The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
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US threatens sanctions over Zimbabwe abuses
By Basildon Peta in Harare and Rupert Cornwell in Washington
17 January 2002
Internal links
Leading article: Keep up the pressure
The United States has joined the European Union in threatening economic and other sanctions against Zimbabwe if Robert Mugabe does not move to ensure free and fair presidential elections in March.
Congressman Ed Royce, head of the House of Representatives' Africa Committee, said the United States would "ratchet up the pressure" in the weeks before the 9-10 March election, while the State Department said Washington would oppose debt relief and further loans to Zimbabwe if the lawlessness continued.
Meanwhile, Mr Mugabe's government had to delay consideration of a Bill to restrict the press after MPs on the parliamentary legal affairs committee found most of its provisions to be unconstitutional.
The Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, told parliament that a number of amendments would be considered before the media Bill returned to parliament next week.
The Bill, which would ban foreign correspondents from operating in Zimbabwe and make it virtually impossible for Zimbabwean journalists to criticise the President or his ministers, has been condemned by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, as "resonant of dictatorship".
Amendments to the Bill to be considered include letting foreign correspondents into the country for "specific events", Mr Chinamasa said.
The reprieve is of little comfort to members of the independent media in Zimbabwe. The Justice Minister said he had consulted media organisations on amendments but the four main journalists' associations in Zimbabwe said they had not been consulted.
Sources close to the legal committee, which is composed of one opposition and two ruling-party MPs, said the Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, had tried to block discussion of amendments.
The legal committee acts in an advisory capacity. Its recommendations can be overruled by Zanu-PF, the ruling party, which holds a 34-seat majority in parliament.
A source close to the committee said that it found the Bill "to be so devoid of any legal reasoning that it dismissed it as a mere collection of political ambitions by Moyo to stifle the media".
The source said: "What we expect at most are cosmetic changes to the Bill, but its fundamentals will remain intact. If Moyo gets his way, then maybe the Bill might not even be amended but might just be worded differently."
The Bill would put Zimbabwean journalists under a system of one-year licences. It prescribes heavy jail terms for journalists writing articles deemed likely to engender hostility towards Mr Mugabe.
In an interview with state-run Zambian Television, Mr Chinamasa said: "No journalist will practise in Zimbabwe without being accredited, whether local or foreign. Foreign journalists will be allowed to cover specific events, however, for a limited period. Otherwise they must employ local journalists."
The US warning was being delivered in person yesterday by Lorne Craner, the Assistant Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights, who is in Harare for talks with Zimbabwean government officials.
Last month the US Congress approved – and President George Bush signed – the Zimbabwe Democracy Act, which empowers the administration to block funds held in the US by the Zimbabwean president and his senior colleagues.
The independent Daily News, a fierce critic of Mr Mugabe, yesterday said that ruling-party activists had burnt copies of the newspaper on Monday to prevent them being distributed.
Meanwhile, a report in Zimbabwe's independently-owned Financial Gazette said the army had placed 10,000 soldiers on leave and deployed them throughout the country to campaign for Mr Mugabe's re-election. The newspaper said the soldiers would be paid an extra Z$10,000 (£125) a month each for their work in the presidential election campaign.
The alleged troop deployments come after a tough statement from the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Vitalis Zvinavashe, last week, warning Zimbabweans that the army would not accept a president who had not participated in Zimbabwe's 1970s independence war
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The Times
US threatens to freeze Mugabe assets abroad
PRESIDENT MUGABE was facing the prospect of sanctions against his regime’s assets abroad last night as the United States increased the pressure on Zimbabwe to hold free and fair elections.
Washington is threatening to impose travel bans on Mr Mugabe and dozens of his family and aides and freeze their overseas assets as well as withhold $26 million (£18 million) in Congress-approved aid unless the situation in Zimbabwe improves.
US congressmen in South Africa accused Mr Mugabe’s inner circle of government officials and military officers yesterday of looting Zimbabwe’s Treasury and secretly stashing the assets abroad.
Ed Royce, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Africa Committee, said Washington was fully aware that Mr Mugabe’s allies had made “a wave of significant deposits” in American banks.
In Britain, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the City watchdog, said that banks based in Britain that receive laundered cash and gems linked to the Mugabe regime will be named and shamed or face prosecution.
