The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

Back to Index

Back to the Top
Back to Index

The Independent (UK)

Mugabe sweeps in draconian laws to silence opponents

President steamrollers the opposition and brings in drastic laws aimed at
ensuring his re-election without democracy
By Basildon Peta in Harare
11 January 2002

The Zimbabwe parliament hammered the final nail into the coffin of the
country's democracy yesterday by adopting two laws aimed at silencing any
political opposition two months before Robert Mugabe holds a presidential

Unlike previous sittings, the House was packed. The air was as hot as a
furnace because of the sudden breakdown of the air-conditioning system.

The ruling party's 93 MPs had been ordered to turn out in full force to
approve the bills or face tough sanctions from the party. The 57 opposition
MPs also turned up to put on record their rejection of the Bills, which Mr
Mugabe hopes will enable him to win re-election in the presidential election
set for 9 March.

As the tension rose during the many hours of deliberations in the
suffocating heat, some MPs came close to exchanging blows. There could not
have been a more fitting environment to pass the two draconian Bills: the
Public Order and Security Bill and the General Laws Amendment Act.

They were passed just as the four main journalistic unions agreed to boycott
an Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill that imposes hefty
fines and jail terms for reporters practising "unethical journalism". That
media Bill and another one on labour relations that bans workers from
striking are now due to be passed on Tuesday.

While the unions were meeting, Mr Mugabe's militias went on the rampage,
burning copies of independent newspapers. Many copies of the weekly
Financial Gazette were burnt at the airport where militias were gathering to
welcome the Democratic Republic of Congo's President, Laurent Kabila.

The two Bills that were passed yesterday, the Public Order and Security Bill
and the General Laws Amendment Act, were already the most anti-democratic in
Zimbabwe's history. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
immediately branded the laws "fascist" and vowed to challenge them in court.

The security Bill promises death penalties against Zimbabweans accused of
assisting in terrorism, subversion espionage, banditry, sabotage and treason
against Mr Mugabe's government. These offences are broadly defined and they
include any suspicion by the authorities that a person is plotting against
the government.

It outlaws the publishing or communicating of "false statements prejudicial
to the state or that incite public disorder, violence, affect defence and
the economic interests of the country or undermine confidence in security
forces." It bars public gatherings "to conduct riots, disorder or
intolerance" and makes it an offence to undermine the authority of Mr Mugabe
by making statements or publishing statements that provoke hostility.

The General Laws Amendment Bill will ban independent election monitors and
forbids private voter education.

Mr Mugabe's hand-picked Electoral Supervisory Commission will oversee all
Zimbabwe polls under this law and will assume sole responsibility for
recruiting, training and deploying election monitors.

The Bill will also disenfranchise millions of Zimbabweans living abroad.

The General Laws Amendment bill was passed in a restaged vote, which the MDC
described as illegal and in breach of parliamentary rules.

Parliament passed the law by 62 votes to 49 after the ruling Zanu-PF MPs
lost 22 to 36 on Tuesday. That defeat was the first time the ruling party
had lost a vote in two decades.

The leadership of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, the Media Institute of
Southern Africa, the Zimbabwe Independent Journalists Association and the
Foreign Correspondents Association unanimously agreed to mobilise all
journalists to defy the media Bill that will be passed next week.

In addition to jailing journalists for writing stories that spread "fear,
alarm and despondency", the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Bill bans foreign correspondents from reporting in Zimbabwe. It will also
put all local journalists on a system of one-year renewable licences issued
by the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo.

Journalists will also be charged for publishing stories that discredit
people on the basis of sex, race, age, nationality, language, religion,
profession, place of residence or work. The four unions resolved to start
running a campaign to urge support for their boycott this weekend.

The small number of white people who gathered in the public gallery of
Parliament to witness yesterday's proceedings must have ended up wondering
why they had even bothered to turn up for the crucial proceedings.

"You see these people, they are representing the British. They are here so
that the MDC can play to the gallery," said the Justice Minister, Patrick

Ruling party MPs took turns to chide the 14 whites in the gallery until only
one was left by the end of the day's proceedings. Points made by opposition
MPs were not entertained by the Speaker of Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa,
who is from Mr Mugabe's party.

"These two Bills are the end of this country. Mugabe can now run Zimbabwe
like his pig sty. It's the end," thundered opposition MP Tendai Biti, in the
full knowledge that his words were falling on deaf ears.

Mr Mugabe is facing EU sanctions and the threat of having his country's
membership of the Commonwealth suspended as a result of his crackdown, which
has intensified in recent months.

Senior British officials suggested yesterday that the timing of the
presidential election could provide the embattled Zimbabwean leader with the
opportunity to miss the Commonwealth summit in Brisbane, that could discuss
suspending Zimbabwe at the meeting from March 2-5.

The Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, said the
international community could press for change in Zimbabwe but there was "no
magic" to stop a government from ruling a country. "Zimbabwe is a tragedy of
enormous proportions," she admitted yesterday.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Rules of parliamentary democracy voted away
Legislature at work

Peta Thornycroft
The Daily Telegraph

HARARE - After the bells rang at 2:10 p.m. yesterday, the rituals of
Zimbabwe's Parliament looked and sounded like its Westminster model. The
mace was there, so were the sergeants-at-arms, and the chatter subsided as
the Speaker swept in.

Then the real business of the day began as, one by one, President Robert
Mugabe's lackeys threw away the rules of parliamentary democracy.

The Speaker's gallery in the Nelson Mandela Avenue building, where Southern
Rhodesia began its legislative life in 1923, was filled with Western
diplomats, journalists barred from the press gallery and ordinary
Zimbabweans who craned to hear the ruckus below.

The government's benches overflowed with parliamentary minions, including
unelected members of parliament appointed by Mr. Mugabe. It was these MPs in
the front row who designed the repressive legislation that will blight their
country's last vestiges of recognizable democracy.

Zimbabwe's Parliament is opposite a small park, which was the site of
decades of nationalist protests until Rhodesia's independence in 1980. Since
then, it has been the central meeting point for demonstrations against Mr.
Mugabe, demonstrations that Parliament seeks to make a criminal offence.

On the parliamentary benches occupied by the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), the shadow justice minister, David Coltart, likened
Mr. Mugabe's determination to change parliamentary standing rules against
the advice of its legal committee to Hitler at the Reichstag in 1933.

The government benches yelled the worst insults in its lexicon --
"Rhodesian, Rhodesian, American, British" -- as the white MDC lawyer said
Zimbabweans had been denied information about the legislation.

Other Opposition legislators noted that "even racist Rhodesians obeyed
parliamentary rules" when putting repressive laws to parliament.

