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

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ABC News

Ruling party lawyers slams proposed Zimbabwe media curbs

The Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) The embattled government of President Robert Mugabe
suffered a major setback Tuesday when one of its own lawmakers attacked
proposed legislation to gag the media. The attack raised the specter of a
split in the ruling party.
Eddison Zvogbo, head of the parliament's legal committee, described the
media legislation as "the most calculated and determined assault" on the
nation's constitutional rights to free expression since independence from
colonial rule two decades ago.

In a report read to the 150-seat parliament in Harare, the legal committee
reminded lawmakers they had sworn an oath vowing to uphold the constitution,
and recommended that they reject the proposed legislation.

Zvogbo, a founding member of the ruling party, said at least 20 clauses of
the poposed legislation violate three sections of the constitution.

Parliament has the power to ignore the committee.

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill would give the
government and the information minister broad powers to license journalists,
register media organizations under strict terms laid down by the state and
impose severe penalties for infringements.

It would set up a state-appointed media commission with disciplinary powers
to withdraw licenses, confiscate equipment and draw up charges against
journalists with a penalty of up to two years in jail.

The bill also proposes banning foreign reporters from manning international
media offices in Zimbabwe, which would have to be run by Zimbabwean citizens
or immigrants with permanent residence status.

The bill was first raised in Parliament in December by Information Minister
Jonathan Moyo, but failed to garner enough support to be passed.

Moyo, appointed a minister after parliamentary elections in 2000 the ruling
party narrowly won, has become a close aide to Mugabe, angering many party
veterans and raising the specter of a split over his burgeoning power in the
ruling elite.

Amendments to the bill's wording were proposed by the Justice Ministry
earlier this month after the government admitted some of its provisions
lacked clarity.

The main opposition accused the government of including the media curbs in a
package of repressive laws to muzzle criticism ahead of presidential
elections March 9-10 in which Mugabe, 77, is fighting for political survival
after holding power since independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe has come under intense international pressure to restore the rule
of law after nearly two years of often violent seizures of white-owned farms
and to ensure free and fair presidential elections.

The European Union and the United States are proposing targeted sanctions
against government leaders.

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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 15:26 GMT
UN plays waiting game with Zimbabwe
UN Security Council meeting
The UN is not ready to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe
Greg Barrow

In the eyes of the United Nations, Zimbabwe is still just a simmering problem that has yet to boil over and affect the whole region of southern Africa.

As long as that remains the case, the UN is unlikely to follow the European Union down the route of threatening to impose sanctions.

I think we should give the region a chance to see what can be done.

Jagdish Koonjul, Mauritian Ambassador to the UN
Bodies like the UN Security Council, which would be responsible for organising sanctions, only tend to get involved when internal conflicts threaten to spill over borders, and become international problems.

Zimbabwe has not reached that stage yet, and although it has become a hot topic of conversation behind closed doors, and in the corridors of the UN headquarters in New York, UN diplomats try to avoid speaking publicly about President Robert Mugabe, and his latest quest to hang on to power.

It is a softly-softly diplomatic approach dictated partly by fears that any attempt to engage President Mugabe is counter-productive.

"I've stopped talking about Zimbabwe," one prominent UN diplomat confided recently, "The problem is that every time I open my mouth, his eminence goes into nuclear meltdown."

Kofi Annan

About the only person prepared to speak is the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and his utterances are extremely rare.

This month, Mr Annan gave President Mugabe a nudge, urging him to respect freedom of political association, and freedom of the media in the run up to elections scheduled for March.

It was the first time that the secretary-general had said anything about Zimbabwe in more than a year.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe has clamped down on the media
Observers of the Zimbabwe political scene are, however, encouraged by Kofi Annan's words.

John Prendergast, the author of a recent report on Zimbabwe for the International Crisis Group, says comments like this offer encouragement to those struggling under repressive regimes.

"Secretary General Annan's comments may not be all that decisive in influencing President Mugabe, or his leadership," John Prendergast says.