The latest diplomatic pressure came as it emerged that political violence claimed the lives of 48 people last year, with nearly every killing perpetrated by President Mugabe’s lawless militias.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum said it feared even worse violence this month. The group attributed the sudden increase in brutality to the deployment of a recently created youth militia. The first 1,000 “youth national servicemen”, mostly unemployed, uneducated youths, completed three months’ training in December and have been spread around rural areas in northern Zimbabwe.
On a visit to Cape Town, Mr Royce and other Congressmen warned Mr Mugabe that the United States Government would increase pressure on Zimbabwe to ensure that next month’s presidential elections were not rigged.
“You can expect the US to ratchet up the pressure for free and fair elections,” Mr Royce said.
The scope of the US threats are being spelled out by Lorne Craner, the US assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labour, who is now in Zimbabwe.
A State Department spokesman said yesterday: “The policies that the Mugabe Government have taken have led the country to economic and politicla rack and ruin, and it’s time for them to think about the future of their country, the future of the people, and focus on democracy.”
The proposed sanctions would be aimed at Mr Mugabe, along with his senior government and military officials, and would be designed to prevent vast amounts of money leaving the country.
The US decision on whether to impose sanctions on the rogue regime in Harare is expectedly imminently.
At the same time, the European Union is considering sanctions if Zimbabwe does not quickly agree to independent foreign observers and reporters to monitor the March election. The 54-member Commonwealth is also expected to discuss suspending Zimbabwe from the organisation when it meets in Brisbane.
Mr Royce said that European governments were reporting similar flows of funds out of Zimbabwe and also the Democratic Republic of Congo, where senior officers in Zimbabwe’s army propping up the Government of President Kabila have extensive business interests in diamonds, minerals and timber.
“Assets are being transferred out of Zimbabwe by allies and military officers close to President Mugabe,” he said.
Efforts are being made, he said, in both Washington and London to track down millions of dollars already thought to have been deposited in overseas banks.
The FSA said it was taking “very seriously” the allegations that millions of dollars from Zimbabwe is ending up in British bank accounts. The watchdog gave warning that financial institutions who do not comb their client list for likely launderers and report any suspicious findings to the National Criminal Intelligence Service would be the first to be prosecuted.

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Party rebel puts Mugabe media curb on hold
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
(Filed: 17/01/2002)

A MEDIA Bill intended by President Robert Mugabe to silence his critics was put on hold yesterday after a revolt in parliament from within the ranks of his own Zanu-PF party.
Dr Edison Zvobgo, a Zanu-PF founder who heads the parliamentary legal committee, delayed the second reading of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill by being "unavailable" to present a report on the Bill to parliament.
The block appeared to have forced the government to consider amending the Bill, which has been widely criticised for its threat to jail journalists if they breach a "code of conduct", before it comes before the house again next week.
It was the second time in two days that Dr Zvobgo, a key member of parliament, had obstructed the will of his leader. Under the constitution, Dr Zvobgo's committee must vet Bills before they are put to a second vote.
On Tuesday his committee said an amendment to labour legislation, which would have outlawed strikes and trade unions if they were seen to hurt the economy, was in conflict with freedom of association provisions in the constitution.
Yesterday, the media Bill, which would have outlawed independent and foreign journalists not approved by the government, did not appear on the order paper as expected.
Political sources in Harare said that Dr Zvobgo and his committee would have found many clauses within the media Bill unconstitutional.
Speaking in parliament, Patrick Chinamasa, Mr Mugabe's justice minister, said: "After some lengthy consultations with objective-minded media organisations and the deliberation with honourable members on my side, I have suggested some amendments to the Access to Information and Privacy Bill." Parliament was adjourned until Tuesday.
Zanu-PF lobbyists are expected to try to strike a deal with Dr Zvobgo to submit his report if some of the Bill's more robust clauses are withdrawn.
Dr John Makumbe, a political analyst, said: "They are in a bind but, remember, the president can rule by decree and that Bill, and the amendments to labour legislation, can still be put into law, and Zanu-PF needs them ahead of the elections."
President Mugabe faces the strongest challenge yet to his 22-year rule from Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in March's presidential elections.
David Coltart, the shadow justice minister, said yesterday: "Zanu PF want these Bills pushed through, that's why they have adjourned until Tuesday, presumably so they can work on Zvobgo."
