Encounter With an Assassin A
Zimbabwean journalist puts his life at risk when his paper questions
government policy By Geoff Nyarota
February 2, 2005 - My children
sometimes complain that I tend to be too friendly in the company of
strangers. I am one of those people who cannot spend time in a line at the
bank without striking up a conversation with my nearest neighbor. My efforts
to explain to the family that a genteel demeanor, including the salutation
of total strangers, while inquiring about the health of their family, is a
cultural requisite among the Shona, Zimbabwe's largest tribe, have failed to
rescue me from frequent castigation.
That is, until Thursday, July
27, 2000, when this effusive traditional etiquette literally saved my
At the time I was the editor-in-chief of The Daily News, Zimbabwe's
only independent daily newspaper. Trustee House, headquarters of the
newspaper, in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe, was served by two elevators that
laboriously ferried workers and visitors to the 10-story building at an
excruciatingly slow pace.
As I was getting ready to go up that day, I
noticed, just as the elevator doors started to slide close, an athletic man,
about 10 years my junior, making his way to the elevator. I pressed the
"Open" button to give him time to get in. As the elevator buried the two of
us in its dimly lit interior, I noticed that while the other man's attire
was the ultimate in sartorial elegance, he appeared somewhat uneasy. One of
the burgeoning ranks of Harare's upcoming and increasingly powerful
indigenous business executives late for an appointment to sign another
multi-million-dollar deal, I surmised.
It did not escape my notice
that the man did not press the button to stop at any particular
"Just in time," I said to him to break the silence. "So how is the
"You must be Mr. Nyarota, the editor?" he said in
"How did you know?" I asked, feigning surprise. I was
accustomed to having strangers ask such personal questions of me. My picture
occasionally graced the pages of the newspapers, as I was mercilessly
lambasted by government officials or my archrival, the editor of the
government-owned newspaper, The Herald. I was a regular guest on Zimbabwe
Television, also government-owned, where I was routinely interrogated or
derided by one overzealous anchorman or another.
Before my fellow
passenger in the elevator explained how he came to know my name, we reached
the second floor.
"Have a good day," I said as I exited, leaving him to
proceed to whatever upper floor of Trustee House he was destined.
days later the same man visited my office. While he had no scheduled
appointment to see me, he insisted to my personal assistant, Annie Musodza,
that it was imperative he talk to me. Our security manager had devised some
rudimentary security measures for the office. Under no circumstances was I
to see a stranger who arrived without an appointment.
him. My life was in serious danger, he said. He was there to avert an
impending calamity. Something about the visitor's demeanor convinced Annie
the man was not to be dismissed lightly. She decided that I should see him
I was in my office with Daily News deputy editor-in-chief,
Davison Maruziva, and assistant editor, Bill Saidi, at the tail-end of our
morning editorial conference. We decided that they would sit in throughout
the meeting with the visitor while, as an additional security measure, a
security guard was posted outside the door, once the visitor had
None of the three editors in the office was a stranger to the
adversities of African journalism. Saidi, Zimbabwe's oldest practicing
journalist, had worked in Zambia for many years. His no-holds-barred style
of writing had incurred the wrath of President Kenneth Kaunda, who led
Zambia to independence and was sometimes described as a benevolent despot.
On a number of occasions Kaunda publicly rebuked Saidi, who returned to
Harare when Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. He was appointed editor of
The Sunday News in Bulawayo, the country's second city. His tenure of office
was short lived, however, as the government-owned paper was viewed to be too
critical of the administration of President Robert Mugabe.
had been my deputy editor at The Chronicle, which was also government-owned
and published in Bulawayo. Our appointments were prematurely terminated in
1989 after the paper exposed endemic corruption in the top echelons of the
government. Five cabinet ministers were forced to resign as a result, and
Maruziva and I were removed from the newspaper.
Despite working for many
years in the turbulent environment of Zimbabwe's post-independence press,
particularly during the 17 months since we launched The Daily News, none of
us had ever anticipated or envisioned the scene about to
Tension Escalates Established in March 1999, The Daily News
had, by the time I met Bernard Masara in the elevator, become Zimbabwe's
largest and most popular newspaper, with a circulation of more than 100,000
copies sold a day. Launched on a shoe-string budget, the paper defied the
odds and the vigorous opposition of the Mugabe administration, in office for
two decades. The reputation of The Daily News, of which I was the founding
editor-in-chief, grew almost in inverse proportion to the decline in
popularity of Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party (Zimbabwe African National Union
Rampant corruption, a decline in the standard of
living, a breakdown in law and order, political violence and widespread
abuse of basic human rights and shortages of essential commodities had all
conspired to undermine the public standing of the ruling party and
government. This happened at a time when a viable political opposition party
emerged in a country that had become a virtual one-party state.
PF vowed it would not go down without putting up a spirited fight.
Supporters and officials of the increasingly popular opposition Movement for
Democratic Change and the wealthy white farmers who still owned a lion's
share of Zimbabwe's fertile commercial farming estates became targets of a
vicious campaign of violence by the ruling party. So too were The Daily News
and three weekly newspapers, publications that constituted the vibrant and
increasingly vocal independent press. Hundreds of opposition activists were
killed or maimed, while others lost their homes and other property. Most of
Zimbabwe's 4,000 commercial farmers were dispossessed of land in violent
farm invasions, staged by Zanu PF activists. Journalists working for the
independent press were harassed, wantonly arrested or tortured, while
newspapers were banned from circulating in the rural areas and small urban
Notwithstanding this campaign of violent repression,
opposition grew and the ruling party nearly lost a general election in June
2000, retaining 62 elected seats while the MDC, in existence for less than
one year, won 57. As the campaign of violence perpetrated by the ruling
party spiraled, the motto of The Daily News, "Telling it like it is," did
nothing to endear the paper to the country's rulers.
A grenade attack
on Trustee House at The Daily News, two months before the June 2000
elections, left staff shaken but imbued with a dogged determination to fight
dictatorship. The attack occurred over the Easter holiday when the building
was empty. The grenade exploded in a curio shop situated directly under my
office, registering a huge crack on one of the office walls.
days later an irate Zanu PF supporter mailed me a death threat. If I did not
desist from criticizing President Mugabe, he warned profanely, I would be
"dispatched to heaven."
