indicated he might use a military coup to stay in power if he loses.

Fellow African leaders are so opposed to a coup that they are trying to get Mr Mugabe to agree to accept electoral defeat in return for a comfortable exile and exemption from any trials for numerous allegations of human rights abuses.

Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo is thought to have raised the issue of Mr Mugabe's exile at a meeting with Mr Tsvangirai in Harare last month.

Mr Obasanjo first met Mr Mugabe at a late-night meeting in State House, the official presidential residence. The Nigerian leader then insisted on meeting Mr Tsvangirai and after initially opposing the idea, Mr Mugabe agreed.

Mr Tsvangirai, who has survived several assassination attempts, was wary about going through Mr Mugabe's tight security, but he was given assurances by Mr Obasanjo and a Nigerian embassy car ferried him to the meeting at 2am.

The Nigerian leader asked Mr Tsvangirai if he would allow Mr Mugabe to leave the country "with dignity" to a place of exile, according to local reports. Mr Tsvangirai has refused to confirm that report.

However, it is far from certain that Mr Mugabe will accept such a deal, even if Mr Tsvangirai agrees to it.

Hundreds of Mr Mugabe's followers ambushed opposition supporters yesterday after a gathering in Chinhoyi, where opposition leader Mr Tsvangirai vowed to end a "reign of terror" if he took power.

Several cars carrying foreign election observers were hit by youths who apparently mistook them for opposition supporters, witnesses said.

The EU pulled out its election monitors last week, saying they were not being allowed to work freely.

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Mugabe backers stone election observers

Jane Fields In Harare

INTERNATIONAL election observers in Zimbabwe came under attack yesterday when militant supporters of President Robert Mugabe ambushed members of the opposition at a rally.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) said its observers were in a car that was stoned by ruling party ZANU-PF youths, following a rally addressed by the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in Chinhoyi, during which he vowed to end the current "reign of terror".

Mr Tsvangirai said ZANU-PF had been "running the country like wild animals. We are going to inherit a country in a mess, a country which has been raped by political violence."

It was the second time in three days that international observers had come under attack.

On Friday, South African observer Eleazar Maahle was slightly injured when suspected ruling party youths stoned a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) building in Kwekwe, 140 miles south of Harare..

Ms Maahle and another observer, Bethuel Setai, were in the building talking to MDC officials at the time of the attack. Dr Setai later told a South African newspaper that the youths "wanted to make sure that the roof falls in and takes care of us".

State ZBC television said "unruly youths" were behind yesterday’s attack, but concentrated on the fact that state media was denied access to the rally. The government has accused a "third force, supported by hostile foreign interests, who are bent on discrediting the Zimbabwean electoral process" of masterminding Friday’s attack, according to the state-controlled Sunday Mail.

Tensions are running high in Zimbabwe with less than two weeks to go before presidential elections, in which Mr Mugabe’s 21-year-long hold on power is being challenged by former trade unionist Mr Tsvangirai.

Mr Tsvangirai’s convoy came under attack on Friday in the central province of Masvingo. Police fired teargas to disperse crowds who had gathered around the opposition leader’s convoy.

The MDC has said it fears its leader faces imminent arrest as police step up investigations into a videotape that allegedly shows Mr Tsvangirai discussing plans to kill Mr Mugabe with a Canadian firm of political consultants.

Mr Tsvangirai denies he entertained any plans of assassination, saying he is the victim of a government plot. But the government appears determined to milk the allegations for all it can.

The head of the firm, Ari Ben Menashe, who was behind US-conspiracy-style stories in the early 1990s and who is believed to have known Mr Mugabe for over a decade, jetted into Harare on Friday. He had "tons of evidence" to give police, ZBC said.

A smiling Ben Menashe told ZBC that London wanted to use Mr Tsvangirai "as a black face for a new Rhodesia". Mr Mugabe this week stepped up his attacks on Britain, saying on Saturday that the "wretched country" was the worst coloniser in the world.

Mr Mugabe has said he will not accept an election result which means the "recolonisation of Zimbabwe", in what appears to be a direct reference to the opposition. Mr Tsvangirai is frequently portrayed in state media as a colonial-era tea-boy.

The Sunday Mail reported that British intelligence officials were trying to mobilise sentiment against Zimbabwe ahead of a critical Commonwealth heads of state meeting in Australia next weekend.

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Mugabe to flee if he loses election

LONDON - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is preparing to go into exile after a private poll indicated he could lose hotly contested March presidential elections, Britain's The Times newspaper reported Monday.

Mugabe, 78, asked Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to reach an agreement with Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai under which Mugabe would be permitted to go into exile if defeated at the polls, the report said.

The Zimbabwe leader is battling to extend his 22-year grip on power in the southern African nation against Tsvangirai, his first significant challenger, in elections set for March 9 and 10.

Quoting an unnamed diplomatic source, The Times said Tsvangirai was summoned to Mugabe's home in Harare in January for a meeting with Obasanjo, and only accepted upon receiving assurances from Obasanjo about his safety.

The Nigerian president asked him: "If you win, what are you going to do about him?" pointing to a photo of Mugabe, who did not attend the meeting, which took place in the middle of the night.

Tsvangirai responded that he would not arrest Mugabe and would instead allow him "to leave Zimbabwe with dignity," the report said, quoting the diplomat, who asked not to be named.

Obasanjo replied: "Good. I think that is for the best."

The agreement also would allow Mugabe's wife Grace and their three children to leave the country, The Times reported, adding that Mugabe's presidential helicopter would remain on 24-hour standby for immediate departure if needed.

I-Net Bridge

The Times

February 25, 2002

Mugabe ready to flee Zimbabwe
By Daniel McGrory

PRESIDENT MUGABE is said to be planning secretly his escape route out of
Zimbabwe after his private polling predicted he could be defeated in next
month’s elections.
The ailing 78-year-old has been sounding out some of his African neighbours
and his dwindling number of friends abroad about providing him with a safe

Fearing that his opponents might try to jail him before he had a chance to
slip into exile, Mr Mugabe reluctantly agreed that overtures should be made
to opposition rivals.

He is said to have asked President Obasanjo of Nigeria to arrange a deal
about his future at an extraordinary late-night meeting in Harare last

Much to his surprise, Morgan Tsvangirai, the presidential candidate for the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was invited to Mr Mugabe’s
official State House residence in the capital. Mr Tsvangirai, who has
survived several assassination attempts, agreed to go to the meeting only
after he was given guarantees for his own security by President Obasanjo.