"But what it will do is reinforce the fortitude of those groups, those civil organisations, the political opposition and even those within the ruling party, who are struggling to preserve or strengthen democracy, and sometimes that's all that you can do."

Tough approach

Human rights activists are, however, calling for a much more robust approach.

Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, argues that gentle diplomacy is not the answer to the bully-boy tactics of President Mugabe and his governing Zanu-PF party.

"Clearly, if he's sponsoring crimes of violence, we should be talking about prosecution," he says.

"We should be looking at things like freezing his bank accounts, restricting his travel, doing things that he and his entourage would care about.

"Those are the kinds of sanctions that are meaningful, and targeted, and might actually work."

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan urged Mr Mugabe to respect political freedom
This is the approach that the European Union appears to be taking. But at the moment, there is little appetite for this kind of strategy at the UN.

African nations, even Zimbabwe's closest neighbours who have suffered from the economic fallout of the problems next door, have been the least enthusiastic about getting the UN involved in Zimbabwe's problems.

As a member of the Southern African Development Community, Mauritius is aware of the need for stability in Zimbabwe.

But the Mauritian Ambassador to the UN, Jagdish Koonjul, preaches patience when it comes to calls for UN intervention, and argues that regional diplomatic initiatives should be left to run their course.

"I think we should give the region a chance to see what can be done," he says.

"I'm sure we will be able to find solutions there. We are confident that Africa has the resources, and the wisdom to deal with these problems. It's just a question of time."


These are words that would be welcomed in Harare, where any outside interference is likely to be resisted.

Zimbabwe's Ambassador to the United Nations, Joseph Jokonya believes that if the UN is to get involved in his country, it should only be to offer assistance.

Any interference in domestic political affairs will be regarded with deep suspicion.

"The United Nations is used by the major powers," he said.

"There is no question about that, and the secretary-general, the UN agencies, should always be aware that the countries of the South will scrutinise their actions, and there will always be some suspicion about manipulation of the UN by the major powers."

What looks like manipulation to some, is seen as creative diplomacy by others.

For the moment, the UN is doing neither.

Instead, it is leaving the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United States to apply the pressure, and raise the threat of targeted sanctions in an attempt to persuade the leadership in Zimbabwe to respect the rules of democracy.

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New Zealand Herald

Zimbabwe faces civil war unless dictator reined in

The Commonwealth continues to tiptoe around Robert Mugabe's blatant abuses
of human rights and democratic processes, writes BISH McWATT.
The obscenity that is the Zimbabwean Government of Robert Mugabe was
illustrated in two news items little more than a week apart.

The Zimbabwean Financial Gazette of December 5 reported: "Huge quantities of
guns and ammunition are also being imported into Zimbabwe, including a
consignment of 20 wagons ... that was said to have left Beira destined for
Harare this week."

Then in the New Zealand Herald of December 15: "The United Nations food
agency wants $US54 million from international donors to provide emergency
food aid for half a million people in Zimbabwe."

This image of Mr Mugabe with a begging bowl in one hand and cash for guns in
the other is the tragedy of Zimbabwe today.

The Commonwealth has tiptoed around this situation for more than two years.
South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia manage a
level of self-deception and appeasement that bodes ill for the future of
democracy in that part of Africa.

The white Commonwealth is scarcely less accommodating. It seems that if a
black government engages in murder, torture, kidnapping and denial of basic
human and political rights, only muted noises are made.

An example of the weak-kneed Commonwealth reaction to Mr Mugabe's duplicity
arose out of last September's failed Ajuba Agreement, by which Zimbabwe was
to "take action against intimidation and violence", stop "further occupation
of farmlands, restore the rule of law" and commit "to freedom of

In return, international financial help for a land reform programme would be

Yet between the time of the agreement and the arrival of a Commonwealth
delegation to see if its terms had been implemented, violence and land
occupations continued, legislation was drafted by the Zanu-PF Government to
further restrict civil liberties and democratic processes and police
remained loyal to the ruling party rather than the law.

The Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Made, tried to deceive the delegation
about the true nature of the situation. The subterfuge was uncovered only
when a white farmer, defying threats of retribution and intimidation, read a
statement to the delegation.

The lengths to which Mr Mugabe is willing to go makes a mockery of the norms
of honest political engagement. Despite this, when the ministers of the
Southern African Development Community met in late December, the Malawi
Foreign Minister, Lilian Patel, stated that she was "gratified to learn
violence had reduced significantly".

Perhaps she should have read the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum report for
November - six deaths or executions, eight kidnappings, 881 cases of
property damage and 115 cases of rape or torture. It tells of people having
their heads forced into ant-bear holes, having their mouths filled with sand
and being beaten by gangs armed with chains, sticks and rubber hoses.

Unless official visitors are willing to go into the countryside and speak to
the victims, Mr Mugabe's henchmen will see that a sanitised view is
presented. No wonder he does not want foreign election monitors unless they
are toadies from states he can rely upon.

Not that much faith can be put even into impartial monitors. The perversion
of the electoral system has been going on for at least two years. Tens of
thousands of disenfranchised workers from white farms are starving
throughout the countryside. Armed Zanu-PF supporters have made sure they
will not appear on voting rolls or at polling stations.

New laws are so restrictive that even white Zimbabweans find it difficult to
get registered or find that, having done so, their names do not appear on
the rolls.

Unless monitors are in Zimbabwe now, unless there are enough to saturate the
rural areas, and unless they are not just from countries approved by Mr
Mugabe, the results of the elections will be a travesty of democracy.

The opposition MDC, unable to gain access to state-run television, attacked
by state-supported Zanu-PF militias and denied protection by a politicised
police force and court system, struggles to get its message across.

In the last week of December four of its members were killed, including
Titus Nheya, a parliamentary candidate. MDC provincial offices have been
burned down or vandalised by Government supporters. This included the office
in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, where a mob of about 1000, who
arrived from Harare by train, looted shops and attacked people in the
street. Then, watched by the police, they hurled petrol bombs at the MDC

They then moved to the city hall where staff, council workers and scores of
whites were beaten up simply because municipal elections had returned an MDC
mayor. The police made no arrests.

On the other hand, a protest march of about 50 MDC supporters in Harare was
dispersed by riot police armed with shotguns and tear gas. Several arrests
were made.

All this was in the name of land reform, which is undeniably needed. But
there can be little confidence in the way it is being carried out.

Mr Mugabe has had more than 20 years to initiate a just and efficient system
of reform that would have preserved the productive capacity of Zimbabwean
farming and its ability to feed its own people, export surpluses, bring in
foreign income for development of the county and finance the declining rural
infrastructure. In all these areas there has been abject failure.

Cathy Buckle, author of African Tears, had this to say after touring the
areas around her abandoned farm: "I ... travelled a couple of hundred
kilometres and saw for myself the state of the crops on Zimbabwean farms. On
the entire ... journey there were less than a dozen fields on the roadside
growing a saleable crop. Of these not one was maize, Zimbabwe's staple food.
There were many dozens of little patches, some perhaps as big as one acre,
where newly settled farmers have claimed a vast field and managed to plant
only a minute fraction of it with food.

"Zimbabwe's newly settled farmers have not planted enough food for
themselves, let alone surplus with which to support 13 million Zimbabweans
... vast environmental degradation lies along the roadsides for us all to

This peasantisation of agriculture is guaranteed to produce periodic famine.
It is already producing the migration of the hungry and those with globally
marketable skills. It flies in the face of all modern agricultural systems
necessary to support an urbanising and modernising society in Zimbabwe.

The irony is that the corruption and mismanagement that halted international
aid for reform more than two years ago still goes on. Last month, the head
of Zimbabwe's police, Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, arrived on a white
farm and told the owner he had two weeks to vacate because Chihuri was the
new owner.

This, along with a 100 per cent pay rise for the police and Army, means
there are considerable advantages to being a Government supporter.