On the government benches was a frail but singular lawmaker, Edison Zvobgo,
a founder of the ruling Zimbabwean African National Unity-Patriotic Front
and the main legal negotiator for the liberation forces at the talks in
London that led to Zimbabwe's independence. Dr. Zvobgo, who is now isolated
by Mr. Mugabe, did not intervene.

Up for consideration were two bills: Public Order and Security, which will
give the government sweeping powers of arrest and detention, all but
stopping the opposition MDC from operating as a political party; and Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy, which in effect will bar
independent journalists and the foreign media from reporting on Zimbabwe.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Toronto Star

  Shackled in Zimbabwe

Comrade Robert Mugabe is making himself Zimbabwe's dictator, in order to
remain its president. That's the thrust of sweeping powers parliament has
been ordered to give him before the March 9-10 presidential election.

His Orwellian Access to Information act ensures a tame press by banning
foreign journalists and allowing Zimbabwean journalists to work only if
Mugabe's hand-picked officials agree.

Yesterday defence chief Vitalis Zvinavashe announced that he'll support only
those who "pursue Zimbabwean values, traditions and beliefs." That was taken
as a naked endorsement of Mugabe, who has just doubled the army's wages.

The new laws suppress political foes by making it an offence to criticize
the presidency, or to "cause despondency." They also restrict election
monitors who serve as a safeguard against fraud. Mugabe's party narrowly won
the last parliamentary election, but only after 30 opposition supporters
were murdered.

These abusive measures crown an ugly campaign to cow Morgan Tsvangirai and
other opposition figures into silence through harassment, intimidation and
murder. And to drive white farmers from their lands.

Short of naming himself president-for-life Mugabe could not have more
effectively subverted democracy.

First elected in 1980, he has evolved into a corrupt autocrat, stirring
racial tensions, threatening the judiciary and ruining the economy. Some 4
million of Zimbabwe's 12 million people live on $2 a day. Food, fuel and
hard currency are scarce.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien should support Zimbabwe's suspension from the
54-nation Commonwealth, until Mugabe reverses direction or bows out. Last
May, Chrétien froze aid, suspended military contracts, reconfirmed a ban on
weapons sales and promised to call world attention to this lawlessness.

Now Ottawa should deny Mugabe and his cronies travel visas here, and support
reformers who seek to shake off Mugabe in a democratic and peaceful

The Commonwealth can do its part by declaring Mugabe a threat to his
country, and to Africa.

Back to the Top
Back to Index


The perils of reporting in Zimbabwe

  By BBC News Online's Joseph Winter

All journalists are used to working in stressful environments - fuming
editors wondering why deadlines have been missed, conducting interviews in
war zones, the list is endless.

But working in Zimbabwe in the past few years, and especially the past few
months, has stretched the meaning of "stress" to new levels.

Long before I was forced to leave Zimbabwe a year ago, many parts of the
country had become no-go areas for non-state journalists.

Zimbabwe's media is sharply divided

From the beginning of the invasion of white-owned farms in February 2000,
most of the self-styled war veterans refused to speak to us, wielding their
clubs and machetes menacingly at the sight of our pens and microphones.

BBC guidelines state clearly: "No story is worth risking your life for".

I am not a hero and wholeheartedly agree.

News black-out

We had no choice but to speak to those who would speak to us - the farmers
and government ministers or war veteran leaders based in Harare.

Then the Information Minister Jonathan Moyo introduced a "non-co-operation"

Only the state-owned media were invited to government news conferences.

Moyo only speaks to the state media

When the body of the Congolese President, Laurent Kabila, was brought to
Harare a year ago, foreign correspondents were not allowed to cover a major
international story.

We stood waiting for hours outside the army barracks where he was lying in
state, despite being invited by the Congolese ambassador.

One journalist with the Daily News managed to bluff her way through with an
old press card from the state news agency.

But she was soon recognised and was given a military escort back to the
front gate.


All requests for government comment or interviews now have to go through Mr
Moyo's office.

But he and his officials never answer their phones.

Or if they do, it is only to bark: "Call me back later".

Of course, some ministers do still talk to the foreign and private press.

But even they are now wary of Mr Moyo's influence with President Robert
Mugabe and most insist on remaining anonymous.

Protecting the source of information is important everywhere as
"whistle-blowers" can face the sack.

But in Zimbabwe, it could spell death.

I only spoke to moderate Zanu-PF officials in person, never on the phone.


Colleagues still in Harare say they now use the state media - The Herald and
ZBC radio and television - as their main source of government information.

And this means they are forced to sit through some of the most turgid
broadcasting ever produced.

"His Excellency the president, Comrade Robert Mugabe has opened a dam in
Mashonaland Central Province... "

Journalists and the opposition have been threatened

"The opposition MDC have been denounced as traitors... "

"A British plot has been uncovered... "

At first, it can be quite amusing in an odd way.

But sitting through an hour of this each evening quickly drives you mad.

Especially when you become the target of the abuse.

"Western journalists have been criticised for giving a negative portrayal of
the government... "

I tried to ignore this form of psychological pressure while I was there but
after a few months it did start to wear me down.

Different route

More recently, six named journalists were called "terrorists" - to be dealt
with like the United States was dealing with Taleban.

The on-going political violence provides ample evidence that this threat was
very real.

One journalist said that he expected to see a mob of government militants
waiting for him outside his house.

They never came but he has changed his daily routine and takes a different
route home from his office every day.

Another is concerned that his car may be tampered with, by the feared
Central Intelligence Organisation, seeking to liquidate an "enemy of the

He takes his car to a different mechanic every time it needs a service.

Internet revolution

Difficult as it is now, the government's proposed new measures would make it
impossible to work as a journalist.

Publishing stories about cabinet meetings based on ministerial sources - the
basis of political reporting the world over - could lead to a prison term.

One media organisation would not be allowed to quote another without
permission - so The Herald could not be used as a substitute for government

And journalists accredited with one news organisation could not work for
another without the approval of the information ministry.

Mr Moyo is apparently hoping that the "information age" will pass Zimbabwe

But the internet and mobile telephones have already swept through Harare and
so news will always seep out, whatever laws the government passes.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 13:14 GMT
Zimbabwe's anthrax 'gimmick'
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
The envelope was sent to the information minister
An anthrax scare in Zimbabwe has proved a false alarm amid allegations the incident was a "cheap" attempt by the government to discredit the opposition.

The anthrax gimmick is the latest strategy that has been authored by the now panic-stricken Zanu-PF election strategists

MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe

The state-owned Herald newspaper reported on Thursday that white powder found in an envelope addressed to Information Minister Jonathan Moyo had tested negative for anthrax.

Two envelopes of white powder were reportedly intercepted earlier in the week at a Harare post office after two postal workers fell ill.

Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo accused white people and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of masterminding the alleged attack.

But MDC officials described the government's claim as a "cheap gimmick" aimed at discrediting the opposition ahead of presidential elections in March.