When some of Mr Mugabe’s hardline ministers heard about the invitation,
there was reportedly a shouting match, with the President telling them to
leave the building.

At 2am Mr Tsvangirai was ushered into its main reception room. Only the
Nigerian President was there: Mr Mugabe had refused to be present.
“President Obasanjo moved closer to Morgan Tsvangirai and, pointing to a
portrait of Mr Mugabe on the wall, he asked: ‘What are you going to do about
him if you win?’ ” a diplomatic source said.

“Morgan Tsvangirai made it clear he does not want to put Mugabe on trial, or
jail him and said he would allow him ‘to leave Zimbabwe with dignity’.
President Obasanjo smiled, nodded his head and said: ‘Good. I think that is
for the best’.”

The deal also guarantees that Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and his three
children can leave, but the MDC leader insists he will ensure that Mr Mugabe
does not take any looted money and treasures with him.

At his rallies Mr Mugabe refuses even to countenance defeat, but his closest
advisers are saying that despite a campaign of intimidation he is facing the
end of his 22-year rule.

Rumours circulate in Harare that Mr Mugabe has the crew of his presidential
helicopter on 24-hour standby and the aircraft is parked on the lawn of
State House should a swift getaway be needed.

The question remains where Mr Mugabe, who is thought to have suffered a
recent stroke, will choose for his exile.

Richard Cornwell, of the South Africa Institute of Security Studies,
believes that he will elect to stay in Africa, even though he has cultivated
government leaders in Malaysia, Thailand, Cuba and North Korea, among

“African leaders are trying to persuade him not to rig the elections on
March 9 and 10, and to go peacefully if he loses,” Mr Cornwell said.

Nevertheless, it is by no means certain that Mr Mugabe will bow out
gracefully if the vote goes against him. There are fears among diplomats in
Harare that Mr Mugabe could blame international interference for a flawed
election and try to rule by martial law.

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Zimbabwe opposition leader questioned over 'assassination plot'


Zimbabwe's opposition leader has been ordered to report to police for questioning on allegations he plotted to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who is running against Mugabe in presidential elections scheduled for March 9-10, denies the allegations.

Mr Tsvangirai is the main threat to Mugabe's almost 22-year hold on power.

Opposition leader quizzed over Mugabe death plot
(Filed: 25/02/2002)

POLICE have called in Zimbabwe's opposition leader for questioning over allegations that he was shown on video plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe ahead of elections next month.

Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Percy Makombe said: "The police have asked Morgan Tsvangirai to report to Harare Central Police at 2:30 p.m. [1230 GMT] today. So he will report."

Tsvangirai, who poses the stiffest challenge to Mugabe's 22-year grip on power, has accused the ruling ZANU-PF government of using the video footage, shot in Canada last December and broadcast by an Australian television channel, to smear him before the elections on 9 March.

Zimbabwe opposition leader summoned by police over 'plot'

By Angus Shaw, AP Writer

25 February 2002

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he had been ordered to report to police later today for questioning on allegations he plotted to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai, who is running against Mugabe in presidential elections scheduled for March 9­10, denies the allegations.

"Of course this is intended to divert people ... there is no case to answer. It is a conspiracy. My campaign will go on," he told reporters.

Tsvangirai is the main threat to Mugabe's almost 22­year hold on power. Mugabe, 78, has dismissed opposition claims that the government is trying to frame Tsvangirai ahead of the election.

The government claims Tsvangirai met with members a Canadian­based political consulting firm last year to arrange for the "elimination" of Mugabe.

Ten days ago the firm released a secretly recorded video tape of a December 4 meeting in Montreal which they said incriminated Tsvangirai.

"If a crime was committed in December, why wait until three weeks before the election?" Tsvangirai said.

The state media has given wide coverage to the allegations by Ari Ben­Menashe, who heads the Canadian consulting firm Dickens and Madson.

Ben­Menashe left Harare on Sunday after meeting with police and members of the Central Intelligence Organization.

On Friday, the state­run Herald newspaper, often used as a platform for publicizing official comment, reported that Tsvangirai claimed he would receive the support of the United States and other governments to head a transitional government following an assassination of Mugabe.

Mugabe has told supporters at campaign rallies he knew of the alleged assassination plot last year but did nothing to have Tsvangirai arrested "for fear of plunging the country into chaos" ahead of the presidential vote.

Denying the assassination claims, Tsvangirai said he met four times with the Canadian consulting firm about possible publicity it could offer his party abroad. He said his recorded remarks were taken out of context.

A video timing clock was not erased from a grainy copy of the recording aired by Zimbabwe state television and showed the original secret tape had been heavily edited and even "rearranged," the independent Mass Media Project of Zimbabwe, an independent media monitoring group, said.

The Mass Media Project of Zimbabwe also said that state television devoted 35 minutes of its nightly news over the first four nights to the alleged conspiracy. The opposition's official denial received 15 seconds of air time on the same news program in the same period.

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The Times

February 25, 2002

Mugabe may attend summit
By David Charter, Chief Political Correspondent

A TEAM from the Commonwealth has arrived in Zimbabwe to observe the country’
s presidential election as the organisation’s Secretary-General said that
President Mugabe may yet attend its biennial conference this weekend.
Don McKinnon said that, as a democratically elected head of state, Mr Mugabe
would be welcome at the meeting of the 54 Commonwealth heads in Coolum on
Australia’s Sunshine Coast, which will include Tony Blair.

Mr McKinnon said that a multinational group of 30 to 40 observers from the
Commonwealth had arrived in Harare. It does not include any British members.

The Secretary-General said that the Commonwealth was reviewing how it dealt
with member states such as Zimbabwe when deep concerns arose over the
treatment of its citizens.

Mr McKinnon told BBC’s Breakfast with Frost: “We have remained engaged (with
Zimbabwe). We have tried to influence. It has not been very successful.”

He admitted that 40 observers would not be able to cover the country’s 4,300
polling booths, but added: “The total number of observers from all other
organisations could amount to 400 . . . but you are still only able to
provide a snapshot. But even the last time we were there in June 2000, our
snapshot said the effect of the violence, the intimidation, did have a
bearing on the outcome. So we have always given a pretty honest appraisal.”

Britain has lobbied for Zimbabwe to be suspended, but the Commonwealth,
which has never expelled a member state, is unlikely to suspend it while its
own team is observing the election.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for
Democratic Change and Mr Mugabe’s election opponent, said that he did not
want the country to be suspended while the election process was under way.

