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

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Zimbabwe parliament delays tough media bill  
HARARE, Jan. 15 — Zimbabwe's parliament dropped a much criticised bill curbing media freedom from its business on Tuesday after a committee found serious problems with some clauses, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said.  
        However, the delay did not seem to indicate that President Robert Mugabe had shelved a plan to ban foreign journalists and outlaw any reporting deemed to sow ''alarm and despondency.''
       ''The Access to Information and Privacy Bill is not on the order paper today,'' MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe told Reuters.
       The proposed law was to be discussed just a day after a regional summit on Monday where southern African leaders said Mugabe had agreed to ensure presidential elections in March were fair and to let overseas observers and foreign journalists cover them.
       ''The Parliamentary Legal Committee has met and has serious concerns about a whole range of clauses with the...bill, which we still have to discuss with the minister of justice,'' said Welshman Ncube, the MDC member on the committee of three.
       The committee may sit on Wednesday but Ncube said he would be unable to attend. He said it was unclear when the legislation might be discussed.
       Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa declined to say what caused the delay, but said: ''I still have to meet the Parliamentary Legal Committee. I don't know when this bill will come before parliament.''
       Mugabe and his inner circle are coming under mounting pressure from Western governments concerned about political violence, opposition intimidation and economic decay in Zimbabwe.
       Former colonial master Britain said a newspaper report of a freeze of Mugabe's personal assets abroad was ''premature,'' but did not deny it and the U.S. was preparing possible action.
       Senior U.S. government official Lorne Craner arrived in Zimbabwe on Tuesday to press for fair presidential elections, the American embassy said.
       Craner, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour affairs, intends to meet government officials and leaders of civic society before departing on Friday, an embassy spokesman said.
       The new media law is expected to bar foreign journalists and pass easily through a parliament where the ruling ZANU-PF has 93 of the 150 seats.
       Local journalists could face two years in prison if they breach a planned code of conduct that outlaws reports which sow ''alarm and despondency.''
       Reporters and owners of media organisations must register with a government-appointed body or risk the same penalty.
       Zimbabwean journalist unions say they will challenge the new media bill in the courts if it becomes law.
       The United States, European Union and numerous media groups say the law is another step by Mugabe to tighten his grip on power ahead of the presidential elections.
       The Legal Committee also issued an adverse report of proposed amendments to the Labour Act which critics say will stifle the constitutional right of workers to strike. The revised amendments may be tabled on Wednesday.
       Eddison Zvobgo, chairman of the committee, said the committee agreed unanimously that two clauses dealing with strikes and the definition of unlawful actions were unconstitutional.
       The MDC's David Coulthard said in parliament on Tuesday: ''all these laws are designed to crush opposition in all its forms. They are designed to block channels of peaceful protest against the government.''

       Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, faces the biggest challenge to his rule at the March poll from MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
       Last week parliament passed tough laws on public order and elections, giving security forces broad powers against the opposition and disenfranchising millions of Zimbabweans abroad.
       Mugabe, 77, emerged from nearly seven hours of talks on his country's political and economic crisis at Monday's summit of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community in Malawi saying he was satisfied with the outcome.
       The SADC communique said Mugabe had agreed to welcome foreign observers for the election.
       His government has previously said it will allow election observers -- not election monitors who have a stronger mandate -- but only from certain regions and definitely not Britain.
       Western powers and Zimbabwe's opposition have urged South Africa and other regional states to take the lead in curbing what they see as Zimbabwe's drift to autocracy.
       But analysts say the region's pressure is too little, too late to make a difference.
       Nine white farmers have been killed, scores of black farm workers assaulted and thousands displaced in two years of seizures of white-owned farms by self-styled veterans of the 1970s guerrilla war against white rule in the then Rhodesia.
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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 12:25 GMT
Voice from Zimbabwe: A family's ordeal
Mr Midzi is too scared to be photographed
Trymore Midzi's family are in hiding in Harare
Lewis Machipisa in Harare reports on one family's experience of political violence in Zimbabwe.

