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

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The Independent (UK) Leading Article

Mr Blair must halt all deportations to Zimbabwe

15 January 2002

To conceive of a country where critics of the government have a better-founded fear of persecution than Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is not easy. Which makes the British Government's reluctance to suspend the deportation of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers not only heartless from a human perspective, but irrational and of questionable legality.

It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that anyone with a legitimate claim to asylum will be allowed to remain in this country. But the fact is that Britain is still initiating deportations to Zimbabwe, even if it is dithering about actually putting people on planes, and there is no discouragement coming from the place it should come from: the top.

Interviewed on Sunday, Mr Blair tried to shuffle some of the blame for this harsh policy on to the British public. It is indeed true, as Mr Blair said, that only a short time ago people were complaining that official policy towards asylum-seekers was too lenient. But the context for such complaints – alleged connections with terrorism – was quite different. Few with any knowledge of the current situation in Zimbabwe, especially after the two bills on security and censorship were issued last week, could have any quarrel with a decision to suspend deportations to that country forthwith.

Indeed, we have reached a pretty pass when the shadow Home Secretary in a shadow Cabinet that is hardly disposed towards leniency on asylum lends his voice to refugee groups and others calling for a change in policy. So far, though, the official response has been temporising of the purest bureaucratic variety. Statements talk of a "deteriorating situation", of "monitoring closely", but not of action.

Yesterday, Downing Street gave its first – belated – hint that a change might be imminent. "Workers do operate from a country assessment and we are reviewing the situation in relation to Zimbabwe," the spokesman said. An "updated country assessment" would be issued "shortly". How shortly, though, was not specified.

The war of words between Britain and the Mugabe government is at its fiercest for years. The British Government has nothing to lose – certainly not diplomatic leverage in Harare, of which it has none – by halting all deportations at once. In so doing, it would not only send a clear signal to President Mugabe and his ilk, but – far more important – save lives.

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African leaders say Mugabe agrees to poll monitors  
BLANTYRE, Malawi, Jan. 14 — Southern African leaders said Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe agreed at a summit on Monday to ensure fair presidential elections in March, including independent international monitors. 
The 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) issued a closing communique saying Mugabe had also agreed to investigate political violence in Zimbabwe and allow international media to cover the elections.
       Western governments have been pressing regional powerhouse South Africa and other African states to rein in Mugabe, whom they accuse of muzzling opposition politicians and independent media as he seeks to extend his 22-year grip on power in the March 9-10 elections.
       Mugabe, 77, said he was satisfied with the outcome of the one-day meeting but declined to give details of what had been said behind the closed doors. ''All is well that ends well. We are very happy that all the issues were well discussed,'' he told reporters.
       Malawian President Bakili Muluzi told a news conference sanctions against Zimbabwe had not been discussed and fellow leaders were hopeful Mugabe would keep his promises. ''Let us give Zimbabwe a chance. President Mugabe has assured us that there will be free and fair elections,'' Muluzi said.

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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 20:31 GMT
Freeze on Zimbabwe deportations
Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe is facing elections in March
Home Secretary David Blunkett has said there will be a temporary freeze on the deportation of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe while the political situation in the country is reviewed.

"We can confirm that we haven't put anybody on a plane today and we have no intention to deport anyone in the next 24 hours

Home Office spokesman
The move will be welcomed by opponents of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe trying to remain in Britain.

It follows increasing international pressure on the British government to change its policy towards Zimbabwean asylum seekers, after Mr Mugabe introduced tough laws to suppress opposition.

Activists fear violence and intimidation in the run-up to elections in March.

Blair concern

A Home Office spokesman confirmed nobody had been deported to Zimbabwe on Monday and indicated that there would be no further deportations over the next 24 hours while a new asssessment of the political situation in the country was carried out.

"We can confirm that we haven't put anybody on a plane today and we have no intention to deport anyone in the next 24 hours," he said.

Mr Blunkett revealed the decision at a cross-party meeting with his Tory counterpart Oliver Letwin, who hailed the move as "a victory for common sense".

The new Home Office assessment of Zimbabwe, which is due by the end of the week, could to be used as a platform for a more permanent review of asylum policy towards the country, in the light of heightened political tensions.

The move comes after Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the troubled situation in Zimbabwe with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Downing Street says both Mr Blair and Mr Mbeki, who spoke by telephone on Saturday, are taking the matter very seriously.

Meanwhile, Mr Mugabe was in Malawi on Monday to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe with other African leaders at a meeting of the Southern African Development Community.

'Extreme caution'

Earlier, Downing Street's apparent change of heart was welcomed by Amnesty International.

"Amnesty International has always urged that there is the need for extreme caution in deporting Zimbabweans in the present climate," a spokesman told the BBC.

Meanwhile, human rights groups have stepped up calls for a change in the way the UK's asylum system works.

Alasdair MacKenzie, of pressure group Asylum Aid, said the Home Office did not have "adequate information" on countries to make informed decisions on asylum claims.

Calling for an independent documentation centre for asylum claims, he said the Home Office only updated its assessments every six months and tended to put a positive gloss on events.