Dr Zvobgo was one of the founders of Zanu-PF, and its main legal negotiator at the Lancaster House talks in 1979 which led to Zimbabwe's independence.
In recent years he fell out with Mr Mugabe because he criticised the way the party was run, particularly in his province, Masvingo, south of Harare. He was dropped from the cabinet and from the politburo but is on record as saying he would never leave Zanu-PF.
Several key members of Zanu-PF were absent from parliament on key voting days in the past few weeks, including Simba Makoni, the finance minister who chose to spend time on his farm instead.
Meanwhile, there are shortages of maize meal, the staple food, for a second week, with most rural shops having run out.
Political sources said Mr Mugabe's cabinet is panicking as it realises that there is no way maize meal can be brought into Zimbabwe from South Africa within three weeks.
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Daily News

Moyo denies radio licence to Bulawayo Dialogue 
1/16/02 10:39:06 AM (GMT +2)
From Chris Gande
INFORMATION and Publicity Minister Jonathan Moyo's denial of a public broadcasting licence to Bulawayo Dialogue has dealt a blow to the Bulawayo community which had endorsed the project.
The idea to start a community radio station, to be known as Radio Dialogue FM, was approved by more than 20 civic organisations with the support of the
Bulawayo City Council, the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association and the Bulawayo chapter of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
The project was at an advanced stage with some broadcasting equipment in place in anticipation of the licence.
But Moyo recently shocked the Bulawayo community when he told the government newspaper in Bulawayo, The Chronicle, the group would not receive a licence.
The Department of Information and Publicity is yet to invite applications for broadcasting licences.
Moyo said: "We can say in advance that organisations and individuals which are foreign-funded will not be licensed."
He said because Bulawayo Dialogue was sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and George Soros it was not eligible for a licence.
Jethro Mpofu, a Radio Dialogue co-ordinator, said the radio initiative was driven by the people of Matabeleland who were consulted extensively.
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Daily News - Leader Page
Many African leaders now ripe for defeat in free polls 
1/16/02 11:07:26 AM (GMT +2)
IF in January 2001 any soothsayer, journalist or even a well-wisher, had told Levy Mwanawasa that by the end of that year he would be President of Zambia he would have regarded such a person as agent provocateur.
It was clear then that the diminutive president, Frederick Chiluba, was going to overthrow the constitutional provision that limited him to two consecutive terms.
He had stifled all the dissension in his own party, the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) and criminalised former colleagues who dared to suggest that he comply with the constitution he was sworn in to uphold and protect.
With that level of violence against fellow MMD members, the intolerance against the opposition was, in a perverse sense, "logical".
That was not a time for "sensible" people like Mwanawasa to do silly things like wanting to be president knowing fully well that the occupant of the first address in the country was not making any arrangements to quit.
However, politics is not a very forgiving business, but politicians often have too short memories to know this.
They think only about their current power and somehow they never believe that what may have happened to their predecessors will ever happen to them.
Presidents are not totally to blame. When you get a whole clique of opportunists around you telling you that without you the country will collapse and swearing that everybody loves and respects you, I guess these flatteries do take their toll.
If they are said often enough you could also find noble, honourable, patriotic and other non-selfish reasons to continue a very selfish pursuit: remaining in power.
Chiluba crossed the boundary of all these and began to even believe that he was God's anointed to rule Zambia in perpetuity.
After all who dares put asunder what God has put together?
Politically and in real life, this is a very rhetorical question because human beings have been tinkering with God's plans from time immemorial!
The yearning for democracy and the search for its perfection is one of those areas.
In Africa the new democratic experiments have been very strong on what critics call "voting without choosing" - that is the choices of public policies, candidates and even between political parties have been so narrow as to make voting a matter of distinction without a difference.
Even in that restrictive political space, many of our sit-tight leaders have interpreted our democratic exercise to mean our obligation to continue to choose them and them only.
Zambians in their struggle against Chiluba's attempt at self-perpetuation have given democratisation in Africa a new impetus.
People are not powerless when they are organised.
They can scuttle the political designs and desires of any president or political party if they do not agree with it. They forced Chiluba to retreat, but that force was not enough (as it was the case in Ghana in
December 2000) to force Chiluba's party out of power.
