Zimbabwe violence rises despite mounting pressure
Reuters: 17 January, 2002 13:08 GMT
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE (Reuters) - Political violence is rising in
Zimbabwe despite growing international pressure on President Robert Mugabe to
rein in militant supporters spearheading his re-election campaign, human rights
groups have said.
They said on Thursday die-hard militants from the ruling ZANU-PF party had
stepped up violence against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
in the past week ahead of the country's March 9-10 presidential election.
The drive defied calls by Western governments led by the United States for
Mugabe to restore respect for the rule of law and ensure the build-up to the
polls is fair.
"We are receiving more and more reports of violence from across the whole
country...the reports we are getting suggest it is ZANU-PF and not the MDC which
is behind this violence," said a spokesman for Zimbabwe Human Rights Association
Zimbabwe is embroiled in its biggest political crisis since independence
from Britain in 1980, symbolised by the violent seizure of white-owned farms and
state-sponsored campaigns against the independence of the judiciary and the
Washington has warned Mugabe that he and his lieutenants face personal
sanctions if the polls are not free and fair.
European Union foreign ministers will discuss Zimbabwe on January 28 in
Brussels and decide whether Mugabe has fulfilled commitments to accept
international observers and independent media to cover the election.
United Nations human rights chief Mary Robinson expressed alarm on
Wednesday about the "deteriorating situation". She highlighted rights abuses
against opposition supporters, the independent media and human rights groups.
ZANU-PF has pushed legislation through parliament this month that grants
the security forces sweeping powers to curb the opposition and disenfranchises
millions of Zimbabweans abroad.
Legislation which critics argue aims to muzzle the media will be debated in
parliament next week.
POLITICAL VIOLENCE RISES
State-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has reported an increase in
political violence across the country, but critics accuse it of biased reporting
in which MDC supporters are always the perpetrators of violence and not the
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations Forum said a total
of seven politically motivated murders were reported in December, the highest
number for any month in 2001.
"It is urgent that the Zimbabwean government takes steps to ensure a
climate of peaceful political competition," the forum statement said.
The MDC says nearly 100 of its supporters have been killed in political
violence since February 2000 when the programme of land reform began.
MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai poses the greatest threat to Mugabe's
nearly 22-year-old hold on power at the polls to be held against the background
of a political and economic crisis.
ZANU-PF denies opposition charges that graduates of its recently-launched
national youth training programme have been carrying out a campaign of violence
against opposition supporters in the rural areas and black urban townships.
Roadblocks have been mounted to demand ruling party membership cards from
Mugabe blames the crisis on sabotage by his opponents, led by former
colonial ruler Britain, who he says are working with the opposition to oust him
in retaliation for his drive to redistribute white-owned farms among landless
Zim's Gold Output Falls By Massive 4 000 Kg
Financial Gazette (Harare)
January 17, 2001
ZIMBABWE'S gold production has fallen by a massive 4 000 kg as a
deepening economic and political crisis, coupled with depressed world metal
prices, took a toll on the country's once vibrant industry.
Figures given to the Financial Gazette this week by the Chamber of Mines
show production of the precious yellow metal slumping from 22 069.9 kg in 2000
to 18 044 kg last year.
Earnings from gold sales totalled $10.57 billion last year, up from $8.6
billion from the previous year.
Industry executives said the nominally higher earnings posted last year
reflected Zimbabwe's high inflationary environment of the past two years and
that, in real terms, the industry had earned much less than in 2000.
Zimbabwe's gold output has been declining since 1999 because of a variety
of factors, among them the low price of the mineral on international
But the plight of Zimbabwe's gold industry worsened further last year, just
as was the case with the rest of the economy's other productive sectors because
of Zimbabwe's worsening crisis over land ownership, the rule of law, human
rights and democracy.
According to the chamber, gold miners are experiencing viability problems
and many players in the industry will have to cut down on their labourforce and
on production targets in order to remain afloat.
The industry employs an estimated 20 000 workers.
