From Business Day (SA), 26 February
Mbeki and Mugabe to discuss issues of 'serious concern'
President Thabo Mbeki is to meet his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe soon to discuss issues of "serious concern" including threats to Zimbabwe's judiciary and media. He said he and Mugabe had not met for some months, and he had told Mugabe recently that they needed to get together again. "We've agreed to this, that we will get together soon with the Zimbabwean government to address a whole range of questions that are affecting that country.
"We continue to be concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe. Some of the things that has been happening recently are to all of us as South Africans matters of serious concern - things that have been affecting the judges, affecting the press, apart from earlier questions to do with the land redistribution. We have agreed with the Zimbabwean government, president Mugabe, that we need to get together quite quickly to have a look at all of these issues."
Mbeki was speaking at the end of a meeting of his International Investment Council, a gathering of financiers from some of the world's top corporations. He said the council was interested in where the Zimbabwean issue was going. It was a matter of concern that had to be dealt with. Apart from anything else, it affects this country negatively, he said. The council was keen that there be some forward movement on this issue.
Mbeki said he and Mugabe had not for some time met to engage on a series of issues as they had agreed they should. They had agreed that the UNDP would facilitate a resolution of the land issue, and the UNDP had made some proposals in the last few weeks on how to move. There were also outstanding economic issues to be discussed such as Zimbabwe's relations with the IMF and World Bank. Asked about the Sunday Independent's report that he had expressed concern about the situation in Zimbabwe he said he did not know where the newspaper got its information from. "It certainly did not get it from me," he said. "All I said was that it is necessary that we should get together so we can look comprehensively at these various matters bilaterally."
From The Guardian (UK), 26 February
Pressure mounts on Mugabe
Victoria Falls - International pressure is mounting for measures to be taken against the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, to protest against his assaults on judges, journalists and opposition leaders. The shadow foreign secretary, Francis Maude, yesterday called for a delegation of Commonwealth leaders to be sent to Harare to demand the president's resignation, while the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, said he would meet Mr Mugabe to encourage him to abide by the rule of law.
"It is high time Britain called for the Commonwealth to withdraw the cloak of respectability that its membership gives to Mr Mugabe," Mr Maude said at the end of a two-day visit to Zimbabwe. "Such strong action is needed because of the wholesale human rights abuses, the beatings and intimidation, Mr Mugabe's recent actions to suppress the media, the breakdown of the rule of law, the attacks on the judiciary and his management of an economy which is cratering. The list of objections is a long one."
Moving beyond his previous calls for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth, Mr Maude said the British government should work for international measures to be taken against Mr Mugabe's senior deputies. "There should be targeted action by the international community against the individuals who support Mr Mugabe and who are responsible for appalling conduct. Such action could include bans on international travel, investigations into overseas bank accounts and investigations into past wrongdoings that could go all the way back to the Matabeleland massacres in the mid 1980s." Mr Maude suggested that Britain and the Commonwealth could send a delegation of eminent persons to offer "a dignified exit for Mr Mugabe".
Mr Mbeki said he planned to express his "serious concern" to Mr Mugabe. He said Mr Mugabe's policies had created such chaos in Zimbabwe that it had "impacted negatively" on South Africa. The spectre of Zimbabwe's rapid economic decline and the erosion of respect for the law is widely blamed for falls in the South African currency and a drop in the Johannesburg stock exchange. Mr Mbeki has been criticised for being too soft on Mr Mugabe, despite telling him publicly last year that he should follow Zimbabwe's existing laws to resolve the country's land problems. South Africa's state-owned power company, Escom, provides Zimbabwe with more than 30% of its electrical power. Zimbabwe has run up an estimated $20m debt with Escom, so Mr Mbeki could threaten to turn off the lights.
It's not an easy thing to look back and realise you were personally responsible for putting a man like Robert Mugabe in power but Wilfred Mhanda has had to live with that knowledge for the last twenty-four years. You might think the last year, which has seen thirty two murders, countless rapes, tortures, house-burnings and beatings, all to help Mugabe steal an election, might have made this even harder but the reverse is true. "It's a relief now that Zimbabweans realise at last what sort of man he is", Wilfred says. "It became obvious very quickly that we'd made a terrible mistake - that he was paranoid, authoritarian and ruthless, a man believing only in power. Believe me, he hasn't changed. What's changed is that other people have his measure at last."
You look at Wilfred, roly-poly, 50 and a quality control manager and you don't find it hard to believe that he lives a blameless suburban life with a wife, a little house and a Mazda. Even now the suburbs of Harare - still one of the pleasantest places in the world to live - include a quota of golf-playing, and Daily Telegraph-readers who would not be out of place in Cheltenham or Chiswick. They are also home to many men, white and black, who have, in their time, waded through a lot of blood. But now, with Harare, like the country, crumbling before your eyes some of those men are coming out of the woodwork and, after many years of silence, are willing to say what they know. It's part of the whole atmosphere of fin de regne that this should be so.
Wilfred was the sort of boy who was always going to become a guerrilla. Growing up in Ian Smith's Rhodesia he had a keen African nationalist for a father so that his childhood heroes were not singers or soccer stars but the liberation pantheon of Nkrumah, Toure and Kenyatta. He went to the school at Zvishavane which the former liberal prime minister, Garfield Todd, had founded and which he still often visited though by that time living under a form of house arrest imposed by Smith. By the time he left school he was in such regular trouble with the police that "I would spend all day from 7 am to 5 pm at the police station, sitting there working at my school books for A-levels." The first thing he did at university in Salisbury (now Harare) was to join the Zanu (Zimbabwe African National Union) underground.