Then an anonymous caller warned that a bomb had
been planted in Trustee House and was primed to detonate at any time. We all
scrambled out of the building and soon stood, in fearful anticipation, to
watch from a safe distance. The cell-phone number which our benefactor had
called was one of several listed on the front page of The Daily News. We
promptly retrieved the caller's number from the instrument's memory and
"Zanu PF headquarters, good day," a voice cheerily said at
the other end.
A few weeks later I met Masara in the elevator.
Assassin's Story The feared Central Intelligence Organization had hatched a
plot to assassinate me, Masara told the three of us. He was the hired
assassin. He had recruited four other men, who'd kept Trustee House under
surveillance for two weeks now.
He had, however, changed his mind
during our brief encounter in the elevator two days before.
just the two of us in the lift," Masara said, "and he greeted me. He asked
me about my family. I decided there and then that I was not going ahead with
the assignment. I decided I was not going to let him be killed. My
conscience worried me. I realized he was different from the man that had
been described to me."
Not only did Masara proceed to expose full
details of the plot; he also revealed the identity of the senior CIO
officers directly involved.
To prove the authenticity of his story, the
would-be assassin fully identified himself and revealed the names of the
four persons he had recruited for the assignment. He even identified a
contact person in the editorial department of The Daily News. We decided
that it would be imprudent to confront the journalist in question. (However,
when the Masara story was published, reference was made to the infiltration
of the editorial department of The Daily News by the CIO. The reporter
resigned soon afterwards.)
Masara, who lived in a middle class suburb
of Harare, then phoned his CIO handler. While the senior editors of The
Daily News listened incredulously on a speakerphone to the extraordinary
conversation, Masara discussed details of the assassination plot with his
On subsequent occasions Masara called the CIO headquarters again,
each time identifying himself only as Bernard and being immediately
In one such conversation Masara confirmed the fee for the
assignment to kill me as being a total of Z$100,000 (a little over US$1,800
at the time) I listened in awe as the would-be assassin and his intelligence
handler haggled over the bounty on my head.
Masara told us he had
been recruited to liquidate me in order to silence The Daily News, which had
"become a formidable opponent of the government."
Masara said he had
personally kept both Trustee House and me under surveillance. His ride with
me up in the elevator had been part of the stakeout, he said. Previous
attempts to visit my office had been foiled by his failure to give a
plausible reason over the phone for the proposed visit.
encounter in the elevator he said he had been gripped by a determination to
see me, he said. He then had to persuade security guards to take him to my
personal assistant, to whom he stated the gruesome nature of his intended
assignment. He handed her his national identity card and offered to leave it
with her as a sign of his now good intentions.
Stunned by Masara's story,
Annie walked in to interrupt the editorial conference. The three senior
editors were soon sitting face-to-face with my would-be
Masara divulged that the four other would-be assassins were
former guerillas who fought in Zimbabwe's war of liberation. All were now
based at the provincial headquarters of the ruling party in the capital
city. One member of the group was assigned to pose as a cigarette vendor in
front of Trustee House, he said.
Masara identified his CIO handler as
a deputy director in the CIO, whose own immediate boss was a nephew of
"I was told there were a number of people they wanted
eliminated or injured-100 percent disability," Masara said. "They said that
our first target was The Daily News because the paper had become a machinery
of the opposition."
We convinced Masara that the only guarantee of
his safety and my own lay in publishing the details of the assassination
plot in The Daily News. The CIO would become suspicious if I remained alive
beyond his deadline. Having made arrangements for Masara to remain ensconced
in a safe house, his story and picture appeared on the front page of The
Daily News on Tuesday, August 1, 2000.
While two senior CIO
operatives were identified by both name and rank in the story, neither of
them ever challenged the report.
Six months later, in the early hours of
Sunday, January 28, 2001, the nocturnal peace of the western suburbs of the
Zimbabwean capital was shattered by a massive explosion. The attention of
our security guards was diverted by a decoy and saboteurs entered the
premises where The Daily News was printed. They attached a number of limpet
mines at strategic points along the printing press. Experts said the
incendiary devices were of a type that could be secured only from the
Zimbabwe National Army's stores. When the powerful bombs detonated parts of
the printing press and the entire roof of the huge building flew into the
air, only to land in a pile of scrap metal and twisted roofing
The press was never to print another issue of The Daily News.
But The Daily News was back on the streets early in the morning of Monday,
January 29. A number of commercial printers had rushed to the rescue of the
That issue's defiant and somewhat illogical
front-page banner headline was: "Daily News press destroyed."
[ This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]
HARARE, 2 Feb 2005 (IRIN) -
A 15 member delegation from the Congress of South African Trade Unions
(COSATU) was on Wednesday barred from entering Zimbabwe.
delegation, led by COSATU secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi and first deputy
president Joe Nkosi, intended to conduct a fact-finding mission ahead of
Zimbabwe's legislative elections on 31 March.
"The aim of the visit is
not to undermine the government of Zimbabwe, but to interact with the people
of that country and listen to their concerns. We cannot announce the coming
Zimbabwe national elections as being free and fair if we do not have a true
reflection of the problems of the people of Zimbabwe. The aim of the trip is
to experience these problems ourselves," COSATU spokesman Paul Notyawa said
Immigration officials at Harare International Airport served
the delegation with deportation orders, saying they were prohibited
immigrants, after Minister of Labour Paul Mangwana warned COSATU that their
presence would not be welcome.
Mangwana was quoted as saying last
month that Zimbabwe was not a province of South Africa, and COSATU should
stay on its side of the border.
The deportation of the COSATU team was
condemned by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which said the
intended visit had no ulterior motives.
Wellington Chibhebhe, said the ZCTU and COSATU leadership would meet in the
South African border town of Musina on Thursday to map the way
"We are disappointed that our colleagues in COSATU have been
denied entry but that is a reflection of the kind of government that we
have. We are going to lodge a complaint with the International Congress of
Free Trade Unions which is based in Brussels," Chibhebhe told IRIN after the
Last year, another COSATU delegation was deported from
the country after Zimbabwean authorities accused them of interfering in
their internal affairs.
The MDC condemns in the strongest terms the decision by the
Zimbabwean Government to deport the COSATU delegation.
This is a
deplorable act but is sadly not unexpected given this Government's record of
intolerance against all those who do not share its myopic
Today's regrettable episode illustrates just how repressive
Zimbabwe has become.