"Many gold producers are running on huge losses and will be forced to close
down again unless a speedy solution is implemented. A number of jobs are also on
the line if nothing is done to rescue the sector, " one senior chamber official
An overvalued Zimbabwe dollar has only compounded the sector's
In November last year gold producers had to send a distress call to the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), the central bank, asking it to increase the
price at which it was buying gold from them in order to save gold companies from
The government has so far not responded to the producers' latest
In April last year, the RBZ introduced a floor support scheme under which
it bought gold from producers at above international market prices.
The bank offered to purchase gold at US$343 an ounce, which was reviewed
upwards to US$430 an ounce in August ¾ far higher than the US$287 an ounce the
metal was trading on global markets this week.
But gold producers maintain that this is still insufficient and that they
still lose out on benefits they would have accrued from the RBZ's support scheme
because of a distorted and fixed exchange rate of 55 Zimbabwe dollars to one
The local dollar trades at anything between $300 to $400 to one US dollar
on the black market, where most companies including some of the gold miners are
forced to seek scarce foreign exchange to buy inputs.
Industry sources this week said the cash-strapped government had forked out
more than $1.5 billion in subsidies to the gold sector last year.
By the end of last year gold producers had retained over US$40 million of
their hard cash earnings under the RBZ scheme, which seeks to inject life into
the sector. But analysts say the cocktail of measures to lift output had been
too little too late.
Chefs Loot Zim, US Says
Financial Gazette (Harare)
January 17, 2001
Staff Reporter with Reuter
Ed Royce, chairman of the Africa Committee of the US House of
Representatives, said his government would pile pressure on Mugabe to ensure
presidential elections on March 9 and 10 are free and fair.
Washington has threatened targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his key
officials if the ballot is unfair. With the European Union, it has decried as
anti-opposition the legislation that Mugabe is pushing through Parliament about
public order, election rules, the media and the rights of trade unions.
"Assets are being transferred out of Zimbabwe by close allies, military
officers close to President Mugabe and, as a consequence of that, clearly we
need to take steps to ensure that we are not a part of basically looting a
national treasury," Royce told reporters in Cape Town.
There was no immediate comment from the Zimbabwe government.
Royce said the US was aware of significant deposits in American banks by
Mugabe's allies and business partners. He urged President George W Bush's
administration to quickly locate the accounts ahead of a possible decision to
He said European governments were reporting similar flows of funds out of
Zimbabwe and out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where officers in the
Zimbabwean army's 11 000-strong contingent there have business
"We have a serious concern with the fact that, while people are struggling
in Zimbabwe, we see this type of free spending and transfer of assets out of
Zimbabwe and to accounts in the United States," Royce said.
"You certainly can expect the US to continue to ratchet up the pressure for
free and fair elections between now and March 9."
Under a law signed last month, Washington will oppose debt relief and vote
against loan credit or guarantees to the Zimbabwe government if it does not
change its ways.
"We do not want an economic partnership with Zimbabwe at this time because
it is not following the rule of law, it is not respecting the rights of its
citizens and it is not following its own constitution," he said.
Most foreign donors have suspended financial aid to the country, which was
once an economic showpiece in Africa, and are limiting support to direct food
shipments for people affected by economic collapse.
Royce spoke only a day after London's Financial Times reported that US and
British governments had begun identifying "millions of dollars" thought to have
been deposited abroad by Mugabe and his officials.
Mugabe has always denied having any money abroad, saying all his wealth is
The Times said the moves by the two governments were in preparation for a
possible decision by Washington and the European Union to impose personal
sanctions on Mugabe and leading members of his government.
Britain later said it was premature to talk of such a step because
diplomatic efforts to try to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis were still in
The Times said the envisaged sanctions would involve freezing bank accounts
and refusing visas for Mugabe and his officials so they would not travel to
Reuters, an international news agency, quoted the newspaper as saying:
"Some estimates put the sums allegedly salted away in foreign bank accounts at
hundreds of millions of dollars but the British Foreign Office and the US State
Department did not yet have an accurate figure."