Trymore Midzi was last seen by his mother early in the evening on 20 December, when he told her he was going back to his house

My son was found unconscious in a vegetable garden stark naked the next morning

Trymore's mother

The 24-year-old opposition activist lived in Bindura, some 90km north of the capital, Harare, which is a ruling party stronghold.

"Around 2100 that same night, some people came and said our son had been abducted. We went to report to the police but they did not help us," his mother said.

"My son was found unconscious in a vegetable garden stark naked the next morning with deep cuts all over his body and bleeding," explained the mother, trying to hold back her tears.

Her husband, a former police officer, takes over the story.

"When we arrived he managed to talk and told us who had beaten him. He told us they were Zanu-PF youths and trainees of the national service training scheme. We rushed him to Avenues Hospital in Harare where he later died.

"What surprised us is that the security officers took our son's body from the mortuary without our permission," said the father.

"We managed to bury our son but when we went to his grave the next morning at around 0730 we were attacked by a mob of Zanu-PF supporters."

Running for our lives

He said they were carrying iron bars, spears and axes and started chasing them.

If they have killed him like they killed my son, they should tell us so that we can bury him properly

Trymore's father
"They were saying they wanted to kill us. One said they wanted to kill me and my other son because of Trymore's support for the opposition. They said they would kill my whole family.

"How the 11 of us managed to escape is still God's secret. I am only alive because I managed to outrun the attackers."

Unfortunately, he believed his brother-in-law, Moffat Chivaura, was not so lucky.

Zimbabwe war veterans
Ruling party supporters are blamed for abducting Trymore

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African pressure seen too weak to move Mugabe  
BLANTYRE, Malawi, Jan. 15 — ''Too little, too late'' was how analysts on Tuesday portrayed Africa's pressure on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to ease the political crisis gripping his country and affecting its neighbours. 
Leaders of the Southern African Development Community left Monday's summit in Malawi with assurances from Mugabe that presidential elections on March 9-10 will be fair.
       Analysts, however, said the commitments were typically vague and it would be left to the United States and the European Union to try to bring about change in Zimbabwe through the threat of sanctions.
       ''Mugabe realised he will not lose much by giving SADC these promises because they are worded in a manner that allows double interpretation and he will...choose the interpretation that suits his interests,'' said Elphas Mukonoweshuro, a University of Zimbabwe political analyst.
       Westerners wanted South Africa, Zimbabwe's southern neighbour and the regional powerhouse, to lead from the front.
       Those hopes were dashed when South Africa's delegation in Blantyre said it backed ''quiet diplomacy.''
       A summit communique late on Monday said Mugabe had agreed to allow independent election observers and foreign journalists to cover the polls -- although parliament was set on Tuesday to debate a law banning foreign correspondents from the country.
       The 77-year-old president, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, also assured the SADC that he would investigate and act against cases of political violence.
       There was even a promise to remove self-styled war veterans from white-owned farms not targeted for seizure by the government under its controversial land resettlement programme.
       But Mugabe's doubters were unconvinced.
       ''Mugabe also realised that the promises he was making allowed everybody at the summit to go home with some dignity... that he had escaped without a damning and embarrassing statement from his colleagues,'' Mukonoweshuro said.
       Mugabe's pledges came as rights group Amnesty International warned of civil war if the opposition is repressed.
       Already this month the ruling ZANU-PF party has tightened the presidential grip by passing two laws on public order and electoral rules. On Tuesday the government was due to table in parliament the media bill Western governments have condemned.
       ''OLD BOYS' CLUB''
       Analysts said the 14-nation SADC, which did not consider calls for sanctions against Zimbabwe, lacked the collective political will to enforce Mugabe's commitments.
       Wisdom Malongo, a rights activist at Malawi's Nkhomano Centre for Development, said the SADC was acting more like an old boys' club.
       ''In the end it's going to look like a dictators' club where people will attend to the issues in a way that's not seen as threatening Mugabe's political office,'' he said.
       Analysts pointed to Mugabe's record on previous promises.
       Last September in talks with Britain brokered by Nigeria, he promised to end the violent seizure of farms.
       But this has barely been implemented on the ground with Mugabe saying his government is acting within Zimbabwean law.
       Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi, the SADC chairman, said the group had not debated sanctions because it believed Mugabe.
       SADC executive secretary Prega Ramsamy on Tuesday said he noted ''a lot of sincerity on Zimbabwe's part.''
       Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who wants South Africa to impose selective sanctions, has accused the SADC of ''double standards and hypocrisy'' in its dealings with Mugabe.
       Analysts say a tradition of solidarity in the face of Western criticism has undermined the bloc's influence.
       A senior African diplomat said Mugabe had taken advantage of the lack of a coherent strategy inside the SADC and of a view within the South African government that Zimbabweans were not doing enough to tackle their own crisis.
       ''There is a feeling in South Africa that the political forces in Zimbabwe have not taken a strong enough stance against President Mugabe, and there is a danger of being out of tune,'' the diplomat said.
       But pressure from outside Africa is growing daily.
       The 15-member EU has threatened sanctions unless Zimbabwe halts political violence, removes curbs on the media and allows free and fair elections.
       The tone of statements on Zimbabwe coming out of the U.S. State Department is strengthening sharply.
       On Tuesday London's Financial Times reported that Britain and the United States were seeking to locate millions of dollars thought to have been deposited abroad by Mugabe.
       It said the move was in preparation for a possible decision by Washington and the EU to impose personal ''smart'' sanctions on Mugabe and leading members of his government.
       The opposition has long advocated such penalties, involving freezing bank accounts and refusing visas. There was no immediate response to the report from Zimbabwe's government.
       Some key members of the Commonwealth group of nations want Zimbabwe suspended before heads of government meet in Australia in early March, just ahead of the elections.
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The Guardian
U.S. Official Arrives In Zimbabwe
Tuesday January 15, 2002 4:40 PM