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Independent (UK)
Straw condemns 'dictator' Mugabe
'Independent' reporter is arrested on eve of crackdown against press
By Katherine Butler and Andrew Grice
15 January 2002

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, condemned President Robert Mugabe's repressive clampdown on Zimbabwe's independent media, saying it was "resonant of dictatorship".
He spoke as Zimbabwe's parliament prepared to rubber-stamp punitive new legislation outlawing criticism of Mr Mugabe and his government. Last night police and soldiers surrounded a small group of Zimbabwean journalists protesting against the legislation outside the Harare parliament.
The Independent's correspondent Basildon Peta was arrested as one of the "ringleaders" of the peaceful protest, even though the controversial legislation banning such gatherings has not yet been signed into law. He was interrogated and released after agreeing to ask his colleagues to disband.
Mr Straw said the legislation, which will outlaw insulting the President, was "completely inconsistent" with the principles of the Commonwealth. "It has no place in a country with the least pretensions to democracy and is resonant of dictatorships down through the ages," he said. "Lively and controversial journalism is the test of a democracy".
Mr Straw's condemnation came as the Government halted the deportation of political activists to Zimbabwe following growing criticism of its policy of sending them back. The Home Office has launched an urgent review of the changed circumstances in Zimbabwe amid concern that people refused asylum in Britain could face intimidation and torture if they returned to live under Mr Mugabe's regime.
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has ordered that no further deportations take place until the review is completed in a few days. The rethink is expected to result in a formal suspension of deportations until the crisis in Zimbabwe eases.
Mr Blunkett's pledge came at a meeting with Oliver Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary, who has criticised the Government for allowing people to be sent back to Zimbabwe. Mr Letwin called the decision "a victory for common sense".
Until yesterday, the Government had insisted each application for asylum would be dealt with on its merits, despite warnings by asylum groups that refugees linked to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change would be in grave danger if they returned home.
Downing Street said yesterday that the "country assessment" on Zimbabwe produced for immigration officials last October would be updated to take account of the current problems. Tony Blair's official spokesman said: "We are reviewing the situation in relation to Zimbabwe. We would expect an updated country assessment to be issued shortly."
Although asylum groups welcomed the Government's rethink, they expressed concern that some deportations had already gone ahead. The Asylum Aid group said: "The reports the Home Office produces for the people who are making decisions on asylum claims don't give a proper picture of what is actually going on in these countries. They tend to focus to a very large extent on the historical and geographical background."
Earlier Mr Mugabe told southern African leaders at a summit in Malawi that he was sticking to his controversial land reform policy. Mr Mugabe said he was satisfied with the one-day meeting but declined to give details of what had been said behind its closed doors.
Robert Menard, the general secretary of the press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres, said: "Our fear is that the situation is getting worse and worse. One wonders where it will stop or if Mugabe will go on until he has arrested all the independent journalists who dare to criticise him."
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Police force Zimbabwe reporters to end protest  
HARARE, Jan. 14 — Zimbabwean journalists called off an all-night protest outside parliament on Monday against a planned law restricting reporting, saying police had threatened them and detained colleagues
Parliament is expected to pass a much criticised Access to Information and Privacy Bill soon, requiring local journalists to apply for a one-year renewable permit from a government- appointed commission and banning foreign correspondents.
       Some 40 journalists, angry at the bill they say will muzzle opposition ahead of presidential elections in March, dispersed after police threats, said Rashweat Mukundu, a spokesman for the Media Institute of Southern Africa's Zimbabwe chapter.
       ''We decided to call the vigil off when the situation got nasty and it looked like the police were in the mood to beat us up,'' he said by mobile telephone from parliament.
       President Robert Mugabe spent Monday with leaders from neighbouring states who urged him to ensure fair presidential elections due on March 9 and 10.
       Another journalist said police briefly detained and questioned Basildon Peta, who writes for Britain's Independent newspaper, and Abel Mutsakani, the president of the Independent Journalists' Association of Zimbabwe.
       Mukundu said the journalists would hand a petition on Tuesday to the speaker of parliament and the ruling Zanu-PF party, which holds 93 of the 150 seats in parliament.
       Zimbabwean news groups have said they will defy the bill and will challenge it in court once it is passed.
       The media bill will ban foreign journalists from operating during the elections, in which 77-year-old Mugabe faces the biggest challenge to his power since leading the country to independence from Britain in 1980.
       Other governments, media groups and foreign correspondents have strongly criticised the bill, saying it is another step by Mugabe to tighten his hold on power.
       Amnesty International said a worsening human rights situation jeopardised the holding of fair elections.
       Parliament has already pushed through new measures which give sweeping security powers to the government, ban independent election monitors and deny voting rights to millions of Zimbabweans living abroad.
       European Union diplomats warned in Brussels that Zimbabwe faced sanctions if it failed to firmly spell out its commitment to the EU last week to accept international observers and independent media coverage of the election.
       The media bill sets imprisonment or fines for journalists publishing stories on protected information or news likely to cause alarm and despondency, which could range from rumours, advice offered to the president or minutes of cabinet meetings.
       A Zimbabwean journalist working for South Africa's Sunday Times fled the country last week after he was accused by the defence and information ministers of demonising Zimbabwe and making up stories that compromised security.
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Direct Investment Falls By 60%

Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)
January 15, 2002
Stanley James

