In 1949 I stood at the fence of my school and
watched hundreds of people march past with banners and making a great deal of
noise. The Police and Army were all over the place - I thought it was very
exciting. It was the start of the struggle in this country for the right to
It started with Rhodes who said in a document that he
wanted "every civilized man to have the right to vote". Who was a "civilized
man" - a "man who had some education and owned some property". It was the
first expression of what became known as the qualified franchise. This was
applied, more or less, up to 1964 when it was finally abandoned for a
racially defined right to vote. This excluded the great majority of people
from the voters roll.
The African Nationalist leaders had never
been in favor of the qualified franchise. They knew that when this threatened
the hold on power of the white minority, the standard would simply be raised
and ambitions thwarted. What they demanded was "one man, one vote." This was
the strident demand of the NDP, then Zapu and then Zanu. It was the rallying
cry of the liberation war; it defined the principal objectives of the
struggle for power.
This past week, the Chief Justice of
Zimbabwe, sitting with a full bench of the Supreme Court, said that the right
to vote was not a fundamental right of a citizen. This was in response to a
Court challenge brought by people living outside Zimbabwe who want to vote in
the forthcoming election. The Court reserved its judgment.
now it is out in the open - the universal suffrage that tens of
thousands gave their lives for in 30 years of struggle was a sham. All they
wanted was power, the right to use the State to plunder the resources of the
country and to impoverish the people.
But while we may reel at
such a statement, it is the lengths to which these self-serving leaders will
go to preserve their hold on power that astonishes me. I was part of the
transition team in 1980, helping with the changeover from the Rhodesian era
to the new Zimbabwean State. We ran the first election and used the former
Rhodesian administration to do so. Rhodesia was many things - but the one
thing that it had was a small but very competent and dedicated civil service.
The first election was conducted on the basis of a genuine one person, one
vote basis. All you had to do was go to the nearest polling station and
produce your ID and then vote.
And vote we did - over 85 per cent
of the total population voted - many with tears of joy. The result - almost
every person in the country voted for the men and women who had brought about
this unique opportunity. The old regime attracted less than 3 per cent of the
vote. As a result, the transition was peaceful, the planned Rhodesian army
coup did not materialize and the four armies that had fought each other gave
up their weapons and went home. Not a shot was fired in anger, it was an
A short while later I sat in the Stadium
where we launched our new democracy and watched as units of the different
forces - the Rhodesians, Zanla and Zipra, the Police all paraded and saluted
the new leadership and the symbols of our freedom.
after 20 years of Independence a new generation of leadership launched its
own bid for power through the same ballot boxes that had been used in 1980.
How naļve we were then! We honestly believed that the regime, which had
fought for our independence and democratic rights, would let us vote for
change. We were mistaken and we paid a high price for our
The Mugabe led regime launched a programme of terror and
deception that gave rise to the total subversion of the democratic values
that had been fought for by successive generations of Zimbabweans. The State
since then has done everything in its power to ensure that less than half the
eligible population is allowed to vote, that the conditions under which they
vote are neither fair nor free and that the information reaching the average
voter is completely distorted by propaganda and lies.
we finally get to the actual day and go into the voting station, there is
hardly a person who does not think that "they will steal the election" from
us. It would now seem as if all the elections since 1980 have been rigged to
a greater or lesser degree. The specter of helicopters flying full ballot
boxes to polling stations in 2002 is still fresh in our minds.
is no accident of judicial history that of the 38 electoral
challenges launched in June 2000, only 12 have been heard and 2 finalized.
That the challenge to the outcome of the presidential election result in 2002
has yet to be heard. The plain truth is that no Bench, no matter how warped
by political appointees could be trusted to judicate on such matters
without seriously embarrassing the State and its regional
And now the Chief Justice has the audacity to say that
the right to vote is not a fundamental right worthy of protection under the
laws of the country. What a mockery of our history, what a disgraceful
exhibition of judicial appeasement with a corrupt and tyrannical
The right to vote, in secrecy and safety, must be the
most important single political right a citizen can hold. It is by these
means that they can change their leaders and the policies they represent.
Apart from the gun or street violence there is no other way in which they can
seek to improve their lives and protect their interests.
may have been naļve to think that the Mugabe regime would allow a democratic
transition - but rather naļve than we give up and go "back to the bush" with
the threat that we draw our country into the kind of morass that has
enveloped Somalia and the Sudan.