From the word go young activists like Wilfred assumed that
armed struggle was the only way to change Ian Smith's mind about majority rule.
"We used the Student Christian Movement as cover. People would go on SCM
"holidays" when actually they were going for basic military training for Zanu's
military wing, Zanla." But Wilfred's cell was also organizing demonstrations
against discrimination in education and he had to walk 25 miles each way to
Goromonzi to organize demonstrations at the school he'd attended there. It all
ended up with demonstrations on the university campus itself and the discovery
that one of their cell members was a police agent - "My handler was furious. Now
you're going to have to run for it because of these stupid student demos, he
said, when we wanted you here organizing the military underground." Together
with four others of his cell, Wilfred skipped the country and, via Botswana and
Zambia, made their way to Tanzania.These were Wilfred's best friends and he
looks back sadly now."Two of those guys were killed by Zanla itself, another by
the Smith forces and one died in circumstances which are still mysterious. I'm
the only survivor."
In Tanzania Wilfred showed a great aptitude for all things military and rapidly rose to become a military instructor, a party commissar and a Zanla commander. Zanla's Chinese trainers picked him out for training as a military expert and took him off to China for advanced instruction. "China was a strange, closed society and the Chinese themselves were essentially racist", Wilfred recalls. "If people like me appeared in the street there'd be a traffic jam right away as people queued up to look at blacks like you'd look at monkeys. But I didn't mind: the training itself was excellent and that was what I'd gone there for." The Chinese attempted to insist that Wilfred was too precious to risk at the front but in fact he saw plenty of action, on one occasion living off the land for three months in a protracted operation in north-eastern Rhodesia.
But the preoccupying problem within Zanu was that its leader, Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, had been in detention in Salisbury for ten years so that none of the younger fighters like Wilfred knew him. Instead they had chosen Herbert Chitepo as interim leader but in March 1975 he was murdered in Lusaka. To this day his assassination remains shrouded in mystery: Wilfred's best guess remains that Smith had him killed but that he must have had help from agents infiltrated into Zanu. Certainly, President Kaunda of Zambia took this as his cue to crack down on Zanla. He closed down all the guerrilla camps and imprisoned the fighters in a remote area.
Wilfred had been on the way to the front in Rhodesia but, hearing that his own camp had been raided by Zambian troops, fled to Mozambique where he conferred with the Zanla commander-in-chief, Josiah Tongogara. It was essential, he argued, that the fighters should not be left on their own for Kaunda was trying to strong-arm them into accepting the leadership of his client, Joshua Nkomo, the head of Zapu (the Ndebele-based Zimbabwe African people's Union): effectively Kaunda was trying to destroy Zanu, calculating that one day he would, through Nkomo, call the shots in Zimbabwe. It was agreed that Wilfred would go back disguised as a simple recruit. This he did and for eight months acted as secretary and assistant to the man the Zambians thought commanded the Zanla forces - though in fact Wilfred, who now ranked second only to Tongogara, gave all the orders.
"Kaunda was pretty ruthless", Wilfred remembers. "The big watchword for all the leaders of the front line states was unity but usually when they said we must accept unity it meant we must simply do what they said. In this case, Kaunda had decided we must all join Zapu's armed wing, Zipra, and decided to starve us into submission." All told there were some 1200 Zanla people under arrest but of these only 400 were seasoned fighters: the rest were raw recruits plus women and children. The Zambian troops denied supplies to the camp and under this pressure 105 fighters defected to Zipra but Kaunda was scared to push starvation tactics too far so instead the Zambian army was sent in to bully the camp inmates into line. Wilfred and two colleagues, whose demand was that they must be allowed to consult their leader, Sithole, before making any deal, engineered a mass escape, effectively daring the soldiers to shoot the women and children - which they didn't. They established a new camp. The Zambian troops surrounded it again so this time Wilfred led a phoney hunger strike ("we had hidden rations and ate in the dark - but the Zambians thought we were starving") until the Zambians finally agreed that they could consult Sithole.
What had happened meanwhile was that Mugabe had led a coup against Sithole in prison. Smith then let Mugabe out to lead the Zanu delegation to the Front Line leaders. But Kaunda, Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Agostino Neto (Angola) and Samora Machel (Mozambique) were shocked: Nyerere was so angry at the idea of a leader being so obviously sent to them with Smith's collusion that he refused to talk to Mugabe and demanded that he and his followers return to Rhodesia and come back with Sithole. This was, in the end, what happened. Sithole quickly saw what was wanted and agreed to a unity pact with Zapu.
Are you saying that Mugabe was really Smith's man, I asked ? Wilfred looked around at his friends and they all grinned together. We've thought about it a lot, they said. Nothing can be proved, but if you look back you see that over and over again Smith acted so as to create openings for Mugabe. Maybe he thought Mugabe was so extreme that he would destroy African nationalism in Zimbabwe. If so, he was right in the end. Mugabe, they explained, had refused Sithole's instruction to attend Chitepo's funeral ceremony and went off to the Mozambique border where he sat for three months. Samora Machel, who wouldn't let him into Mozambique, said he was a Smith agent. The border was the badlands, the hole in the wall, always swarming with refugees, political pimps, Rhodesian spies. In the end Mugabe got into Mozambique disguised as a refugee: what he wanted was to build a following in the refugee camps there.