The Government claims that it has fully complied
with the SADC Protocol on elections. Well, if it has then why is it so
reluctant to let representatives from a noble organization such as COSATU
into the country?
The answer is simple. Full compliance is a figment of
their imagination. Anyone who visits the country will realize that the
political environment alone falls well short of what is expected under the
new regional standards.
The treatment of the COSATU officials should
clear up any lingering doubts about the Government's position on political
tolerance and freedom of association - two of the key principles in the SADC
Paul Themba Nyathi MDC Secretary for Information and
State secret agents sniff out journalists stringing for
foreign media Thur 3 February 2005 HARARE - The government's secret
service Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is investigating several
journalists it accuses of working with foreign media and hostile countries
to tarnish Zimbabwe's image abroad.
Sources within the CIO
yesterday said that a decision to probe the media was taken at a meeting of
senior operatives of the agency held in Harare last week.
Journalists targeted for investigation are those working for international
news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press and those suspected of
working for ZimOnline and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the
ZimOnline is based in Johannesburg because it cannot
operate in Zimbabwe where the government's Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) outlaws robust and independent journalism.
ZimOnline employs more than 20 journalists based inside Zimbabwe but all
working under cover for fear of victimisation by state security
The BBC is officially banned in Zimbabwe.
CIO officer, who did not want to be named, said: "There are journalists who
are making a living by selling damaging information to our enemies and it
was resolved that they should account for their actions. A probe team
involving intelligence officers and guys from law and order (a police
department) is already working on that."
State Security Minister
Nicholas Goche, in charge of the CIO, refused to take questions on the
matter saying "issues about intelligence work are not for public
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general
Foster Dongozi condemned the probing of journalists by the secret service
saying it was an attempt to intimidate and muzzle the media.
"Journalists in Zimbabwe are already under siege and we strongly condemn
this latest attempt to further intimidate us," said Dongozi.
added: "As journalists, we are going to mobilise our members and friends of
the profession against any further attempts to muzzle us."
is ranked among the most repressive environments for journalists in the
world. In the last three years, hundreds of journalists have been arrested
and three newspapers including the country's biggest and only independent
daily, the Daily News, were shut down by the government. - ZimOnline
Dixon Marisa Last updated: 02/03/2005 10:54:41 AS BRITAIN steps-up its
efforts to deport failed asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe, those who have
already made the dreaded trip report of a real "Gestapo" welcome at the
Harare International Airport.
"We have a right to ask whether these would
be deportees or Blair's mercenaries of regime change or plain law-abiding
Zimbabweans returning home after having been abused and dehumanised in
Britain. Their treatment will depend on which is which," Information
Minister Jonathan Moyo said recently.
Moyo's comments are not idle
Ratidzo (not her real name) said she was one of three deportees
forced into a plane from the UK after the Home Office had refused to extend
her student visa. She also reports of structural changes to the arrival
lounge at Harare International Airport which has been changed drastically to
house Central Intelligence Organisation interview rooms.
She said all
deportees were told to use a different entrance and behind the wooden doors
were mean-looking plain clothes officers who identified themselves as state
"We were separated and each was led into a different
office. As soon as they closed the door the two officers started shouting at
me," she told New Zimbabwe.com.
She said her inquisitors wanted to
. Why had you run away from Zimbabwe?
. How does it feel to
be home again?
. Why did they send you back?
. Why had you claimed
asylum in the first place?
. How long were you in the UK?
did they teach or train you to be?
. How much are you going to be paid to
effect regime change?
. We have information that you are a mercenary, can
you prove otherwise?
. Which division of the British Army did you train
. Why are you coming back just as we are preparing for
. Are you going to vote?
. Who are you going to vote
for and why?
. What is going to be your role in the MDC?
method of communication will you use to link with the British spies?
Give us all your contacts in UK.
"The British immigration officials
did not allow her time even to withdraw her money from the bank. All her
personal belongings which were in Coventry have since been
"The intimidating officers fired question after question shouting
abuse and threatening me with incineration at the notorious torture chambers
of Goromonzi Prison," Ratidzo narrated.
"At one time an officer hit
me across the mouth when I asked him why they did not believe that I was
just a student wrongly deported. He said, '.we have a job to do here and
sell-outs like you have no grounds to ask us about
Ratidzo said her interrogation continued for about three
hours and only stopped when she remembered that she had an uncle serving in
the Zimbabwe national army. "I told them about him and asked that they make
a phone call so they could confirm my story. They did and my uncle asked
them to let me go, promising that he will keep me in check. If it was not
for that connection, I really do not know which direction my life would have
By the time they released her she was close to a mental
"From the time I was picked up by the British immigration
officials to the time I faced the CIO inquisitors, events kept changing in
my life so fast that I could not cope. The most cruel were the British who
seem keen to play a numbers game with people's lives, claiming to have
deported such and such simply because there is an election coming up in the
"As for the Zimbabwean side, I have no words to describe the insanity.
They seem to believe Moyo's paranoid guess work when he announced that UK
was not really deporting the Zimbabweans but simply deploying specially
trained agents to cause trouble in Zimbabwe. This is really insane but the
CIO operatives are more than convinced that it's true. As I left the
building I could still hear shouts and groans from the other two
Ratidzo, who had not been in Zimbabwe for the past three
years is now living in squalor and depravity since the British did not allow
her time even to withdraw her money from the bank. All her personal
belongings which were in Coventry have since been stolen.
Zimbabwe opposition may defer poll decision: sources
02, 2005, 12:30
Zimbabwe's main opposition the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), may delay its decision on contesting March elections until a
regional group sends a delegation to Harare to determine whether free and
fair polls can be held.
The MDC, the biggest challenge to Robert
Mugabe's ruling Zanu(PF) party, began a two-day meeting today, which had
been expected to culminate in an announcement tomorrow that they will
participate in the elections.
