From The Star (SA), 1 January
We downed Zim fighter plane, say Congo rebels
Kigali - The rebel Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) said on Saturday it had shot down a Zimbabwean MiG fighter plane as it attacked an MLC position in the north of the DRC. "At 14.30pm (1330 GMT) today a formation of three Zimbabwean MiGs came to bomb our position at Basankusu (in the northern Equateur province)," MLC chief Jean-Pierre Bemba said by satellite phone from his headquarters in Gbadolite. "We shot down one of these MiGs with a surface to air missile," he added, saying that two of the fighter planes were flying at low altitude to attack while the third was above for surveillance. The jet that had been hit tried to turn back towards Mbandaka, but burnt in the air, Bemba said, adding that a bomb aimed at the airport at Bansankusu had missed, but had injured one person.
DRC President Laurent Kabila's forces have begun bombing rebel positions in Equateur province and in Katanga, in the southeast of the country, over the past few days. Zimbabwe is one of Kabila's main supporters, along with Angola and Namibia, in the over two-year long war against rebel forces backed by Uganda and Rwanda.
From The Star (SA), 1 January
Ring of steel around Zim constituency
Harare - Police said on Monday they have beefed up security in a rural constituency in south-eastern Zimbabwe following the stabbing to death of a member of President Robert Mugabe's ruling party by suspected opposition supporters. On Saturday, Bernard Gara, a member of the governing Zanu-PF, was stabbed to death at a rural shopping centre in Bikita, allegedly by supporters of the MDC. The killing came just two weeks ahead of a by-election in the constituency, about 350 kilometres south of the capital, Harare. "We have increased our support unit details and we are closely monitoring the situation," provincial police spokesperson Arthur Makanda was quoted on Monday by the state daily, The Herald. The police said they had erected more roadblocks to check for arms, and are conducting more foot patrols in light of the incident. The attack on Gara, 42, occurred shortly after rallies addressed by several cabinet ministers and officials on behalf of the ruling party candidate running in the by-election, retired colonel Claudious Makova, the newspaper said.
The MDC supporters reportedly clashed with the Zanu-PF supporters who had attended the rallies. Makova claimed he was the main target of the attack which left scores of others, including MDC and Zanu-PF lawmakers who were present at the scene of the clashes, injured. "The MDC supporters wanted to get at me," Makova said, adding he was saved by a colleague who fired shots into the air to scare away opposition supporters. Meanwhile, the private Daily News reported that Zanu-PF supporters led by Zimbabwe war veteran leader Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi, petrol-bombed a Mercedes Benz vehicle belonging to a top MDC official who was in the area on Saturday. The constituency of Bikita West faces a by-election on January 13 and 14. Its parliamentary seat fell vacant when an MDC lawmaker, Amos Mutongi, died from illness last month. At least 34 people died and thousands more were beaten in political violence ahead of parliamentary elections held in June.
From The Daily News, 1 January
Wasakara song lands engineer in trouble
Police have arrested the engineer responsible for lighting during a musical show by Oliver Mtukudzi and South African singer Ringo Mandlingozi in Harare on Friday night, accusing him of inciting political sentiment during the concert. Wayne Bvudzijena, the police spokesman, confirmed yesterday police had arrested the engineer after he focused lights on a portrait of President Mugabe when Mtukudzi was playing his popular song, Wasakara.
The man was in charge of lighting and effects at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC), venue of the show. Bvudzijena could not give the name of the engineer, apart from saying he lived in Westgate, Harare and owned an electrical goods company in Harare. "I am told there was a lapse in lighting for some time at the concert," he said. "But when Wasakara started playing, he focused his lights on the portrait of the president." The HICC was packed on the night.