Opposition accused

Despite the negative test on the powder, police said the fact that one of the envelopes was addressed to the information minister was cause for grave concern.

Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo
Home Affairs Minister Nkomo blamed whites and the MDC

"We are therefore viewing this as terrorism designed to cause fear in the population as well as create insecurity," police spokesman Wayne Bvudijena told the Herald.

A health official told the paper that the powder was a type of bacteria, and efforts to identify it were under way.

As to the identity of the perpetrators, Mr Nkomo had few doubts.

"Those responsible for these terrorist attacks are people who formed the MDC and supported it," he was quoted as saying.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who enjoys huge support among urban blacks, is set to present the strongest challenge yet to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF in the forthcoming presidential election.

MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said the anthrax allegations were entirely baseless.

"The anthrax gimmick is the latest strategy that has been authored by the now panic-stricken Zanu-PF election strategists," he said in a statement.

Government crackdown

The ruling party is currently trying to push three bills through parliament that would introduce draconian new measures on the press, public security, and electoral laws.

In the latest development, Zimbabwe's military chiefs declared they would only back leaders who fought in the country's wars of liberation, dealing a fresh blow to Mr Tsvangirai.

Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai says he could win a free and fair poll

Rights groups, journalists and MDC politicians say Mr Mugabe is trying everything in his power to stifle dissent ahead of the elections.

He has seen his popularity slide amid a collapsing economy, growing international criticism of his human rights record and the violent seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.

Britain has said it will press for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth if it did not tackle political violence and human rights violations.

The European Union has threatened to impose targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders unless it is allowed to monitor the elections.

Last year, the United States House of Representatives also passed legislation urging President George W Bush to impose sanctions.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 18:06 GMT
What to do with Mugabe?
Mugabe voting in parliamentary elections in 2000
Mugabe may be home and dry before the world can act
By the BBC's world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's attitude to the outside world is summed up on a new website set up by his government -

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
Information Minister Moyo says the UK fuels the violence
His Minister for Information and Publicity, Professor Jonathan Moyo, declares that the European Union and the Commonwealth should hold Britain responsible for any escalation of violence ahead of the presidential elections in March.

British policy, Mr Moyo says, is reminiscent of an equally "diabolic" strategy by Western intelligence groups which once worked with former Rhodesians - most of whom are now commercial farmers - to fuel disturbances.

With such a background, it is hardly likely that President Mugabe will be swayed by diplomatic representations and pressure.

Counterproductive censure

There will be repercussions for him internationally if he continues his present course, but he probably could not care less.

Indeed, such pressure will probably fuel his mistrust of outside influences and reinforce his determination to clamp down on any threat to his re-election.

Zimbabwe could have economic sanctions imposed on it by the European Union and be suspended by the Commonwealth.

The EU process takes some time - 60 days under the trade agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

Against the clock

Under the agreement, ACP countries which violate human rights can have economic benefits withdrawn, but this process cannot now be finished before the elections. Mr Mugabe could be home and dry by the time sanctions are put in place.

Blair at CHOGM in Durban in 1999
Blair: Accused of "diabolic" policy
Zimbabwe faces the loss of 128m euros ($114m) and its trade access to the EU, but many European governments and aid organisations do not want to impose severe economic sanctions as they would hurt the poorest. So it is a sword which is two edged.

A confrontation on this will take place in Brussels on Friday between EU and Zimbabwe delegations.

The Commonwealth conference - CHOGM, or Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - is being held in Australia in early March, just before the Zimbabwe elections, and in theory could suspend Zimbabwe.

It is unlikely that Mr Mugabe will attend in person. But a CHOGM decision requires consensus, which means unanimity, and this is by no means certain, though it could become more likely if the situation gets worse.

But again, Mr Mugabe might regard suspension as a badge of honour. He has long ago ceased to be worried about what the Commonwealth thinks.

How to act?

What to do about a country heading for dictatorship and repression is a very common dilemma in the modern world.

In the old days, people turned a blind eye under the principle of "non interference in internal affairs".

This has now changed, but governments are unsure as to how far to take the process.

On occasions, there is direct intervention (Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan).

On others, there is UN action (Somalia), but at the end of the day, economic pressure and diplomatic isolation are usually all that can be used, and governments bent on power tend not to take much notice.

This appears to be the case with Zimbabwe.

Back to the Top
Back to Index


Zimbabwe parliament passes controversial bills

HARARE, Jan. 10 — The Zimbabwe parliament passed two controversial laws on
Thursday that critics say are designed to stifle dissent ahead of President
Robert Mugabe's re-election bid in March.
       The main opposition party immediately branded the laws a ''package of
fascist rules'' and said it would appeal against them in court.
 The Public Order and Security Bill, which gives the government sweeping
powers to clamp down on the opposition, was passed by acclamation and not by
formal vote.
       ''The ayes have it,'' declared Deputy Speaker Edna Madzongwe.
       Parliament also passed, by 62 votes to 49, the General Laws Amendment
Bill, which will ban independent election monitors and forbid private
organisations from organising or funding voter awareness programmes.
       The ruling ZANU-PF has a 93-seat majority in the 150-seat house.
       The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it would
launch a legal appeal.
       ''We are going to challenge this package of fascist rules in the
courts. They are trying to clothe fascism with this whole set of bills,''
MDC foreign affairs secretary Tendai Biti told journalists outside
       Parliament was adjourned until next Tuesday, when ZANU-PF plans to
push through the Access to Information and Privacy Bill, a wide ranging law
that will restrict the media.

Back to the Top
Back to Index


Analysis: Pressure grows on Mugabe
January 10, 2002 Posted: 6:27 AM EST (1127 GMT)

By CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's President since
independence in 1980, is faced with growing international criticism of the
political violence and human rights violations in his country.

He is reacting by rushing through new laws to help him win another six year
term in elections due in March. He plans to bar foreign correspondents,
restrict domestic reporting and keep out foreign election observers.

The message to journalists is stark: What the legislation calls "creating
despondency" becomes a jailable offence.

Flatly denying any violence, Mugabe's justice minister insists that
licensing local media and banning foreigners is justified.

Says Patrick Chinawasa: "We have foreign money funding the so-called free
press to publish false information, false fabricated evidence, fabricated
information in order to undermine the government, to undermine the stability
of this country. We can't allow that."

Four months ago at a conference in Abuja, Nigeria, foreign ministers from
Commonwealth countries secured promises from Zimbabwe's government that land
seizures and political violence would cease.

But nothing has changed and many, like Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack
Straw, have lost patience. He has now promised British MPs a tougher

Says Straw: "Political violence including deaths, the occupation of property
and the harassment of independent journalists has continued.

Robin Oakley
"If the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate Britain will argue
for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Heads of
Government meeting in Australia in March."