We remain committed to fighting
this cause in democratic ways, believing that ordinary people have
extraordinary wisdom and intelligence and will know what to do when they get
the chance to vote on the 31st March 2005. But as I have said before such
activity takes an awful lot of money and effort - just getting the tens of
thousands of polling agents out to the polling stations and seeing to it that
they are trained and have the resources to supervise the poll will cost
Billions we do not have. All we have is our courage and
commitment to the country and our democratic values. If you want to help, but
cannot vote or join us in the struggle on the ground on the day - then help
us find the money we need to win.
The campaign is intensifying
by the day. MDC still has no access to the State controlled media, our people
are still being arrested on a daily basis for all sorts of things - image a
three year sentence for three young people caught putting posters up in a
small town - right next to the posters of the ruling Party! We still have to
have Police approval for every kind of gathering and cannot even conduct
training sessions or closed strategy sessions with activists without CIO
observers present. But as Dave Coltart said - perhaps this is the only time
they will be able to hear the truth!
Sent: Saturday, February 26, 2005 9:41 PM Subject: Billion dollar birthday
Dear Family and Friends, I am writing this letter on a grey,
overcast and very sticky and humid Marondera day. According to the state
television, all roads are leading to Marondera today because President
Mugabe's 81st birthday party is being held in the town. An enormous white
tent has been erected on the local football field and all week the town has
been filling up with government dignitaries, entertainers, scores of police,
security officials, youth brigade members and men in dark glasses and big
hats. As I write this letter the birthday celebrations are underway and being
broadcast live on television. Many thousands of people are in the tent:
children in school uniform holding little flags, ministers and government
dignitaries wearing red sashes and the usual large number of people who find
it appropriate to wear clothes with President Mugabe's face printed on the
fabric. Lines of teenage girls, in youth brigade uniforms and with shaven
heads started the day off with displays of karate kicks and punches and were
later followed by speaker after speaker who came forward to praise the
President and condemn anyone and everyone who is seen as an enemy. As a
Marondera resident I couldn't help but smile as I watched all the VIP's and
even local Marondera government officials, drinking bottled water. I guess
they must have heard that our water has been very off for the last couple
of weeks, often being distinctly discoloured and almost every day
smelling and tasting foul.
When the party had been going on for four
hours and after all the speeches had been made, the birthday cake emerged.
Slices were cut and handed out to members of the family and then the
television commentator made the most amazing statement. She said: "As you
can see, Robert junior is actually eating the cake now whilst I am still
hungry but it looks very delicious." The words of the commentator would
undoubtedly have been echoed by many of the thousands of people in the tent.
There had been no sign of any refreshments being available for the spectators
or children during the long hot morning and by this time it was obviously
very hot as scores of people were fanning themselves with their little
According to the government media, donations to the
value of one billion dollars were raised for the Marondera birthday party. I
needed a dictionary to check how many zeros there are in a billion dollars
and then my twelve year old son to show me how to use the calculator in my
computer as a normal calculator cannot accommodate all those zeroes. We
worked out that the money spent on the Presidential birthday party could have
bought 285 thousand loaves of bread which would have been enough to give 6
slices of bread to every man, woman and child in Marondera. Oh well I guess
we'll just have to dream of delicious birthday cake. Until next week, love
cathy Copyright cathy buckle 26th February 2005
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
has increasingly turned to hard-line military commanders to cow his factious
country and now is relying on them to ensure a ruling party triumph in March
31 parliamentary elections.
He appointed a former colonel to
run the new Election Commission last month and passed laws that placed the
army in charge of polling stations and allows military officers to serve as
Analysts said it follows a trend in recent years
of militarizing Zimbabwean society. Mugabe clings to power, they said, by
placing men who unflinchingly follow orders in charge of strategic
industries and ministries, the secret police, justice system, youth militias
and food and fuel distribution.
"The strategy is to get people in key
positions that share the hard-line attitudes of the government," Lovemore
Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, an opposition
coalition of churches and unions, said in a telephone
"You appoint the military because they follow orders. They
will do what is required," Madhuku said.
Senior military officers
are closely aligned politically to Mugabe, a strongman who has led this
country since independence in 1980s, and many have lucrative business ties
to ruling party stalwarts.
"Mugabe has never been comfortable with
people not in the military. As his popularity has progressively declined, he
has run back to the military for his own protection," said University of
Zimbabwe political scientist John Makumbe. This proclivity became more
pronounced this winter as the ruling party fractured in December from
"He is a frightened man," said Makumbe,
speaking by telephone from the United States, where he is a guest lecturer
at Michigan State University. "The infighting shook him greatly. His party
is weaker than ever before, more vulnerable. It has enemies without and now
seemingly enemies within."
