From The Zimbabwe Standard, 4 February
ZLP condemns violence
THE Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP), a splinter group of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association, has said it sympathises with the MDC members who are being victimised by Zanu PF and the war veterans. ZLP president, Dzinashe Machingura, told The Standard on Friday that his organisation had no political agenda and its members were free to join any organisation. He said no group of people had the right to stop others from associating with political parties of their choice. "I fought for this country so that people could enjoy their democratic rights and be free to associate with any party without being victimised," said Machingura. His statement comes in the wake of allegations by government officials that several non-governmental organisations and civic groups were working hand in hand with the MDC to undermine both Zanu PF and the government. A number of ZLP members have been seen in the company of members of the MDC's national executive, leading to suspicions that they may become a military wing of the MDC in order to counter the force of the other war veterans who are spearheading Zanu PF campaigns.From The Star (SA), 4 February
Zim 'should buy into Mbeki's Africa plan'
It was in Zimbabwe's interest to buy into the economic recovery plan recently articulated by President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders, Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin said on Sunday. Speaking on SABC's Newsmaker programme he said: "I'm sure President Mugabe and Zimbabwe will come into this plan. It is fundamentally in their interests." Erwin was referring to the Millennium African Renewal Programme (MARP) which was unveiled by Mbeki at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week. Mbeki said at the time that the programme was a declaration of "a firm commitment by African leaders to take ownership and responsibility for the sustainable economic development of the continent".
Asked how Zimbabwe could be brought on board, especially in the light of clashes with the IMF and World Bank, Erwin said South Africa had offered and had helped to try and "bring a reconciliation" between Zimbabwe and the two institutions - both of whom played an important role. "What we are saying with this process though, is that those institutions respond to the priorities and problems as identified by Africa." Erwin said the major stumbling block for the successful implementation of MARP was "external constraints. "We have to begin making reforms in the international financial system. We have to have debt relief for Africa and we have to have a new negotiation of the world trade system. "With those obstacles changed and removed then the challenge is for us in Africa to take full advantage of that opportunity by carrying out the reforms and by bringing about peace and stability in the continent," he said.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 4 February
Signs of our times
President Robert Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, is now the subject of embarrassing insults from members of the public who feel the septuagenarian has outgrown his usefulness. In the early years of independence, Mugabe was viewed with such reverence that it was taboo for anyone to criticise him publicly. Instant justice was meted out to anyone who dared. But now the president is facing a dramatic change in fortunes. It is now commonplace to hear him being subjected to all kinds of ridicule.
The few who still regard the man highly are careful to air their opinions behind closed doors, for fear of being branded boot lickers or ignorant persons. In fact, it can be argued those who still admire the man do so in the hope of being thrown a scrap from his overflowing table, or because they have already been rewarded handsomely for their loyalty. Such is the politics of patronage pervading Zimbabwe today.
While Mugabe is arguably the most unpopular man in Zimbabwe today - followed closely by the likes of Hitler Hunzvi and Joseph Chinotimba - a few individuals have gone out of their way to publicly demonstrate their negative feelings towards the man. Obviously, such dramatic acts have not been taken lightly by the state which has been quick to prosecute, using the vast array of draconian and often flimsy laws at its disposal. The most notorious of these is the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act (Loma) which many believe should be relegated to the dustbin of history on account of its violations of fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and association.
In July 2000, Brian Lamb of Bortana Farm in Nyanga stormed into Monteclair hotel and set the president's portrait alight. He was subsequently charged under Loma for expressing his dislike of Mugabe in this manner. In Harare, Petros Maruza of Kuwadzana, perhaps spurred on by the drinks he had consumed, allegedly walked up to a uniformed police officer and called him a "presidential thief". "You are Mugabe's thief and Mugabe himself is also a thief," Maruza reportedly said. Like Lamb, Maruza was charged for contravening the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act. Mugabe's motorcade has also been the subject of much acrimony. During a visit to this country by Zambia's President Frederick Chiluba, a man was arrested for hurling a brick at the motorcade escorting Chiluba and Mugabe to a function. Several motorists have found themselves at the wrong end of the law for refusing to give way to Mugabe's noisy and armada-like motorcade.
The practice of ridiculing the president has been extended to his family. In one case, Mabvuku's Tendai Tadya allegedly phoned the KG IV army barracks claiming to be Grace Mugabe's husband. "Do you know that I am Grace Mugabe's husband?" Tadya allegedly inquired of one Corporal Albert Chikaka. Although he later denied making such a statement, he was charged for contravening section 55 of the Post and Telecommunications Act chapter 12:02. In yet another case, a Chiredzi man found himself being charged under Loma for striking the president's portrait with a dart.
Still fresh in many people's minds is the case of Stephen Schadendorf, the engineer on duty on the evening of the Oliver Mtukudzi/Ringo show at the Harare International Conference Centre on New Year's Eve. Schadendorf is alleged to have beamed spotlights on two portraits of Mugabe hanging on the walls of the show's venue while Mtukudzi belted out his song, Bvuma, which ridicules old men who refuse to accept that age has caught up with them. As has become the norm at most shows, people waved red cards and open palms - the campaign symbols of the opposition MDC. Schadendorf was subsequently accused of inciting people to insult the person of the president. The state has, however, dropped the charges and has said it will proceed by way of summons, if need be.
MDC MP for Bulilima-Mangwe South, Moses Mzila Ndlovu, is facing criminal defamation charges for allegedly saying that Mugabe killed former Zanu national chairman, Herbert Chitepo, as well as vice chairman Leopold Takawira. Ndlovu allegedly uttered the statement at a rally in the Tshangwa area of Plumtree. Originally, police had wanted him charged under Loma, but the prosecutors pushed for a defamation charge. He was remanded out of custody to 23 February of this year.