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Violence Likely to Rise as Zimbabwe Election Nears

Feb. 24
By Stella Mapenzauswa

HARARE (Reuters) - A wave of political violence in Zimbabwe, underscored by
an attack on people leaving an opposition rally, is expected to intensify in
the final two weeks of a bitter presidential election campaign.

Hundreds of followers of President Robert Mugabe ambushed the opposition
supporters after the gathering in his hometown of Chinhoyi on Sunday, where
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai vowed to end a "reign of terror" if he
took power.

The incident capped a week in which police shot at Tsvangirai's campaign
convoy, militants attacked an opposition office, and self-style liberation
war veterans forced a white farmer and his family to flee their farm.

Tsvangirai poses the strongest challenge to Mugabe's bid to extend his 22
years in power in the March 9-10 election.

"The violence is likely to continue right up until the day before
elections," said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional
Assembly, a coalition of civic groups.

On Sunday, Tsvangirai had already left the stadium in Chinhoyi when more
than 500 supporters of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party swarmed around the

They attacked sympathizers of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) with sticks and stones as they headed home, a Reuters correspondent
said from the scene.

He saw no serious injuries but the attack took place in full view of foreign
observers who are in the southern African country to try to ensure that the
election is free and fair.


The leader of the southern African observer mission, which includes members
from Zimbabwe's neighbors, said a car carrying some of his team was hit but
no one was injured.

Duke Lefhoko said they would report the incident to police, but critics are
demanding a tougher response from observers.

"The only way the violence could go down was if the observers, especially
the South Africans, issued a strong critical statement," Madhuku told

A car used by a member of the Commonwealth monitor team was also targeted
after the rally, said mission chief General Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former
Nigerian president.

Last week, two South Africans were trapped in an MDC office by 200
pro-government militants armed with stones and iron bars in the first
incident involving election observers.

They were not hurt, but the MDC said five of its supporters were injured in
the same attack and that more than 100 have been killed since February 2000.

Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of intimidation and planning to rig the vote,
criticisms echoed by the United States and European Union, which have
imposed personal sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle.

The EU pulled out its election monitors last week, saying they were not
being allowed to work freely. A mission from the Commonwealth, which groups
mainly Britain and its former colonies, began its monitoring program in
earnest on Sunday.

Commonwealth mission chief Abubakar said he would be sending 20 teams of two
observers throughout the country from next week.

"Our concern will be purely with the electoral environment and the process
rather than the outcome," he told reporters.

A visibly angry Tsvangirai said on Sunday ZANU-PF was acting like "wild
animals" and Mugabe "wants to be the only choice and he wants to achieve
that...through his reign of terror.

"We are going to inherit a country in a mess, a country that has been raped
by political violence."

Chinhoyi, 70 miles northwest of Harare, was hit by fighting last August when
Mugabe's supporters forcibly seized white-owned farms as part of the
president's controversial land reform program.

In a rally on Saturday, the 78-year-old Mugabe defended his land reform
program and accused Britain of backtracking on a promise to help
redistribute land in its former colony, where he says the white minority
still owns the greater part of the land.

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Just to let you know what has been going on in Byo
- this is a letter from the Baptist Pastor in Gweru
- please keep praying for Zimbabwe!!! 
A message from Zim.  Please join us in praying for the Christians there.