To shore up military support, troops
recently received raises of up to 1,400 percent, said Makumbe.
said Mugabe has also given large commercial farms confiscated by the
government from white farmers to top officers. The army and police services
also purged and punished thousands in junior ranks suspected of supporting
The upcoming elections "will take place under
the most repressive laws in our history. Not a single electoral body is
impartial," said David Coltart, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic
Change, the main opposition party.
In a troubling sign for the
opposition, members of the Green Bombers, the government youth militia, are
being incorporated into security forces and will run polling stations, said
Makumbe. The State Department has accused the group of beating and torturing
opposition supporters into submission under direction of state
Also, prosecutors around the country, directed by former
colonel and new Attorney General Sobuza Gula-Ndebele, are seeking to
reinstate charges dropped against opposition activists for lack of
Nearly all the charges stem from alleged violations of the
draconian Public Order and Security Act, a law prohibiting political
meetings or discussions without prior police approval that is rarely granted
to the opposition.
Meanwhile, George Chiweshe, a former colonel and
veteran of the independence war, was picked to run the new Electoral
Opposition party spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the
party has serious reservations about Chiweshe's impartiality and
That's not surprising.
the last presidential election in 2002, Mugabe was declared the narrow
winner in voting independent observers called deeply flawed by intimidation,
violence and massive vote rigging.
Just before that vote, another
military man, Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe, said in a statement widely condemned
both in Africa and abroad that the country's military and secret police
would not accept an opposition victory. Some junior officers later
acknowledged to human rights investigators that they had been forced to
stuff ballot boxes for the ruling party and the president.
Mugabe woos states to avoid poll scrutiny The Times,
AFP February 22, 2005 HARARE: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has begun
a diplomatic offensive to persuade neighbouring African states to allow him
to bend the rules during parliamentary elections next month.
Mugabe is also erecting more obstacles to outside scrutiny of the polls and
is clamping down on any sign of internal dissent. On Saturday, he dismissed
Jonathan Moyo, his controversial Information Minister and the architect of
the country's repressive media laws, after he defected from the ruling
Zanu-PF party to run as an independent.
Zimbabwe's main opposition party,
the Movement for Democratic Change, added its weight to the election
build-up with a rally on Sunday at which it struck out at what it called the
"battering" Mr Mugabe's rule had imposed on the country.
families are desperate for food and jobs, with a worthless currency, a huge
budget deficit, a shocking external debt, a runaway unemployment rate and a
devastating HIV pandemic," opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the
Mr Mugabe, who celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday, has sent
envoys to Namibia and Botswana, key members of the Southern African
Development Community, to seek their acquiescence in his failure to follow
SADC's own rules governing elections in the region. Zimbabwe has refused to
allow a legal delegation into the country to inspect electoral reforms, so
it would not be possible for the SADC to have election monitors in the
Diplomats said that to avoid a
backlash Mr Mugabe had sent two of his most loyal followers --
Anti-Corruption Minister Didymus Mutasa and Social Affairs Minister John
Nkomo -- to meet President Sam Nujoma of Namibia and President Festus Mogae
of Botswana, old allies from his "freedom struggle" days and sympathetic to
his argument that he is a victim of racist detractors.
interview on state television on Sunday, Mr Mugabe said: "You can never ever
convince an Englishman that you are equal to him, never, never. He is always
Not much news has come out of Zimbabwe lately.
But the old saw that "no news is good news" doesn't apply to that particular
corner of hell in southern Africa.
News from Zimbabwe has been
scarce because its aging tyrant, Robert Mugabe, has been engaged in a
systematic campaign to suppress any remnants of an independent media in that
lovely and once-so-promising country between the Limpopo and Zambezi
In recent days, three reporters for major international
news organizations -- Angus Shaw of The Associated Press, Brian Latham of
the Bloomberg financial news service and Jan Raath of The Times of London
-- fled the country separately after agents of Mugabe's regime searched
their office and threatened to arrest them for "running a spy ring" and
defaming the state.
The office that the three shared at No. 20
Birdcage Walk in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, was affectionately dubbed "the
Old Gentlemen's News Co-operative," Raath wrote in The Times on Feb. 19
after he fled to South Africa from "the sad, wrecked country that I
A fourth journalist, Cornelius Nduna, who has done
free-lance work for foreign news organizations, was reportedly in hiding in
All four men are Zimbabwean citizens. A media law passed
by a compliant parliament in March 2002 prohibits foreign journalists from
living in Zimbabwe. Accreditation for visiting foreign reporters is rarely
granted. Any story deemed "prejudicial to the state" is punishable by up to
two years in prison.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has
called Zimbabwe one of six "outposts of tyranny" in the world -- along with
Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Iran and Belarus.
spokesman Richard Boucher spoke Tuesday about "a pattern of intimidation of
journalists." He noted that Mugabe's government has shut down newspapers,
squelched free speech and created "a climate where the opposition . fears
for its safety."