Machel was furious when he discovered Mugabe had got in and put him under house arrest to keep him away from the refugees. What we suspect now, Wilfred says with a sad smile, is that maybe he got some help getting into Mozambique; maybe Smith was still behind him. But meanwhile Wilfred and his fellow Zanla fighters were discovering just how wrong they'd been about their leader, Sithole. First of all he had revealed himself as utterly tribalist. Maybe we all started that way, Wilfred explains humbly, digging the ground unhappily with a stick. Once you became a fighter all you cared about was that your comrades would literally lay down their lives for you and you for them: tribe had nothing to say to you after that. The problem was that our leaders had never been fighters themselves, so they remained tribalists.
By the time he'd said this he'd dug quite a pile of soil and
you realise the terrible unhappiness of the thing, the complete devotion of the
fighters to their cause, the depth of their betrayal. Maybe they're wrong about
Mugabe being Smith's man, maybe that's all post facto suspicion and nonsense,
who knows ? But what no one can gainsay is the extraordinary, wrenching
sacrifices these fighters made and how little they got out of it. With Sithole
it just got worse. The Zambians shot and killed ten Zanla fighters. Sithole
didn't protest, didn't wasn't to know, didn't even want Wilfred and his comrades
to attend the funerals, visit the wounded in hospital. Sithole believed that he
was close to a deal with Smith and the fighters were, at best, an irrelevance.
"I will never forget the way he turned to us and said "I can certainly talk to
Ian Smith but as for you, my children, I don't know what's to become of you".
Our blood ran cold. The final straw was that he wouldn't attend the memorial
services for our dead comrades but then said he had to go to the US to see his
daughter because she was suffering from headaches."
Wilfred and his friends slowly realised they were in danger. Sithole knew how much they disapproved, saw them as potential mutineers, had arranged with the Zambians to have them arrested. They melted away to Tanzania. Sithole, returning from the US, asked Nyerere to arrest all 42 Zanla commanders. Nyerere refused. The 42 met, voted to depose Sithole and decided, in desperation, to put forward Mugabe as a mediator. They didn't know him but knew they needed a politician of some sort, that a simple fighter wouldn't do. But the Front Line states continued to insist on unity so the fighters united, Zanla and Zipra together forming Zipa - the Zimbabwe People's Army under the leadership of Rex Nhongo. 'Zapu had to have the second position, so I was number three in the command structure" says Wilfred, still digging the soil with his stick. Together they sat down and worked out a new war strategy and in January 1976 resumed military operations as a united force.
Samora Machel, the Mozambican leader, was very unhappy with this outcome. With Sithole out, that just left the Zapu leader, Nkomo, he pointed out - and he, who had always supported Zanu, had no champion. He demanded that they come up with Zanu leaders, so they came up with Mugabe and Josiah Tongogara, the guerrilla leader. Machel was furious: he didn't trust Mugabe and he knew the fighters didn't really trust Tongogara. ("He was quite right", says Wilfred sadly. "We knew Tongogara would be an absolute disaster.) So they picked Mugabe, not really knowing him. "We quickly realised he was paranoid, arrogant, secretive and only interested in power. He was scared that a single united movement might lead to leadership by Nkomo, the senior African nationalist, so he closed down all organisations such as Zipa which united the two movements." By the time Mugabe led the Zanu delegation to the Geneva talks in 1976 Wilfred was so disillusioned that he refused to be a delegate, not allowing for the fact that a paranoiac like Mugabe was bound to take this as a threat at one remove.
The real irony - and the stroke which really sealed Wilfred's
fate - was that just as the guerrillas lost confidence in Mugabe, so Machel
changed his attitude entirely. Mugabe got enormous international exposure as a
result of the Geneva talks and even though they failed Machel became convinced
that Zimbabwean independence was now just around the corner. In which case the
best thing he could was to get right behind Mugabe and make sure his client
became the country's first president. So when Mugabe returned from Geneva where
he had been furiously brooding over Wilfred's refusal to join the delegation, he
told Machel that he must act swiftly to prevent Wilfred and his friends leading
a military rebellion. Machel swooped and arrested 600 Zanla guerrillas including
Wilfred and the rest of the high command. Gradually the rank and file were
released but the 64 top commanders were kept in jail for three
Wilfred is a thoughtful, educated man and he had read about conditions on the slave ships during the dreadful Middle Passage. It was with this simile that he explained the nightmare of the next six months. They were kept packed like sardines and naked, sleeping on cement floors. There were no toilets so they had to defecate on the floor and then eat and sleep amidst their own filth - the cells were cleaned just once a month. They were infested with lice, had so little food that they would put sand in their rice to bulk it out, had malaria and other fevers and froze in winter. It was a nightmare without end. "I read a book by a Holocaust survivor", Wilfred says, matter of factly. "He said that those who hadn't experienced it couldn't believe it and those who had couldn't understand it. That's exactly right." Luckily, Nyerere then heard of their conditions and prevailed on Machel to relocate them to a remote camp in the country where life was hard but bearable. In the end they were freed only because Lord Carrington insisted that all political prisoners had to be released at independence.
Wilfred returned to a Zimbabwe in which Mugabe was treated on all sides as a magnanimous conquering hero. Samora Machel tried to insist that the prisoners must all return to Zimbabwe by joining Zanu-PF. Wilfred and 26 others refused - which meant that in the first week after independence they were arrested again and spent ten days on hunger strike before Nkomo intervened and got them out. But all doors were barred to them and getting a job was impossible. After a year Wilfred met the man in charge of the President's security who told him that he "must be mad" to hang around, that this was only looking for trouble and that he would quite certainly get it if he didn't leave the country quickly.