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - The State Department's top human rights official arrived in Zimbabwe on Tuesday as ruling party lawmakers debated a series of measures designed to crack down on dissent.
Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner was to meet with government officials as well as community and business leaders, U.S. Embassy spokesman Bruce Wharton said.
Instability in Zimbabwe could have repercussions for all of southern Africa, he said.
``His trip demonstrates the U.S. government's continuing concern about respect for human rights in Zimbabwe and our desire to assist in preparing for free, fair and peaceful presidential elections,'' Wharton said.
President Robert Mugabe, who is fighting his political survival, has clamped down on the opposition through legislation and government-sanctioned violence.
Two bills pushed through Parliament last week give the police sweeping powers of arrest and seizure ahead of the elections and limit independent election monitoring.
Lawmakers also were scheduled to debate a bill banning foreign journalists from the country and requiring local journalists to register with the government or face up to two years in jail.
The session was adjourned Tuesday before discussion of the so-called media law, with most of the debate focusing on a bill aimed at eliminating dissent within Zimbabwe's powerful trade unions.
Mugabe sees the trade unions as a threat. Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and Mugabe's most formidable challenge in the March elections, is a former trade union organizer. Unions were a major force in creating his party.
The media bill, which is expected to come up for debate Wednesday, would muzzle the independent press in Zimbabwe.
David Coltart, a high-ranking member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said opposition lawmakers in Parliament would fight the bill's passage.
Zimbabwe's crumbling democracy has sparked concern throughout Africa and the international community.
In the latest violence, opposition lawmaker David Mpala was wounded critically after 20 ruling party militants attacked him and slit his abdomen, opposition officials said Tuesday.
Police were investigating the attack in Lupane, 280 miles west of Harare. A spokesman said the assailants were unknown and Mpala could have been the victim of a carjacking.
Opposition spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said the attack was politically motivated.
Ruling party militants also beat and seriously injured a 53-year-old white farmer in Mutoroshanga, 56 miles north of Harare, neighbors said Monday.
Meanwhile, police said two Movement for Democratic Change activists were arrested for attacking ruling party youths with logs and axes in Nkayi, 161 miles southwest of Harare.
The incidents followed a weekend of unrest in which an opposition party office was burned down and several party activists were injured critically after being beaten by ruling party militants, opposition officials said.
Last week, government-backed militants embarked on a fresh looting campaign of white-owned farms, forcing 23 landowners from their homes.
Mugabe said he has begun a legitimate campaign of land reform, working to distribute farms to landless blacks. But his opponents and human rights groups say he is sanctioning violent land seizures to gain support ahead of elections.
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Zimbabwe media bill absent from parliament schedule  
HARARE, Jan. 15 — Zimbabwe's tough new media bill was unexpectedly left off a list of items to be discussed in parliament on Tuesday, but may still be debated on Wednesday, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said. 
''The Access to Information and Privacy Bill is not on the order paper today and indications are that for some reason they don't want to bring it up today. It will probably be tomorrow,'' MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe told Reuters.
       Government officials were unavailable for comment.
       The proposed law is expected to bar foreign journalists from working in Zimbabwe.
       Local journalists could face two years in prison if they breach a planned code of conduct that outlaws reports which sow ''alarm and despondency.''
       All reporters and owners of media organisations would have to register with a government-appointed body or risk the same penalty.
       The United States, European Union and numerous media groups have blasted the proposed law as another step by President Robert Mugabe to tighten his 22-year-old grip on power ahead of presidential elections on March 9-10.
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Britain says talk of Mugabe asset freeze premature  
 LONDON, Jan. 15 — Britain said on Tuesday it was too early to talk of freezing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's assets abroad as diplomatic moves to ensure free elections and ease political violence there continue. 