Since coming to power in April 1980, along with
black-majority rule in what was once Rhodesia, Mugabe has ruthlessly
tightened his grip on a nation that, with wise leadership, could have become
a great African success story.
At independence, the nation had an
abundance of mineral resources, good roads and flourishing farms that helped
feed its neighbors. It also possessed dazzling tourist draws, such as
Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River along the northwestern border with
Zambia as well as the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a stone city believed to have
been built between the 12th and 15th centuries.
But at age 81,
after a quarter-century of chaotic, Marxist-flavored misrule, Mugabe
presides over a country that has been transformed from breadbasket to basket
Zimbabwe now relies on huge amounts of foreign food aid to
avert mass starvation because, in the midst of a drought, Mugabe confiscated
the land of the white farmers who built the commercial farming sector and
turned much of it over to political cronies.
million people have a life expectancy of about 37 years, among the world's
lowest, partly because of the prevalence of AIDS. About 70 percent of its
people are unemployed, and its inflation rate, according to the CIA's World
Factbook, was estimated at 700 percent for 2004.
It's difficult to
imagine what additional punishment Mugabe might inflict on his
long-suffering people. But with parliamentary elections scheduled for March
31, we can expect a further tightening of the screws.
In advance of
previous elections, the government dispatched gangs of thugs to terrorize
political opponents. We can expect more of the same.
journalist in hiding, is accused of possessing two videotapes shot at a
training camp for a government-sponsored youth militia called the Green
Bombers. Mugabe critics say that about 2,000 Green Bombers have been sent to
opposition strongholds in advance of the elections.
expect much news from Zimbabwe about these events. Nobody may be there to
collect and dispatch it to the outside world.
Mugabe aims to bury Blair From correspondents in
Marondera, Zimbabwe February 27, 2005 From: Agence
ZIMBABWE'S long-serving President Robert Mugabe has
celebrated his 81st birthday vowing to crush the main opposition party in
next month's elections.
He also accused British Prime Minister Tony
Blair of seeking to recolonise the country.
Mr Mugabe said the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was a front for Mr
"Only 33 days are left for us to demonstrate that we are united,"
Mr Mugabe told about 30,000 people gathered at a stadium in Marondera town,
74km east of Harare.
"That vote should also kill once and for all the
machinations of that man in Number 10 Downing Street (Mr Blair) who for some
reason thinks he has the divine power to rule Zimbabwe and
Mr Mugabe said he would return to haunt his supporters if his
ruling party lost the March 31 parliamentary elections, which the party has
termed "the anti-Blair election".
Waving a miniature Zimbabwe flag at
cheering supporters, he said: "Mr Blair can never lower this flag again...
never ever. On March 31 we must dig a grave not just six feet, but 12 feet,
and bury Mr Blair and the Union Jack and write on top 'here lies the
latter-day British imperialist and the Union Jack, never again to
Zimbabwe's parliamentary election will be closely watched as a
test of the country's adherence to the principles of the 14-nation Southern
African Development Community (SADC) on democratic
Mugabe's 81st birthday was on Monday, but the celebrations
were moved to the weekend to allow the participation of schoolchildren. They
were held under the theme: Investing in Discipline Youth for Sustainable
Members of Zimbabwe's ruling party, chiefs, schoolchildren,
government ministers, diplomats and members of youth movements from
Indonesia, Malaysia, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa and the Democratic
Republic of Congo took part.
A banner across Marondera's main street
read "Congratulations: Happy 81st Birthday President
Flag-waving party supporters and schoolchildren greeted Mr
Mugabe with loud cheers when he arrived at the venue accompanied by his wife
Grace, their three children and Mr Mugabe's stepson. Mr Mugabe who has
been at the helm of the southern African country for nearly 25 years since
independence from Britain in 1980, was born on February 21 at Kutama
Catholic Hospital, 80km west of Harare.
A teacher by profession, he
attained his first degree at the University of South Africa. He returned
to Zimbabwe and taught briefly before going on to Ghana where he also took a
teaching post and married his first wife.
He abandoned his four-year
teaching contract in Ghana in 1960 to join the nationalist movement in
Mr Mugabe was arrested and detained for 10 years before he left
for Mozambique in 1975 to take up arms in a liberation struggle that brought
independence to Zimbabwe.
In the early 1980s he became an
international icon for his reconciliation policy with whites, including
Rhodesian former prime minister Ian Smith, whom he had fought during the
protracted liberation struggle in the 1970s.