Would-Be Farmers Yet to See New Plots
Financial Gazette (Harare)
January 17, 2001
CONFUSION surrounded the government's fast-track land reforms this week
as would-be beneficiaries said they were still landless because of bureaucratic
delays which some analysts said were an attempt by the government to buy time
ahead of the crunch March presidential election.
A snap survey by the Financial Gazette this week revealed that most of the
properties on which new settlers are being allotted plots are being contested or
are already occupied by self-styled independence war veterans and other ruling
ZANU PF party supporters, which means that the beneficiaries cannot move onto
As a result, most of the people whose names have appeared in the state
media in the past few weeks as having been given land are still in the dark
about the specific location of the plots other than general information such as
the province and district.
Most of the beneficiaries said they had been told that the farms on which
their plots are located are not yet ready for occupation because war veterans
had already planted maize on the properties and would only leave after
"That is the tragedy of the whole issue because you will find that some of
those people who invaded farms when the land crisis started were not allocated
land under the scheme and are still living illegally on the occupied farms,"
said one beneficiary who was allocated land in the Murewa district of
More than 27 000 individuals had by Tuesday this week been listed in the
state media as having been successful applicants under President Robert Mugabe's
fast-track land reform programme.
Efforts to get comment from Lands and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made or
Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, whose ministry is in charge of the
actual placement of the resettled farmers, were fruitless this week.
"By rushing to announce the names of people before the farms are ready for
occupation, the government could create conflict between the people who have
been allocated land and those who have planted on the farms because some of us
are keen to start working on our farms immediately," said another would-be
All the interviewees preferred not to be named for fear they could lose
their farms or plots or face retribution from marauding ZANU PF militia.
This newspaper also found that another impediment had been an apparent
breakdown in communication between Made's ministry and its district offices,
which had resulted in several successful applicants being turned away after
inquiring about the exact location of their plots.
"When I went to check at the local district office, I was told they were
waiting for information from head office before they could write to me stating
where I had been allocated land," said another successful applicant who was
given a small-scale farm in Makonde district of Mashonaland West province.
The analysts accused the government of trying to hoodwink the electorate
ahead of the crucial March 9-10 ballot in which Mugabe faces a stern challenge
from opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
The move is also seen as an attempt by Mugabe to mislead the international
community that an orderly land redistribution programme is taking place in
A rural and urban planning lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, who
spoke on condition of anonymity, said an orderly programme should have involved
a coordinated approach between the various government departments involved in
"The procedure should be fairly standard. Once new settlers get letters
from the district office, the district administrator's office should be able to
take them to the respective piece of land allocated to them," the lecturer
Reserve Bank Urged to Close Troubled Banks
Financial Gazette (Harare)
January 17, 2001
THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) has told the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe (RBZ) to close troubled institutions to avoid systemic risk to the rest
of the Zimbabwean financial sector.
The Bretton Woods institution, which sent a team to Harare last September
for the annual Article IV consultations with Zimbabwean authorities, said in a
report released after the consultations that the RBZ needs to exert strict
vigilance on the financial system, particularly with regard to provisioning and
"Non-viable institutions will need to be closed without delay," the
Washington-based body said.
According to the RBZ, several Zimbabwean financial institutions are exposed
to adversely classified loans and the central bank is currently reviewing
capital adequacy requirements.
A number of Zimbabwean financial institutions are said to be in the lurch
due to lax lending to top-ranking politicians as well as the exposure to
commercial agriculture whose viability has been hit by the government's chaotic
One of these institutions, the Universal Merchant Bank (UniBank), has been
under the management of a curator appointed by the RBZ in September 2000 to
protect depositors and creditors amid allegations the bank was severely
undercapitalised and exposed to non-performing loans.
Under Zimbabwean law, a troubled bank is supposed to be under curatorship
for 12 months after which its status is reviewed.
The fate of UniBank has therefore remained hazy despite interest shown in
it by a consortium of Zimbabwean and international investors who were last year
keen to inject fresh capital into the bank.
No comment was available from the RBZ this week on the fate of UniBank and
other non-viable institutions.