The Financial Times had earlier said Britain and the United States were taking steps to identify millions of dollars Mugabe and his circle may have deposited abroad, in case the West imposes personal sanctions on Zimbabwe's leaders.
       Responding to the newspaper article, Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said:
       ''The reports on that are premature. The important thing is that we continue to take all diplomatic and political action that we can, and we are continuing to do that.''
       Britain also said on Tuesday it would stop repatriating Zimbabweans whose applications for political asylum had been rejected. Some domestic and international critics had said London was being two-faced by leading criticism of Zimbabwe's government while telling refugees it was safe to go back home.
       ''I have decided to suspend removals of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe until after the elections are held in March,'' Home Secretary David Blunkett said, referring to a presidential election in Zimbabwe scheduled for March 9 and 10.
       A spokesman for the Foreign Office said Britain would act over Zimbabwe in conjunction not only with the United States but with its European Union and Commonwealth allies.
       ''The UK is working closely with its EU and Commonwealth partners on a joint approach to Zimbabwe which reflects our shared concerns,'' the spokesman said. The Commonwealth groups Britain and 53 other states that are mostly its former colonies.
       ''The United States and other international partners share our concerns and are applying pressure in their own way.''
       The Financial Times said possible personal sanctions could involve freezing bank accounts and refusing visas so that Mugabe and his senior ministers could not visit Western countries.
       Some estimates put the sums allegedly salted away in foreign bank accounts at hundreds of millions of dollars but London and Washington have no accurate figure yet, the newspaper said.
       EU officials held talks in Brussels on Friday with a Zimbabwean delegation following widespread concern over the southern African country's human rights record.
       The EU threatened sanctions unless Zimbabwe halted political violence, removed curbs on the media and allowed free and fair presidential elections.
       Mugabe pledged on Monday that the poll would be fair and that independent observers and foreign journalists could cover it, African leaders at a summit in Malawi said.
       Seeking to extend his 21-year grip on power in the elections, Mugabe last week forced through tough laws banning independent election monitors, outlawing criticism and denying voting rights to millions of Zimbabweans abroad.
       Zimbabwe has been embroiled in a two-year round of violent land seizures by black veterans of the 1970s war against white rule who have occupied white farms to redress what they see as lingering colonial injustice.
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The Guardian
Blunkett halts Zimbabwean repatriation
Matthew Tempest, political correspondent
Tuesday January 15, 2002
The repatriation of rejected asylum seekers from Zimbabwe is to be suspended, David Blunkett announced today.
The home secretary said the decision takes immediate effect, and will last until at least after the forthcoming elections.
The move comes after sustained pressure from his opposite numbers, Oliver Letwin and Simon Hughes, joined forces to appeal to the home secretary after Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, imposed tough sanctions on opposition parties, and criminalised criticism of himself in the media.
Mr Blunkett said: "Because of the worsening situation and because I think it's right to review the position over the weeks ahead I have taken the decision we will suspend the rules until after the general election in Zimbabwe.
"Above all this is a fluid situation. I hope that this pause will enable us to do an evaluation better and it will lessen the tensions of those who genuinely fear a return to that regime."
Opponents of Mr Mugabe within the UK had pointed out that the official Home Office assessment of the political situation in Zimbabwe had not changed since October, despite the detriorating situation in the country.
The Movement for Democaratic Change had been particularly stigmatised.
However, Mr Blunkett denied acting because "Simon Hughes was getting his knickers in a twist".
This is a victory for common sense," said Mr Letwin. "The situation in Zimbabwe is serious, and this is clearly not the time to be deporting opposition politicians back there. We are grateful to Mr Blunkett for the constructive way he responded to the points we have been making." The move comes after a temporary 24-hour suspension was announced last night following international concern for supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition politicians.
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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 16:29 GMT
Mugabe given list of election demands
President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe was given some frank advice
By Elizabeth Blunt in Malawi