DIRECT investment into Zimbabwe during the just-ended year dropped by 60% because the economic environment made it difficult for companies to expand, it emerged this week. Official figures made available to the Zimbabwe Independent by the Zimbabwe Investment Centre showed there were few opportunities for investment growth in all the key economic sectors during the year 2001.
This comes against a background of the decline of the country as an investment destination due to the unstable political and economic environment.
Economic commentator John Robertson said that the figure could in the long-term surge to 80% in the absence of mechanisms to restore confidence.
"The situation facing the country is very serious. In real terms if there are no solutions to stimulate investment trends then we are likely to witness an 80% decline in the level of investment," Robertson said.
Investment has continued to sink over the past three years owing to a volatile macro-economic environment which has dented efforts by both local and foreign investors from setting up in the country.
The situation has been worsened by the closure of companies within the mining, manufacturing, tourism and construction industries resulting in the majority of workers being made redundant.
The figures showed that levels of investment continued to drop since 1997 when the economic depression started.
High input costs, escalating interest rates, shortages of hard currency, political instability characterised by violence and a decline in export competitiveness were cited by Robertson as factors which worsened the investment climate in the country.
The economist warned that the majority of graduates were likely to face difficulties in securing formal employment because no new companies were establishing business enterprises.
He said that the decline in the level of investment had prejudiced the country of millions of dollars in income.
"Investment is one of the major elements to economic growth. In the event that it has deteriorated then the country might have lost millions of dollars in income," Robertson said.
According to ZIC, a quasi-government institution with the mandate to approve new projects in the country, investment trends had continued to decline as the previous year (2000) registered a 40% drop in investment approvals.
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The Times
African leaders let Mugabe off hook
SOUTHERN African leaders meeting in Blantyre appealed to President Mugabe yesterday to ensure that elections in March were free of the violence that has affected Zimbabwe over the past two years.
However, sensing that regional leaders will not act decisively against him, Mr Mugabe was defiant in the face of growing international isolation. “All the issues were well discussed,” the Zimbabwean President said as he emerged from the meeting. “We are very happy with the outcome. Come to Zimbabwe and see the election for yourself.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) conference, President Muluzi of Malawi urged Mr Mugabe to create conditions that would allow “every Zimbabwean to participate in the election in the spirit of democracy”.
“As the date of the presidential election in Zimbabwe has been announced, we are very hopeful that the elections will be peaceful, free, fair and transparent,” Mr Muluzi said. “Free and fair elections are not determined by the conditions on the day of voting. The entire process in the run-up to balloting is important.”
Mr Muluzi’s remarks were seen as little more than a mild rebuke for the state-backed violence that has swept Zimbabwe since Mr Mugabe lost a constitutional referendum in February 2000, a defeat that led to increasingly desperate attempts by his Zanu(PF) party to stay in power.
Mr Mugabe refused to answer questions on his Government’s human rights record, or on his attempts to crush political opposition, ignore the rule of law and silence the domestic and foreign media.
The summit’s final communiqué said that Mr Mugabe had given firm assurances that he would “respect human rights, including the right to freedom of opinion, association and peaceful assembly.” He also agreed to allow international observers to monitor the elections, and said that local and foreign media would be allowed to operate freely.
The statement expressed “serious concern” over last week’s warning by the Zimbabwean armed forces that they would not accept an opposition victory in the presidential election. But it also called on Western countries broadcasting “hostile propaganda” to Zimbabwe to “desist from such actions”.
The SADC refused to give in to international pressure to restrain Mr Mugabe by condemning unequivocally the illegal seizure of white-owned farms, or to impose sanctions on Harare, saying this would be counter-productive.
The conference was presented with a long-awaited report on Zimbabwe’s drift into economic and political chaos. But the SADC’s failure to take action against Mr Mugabe meant there was no prospect of the region using its influence to ensure fair elections, analysts said.
After initially refusing to support Mr Mugabe’s land reform programme in August, the organisation changed its mind in December, praising Zanu (PF) for making a commitment to free and fair elections while blaming the Western media for “distorting” the extent of violence and lawlessness in the country.
The tradition of black solidarity in the face of external criticism, and the reluctance of SADC countries to break ranks with a fellow black liberation leader has left the group powerless to tackle what is the greatest threat to the region’s stability, observers said.
George Charamba, Mr Mugabe’s spokesman, said that the summit was not “a court in which Zimbabwe is in the dock”. The SADC was given “an update on political developments in Zimbabwe and the land issue, and on how Zimbabwe is fighting to retain its rights as a sovereign state”.
Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog, said that the “deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe places in real jeopardy the possibility of free and fair elections taking place” during the March election. It also “raises the spectre of violent repression of political opposition degenerating into civil war,” it added.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which has mounted the strongest challenge to Mr Mugabe’s 22-year rule, says that more than a hundred of its supporters have been killed since the so-called war veterans began their occupation of white-owned farms.
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Financial Times

US and Britain target funds held by Zimbabwe president
By Brian Groom in London
Published: January 14 2002 21:26 | Last Updated: January 14 2002 21:40


The US and British governments have begun a joint effort to identify millions of dollars thought to be salted away in foreign bank accounts by Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, and members of his inner circle.