But such a threat may be just what Mugabe wants. He likes to be able to
represent himself as the downtrodden victim of an ex-colonial power that
won't let go. He depicts his opponents as the mouthpieces of the white
farmers whose properties are being seized.

The confrontations are getting worse. Mugabe's reactions are becoming more
extreme. This Friday some of his ministers are due to meet the European
Union to discuss their human rights record, with European aid projects at

But with most of Europe's aid going to boost education and help fight the
AIDS epidemic, the EU is rapidly trying to contrive some "smart sanctions"
which will hit Zimbabwe's rich ministers and not their poor countrymen.

Back to the Top
Back to Index


EU warns Mugabe to reject state-sponsored terror

The government of Zimbabwe has been warned to step back from the brink or
face severe EU sanctions.

Euro MP Glenys Kinnock, speaking on the eve of talks in Brussels between EU
officials and a delegation from the Zimbabwean government, said it was a
last chance for Zimbabwe to turn away from state-sponsored terrorism.

Robert Mugabe's MPs handed him dictatorial powers when they passed two
draconian laws aimed at stifling opposition in the run up to Zimbabwe's
March elections.

A security bill which would give police sweeping new powers to search and
arrest political opponents and control political activities was adopted by
the Parliament in Harare, despite opposition objections.

The legislation was passed by acclamation, without a vote because enough
ruling party members were present to outnumber the opposition.

A second bill that was originally voted down and would restrict independent
election monitors and voter education groups, limit the distribution of
election posters, and ban absentee voting was also passed.

Mrs Kinnock said: "Without a commitment from Harare to creating the
conditions for a democratic presidential election, we will have no
alternative but to begin the process of ending all support, ensuring that
President Mugabe and his close associates don't travel to any EU country,
and that all their foreign assets are frozen.

"Politically and economically the country is in a total shambles and unless
something is done the suffering of the people will only get worse and worse.

"The EU must be consistent in its response to abuses of human rights,
wherever they occur."

Today's votes in Harare also makes it more likely that Zimbabwe will be
suspended from the Commonwealth later this month. The Commonwealth
ministerial action group meets on January 30 and is likely to recommend

Story filed: 20:25 Thursday 10th January 2002

Back to the Top
Back to Index

ZIMBABWE: ZIMBABWE: EU ''consultations'' over governance concerns/CORRECTION

JOHANNESBURG, 10 January (IRIN) - Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) begin "consultations" in Brussels on Friday over the deteriorating political and human rights situation in the country.

Zimbabwe has been summoned under the terms of the Cotonou agreement - which links the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries to the EU - to respond to the EU's concerns over the state of the rule of law, and respect for democratic principals.

The consultations last 60 days, during which Zimbabwe would be expected to deliver a "solution acceptable to both parties". Failure to do so would lead to "appropriate measures being taken", which has widely been interpreted as sanctions.

"The clock starts on Friday," a British foreign ministry spokesperson told IRIN, in reference to the 60 day period. 

Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe's Minister of State for Information in the Office of the President, reportedly said on Wednesday that the international community, particularly the EU and the Commonwealth, should hold Britain responsible for any escalation of violence ahead of presidential elections on 9-10 March.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told parliament on Tuesday that "if the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, Britain will argue for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in March".

He said the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), meeting on 30 January, would consider whether President Robert Mugabe's actions were a "serious and persistent violation" of the Commonwealth's principles, press reports said.

The eight-nation CMAG, the 54-member Commonwealth's democracy watchdog, last month put Zimbabwe on its agenda for action - the first step on a road to suspension.

But Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in response to Straw's comments that Britain would never succeed in suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, because aside from Canada and Australia, "the rest of the Commonwealth has rallied behind us".

In Zimbabwe's deepening political crisis, the ruling ZANU-PF party suspended parliamentary standing orders this week to steamroll a set of controversial bills through the house by Friday, news reports said. A fourth and controversial electoral amendment act was surprisingly defeated by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Tuesday, and can only come back in the next session of parliament.

The bills are designed to boost Mugabe's re-election chances, news reports said. A public order bill [for full details:], electoral, information, and labour bills give Mugabe sweeping powers and severely curtail the opposition.
The bills sought to "criminalise the opposition", and silence the privately-owned media, and make it illegal for union officials to organise strikes and stayaways, analysts told IRIN.
As well as disenfranchising Zimbabwean voters abroad, the electoral bill aims to ban independent election monitors and allow only a government-appointed commission to conduct voter education. Both the electoral and security bills were passed by parliament on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's military and security chiefs warned that they would only serve political leaders that shared ZANU-PFs liberation war credentials.

"We wish to make it very clear to all Zimbabwean citizens that the security organisations will only stand in support of those political leaders that will pursue Zimbabwean values, traditions and beliefs for thousands of lives lost in pursuit of Zimbabwe's hard-won independence," Zimbabwe defence forces commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe said in a statement.

"We would therefore not accept, let alone support or salute anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people," Zvinavashe said. Mugabe has repeatedly branded opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai a traitor linked to pre-independence Rhodesian interests.


Tel: +27 11 880-4633
Fax: +27 11 447-5472
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Mugabe given 'dictatorial powers' by parliament

The Zimbabwean parliament has passed two controversial bills critics say give President Mugabe dictatorial powers in the run up to elections.

The so-called Security Bill will give police sweeping powers to search and arrest opponents of the president.

A bill intended to muzzle the press is also scheduled to be debated.

Mugabe, who faces an uphill battle to stay in power after 21 years in office, has announced that presidential elections will be held on March 9 and 10.

Military chiefs have also handed a blow to the opposition by declaring they will only support a leader who fought in the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe from the British in 1980.

Mugabe led that revolution.

Main opposition party, The Movement for Democratic Change, is Morgan Tsvangirai, who was a civilian labour activist before Zimbabwe won independence.

Mugabe has described Tsvangirai as a traitor backed by Britain and wealthy white Zimbabweans.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

ZIMBABWE: Media vow to fight back

JOHANNESBURG, 10 January (IRIN) - Zimbabwean journalists plan to defy proposed legislation that will severely curtail independent reporting in the run-up to presidential elections in March.

After a meeting of journalists on Thursday, Abel Mutsakani, head of the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe told IRIN: "We agreed we are all mobilising for total defiance. No journalist is going to be registered under the new laws, we are not going to abide by them. If we are arrested, so be it."

The government's Access to Information and Privacy Bill, part of a package of draconian legislation the ruling party intends to force through parliament by Friday, allows only journalists accredited by a government-appointed Media and Information Commission to work in the country. Registration must be renewed annually.