He got a scholarship to Germany, studied biotechnology, acquired a German girlfriend, was offered a university lectureship in West Berlin: as far as he was concerned he'd emigrated and would never see Zimbabwe again. But the Zimbabwean authorities intervened, told the German he was a communist, the lectureship was withdrawn, he shuttled around Europe, wasn't allowed to stay and crept back into Zimbabwe in 1988. For ages he could get no job but in the end a deal was arranged whereby he's allowed to work provided he stays strictly out of politics. This deal he has now broken by coming out openly against Mugabe. "I've got to", he says. "Most Zimbabweans agree with me now - and it's important that we stand up and say we are the real war vets, not these criminals who are occupying farms and terrorising the farmers and their workers." He is now passionate about all the liberal verities - about the importance of the rule of law, of a strong opposition, of free speech and all the rest. He sympathises with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change but is quick to say that if they win power he wants to see a strong opposition to them too - "as long as it's not Zanu-PF".
It's hard to know what to make of such a biography. Wilfred doesn't regret being a guerrilla or fighting for independence but it's hard, as you listen to him, not to wonder at the sheer mad frenzy of it all. Smith and his supporters fought for a white supremacy which was both morally and practically mad. (I talked to Smith a year ago and it's obvious that he accepts universal suffrage as perfectly normal now: so what was all that murderous lunacy about ?) Mugabe and his ilk fought for a "scientific socialism" which was merely a cover for self-enrichment and a brutal authoritarianism. The one thing that both sides had in common was a complete contempt for democracy and for the mass of the African people. Ignorant armies clashed by night and Wilfred - bravely, naively - led one of those armies until his usefulness was over because he hadn't understood the real rules of the game.
Listening to him you think of Rupert Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, soldiers caught up in a wild and senseless struggle, somehow achieving a strange nobility of spirit amidst it all. But what use is that against the Gatling, the Maxim or the Kalashnikov ? What you do descry is a fearful symmetry. In the 1970s a white elite and a crowd of African nationalist wannabes (then disguised as socialists) fought a bitter war. The actual battlefield lay among the rural peasantry who paid a terrible price as both sides bullied, tortured and killed them in order to win their hearts and minds. Now, a generation later, the wannabes have turned into fat cats: they have had the cream and nationalised the cream factory. Their control is contested by a new black elite, the trade union and middle class "outs" supported by the white remnants and by the mass of the poor who have derived no benefits from independence. Once again the battlefield is in the countryside and once again the people who are getting beaten, tortured and killed are primarily the rural poor. Because, once again, when power in Zimbabwe is at stake - though only then - it is their hearts and minds that are crucial.
It is tempting to imagine what might have happened to Wilfred if he hadn't stuck to his guns and fallen out with Mugabe. Wilfred was second only to Rex Nhongo in the Zanla high command and Nhongo went on to become head of the army and the biggest landowner in Zimbabwe. Wilfred also trained the men who are today the heads of the air force and the police: he could have had their jobs, been a cabinet minister or run one of the big state corporations. But he says he has no regrets about anything and neither then nor now did he have the slightest wish to go into politics: he had simply grown up with the mystique of being an African freedom fighter like some boys grow up on the mystique of soccer and never considered being anything else. He seems content enough today with his middle management job and is more concerned to rescue that mystique than anything else. Like not a few of us he's had to change many of his ideas in order to keep his principles.
From SouthScan, 25 February
Tutsi Pogrom Reparation Issue May Undermine Kinshasa's Fragile Peace Moves
Brussels - President Joseph Kabila's announcement at the Lusaka summit on February 15 of his readiness to meet with the facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue, Botswana's former president Quett Masire and his acceptance of the deployment of UN troops has definitely improved the climate for peace in the region. A few days later, Uganda announced it would pull out 1,500 troops and Rwanda said it would withdraw its forces from the town of Pweto in Northern Katanga, from February 28.
But the Kinshasa government has not met yet the condition set by the agreement which would allow the total withdrawal of Ugandan and Rwandan troops - the "neutralisation" of the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces and of the Interahamwe militias who fight on the Congolese Armed Forces' side and were involved in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. On Tuesday Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga, a spokesman for the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), told agencies that government forces had been air-dropping weapons to Mai-Mai and Interahamwe groups and that the latest drop took place only last week.
The issue remains very sensitive and a domestic demand that the government makes recompense for the pogroms against Tutsis in the Congo in August 1998 may undermine hopes. The relatives of the victims of the pogroms are urging the new president to make a "reconciliation and rehabilitation gesture". This is a dilemma for the new Congo president. The 'Group of Relatives of the Victims of Ethnic Hatred in the DRC' (known under the French acronym GPVHE), wants Kabila to allow the perpetrators and of those who incited hatred at that time to be prosecuted. But if Kabila does so he will have to confront some influential government ministers, such as the current holder of the education portfolio Abdoulaye Yerodia, who on a TV broadcast, called the Tutsis "microbes who should be eradicated methodically and with determination".
The current information minister Dominique Sakombi Inongo, a born-again Christian, could also be in trouble. In an article published by Le Soft International weekly on the August 24, 1998, he said that "the time of exile and great torment had come for the Tutsis. I prophesy that Tutsis will be expelled from all over Africa". Both Sakombi and Yerodia, but also the Youth Minister Didier Mumengi and the Minister of Interior, Gaetan Kakudji, are being prosecuted by the Belgian justice department for alleged crimes against humanity.
