|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Political killings in Zimbabwe have reached their highest point for two years, with 16 people losing their lives in January, the independent Human Rights Forum said yesterday, as a fresh diplomatic row broke out between Harare and the European Union.
The Human Rights Forum said that 10 of those killed were opposition supporters, three belonged to the ruling party and the affiliation of three others – two of whom were farm guards – was unclear.
"This is the highest number of deaths recorded in any one month since the first politically motivated murder was recorded in March 2000," the group said in a statement.
The Zimbabwean government faces sanctions under the Cotonou agreement, invoked by the EU in October, which governs relations with a bloc of developing states and allows for sanctions if a range of issues, such as human rights and good governance, are not addressed. Zimbabwe said it disputed the way Brussels has interpreted the agreement.
The EU rejected the charge and argued that Zimbabwe itself had not followed correct procedures by failing to take its protest to the relevant committee. "We are aware of the government of Zimbabwe's concern," said a spokeswoman for Chris Patten, the EU commissioner for foreign affairs, "but we believe that we have acted by the book."
In any event, the most serious, targeted sanctions that Zimbabwe faces would be imposed collectively by the EU member states. They have threatened an EU-wide visa ban and a freeze on financial assets for about 20 of the most senior members of government and their families, and a ban on the export from the EU of equipment that could be used for repression.
A meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels yesterday decided not to invoke the targeted sanctions yet because, as one diplomat put it, there had been "enough positive movement" not to activate them. Officials in Brussels are desperate to get their team of observers into the country ahead of the elections, because they believe that their presence will deter intimidation and encourage a greater turnout by opposition voters.
The government in Zimbabwe has begun accrediting some observers but the key test will come in the next few days when it decides whether all the members of the EU team are granted visas, accreditation and freedom to move around.
However, there is little confidence that the EU's ultimatum to Zimbabwe to allow the international media to operate freely will be observed after the arrest of The Independent correspondent, Basildon Peta.
There were signs that his treatment has hardened the resolve of some EU member states. Louis Michel, Belgium's foreign minister, said: "They must know that the international community will not accept this behaviour. I think we have to press them. I think we have to be very severe, otherwise we will be obliged to recognise the result of the election."
Glenys Kinnock, the Labour MEP, said the critical test was the attitude of the government towards the EU observers. "If this is not satisfactorily dealt with, we have to move to sanctions," she said.
Harare Crisis Affects SADC Economy - ICG
February 6, 2002
Posted to the web February 6, 2002
The economies of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) trading bloc have lost over US36-billion Dollars in potential investment because of the political crisis in Zimbabwe.
Quoting a report by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the socio-political and economic upheavals in Zimbabwe had serious repercussions for the whole southern African region.
South Africa, the region's biggest economy, was the most seriously affected, losing US3-billion Dollars in potential investment.
'South Africa risks serious structural damage to its economy if it does not take urgent action to prevent further collapse in Zimbabwe. The impact of the deteriorating situation in its neighbour to the north has been particularly noticeable in the falling Rand,' says the ICG.
The ICG, a multi-national organisation committed to preventing conflict globally, said while other factors come into play, the situation in Zimbabwe principally contributed to the recent fall of the South African Rand.
The Rand sank by 25 percent during 2000, 30 percent since January 2001, and then a further 4.5 percent in the first week of December 2001.
Zimbabwe's Ministry of Finance and Economic Development said it had no capacity to quantify the losses, if there were any, and referred all questions to the SADC secretariat in Botswana.
Three weeks ago, another government spokesperson denied that the economic slump in South Africa was a result of the political situation in Zimbabwe.
He attributed the decline of the Rand to a general global economic recession also affecting countries such as Japan and the United States.
SADC secretariat information officer Petronella Ndebele, said she could not comment, as she had not seen the ICG document.
Independent analysts in Zimbabwe say the ICG's findings are a ploy by western countries to put pressure on southern African countries to take a firmer stance against the Harare government.
But the ICG insists that the spongy stance by South Africa on Zimbabwe is the cause of its economic woes.