The media bill makes it an offence punishable by up to two years in prison to reproduce comments published, for example in the state media, without permission. It would also be deemed an offence if a journalist "spreads rumours, falsehoods or causes alarm and despondency" [For full details of the bill:

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) has condemned the state of media freedom in Zimbabwe. "The human rights and press freedom situation in Zimbabwe is catastrophic," it said in a statement this week. "The president and the government in Harare are harassing both local and foreign journalists with impunity. There are continuous threats and arrests, and the independent press is finding it more and more difficult to play its role of informing public opinion."

Mutsakani said journalists would wait until the bill was enacted and would then seek to have it overturned as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. However, "even if the courts rule in our favour the government has already demonstrated it will not accept any court ruling [that outlaws its actions]."

He acknowledged that resistance to the bill could result in the closure of independent newspapers in the run-up to the March election, silencing opposition to Mugabe.

But, according to Mutsakani, perhaps only if journalists are jailed, and civil society mobilises in protest, would regional governments be forced to acknowledge Zimbabwe's political crisis is about democracy rather than land - and act to ensure free and fair elections.

"We want to make it impossible for people like [South African President Thabo] Mbeki to have any more excuses. We want to make it difficult for especially SADC [Southern African Development Community] to skirt the real issues. Locking up journalists will have nothing to do with land," he said. "Mugabe's only concern is to make sure he is re-elected."


Tel: +27 11 880-4633
Fax: +27 11 447-5472
Back to the Top
Back to Index

The Times


Security chiefs 'will not accept' Mugabe defeat


ZIMBABWE’S security chiefs last night said that they would refuse to
recognise a victory by anyone other than President Mugabe in the elections
to be held on March 9 and 10.
Appalled opposition leaders described the statement as a “pre-emptive
military coup”, annulling the opinions of Zimbabweans even before they had a
chance to vote.
President Mugabe, 77, doubled security force pay last week.
Commandeering ruling Zanu(PF) rhetoric that brands Morgan Tsvangirai’s
opposition Movement for Democratic Change a front for whites and British
attempts at “re-colonisation”, the commanders said they were “guided by
crucial values” — defending the gains of the 1972-80 war against white rule
in the former Rhodesia and ensuring that slain guerrillas did not die in
They said in a statement: “We will therefore not accept, let alone support
or salute, anyone who has a different agenda that threatens the very
existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people.”
The commanders, spearheaded by the defence force chief General Vitalis
Zvinavashe, the army commander Constantine Chiwenga, the air force’s Air
Marshal Perrence Shiri, the police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, heads of
the prison service and the feared Central Intelligence Organisation, also
threw their weight behind draconian legislation before Parliament.
Government critics say it extinguishes civil society.
Generals Zvinavashe and Chiwenga have been caught in controversy over
Zimbabwean diamond concessions and logging activity during President Mugabe’
s three-year military adventure in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Air Marshal Shiri, commander of the North Korean-trained army Fifth Brigade
until his transfer to the air force, faces questions over the brigade’s
involvement in the killing of up to 20,000 suspected government opponents in
Matabeleland in the 1980s.
The commanders’ statement poses a challenge to the Commonwealth and the
Organisation of African Unity, both of which have vowed to quarantine any
regime born of a military coup.
Late last night the Zimbabwean Parliament was still debating President
Mugabe’s package of security laws that impose sentences of up to 20 years
imprisonment for inciting civil disobedience and extinguish independent
reporting. The ruling Zanu(PF) was expected to win by virtue of its 36-seat
There was uproar in Parliament yesterday when David Coltart, the shadow
justice minister for the Movement for Democratic Change, compared media
controls planned by President Mugabe to Adolph Hitler’s seizure of power in
While the Zimbabwean Parliament was convulsed over the controversial General
Laws Amendment Bill, which threatens to strip thousands of urban shack
dwellers of their right to vote, pro-government militants invaded lawyers’
offices and the state media tried to whip up paranoia over alleged
“Rhodesian” bio-terrorism anthrax attacks. A government medical officer, Dr
Jokonya Chirenda, later admitted that no trace of anthrax had been found at
a post office closed by the scare.
Sixty militants stormed the offices of Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans, a Harare
law firm, beating Ray Barreto, a senior partner, in an apparent attempt to
intimidate the firm not to represent Guy Watson-Smith, a farmer who fled the
country after having his land seized.
In the north of the country, the newly trained “Youth National Service”
sealed off the towns of Bindura, Karoi and Chinhoyi to conduct door-to-door
checks that residents had bought the new £1 ruling party cards. Community
leaders said 26 farmers had been forced to flee.
A government spokesman said “caretakers” would be placed on all farms
earmarked for takeover to ensure that departing whites were confined to
their homesteads during a three-month notice period, and made no attempt to
work their land.
A Zimbabwean asylum seeker was deported to Harare last night despite a plea
to the Home Office that his removal be suspended because of increasing
violence against members of the opposition (Richard Ford writes).
Immigration officials went ahead with the removal of the man, known only as
Paul, despite fears that he might face torture.
Back to the Top
Back to Index

Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 00:28 GMT
Zimbabwe adamant on new laws
President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe's government faces the threat of EU sanctions
Zimbabwe's justice minister plans to push controversial laws through parliament on Wednesday, one day after President Robert Mugabe's government suffered a shock defeat.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said parliament would be asked to pass a bill which gives Mr Mugabe sweeping powers against opponents.

An equally uncompromising bill restricting journalists will be brought forward before the end of January, he said.

If the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, Britain will argue for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

The new legislation has been attacked by Zimbabwe's opposition and foreign critics as being intended to help Mr Mugabe win re-election in March's presidential poll.

Mr Chinamasa's move follows Tuesday's defeat when the opposition Movement for Democractic Change (MDC) blocked a bill which sought to ban foreign and independent local election monitors and outlaw election posters and leaflets without prior permission.

The MDC outvoted the ruling Zanu-PF party by 36 votes to 22 when many government law-makers were absent from the house.

'Normal democracy'

MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese said the vote would spell defeat for the bill, if Zimbabwe were "a normal democracy".

"But in our case we must accept it only as a moral victory because the government is obviously going to exploit some parliamentary rules and reintroduce the bill," he said.

Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai says he could win a free and fair poll

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF controls 93 seats in the 150 seat parliament.

In London, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned that he would urge for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth if political violence worsens.

The European Union has threatened to impose targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders unless it is allowed to monitor the elections.

The government had intended to fast-track all three bills through parliament on Tuesday but debate on the two high-profile pieces of legislation was postponed when it became clear that there was not enough time.

It is not clear whether some Zanu-PF MPs then boycotted the vote on the third bill because they were unhappy with the new measures or whether they had simply gone home when the main business was postponed.

Mr Chinamasa accused the MDC of "treachery", saying they had agreed to support the bill.

Election date

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
Moyo will decide which media journalists can write for

Under the constitution, the government has to announce a date for the elections by 13 January.