Bvudzijena said people started flashing red cards. The engineer would be charged under the Law and Order Maintenance Act and was likely to appear in court tomorrow, he said. "We can't turn such situations into political arenas," said Bvudzijena. "We must be mindful of what happened at the National Sports Stadium." Last year, 13 people died in a stampede during a match between Zimbabwe and South Africa at the stadium. Police alleged some people in the crowd were showing the open palm sign of the opposition MDC. Red cards have become part of MDC memorabilia. Riot police threw teargas into the crowd, causing the stampede. "We think the action of the engineer was aimed at inciting violence," said Bvudzijena. "If people want to be political, they should do so at political rallies."
But Tami Msimanga, manager of The Sports Diner, organisers of the concert, said he did not notice anything sinister when the song was being played. He said the lights were being switched on and off during the whole show. It could have been a coincidence that the lights were switched on when the song was being played, he said. Wasakara has become popular in the clubs with fans. The song has been the subject of different interpretations, with many taking it as a political message about leaders who cling to power.
From The Daily News, 1 January
Cop assaults Daily News deputy news editor
Julius Zava, The Daily News Deputy News Editor, was on Saturday stopped at a police roadblock and later assaulted by a war veteran policeman for working for an organisation he alleged was critical of President Mugabe and his government. Said Zava: "At about 8.49am, the traffic police alleged I had driven through a red light along Seke Road, which was not true because less than a 100 metres away there was a policeman flagging down vehicles in the middle of the road and I could see him clearly." Zava said he told them he would argue his case in court. "They were angry with me when I tried to phone Superintendent Wayne Bvudzijena to ask the officers to give me a ticket as they threatened to lock me up until after the New Year holiday," said Zava.
The officer forced him into the back of the company car, his family having been ordered out. The officer said: "You are stupid, even chefs (the powers-that-be) know you. I will teach you a lesson." On the way the policeman accused the newspaper of inciting the people against President Mugabe. "When we reached the third floor at Harare Central police station he slapped me four times in the face sending my glasses flying to the floor. It was in a dark corridor and nobody could hear me except the two officers who were accompanying the constable. "He took off his trousers and showed me a scar on the inside thigh, saying "I fought for this country, for Mugabe. Look at this scar". He again hit me in the face," said Zava.
He said he pleaded for mercy, thinking of his family in the middle of nowhere, without money. "I agreed to pay a fine under duress, fearing for my life and the handcuffs had cut into my flesh," he said. Zava said the constable forced him to write a statement saying: "I am sorry that I behaved in a manner, as police advised me, which incited others to go against the State." Zava was treated at Parirenyatwa Hospital for bruises and concussion and was given a medical report. After paying the fine Zava returned the vehicle to The Daily News office. He then phoned the officer commanding traffic, who was very helpful and asked him to go to the police station to see an Inspector Muzenda. He received a pleasant reception from the two officers, including the one to take down his statement.
"This is when I realised that it is true that war veterans within the force have their own political agenda." A wiser Zava said journalists, especially those working for organisations known to be vocal against misgovernance, should be on guard. He said there were CIO operatives masquerading as policemen who could make trouble for staffers of organisations critical of government policies. Zava was asked by Muzenda to report tomorrow. The officer who beat him up has been ordered to write a report on the incident.
As I celebrated the commencement of another new year last night with my family I spent some time reflecting over the events of the past year and in particular I thought of the wonderful start to last year I had waking up early in the Matopos (we saw in 2000 camping with friends in the bush) on a gloriously fresh New Year's day. I was aware of the major battles that faced Zimbabwe on that day but had little inkling of the dramatic events that would unfold in the course of the year.
It is useful to look back on 1st January 2000; for in doing so we are all reminded of just what has been achieved this past year despite the chaotic and grave situation facing Zimbabwe today and, more importantly, we are given hope for this coming year. I have always said that Zimbabwe will only prosper and reach her true potential when democracy is established and entrenched; the achievement of democracy is not event but a painful and laborious process. As we look back on last year we can see that some major steps in that process were taken and the process will continue this year because the process is inevitable and unstoppable.