Mugabe yesterday set a March 31 date for
the vote, which analysts say will be a test of how far his government has
implemented democratic guidelines after charges that his Zanu(PF), in power
since 1980, rigged the last two major elections in 2000 and 2002.
sources told reporters today the opposition is concerned that the 14-nation
Southern African Development Community (SADC) has not yet sent a mission to
assess Zimbabwe's political climate ahead of the elections, and is not
applying the promised political pressure on Mugabe's government.
decision could be delayed because we are not happy with SADC who had
promised to send a troika led by (South African President Thabo) Mbeki to
assess the situation here but they have not done so," a senior opposition
"So we still await that visit and our meeting today
will decide whether the announcement will be made on Thursday," the official
No atmosphere for free and fair polls The MDC says electoral
reforms recently adopted by Mugabe's government, including
an "independent" electoral commission, are not enough to guarantee a free and
fair poll. The opposition charges that security laws requiring parties to
seek police clearance for meetings, and media laws that have left the press
under close government control have been affecting its ability to
Political analysts say the MDC has no choice but to contest the
March elections, and MDC officials said earlier this week that the party had
come under pressure from its supporters and had already informally decided
The officials said an announcement would be a
formality. The MDC won nearly half of the 120 contested seats in the 2000
parliamentary election, but political analysts say the party has been
weakened by both external pressure and internal bickering.
said the March elections will give his party a chance to "bury" the MDC,
which he has a long derided as a tool of Western powers opposed to his
policy of seizing white-owned farms to give to landless blacks.
Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, told reporters last week the party is in a
dilemma over the decision: "The problem confronting us is damned if we do,
damned if we don't." - Reuters
MDC expected to take part in Zimbabwe poll By FT
reporters Published: February 2 2005 18:49 | Last updated: February 2 2005
Zimbabwe's main opposition party is expected on Thursday to
announce plans to contest a March 31 parliamentary election.
Movement for Democratic Change has to choose between boycotting the vote -
and risk becoming irrelevant - or participating in an election that few
observers believe will be free or fair. "We are damned if we do, and damned
if we don't," MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai said last week.
close to the MDC say its fears of losing credibility, coupled with pressure
from neighbouring countries, have persuaded it to participate.
decision will come amid renewed international interest in Zimbabwe's
long-running political and economic crisis. Condoleezza Rice, US secretary
of state, last month listed Zimbabwe, among six "outposts of tyranny".
Robert Mugabe's government in turn accused the Bush administration of trying
to destabilise Zimbabwe ahead of the election.
Amid the growing
tension, Zimbabwe on Wednesday prevented a delegation from the South African
trade-union federation Cosatu from entering the country. South Africans do
not require visas for Zimbabwe, but one member was quoted comparing the
country to North Korea.
Some foreign governments have joined the MDC in
pressing Zimbabwe to hold a democratic vote under guidelines agreed last
year by the 13-member Southern African Development Community, to which
The African-drafted protocol was seen as an important
step toward easing Zimbabwe's crisis, as President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party
has rallied regional opinion by describing his critics as agents of colonial
But with the vote less than two months away, foreign observers
and Zimbabwean opposition members say the Mugabe government is nowhere close
to meeting SADC standards. It has tightened controls on the media,
nongovernmental organisations, and public meetings since the 2002
presidential poll, which observers described as flawed.
SADC guidelines prescribe parties' free access to media, the MDC has been
denied airtime on the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Organisation or
advertising space in newspapers. Foreign journalists have been expelled and
two independent newspapers closed. A new law requires organisers of
gatherings of more than 10 people to obtain a permit.
Questions have been
raised over the voters' roll, which Lovemore Maduku of the National
Constituency Association, the civil-rights group, called "a shambles" and
"years out of date". More than 3m Zimbabweans living abroad cannot
The MDC also claims that intimidation and violence by the state's
50,000-member youth militia have made some rural regions no-go areas for the
But one analyst believes the elections in Ukraine and
Iraq may influence opinion. "The international mood on rigged elections or
election fraud has changed," said Greg Mills, national director of the South
African Institute of International Affairs.
Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's refusal to allow the Congress of South
African Trade Unions (Cosatu) into the country on Wednesday was a "barbaric
and illegal act", and boded ill for the future of the continent, the union's
secretary general said.
"Nepad (the New Partnership for Africa's
Development) will stand no chance if a government such as Zimbabwe willingly
disregards its own laws in this manner," Zwelenzima Vavi warned on his
return to Johannesburg International Airport.
"The continent will go
nowhere if its leaders can act with impunity."
A 20-strong delegation of
trade union leaders was turned away when they arrived in Harare, thus
preventing a meeting with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
delegate was presented with a notice "to people refused entry to the
country", claiming it was prohibited under the Immigration Act, ch 4.2, Vavi
The returning trade unionists were cheerful. Undaunted, they
planned to drive to Beit Bridge border post immediately, to meet with
members of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) in Musina on
The two federations needed to discuss what their next move
would be, Vavi told journalists. He said the meeting would also demonstrate
the differences between the countries.
"We do not require permission
from the minister of labour to hold discussions with our
Mdladlana 'encouraged' Zim
Vavi mentioned possible
future demonstrations and marches on the borders of the country, but said
the way forward would be discussed with the ZCTU on Thursday.
reiterated that the African National Congress supported Cosatu.
Mantashe, National Union of Mineworkers general secretary said Cosatu did
not expect anything concrete from the government or the ANC after
ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama told Sapa the
alliance partners would discuss the matter thoroughly at an alliance meeting
He would not comment on Cosatu's insistence that Zimbabwe had
broken the law in ejecting their delegation.
"Whether it is illegal
or legal is neither here nor there for us as the ANC. We respect the
sovereignty of Zimbabwe," he told Sapa.
South African labour minister
Membathisi Mdladlana could not be contacted on Wednesday.
Mdladlana's statement on Monday that gave Zimbabwe the courage to turn
Cosatu away, according to Vavi.
Mdladlana said the visit was pointless
and would seriously undermine his relations with his Zimbabwean
"We would not have been chucked out if he had not made that
statement. It was very unfortunate," Vavi said.
Outlook bleak for Zimbabwe elections Posted Wed, 02 Feb
A discussion hosted by the South African Institute of International
Affairs (SAIIA) on Wednesday painted a bleak picture of the possibility of
free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.
The administration of justice in
Zimbabwe was under increasing stress and the Movement for Democratic Change
was not allowed to air its views on TV or radio, advocate George Bizos said
in a presentation.
Wednesday marked the 15th anniversary of the day
then-president FW de Klerk announced the unbanning of the African National
Congress and the release of Nelson Mandela from Prison, and SAIIA national
director Greg Mills compared Zimbabwe's leader's unfavourably to de
"It is improbable to see the sort of statesmanship we saw 15 years
ago, in Zimbabwe," Mills said.