They could have avoided the stalemate if they had learnt from other African countries, especially Kenya.
Since the multi-party state was forced on the Kenya African National Union (Kanu) and President Daniel arap Moi, the majority of Kenyans has consistently voted against him and his party, but the opposition has always restored Moi and Kanu back to power.
This is what has happened in Zambia: 10 opposition parties and presidential candidates contesting against the MMD and Mwanawasa!
But they will learn their bitter lesson as did the opposition in Senegal, which was forced to unite in a 17-party alliance to get rid of the Socialist Party's 40 years' monopoly of power.
Even the Ghanaian opposition got it wrong in the first instance and changed their strategy the second time and former president Jerry Rawlings' final term ended.
Maybe the prospect of Moi not standing in the next election may provide the opportunity for a more credible opposition challenge in Kenya, but it could also mean that they have nothing to unite them again if Moi is not standing.
On the basis of these experiences we can make a number of interim conclusions about power shift on this continent.
One, many of the governments are ripe for defeat in a free and fair election, but disorganised, unprincipled opposition continues to prolong the lives of unpopular governments. Two, long-term leaders are most vulnerable to electoral upsets as in Ghana and Senegal.
But the opposition needs to be credible and have alternative policies to mobilise the people beyond just wanting to replace the party in power.
Three, long-term rule by a political party, movement or clique is no guarantee of continuity in office once the historical figure that is the personification of that change is no longer a direct politic factor, not standing for election.
Again Rawling's Ghana is a good example and Yoweri Museveni's Uganda, come 2006, is one that would be interesting to watch. Would Museveni succeed where Rawlings failed and remould himself as a new Julius "Mwalimu" Nyerere?
All the signs on the ground are to the contrary and I have this feeling that we do not have to wait till 2006 for this transition to be engaged properly or forced on the leaders.
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Daily News - Feature
The great election issue: Why an election at all? 
1/16/02 10:48:22 AM (GMT +2)

BEFORE the 2000 parliamentary election, the threat rang out loud and clear
from the war veterans: if Zanu PF lost they would return to the bush,
effectively to launch the Third Chimurenga.
The defeat of the party which brought independence was unthinkable. What
would posterity think of them?
I wonder what posterity thinks of two other parties which brought
independence to their countries - Kenneth Kaunda's United National
Independence Party in Zambia, and Hastings Kamuzu Banda's Malawi Congress
Party, both ousted from power in elections, 27 years and 31 years after
independence respectively.
In 2000 in Zimbabwe, many people asked: why hold an election then? They are
asking the same question today after the astonishing statement last week by
General Vitalis Zvinavashe, the commander of the defence forces, that they
would not accept a President without liberation war credentials.
People are likely to flock to the polling stations for the same reason that
they did in 2000 in spite of the war veterans' threat: nobody is going to tell us who to vote for.
Zanu PF nearly came a cropper in 2000.
They came within a whisker of being trounced by this upstart of a party,
only nine months old.
In the urban areas, the voters turned up in their thousands to vote for the
MDC, ousting Zanu PF completely from their long-time bailiwicks of Harare
and Chitungwiza and giving them a bloody nose in Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru and
In the rural constituencies in Masvingo and Mashonaland West, the MDC picked
up one constituency in each.
Zanu PF didn't launch their threatened Third Chimurenga, at least not
against the MDC or the people who had voted for it, for the ruling party did
win the election.
But the Third Chimurenga was still launched - by those who believe in the
Hondo yeminda fiasco, the war for the land, which other citizens would have
gladly joined if it wasn't so steeped in blood and corruption, and if it
didn't have all these unmistakable trappings of a political gimmick.
Why had the people not been cowed by the threat of the war veterans in 2000?
Why had they not been frightened of a return to the war?
The people who voted for the MDC did not do so because they thought the war
veterans were bluffing, although in their defiance they were calling the veterans' bluff.
But they knew what the veterans were capable of. During the election
campaign the former combatants, joined by others whose credentials were as
dubious as finding cheese on the moon, had displayed their seriousness so
emphatically only a numskull with a serious glaucoma problem would have
failed to see it.
One reason could have been their inimitable love of a challenge: they and
their brothers and sisters, their fathers and mothers, had faced the same
challenge from Ian Smith and his white supremacists from 1965 to 1980.