Mr Mugabe is facing the toughest challenge to his presidency since he came to office in 1980, from the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe's journalists say the media bill is draconian and have said they will ignore it.

The new law would ban foreign journalists from Zimbabwe and local journalists would need government accreditation, renewable every 12 months.

Tough jail terms are threatened, as are hefty fines, for journalists publishing news "likely to cause alarm and despondency".

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said it would stop "lies" being told by foreign correspondents about the situation in Zimbabwe.

The BBC has been banned from Zimbabwe and few foreign correspondents are being given work permits.

The Public Order and Security Bill makes it an offence to criticise the president, which observers say would make life intolerable for the opposition during an election campaign.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has called some of the new measures "preposterous".

"If the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, Britain will argue for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in March," he said on Tuesday.

The meeting is due to take place in Australia.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 02:22 GMT
Defying Mugabe's crackdown
Basildon Peta
The author faces trial if he writes in the British press
By Zimbabwe journalist Basildon Peta

If the Zimbabwe parliament passes the draconian access to information and protection of privacy bill as widely expected on Wednesday, then this might well be my last contribution to the British media if I choose to obey the new law.

However, I am determined not to do this despite the hefty fines and two-year jail terms that linger over the head of anyone offending the terms of the law.

Newspaper billboards
There is much opposition to the media bill
This is because the bill is so absurd and abominable that many believe it would not pass the test of constitutional legitimacy even under a legal system run by the ousted Taleban regime of Afghanistan.

Even though President Robert Mugabe has stuffed the judiciary with loyalists and has frustrated many independent judges into resigning, I do not see any self-respecting judicial officer jailing any journalist defying the patently illegal and unconstitutional bill.

My defiance of the bill will be based on many of its prescriptions which I cannot simply afford to countenance.

Licence difficulties

First, the bill will require all journalists to seek one-year renewable licences from the eccentric Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, who deported three journalists from Zimbabwe last year including the BBC's Joseph Winter.

The net effect of the new law is to reduce any journalist to an official biographer, something I am not prepared to be

What this means is that I effectively have to get a one-year licence to enjoy my constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression from a man who does not understand even the most elementary principles of democracy.

This is something I will simply not do. My career has over the years thrived on my ability to get information on the proceedings of President Mugabe's confidential cabinet meetings and on exposing his ruling party's distinguished career of misrule.

Protecting the corrupt?

The bill contains very broad provisions purporting to protect the privacy of individuals. It makes it possible for any corrupt people in government to hide under the banner of privacy.

Writing a story for a British media when you are Zimbabwean will inevitably be construed as aiding terrorism

It sets imprisonment and jail terms for journalists publishing stories on protected information like cabinet meetings and information held by different government departments.

A journalist can only publish information voluntarily released by a department head. The bill prescribes heavy fines of about $3,000 and two-year jail terms for journalists publishing stories likely to cause "alarm, fear and despondency".

However, the scope of these stories is not defined in the bill. Anything that offends President Mugabe might be interpreted as having the effect of causing "alarm and despondency" as we have seen in the past.

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo
Moyo will be able to veto accreditation
The bill will also ban journalists from publishing stories that discriminate on the basis of political affiliation, sex, religion, beliefs, education, race etc.. The scope of these stories is also not defined.

It threatens to jail journalists who practise "unethical journalism" and it bans foreign correspondents from working in Zimbabwe. Most of them are currently being refused entry into the country anyway.

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo will have the power to veto accreditation for any journalist he does not like. The net effect of the new law is to reduce any journalist to an official biographer, something I am not prepared to be.

British 'terrorism'

Coupled with the new media bill is the equally draconian public order and security bill (POSB) that will impose life and death penalties on Zimbabweans accused of assisting in terrorism, espionage, banditry, sabotage and treason against President Mugabe's government. These offences are not clearly defined in the Bill.

But just as an example five journalists, including myself, were earlier this year accused by Mr Mugabe's government of aiding terrorism through our reports in the British press.

After having read the bill several times over, the only good thing about it is that it might in fact expedite the demise of President Mugabe if he implements its foolish provisions

Mr Mugabe has repeatedly accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of hatching several "terrorist" plots to oust the Zimbabwe Government. He has accused the British press of conspiring in these plots.

So writing a story for a British media when you are Zimbabwean will inevitably be construed as aiding terrorism.


The new media bill effectively reduces all journalists in Zimbabwe to entertainment reporters who can only cover musical shows, discos, films and other limited events that will guarantee producing copy which may not cause "fear, alarm and despondency".

Seasoned political writers might have to merely restrict themselves to covering ruling party rallies in glowing terms to avoid being penalised under the sweeping provisions of the bill.

I am only glad that the obnoxious terms of this new law have only united all journalists working in the private media who are all unanimously agreed on the need for a boycott.
Robert Mugabe
Mugabe: Wants to stop reporting of cabinet meetings

This will leave the Zimbabwe Government with the stark option of arresting over 100 journalists who will boycott the bill all at once.

After having read the bill several times over, the only good thing about it is that it might in fact expedite the demise of President Mugabe if he implements its foolish provisions.

Basildon Peta is secretary general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, and works for the Financial Gazette in Harare and London's The Independent.

Back to the Top
Back to Index


The madness of Mugabe
(Filed: 09/01/2002)

THE legislation that will be rammed through parliament in Harare today will
in one respect make Zimbabwe the most repressive country on earth.

The media Bill, introduced by an information minister who was nominated an
MP by Robert Mugabe, rather than being elected, outlaws foreign journalists
and news organisations.

Nothing so Draconian was seen in neighbouring South Africa during the
darkest days of apartheid. The Soviet Union and Communist China in their
heyday allowed in selected representatives of the overseas media. And the
vile dictatorships of Burma, Iraq and North Korea do so today.

That Zimbabwe has sunk to such totalitarian depths is a measure of Mr
Mugabe's paranoia. A presidential election is due before March 17 and the
77-year-old president will stop at nothing to avoid losing.

Defeat in a constitutional referendum in February 2000 triggered the
mobilisation of "war veterans" against white farms and the black opposition
headed by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Despite these terror
tactics, the MDC ran the ruling Zanu-PF a close second in parliamentary
elections in June of that year.

There is little doubt that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, would beat Mr
Mugabe in a free and fair presidential poll. Economically, the incumbent's
stewardship has been a disaster; politically, the climate becomes ever more

It is natural that a newspaper such as The Daily Telegraph, whose former
correspondent, David Blair, was expelled last year and whose present one,
Peta Thorneycroft, faces the prospect of breaking the law by continuing to
work, should focus on those clauses of the new legislation that affect it.

But the authorities' primary purpose is to silence domestic criticism of Mr
Mugabe and his party. Under the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Bill, it will be an offence to incite "disaffection against the
president, the law enforcement agents or the administration of justice".