If Kabila fails to clamp down on these ministers, he risks angering Tutsi politicians who are influential in the Rwandan-backed rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), such as the head of the Security and Territorial administration department Bizima Karaha, and the head of the RCD's justice department, Moise Nyarugabo. This could hamper peace efforts and the internal dialogue on the constitutional future of the country.
From The Independent on Sunday (SA), 25 February
'Concerned' Mbeki appeals to Mugabe
President Thabo Mbeki has conveyed his "deep concern" about the situation north of South Africa's border and has urged the Zimbabwean leadership to refocus its attention on stabilising the country, according to sources close to the presidency. Mbeki's intervention follows the recent confrontation between Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and the country's judges, and recent actions taken against foreign correspondents based in that country.
"In the light of the more recent excesses over the judiciary and foreign correspondents, President Mbeki would have communicated in one way or another his deep concern about the situation," the source said. "The only hope that reasonable and friendly voices within the region have is that Zimbabwe will take this unassuming but firm advice and refocus its attention in the direction of nation-building and development of the economy so as to alleviate the plight of the majority of Zimbabweans," the source said. "This approach can only be to the benefit of all Zimbabweans and the citizens of the other southern African nations."
Mbeki's intervention is in sharp contrast to the embrace offered to Mugabe this week by the 14-member SADC of which Zimbabwe is a member. The members of SADC, which held a week-long council of ministers in Midrand this week, closed ranks around Zimbabwe, declaring that there was no question of human rights abuses in that country. The ministers did not even discuss Zimbabwe. Hidipo Hamutenya, the chair of the SADC council of ministers, said: "Our position is that this is an internal matter and SADC has no intention of interfering in Zimbabwean affairs. "There are internal problems and the people of Zimbabwe are better positioned to tackle such. There is no crisis."
On the heels of his moves against the media and the judges, Mugabe has launched a massive campaign to wrestle control of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) from the opposition MDC ahead of next year's presidential elections. It was the ZCTU that facilitated and sponsored the formation of the MDC 18 months ago. Morgan Tsvangirai, the labour movement's former secretary-general, and Gibson Sibanda, its former chairperson, are now president and vice-president of the opposition party. Analysts said the ZCTU's watershed general congress, which began on Friday in Masvingo and ends on Sunday, was another crucial battle between Zanu-PF and the MDC, this time for the workers, as the two parties battle to control what is seen as the most important constituency in national politics.
Zanu-PF has infiltrated some of the ZCTU's 32 affiliates and is using them to bolster an attempt to back the election of candidates sympathetic to Zanu-PF. Some media reports in Zimbabwe have alleged that Mugabe set up a slush fund to buy out gullible delegates. At least six affiliates, which had been suspended from the ZCTU over their failure to pay subscriptions, suddenly renewed their affiliations shortly before the five-yearly ZCTU congress began. This prompted speculation that Zanu-PF had used its slush fund to help these affiliates offset their arrears in an attempt to rig the elections, which were due to have taken place last night.
Rumours of vote-buying were rampant when the congress opened. The worst allegation of vote-buying was levelled against a Zanu-PF-sponsored candidate who led three cars full of prostitutes and assigned one each to the hotel rooms of delegates he was wooing. Isaac Matongo, the interim chairperson of the ZCTU, admitted on Saturday that there was a massive attempt by both the MDC and Zanu-PF to control the ZCTU. "There is no denying that both the MDC and Zanu-PF have their own candidates whom they want to take charge," said Matongo. For Zanu-PF, a stranglehold on the ZCTU would translate into the "castration of an errant bull", he said.
In parliamentary elections last year most workers voted against the ruling party in all the urban constituencies won by the MDC. Under the influence of Zanu-PF a tame ZCTU could agree to a government-sponsored social contract, which includes the establishment of a high minimum wage and price controls, the ruling party's trump cards in regaining the confidence of the urban voter. Tsvangirai said on Saturday his party would be as good as dead without the ZCTU's support.
From Associated Press, 24 February
Widows of Zimbabweans killed say US may grant Mugabe immunity
Harare - The widows of two Zimbabweans killed in political violence last year said Saturday they were appalled that the US government was considering granting President Robert Mugabe immunity from facing human rights charges. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, says Mugabe was responsible for orchestrating violence and human rights abuses - including the beating and fatal burning of an opponent - ahead of June parliamentary elections.
Mugabe, 77, applied for immunity as a serving head of state. The US State Department on Friday informed relatives of those killed that it favored granting Mugabe immunity, said Topper Whitehead, a spokesman for the families. A State Department official in Washington said the suggestion of immunity should not be viewed as a shift in U.S. policy toward human rights in Zimbabwe. "Government instigated lawlessness and violence in Zimbabwe pose a grave danger not only to the safety of Zimbabwean citizens but to the rule of law and the integrity of governing institutions in that country," said the official, who declined to be identified.
The US government gave the families until March 23 to persuade the State Department that Mugabe should not be released from the suit demanding $68 million in punitive damages, Whitehead said. "Our initial reaction to the news has been one of absolute disbelief. We are appalled that immunity is even considered," he said. The lawsuit was filed in September under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a 211-year-old U.S. law that allows foreigners to file civil charges in the US for alleged crimes that violate international law. Similar lawsuits have been brought against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, accused of atrocities in his nation's civil war, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Prosper Avril of Haiti and Guatemalan army general Hector Gramajo.