Dear praying friends, What a priviledge it was for me to share today with the brave christians arrested in Bulawayo over the weekend!  There is no doubt in my mind: this is now a dreadful form of religious persecution.  I travelled through to Bulawayo from our town of Gweru to visit the 11 christians in jail.  I asked the Lord to perform a miracle of his grace so that I would be given permission to speak with each one.
As I sat in the fifth office I had been sent to, suddenly 10 of the believers were ushered into the same room!  We hugged and laughed together.
Some are personal friends, others were complete strangers to me, yet we were bound together in a sacred moment of shared joy.Their real crime was that they dared to pray and worship when the powers that be had refused them permission to hold a prayer walk.  The organiser of the prayer walk Father Noel Scott had been arrested and 10 sympathetic christians had gone to pray with him at the Central Police Station.  They too were detained for two nights.  Ten men and one lady,they represent the christians of Zimbabwe.
They are from several denominations, they are black, white and coloured and their crime is praying for peace, justice, law and order and freedom of speech.
In the same building was another man being questioned by the police.Dave Coltart, my friend and brave member of parliment, had been picked up and was facing arrest on false charges.  He too is a committed christian and his real crime is that he belongs to the political oppostion here in Zimbabwe.  As I write this e mail, I am so glad to tell you that God has intervened and ALL have been released, some on bail and Dave perhaps facing further harrasment.
I have told them how incredibly proud we all are of their stand for Christ and for good.They were not at all afraid and I saw no tears, just smiles and christian joy.
Please pray for our nation.  Pray that all charges against the 11 and Dave will be dropped.  Pray for a return to peace and justice.  Pray for the miracle of free and fair elections to take place in 18 days ( Mar 9-10 ).
Pray for God's man to lead this nation.  Pray for the downfall of injustice and corruption.  Pray for the miracle of non-violence, both before and after elections.
Whatever you do...  don't feel sorry for us!  The line has been drawn in the sand and good will prevail.  The people of Zimbabwe are determined.  A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD!
Pastor Chris Anderson.
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Dear friends and relatives, It's Sunday morning and before we go to church I felt I must collect my thoughts on the momentus events taking place in the country at this time.  The weather is hot and rather too dry for this time of year but all eyes are transfixed by the politics.With 3 weeks to go to the presidential election, it is really not clear who will win between Morgan Tsvangirai, trade unionist, MDC opposition leader and Robert Mugabe, the ageing incumbent.
The campaign has been very strange.  There seems to be ZANU PF posters everywhere with Bob shaking his fist in a defiant gesture.  Opposition posters are very scarce basically because it appears to be an offence to put unauthorised posters up.
The independent press carries details of opposition rallies but to date 60 rallies have been cancelled largely as a result of police, army or youth militia harrassment.  Vikki saved Morgan Tsvangirai's opening MDC rally in Mutare when she organised public liability insurance which government insisted on at the last minute.  Most MDC MPs have apparently had their houses torched and suffered threats and abuse to themselves and their families.  The ruling party is concentrating its efforts in rural areas where rallies are compulsory and those who do not attend are punished.  A common tactic is to send a group of party youth, part trained in military camps, into an area and make villagers dance, march and sing revolutionary songs.  It is difficlt to say whether this is working but many are desperately frightened and many killed.16 MDC party members were killed in January alone and many deaths are not reported for fear of beatings while making the report.I get constant accounts of this as I give folk lifts on my travels.  Those found without party cards are dealt with.  David and Laurie now both have ZANU PF membership cards as a result.  The state media is full of 1980 political footage, films on slavery, anti British, American rhetoric.
There has been a huge reduction in foreign TV programmes eg soaps, disco music and the like and suddenly much more local drama and music which I like.  (Vikki and the boys don't.)
Security is an issue.  The police force is no longer independent and the head of police has instructed all officers to vote for the ruling party.  MDC members reporting crimes such as assault, destruction of property, arson etc are themselves arrested.  Police fold their arms and look on as ZANU PF militias beat people and destroy and loot their homes.  A 10 year old child had two teeth knocked out because she didn't utter the mandatory slogans with sufficient conviction.  The heads of the army have said they will only serve a head of state with war experience so both sections have avoided their constitutional responsibilities.  There are many road blocks all over Mutare and on main roads, some manned by police, some by newly trained militias.  ID must be carried at all times.  It is not advised to travel at night so some school functions at Hillcrest have been affected.  One MDC activist was shot and killed at the Fern Valley road block recently and there have been beatings at the Christmas Pass one.  The searches are thorough but usually polite.
Food is scarce especially for the poor.  Maize meal is virtually non existent in Manicaland, Matabeleland and Masvingo Provinces.Any surplus has been sent to the political heartland of Mashonaland.  Queues are everywhere with people waiting for up to 3 days patiently to get something, often in vain.  Sugar and cooking oil is not available on the shelves.
Government has put controlled prices on these products and manufacturers have pleaded that the price is uneconomic.
Farms with stocks for staff have been raided and food taken away.  Now the the war vets have burned the grass so farmers are slaughtering their animals because there is no stock feed for them.  Maize meal is ready to be shipped in but Government insists on distributing it and the NGOs have refused this.
The country needs 150 000 tons of maize per month and there is next to nothing here although government continues to make promises on availability which it finds difficult to keep.  We need a 30 ton truck loaded every 7 minuites coming in to the country to feed the place.  We can't see it happening.  Certain areas like Chimanimani have a food blockade and no food is allowed in because they elected an MDC MP at the last election.  The people there have been starving for weeks.
Gordon Hodnett, a local transporter, managed to take 5 tons there recently and is now in jail for his trouble.  I am seeing a South African election monitor about this today.
Schooling is affected.  36 schools in Masvingo province have been closed to date because of beatings,rapes of staff and general harrassment.  All of our children are affected after 2 years of this but discussion of politics is banned on campuses.  Hillcrest is full and we have taken many children from Mashonaland as boarders since the violence is so much worse there.
Although our economic growth rate is the worst in the world behind Argentina at -4%, the biggest growth industry in Mutare is border jumping.  Hundreds of people line the border day and night waiting for jobs taking goods on a 2 hour walk over to Mozambique and back.  In an extraordinary game of hide and seek, police chase these people all over the place with guns and batons.  Our local surgeon, Rolf Kitkat, complains about the grenade and shooting injuries he has to treat.
Every now and again the border area is tear gassed but still people carry on in desperation to feed their families.  The standard bribe is $100 Zim to get goods past a border policeman and the "green route" thrives while the Customs arrea at Forbes Border post is like a ghost town in comparison.  Mozambique has the 5th fastest growing economy in the world so you can imagine the distortions of trade between the 2 countries.  The official rate of exchange is $55 Zim to $1 US, but the market parallel rate is $320 Zim to US$1 .
Exports are processed at the former rate so official trade is terribly difficult.
Despite the problems,we are quietly optimistic.  Although the international community has failed to act with any backbone or courage, we feel that the patience of our people will be suitably rewarded.  All communities wish to rid themselves of this tyrant and his bullying followers.  Our determination will be rewarded.  We know that there is much prayer going on all over the world and it really is incredibly exciting.  If we have a good result, there will be the biggest parties you have ever seen but if we lose, the country will continue its melt down with those who can, leaving.
Think of us.
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Daily News

Thousands defy intimidation to attend MDC rally in Masvingo

2/25/02 8:16:19 AM (GMT +2)

From Energy Bara in Masvingo

ABOUT 20 000 people defied threats from Zanu PF supporters to attend one of
the biggest rallies addressed by the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, at
Mucheke Stadium in Masvingo on Saturday.

Before the rally, war veterans and other Zanu PF supporters had threatened
to disrupt the meeting. They mounted roadblocks demanding identity cards,
but the MDC supporters turned up to listen to their leader.

The riot police patrolled the streets of Masvingo before and after the rally
and there were no reports of violence.

Addressing the crowd, Tsvangirai said the government must be removed through
the ballot box. He said Zanu PF had failed to address bread and butter
issues and should step down. Tsvangirai said an MDC government will not
disband the army, police or the Central Intelligence Organisation.

“But we don’t need the green bombers, the Zanu PF youths being trained under
the guise of national service. These youths are similar to Bishop Abel
Muzorewa’s auxiliary forces who killed many people during the liberation
war,” Tsvangirai said.

He said President Mugabe and his Cabinet had destroyed the economy through
wrong policies and corruption.

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Daily News

Zanu PF plans to slash urban votes

2/25/02 7:56:33 AM (GMT +2)

By John Gambanga News Editor

THE MDC yesterday said the government was planning to reduce polling
stations in opposition party’s strongholds during next month’s presidential
election, while increasing the numbers in areas where the ruling Zanu PF
enjoyed support.

Many Zimbabweans, the opposition said, will be disenfranchised by the
Registrar-General’s decision on the number of polling stations. The
election, pitting President Mugabe against Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC
leader, will be held on 9 and 10 March.

In a statement yesterday, the MDC information and publicity secretary,
Learnmore Jongwe, said the strategy “is carefully designed to produce long
queues in MDC strongholds, slow down the voting process and frustrate the
people in these areas so that they will not all vote.”

In Harare and Chitungwiza, both MDC strongholds, the number of polling
stations have been reduced by 30 percent from 240 in the June 2000
parliamentary election to 167 in next month’s election.

For example, in Harare East constituency, the number of polling stations has
fallen from 21 to 11.

In Harare North, the polling stations have been slashed by nearly half from
17 to nine, while the Zengeza constituency now has seven polling stations
compared to 12 in the June 2000 election.