Hadn't they, with the help of the same people who were challenging them now,
confronted that awesome rebel machinery and forced it to blink?
Those who were able to watch an old film about the liberation struggle on
ZBC-TV probably revised their understanding of its history.
Henry Kissinger, a relentless Cold Warrior who nevertheless brought the
People's Republic of China out of the cold, played a key role in the
transformation of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.
Admittedly, he didn't do it because he had fallen head over heels with the
Victoria Falls, as he had done with London's Chelsea football club, to whose
Stamford Bridge stadium he journeyed faithfully whenever he was in the
British capital.
Kissinger believed that continued white rule would entrench communism in
southern Africa.
He made John Vorster, then the prime minister of apartheid South Africa, a
delicious offer - in return for ditching his white supremacist ally Ian
Smith, the West would ease up its pressure on South Africa.
In the TV footage, I saw and heard the former special assistant to Kaunda,
Mark Chona, reminiscing.
I was immediately reminded that he had featured prominently in my dismissal
as deputy editor-in-chief of Times Newspapers in 1975 in Ndola. I remembered
that the story that caused the hullabaloo was about the liberation struggle
in Zimbabwe, specifically Chona's secret visit to the nationalist leaders
then still in jail back home - which I wrote about and which infuriated
I was reinstated a year later, although Kaunda had "forgiven me" long before
I was told this by Tom Mtine, then chairman of Lonrho who owned the paper
and were my employers, who said Kaunda thought that it would be
"unpresidential" to reinstate me so soon after firing me.
In 1987, returning from a visit to the United States, I met Chona in
Nairobi. He was not contrite or remorseful. We exchanged pleasantries, and
like two very civilised people, did not dwell on the unpleasantness 12 years
Kissinger's fear of communism in southern Africa was perfectly justified:
the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, East Germany, Yugoslavia, Romania,
Bulgaria and Hungary were, in one way or another, helping the liberation
movements of the region to oust white rule.
They would not do it for nothing. At independence, they would demand their
pound of flesh, which they did in Angola and Mozambique, still today
politically and economically recovering from tragic experiments with
In Zambia, whose liberation struggle did not feature too many guns, they
tried to turn Kaunda into a communist, but his father was a missionary and
religion dies hard.
As a compromise, KK forged Humanism, which was neither one thing nor the other, with tragic consequences for his country's potentially
robust economy.
In Zimbabwe, they found a fresh breeding ground, but the economy was so emphatically capitalist those who tried to change it, almost overnight, were frustrated.
In the end, they tried to leave well enough alone, but they still tinkered with it, using methods of transformation which were monumentally inept.
And, 22 years after independence under Zanu PF, a presidential election looms in which many people, rightly or wrongly, are still hoping to effect real change from the ruin wrought by half-baked neo-Marxist and neo-capitalist economic policies.
There is an overwhelming feeling that Zanu PF has now run out of steam, out of ideas, but will cling to power almost out of habit. Its stock-in-trade has been violence, as anyone will testify who has been battered either by the war veterans or by the youth brigade.
The elections on 9-10 March will most likely send out to Zanu PF the same message that the people of Zambia sent out to KK in 1991 and to Kamuzu Banda a few years later, before old age finally caught up with him.
Zanu PF could end up sending emissaries to Lusaka and Lilongwe after the election to consult on a very delicate matter: How does the party which brought independence survive out of power?
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Danger signs seen in Zimbabwe
By David R. Sands

     An international human rights group has placed Zimbabwe on its "genocide watch" list, citing fears that a political crackdown by the government of President Robert Mugabe could degenerate into ethnically targeted violence by newly formed government militias.
     The move is the latest sign of mounting international unease as Zimbabwe prepares for presidential elections March 9 and 10.
     The ruling party of Mr. Mugabe, who has held power since the country achieved independence from Britain in 1982, faces a strong challenge from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
     Gregory H. Stanton, a former Foreign Service officer and president of the Washington-based Genocide Watch, said the group voted unanimously to issue the warning on Friday after the Zimbabwean parliament approved laws giving police and security forces broad new powers to control protests and making it illegal to "undermine the authority of the president."
     "It's one of the most dangerous situations we are watching right now," said Mr. Stanton.