The suit accuses Mugabe of resorting to violence so that his party, Zanu PF, could stay in power. Thirty-two people died in violence ahead of the polls and thousands were left homeless after their houses were torched. Human rights groups have said that Mugabe supporters used brutal tactics against the opposition MDC and that most of the victims of violence were opposition supporters. Mugabe initially dismissed the lawsuit, saying that evidence to support allegations against him would not stand up in a court of law. He later applied for diplomatic immunity.
The civil suit cites the deaths of opposition youth organizer Tapfuma Chiminya, who was beaten and torched with gasoline while campaigning in April. His widow, Adella Chiminya, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he was beaten unconscious by Mugabe's men, then doused with gasoline and set ablaze. About two weeks later, opposition candidate Matthew Pfebve was dragged from his house during an attack by Mugabe supporters, then was beaten and found naked and mutilated on a road, the court complaint said. Pfebve's brother Elliott, an opposition lawmaker, is one of the plaintiffs. Another plaintiff, Evelyn Masaiti, an opposition candidate who won a parliamentary seat in the June poll, said in the complaint that she was punched, burned by a gasoline bomb and had her house torched. Maria Stevens, the widow of farmer David Stevens, charged that her husband was kidnapped by ruling party supporters, beaten, forced to drink diesel oil and fatally shot. David Stevens was the first of five white farmers killed after they openly supported the opposition. None of the suspected killers have been charged.
From The Sunday Times (UK), 25 February
More violence feared from Mugabe's men
Harare - Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe's opposition MDC, has warned that a campaign of violence - including the bombing of the printing presses of the independent Daily News - is only the precursor of worse to come as President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF regime prepares for presidential elections. "They will have to resort to massive repression," he said. "Mugabe beats the blacks and shoots the whites. He's a violent dictator who will hang on to power by any means."
A brutal attack by police on Nhamo Manjengwa, a Daily News vendor in Harare's main township, Chitungwiza, seems to bear that out. "Five men in civilian clothes stopped me as I was going home," he said, his back marked by whiplashes. "I thought they were robbers but then three men in police uniform arrived. They said I was an MDC supporter trying to cause trouble and beat me with batons." When he asked for a medical report at a neighbouring police station he was threatened with a second beating.
Many of those who have suffered at the hands of Mugabe's regime have trekked in, sometimes over many days, to The Daily News to tell their stories. "Our newsroom has been regularly inundated with such folk," said Geoff Nyarota, the editor. "They don't go to the police any more and they don't go to the [state-owned] Herald. "Last week a white woman phoned me to ask what to do about the fact that a friend had received death threats over the phone. I told her that on the whole people who want to kill you don't phone up to warn you, they just do it." Far too many people have been killed for such threats to be taken lightly, however. Four of the MDC's 56 MPs are white and they have been told that Zanu-PF intends to kill one of them within a month. All are taking security precautions - going "underground" with their families at weekends, hiring security guards and, in one case, installing grenade screens over windows at home.
The Danish-based International Research Council for Torture Victims has released a detailed report on nine cases of brutality following the recent Bikita West by-election. A feature in two of the cases was the alleged involvement of war veterans' leader and Zanu-PF MP Dr Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi. Both victims were beaten with whips and iron bars and were left, traumatised and bleeding, in game reserves at night to run the gauntlet of lions. The Danish group lays responsibility for such atrocities firmly at the door of the government and ruling party. "The fact that an MP participated systematically and overtly further stresses this political responsibility," it said.
Amid this sea of troubles, The Daily News is more than a newspaper. "What we stand for is the notion of an independent civil society," said Much Masunda, chief executive. "That is why it is so vital that we have managed to keep the paper coming out every day since the bombing." Readers of The Sunday Times have donated £30,000 in three weeks to an appeal set up to help Masunda and his colleagues replace their presses. The appeal was welcomed last week by Brian Wilson, the Foreign Office minister, who is seeking assurances from Harare that the transfer of funds to the paper will not be hindered.
"The campaign against us is relentless," said Nyarota. "On radio and TV news, announcers denounce our stories as lies. They don't like the realities we report." A stream of defamation suits has been brought against the paper by Mugabe strongmen. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the feared former chief of the secret police and now parliamentary Speaker, sued the paper for tarnishing his reputation by reporting that he had failed to repay bank loans. A court found that this was true and Mnangagwa has had to pay all The Daily News' legal costs.
The growing crisis in Zimbabwe poses an acute problem for the Commonwealth, whose chairman, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, continues to shield Mugabe. Francis Maude, the shadow foreign secretary, who arrived in Harare yesterday, said: "It's time for the Commonwealth to step up to the plate and say that what is going on here is unacceptable. It's not just that Zimbabwe should be suspended from the Commonwealth - not only Mugabe but his cronies and associates must have their assets frozen and be banned from travel abroad." Maude was equally forthright about Mbeki. "South Africa is failing to give leadership to the region. If the South African government is unwilling to stand up for the principles of the rule of law and decency, then it will be seen as supporting what Mugabe does. There's no doubt that things would be different if Nelson Mandela were still president."
Yesterday Mugabe vowed to carry on with controversial land reform, saying his white critics "can cry or do whatever".