In Bulawayo, which has eight constituencies, the polling stations have been
reduced by 18 percent from 164 to 134. Bulawayo North has lost eight polling

For Gweru, the number of polling stations has been reduced by 34 percent
from 44 to 29. In Kwekwe, the polling stations are down to 13 from 17 during
the last election.

Jongwe said the government has not given any explanation
for the reduction of polling stations in these urban areas.
“While the urban constituencies have lost polling stations, rural areas,
which are erroneously perceived by the ruling party as its strongholds, have
made significant gains. In rural Midlands for instance, the number of
polling stations has increased by 34 percent from 497 to 699. The major
beneficiaries are the Gokwe constituencies which have gained 124 new polling
stations,” Jongwe said.

The Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, was unavailable for comment
yesterday, but the chief elections officer, Retired Brigadier Douglas
Nyikayaramba, said the Electoral Supervisory Commission had not yet been
presented with the full list of polling stations by the Registrar-General.

“We are having a meeting on 28 February with the Registrar-General when we
will know the exact figure of the polling stations,” he said.

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Daily News - Leader

Ben-Menashe should be exposed to all the media

2/25/02 8:31:16 AM (GMT +2)

IT IS difficult to believe the government when it says that the man behind
the video on the alleged plot to assassinate President Mugabe, Ari
Ben-Menashe, is here solely to give evidence to the government, when daily
he is giving interviews to the government media.

It is possible that Ben-Menashe is, in fact, here to bolster Zanu PF’s
presidential campaign. If he is not, he should be accessible to all the
media in the country.

The suspicion is that he has come to help direct Zanu PF’s campaign during
these last two crucial weeks because Zanu PF has seen the writing on the

Zanu PF has been bussing villagers to campaign rallies being addressed by
Mugabe throughout the country, and ordering people to don on T-shirts
declaring the so-called Third Chimurenga.

The idea is to overwhelm Mugabe with the “public” show of support.

In reality, maize is being distributed to areas Mugabe is due to address
rallies. This is why the recurrent theme at all of Mugabe’s rallies is that
the government will not abandon the people to starvation.

The people are being promised maize distribution after the rallies and this,
coupled with people being bussed to the rallies, explains the attendances.

But it is also public knowledge that in all the places Zanu PF has held its
campaign rallies, the villagers have been left stranded, because no
transport is being provided to take them back to their areas.

How Zanu PF expects the support of the voters in the rural areas when it is
treating people like this at this critical juncture, only Zanu PF knows.

What it is aware of is that defeat could be staring it in the face.

And it is for this reason that it is flouting an agreement not to bus
supporters from outside the areas where rallies are being held.

Zanu PF has a correct reading of the electoral mood and this explains the
presence of Ben-Menashe, the head of the Canadian political consultancy
firm, Dickens and Madson.

But where a critical assessment of Ben-Menashe is required, the State-run
media have been falling over each other to portray the head of Dickens and
Madson as a solid witness.

Yet reports of his work, particularly in Zambia, would suggest that even
Zanu PF tread with extreme caution.

The Herald celebrated his arrival on Friday proclaiming: Ben-Menashe
arrives, criticises Tsvangirai, while The Sunday Mail, not to be outdone,
enthusiastically suggested, Ben-Menashe: Man of indisputable credibility.

It must be the first time in the history of investigations that witnesses
have been feted in this manner.

And the question that must be asked is: why? In fact, shouldn’t Zimbabwean
intelligence officials have travelled to Montreal to interrogate this

Seen against this background, is Ben-Menashe here as a witness or is he here
to ensure he collects his fee?

The utterances he is making would appear, in all fairness, to be the kind of
evidence he might be expected to lead during a court hearing on the matter.

But if indeed his evidence was privy to the government last year, why has
the government not moved in and arrested the leader of the MDC, Morgan

Why were investigations not instituted then?

The timing of the disclosure of the allegations, unfortunately, leads many
to believe that this whole affair is being carefully orchestrated, to turn
public outrage against the MDC’s presidential candidate.

The strategy could be to give the government an upper hand, by forcing the
MDC to focus its energies, during the next two weeks, to defending its
candidate. That way, the government would be dictating the pace of the

If Ben-Menashe wants to address a Press conference he must do so to all the
media based in this country and not these selective interviews.

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Daily News

Zanu PF entices the hungry to Mugabe’s rallies with food

2/25/02 8:15:23 AM (GMT +2)

From Chris Gande in Bulawayo

ZANU PF has been giving out free food and money to mobilise people in
Matabeleland to attend rallies addressed by President Mugabe.

The Daily News confirmed this in Umzingwane District where people who
attended one of the rallies told the newspaper in separate interviews that
they attended the rallies because they wanted food.

Despite the shortage of maizemeal throughout the country, particularly in
Matabeleland, there was a lot of food supplied to the people during Mugabe’s
rallies, according to the villagers.

All the rallies in Matabeleland South were attended by an average of 10 000
hungry people who scrambled for food during the gatherings. They received
sadza and cooked beef.

Some villagers at Umzingwane said they were given cooking oil, another
scarce commodity, and undisclosed sums of money to entice them to attend the

The country received more than 12 000 tonnes of maize imported from South
Africa in the past two weeks but the situation has remained desperate in
shops where long queues have become the order of the day.

War veterans have taken over the distribution of maize at the Bulawayo depot
of the Grain Marketing Board.

Some of the maize is understood to be distributed at the rallies, while some
is being sent to Zanu PF youth camps throughout the country.

Millers are only receiving a fraction of the consignment.

One of the villagers at Umzingwane, an MDC stronghold, said: “Almost all
these people you see here came for food.
“We were told that we were going to get food and with the hunger that has
gripped the country, no one could resist the temptation of having a proper
meal after going for several days without any solid meal.”

However, because of the large number of people who attended the rally, the
villager was one of the people who did not benefit.

Nine-year-old Themba Ncube, who was part of the hundreds of school pupils
bussed in from a school at Gwanda, said they were told to attend the rally
in order to get food.

Other villagers from the surrounding areas said they had been told that if
they did not attend the rallies they would be punished.

This reporter was barred from getting inside Sezhube Stadium at Umzingwane,
where the President addressed the rally.

A television crew from the United Kingdom-based Channel Four was harassed by
party youths and were only allowed into the stadium after the intervention
of a senior officer from the President’s Office.

Election observers from South Africa were told of the ordeal of the

Mugabe attacked Britain for “trying to recolonise Zimbabwe”. He also spoke
about the Aids scourge and the need for people to be careful.