The decision to place UniBank under the management of a curator meant that
all deposits and assets held by the bank had been frozen for the past 16 months
and the curator was given powers to determine the extent of the bank's financial
The accepting house's problems were largely due to its exposure to
non-performing government loans. At the time of the central bank's action,
UniBank was owed over $600 million by government and quasi-government
Among its shareholders were Transnational Holdings Limited, Southampton
Assurance Company of Zimbabwe, Zimnat Investment Corporation, the Local
Authorities Pension Fund, the Catering Industry Pension Fund and the National
Railways of Zimbabwe Pension Fund.
Despite posting generally impressive financial results in the past two
years, most of the players in Zimbabwe's banking sector have had to contend with
the rising risk of non-performing loans due to the country's economic
Most of the institutions have been forced to increase provisions against
bad and doubtful debts due to the adverse economic conditions.
S.Africa braces for possible Zimbabwe refugee
CAPE TOWN, Jan. 17 — South Africa
has designated a disused military base near its northern border as a potential
reception centre for refugees fleeing neighbouring Zimbabwe in the event of what
one official called a ''meltdown''
Department spokesman Leslie Mashokwe said on Thursday a committee including
government, intelligence, police and defence officials had been set up to
monitor the situation in Zimbabwe, scene of growing political and economic
''They have identified
Artonvilla, an old South African National Defence Force complex near Messina, to
provide accommodation for refugees should the situation in Zimbabwe reach
meltdown,'' he said.
immigration officials, police and soldiers could be called up at any moment to
help handle a sudden influx of refugees, he added.
Fidellis Swai, regional spokesman for
the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, said the organisation was in touch with
the governments of all Zimbabwe's neighbours and would assist where necessary.
''At this stage there is no concrete
indication from our people on the ground that anyone is on the move. But we are
prepared for the worst and we can be on the scene within 24 hours if
necessary,'' he told Reuters.
the UNHCR had not prepositioned emergency supplies in anticipation of a
significant refugee crisis.
President Robert Mugabe is seeking to extend his 22-year rule in elections
called for March 9 and 10, campaigning mainly on the strength of his drive to
take farms from whites and redistribute them to landless blacks and military
But intimidation and violence
surrounding the drive and the election campaign have pushed the economy into
deep recession, with unemployment and inflation rising, food shortages looming
and a foreign exchange crisis causing fuel and other shortages.
The European Union, the United States
and Zimbabwe's African neighbours have all urged Mugabe to drop plans to ban
foreign observers and reporters and to ensure a free and fair poll.
South African President Thabo Mbeki has
refused to break ties with Mugabe, saying his country would bear the brunt of a
total economic or social collapse there and that his primary duty is to protect
his limited influence over Mugabe.
IMMIGRANTS STILL BEING SENT BACK
Defence spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi said the monitoring committee would respond to
requests for assistance from other departments but not take the lead in managing
a refugee crisis.
immigration officials said there had been no surge in the steady flow of illegal
immigrants from Zimbabwe over the past few months.
Britain has said it will stop deporting
refugees to Zimbabwe until after the March election, but South Africa is still
sending illegal immigrants back across the border every day.
One official said the Northern Province
administration had repatriated 5,058 Zimbabweans in November, adding: ''This is
around normal for this time of year.''
An earlier plan to stockpile tents to be used in an open-air exhibition area had
been dropped in favour of the plan to use empty barracks in old military bases
close to the border.
Zanu Pf to Seize Firms
Financial Gazette (Harare)
January 17, 2001
Sydney Masamvu, Political Editor
ZIMBABWE'S ruling ZANU PF party intends to seize foreign and
white-owned companies in major towns across the country if its candidate in the
March presidential ballot, Robert Mugabe, wins the election, it was established
Insiders in the party said ZANU PF, hard pressed for time, had temporarily
put these plans on hold until after the presidential ballot.
The plan is crafted along the lines of ZANU PF's often violent seizure of
white-owned commercial farms, launched in 2000 and has been chiefly responsible
for the current food shortages of the staple maize and bread.
The sources said ZANU PF had drawn up a list of foreign-owned companies
countrywide which it intends to take over should Mugabe win the poll.