There are about 40 days to go to the presidential elections. Unless the
result is a victory for democracy and human rights, the initial stages of a
civil war will follow soon after. What alternative is there?

And part of the responsibility for this will lie with those who failed to
put pressure on the Zimbabwe regime soon enough or strongly enough.

* Bish McWatt is a retired Auckland teacher.

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Zimbabwe legal panel slams tough media bill

HARARE, Jan. 29 — Zimbabwe's parliamentary legal committee said on Tuesday a
tough new media bill threatened free speech and gave the government
''frightening powers'' to control the press ahead of the March presidential
The committee is dominated by the ruling ZANU-PF party, but said in a highly
critical report that the draft law violated the constitution despite
amendments aimed at appeasing opponents.
       ''I can say without equivocation that this bill in the original form
was the most calculated and determined assault on our liberties guaranteed
by the constitution...,'' committee chairman and former cabinet minister
Eddison Zvobgo said in a report read to parliament.
       ''It is still a matter of regret that some unconstitutional
provisions still remain. It is for that reason that the bill remains
unconstitutional,'' Zvobgo said. Parliament could still override the
committee and pass the legislation, he added.
       Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said he would hold talks with the
legal committee with a view to making more amendments to ensure the bill's
passage through parliament.
       He is due to have private talks with the legal committee at 0730 GMT
on Wednesday, several hours before parliament begins debating the media bill
at 1230 GMT.
       The proposed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill,
which has been delayed for weeks by procedural problems and internal ZANU-PF
wrangling, would restrict access for foreign reporters and impose tight
controls on local media.
       The legislation has been sharply criticised by Western states and
media groups, which say it would undermine press freedom in the country
ahead of the March 9-10 election.

       Attorney General Andrew Chiguvare said some clauses could be
tightened, but added: ''I do not agree that this bill generally is
unconstitutional and should be thrown away.''
       ZANU-PF holds 93 of the 150 seats in parliament, but ruling party
legislators have clashed over the legislation. Last week Zvobgo had a verbal
spat in parliament with Chinamasa who accused the legal committee of
dragging its feet on the bill.
       Zvobgo commended the government on Tuesday for trying to amend the
legislation, but said his committee still found 20 clauses which violated
the constitution.
       These included provisions for the licensing and registration of
journalists and media groups, restrictions on freedom of expression, and
excessive powers for the information minister.
       ''Ask yourselves whether it is rational for a government in a
democratic and free society to require registration, licences and
ministerial certificates in order for people to speak. It is a sobering
thought,'' Zvobgo said.
       The committee was especially critical of a proposed state-appointed
commission which would have the power to license journalists, enforce
standards and conduct investigations.
       ''The Ministry of Publicity and Information seeks to grant themselves
frightening powers, acting through its commission,'' the report said.
       Critics say the bill is part of President Robert Mugabe's drive to
silence opposition before the election, in which he faces the biggest test
to his leadership since steering the former Rhodesia to independence in
       A bill signed into law by Mugabe last week criminalises criticism of
the president.
       The original media bill would have barred foreigners from working as
correspondents in Zimbabwe. The revised version will allow those with
permanent residence to work in Zimbabwe, but journalists who are not
citizens or permanent residents will be restricted.
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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 18:16 GMT
Mugabe's party split over media law
Zimbabwe parliament
Zanu-PF has a two-thirds majority in parliament
The much-delayed parliamentary debate on a controversial media law in Zimbabwe has got off to a bad start for President Robert Mugabe.

A member of parliament from his Zanu-PF party has condemned it as "unconstitutional".

This bill in the original form was the most calculated and determined assault on our liberties

Eddison Zvobgo
Mr Mugabe has reacted angrily to the European Union's threat to impose sanctions on him and his close associates, accusing the EU of "demonising" Zimbabwe.

On Wednesday, Commonwealth ministers will consider what action, if any, to take against Mr Mugabe.

The media bill would give the government tight control on all journalists operating in the country and foreign correspondents would only be allowed in to cover specific events.


Journalists would have to apply to a government appointed commission for a licence every year and risk two years in prison for breaking a long list of regulations.