Comment from The Sunday Times, 25 February
The world turns a blind eye to Mugabe's terrorism
The war for Zimbabwe's independence was a strange affair. Out in the bush and the "tribal trust lands" it was savage and more than 20,000 people lost their lives. Even foreign correspondents carried guns on long trips - just in case your Land Rover was disabled by a mine sunk into the dirt road and the first people to reach you were "terrs". That was the term for terrorists or, depending whose side you were on, freedom fighters. They would not check your credentials; they would shoot you because you were white and assumed you to be the enemy. If you had a gun you could at least fire some rounds into the air and keep them at a distance until help arrived. Or so we hoped.
But - putting aside the sunshine and the jacaranda trees and the bougainvillea - the capital, Salisbury, was a haven. It could have been any peaceful little English town, clean and tidy, modestly prosperous and impeccably well mannered. Decent wine was hard to come by because of sanctions against the Smith regime, but it was a good place to live - assuming you were white. There were black servants to keep the swimming pools sparkling, the lawns clipped and watered and the meals cooked. They were patronised and paid a pittance and they did not, by and large, complain.
If it were not for the obituary columns in the Salisbury Herald and soldiers back from the bush occasionally getting drunk in the colonial gentility of Meikles hotel, the visitor might not have noticed there was a war going on at all. But around the dinner tables in prosperous suburbs they talked of little else: of the war and of the man they feared most. Robert Mugabe. His "terrs" killed their sons and he personally threatened the futures of every last white in Rhodesia. He was a terrorist and a Marxist, who would not only end the "thousand years of white rule" promised by Ian Smith but who would destroy their country and their notion of a civilised, Christian society.
It was hard to reconcile that ogre with the President Mugabe I interviewed after independence in 1980. There was none of the flamboyance and bluster of the other guerrilla leader, Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe was polite and diffident, an austere intellectual, as quietly spoken and measured as an ageing don and as conciliatory as an Anglican vicar at a meeting of the mothers' union. No, of course he would not imprison Ian Smith, even though Smith had held him in jail. Why should he? What was the point of revenge? And yes, of course he would bring whites into his government. Their knowledge and expertise would be invaluable in building the new Zimbabwe.
Unlike other newly independent African nations, this country was blessed with a proper civil service, an educated middle class, an independent judiciary, a decent infrastructure. He would build on all this. Zimbabwe would grow even richer and life would be better for all its people - black and white alike. He had inherited the jewel in the African crown and he would give it an even greater sparkle.
I believed him. So, at first, did most Zimbabweans - black and white alike. But when Mugabe celebrated his 77th birthday last week only his most loyal supporters would have raised a glass to toast him. Had the country instead been invited to vote in genuinely free and fair elections, there is little doubt that he would have been out on his ear. Mugabe has brought Zimbabwe to its knees. His critics charge that he has done it through a combination of arrogance, greed, brutality, corruption and despotism. The record can be described simply enough.
He promised to take land from the whites and give it to poor blacks. He took some land - but gave it only to his own cronies. He promised to build a strong economy and he destroyed it. The currency has collapsed. There is scarcely any oil for industry and the masses who have been forced to move to the cities can find no work. Unemployment stands at more than 50%. Hunger is widespread. The progress on health and education made in the early years has gone into reverse.
Mugabe's foreign adventures have proved disastrous. He sent 11,000 troops at vast expense to fight for the thuggish dictator Laurent Kabila in the absurdly named Democratic Republic of Congo. Kabila is now dead - shot by one of his own aides. The explanation offered by Mugabe's enemies for this bizarre excursion is that he personally benefited from diamond concessions in the Congo. As this newspaper's South African correspondent, R W Johnson, puts it in the London Review of Books: "Nationalists have turned into fat cats; they have had the cream and nationalised the cream factory."
When his own nation began to stir against him, Mugabe turned to violence. He sent his crack Fifth Brigade, trained by North Korea, to deal with Zimbabwe's minority tribe, the Ndebele. Ten thousand were slaughtered. He terrorised white farmers by encouraging so-called "veterans" to squat on their land and sometimes beat or even kill the farmers. The "veterans" - mostly far too young to have had any part in the war - were used, too, to terrorise people who support the opposition. Last year's election was a brutal farce. Even so, the opposition won 57 of the 120 seats in parliament. There are legal challenges pending in about 30 of the others.
Faced with the possibility that he might lose his majority, Mugabe has behaved in character. Opposition MPs and their families are being physically assaulted. Their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has had attempts made on his life and is being charged with treason. Journalists critical of Mugabe have been tortured and the opposition paper's printing press has been blown up. The judiciary is under attack. Mugabe's justice minister has told the independently minded chief justice, Anthony Gubbay, that his safety cannot be guaranteed. He has taken early retirement.
To all of this cynics will say: "So this is Africa. What, pray, did you expect? And anyway, why get so excited when you and I know there is nothing that can be done?" They have a point. What is sad about Africa is not that many of its countries have such a nasty habit of producing megalomaniacs. That happens all over the world. It is that they seem to have such difficulty getting rid of them without simply replacing them with others. Perhaps it is because so many post-colonial African nations are artificial creations based purely on geography. It is difficult to breed the civic identity needed for stable politics if there is no clear national identity.