Ponder the following facts:
1. On the 1st January 2000 (yesterday) we were in the midst of fighting against the foisting on Zimbabwe of a new undemocratic Constitution which would have entrenched Mugabe's power even further. We were up against a $50 million propaganda campaign conducted by some cunning academics who gave the exercise the pretence of objectivity. On the 1st January 2001 (today) that draft Constitution has been consigned to the dustbin of history.
2. Yesterday ZANU(PF) had 117 elected members of Parliament and the opposition only 3. Today ZANU(PF) has 62 (40 of which are shortly to be challenged in Court) and the opposition have 57 (a further seat is up for grabs soon).
3. Yesterday Parliament was a rubber stamp for the Politburo, an institution designed to present a facade of democracy. Today Parliament is a vibrant institution, a place the dinosaurs in the Politburo hate to visit.
4. Yesterday Mugabe and his henchmen had the odd skirmish with the Judiciary but were able to maintain the belief held internationally that the courts were respected and the rule of law upheld. Today that facade has been blown away and Mugabe et al have declared open war on the Judiciary. An indelible stain on ZANU(PF)'s reputation has so been created.
5. Yesterday big business, and many in the farming community, entertained the naive belief that ultimately they could do business with ZANU(PF) and that democracy was not the sine qua non of development and long term stability. Today these sectors are finally listening to those who have preached democracy so long and are asking what they can do to help.
6.Yesterday the international community did not understand the depth of depravity of Mugabe and his henchmen and accordingly did not appreciate that for so long as they remained in power there could never be long term stability and good development prospects for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. Today they understand full well and now too are doing what they can to help.
7. Yesterday leaders in the region believed that Mugabe could be persuaded to do the right thing in the best interests of Zimbabwe and the region. Today they understand that he is only interested in one thing: his own political survival and doesn't care a damn for Zimbabwe, its people or its neighbours. In the past year we have seen Mugabe publicly criticised by African icons: Archbishop Desmond Tutu described him as a caricature of all that was bad in African politics and Nelson Mandela called on Mugabe to step down from office.
8. Yesterday our businesses were surviving, but struggling and on a slow but sure slide down into oblivion so long as ZANU(PF)'s policies continued unchecked. Today many businesses are barely alive but at least now there is help awaiting in the form of an alternative government with the right policies and an international community which is anxious to assist when the time is right.
9. Yesterday ZANU(PF) was confident that it could rely on the army to sustain its grip on power and the opposition had no assurance that a democratic transition would be honoured by the military. Today morale in the army is at its lowest ebb (with troops not being fully paid in the Congo and some of our troops having had the humiliation of retreat into Zambia) and ZANU(PF) has to rely on a rag tag force of semi geriatric war veterans to stay in power.
10. Yesterday Mugabe was confident that he would be able to withdraw our troops from Congo quickly and with honour. Today the peace accord is in disarray and the UN is adamant that it will not deploy a peace force unless all foreign armies are removed first, which is the ultimate Catch 22 for Mugabe.
11. Yesterday there was no alternative government and most were resigned to making do with what they had, ZANU(PF). Today there is a very viable alternative government waiting in the wings and eager to put things right quickly.
12. Yesterday Mugabe had reasonably high approval ratings and Morgan Tsvangirai was relatively unknown in the rural areas. Today Mugabe enjoys 4% support in Harare, 13% countrywide, whereas Morgan Tsvangirai is now a household name countrywide, including the rural areas and enjoys massive support.
13. Yesterday the Presidential election seemed light years away. Today it is just round the corner.
14. Yesterday ZANU(PF) was relatively united and the likes of Eddison Zvobgo, Cyril Ndebele and Michael Mataure gave the party wisdom and respectability. Today ZANU(PF) is more divided than ever and has to rely on Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi, Border Gezi and Professor Jonathan Moyo for wisdom and respectability as it plans to fight the Presidential election.