The move is in preparation for a potential decision by Washington and the European Union to impose personal sanctions on Mr Mugabe and leading members of his government.

The so-called "smart" sanctions would involve freezing bank accounts and refusing visas so Mr Mugabe and his circle could not visit western countries.

Some estimates put the sums allegedly looted from the Zimbabwean people in hundreds of millions of dollars, but the US State Department and UK Foreign Office have no accurate figure.

The move comes amid gloom about the increasingly violent situation in Zimbabwe.

Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, has called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth, a group consisting of the UK and its former colonies, at the heads of government summit in Australia in March if there is no improvement.

Zimbabwe is a big test for UK prime minister Tony Blair's claim that Britain can have a "pivotal role" in world affairs - not least in Africa, where Mr Blair will embark on a diplomatic mission next month.

Last week Mr Mugabe's government pushed through draconian media and security legislation that critics say is designed to silence dissent before presidential elections in March.

The EU has threatened to impose smart sanctions if, after 60 days, Zimbabwe does not restore the rule of law and end political violence and illegal land confiscation.

Officials in London expect the US, Britain and the EU to make a joint declaration about whether the elections, due on March 9 and 10, have been free and fair. If they are not, sanctions could follow swiftly. The US Congress has already passed the necessary legislation.

On Monday Mr Mugabe shrugged off any criticism he may have received in a closed-door regional heads of state summit about his bid to stay in power.

On his departure from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, Mr Mugabe said: "All issues were well discussed. We are very, very happy. Come to Zimbabwe and see the election for yourselves."