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Daily News - Leader

African leaders become anti-imperialist when under siege

2/25/02 8:32:16 AM (GMT +2)

By Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

THE withdrawal of the European Union (EU) observers to the forthcoming
presidential election in Zimbabwe and the imposition of “smart sanctions” on
President Mugabe and his henchmen were both predictable and, therefore, not
surprising. The United States has followed Europe’s lead and imposed smart
sanctions. However, I am quite sure that no African country will impose
sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leadership or break up diplomatic relations at this

The EU actions are merely symbolic and will have no impact on the conduct of
the election at all. It is a very flawed assumption that because European
and American governments, multilateral institutions and non-governmental
organisation (NGO) election tourists are present in a particular country’s
election they can minimise electoral malpractice, publicise them or serve as
the conscience of the world and maybe internationally discredit any results
from a flawed poll.

This assumption has never been borne out by any election in the last few
years that election monitoring has grown into a multi-million dollar
accessory-to-democracy industry.

What did the presence of monitors in Zambia’s recent elections do to stop
Frederick Chiluba and the Movement for Multiparty Democracy from stealing
the election?

Did their discrediting of the poll lead to any government in the region or
internationally imposing sanctions on the new administration? Has any
government refused to recognise it?

Zimbabweans do not need the presence of the EU, United Nations, US,
Commonwealth, or even the African Union, Southern African Development
Community (Sadc), Economic Community of West African States, etc in order to
hold free and fair elections. There were very few international observers to
the constitutional referendum of February 2000 and yet the opposition won
the “no” campaign against the government. There were a number of obstacles,
manipulation, intimidation, tricks and manoeuvres by the government.

However, the opposition refused to be intimidated and their supporters
remained steadfast against all odds. Even the subsequent parliamentary
election, in spite of the rude shock of the referendum to the government,
was won by Mugabe’s Zanu PF by a whisker. They had to rely on official
skulduggery and surprise of all surprises the Lancaster House colonialist
constitution negotiated with the British.

I would have expected the President who claims that he is fighting off the
last vestiges of colonialism to have refused, on principle, to continue to
benefit from unfair advantages brought about by the “evil” colonial power!

That really is part of the many contradictions of Uncle Bob. He is not
opposed to using the Lancaster House Constitution to entrench himself in
office and will implement it against the wishes of his people (pleading
powerlessness), but when it does not serve his interest he can jettison it
and become the firebrand revolutionary.

It is very amazing how African leaders suddenly become anti-imperialist, Pan
Africanist and radical when they are under siege. It is a shame though that
they argue for sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence, equality
and all the familiar concepts only when it comes to their “right” to
continue to oppress their people. They do not assert this right when it
comes to building schools, hospitals, roads and promoting the social and
economic progress of their people. They are prepared to let the
International Monetary Fund/World Bank, World Trade Organisation, Western
NGOs and development agencies to have free hands on these issues, but
discover sovereignty when their power is under challenge.

Many of them do not mind hiding their ill-gotten wealth in the same Western
banks and tax-free enclaves. That is why the West can threaten them with
“smart” sanctions, which include tracing their wealth, and confiscating or
impounding it. If you do not have ill-gotten money stashed away in Europe
and America, why should you fear exposure?

The other aspect of the sanctions is restricting the movement of the leading
figures of the regime. Why do they have to be travelling to Europe all the
time anyway?

In most of the cases the trips have nothing to do with the state or any
valid national interest. Maybe restricting them to their country may
actually help them to confront the problems at home!

The EU withdrawal may be of no practical consequence, but if the limited
sanctions help to reveal the kleptocracy of the Zanu PF regime it may serve
the interests of accountability and transparency in the long run.

But the hypocrisy of the West in promoting “smart” sanctions, or any type of
sanctions for that matter, continues to undermine it. When the interests of
its big corporations and geopolitical strategic interests are at stake
sanctions are not used. Rather “softly softly” diplomacy is the slogan. Yet
when African states like South Africa, Nigeria and Sadc countries say the
same about Mugabe they are criticised as not being courageous and upright
enough. The kettle cannot call the pot black because African states are only
behaving the way European states behave when the matter is closer to their
hearts and their pockets.

A country like South Africa, probably the one with the largest room for
influence as Zimbabwe’s biggest regional trading partner, has the added
problem of having similar historical problems with Zimbabwe. President Thabo
Mbeki must be reading (with great interest) reports of opinion polls in
South Africa that show Mugabe as being more popular among black South
Africans than even among blacks in Zimbabwe on the land issue.

At the ideological and propaganda level Mugabe has a big advantage helped by
the contradictory interests allied in his main opposition, the MDC, but it
is a pyrrhic advantage because land reform is not the only problem facing
Zimbabwe: irresponsible and unaccountable leadership are part of it. That
cannot be blamed on Boers, settlers or imperialism, but Mugabe and the Zanu

How did they turn a moral right into a political wrong?
How did they turn a widely shared dream (that inspired an album by the great
Bob Marley) into a nightmare?

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Daily News - Feature

The choking and sickening daily lies

2/25/02 8:23:05 AM (GMT +2)

Masola waDabudabu

THE truth shall set us free. We need to be freed. We are reeling under the
heavy shackles of lies and deception. I want to be free. I want the truth. I
am sure you all want to be free.

I am particularly getting tired of being a slave of lies. I do not enjoy
living in lies’ bondage. The lies I am subjected to every day have made me a
prisoner of conscience. I want to be set free. I need to hear the truth so
that I can be set free.

I am sure I am speaking for many who are under the spell of lies. Lies, lies
everywhere! Where can one hide from this incessant barrage of lies?

There are great lies we have to live with. We are made to believe that
everything around is all right. We are made to sing loud and long that there
are no problems in the country. We are made to praise the presence of the
rule of law as we nurse our wounds.

We do not have to mention the word violence. There are no shortages of basic
commodities. The looming shortage of maize-meal has to be thrown out of a
window with the contempt it deserves.

We have to grudgingly accept that there are no criminals in the land. We are
informed that any crime that is committed is a politically motivated stint
by the opposition. We have grown to accept that the opposition party has
bred criminals of the lowest esteem.

We have to contend with unbelievable junk that the opposition has the
ability to stage multi-million dollar heists in foreign lands.

The party’s daylight robbery of the people’s hard-won cash is not mentioned.

People are losing a lot of their scarce cash paying a protection fee to the
party brigands.