15. Yesterday many Zimbabweans did not even know of the MDC let alone whether it was united behind its multi ethnic and multi racial leadership. Today the world knows that men and women, Ndebele and Shona, black and white are united behind the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda and the MDC is not only a force to be reckoned with but is more united than ever.
16. Yesterday brutes like Obert Mpofu and Emmerson Mnangagwa were MPs and many wondered whether Zimbabweans would be brave enough to vote out men of their ilk. Today the lions of Bubi-Umguza and Kwe Kwe, Jacob Thabane and Blessings Chebundo respectively, take Mpofu and Mnangagwa's seats in Parliament and embody the bravery of the vast majority of Zimbabweans who have shown that they will vote for democracy in the face of massive intimidation.
17. Yesterday the 70% of Zimbabweans who live in the rural areas were largely unaware of the alternative provided by the MDC and the thinking of the majority of townsfolk because of ZANU(PF)'s tight control of broadcasting. Today those same rural folk are aware and are demonstrating their support for this alternative by attending rural rallies and meetings at venues as far flung as Brunapeg and Buhera in their thousands.
18. Yesterday we enjoyed the warmth and fellowship of many dear friends, loved ones and colleagues such as Patrick Nabanyama and David Stevens. Today, in remembering that they are no longer with us and the cruel way they were taken from us, we are all the more determined to strive this year to ensure that their deaths in the fight for democracy will not be in vain.
Friends, I could go on. The point is that although this year has been traumatic massive strides have been made towards our goal of making Zimbabwe a more humane and democratic society. All the events described above have happened in just one year. Despite all the wicked actions perpetrated by evil men, despite all the vast resources used by those evil men against those struggling for freedom, despite all the propaganda, despite all the destruction wrought against innocent people, the fact remains that those evil men are weaker, greatly weaker, than they were a year ago. Those same evil men will continue to plot but rest assured they also will continue to weaken. In fact in this past year Mugabe's back and ZANU(PF)'s back have been broken. They are still politically alive and lashing out but they will never be the same force again. All we have to do is to remain resolute and to take heed of these wonderful words of Lord Alfred Tennyson:
"Tho' much is taken, much abides, and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven: that which we are, we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
1st January, 2001
The MDC Presidentís New Year Message to The Nation
Today our nation, together with the rest of humanity, will be celebrating the advent of both a new year and a new millennium. We in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) join the nation and the rest of the world in commemorating this important day. I, therefore, take this opportunity to wish you all and the rest of the world peace, stability, freedom of choice, tolerance, good governance and, above all, prosperity.
Important occasions like the one before us call on us to reflect on our individual past and ponder on our collective future. The past year has been a year of both success and immense difficulty, especially in our quest for the noble cause of justice and democracy. Against the above, the democratic alternative in Zimbabwe succeeded in mobilising for a landmark change of the national and regional political landscape A new political mood is now evident in our country: a mood of hope and renewal; a mood of conquest against the politics of personal survival and a culture of intolerance, violence and greed. On the horizon, indeed, is the hope that with the extra mile the restoration of the people's power is well nigh. We rejoice in these triumphs for democracy and the democratic alternative. But shall the forces of yesteryear not desire, like always, to reverse these noble and historic gains.
In the year concluding, the election-representatives of the democratic alternative in Zimbabwe scored major successes. Against a background of a hostile government, a highly politicised state machinery and meagre resources the masses displayed courage and resolve. Victory was delivered against a violent, intolerant and arrogant Zanu PF, first at the constitutional referendum and later in 57 of the 120 Parliamentary seats on offer for contest. Together, the democratic alternative won 58 seats. I must point out, at this juncture, that though the opposition was victorious in 58 of the 120 contested constituencies, the total national vote in its favour surpassed that of Zanu PF by 38 000. The democratic alternative in Zimbabwe, therefore, represents the majority national sentiment. In fact, the outcome of the Marondera West by-election confirms that the national representativeness of the MDC remains in good stead in spite of the severe state-sponsored intimidation and physical force against the opposition. The resolve of the people must be commended.