The government had originally wanted to pass the bill last year and debate has been delayed on several occasions following criticism from journalists, the international community and southern African leaders.

Newspaper billboards
Zimbabwe's media is divided along political lines

Some aspects of the bill have been toned down but journalists still plan to take it to court as soon as it is passed by parliament, where Zanu-PF has a two-thirds majority.

"I can say without equivocation that this bill in the original form was the most calculated and determined assault on our liberties guaranteed by the constitution," said Eddison Zvobgo, chairman of the parliamentary legal committee which vets all legislation.

Mr Zvobgo is a member of Zanu-PF but is a long-standing rival of Mr Mugabe and was sacked from cabinet in 2000.

He has some following among other Zanu-PF MPs.

"It is still a matter of regret that some unconstitutional provisions still remain. It is for that reason that the bill remains unconstitutional," he told parliament.


Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said that the bill would be passed later on Tuesday, despite the criticism.

The state-owned Herald newspaper said Mr Mugabe blamed Britain in particular for prompting the decision to impose targeted sanctions if EU election observers are not allowed to deploy within a week.

President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe came in for heavy criticism from African leaders

Mr Mugabe said he would allow international observers to attend the forthcoming polls, but would bar observers from Britain, the former colonial power.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which is due to meet in London on Wednesday, may also consider recommending that Zimbabwe be suspended from the international grouping.

Political violence has increased in recent weeks, ahead of the elections, which are scheduled for 9-10 March.


A decision to suspend Zimbabwe can only be taken by the Commonwealth heads of state.

They next meet in Australia, which begins on 2 March, just days before Zimbabwe's polls.

Farm workers whose homes were burned
Political violence is increasing

Several EU members were said to be reluctant to impose immediate sanctions, such as the freezing of assets abroad, arguing that it would give Mr Mugabe's government an excuse to exclude monitors.

But UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who has been pressing his EU colleagues for sanctions, said it was time to put President Mugabe "on the spot".

According to the Herald, Mr Mugabe said the EU was demonising Zimbabwe despite the fact that the country had a tradition of regular and democratic elections.

African observers

Officials in Malawi said that at least 39 southern African parliamentarians were scheduled to observe the polls in Zimbabwe.

The Associated Press news agency said that lawmakers from the Southern African Development Community - a 14-nation economic bloc - would arrive in Zimbabwe at least a month ahead of the elections.

The sanctions threat has been welcomed by the Zimbabwean pro-democracy pressure group, the National Constitutional Assembly.

Spokeswoman Perpetua Bganya told the BBC that the Zimbabwean electorate was currently living in extreme fear, even government supporters.

She said the presence of international observers might give people the confidence to go out and vote.

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Amnesty International

Zimbabwe: No confidence in the electoral process without local election

As international pressure grows on Zimbabwe to accept the immediate
deployment of observers for upcoming presidential elections, now less than
40 days away, Amnesty International calls upon the Commonwealth Ministerial
Action Group and the European Union to insist that local monitors should
also be involved in monitoring the polls.

"International and regional observers, even if they are allowed into
Zimbabwe in the next week, would work best alongside local civil society
observers who are experienced in detecting vote rigging," Amnesty
International said. "International promotion and protection of human rights
should be a partnership between Zimbabwean civil society and the
international community," the organisation said.

Amnesty International appealed to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group,
meeting in London on 30 January, to press Zimbabwe to allow its own civil
society to scrutinise the conduct of the presidential elections on 9 and 10
March without state interference.

Amendments to the election code passed into law in December 2001 created a
government-controlled body that will accredit only those local, regional and
international observers who have been invited by the foreign affairs
minister or the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) to observe the 9 to
10 March election. This provision contains the risk that only members of the
Zimbabwe civil society whose political opinion government approves of will
be allowed to observe the election.

Further, the new changes to the election code allow only chosen civil
service employees to actually monitor the vote count. Only monitors, as
opposed to observers, may bring irregularities in the conduct of the poll to
the authorities' attention. Previously, in the June 2000 parliamentary
elections, domestic Zimbabwean monitors played a key role in detecting
attempts to rig the polls.