The ruling party sees the owners of foreign-owned firms, especially those
with British interests, as being symphathetic to the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), whose leader Morgan Tsvangirai is seen winning the
According to the sources, business tycoons in ZANU PF - some of whom have
interests in several local companies - have been at the forefront of compiling
the hit list of companies to be taken over.
ZANU PF had wanted to seize foreign companies and white-owned commercial
farms before the presidential election but this had failed because of the
inordinately long time that had to be devoted to the party's controversial land
"We had planned to take over these companies as soon as we were through
with the land resettlement programme before the presidential elections but this
did not happen because of the long time we took on the land," a senior ZANU PF
member told the Financial Gazette.
"The plan has not been abandoned. We will pursue it vigorously," the
official, a member of the party's supreme Politburo, said.
"Depending on the outcome of the election, we will take over foreign and
other local companies, including those which are sponsoring and bankrolling the
MDC and are and championing the cause of our former colonial master, the
The official preferred not to be named.
Herbert Murerwa, the minister of industry and international trade, and ZANU
PF's external affairs head Didymus Mutasa could not be reached for immediate
The government accuses Britain of masterminding a plan to topple Mugabe, a
charge London dismisses as nonsense.
A sizeable number of firms in Zimbabwe's industrial sector are partly owned
by the British. Companies in the manufacturing sector and responsible for the
production of basic commodities are also on the targeted list, the sources
Mugabe has repeatedly warned that his government will seize firms which he
accuses of sabotaging the economy by creating shortages, charging exorbitant
prices for their commodities and closing down without any reason.
Last year ZANU PF supporters raided scores of Zimbabwean companies and
physically attacked several managers ostensibly to settle labour disputes in
violence that saw millions of dollars being extorted from these firms.
Some of these firms were closed because of the massive extortions, which
only stopped after South Africa threatened to shut down all its companies in
The police have yet to prosecute the culprits behind those invasions.
In the past month, ZANU PF has been approaching companies demanding
"donations" for its presidential election campaign, seen by most as another
Corporate banks, prominent businessmen and some firms listed on the
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange have been targeted to cough up these donations.
Tobacco Earnings Slump Below Target
Financial Gazette (Harare)
January 17, 2001
ZIMBABWE'S tobacco industry failed to meet its earnings target for last
year when its revenue tumbled below the US$400 million earned the previous year
as violent and disruptive farm seizures took their toll on the country's single
biggest hard cash earner.
A study by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), whose results
were seen by the Financial Gazette this week, shows that from a projected total
earnings of US$643.95 million for the 2001 crop, tobacco sales at the auction
floors last year netted only US$354.4 million.
The figure is US$43.6 million less than what was earned from the 2000
State-sponsored and often violent invasions of farms and the government's
own chaotic land reforms have brought Zimbabwe's commercial agriculture to a
With more than half of the country's commercial farms, including some of
its largest tobacco farms, now gazetted for acquisition by the government under
its land reforms, tobacco industry experts say Zimbabwe could soon lose its
status as the world's third largest tobacco exporter.
The disruptions of the land reforms to farming have already resulted in
serious food shortages because farmers have been unable to plant enough of the
staple maize and wheat.
As well as the reduced output caused by the farm disturbances, earnings for
tobacco farmers on the Zimbabwe auction floors were also hit hard by the
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) had last year arranged a US$380 million
offshore credit facility to enable buyers to buy tobacco at an exchange rate of
about $300 to one US dollar, which is far higher than the fixed official rate of
$55 to one greenback.
But, according to the TIMB study, buyers had on average paid an exchange of
$100 to one American dollar for tobacco. No explanation is given as to why this
As a result, the tobacco producers had earned an average US$1.75 per kg of
tobacco instead of US$3.18 per kg that had been expected following the RBZ's
A TIMB's report says: "A study carried out by TIMB on foreign currency
drawdown by buyers has revealed that the average exchange rate used for the
purchase of tobacco on the auction floors was $100 to US$1.