A special summit meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has ended with Zimbabwe being given a list of actions it has to take to reduce political tension in the approach to March's presidential elections.

Neighbouring countries had expressed concern that this tension, and Zimbabwe's economic decline, were beginning to affect the whole region.

The summit expressed serious concern on the statement made by the Zimbabwe army on the outcome of the election

SADC statement
For eight hours the presidents of 14 southern African nations were closeted behind closed doors, a small enough group for frank speaking on the region's problems.

About half-an-hour before the end, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe came out alone.

When the final communiqué was issued it was clear that President Mugabe's fellow presidents had given him a long list of actions his government had to take:

  • Guarantee freedom of speech and association

  • Investigate fully all cases of political violence

  • Accredit local election monitors and foreign observers

  • Allow both local and foreign journalists to cover the polls

As the communiqué was read out, it became clear that the meeting had been very critical of some recent developments in Zimbabwe.

"The summit expressed serious concern on the statement made by the Zimbabwe army on the outcome of the election and urged the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that, in accordance with the multi-party political dispensation prevalent in SADC, political statements are not made by the military but by political leaders," the statement said.

But would Zimbabwe really do all this?

Tough time

At the press conference after the summit, its chairman, Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi, was asked what would happen if Zimbabwe did not comply.

President Muluzi
Mr Muluzi: Let us wait and see
"Let us give Zimbabwe a chance," he said.

"They have made a commitment to us, as SADC, and President Mugabe assured us several times that he would like to have free and fair elections. So we believe that there will be free and fair elections.

"So let us wait and see. I can assure you that all of us will take an interest to make sure that whatever has been promised is adhered to," President Muluzi said.

As Mr Mugabe left the summit he seemed confident enough, assuring journalists that it was his arch enemy Britain, and not Zimbabwe, that had come in for criticism.

'Hostile reporting'

In fact President Mugabe did score one point - over a new radio station, Radio Africa, which started broadcasting to Zimbabwe out of London just before Christmas.

We would like to encourage, if anything, some dialogue between Britain and Zimbabwe

Malawi's President Muluzi
"The summit noted with concern the negative reporting by certain sections of the media in Zimbabwe and appealed to them to be objective," the SADC executive secretary said.

"The summit expressed grave concern over the fact that some western countries have authorised the broadcasting from their territories by their nationals of hostile and inciting propaganda against the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

"The summit called upon those countries to desist from such actions."

President Muluzi declined to get involved in the war of words which has been going on between Britain and Zimbabwe. But he did recommend that both sides be prepared to talk.