To survive this world of lies, one is required to lie that he belongs to the
party by buying the party’s membership card. Information on the plunder of
the people’s meagre cash is withheld. The truth about the forced acquisition
of party cards is withheld. Withholding information is akin to telling a
lie. That is lying by default. We are tired of the great lies.

We are forced to live with a negative truth with regards to the state of
siege. We have no enemies, so we are told. We are told that the only enemy
who is failing dismally to create more enemies for us is the tiny blighter
who blares regularly to amuse himself at the expense of our sovereignty.

We are told that Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, has an agenda
against us. We are lied to that “the gay gangster” Blair is a liar. The
truth is that Blair has seen something amiss. He is merely reaching out to
expose the lies we are forced to live with.

Maybe a lot of Zimbabweans do not realise the level of lies we have to
contend with. I am not an alarmist. All I ask is to be correctly informed. I
hate lies. I hate liars. It is even more painful to hear an ecclesiastic
lie. There is no point for priests, preachers, deacons, bishops, clerics and
others of a religious calling to lie to the people.

God does not only expect His followers to be honest to Him alone. He expects
them to be truthful to everyone. It is a lie for a bishop to say that the
nation is at peace with itself when the signs of internal strife are all
over. It is a lie for a bishop to proclaim that God guides those who have
hands full of blood.

It is a great lie for ministers of the Cabinet to craftily proclaim that the
situation we are in is due to the making of the British. I do not have blind
respect for the colonisers.

All I want to know is how the British have managed to create so much strife
for us 22 years after our independence. What I thought to be the truth was
that the British seem to be sailing through their problems with flying
colours. They had foot-and-mouth and they never blamed it on anyone.

We have been lied to about the United States sanctions bill against
President Mugabe and his top government ministers. We have been openly told
that it is meant to hurt us Zimbabweans in our totality. Those who crafted
it said it would be applied clinically on those who matter.
Those who matter keep on hammering us with lies to the contrary. They say
the bill is going to hurt us all. I think it is a lie to mention that we can
be hurt more than we have been hurt. It is a lie that human beings of this
century can endure more hardships than this.

What democracy is there when people cannot openly support political parties
of their choice as long as those parties are not “the party”? It is a lie we
are bombarded with that we live in a democracy. A democratic dispensation is
tolerant of other people’s beliefs. I hate to be lied to that there is
democracy when you are forced to belong to “the party” even if you have
reservations about it.

The truth will set us very free. We are prisoners to perennial lies. We need
the truth to set us free. Someone needs to remove this choking blanket of
lies so that we may have several views of the same story.

The flow of the truth should not be censored. The truth should flow
naturally like water downstream. It is only natural that people will react
favourably to the truth.

The truth is refreshing and assuring.

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Tobacco Selling Season to Ease Foreign Currency Woes

Takaitei Bote

ZIMBABWE's foreign currency woes are expected to ease from May when earnings from flue-cured tobacco, the country's major foreign currency earner, start being received.

Stanley Mtepfa, the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board general manager, said the flue-cured tobacco marketing season would begin on 14 May, about three weeks late compared with last year. Last year, flue-cured tobacco auctions opened on 24 April.

About 40 percent of the total earnings of foreign currency in Zimbabwe are from tobacco exports. Mtepfa said: "We are opening late this year because of the slow start to the beginning of the season last year."

The tobacco marketing season began on a slow note last year because farmers withheld their crop in anticipation of devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar, which has been fixed at the same level since 2000.

Burley Marketing Zimbabwe, which accounts for 20 percent of flue-cured tobacco market in the country, was last year closed on the second day of sales after farmers refused to book in their crop because the dollar had not been devalued.

The government has refused to devalue the the local currency, which remains fixed at $55 to the United States dollars. Its argument is that this move would negatively affect the ordinary person in the street.

Other reasons for the slow start to the season last year were that farmers delayed in grading their tobacco because they had sent workers on holiday, while others said they failed to bring their crop to the floors because of disturbances on commercial farms caused by farm invasions.

Mtepfa said the auction floors would this year open when the Easter and school holidays would be over and there would not be any interruptions to the flow of the crop. He said the burley tobacco auction floors would open a couple of days after 14 May.

A date for the beginning of the burley tobacco marketing season has, however, not been set. Mtepfa said a flue-cured tobacco crop of between 160 to 170 million kilogrammes was expected to go through the floors this year, while about 4,4 million kg of burley tobacco would be auctioned.

Last year about 200 million kg of flue-cured tobacco were auctioned, realising about $34 billion while about 4,6 million kg of burley tobacco worth $423,3 million were sold.

Commercial farmers this year reduced tobacco production by 54 percent due to uncertainties caused by the land issue, while others reduced plantings because they were prevented from working by farm invaders.

Invaders have been on the farms since February 2000, when a government-sponsored draft constitution with a clause on compulsory acquisition of farms was rejected in a referendum.

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Zimbabwe: Statement by Jack Straw

Commenting on the decision by Harare police to charge Morgan Tsvangirai with high treason, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said:

"This is a disturbing development. Coming just days before the Presidential elections, it looks like yet another attempt by the Mugabe regime to obstruct the conduct of the election and the ability of the people of Zimbabwe to choose, freely and fairly, who should lead them."

"I will be discussing the harassment of the opposition in Zimbabwe with Commonwealth colleagues at the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on Friday".

Straw condemns Mugabe over treason plot charge

Jack Straw has voiced concern over the treason charge levelled against Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mr Tsvangirai could face execution if found guilty of plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe.

The charge appears to be President Mugabe's latest attempt to cling to power, the Foreign Secretary said.

But officials still do not expect the Commonwealth to heed his call for Zimbabwe's suspension when the group meets in Australia this weekend.

Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was questioned by police for two hours in the capital Harare before being charged. He was later released and told he would be summoned at a later date. Mr Tsvangirai denied the allegations.

"This whole thing is contrived to damage me politically. The timing is obvious," he said. "This was all along ZANU-PF's (the ruling party) strategy to eliminate me from the race."

Mr Straw, whose call for the ban was rejected by the Ministerial Action Group last month, called the charge "a disturbing development".

"Coming just days before the Presidential elections, it looks like yet another attempt by the Mugabe regime to obstruct the conduct of the election and the ability of the people of Zimbabwe to choose, freely and fairly, who should lead them," he said.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Mr Straw would reiterate his view that there should be no place in the Commonwealth for a country flouting its standards. However, the UK was just one of over 50 member states and Zimbabwe was unlikely to be thrown out after accepting Commonwealth observers, he said.