Yet still it is possible that democracy will prevail and Mugabe will eventually take his money and run. If he does not, Zimbabwe cannot look to the rest of the world for help. Britain has real interests - historic and commercial - but almost anything we do will be seen as the old colonial masters interfering and will play into Mugabe's hands. The Commonwealth is notoriously reluctant to act against its own members. That leaves the rest of the world. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, President George Bush announced there would be a new world order based on democracy and freedom. Under President Bill Clinton that became, with full British backing, the "new humanitarianism". Dictators who inflicted suffering and injustice would not be tolerated. Fine words, but political reality dictates that what matters most is where the suffering is taking place. So Milosevic will be stopped in Kosovo, but when Putin lays waste to Chechnya, we will share a beer with him in a Moscow pub.
Sanctions? Hardly. The people of Zimbabwe are suffering enough already. In any case, they don't work. Ask Fidel Castro or Colonel Gadaffi or Saddam Hussein. The truth is, we do not live in a new world order. Unless Mugabe is rash enough to pick a fight outside his own borders that threatens to destabilise the region, he will have little to worry about from the outside world. The best we can do is cheer on brave men like Morgan Tsvangirai and hope that the violence we have already seen in Zimbabwe is not the precursor to something much worse. Mugabe must surely know that if you drive your people too far they may turn to the gun. That, after all, is what he did.
John Humphreys is a journalist and BBC broadcaster
From the UN, 24 February
UN team heads to Pweto to monitor pull-out of Rwandan troops
A United Nations team today left Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, for the south-eastern town of Pweto to prepare for the deployment of UN observers who will monitor the disengagement of Rwandan troops, a UN spokesman said today in New York. Briefing the press, spokesman Fred Eckhard said the team of four military observers belonging to the UN Mission in the DRC(MONUC) would become operational as of Sunday. The dispatch of the observers follows the recent announcement by Rwandan President Paul Kagame that Rwandan soldiers would be withdrawing 200 kilometers from Pweto in the direction of their own country. Meanwhile MONUC is expecting 40 additional military observers to arrive on Monday, the spokesman said.
From The New York Times, 24 February
Congo Town Center of Cease Fire
Mbandaka, DRC - A Czech hard-rock tape in the player, fingers beating the rhythm on the steering wheel, Russian UN officer Vladimir Vassin threads his way from pothole to pothole, roadblock to roadblock, on dusty tracks through western Congo. The sparsely populated, densely forested region of Equateur is about to become a testing ground for UN observers overseeing a cease-fire in 2 1/2 years of fighting among six armies and three major rebel movements. Bump by bump, the road reaches Mbandaka, the provincial capital on a Congo riverbank, right on the equator where the river turns to plunge deep into the forest. ``As a result, it is full of mosquitos,'' Vassin complains, crushing one with his left hand. ``But surely this is not the main reason why the warring parties are fighting for this place,'' the UN military observer adds, sarcastically.
Mbandaka will be one of the main zones in which UN troops and observers deploy when - and if - the antagonists pull back, as agreed. A UN resolution approved Thursday calls on all forces to start a nine-mile withdrawal by March 15. Bound by the accord, in what has been called Africa's world war, are Rwanda and Uganda, which took up arms alongside Congo rebels in August 1998 to oust the late Congo President Laurent Kabila, as a threat to their own countries; and Congo and its allies, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Mbandaka, Congo's fourth-largest city, has no running water or electricity for 60,000 townspeople and 13,000 war-displaced. But it's the last major stop on the way south to the capital, Kinshasa, 360 miles away. And it has a two-mile runway which for two years has served government warplanes bombing rebel positions to the north.
In all, reason enough for a Ugandan-backed rebel group to fight for years to seize it. Vassin is among eight unarmed UN observers now monitoring the cease-fire, which should have started with its signing by Congo and other combatants in 1999. In fact, the truce took hold in earnest only in the last month, with the assassination of Kabila and the succession of his son, Joseph. ``Since Kabila was killed, fighting has stopped,'' Vassin remarked, his car heading to the airport to check activities there. On the runway, four government planes sat under tarps - unused for weeks, Vassin confirmed. One thousand soldiers from Zimbabwe and Namibia now sleep inside their green tents or play cards in the shade of palm-leaf huts clustered around the airport. Unbelievable, a Congolese officer said, marveling at the sleepiness after the intense action of just weeks ago.
Congo's allies are not the only ones sleeping out the heat in
Mbandaka. Rocking in a chair on the terrace of his villa, Gen. Kisembie Longa
oversees the Congolese armed forces in the province. As such, he's someone with
whom the UN observers have - and will - deal frequently. In Mbandaka, Longa is
privileged: He owns a working fridge. ``Here, the beer is cold!'' he insisted.
He's a laconic man. ``Where our territory ends, territory controlled by rebels
begins!'' is all he would say when Vassin asked for a briefing. Then he opened
another bottle. But he assured Vassin that, ``As soon as I am ordered to, my
troops will disengage.'' Congolese officers say they are praying for the UN to
seize the rare moment of good will and deploy soon. So are Mbandaka's
townspeople. With rebels cutting off key roads, Mbandaka lacks food and
medicine. The UN estimates 85 percent of the town's people have
Villagers around Mbandaka rarely dare to leave their houses, frightened both of fighting and Congo's poorly trained and underpaid soldiers. As Vassin's UN car approached, people ran into their homes, fearing the army was coming. ``There is no fighting but our own soldiers extort from us,'' one elder, a father of 12, told Vassin. ``At every roadblock, soldiers demand either money or goods.'' With key roads cut off, Mbandaka is short of everything, including food and medicine. During the fighting, not even UN planes got through. The fighting over, the UN observers climb on a roof to maintain a ritual - watching the sunset. This time, for now, unbroken by warplanes.