'For example, following the murder of two white farmers (in Zimbabwe), the bond market in South Africa suffered a record one-day outflow of R1.8-billion, and the Rand lost value. When Deputy President Jacob Zuma appeared to endorse Pres Mugabe's land grab in October 2000, the Rand fell again, as it did when opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested in December 2001,' said the organisation.
Recently, South African Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni publicly condemned the situation in Zimbabwe, saying it had a negative effect on investor confidence in South Africa.
The condition of South Africa's parastatals also has been affected. The ICG noted that Zimbabwe had, on several occasions, defaulted on debt payments to both Eskom and Sasol.
It said both companies have had to absorb the losses as they allegedly had been instructed by the South African government to continue the exports.
However, Zimbabwe's Ministry of Finance and Economic Development this week insisted that Zimbabwe was now up-to-date with the payment of its debts to the electricity utility and fuel companies.
Zimbabwe, southern Africa's second most diversified economy, has seen its exports plunging and witnessed a general economic collapse in the past few years.
The country's negative growth rate, estimated at 4.2 percent for 2000, the last year for which statistics are available, is said to have 'greatly affected average gross domestic product (GDP) of the sub-region'.
This decline is evident in Zimbabwe's trade figures, which show an overall decline from 1999 to 2000 of 6.4 percent.
The loss in the vital food sector was 4.5 percent from 1999 to 2000, and a dramatic 61 percent down on a decade earlier.
No one is suggesting that the upcoming vote in Zimbabwe is going to be the worst of Africa's elections.
First, and most important, the electors have a real choice, between the incumbent and at least one strong opposition contender.
The opposition succeeded in getting a "No" vote in a constitutional referendum two years ago, and took almost half the elected seats in last year's parliamentary elections.
This is a genuine contest, and both the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are determined to win it.
That puts it a whole world away from past elections in Africa, some of them blatantly rigged despite the fact that there was only a single candidate.
Ruling party machines
In Chad in the 1980s I saw polling officials quite openly putting "Yes" slips in the envelopes before handing them to voters to drop in the box.
When challenged, they explained that since everybody wanted to vote for the president, they were simply making things easier for them - "No" slips were available on request.
Ruling party machines were then so strong that even when multi-party states became more common, it was still assumed that an incumbent president could not lose.
That assumption has now vanished.
Kenneth Kaunda was eventually voted out of power in Zambia, Abdou Diouf in Senegal and Jerry Rawlings in Ghana.
All accepted the verdict of the voters, and bowed out gracefully.
This does not mean that all African elections are perfect.
There was blatant rigging during the election that brought President Olusegun Obasanjo to power in Nigeria.
Former US President Jimmy Carter - who led a team of observers - said there was such a disparity between number of voters observed and the number of votes cast that it was impossible to know who had won.
Among Zimbabwe's close neighbours, the last elections in Malawi were very controversial, and the counting and tallying in Zambia recently was chaotic.
But the new generation of African presidents would rather see these as unfortunate aberrations.
South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Ghana's John Kufuor and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal are all men whose democratic credentials are not in doubt.
Along with Olusegun Obasanjo they are trying to promote a new image of Africa as a partner for the developed world, as a continent which is open, democratic, transparent and well-governed.
That is why good elections in a high-profile country like Zimbabwe are important to them.
Zimbabwe has established a democratic tradition, which new legislation is threatening to erode.
If these elections are less free than past contests, and marked by an increase in violence, thuggery and intimidation, it will reflect badly, not just on Zimbabwe itself, but on the whole continent.
Harare will seek arbitration in the dispute as provided for under the Cotonou Agreement governing relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), The Herald said.
The government of President Robert Mugabe, who will seek re-election next month, said it resorted to the action after the EU failed to address its concerns over "human rights and governance" matters, according to The Herald.
A "sticking point was the threat by the EU to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe when some members of the grouping had already imposed unofficial sanctions on Harare," said the paper.
The EU deemed Monday that it would not impose threatened sanctions because Zimbabwe had not prevented deployment of EU observers as of a Sunday deadline.