President Mugabe said last week that he would not have Mr Tsvangirai, arrested ahead of the election despite allegations of the assassination plot. He told supporters he knew of the alleged plot last year.

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Mr Mugabe's smears are a sign of desperation
26 February 2002
Less than two weeks before the voters of Zimbabwe go to the polls, it appears to be dawning on President Robert Mugabe that brutal intimidation, censorship of the media and rabid "anti-imperialist" bombast may not be sufficient to guarantee him re-election. This is one inference – perhaps the most hopeful one – that can be drawn from the arrest yesterday of the country's main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr Tsvangirai was detained and questioned for two hours, before emerging from the police station to say that he had been charged with treason – a crime which attracts the death penalty. That Mr Tsvangirai was released and may well not be summoned to face the charges until after the election, if then, shows that this was yet another example of the political harassment in which Mr Mugabe's regime specialises. If the opposition leader is really such a threat to the country's security as to warrant trial for treason, then it stands to reason that his place is in prison, rather than out campaigning for election.
The evidence on which the charges are based seems equally spurious. It is contained in a mysterious video broadcast on Australian television, which purports to show Mr Tsvangirai in talks to arrange the "elimination" of Mr Mugabe. The video, which bore all the hallmarks of having been heavily edited, if not doctored, has been extensively replayed and reported in the state-controlled Zimbabwe media. Again, the aim appears to be not to prevent Mr Tsvangirai from competing for the presidency, but to discredit him with the voters; to do everything to render the opposition unelectable, while still going through the motions of an election.
Even this, however, may not be enough. According to unconfirmed reports seeping out through unidentified "diplomatic sources", Mr Mugabe's internal polling shows that despite all his precautions, he could yet lose on 9-10 March. Anticipating this possibility, he is supposedly seeking refuge abroad. Such information seepage could be deliberate disinformation – designed to scare wavering voters who might have something to fear from a change of regime.
If genuine, though, these reportstestify to mounting desperation. The glimmer of hope in Zimbabwe's pervasive political gloom is that the voters may be courageous enough to scorn the coercion. The more desperate the actions of Mr Mugabe, the more brightly that hope shines through.
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Mugabe rival on treason charge

The head of Zimbabwe's opposition party faces charges of high treason, an offence punishable by death, his lawyer said today.

Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was questioned today by police over allegations that he plotted to assassinate President Robert Mugabe ahead of the March presidential elections.

He was questioned for two hours in Harare before being told charges would be pressed. He was then released and told he would be summoned at a later date, his lawyer said. The arrest was widely seen as a move to frustrate the election process.

Tsvangirai has been leading Mugabe by at least 60 per cent in opinion polls ahead of the elections, amid violence and widespread hunger caused by the policy of stripping 4,500 white farmers of their land.

Police opened an investigation this month over video footage that was alleged to show Tsvangirai engaged in a discussion about a possible "elimination" of Mugabe.

U.S. Labels Zimbabwe Treason Charges 'Intimidation'
Monday, February 25, 2002; 2:24 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb 25—The United States said on Monday that treason charges against Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai appeared to be government intimidation before presidential elections on March 9 and 10.
Tsvangirai, who has launched the toughest challenge to President Robert Mugabe's 22-year rule of the former British colony, said police had charged him with treason but that he still expected to run in the elections.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "This falls against a backdrop of a well-documented campaign of violence and intimidation against the opposition.
"We are aware of no convincing evidence that there is any basis for these allegations."
"It appears to be another tragic example of President Mugabe's increasingly authoritarian rule, his government's apparent determination to intimidate and repress the opposition as we approach the ... presidential election," he added.
On Friday, the United States imposed a ban on U.S. travel by Mugabe and his inner circle to protest an election campaign it called "marred by political violence and intimidation."
President George W. Bush suspended entry into the United States of Mugabe and senior members of his government and their families, and people who through their business dealings benefit from the policies of the Zimbabwean government.
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Zimbabwe votes: Mashonaland

By John Dzingi

The three rural Mashonaland provinces are strongholds of President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.

Here, Mr Mugabe's promise to distribute land to the landless is a vote-winner as black subsistence farmers gaze across at the lush, lucrative farms of their white neighbours.

  • Main towns: Chinhoyi; Kariba; Bindura; Marondera
  • 31/34 MPs from Zanu-PF
  • Mugabe's strongest area, he was born in Zvimba, near Chinhoyi
  • Centre of tobacco industry - big export earner
  • Bindura has been one of the most violent areas
  • Ethnicity: Shona
  • Registered voters in 2000: 1.4million
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    Mashonaland Central leads the way in both support for Mr Mugabe and violence against opposition activists.

    The province hosts the notorious Border Gezi National Youth Training Centre where unemployed youths from all over the country undergo three months of training and later terrorise ordinary folk suspected of not supporting Zanu PF.

    Zanu PF has been the aggressor in most incidences of violence but of late the MDC has started fighting back.

    Members of the public travelling in these provinces have resorted to unwillingly buying Zanu PF membership cards to ensure their personal safety at illegal road blocks mounted by supporters of Mr Mugabe.

    They have also barred independent newspapers like The Daily News, The Financial Gazette, and The Independent from rural Mashonaland.

    Anyone seen reading these papers is automatically labelled an MDC supporter and can pay dearly.

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    Mugabe threatens church leader

    Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has demanded the resignation of Archbishop Pius Ncube, for refusing to co-operate with the government in upgrading a mission hospital - the missionary news service (MISNA) reports.

    During a rally on Thursday, Mugabe said the archbishop should declare his political affiliation and stop frustrating government 'plans'.

    Church commentators said the archbishop had not co-operated with the government by upgrading Lupane mission hospital using church money, in the run-up to the elections, as the credit for this would be claimed by the ZANU-PF.

    Archbishop Ncube has fallen out with Mugabe by accusing the government of corruption and abuse of power. MISNA said: "in his fight for social justice, the Archbishop has been a towering figure in defending the rights of the poor."

    The Zanu-PF party is very unpopular in the Matabeleland region, where Archbishop Ncube is head of the Bulawayo Diocese. It lost almost all seats there during the 2000 parliamentary elections. At the time Mugabe blamed the archbishop for the defeat.

    Warning of unspecified action against the archbishop if he made further political comments, the Jesuit-educated president said: "We do not want to create trouble with men of God but I think Archbishop Ncube has gone too far. If he continues with his political stance we will challenge him as a politician."
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