"This places the official average price for 2001 at US$1.75 per kg versus
US$3.18 per kg 'ticket' price. Actual US dollar earnings now amount to US$354.4
million versus US$643.95 million."
According to the report, earnings from the shipment of processed tobacco to
mostly European markets between January and December last year amounted to
US$594 million, reflecting a 13 percent rise from the previous year's earnings
of US$526 million.
The higher earnings from the exports of processed tobacco reflect the
firmer export prices in 2001 which averaged US$3 compared to US$2.91 per kg in
Two hundred million kgs of tobacco were sold at the country's auction
floors last year compared to 237 million kgs in 2000.
Last year mobs of government supporters burnt down significant numbers of
tobacco seedbeds and disrupted cropping operations, forcing farmers to grow 53
666 hectares of tobacco, down from the 75 000 hectares put under the crop in
Council Ordered to Rush Projects
Financial Gazette (Harare)
January 17, 2001
ZANU PF has ordered the Harare City Council to fast-track unbudgeted
new development projects worth more than $5 billion in several townships around
the capital in an attempt to win votes ahead of mayoral and presidential
elections on March 9 and 10, it was established this week.
The Financial Gazette this week toured a massive industrial shells
infrastructural project being developed by the municipality in Mbare and workers
on site said they had been ordered to complete the project in a record 15
Hundreds of factory shells being built on the site would be distributed to
residents before the election.
"We were ordered to work round the clock and on weekends. We laid this
complex network of sewer pipes within a record 10 days and now we will put the
shells in a few days' time. It is difficult to get things right under this kind
of pressure," a council engineer said.
The workers said as soon as they finished the Mbare project, they would
develop similar factory shells in Highfield, Budiriro and Mufakose, three
densely-populated townships which are also strongholds of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change.
"We suggested realistic deadlines for these projects but we were turned
down by the commission running Harare. We were told everything has to be
fast-tracked," another council engineer said.
The engineers, both of whom did not want to be named, said they had also
been told funds would be made available for the construction of new pump
stations and sewer treatment works in Mabvuku, Tafara, Chisipite and other
suburbs of Harare.
Although some of the projects had not been budgeted for in the Harare
municipality's $22.9 billion budget unveiled in May, the engineers said they had
been informed the cash-strapped government would help in the funding, even if it
meant that it had to print more money.
Recent reports say the Harare municipality is working on awarding an $8
billion contract to business tycoon Enock Kamushinda to refurbish the eyesore
Matapi hostels in Mbare, allegedly without going to tender.
The engineers said the refurbishment of the flats would go a long way
towards alleviating the plight of thousands of people who are living in abject
"The only good thing about these developments is that ZANU PF has realised
that unlike in the rural areas where it beats the rural folk into submission, it
can only buy support in the urban areas through delivering services," one of the
Apart from these projects, the ruling party had also directed the council
to go on a massive campaign to repair pot-holed roads and to clean up the city
with the help of militias trained at the Border Gezi Centre near Bindura.
Elijah Chanakira, head of the government-appointed commission running
Harare in the absence of an elected council, had not returned calls left at his
office by this newspaper up to the time of going to print.
Mugabe visits Congo to mark Kabila
HARARE, Jan. 17 —
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe left his troubled country on Thursday night
for Kinshasa to mark the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Congolese
leader Laurent Kabila, Zimbabwe state television reported.
who is battling a political crisis at home, is one of the Democratic Republic of
Congo government's key allies in a war against rebels backed by Rwanda and
Mugabe deployed more than
11,000 troops in the former Zaire in 1998 to back Kabila, who was shot dead by
one of his bodyguards last January and replaced by his son Joseph.
Wednesday was the first of three days
of mourning in Congo to mark the anniversaries of the deaths of Kabila and
Patrice Lumumba, the country's first democratically elected leader.
Critics of the Zimbabwean intervention
in Congo say some army officers are exploiting the mineral wealth of the central
African country locked in a three-year war that has killed some two million
people and sucked in six foreign armies.
Mugabe has come under increasing
international criticism over a government moves to restrict opposition ahead of
presidential elections on March 9-10.