"We would like to encourage, if anything, some dialogue between Britain and Zimbabwe so that they can start speaking to one another.

"It's difficult when you don't have a dialogue between parties and when you don't discuss issues and one hopes that one day, you know, President Mugabe and Prime Minister Blair will sit down and talk over things and discuss," he said.

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Brussels, 11 January 2002


On 11 January 2002 the European Union opened consultations with the ACP side
on the situation in Zimbabwe, in accordance with the procedure laid down in
Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement.

These consultations were held against the background of the deep
concern by the European Union about the poor human rights situation in
Zimbabwe, in particular since early 2000 and about the prevailing climate of
violence and intimidation and the apparent impunity with which crimes have
been and continue to be perpetrated. The harassment of the opposition,
especially in the run up to the 2002 presidential elections, the
intimidation of the judiciary, limitations to the right to freedom of
expression for all,
including the press and illegal farm occupations are also a matter of
deep concern.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Dr. I.S.G. Mudenge, led the delegation
of Zimbabwe. In the light of the provisions on respect of human rights,
democratic principles and the rule of law contained in Art. 9 (2) of
the Cotonou Agreement, and pursuant to Art. 96 of that Agreement, the
entering into consultations with Zimbabwe and the ACP party was decided  on
29 October 2001.

The consultations took place with the participation of a number of SADC
countries, which play an important role in the process. The EU stated
its concerns in the following areas:
- political violence;
- free and fair elections; election observation;
- freedom of the media;
- independence of the judiciary;
- illegal occupation of properties.

The Zimbabwean authorities expressed a willingness to go some way
towards meeting the EU concerns with concrete actions on the following
- Full respect for human rights, including the right to freedom of opinion,
association and
- peaceful assembly, for all individuals;
- Commitment to investigate fully and impartially all cases of alleged
political violence in the year 2001, and action to do so (see report
prepared by Commission of Police);
- Considering agreement and promotion of a code of conduct for
political parties before the presidential election campaign;
- Taking note of the proposal to set up a bi-partisan Parliamentary
Committee to promote inclusive political dialogue (proposed by SADC
Heads on 10-11 September);
- A Zimbabwean Electoral Supervisory Commission, which is adequately
resourced and able to operate independently;
- The accreditation and registration of national independent monitors
in good time for the election;
- A timely invitation to and accreditation of a wide range of international
election observers;
- Commitment to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution
of Zimbabwe;
- Zimbabwe reaffirms its practice of allowing journalists, both
and international to cover important national events, including elections
on the basis of its laws and regulations;
- The Government of Zimbabwe is committed to the independence of the
judiciary and to the rule of law;
- For farms that are not designated, the transfer of occupiers to legally
acquired lands by the Government of Zimbabwe.

At this stage the EU is not satisfied that its concerns will be met; it
needs more precision on these commitments. It also needs to see concrete
actions. The EU insisted particularly on the following two immediate
actions to be taken by the Zimbabwean authorities:
- invitation and accreditation of international observers, including
from  the EU, at least six weeks before the elections;
- full access to national and international media.

The EU asked the Zimbabwean government to send a letter to the
President of the Council of the EU within a week, detailing its actions on
points covered by the discussion.

The EU Heads of Mission in Harare are invited to report urgently on the
progress made in view of an assessment by the General Affairs Council on 28
January 2002. The EU will follow closely further developments in
Zimbabwe through the continuing of its dialogue and regular contacts in
order to appreciate the evolution of the situation.