Other insults go unpunished and, needless to say, Zanu PF officials, and perhaps the president himself, seethe with anger whenever no grounds are found for prosecution. During last year's parliamentary elections in Chitungwiza, voters protested at Mugabe's portrait being hung up at a voting post, saying the portrait was not only offensive, but a form of indirect campaigning and intimidation by Zanu PF. The will of the people prevailed for the polling officers removed the offending portrait. Mugabe has also earned himself the nickname "Vasco da Gama", after the famous Portuguese explorer, for his never-ending excursions around the globe. It can be argued that the man is the most travelled leader in the world, and has spent about two years away from home during his 20 year reign.
The esteem and respect that Mugabe enjoyed soon after independence was further eroded when he married his then secretary, Grace Marufu, with whom he already had two children. The children were fathered at the time that the late Sally Mugabe was battling kidney problems, thus portraying the president as a selfish, heartless and uncaring person. Many other insults have gone unreported, but a visit to any social gathering will reveal the extent to which the man's reputation has sunk.From The Star (SA), 4 February
Kabila a barrier to peace, say DRC rebels
Kigali - New president Joseph Kabila of the DRC remains the "major obstacle" to the peace process there and in the entire Great Lakes region, an official of the country's main rebel movement said on Saturday. Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga, deputy spokesperson of the Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), said Kabila "is continuing to take the same positions as his late father concerning the Lusaka peace process". He was reacting to a tour by the new president following the assassination of his father, which has taken Joseph Kabila to France, the United States and Belgium. The other major Congolese rebel movement, the Uganda-backed FLC, came up with a similar analysis on Friday.
Kabila told the UN Security Council on Friday that he would examine ways of giving a fresh impetus to the July-August 1999 Lusaka accords, while insisting on a withdrawal of Rwandan and Ugandan forces who support the DRC rebels and occupy the northern and eastern half of the country. The Lusaka accords called for a ceasefire which has never been applied to end a conflict between the DRC government, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and rebels backed in the east of the country by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
From The Independent (UK), 5 February
Beer and carols with soldiers in their Y-fronts
The Ukrainian mercenaries - all beards, moustaches and pearly-white bellies - were lounging at the poolside. Tinny Christmas carols floated over the hotel music system, even though it was a sweltering January morning. The hired guns clinked their beer bottles and chortled. For work they had to wear the army fatigues of another country. But now, on their day off, they could strut around wearing nothing but the Y-fronts of their native Ukraine. The underwear parade initially outraged upper crust Congolese guests, one regular sighed. "The management asked them to start wearing togs instead. But I don't think everyone got the message." International business hotels build their reputations on being staid, clinically efficient places of rest. It's not a charge that can be laid against the Kinshasa Inter-Continental. Having played centre stage to some of Congo's great dramas of recent years the "Inter", as it is popularly known, has become a five-star national institution. Expensive, yes, but boring, most definitely not.
Soldiers and generals from four different countries tramp through its marble corridors, Kalashnikovs swinging casually from their shoulders. Government snoops wearing Laurent Kabila shirts jostle with prostitutes for seats at the bar, hoping to eavesdrop on foreign journalists. The Foreign Affairs Minister runs an ad hoc office from the coffee dock, juggling calls on his two mobile phones. Meanwhile the head of the UN mission is on the 21st floor, his suite of faux-antique pink furniture overlooking the magnificent sweep of the river Congo.
In its heyday this was the most profitable InterContinental hotel in the world. Foreign businessmen would crowd into its overpriced rooms to make lucrative deals with the rapacious dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and his acolytes. But now Mobutu is gone, Congo is at war and the clientele are as likely to be carrying bullets as briefcases - not a good thing for the reputation of a swanky international hotel. Most of the permanent guests are soldiers, either from Congo's military allies Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola, or mercenaries from the former USSR, mainly the Ukraine. With the hotel being part-owned by the government, their bills are unlikely to be regularly settled.
A few years ago the breakfast buffet was thrown into consternation when a grenade clattered across the floor. Terrified diplomats and businessmen dropped their croissants and looked on slack-jawed as a rebel soldier nonchalantly strolled across the room, before scooping up the explosive that could have blown them away. Now management feeds the soldiers on the ninth floor, in a mess hall de luxe. More recently the word "Inter-Continental" has been dropped from the hotel's name. It is now simply called the "Grand". Perhaps the clumsily hidden spy cameras in rooms assigned to journalists embarrassed the international chain. Or maybe it was told about the time an antelope was found wandering around the corridors, liberally defecating on the carpet. (It turned out to be a war souvenir picked up by a Zimbabwean soldier, who apparently intended to fly the beast all the way back to Harare.)
Some characters have been preserved in literature. Fans of Michaela Wrong's recent book, In The Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, will be pleased to note that the Belgian woman who even sunbathes during a revolution remains faithful to her calling to this day. Apparently, though, she is unaware of her cult status. The hotel has also reserved its place in Congo's history books. It was from Suite 1153 that Mobutu's family nervously watched the 1997 rebel advance in Kinshasa, swigging from bottles of hard liquor. On the eve of their flight, Mobutu's hated son, Kongolo - popularly known as "Saddam" - stomped into the hotel at three in the morning, thirsting for revenge. A quick-thinking manager prevented a bloodbath by cutting off the lifts and within hours the Mobutus had fled, with other cronies of the regime and their families. In the rush, Saddam and his siblings left the pathetic detritus of dishonest living behind them: their Zairean passports, drawers stuffed with designer clothes and - perhaps fittingly - a bill for a million dollars.