The Party (MDC) participated in the June election against a background of both an uneven playing field and a state and its machinery that was determined not to respect fair play. The election process was marred by state-sponsored violence and vote rigging. The masses in their numbers defied the
forces of self-preservation and participated in the election process. We (MDC) have challenged the election results in 38 constituencies where intimidation and vote irregularities were rampant. You are aware that government has increased its efforts of entrenching the culture of violence as a means of staying in power. The perpetrators of political violence were granted a presidential pardon while the government has embarked on a new on5laught against the judiciary. Nonetheless, it is our hope that the courts will remain non-partisan and continue to be impartial by upholding the rule of law and rule against anarchy.
With 57 seats in Parliament the MDC recognised its own limitations in delivering its manifesto and programme. We recognised that the party only has the ability to block constitutional amendments but does not have the same ability with respect to ordinary legislation and that, above all, we do not have the ability alone to legislate. We, therefore, have to live with the reality that we are not the government of the day.
Cognisant of the important role the Party can still play in Parliament it was agreed that we redefine our agenda to suit the reality before us. Accordingly, the role of our Parliamentary caucus was defined to focus on the watchdog role by demanding accountability of state Institutions and demanding the opening up of books. In our view this role is important if accountability is to return to the national management systems. Through various motions, questions and contributions to Parliamentary debate this task has been well accomplished. In waiting are the impeachment proceedings of President Robert Mugabe for his acts of failing to act as the custodian of the constitution that now stand before Parliament. The Parliamentary agenda of the MDC while progressing very well meets with the resistance from the Zanu PF caucus.
Post Election Agenda
After the election we had hoped that the government would accept the verdict of the people and, therefore, give due recognition to the Party as the official opposition and more importantly as the bona fide representative of a significant body of national sentiment. We had anticipated that the institution of Parliament would be engaged as a means of seeking national consensus and co-operation especially on the three critical issues of:
a) returning the country to the rule of law to allow national space for planning, investment and saving;
b) arresting the current economic meltdown through national confidence building in the critical national institutions and formation of a national view on the
fundamental economic questions and;
c) seeking a genuine national solution to the land issue. We acknowledge that the tragedy of land reform in Zimbabwe is not about land redistribution but about the unrealised end to economic marginalisation of the vast majority. Of the 75 000 families and individuals resettled by 1990 or so, 99 percent remain on the extreme periphery of the desired national goal of empowerment. A national land reform programme must focus not only on land redistribution but also on the provision of national resources, infrastructure and a supportive environment. Unfortunately, co-operation from the government has not been forthcoming. Instead it has chosen the route of arrogance, deceptive rhetoric and outright physical hostility to the alternative national views. I must reiterate that the problems In this country will not go away by this hostility and deceptive rhetoric. Instead, as the economic problems multiply the people's restive mood will only intensify.
We enter the year 2001 with the realisation that the Zanu PF government will block any initiatives from the democratic alternatives, especially from the MDC. Our preoccupation should not just be with the personality of Robert Gabriel Mugabe but with sustainable national survival. There will be those who are looking for quick fixes. May I appeal for their patience. And yet again there will be those that do not appreciate that we are confronted with an undemocratic environment. May I urge them to fight for change and not wait for it. The destiny of Zimbabwe lies in our collective hands.
As we enter the new year it is important that we focus properly on the challenges of the year ahead. We have to ask ourselves whether a sustainable process of change can be delivered by lack of foresight and the exchange of rationality and patience for short term gains. The deeply entrenched governance system that denies people political space, making them accountable to the rulers without reciprocity is what we ask to be condemned to the dustbins of history. The task ahead requires that we tread carefully considering every move that we make and pool together all our efforts in ensuring that we achieve our goal. Only by this way are we sure that a new beginning is delivered to the political culture of our treasured nation. No effort should be spared in ensuring that the people mobilise in pursuit of this noble goal.
Once again I wish you a prosperous New Year. I thank you.