Mills was speaking at a discussion on
conditions necessary for free and fair elections in
Electoral commission not independent
Dren Nupen said that although Zimbabwe had an electoral commission in place
in accordance with Southern African Development Community (SADC) norms and
guidelines, it was "stacked" with supporters of the leading Zanu-PF
Mail and Guardian CEO Trevor Ncube also spoke at the
He said Zanu-PF was using SADC protocol as a veneer in order
to attempt to reverse its illegitimate status.
Zanu-PF would lose the
elections if it adhered to SADC rules all the way, Ncube said.
treatment not a good omen
Bizos added that the treatment meted out to the
last Cosatu delegation, which was kicked out of the country, did not augur
well for the March 31 elections.
Mugabe announced the election date
on Tuesday, and on Wednesday a second delegation of Cosatu leaders attempted
to visit the country unsuccessfully.
No representatives for the South
African government were present, Mills said, because it thought the moment
was "too sensitive" to participate in a public forum.
Good African crops cold comfort for hungry
Wed February 2, 2005 1:47 PM GMT+02:00 By Peter
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Africa's farmers have produced more
than expected despite locust plagues and drought, but that is cold comfort
to the continent's countless refugees with no cash to pay, or aid agencies
whose funding has dried up.
"We are looking at a very serious
situation," United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Ramin
Rafirasme, told Reuters from Senegal.
The WFP says it saw donations
for Africa vanish almost completely in January, after the tsunami that
devastated the Indian Ocean region, forcing it to cut back on how much food
it buys -- bad news for producers with surplus stock to shift.
The U.N. agency said it received $36 million in November and December for
southern Africa prior to the tsunami, but another $74 million was still
"We have already reduced food rations in Liberia
because of lack of resources," Rafirasme noted.
Liberians -- mainly refugees returning to their villages following the end
of a 14-year civil war in 2003 -- rely on WFP handouts. The agency had
intended to buy some 200,000 tonnes of food in 2005 for them and for
refugees in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Mauritania, the agency says it will need 187,000 tonnes of food to cope with
consequences of drought and locust swarms, but fears the insects might have
destroyed most of the crops in neighbouring countries were largely
The WFP says it will also have to cut back its
operations in southern Africa unless funding -- which looked bad in December
and has entirely dried up since Christmas -- improves.
Traditionally, some countries, particularly the United States,
have donated physical food to the WFP, but agencies increasingly want cash
donations so they can buy food on the continent, boosting African
As their futures prices crash on poor demand and
overproduction, South African maize traders are looking for any markets for
their product -- but many think the price will have to drop below its
current 570 rand a tonne.
In the past, South African farmers have
profited from food shortages in southern Africa, but better rains and
agricultural reform mean the 2005 harvest looks better than previous years,
and aid agencies have been buying better priced Zambian
A band of drought has hit southern Zimbabwe and
Mozambique, but in general aid workers say the region's remaining food
shortages are due to people being too poor to buy food due to unemployment
and economic collapse rather than crop failure.
African exports have gone to the region, but traders say demand elsewhere in
the continent is also good news.
central Angola, several hundred thousand people -- including many refugees
who had returned home following the end of a 27-year civil war, might soon
need aid, South African Development Community food security adviser Gary
"This population is extremely vulnerable," he said.
"They had very poor harvests last year and are now in the heart of the lean
In Sudan and neighbouring Chad, refugees are also driving
up food need demand. Offshore, WFP is distributing stocks already held on
the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar to homeless and vulnerable groups
after a cyclone killed at least 17 last week.
problems remain in the Horn of Africa where aid workers say more than eight
million Ethiopians and 2.2 million Eritreans are still at risk to food
"A few months ago, people were talking about 12 million
Ethiopians needing food aid," Care International food security specialist
Dan Maxwell told Reuters. "Things look a little better...but in Somalia
things aren't better at all."
Nairobi - Tanzanian and
Zimbabwean officials are keeping silent on what transpired during a
four-and-a-half-hour tete-a-tete between President Benjamin Mkapa and
President Robert Mugabe in State House, Harare on January 22. There is
widespread speculation that Mkapa was on a "peace-making" mission to heal
rifts in Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF. The Tanzanian leader made a one-day
visit to Zimbabwe for what he described to reporters on his return to the
country as routine consultations between two "brotherly' countries governed
by "sister" parties. However, informed sources both in Harare and Dar es
Salaam have told The EastAfrican that President Mkapa flew to the Southern
African country to play honest broker between President Mugabe and his
erstwhile information minister and propaganda chief, Prof Jonathan Moyo.
Prof Moyo was Mugabe's top confidant until last month, when they fell out
following allegations by some ministers in Mugabe's Cabinet that Moyo
attempted to block Mugabe's appointment of Joyce Mujuru as Zanu PF vice
president and the state second vice president. He was subsequently kicked
off the party's central committee and its politburo along with his perceived
The fact that the two presidents, chose to meet in
camera gives credence to the speculation that it was no ordinary
consultation. Col (rtd) Nsa Kaisi, President Mkapa's political advisor, told
The EastAfrican that since he did not travel with the president to Harare,
he could not say for sure what transpired in the closed door meeting. "But I
know that the meeting was not an impromptu encounter, he said. Col Kaisi is
a former journalist colleague of the President Mkapa. They were both
journalists at The Nationalist newspaper. "The Harare discussions had been
scheduled to take place in Zanzibar, where President Mugabe was special
guest at the 41st anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution. But they were
unable to hold the discussions there, prompting President Mkapa to travel to
Harare at a later date," he said. Col Kaisi said both presidents belonged to
the Peace and Security Committee of the African Union (AU) and as such, have
to consult now and then. He cited President Mkapa's two-day visit to Uganda
a week earlier as being part of this scheme of things.