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Fight clean, neighbours tell Mugabe
Southern African leaders shrink from sanctions but say Zimbabwe's presidential poll must be peaceful, free and fair
Andrew Meldrum and Chris McGreal
Tuesday January 15, 2002
The Guardian
Southern African leaders called yesterday for a free and fair presidential election in Zimbabwe, but made it clear that they are not prepared to follow the European Union and Washington in threatening sanctions against Robert Mugabe's regime.
The one-day meeting in Malawi of leaders from 14 countries was focused mainly on the Zimbabwe crisis, testing the leaders' newly proclaimed desire to take responsibility for resolving their continent's problems.
But their desire not to upset Mr Mugabe was made evident by the deportation of four Zimbabwean human rights activists who planned to lobby the meeting about the political murders and violence committed by their government.
The Malawian president, Bakili Muluzi, opened the Southern African Development Community summit in Blantyre by urging Zimbabwe to run a clean election in March.
"As the date of the presidential election in Zimbabwe has been announced, we are all very hopeful that the elections will be peaceful, free, fair and transparent," he said.
"As a matter of fact, what is important in an election is not just the election day but the entire election process, from the preparations to the vote counting and the announcement of results."
But he gave no hint of criticism of the violence and the political crisis in Zimbabwe, and said the role of its neighbours would be limited to offering advice.
"I believe that our duty as SADC will be to listen and offer advice where we feel it is necessary to do so," he said.
The presidential candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai, called on the meeting to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, saying that two years of "softly-softly" diplomacy had failed to curb Mr Mugabe's abuses.
The MDC wants the overseas bank accounts of Mr Mugabe, his cabinet and leaders of his party, Zanu-PF, frozen immediately, and a petrol, transport and electricity blockade to be imposed by South Africa.
Amnesty International joined the call for SADC to exert more pressure on Mr Mugabe.
"The deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe places in real jeopardy the possibility of free and fair elections ... and raises the spectre of such violent repression of political opposition degenerating into civil war and the possibility of state- sponsored militias undermining any attempt to reassert the rule of law," it wrote to SADC leaders.
But Mr Tsvangirai recognised that he was likely to get little joy out of the SADC. "Unfortunately there have been double standards and hypocrisy in the actions taken by the whole body," he told the BBC.
"South Africa, which is the most influential regional partner for Zimbabwe, I think will have to go it alone."
But South Africa has said it does not believe sanctions are an option. It says they would do more harm than good, and that the onus is on ordinary Zimbabweans to lead the campaign to unseat Mr Mugabe.
The president of Mozambique, Joacquim Chissano, expressed concern at the implicit threat of the Zimbabwean military chief, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, not to recognise the outcome of the election if the opposition won.
"I hope he meant himself politically, because every citizen has a right of choice; but if he meant militarily then I am worried," Mr Chissano said .
Tony Blair spoke to the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, about the crisis on Saturday, the day after the EU gave Zimbabwe a week to commit itself in writing to a free election, including the presence of foreign monitors and journalists, or face sanctions.
A South African official said Mr Blair urged Mr Mbeki to take a tougher line and not to be persuaded by Mr Mugabe's claim that he is a victim of neo-colonial interference aimed at blocking land reform.
But Pretoria says Mr Mbeki is frustrated by being unfairly landed with a problem largely of Britain's making.
The Commonwealth ministerial action group is expected to discuss the possibility of sanctions against Mr Mugabe's government at a meeting in London later this month.
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New York Times
January 15, 2002
African Leaders Press Mugabe on Abuses as Vote Nears
JOHANNESBURG, Jan. 14 — For hours at a meeting in Malawi, African leaders huddled behind closed doors today, pressing and prodding President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to abandon violence and intimidation as his deeply troubled country lurches toward election day.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who dreams of an African renaissance, helped lead a sizable group of his colleagues in the charge on Mr. Mugabe; he knew what was at risk.
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain had already called him to discuss the deteriorating political climate. Zimbabwe's opposition was reporting that its supporters were being beaten and killed by government- backed thugs. Mr. Mbeki's own officials were warning that Zimbabwe might soon erupt in civil unrest or a military coup if Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled the country for 22 years, continued his destructive course.
The presidents of Malawi and Mozambique joined Mr. Mbeki in publicly pressing Mr. Mugabe. The consensus was that southern Africa, a region known for its stability and relative prosperity, was threatened by the growing instability in Zimbabwe.
But by this evening, most of the officials who had gathered to ponder the local trouble spots still could not agree to sharply and openly condemn a fellow African leader. And in Zimbabwe, where more than a dozen opposition party supporters were arrested over the weekend, there was a decided sense of gloom.
As the Zimbabwean opposition party's secretary general, Welshman Ncube, said of the summit meeting: "It is foolhardy to expect anything from there. The region is basically unable to put the interests of the people of Zimbabwe above the interests of the presidential leadership. It's quite disappointing."
Mr. Ncube, speaking in a telephone interview from Zimbabwe, was only acknowledging the power of the longstanding relationships between the region's leaders, ties that in many cases go back to the early days of the struggles against all-white rule.
It is true that since 1990, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa have all made an effort to embrace multiparty democracy. Yet many leaders, feeling such a kinship with old allies like Mr. Mugabe, cannot help keenly recognizing their own vulnerability to criticism.
How can the leaders of Angola, for instance, criticize Zimbabwe for violating press freedoms when they condone the harassment of journalists within their own country? How can Zambia's leaders criticize Zimbabwe for failing to grant the opposition party candidate time on state radio when Zambia failed to do so before its own election last month?
A recent report by the International Crisis Group, an organization that reports on conflict, put the issue plainly: "Many governments are hesitant to penalize Mugabe this week for something for which they may be accused next week."
The opposition party, which is challenging Mr. Mugabe in an election scheduled for March, scoffs at talk of an African Union, which would bar members that fall short of democratic standards.
The Southern African Development Community, which includes 14 nations, among them Zimbabwe, already requires member to respect press and political freedoms. Yet on Tuesday, Zimbabwe's Parliament is expected to pass a law that would require all journalists to be licensed by the government and would allow for the banning of foreign correspondents.
According to Development Community rules, all candidates and parties should be allowed to campaign freely and openly. But last week, Zimbabwean lawmakers passed laws that allow officials to ban some political rallies and make it difficult for opposition supporters to hang posters and to register to vote.
So while southern African leaders today stressed the importance of peace in the region, they did not publicly assail political violence in Zimbabwe, including a stabbing attack on an opposition lawmaker that left the man hospitalized today. Government officials have blamed the opposition for inciting such attacks.
A group of four Zimbabwean opposition supporters flew to Malawi to inform the delegations about the violence, but they were promptly detained and deported back to Zimbabwe today, their lawyers reported.
Many people here believe that Zimbabwe will prove to be a critical test of the region's efforts to resolve its own crises. It will certainly be a test of Mr. Mbeki. He is an architect of a widely praised plan to resuscitate the continent by committing African leaders to democracy and human rights, with Western countries rewarding good leaders with debt relief, investment and other aid. But he has acknowledged that his efforts to defuse the crisis in Zimbabwe quietly have failed so far.
With its sizable economy, modern infrastructure and enormous potential, South Africa has the most to lose if the region is tarnished in the eyes of investors and donors.
Already, officials across the region are attributing a weakness in local tourism industries and in local currencies to jitters about contagion from Zimbabwe.
South Africa, however, has refused to endorse sanctions against its troubled neighbor, though it is in a position to impose them. Zimbabwe relies on South Africa for much of its electricity; its leaders are believed to own land and bank accounts here.
South African officials say widespread sanctions would only hurt the poor, not the powerful, and might lead to an uncontrolled flood of illegal immigrants. And since Zimbabwe is one of South Africa's largest African trading partners, even sanctions aimed more narrowly might hurt South Africa economically.
"The situation looks pretty bleak," said a South African foreign policy expert, who has worked with the government and spoke on condition of anonymity. "We have to worry about post-election stability."
Today, President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique told reporters in Malawi that he was worried about the stance taken by Zimbabwe's military. President Bakili Muluzi of Malawi urged Mr. Mugabe to allow "every Zimbabwean to participate effectively in the elections in the spirit of democratic principles and values."
But even though the officials gathered in Malawi had all the trappings of power, with their dark suits and luxury sedans, many felt that they had run out of options.
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Mugabe agrees to fair elections 
March elections in Zimbabwe to have international monitors
BLANTYRE, Malawi, Jan. 14 —  Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe pledged Monday to ensure that the forthcoming March presidential elections are free and fair, and has agreed to allow international monitors and journalists to observe them.
 MUGABE’S REASSURANCES were contained in a declaration issued at the end of a one-day summit of southern African leaders in the Malawian business center of Blantyre, where Zimbabwe’s crumbling democracy dominated discussions.
       Mugabe had also undertaken to ensure recent incidences of political violence were “fully and impartially” investigated, and to work with the opposition to restore peace, said the declaration issued by the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).
       Mugabe has previously undertaken to restore law and order in Zimbabwe, to little avail.
       Regional leaders are worried that continued instability in Zimbabwe could frighten off foreign investors, and if the security deteriorates, leaders are worried about in influx of Zimbabwean refugees.
       The meeting was seen as one of the last opportunities for the leaders to rein in Mugabe ahead of the elections scheduled for March 9 and 10. 
        In Zimbabwe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said Monday one of its offices was torched over the weekend and several of its supporters were beaten up by ruling party militants. And on Saturday, police fired tear gas to disperse an opposition rally.
       Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, who is currently the SADC chairman, declined to say what action the regional grouping would take if Mugabe backtracked.
       “Let’s give Zimbabwe a chance,” he said. “President Mugabe has made a commitment to us as SADC — let’s wait and see.”
       But the deportation by Malawian authorities of four leading Zimbabwean human rights activists, who had planned to lobby for a tougher stance against Mugabe, did not bode well for those who hoped SADC leaders would break ranks with Mugabe, seen as one of their own.  
         In the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was disappointed with SADC, calling it a body “full of double standards and hypocrisy.”
       As part of his fight for political survival after 21 years in power, Mugabe has cracked down on the opposition. The deteriorating human rights situation has sparked international condemnation and concern.
       The summit communique expressed concern over a recent declaration by the commander of Zimbabwe’s army that he would not support the winner of the March election if they had not fought against colonial and all-white rule.
       The summit declaration did not specify which countries would be able to send election observers, but Mugabe has previously stated that only observers from “friendly” countries would be allowed in.
       SADC comprises South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.
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Irish Independent
What outside world should do for Zimbabwe 