But it has held out the threat of sanctions if Zimbabwe prevents its observers from "operating effectively", if international media do not have free access to covering the vote, in case of serious human rights abuses or attacks on Mugabe's opponents, or if the vote is deemed not to be free and fair.
Last week Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said the EU had no right to demand that Harare accept EU observers at the election, set for March 9-10.
Harare has also accused some EU countries, notably the former colonial power Britain, of funding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), hose candidate Morgan Tsvangirai poses Mugabe's first real challenge after 22 years in power.
"Some EU countries, particularly Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark -- have been funding the opposition MDC and allowing hostile anti-Zimbabwean government broadcasts from their territories," said The Herald.
Relations have been strained with the EU in the run-up to the election, with the perception that the government is seeking to muzzle the press and curb civil liberties to ensure Mugabe's reelection.
Harare says the EU still wants to perpetuate a colonial relationship with ACP countries.
Mudenge last week slammed the EU along with the Commonwealth for trying to "perpetuate an archaic colonial relationship" with African countries.
Mugabe has invited several organizations to send observers, including the EU and the Commonwealth, but he specifically excluded Britain from joining their teams.
Zimbabwe Raises Minimum Gold Price, Sets Up Retention Fund Harare, Feb. 6 (OsterDowJones) - Zimbabwe gold producers were given a slightly higher floor price plus a hard currency retention fund by the government Wednesday. However producers termed the measures "meaningless" and "a charade." The central bank raised its floor price - the minimum paid to producers - by 2% to the equivalent of $434 a troy ounce at the official exchange rate of $1=ZWD 55. The bank also said producers were now allowed to keep 20% of their foreign earnings, whereas previously they have had to sell all their foreign earnings to the central bank for local currency at the official exchange rate. Mining companies said there would be no difference to their serious financial situation. A spokesman for one of the three biggest producers in Zimbabwe said, "This is meaningless. We need at least a 30% rise in the floor price. Our costs are rising by at least 70% a year, while we have to buy imported raw materials at the parallel exchange rate of ZWD300 to $1. Commercial banks already have a scheme for us to keep 20% of our foreign earnings, and that is not enough." Another producer called the government move "a charade." A senior official of the gold mine said the government was trying to gain political credibility ahead of presidential elections next month.
Comment from The Accra Mail (Ghana), 6 February
Really, what does Mugabe want?
Basildon Peta is a Zimbabwe journalist I met sometime in 1994 on a visit to the US. Yesterday when I tuned to BBC World in the morning, I saw his face, and the story that went with it was that he had been arrested by Mugabe. Yes, Mugabe, because it was Mugabe's wishes that led to the enactment of the laws under which grounds were found to arrest Basildon. When I met Basildon eight years ago, he was a quiet soft-spoken man who never hurried himself. We were in a group and would chide him for his unhurried way of doing things. Even talking seemed too much of a chore for him. Today, he is a victim of whatever creatures with pointed ears, forked tails and sharp teeth have taken over the conscience of his country.
Zimbabwe was once a country we all looked up to - not because of any individual in power - but because we thought the blacks having taken over would, as we say in Ghana, "show" the whites how to create wealth and promote happiness. The golden age of prosperity for black Africa, we thought would begin from Zimbabwe. In terms of prosperity and development, can we put our hands on our hearts and swear that Zimbabwe is a success story? I don't want any excuse about a "white conspiracy". That's just an easy way of finding excuses. Today Zimbabwe is a land in turmoil. A black government has turned against fellow blacks. Not because of a white invasion, but because a black leader wants to hold on to political power forever. And in the process, it is devouring its own children.
Basildon Peta is incarcerated. Does Mugabe believe that would bring prosperity to Zimbabwe? Perhaps Mr. Mugabe knows certain things that lesser mortals are not aware of and that is why he is disregarding the gravitational pull of change. Sadly, by the time he comes out of Rip Van Winkle land, much damage would have been done to the country he claims to be so much in love with. My sympathies go to Peta. I hope he does not have to stay behind bars for long. I had only one month and I did not like it. May the wise and just eventually take over Africa.