     "We're not saying that a full-scale genocide or a wave of genocidal massacres is imminent," he added. "But we are trying to raise a yellow caution sign that a lot of the danger signals we've seen in past episodes are flashing now in Zimbabwe."
     In the run-up to the election, Mr. Mugabe has come under intense foreign criticism for violence targeting MDC activists and a string of legislative proposals aimed at curbing dissent, muzzling the press and giving security forces broad new powers.
     Government-organized militias, drawn almost entirely from Mr. Mugabe's Shona tribe, also have been working with so-called "veterans' groups" from the independence struggle in seizing prime land held by white Zimbabwean farmers.
     Zimbabwe's Daily News reported yesterday that an MDC member of parliament from Lupane in the country's southwest was kidnapped, knifed and left for dead in an attack late Monday. MDC officials say about 90 of the party's workers have been killed recently.
     Lorne Craner, the State Department's lead human rights official, arrived in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare yesterday for official talks on the coming elections.
     At a summit of 14 African nations that ended Monday in Malawi, Mr. Mugabe promised to hold free and fair elections in March and allow foreign observers and journalists to cover the voting.
     Genocide Watch's Friday alert is its lowest priority warning, and Mr. Stanton said in an interview yesterday he believed most of the violence to date was politically inspired, not a result of racial or tribal targeting.
     But he said the alert was issued because several typical warning signs of targeted violence had been observed in Zimbabwe and past genocidal violence had occurred before the international community was able to act.
     The creation of paramilitary militias, he noted, was used in Indonesia in ethnic assaults in East Timor and Aceh. Although such militias have close personnel and training ties to the military, they often are used to give the government "deniability" when the killings begin.
     Other have been hesitant to apply the genocide label to Zimbabwe, arguing that the opposition has a significant Shona representation.
     "The localized opposition that you saw in Zimbabwe in the 1980s has gone national. It has metastasized," said John Prendergast, co-director of the Africa Project for the International Crisis Group and author of a just-released survey of the Zimbabwean political crisis.
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Zim Schools Oppose Forced Name Changes

African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)
January 16, 2002
Marvelous Mpofu
Zimbabwean schools opposed to the government's efforts to force them into changing their colonial names have submitted silly alternatives in protest.
Education ministry permanent secretary Thompson Tsodzo accused the schools of submitting 'mischievous' and 'silly' names like Lizard and Impala.
The education ministry ordered schools to submit new names connoting local heroes by December 31 last year, but some schools are resisting the change.
"Some schools, acting out of mischief, submitted meaningless names hoping that the ministry would back down on the issue of changing names," said Tsodzo.
He warned that the ministry would not be fooled by such "sinister motives".
In November last year schools were told that names such as Cecil John Rhodes, Alan Wilson and Prince Edward would no longer be tolerated and new names taken from the country's liberation struggle would be imposed on resisting schools.
Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere said his ministry would move with haste and impose "acceptable" names on the schools that resisted the directive, but added that they were not at war with schools with colonial names.
The list of new names will be ready on Friday.
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'Mugabe Can Tell Us to Go to Hell,' SADC Leaders Admit
January 16, 2002
Posted to the web January 16, 2002
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has come under fire for not being tough enough on President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe at its specially-convened regional summit in Blantyre, Malawi, this week.
Zimbabwe remained centre-stage at the meeting Monday, when the southern African leaders called on President Robert Mugabe to ensure a credible and proper presidential election in March and welcomed his assurances that the poll would be peaceful.
In his opening address, the host president and current SADC chairman, Malawi’s Bakili Muluzi said: "As the date of the presidential elections in Zimbabwe has been announced, we are very hopeful that the elections will be peaceful, free, fair and transparent. As a matter of fact, what is important in any election is not just the election day, but the entire election process, from preparation to the vote counting and the announcement of the result."
The summit concluded late Monday with President Muluzi telling journalists "Let us give Zimbabwe a chance". "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 assure you that all of us will take an interest to make sure that whatever has been promised is adhered to," Muluzi told a news briefing.
Asked if they could trust Mugabe to keep his promise, Muluzi said: "I raised that question myself with him. He said, 'It will be done’ and I take his word for it."
Regional confidence in Mugabe was expressed, despite the fact that his governing Zanu-PF party succeeded in pushing tough electoral and security legislation in Zimbabwe last week, which the opposition says will restrict its chances of campaigning freely.