ONE THING that has become an unpalatable fact of life for President Robert Mugabe and his cronies is that he will never win a free and fair election when Zimbabweans elect a new president in two months time.

This fact becomes firm reality by each passing day as Mr Mugabe's politically innumerate and economically illiterate policies wreak havoc on a once prosperous and promising African nation which has virtually been reduced to a pathetic basket case by the 77-year-old leader.
At the time of writing this article, the World Food Programme (WFP), had announced its plans to provide emergency food aid to nearly one million starving Zimbabweans imperilled by the country's record high inflation of 104pc, record joblessness of 60pc and acute food shortages caused by Mr Mugabe's wholesale seizures of productive white owned commercial farms. Since it became clear that Zimbabweans had embarked on an irreversible path to evict Mr Mugabe and his corrupt cronies from power after they rejected his authoritarian draft constitution in a national referendum in February last year, the first major defeat for Mr Mugabe in a political contest since independence from Britain in 1980, the beleaguered Zimbabwe leader had to find other methods of saving his political career. He unleashed his militants to seize commercial farms ostensibly for redistribution to black peasants, though only Mr Mugabe's cronies are benefiting from the farms, and killed 10 white farmers in the process.

He launched an onslaught on his black political opponents and murdered 36 opposition supporters in the run up to Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections last year. Still this did not stop the then nine-month-old opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from snatching 57 of the 120 contested seats from Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party.

He continued with his onslaught on opponents and by Sunday, a further 94 opposition party officials and supporters had been murdered since January this year. Mr Mugabe has not spared the judiciary, firing the widely respected Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay. He has frustrated five independent judges into resigning and stuffed the Supreme Court with loyalists.

Zimbabwe has witnessed some of the heinous attacks on the media with printing presses and offices of independent newspapers being bombed and private media editors having to run their newspapers from Mugabe's prison cells.
While the list of Mr Mugabe's human rights violations would fill the pages of this entire newspaper, the response from the international community has been most saddening and feeble. The tragedy of the new African Union (AU) is that it's being bankrolled by dictators like Muammar Gaddafi whose countries have never known anything close to democracy. In fact to Gaddafi, Mugabe is the ultimate hero of Africa.

The divisions in the European Union about how to deal with Zimbabwe have hitherto strengthened Mugabe's strong arm.

As the 9 and 10 March presidential election looms, Mr Mugabe has intensified his blatant human rights violations. Virtually everyday, Zimbabweans are being subjected to open and increasing terror by Mr Mugabe's militias in the hope that he will cow the entire nation into submission.

Six of the 94 dead opposition supporters have been killed in the past 10 days in Mr Mugabe's organised anarchy aimed at stealing the impending election.

Mugabe has reduced Zimbabwe to his personal fiefdom or property. Zimbabweans have lost all hope for a free and fair presidential election. The army has been coerced into making a public declaration supporting Mugabe and scaring the public from voting for any other candidate in the election. At the time of writing, Mugabe had circumvented parliamentary regulations and procedures to fast track fascist laws that will entrench his onslaught on opponents and guarantee him re-election.

The Public Order and Security Act will impose death and life penalties on people accused of assisting in espionage, banditry, terrorism, treason, subversion and insurgency against Mugabe's government. These offences are broadly defined and include any suspicions that a person is plotting against the government. The Generals Laws Amendment Bill will see the banning of independent election monitors and forbid private voter education. It will deny voting rights to millions of Zimbabweans living abroad.