the Uganda visit is not difficult to understand since there are peace and
security problems both in Uganda and in neighbouring DR Congo and Sudan's
Darfur region. The same cannot be said of Zimbabwe, though, whose internal
problems have yet to be addressed by the AU. Similarly, the Zimbabwean
ambassador to Tanzania, Chippo Zindoga, who travelled to Harare for the
Tanzanian president's visit, said that the meeting was a one-on-one talk
between the two leaders and it lasted four and half hours. Ms Zindoga said
that only the two presidents know what they discussed at State House,
Harare. Tanzania's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brig Gen (rtd) Hashim Mbita,
speaking to The EastAfrican from Harare last Thursday, also said the
leaders' meeting was a closed-door affair and as a former journalist
himself, acknowledged that it is only natural that such meetings arouse
speculation. Gen Mbita, who is close to the Zimbabwean ruling clique, having
worked with them during the liberation struggle as executive secretary of
the Organisation of African Unity Liberation Committee, said no political
party worth its name was without problems, be it internal conflicts or minor
differences. He was referring to the conflict in Zanu PF. "Take an example
of Kenya, he said, "What is happening within the ruling National Rainbow
Coalition? These are normal, ordinary things for political parties. So if
our leaders chose to discuss the problems in Zanu PF as you are saying, then
there is nothing earthshaking about it. That's politics. But what I can tell
you categorically is that the presidents met alone and none of us knows what
transpired. In fact, they were due to hold these talks in Zanzibar during
Revolution Day celebrations, but I think time did not allow it. That is why
President Mkapa had to come this way for the talks.
Mr Mbita also
referred to the fact that both Zimbabwe and Tanzania will be holding general
elections later this year and said that this alone is a reason for
consultation between two brotherly countries. The party strife could not
have come at a worse time for President Mugabe, who is facing a general
election in March this year, even as he faces stiff opposition from other
political parties, particularly the Movement for Democratic Change led by
former trade union chief Morgan Tsvangirai. President Mkapa is one of the
African heads of state who have publicly supported Mugabe's land policies.
Sources say that President Mkapa has been worried that an open split in
Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party resulting from the demotion or departure of
Moyo from its ranks would be disastrous to the party's chances of winning
the election. "It would also reflect negatively on the veneer of
invincibility that Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) likes to portray, especially
when the party has a general election on its hands this year, said a source
in Dar es Salaam. The argument goes that since President Mkapa is
constitutionally barred from running in the coming elections, CCM can
ill-afford a split in a "sister" party, which could set a bad precedent.
"President Mkapa must have gone to Harare to avert what looks like a sure
split in Zanu PF following Moyo's ouster and subsequent moves to bar him
from defending his parliamentary seat of Tsholotsho," said our source,
adding: "He must be looking ahead at what might happen here if one of the
major contenders fails to get nominated and decides to go it alone." CCM
will pick its presidential candidate in April, six months early, in a
departure from the usual last-minute nomination.
MDC TO ANNOUNCE ELECTION DECISION TODAY Thur 3 February
2005 HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party will today announce whether it is contesting a key general
election next month, party spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said last
The opposition party, which last year threatened to boycott
the poll until the political playing field was levelled, had finished
consulting ordinary members on the March 31 election and a meeting of its
national executive council today will take a final decision on the matter,
He said: "The national executive has completed its
consultative exercise throughout all the 12 (party) provinces.
"All the provinces have expressed an opinion in one way or the other
regarding participation or non-participation in the parliamentary elections
and the final decision will be made public at the end of the national
council deliberations tomorrow (today)."
The MDC spokesman said
members of the opposition party were concerned that the government had done
little to implement Southern African Development Community standards and
principles for free and fair elections.
"The provinces believe that
pressure must continually be exerted on the regime by all people within and
outside the country so that the government implements the guidelines as
stated by SADC protocols which Zimbabwe has ratified," said
Analysts have said the opposition party is caught between a
rock and a hard place over the election.
Either it boycotts the
ballot and is consigned to political oblivion or it participates and gives
legitimacy to an election designed to achieve only one result, the victory
of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party. ZimOnline
ANALYSIS: Mugabe deports COSATU to send clear message to
Mbeki Thur 3 February 2005
HARARE - By deporting South African
labour leaders yesterday, Harare was sending a message to that country's
broader ruling alliance led by President Thabo Mbeki that it will not brook
criticism even from its most important regional ally, analysts
The deportation of Congress of South African Trade Unions
leaders, who were on a mission to assess whether conditions in Zimbabwe were
conducive for a free and fair election next month, highlighted how little
the space for democracy is in the country's political spectrum, they
But more significantly, noted University of Zimbabwe (UZ)
Institute of Development Studies professor Brian Raftopoulos, the
deportation was a signal to Pretoria and other allies in the region that
Harare will not take criticism for failing to open up political space in
line with a regional protocol on democratic elections.
Raftopoulos said: "Clearly President Robert Mugabe and his government are
not happy with critical comments made recently by the secretary general of
South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
the deportation is a clear message to the broader ruling alliance in South
Africa that the government of Zimbabwe will not take criticism from
Departing from the ANC's policy of quiet diplomacy on
Zimbabwe, party secretary general, Kgalema Motlanthe, last month openly
called on Mugabe to lift restrictions on the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change party under which the party cannot hold political meetings
without police permission.
The ANC, which is in a tripartite
ruling alliance with COSATU and the South African Communist Party, had also
publicly backed the labour union's ill-fated mission to Harare only saying
the union had to abide by Zimbabwe's laws.
Labour Minister Paul Mangwana refused to grant an application by the South
African trade unionists to be allowed to visit Zimbabwe for talks with the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions on labour-related issues and political
conditions in the country.
Mangwana and his Home Affairs
counterpart Kembo Mohadi on Tuesday threatened to jail the COSATU officials
if they came to Zimbabwe without permission.
acted yesterday declaring COSATU secretary general, Zwelinzima Vavi and his
15-member delegation prohibited immigrants on arrival and ordered them back
onto the South African Airways plane that had brought them to
UZ law lecturer and human rights activist Lovemore Madhuku
said by deporting COSATU on the eve of an election seen by the international
community as a test of how far he has moved to embrace democracy, Mugabe was
thumping his nose at the world and at Mbeki in particular.
Designated by American President George W. Bush in 2003 as the point-man in
southern Africa, Mbeki - who controls Africa's richest economy - is viewed
as Mugabe's most critical ally without whose support the Zimbabwean leader
would not last.