That could be interpreted to punish any dissent. A public order and security
Bill will further strengthen the government's hand in curbing the
opposition, and an election regulation Bill will ban local independent
monitors and prevent private bodies from undertaking voter education.

Outside anger at Mr Mugabe's madness is growing. The United States has
passed legislation allowing the imposition of sanctions against the elite.
The European Union is moving in the same direction.

But Zimbabwe's neighbours, with the exceptions of Botswana and Malawi, have
been shamefully tolerant of a tyrant, who, in destroying democracy, sullies
the reputation of the entire region.

The passivity of President Thabo Mbeki, in particular, makes a mockery of
his call for an African renaissance.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Powerless in Zimbabwe

Britain wrings its hands over Mugabe

Wednesday January 9, 2002
The Guardian

A tragedy is unfolding in Zimbabwe which a watching world seems powerless to
prevent. It is a human tragedy, particularly for those in the democratic
opposition who suffer violence, torture, intimidation and dispossession at
the hands of Robert Mugabe's thuggish supporters. It is an economic tragedy,
as a well-founded country slides towards highly avoidable bankruptcy, aid
dependency and even famine. It is a political tragedy of the type that
Africa, in a new century pledged to good governance and development, has
supposedly put behind it. It is a tragedy with dire implications for all the
nations of southern Africa and which regional leaders, despite many private
words and numerous meetings, have failed to deflect. Even Nigeria and South
Africa, would-be continental superpowers, stand rebuffed as last year's
Abuja accord is torn up and a possible civil war and refugee exodus draw
In the case of Britain, the former colonial power, impotence not only
characterises Zimbabwe policy; it is the policy. Peter Hain, before his
translation to Europe, tried shouting at Mr Mugabe. But that, the Foreign
Office decided, only facilitated the Zimbabwean dictator's use of his
anti-imperialist trump card. Yesterday in the Commons, foreign secretary
Jack Straw clung to his remodelled approach of "internationalising" the
crisis to isolate Zimbabwe rather than Britain. He admitted it was all very
serious. He drew attention to yet more meetings, of EU ministers and others,
between now and March. His one big step was to indicate British support for
Zimbabwe's Commonwealth suspension if matters do not improve. Officials
indicated later that multilateral sanctions may follow. But it was all
fairly toothless stuff as the Tory spokesman, Michael Ancram, noted.

Here is modern British foreign policy at it most abjectly ineffectual: fresh
out of ideas, failing to rally the support of allies for tough, swift
action, yet unwilling or afraid to act alone. Is this what Tony Blair in
Bangalore meant about promoting universal values and being a force for good?
It will certainly not stop Mr Mugabe subverting the coming presidential
poll. But worse still, the repressive security and censorship bills now
being enacted by his cronies amount to nothing less than a coup. In
Zimbabwe, the epitaph for democracy, free speech and the rule of law is
being written. Who can prevent this tragedy? Not Britain, it seems, where
pivotal equals powerless.

Back to the Top
Back to Index

The Times


Blair's new African quest


Britain backs call for Commonwealth to suspend Mugabe

BRITAIN backed calls for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth
yesterday as Tony Blair came home from Afghanistan and turned his sights to
Africa. He intends to visit the continent next month.
Jack Straw told MPs that if President Mugabe’s regime continued to sanction
political intimidation and land seizures, the Government would have no
option but to argue for Zimbabwe’s suspension.

The decision reflects the Prime Minister’s determination to focus foreign
policy on the world’s most impoverished and violent continent as part of his
mission to make Britain a global “force for good”.

The new drive on Africa will be underscored as both Mr Blair and Mr Straw
visit Africa in the coming weeks — although neither will visit Zimbabwe. The
Foreign Secretary and his French counterpart, Hubert Védrine, will visit
Congo and Uganda this month.

Mr Blair, who returned from a six-day peace mission in South Asia yesterday,
is expected to spend up to a week in Africa next month. A spokesman said
that he believed Africa was the one continent “which has missed out on all
the benefits of globalisation and world trade. He wants to give this heavy

Both Mr Blair and Mr Straw are expected to discuss Zimbabwe with other
African leaders. Yesterday the Foreign Secretary told the Commons that
despite agreements reached in Nigeria in September, political violence,
occupation of farms and harassment of journalists had continued in a
“serious and persistent violation” of the Commonwealth’s principles.

Renewed attempts to suspend Zimbabwe are expected on January 30 when the
eight-member ministerial action team meets in London before the heads of
government summit in Australia in March.

European Union officials will also meet Zimbabwean ministers in Brussels on
Friday to discuss EU demands that Mr Mugabe respects democracy, the rule of
law and human rights.

The Government has in the past refused to back Zimbabwe’s suspension because
ministers believed such a move would play into Mr Mugabe’s hands.

Although the Foreign Office remains pessimistic about the prospect of
winning majority support for the measure, a senior source said: “We will
support Zimbabwe’s suspension because we think it is right.”

Mr Straw’s remarks brought mixed feelings in Harare. Lovemore Madhuku, a
leading lawyer in the campaign for constitutional reform, feared that they
could fuel nationalist passions and said suspension would not help much.
“Mugabe is far more afraid of what will happen in the streets than in the

The Harare Government denounced Britain, saying the suspension would not
happen, and pressed ahead with draconian laws to stifle opposition. Three
Bills began their passage through Parliament which would crack down on
independent journalists, give police new powers of detention and ban
independent monitors for elections.

The Commonwealth is reluctant ever to expel any member, and has until now
suspended only those accused of violating basic principles of membership.
The nearest the 54-nation organisation came to expulsion was in 1961 when it
warned South Africa that its apartheid system was incompatible with
membership. The South Africans withdrew just before they were ejected.

Nigeria was suspended in 1995 after a military coup and the murder of the
writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. Pakistan walked out of the Commonwealth in 1972 after
the war with breakaway East Pakistan and the recognition of Bangladesh. It
reapplied for membership and was admitted in 1989. Fiji has twice been
suspended after coups in 1987 and 2000.

Mr Blair’s African mission was delayed in the aftermath of the September 11
atrocities. However, he has insisted that the latest trip should go ahead as
part of his vision for a new world order with Britain playing a “pivotal

Downing Street remains sensitive to charges that the Prime Minister has
turned his back on domestic problems, with his official spokesman saying
that he had held a series of stock-taking meetings yesterday on public
services ,including transport.

However, a spokesman added: “It has always been the role of the Prime
Minister to represent British interests abroad, which as the world comes
closer together, are ever more closely bonded with those of other

Back to the Top
Back to Index

Mugabe laws 'worse than apartheid'

ZIMBABWE lurched towards dictatorship yesterday as President Robert Mugabe
defied international criticism by preparing to assume sweeping new powers.