His reputation as an African
statemanship started fading after the country - once the region's
breadbasket - slid into economic decline. Land reforms, which had been left
unresolved for years, were jump-started with the violent occupation of
Mr Mugabe was re-elected in March 2002 presidential
polls, which were branded fraudulent by his opponents and outsiders and
marked with violence.
Following the disputed polls the United States and
European Union imposed travel bans on Mr Mugabe and members of his inner
Zimbabwe Bans Another Newspaper By Tendai Maphosa
Harare 26 February 2005
Zimbabwean authorities have
banned a fourth newspaper for flouting the country's tough media
The head of the government's Media and Information Commission late
Friday announced that the license for The Weekly Times had been canceled for
In a report in the state-controlled daily, The Herald, the
commission chairman, Tafataona Mahoso said the weekly tabloid was being
punished because, its "core values, convictions and overall thrust were
narrowly political, clearly partisan and even separatist."
says the paper had misled his commission in its license application by
saying it would focus on development journalism. He says this had turned out
to be what he called "a hoax."
The Weekly Times joins The Daily News,
The Daily News on Sunday and The Tribune in being closed under the country's
tough Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Journalists and
opposition politicians have condemned the act, which President Robert Mugabe
signed into law in 2002, as stifling freedom of expression.
requires publishing houses and journalists to register with the commission
to operate in Zimbabwe. Dozens of journalists have been arrested for
flouting the act though none has been convicted as yet.
An employee of
The Weekly Times says the publisher of the paper has filed an urgent court
application questioning the ban. He says this suspends the cancellation of
the license and the staff is working on the next issue.
publishers or their lawyers could not be reached for comment.
Union T-shirts a no-no in Zim 26/02/2005 13:11 -
Pretoria - Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president
Lovemore Matombo told of how different the streets of Pretoria are to those
"I saw someone walking along, wearing a SA Communist Party
T-shirt," he told the third Zimbabwe Solidarity conference on
"You cannot wear a ZCTU T-shirt (in Zimbabwe) and think you are
OK before you get home."
In this climate, he said, the ZCTU was still
trying to promote dialogue and debate to help pave a way forward for the
Recently it met with the Congress of SA Trade Unions on the
South African side of the border after Cosatu were prohibited from entering
Zimbabwe at Harare international airport.
Matombo told the conference
the ZCTU was in favour of a new constitution in Zimbabwe that was
"A change in the Zimbabwe constitution should not be
between (the ruling) Zanu-PF and the (opposition) Movement for Democratic
Change (should the government change power) but a people-driven
He said that even if the MDC came to power, the ZCTU would
fight it in the same way it presently fights the Zanu-PF government.
NATIONAL Constitutional Assembly (NCA)
chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku, has reiterated his accusation that the MDC's
election manifesto is a big yawn without tangible benefits to the
populace. Addressing delegates from Southern Africa during a four-day Centre
for Peace Initiative Africa (CPLA) regional workshop that ended in Bulawayo
on Thursday, Madhuku launched another broadside at the opposition for
allegedly hoodwinking the electorate in the party manifesto, launched by
party leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Masvingo recently. "The MDC is
currently taking its manifesto to the party supporters and others that are
not supporters of the party. They are saying that if voted into power, they
will tackle issues that have to do with the economy, the HIV and Aids
pandemic, children's education and so forth. "I for one, believe that these
promises are practically impossible and not achievable. They are just
promises and nothing else," Madhuku told the Bulawayo gathering. This is
the umpteenth time the NCA leader has attacked the opposition party, raising
questions concerning the relationship between the NCA and the MDC once
perceived bedfellows. Acknowledging that his pressure group at one time
worked closely with the MDC to agitate for a new constitution, Madhuku,
however, dismissed the MDC manifesto for the general polls as "practically
impossible." He said people were sick and tired of promises that were an
insult to the intelligence of the people of Zimbabwe. Even if the MDC
attained the two-thirds majority in Parliament, Madhuku said, the opposition
party would still not be able to deliver since they were not the
government. "I also believe it is not fair for the MDC to claim that it will
deliver all those things when they get the two-thirds majority because they
have to have their own leader as the President of this country if they are
to put their promises into action. "President Mugabe is the country's
President until 2008 and it will be grossly unfair for the MDC to believe
that they will deliver their promises under this kind of environment. This
is basically taking people for a ride and I believe that political parties
should be honest in their manifestoes and make promises that are going to be
easy for them to deliver," Madhuku said. He warned that misleading
statements by political parties create an enabling environment for voter
apathy, as the electorate was conscious enough to distinguish between
serious promises and fantasies.