"Mugabe did not just deport COSATU. This was an
attack on Mbeki as well. This is a direct assault on Mbeki. Mugabe is just
showing him that he is not so powerful," Madhuku said.
told ZimOnline last night that Zimbabwe had deported the South African union
leaders to show it was a sovereign state and not an extension of its giant
"I told them not to come without authority. Zimbabwe is
a sovereign state. Zimbabwe is not a province of South Africa," Mangwana
Zimbabwe harassed and deported a similar
mission by COSATU last year accusing the union of teaming up with Western
countries led by former colonial ruler Britain to topple Mugabe's
The Harare administration claims it is being targeted
for retribution by Western powers opposed to its confiscation of white-owned
farmland for redistribution to landless blacks. - ZimOnline
COSATU says barring of team "barbaric and illegal" Thur 3
February 2005 JOHANNESBURG - Congress of South African Trade Unions
(COSATU) secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi has condemned as "barbaric and
illegal" the barring into the country of its fact-finding team at Harare
international airport yesterday.
Vavi and his 15-member
delegation were yesterday declared prohibited immigrants and were
immediately put on the next flight back to South Africa.
(New Partnership for Africa's Development) will stand no chance if a
government such as Zimbabwe willingly disregards its own laws in this
manner," Vavi said soon after arrival at Johannesburg International
He however said the delegation will drive to Musina today
to meet with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and chart the way
forward. Vavi would not shed more light on how COSATU will deal with the
latest turn of events.
The COSATU team was in Harare to meet
the ZCTU to assess the plight of workers and whether conditions for free and
fair elections exist in the country ahead of the March 31 parliamentary
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo also expressed
disappointment over the barring of the COSATU team saying the South Africans
were in the country at the invitation of the ZCTU to discuss "matters of
interest to the workers".
Matombo said: "We were in communication
with the minister (Paul Mangwana). He should have told us, rather than
embarrass people like this."
Earlier this week Zimbabwe's Labour
Minister Paul Mangwana threatened to jail COSATU delegation if they
proceeded with their trip to Harare.
This is the second time COSATU
has failed to successfully complete its mission in Zimbabwe.
Last October, a similar delegation was bundled out of the country raising
tensions within South Africa's ruling tripartite alliance. South Africa's
ruling African National Congress party condemned COSATU accusing it of
playing to the gallery in dealing with the Zimbabwean issue, while the South
African Communist Party, which is part of the ruling alliance backed the
federation over the visit. - ZimOnline
Mabwe PARASTATALS in Zimbabwe played a pivotal role in the economy both
before and since independence but some were a stress on the fiscus and there
were worries about their efficiency.
Since independence the
Government has adopted the idea of commercialisation, that is turning
organisations set up under an Act of Parliament, into commercial companies
that would operate according to the Companies Act and which would be unable
to survive as loss-making concerns.
Almost all parastatals have now been
through this transformation, including several strategic companies such as
Zesa Holdings and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings.
Right from the
beginning of the process, President Mugabe made a clear distinction between
commercialisation and privatisation. Commercialisation involved how the
organisation was run. Commercial organisations have to make a profit but
generally have considerable more flexibility in management.
importantly, companies have to follow a very clear system of accounts, which
allows owners and anyone else with access to these accounts to see very
clearly what is going on. It proved impossible to monitor parastatals
effectively simply because their accounts, while accurate, were not in the
commercial form that the real world of business finds absolutely necessary
if sensible decisions on capital expenditure, asset replacement and pricing
are to be made.
Privatisation involves the Government selling shares
in the commercialised entity. So a parastatal can be commercialised, without
being privatised. Or elements can be privatised.
For example in Zesa,
there has been discussion on bringing in partners into power generation, but
not into the national grid. With the railways, no one would seriously
suggest selling shares in the company owning the track, rights of way and
fixed infrastructure, but there has been debate on whether others can run
private services on this track.
In some cases the Government decided that
shares should be sold, with producers or others in the industry being the
first target as share- holders.
This initiative saw companies like
Dairibord and the Cotton Marketing Board being privatised and all this was
done after the companies went through commercialisation as the Government
was offloading some of its shares.
This privatisation process also gave
many Zimbabweans a chance to become shareholders in listed
At the moment these strategic companies are something to smile
at as evidenced by the performance of Dairibord and Cottco on the stock
The companies have been turned from public enterprises to
private companies where the board of directors really mean business as it
has to report to shareholders who want to see their investments put to good
Privatisation, however, lost steam at the turn of the century,
largely because those who ended up as shareholders were not the original
Commercialisation is, however, still regarded as a
key policy with decisions to be taken later on the benefits or otherwise of
the Government selling any of its shares or allowing its shareholding to be
diluted through the issue of new shares.
Most of the recently
commercialised parastatals were found to be grossly undercapitalised, a
problem that went right back into the settler days when they were founded.
So once the accounts are switched to commercial formats, the need for
restructuring became dramatically apparent and for the first time it was
possible to differentiate clearly between structural weaknesses, such as
investment, and bad management.
In this regard the central bank has
unveiled $10 trillion rescue plan under the Parastatals and Local
Authorities Reorientation Programme that will see these entities getting
The management boards of parastatals have been under fire on
numerous occasions from the Government and the public for failing to provide
the required services.
"To date, most parastatals have been a drag to
our turnaround efforts and a source of misery for both households and the
economy as a whole," said the RBZ Governor last week.
He added that
these have been a missing link in the economy and he called for their
shake-up with immediate effect, hence his plan.
But the Governor has made
it clear in the past that he wants to see up-to-date and properly set out
accounts before releasing special funds to parastatals. Such accounts would
allow Reserve Bank staff to assess what money applied where would solve a
problem. Some areas of the parastatals do require huge injections of
capital. In others this would simply be throwing away money because
non-monetary solutions are needed.
The authorities will have to closely
monitor turnaround strategies that these companies employ and ensure they
are adhered to at any given time. For example, Zesa revealed last year that
it lost investments worth more than $2 trillion due to "untimely policy
The Reserve Bank has increased its own monitoring powers by
insisting on proper accounts at the very least before a parastatal or State
company can access concessionary funds.
Most people agree that the
way forward is for the parastatal community to exercise the highest level of
transparency, accountability and responsiveness to society's demands on
Therefore, as we celebrate the Silver Jubilee it is mandatory for
the parastatals to do some soul-searching and know where they stand with
regard to their contribution to the economic well-being of the country.
By Basildon Peta, Jeremy Michaels, Mizwakhe
Blockades of Zimbabwe's borders are in the pipeline
following the unceremonious expulsion of a Cosatu mission from Harare
Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi also warned of
industrial action "which could turn southern African politics on its head"
after an 18-member delegation was turned back at Harare airport yesterday.