Western governments and Mugabe’s opponents want South Africa, the regional power broker, and SADC, to get tough with the Zimbabwean leader. Mugabe has remained defiant despite international condemnation and, on Monday, avoided the imposition of regional sanctions which were not discussed at the summit. These could have piled more pressure on Mugabe and hurt the already ailing economy of his country.
Critics charge southern African leaders of letting Mugabe off the hook, by failing to discipline him. The presidents, some say, may live to regret their leniency.
"It’s a farce, SADC is not serious about democracy in Zimbabwe. They’ll have themselves to blame if things go drastically wrong," said Brian Kagoro, the coordinator of the Zimbabwe Crisis Group (ZCG) which represents 250 civil rights’ organisations throughout the country.
Instead, they say, Mugabe got off lightly and went home with only a list of suggestions handed him by his fellow presidents.
But the regional leaders did take exception to the warning last week by the commander of the Zimbabwean Defence forces on the conduct and results of the presidential election, warning that the military would only support a winning candidate who was a vetean of the liberation struggle. A statement said: "The summit expressed serious concern on the statement made by the Zimbabwe army of the election and urged the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that, in accordance with the multiparty political dispensation prevalent in SADC, political statements are not made by the military, but by political leaders."
The volatile political situation in Zimbabwe topped the agenda at the SADC summit in Blantyre. Mugabe and thirteen regional counterparts gathered behind closed doors for eight hours, to talk about Zimbabwe and the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. The Zimbabwean discussion appeared to dominate the one-day summit.
A final communique indicated some candid conversation between the SADC leaders and Mugabe. A reduction in the often violent political tension, that has become a feature of life in parts of Zimbabwe, was one of a number of recommendations for Mugabe that came out of the day-long meeting.
The regional leadership hopes to see the authorities in Harare guarantee the freedom of speech and association for both the opposition and the media; ll cases of political violence should be investigated; local election monitors and international observers should be granted accreditation. Journalists, domestic and foreign, should be allowed to report on the March 9/10 election in Zimbabwe.
That is the wish list.
But there are no guarantees President Mugabe will comply, although he told the meeting that he too wanted a transparent poll. The opposition in Zimbabwe and other Mugabe critics say this is impossible.
Returning home to Botswana, after the Blantyre summit, President Festus Mogae told reporters there was little SADC could do if the Zimbabwean leader did not honour his pledge to allow free and fair elections. "He (Mugabe) is an honourable man and we took his word for it. There is not much we can do. If he reneges, we will tell him we are not happy. But then he may tell us to go to hell," said the president of Botswana.
Mogae reminded journalists that his northeastern neighbour, Mugabe, was "the president of a very powerful and militarily more superior state. We have no ability nor inclination to dictate to him what to do. We cannot go to Zimbabwe and tell him and his cabinet what to do. He is a leader of a sovereign state" Mogae said Botswana would maintain good relations with Zimbabwe "because there is not much else we can do."
But the Zimbabwean opposition has accused Mugabe of hoodwinking his regional colleagues with promises in the run-up to the presidential poll, while he cracks the whip at home, rushing through draconian and restrictive legislation to secure his re-election, rein in the opposition and muzzle the media.
On Tuesday, the Zimbabwean government delayed a controversial media law debate in parliament, after running into trouble with a new labour bill that is destined to allow the authorities to ban strikes and de-register trade unions. The parliamentary session on the amendment to the labour law was adjourned.
The new media legislation would oblige local journalists to sign up for a one-year licence from a government commission or face two years in jail. Other restrictions could ban foreign correspondents from Zimbabwe altogether. Many have already been denied accreditation to report on developments.
Police dispersed a group of journalists in the Zimbabwean capital late Monday. They had gathered to hold an all-night protest vigil outside parliament in opposition to the media bill.
Zimbabwe could be under the threat of possible 'smart’ sanctions (against Mugabe and his aides) by the European Union (EU) and the United States. The London Financial Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that London and Washington were preparing to identify millions of dollars allegedly deposited abroad by Mugabe. This, said the paper, was a prelude to possibly freezing bank accounts and refusing visas to the Zimbabwean leader and other senior government figures, to prevent them visiting the West.