Tough laws curbing the press, limiting election monitors and allowing the
police to clamp down on political opponents could be enacted as early as

As 10 opponents of the ruling Zanu-PF party were arrested and more
white-owned farms were seized, Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw,
threatened to have Zimbabwe thrown out of the Commonwealth.

"If the situation continues to deteriorate, Britain will argue for
Zimbabwe's suspension," he told the House of Commons.

President Mugabe's attempt to rush the package of draconian laws through the
Zimbabwean parliament was seen as a crude ploy to try to secure victory in
the coming presidential election, expected in March.

Early indications show that Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic
Change is posing Mr Mugabe's closest electoral challenge since he swept to
power in 1980 when Zimbabwe won its independence.

The package includes laws restricting election monitors and giving the
police powers further to repress political opposition. But the most sinister
law is quaintly entitled the Access To Information and Protection of Privacy
Bill, even though it includes dramatic curbs on freedom of expression.

"It seems to be part of a rather horrific build-up to the election," said
Anton Harber, journalism professor at Witwatersrand University,
Johannesburg. "And it is clear that the bill is just one way the Zimbabwean
government will use to control criticism of the president and to try to win
the election.

"The threats of fines or jail sentences against journalists do not have to
be implemented to be effective the threat of them alone has such a chilling
effect that it will freeze out a lot of coverage," he said.

In Zimbabwe, independent journalists said they would challenge the law as
soon as possible on the grounds that it breaches the constitution.

If that happens, it could backfire for Mr Mugabe as it could take until
after the election for the Zimbabwean courts to make their ruling. In the
meantime the law would be subject to an injunction and unenforceable during
the campaign.

Constitutional experts described the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Bill as "ill-conceived, badly drafted and dangerous."

Others said the new regime being imposed in Zimbabwe is tougher than any
imposed in Africa or elsewhere in recent times.

The bill outlaws all foreign journalists from working in Zimbabwe. It says
only Zimbabwean citizens can work as journalists and only after being
registered and accredited by a new, powerful Media and Information
Commission run by officials appointed by President Mugabe.

The government's critics say that, not surprisingly, the laws will apply
only to independent journalists. Employees of state-owned organisations such
as The Herald newspaper are exempted from the restrictions.

Prof Harber said he had never seen more draconian rules for journalists,
even during the apartheid era in South Africa, when the white government
considered creating a compulsory journalists' register.

The crisis in Zimbabwe began in the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary
elections when Mr Mugabe sought to win popularity with poor rural people by
giving them land on white-owned commercial farms.

Militant supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party stormed the white farms,
attacking and in some cases murdering the owners. The land grab was
completely outside the rule of law but Mr Mugabe defied everyone who
criticised the policy. He painted the conflict as a clash between greedy
white colonialists and poor, exploited blacks.

The policy ruined Zimbabwe's once buoyant economy and dragged one of
Africa's few post-independence success stories close to anarchy.

The European Union has already threatened economic sanctions against

(Daily Telegraph, London)

Back to the Top
Back to Index


UK threat to punish Mugabe

Warning of sanctions and expulsion from Commonwealth as Zimbabwe pushes
through draconian laws

Andrew Meldrum in Harare and Ewen MacAskill
Wednesday January 9, 2002
The Guardian

The British government announced for the first time yesterday that it
favours punitive action against Zimbabwe as its president, Robert Mugabe,
pushed ahead with a series of draconian measures that will restrict freedom.
The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told the Commons that he will recommend
suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth if the situation continues to

The Foreign Office's private view is that Mr Mugabe has already infringed
basic freedoms enough to warrant action.

Suspension from the Commonwealth is mainly a symbolic move, but at the end
of the month the European Union will be looking at sanctions. The US has
also taken powers to apply sanctions.

Britain and most of the rest of the international community lost patience
with Mr Mugabe after a series of land grabs from white farmers coupled with
intimidation of the political opposition.

This has been compounded by a raft of bills set to be passed today by the
Zimbabwe parliament that include a controversial statute to control the
foreign and domestic press and a security bill that will outlaw most public
gatherings. An amendment to the labour act will bar any strike that is not
approved by the government.

In addition, the parliament is considering amendments to the electoral act
that will increase government control of the entire election process, ban
any voter education by non-governmental organisations and prevent
independent monitors from acting as watchdogs against voting fraud.

Mr Straw told the Commons: "If the situation in Zimbabwe continues to
deteriorate, Britain will argue for Zimbabwe's suspension from the
Commonwealth at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in March."

Suspension could be recommended when the Commonwealth ministerial group
meets on January 30 but it will have to await approval by the 54 countries
that make up the Commonwealth when they meet in Australia in March.

A Foreign Office source said: "If the meeting was tomorrow, we would be
arguing for it."

The shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, said suspension was

Mr Mugabe, 77 and in power for 21 years, is seeking another six-year term
but he is lagging behind the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, in
opinion polls. Mr Mugabe is due to an nounce in the next few days the date
of the presidential election, expected to be in March.

Mr Straw said: "We can't be sure there will be free and fair elections. What
we can be sure of, however, is that if the elections are not free and fair,
then Zimbabwe will be in the clearest and most flagrant breach of
declarations to which they have signed up."

The Zimbabwe justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, confirmed last night that
he would push through the security and labour bills today and he expected
legislation restricting the media to be enacted by the end of the month.
Parliament will sit for the next two weeks, he said.

Earlier he said that procedural rules will be suspended today in order to
speed up debate and voting. The parliamentary legal committee has had
lengthy meetings over the bills this week and is apparently prepared to
issue a critical report on the bills, but suspension of procedural rules
will allow the government to bypass the legal committee.

Mr Mugabe's government lost a vote yesterday on the electoral amendment
bill. The ruling Zanu-PF party failed to have enough members present for the
vote because many were out for tea. The amendment lost by 36 votes to 22.

The new bills have raised heated objections from journalists and civic

"This legislation is diabolical. It is more repressive than even the worst
Rhodesian legislation," said the political scientist John Makumbe, chairman
of the Crisis in Zimbabwe committee. "These bills unmask the Mugabe
government as a despotic regime that will do anything to stay in power."

The legislation comes as a Zimbabwe government delegation travels to
Brussels on Friday to try to dissuade the EU from imposing sanctions.

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill "actually restricts
access to information", said Iden Wetherell, editor of the Zimbabwe

"It will make it an offence to publish derogatory remarks about the

The press bill will forbid foreign journalists from working in Zimbabwe and
will place restrictions on Zimbabwean reporters, making it virtually
impossible to report on government human rights abuses.

"Taken together these bills amount to a state of emergency," said Trevor
Ncube, publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent. "It is a coup against

Back to the Top
Back to Index