Vavi and his team are due for a meeting in Musina this morning with the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to chart the way forward.
While the South African Government yesterday signalled it was at odds with
Cosatu over its second abortive mission to Zimbabwe, "Cosatu wanted to meet
their counterparts and there's nothing wrong with that," ANC
secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe told Independent Newspapers late
Chief government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said he
did not believe the incident would sour relations between the two
He said the government respected Cosatu's right to
travel to other countries, but warned that there would be "consequences" if
the union federation did not observe their laws and protocols.
"If they (Cosatu) fail to do that, then there are consequences that are
attached to that. We hope it will help to inform how they plan and conduct
campaigns in the future," Netshitenzhe warned.
Vavi, who previously
said action would only be decided on at a Cosatu executive meeting later in
the month, yesterday said broad range consultations with other trade union
movements on the sub-continent would be scheduled.
He did not
rule out the possibility of protest blockades of Zimbabwe's borders and a
source said protest marches and pickets on Zimbabwean interests in South
Africa could be expected.
Vavi said Cosatu members could also
be asked to refuse to process Zimbabwe labour minister Paul Mangwana's
passport when he came to South Africa, forcing him to return to Zimbabwe in
the same manner he had ordered Cosatu's expulsion.
may lose his seat in the upcoming elections, other ministers and senior
officials could be targeted.
Vavi was forthright on the need for
African leaders to rally against Mugabe.
"Nepad will stand no
chance if governments such as that of Zimbabwe willy nilly disregard their
own laws and act in such a barbaric manner," he said.
separate interview, Cosatu president Willie Madisha said that while the
federation supported President Mbeki's efforts in resolving the Zimbabwe
crisis, the need for all African leaders to rein in Mugabe could not be
"All the leaders of Africa must come together and
decide what they should do with this man (Mugabe). It's not Mbeki alone but
all leaders of Africa," he said.
Meanwhile, the ZCTU secretary
general Wellington Chibebe said last night they would take action against
the Zimbabwe government.
"We can't disclose the nature of the
action or the timing lest they start rolling their machinery of repression
in right away. We will take them by surprise," he said.
the actions expected is mass action.
The Democratic Alliance said
it was "sad" but "not surprising" that Cosatu was thrown out of
"Once again by its actions the government of Zimbabwe has
made a mockery of quiet diplomacy," said the DA's national chairman Joe
Zimbabwe's ruling party accused of tampering with elections
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - (KRT) -
Efforts by Zimbabwe's government to rebuild its international image in
upcoming elections are likely to fail, largely because the ruling party has
already rigged the voting, fearing it will lose power if it does not,
regional political analysts said Wednesday in Johannesburg.
parliamentary elections, set for March 31, "can never be considered to be
free and fair," said Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean journalist who now runs the
Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa. By barring opposition rallies,
refusing to publish voter rolls, banning opposition advertising,
intimidating rivals and denying observers entry to the country, Zimbabwe's
government has already ensured that "the playing field is far from
"An election is not a one-day event," he said. Ncube said the
Zimbabwe government's actions in recent months mean the elections are
Zimbabwe's longtime ruling party, stung by
international condemnation and sanctions after it tampered with 2002
presidential elections to hold on to power, has in recent months waged a
concerted campaign to repair its image and show that this time it is meeting
international standards for free and fair elections.
Last month it
appointed a new, purportedly independent commission to oversee the upcoming
polling and to bring its policies in line with standards of the African
Union and the Southern African Development Community, the region's main
oversight body. A delegation of SADC lawyers last week visited Harare to
check Zimbabwe's compliance with the rules and is expected to issue a report
But opposition leaders and international analysts insist
Zimbabwe's changes amount to little more than window-dressing.
new election commission, they charge, is stacked with ruling-party
supporters. Government-controlled media have refused to carry stories about
or accept advertising from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change,
they say, and the government has shut down most private media outlets.
Draconian security laws also now require any political discussion involving
more than 10 people to be approved by the police, who have refused to grant
the opposition authority to hold campaign rallies in most parts of the
Opposition officials have been refused permission to see the
country's voter rolls, reportedly stacked with dead voters, analysts say.
And Zimbabwean traditional chiefs, charged with overseeing voting and
government food distribution in rural areas, have recently seen their
salaries doubled and have been given the right to a government car in an
effort to ensure their loyalty to the ruling ZANU-PF party, Ncube
Perhaps most telling, however, is that Zimbabwe's government has so
far refused to issue invitations for election monitors and on Wednesday
turned back at the airport an influential delegation of South African trade
union leaders who had arrived to meet with their counterparts in
Such rebukes have led to stepped-up pressure on Zimbabwe from
the government of neighboring South Africa, which up to now has insisted on
sticking to its much-criticized and largely ineffective policy of "quiet
diplomacy" with the government of President Robert Mugabe.
Africa's ruling African National Congress for the first time last month said
that Mugabe's mistreatment of the opposition meant free and fair elections
there were unlikely. Specifically it called on Zimbabwe's government to
allow the opposition to campaign, to give the MDC access to state media and
to ensure that the country's police, implicated in widespread beatings,
rapes and arrests of opposition figures, act in "an impartial
The MDC, which has threatened to boycott the elections if it is
not given a fair chance to compete, has still not made a final determination
about whether it will contest the vote.
Forced to choose between
losing a rigged election or not running at all, the opposition "appears to
be damned if it does and damned if it doesn't," said Greg Mills, national
director of the South African Institute of International Affairs, which
played host to Wednesday's roundtable on Zimbabwe's elections.
opposition party won nearly half the country's parliamentary seats in 2000
elections that stunned Mugabe and set in motion his rigging of the 2002
presidential elections and his confiscation of the country's white farmland
in an effort to win back popular support.
But the opposition movement
has been paralyzed by tough new security laws and by its own internal
failings to lead an effective and organized peaceful campaign against
Mugabe's government, analysts say.
Meanwhile, Mugabe's mismanagement has
sent the once prosperous country into an economic tailspin. Inflation was
400 percent last year, the number of formal sector jobs has shrunk 40
percent since 2002 and millions are hungry in a nation that once was a major
food exporter for the region. Prices of staple foods such as cornmeal are
now beyond the reach of many families, and the government has driven out
private aid organizations and limits distribution of government food aid to
its political supporters.