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill, which was also due to be passed yesterday, will impose hefty sentences and jail terms for journalists publishing information likely to cause "fear alarm and despondency". It will also put journalists on a system of one year renewable licences and bans journalists from publishing information about Mugabe's cabinet meetings, among various gags.

It thus becomes imperative that in addition to suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, established democracies should add the following measures to their list of sanctions against Mugabe:

* Trace and freeze all his assets in Europe and America and those held by his cronies.

* Impose permanent travel sanctions on Mugabe and his cronies to Europe and America.

* Issue an international warrant of arrest for Mugabe for his current human rights violations and for directing the murder of 25,000 innocent civilians when Mugabe moved to crush his opponents in southern Zimbabwe in the early 1980s.

* Bring Mugabe to the Hague to answer for his crimes.

* Stop the IMF and World Bank from considering any further aid to Mugabe.

* Stop any new investment into Zimbabwe by European companies until Mr Mugabe restores full democracy.

* Penalise any European and American companies doing business with Mr Mugabe's government before he fulfills set conditions for restoring democracy.
While the people of Zimbabwe would be hurt by some of these sanctions, they have already suffered enough. At times there is also a big price to pay for democracy.

Basildon Peta is a journalist working in Zimbabwe who is also head of the journalists' federation.
Basildon Peta
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The Independent (UK)
Behind the wire are people fleeing terror.
We send them back to face torture, jail or a life on the run
By Cahal Milmo in London and Basildon Peta in Harare
15 January 2002
Paul's voice dropped to a whisper when he described what was in his mind as he was strapped in his seat aboard BA flight 2052 to Harare last Friday night. "I could see my police torturers slowly drowning me."
For the fourth time in 72 hours, the 34-year-old Zimbabwean had found himself handcuffed on an aircraft, squeezed between two Immigration Service minders charged with ensuring his removal.
Every day, on average, three of the 110 Zimbabweans who arrive in Britain every month are being sent back to the capital, Harare, after their asylum applications are refused. Until last night, at least.
Among them are opponents to Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, including members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who have fled their homeland to escape an increasingly brutal regime. Some have been granted asylum but, say a coalition of campaigners led by the Refugee Council, most have been returned, bundled, like Paul, at short notice on to an eight-hour flight to face an uncertain fate in a country where an MDC membership card can be a death warrant.
In a brutal reminder of the dangers faced by MDC activists, David Mpala, an MP for the party, was critically ill last night in a Bulawayo hospital after he was stabbed several times by Zanu-PF so-called war veterans.
The Independent has learnt of at least 10 MDC members who have been deported from Britain to face torture, imprisonment or life underground as a political fugitive. This time, Paul a store manager and activist for the small opposition Liberty Party, based in Bulawayo, was lucky.
His lawyers obtained an injunction halting his deportation, and he was taken off the plane 20 minutes before take-off. Over the previous three days, he had been put on four aircraft, operated by South African Airways, Virgin and BA, but each time, legal manoeuvring brought him back to secure, safe detention here.
Paul's story began four years ago, when he was picked up by Zimbabwe's secret police, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), and tortured for three days. He fled to neighbouring South Africa and reached London a year ago.
His final appeal against removal was dismissed by the Immigration Service last month and he was ordered to be deported. He has good reason to fear CIO officers will be waiting for him if he is returned. The CIO monitors every flight to Harare from London, scrutinising passenger lists and may even use agents planted in British asylum centres to identify dissidents.
Yesterday at an Immigration Service detention centre in Harmondsworth, west London, Paul said: "Each time I was sat on those aircraft I was expecting to be sent to my death. I know that when I arrive, the CIO will be waiting for me. My name had been given by the Home Office to the authorities to say I was travelling. It was too good an opportunity for the CIO to miss."
Thanks to the persistence of his lawyers in London, the secret police will have to wait to get their hands on Paul, who lives under an alias and asked for his real identity not to be disclosed. Yesterday, he was trying to obtain documents from his family in Bulawayo to disprove a Home Office claim that he is South African, because he arrived in Britain using false documents.
He believed it is a race to save his life. "I sit in my room, knowing they could come in again with their handcuffs at any moment and sit me in yet another plane. Only this time it might take off."
The softly-spoken activist, who arrived in Britain on 27 January last year, told how he and his family were harassed for his affiliation with the Liberty Party. He and his father were arrested and beaten in 1996 and 1997. After he fled to South Africa, he said he was again preyed on by CIO officers trying to infiltrate Liberty's operation. The only choice, he said, was London where "at least I could not be murdered".
He said: "It is difficult to describe torture. You are beaten. They ask you a question and beat you before you can even answer. It's without mercy, you can't sleep, you're beaten more. They would fill a bag with water, like a rucksack that doesn't leak. Then they would place you in it, face down, until you nearly drowned. That was what I saw when I sat on those planes. My torturers waiting for me."
Lawyers acting for Paul, who has four children, hope to produce documents proving his Zimbabwean nationality within 48 hours to win further time to argue his case.
About 1,200 Zimbabweans made asylum applications to the Home Office last year, of whom 300 are being held in detention, a figure campaigners say is disproportionate. At Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire, the secure immigration complex where "certified" cases for fast-track removal are held, Zimbabweans make up the third-largest group.
The Home Office said yesterday it was updating the 10-month-old "country assess-ment" blamed for allowing MDC supporters and other Mugabe opponents to be deported. These rules say opposition activist asylum-seekers are considered "generally at low risk" of retribution from the Zimbabwean authorities.
Professor Terence Ranger, an Africa expert at Oxford University, described the assessment as "essentially compilations of press cuttings" and "shamefully half-hearted". Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "It is imperative that removals to Zimbabwe are suspended immed- iately. The Foreign Office is saying one thing and the Home Office is insisting on believing another."
For those who have already been returned to Harare international airport, any change in British government policy will be too late. Stephen G, a factory worker and MDC activist in rural Zimbabwe, fled to Britain in early 2000 after being attacked by Zanu-PF militias and beaten by CIO officers.
He was returned to Harare last summer, rearrested by the CIO and tortured for two weeks before escaping and fleeing to an undisclosed North African country. He has not been heard from since.
Stephen G was deported despite a report from Dr William Hopkins, principal psychiatrist for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, that said Stephen had post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr Hopkins said: "If returned to Zimbabwe, he is sure he will be tortured and killed. In his present mental state, he is at significant risk of suicide."
The British Zimbabwe Association (BZA), said at least six MDC activists had been caught and tortured by the CIO after returning from Britain.
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 Pan Africanist Congress Backs Mugabe's Land, Media Clampdown
South African Press Association (Johannesburg)
January 14, 2002
The Pan Africanist Congress has come out in support of the Zimbabwean government's clamp down on foreign media as well as its controversial land reform process.
In a statement on Monday, PAC deputy president Motsoko Pheko warned those critical of President Robert Mugabe's actions and "making a lot of noise" about media freedom in that country, that media was still owned by the people who were quiet when former prime minister Ian Smith declared the British colony independent.
"It is people who have said nothing about the 'rule of law' in many situations of violation of the rule of law by racist colonialists," he said.
Denouncing as "puerile and parochial" Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon's call for withdrawal of SADC diplomats from Zimbabwe, Pheko said South Africa should not "shout too much" about the Zimbabwean situation as it was "sitting on a far bigger land bomb than Zimbabwe.
"When that bomb explodes, the Zimbabwean situation will look like a picnic."
Pheko said the problems which were being blamed on Mugabe had been created by British colonialism whose agent Cecil Rhodes used armed force to acquire the land for settlers.
"Britain is condemning Mugabe not because of democracy or press freedom but to protect the colonial grabbers of Zimbabwean land, most of which is owned by British settlers who also control the country's economy while Zimbabweans are landless."
Britain had a record of sponsoring dictatorships which overthrew democracies on the continent, including Uganda's Idi Amin and those who toppled Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, Pheko said.
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NGO Coalition to Lobby SADC to Pressure Mugabe On Poll

Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)
January 15, 2002
Loughty Dube

CIVIC organisations in the coalition - Crisis in Zimbabwe - are set to lobby the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) summit in Malawi next week to keep up pressure on President Robert Mugabe to hold free and fair elections in March, the Zimbabwe Independent has established. Heads of state will assess Zimbabwe's deepening crisis and debate a report from the ministerial team that visited Zimbabwe last month. The Crisis in Zimbabwe coalition is also set to send a delegation to key countries in the region to ask their governments to ensure that the March election is free and fair.
The Malawi summit comes against worsening political violence and intimidation that has resulted in the murders of six opposition supporters since Christmas.
Brian Raftopoulos, a member of the Crisis in Zimbabwe committee, told the Independent this week that the team to travel to Malawi will lobby the Sadc leaders to ensure that a free and fair presidential election is held in Zimbabwe.
"The team, to be in place by the end of this week, will seek dialogue with the Sadc leaders with a view to persuading them to tighten the screws on Mugabe's regime and ensure that the escalating violence in the country is curbed," Raftopoulos said.
Southern African leaders have treated Mugabe with kid gloves in previous fora but Raftopoulos said it was prudent that regional and international pressure was maintained on Mugabe's government to force him to hold a violence-free election. Mugabe faces his stiffest test in his 22-year-old unchallenged rule from opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.
"Apart from the ongoing violence we will point out to the Sadc leaders the flawed electoral procedures that the government is putting in place and the new laws that will curb press freedom and deny opposition political parties access to campaign and operate freely in the country," said Raftopoulos.
The Public Order and Security Bill and the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill, according to Raftopoulos are the laws that the team would focus on in their deliberations with the leaders.
"The delegation will implore the Sadc leaders to help address the worsening economic crisis in the country that is fuelled by poor government policies and has led to the suffering of the Zimbabwean masses," he said.
Raftopoulos said the delegation would visit key countries in the region in a bid to persuade them to adopt a carrot and stick approach towards Harare.
Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria and Mozambique are the countries that the Crisis in Zimbabwe delegation has targeted.
Malawi's Foreign Minister, Lillian Patel, who also chairs Sadc's council of ministers, told a press conference in Malawi last Thursday that the summit would not dictate terms to Zimbabwe but would want the rule of law to prevail. She also said Sadc was committed to a peaceful solution to Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme.
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