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Commercial Farmers' Union which does not accept any legal responsibility for

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MPs Forge Ahead With Draconian Laws
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
January 15, 2002
Posted to the web January 15, 2002

Zimbabwean MPs spent hours on Tuesday discussing a labour bill which will limit the right to strike, but did not discuss a controversial media bill aimed at drastically curbing press freedom.
Independent Journalists Association president Abel Mutsakani told IRIN the bill - which will censor the independent press, ban foreign journalists from working in the country and compel local journalists to register with the government or face jail - was expected to be discussed in parliament on Wednesday.
The new laws go before parliament after President Robert Mugabe promised leaders at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Malawi on Monday that he and his ruling ZANU-PF party would ensure free and fair presidential elections on 9 and 10 March, as well as allow foreign election observers.
In turn, SADC and Malawian president Bakili Muluzi said after the summit in Blantyre that the regional body accepted Mugabe's pledges. However, Mugabe's critics back home refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"SADC is fast becoming irrelevant to most Zimbabweans ... He (Mugabe) has done and said these things before," Mutsakani said. "Given the fact that it is clear that the so-called quiet diplomacy by South African President Thabo Mbeki or by SADC will not move Mugabe in any way, we expected SADC to take specific and effective action to force Mugabe to abandon his undemocratic policies," he added.
Kwezi Mngqibisa, head of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) peacekeeping programme, told IRIN that events at the Monday summit indicated the regional bloc wanted to show Mugabe their support - in the hope that it would extract certain concessions from him.
"SADC has resisted moves to support sanctions and isolate Zimbabwe. So in turn, they will expect some concessions, like allowing some measure of election observers," he said.
According to Mngqibisa, SADC's lack of unity on how to deal with Mugabe stemmed from fear that "the situation in Zimbabwe could play itself out in their own countries". "They are concerned about the precedent any action they may take will set," he said, and for any SADC action to work, it would need the support of all members.
Nonetheless, he said, from a conflict resolution perspective, the SADC summit may yet yield results. "Some of the most critical moves in resolving any conflict are not necessarily in public statements. They (SADC) leaders will not do that (make strong public statements) if they do not think it will have the desired effect."
However, as SADC waits to see if Mugabe keeps his promises this time around, Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has urged South Africa to cut electricity and fuel supplies to the country to force Mugabe's hand.
The Zimbabwe News Agency quoted MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as telling BBC on Tuesday that SADC leaders who met in Malawi were "hypocritical". He said South Africa had the capacity to send the "right" signals to Mugabe, the report said.
"The threat to undermine the elections by the military, by President Robert Mugabe himself, should actually send shock waves to South Africa and they should say under those circumstances, we are going to cut fuel, we are going to cut transport links," Tsvangirai was quoted as saying. South Africa, however, has so far rejected all calls for sanctions against Harare.
In other developments, AP reported that a top United States State Department official arrived in Zimbabwe on Tuesday to help ensure free elections in March. News reports also said that Britain had frozen the deportation of Zimbabwean refugees and was - along with the United States - starting to hunt down the foreign bank accounts of Mugabe and other ZANU-PF lawmakers with a view to freezing their monies.
At the same time, political violence has continued unabated in Zimbabwe. AP reported on Tuesday that in the latest case David Mpala, an opposition lawmaker, was critically wounded after 20 ruling party militants attacked him and slit his abdomen. Police said they were investigating the incident. Police also said MDC activists were arrested for attacking a group of ruling party youths with logs and axes in Nkayi, 260 km southwest of Harare, the report said.
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Harare Does Not Pass Legitimacy Test

Business Day (Johannesburg)
January 15, 2002
Neil EmerickStandton

THE pseudo-democratic legitimacy of the Zimbabwean government is clearly delaying the Commonwealth's decision on whether to punish it for its actions and eject it from the organisation.
Business Day points out (January 11 ) that no democratically elected government has ever had its membership suspended.
However, in light of the gross violations of the country's legal system passing the electoral amendments and statutes relating to free expression perhaps it is now time to remember the words of the philosopher Ayn Rand.
She noted that a dictatorship could be identified by four characteristics one-party rule, execution without trial, expropriation of property, and censorship.
She states: "So long as men can speak and write freely, so long as there is no censorship, they still have a chance to reform their society or to put it on a better road".
Unfortunately for the people of Zimbabwe, it looks like their government has finally denied them even that right. The Commonwealth now has ample evidence that democracy in Zimbabwe is a sham and should suspend membership immediately.
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