Last Friday, the EU gave Mugabe until next week to deliver a written undertaking that he will allow international observers and news media into Zimbabwe for the presidential poll. No mention was made, at meetings between a Zimbabwean delegation and EU officials in Brussels last week, of what might happen if Harare missed the January 20 deadline.
Harare could also face exclusion from the Commonwealth if Britain, Canada and Australia press ahead with a motion for its suspension at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Brisbane, Australia in early March.
It was reported on Tuesday that America had sent its senior human rights official, assistant secretary of state Lorne Craner, to Zimbabwe to discuss the crisis with government representatives and other leaders.
In the past week, there has been a further outbreak of violence in Zimbabwe, with reports that government supporters have forced another 23 white landowners to vacate their farms.
For two years, the violent occupation of white-owned farms, and the harassment, assault and occasional murder of black farm workers, white farmers and opposition supporters, have blighted Zimbabwe and tarnished the country’s image.
Britain, the former colonial power, has been particularly critical of the farm seizures and what it sees as an increasingly repressive regime under Mugabe. The Zimbabwean leader has been in power for 22 years, since independence in 1980, after a bruising war against white minority rule in the then Rhodesia.
Mugabe has rejected the criticism, throwing it back at Britain which he blames for some of Zimbabwe’s problems and the current imbalance in land ownership. Mugabe has initiated a government land redistribution programme for landless black Zimbabweans. But his opponents say Mugabe’s land reforms are just another tool and smokescreen for him to appear to appease black people, while maintaining his stranglehold on power.
As he left the summit in Malawi, Monday, ahead of his fellow presidents, Mugabe confidently told reporters that Britain, and not Zimbabwe, had drawn fire during their deliberations.
Bakili Muluzi would not be drawn into the verbal battle between London and Harare, although the Malawian leader suggested that it would be positive for the opposing sides to meet.
"We would like to encourage, if anything, some dialogue between Britain and Zimbabwe, so that they can start speaking to one another," said Muluzi. "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".
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Business Day
Repressive bills delayed unexpectedly
Harare Correspondent
IN A move widely seen as an attempt to pacify regional leaders, Zimbabwe's government yesterday unexpectedly delayed the last two of a batch of bills designed to further restrict civil liberties.
The delay follows President Robert Mugabe's assurances to an emergency Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit meeting in Blantyre, Malawi, this week that he will respect human rights.
The delayed bills are the Access to Information and Privacy Bill which, if passed into law, would ban foreign journalists from working in Zimbabwe and muzzle the local media; and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, which outlaws stayaways, strikes and gives the government the authority to ban unions.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said: "After consultations with objective-minded media organisations and the deliberation with honourable members on my side, I have suggested some amendments to the Access to Information and Privacy Bill."
On Monday Mugabe committed himself to allowing foreign journalists to cover "important national events, including elections". Asked to comment on whether the proposed media law would go through in the light of the Blantyre meeting, a spokesman for Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, the SADC security chief, said: "Let's wait and see if they do."
The delays have also been inspired by the activist parliamentary legal committee, which has previously blocked repressive laws. The committee, chaired by Eddison Zvobgo, a Mugabe rival within the ruling Zanu (PF), now wants to meet Chinamasa to discuss what observers felt was a badly drafted and ill-conceived piece of legislation.
On Tuesday the committee criticised the labour bill, saying it contained unconstitutional provisions and sections.
In another sign of a tactical retreat to head off European Union (EU) sanctions, Chinamasa said: "We are inclined to invite some countries of the EU (to observe the March presidential election). Those who we know have already made up their minds, they cannot come." Those thought to be unwelcome include the UK. With Sapa-AFP
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Business Day

Zimbabwe justice minister mocks EU
HARARE - Zimbabwe may think about inviting some European Union countries to observe its presidential elections in March, but others will not be welcome except as tourists, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told MPs.
"We are inclined to invite some countries of the EU," Chinamasa said yesterday during parliament's weekly question and answer session.
"Those who we know have already made up their minds, they cannot come. They can come as tourists maybe, but not as observers," he said.
Zimbabwe has come under heavy fire after the passage of tough new electoral and security laws that bar foreign observers from the election.
The measures prompted the European Union to insist on two "immediate actions" -- "the invitation and accreditation of international election observers, including from the EU," and "full access to national and international media".
Zimbabwe had earlier said it would go "some way" toward addressing the EU concerns.
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