Other stipulations in the new electoral code bans any foreign donations for
voter education, limits all voter education materials to those approved by
the ESC, and threatens six months imprisonment for anyone not registered by
the ESC carrying out voter education.

Amnesty International reaffirms the views of the local chapter of
Transparency International, which noted that a "prerequisite for a fair
electoral process is the independent monitoring of the poll - by
international but also by domestic observers."

The organisation this week mobilised its worldwide membership to ask
parliamentarians abroad to contact Zimbabwean members of parliament to
provide them with encouragement and call attention to any violent attacks
against them - amid a government crack-down on campaigning.

Two rallies by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been broken up
recently. Last week, some 25 MDC supporters were arrested in Bulawayo by
police after ruling party supporters blocked their rally. Police acted in a
clearly partisan manner by allowing the Zimbabwe African National Union -
Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to prevent a lawful, peaceful assembly. On the
weekend, further reports indicated a second rally involving two members of
parliament in the suburbs of Harare was also violently suppressed by the
ruling party, assisted by riot police.

"We do not support or oppose any government, nor support or oppose the
political views of the people whose rights it tries to protect, but are
solely concerned about the rapid escalation of human rights violations in
Zimbabwe," Amnesty International reiterated. The great majority of abuses
committed since the run-up to the June 2000 elections have been perpetrated
by ruling party activists against opposition supporters.
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Zimbabwe exiles start afresh

29 January, 2002 02:54 GMT

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Farmers who have fled the violence in Zimbabwe and taken
refuge abroad -- often with little more than a couple of suitcases -- are
getting to grips with starting life all over again in middle age.

Gone is the open air, free roaming and privileged lifestyle of the white
farmer under the southern African sun.

In its place is life under the often leaden skies of Britain with its
indoor, high pressure lifestyle and the daily commuter crush on overcrowded
roads or public transport.

Several hundred farmers and their families have joined the exodus, some
going to Australia and New Zealand but most coming to Britain. They take any
job that is going from driving lorries to picking potatoes in order to make
ends meet.

"The big thing for us now is to learn to improve on what we can in whatever
way we can," former farm manager Martin Andrews, who fled with his family 14
months ago, told Reuters in the rented cottage southwest of London that is
his new home.

"We got out with what we could carry. We have to re-establish ourselves. We
have to start all over again," added the 39-year-old who now acts as a
business consultant.

Nine white farmers are among more than 100 people who have been killed in a
series of farm invasions by self-styled veterans of the 1970s liberation war
in the former Rhodesia.

President Robert Mugabe, seeking to extend his 22-year grip on power in
elections in March, has vowed to repossess two-thirds of the 12 million
hectares (30 million acres) of prime land in white hands that forms the
backbone of the national economy.


Derek Arlett-Johnson fled his 1,000 hectare farm (2,500 acre) farm in May
2000 with death threats ringing in his ears at the start of the two-year
orgy of politically-inspired killings.

The 40-year-old now makes a living as a freelance heavy goods vehicle driver
around London, and in the summer months he is trying to get a small farming
project in Scotland off the ground.

"I can never go back. I had to abandon the farm which is now derelict. It
was just too traumatic. I had put everything into that farm," he told

In between, he and a few friends have set up the Zimbabwe Farmers' Trust, a
registered charity that tries to help farmers fleeing to Britain, the former
colonial ruler, by finding them somewhere to live and in some cases
something to do.

"So far we have been able to help 23 families find accommodation and a few
individuals find a job," he said.

The charity, registered in Scotland in September 2000, can be contacted by
e-mail at

Martin Andrews, his wife Linda, and teenage children Kim and Russell, were
among the families that have been helped by the trust.

"They found us this cottage which the landlord let us have rent free for the
first three months," he said. "That was a vital breathing space because it
took me three months to find a job.

"If you have the right attitude and are prepared to make a go of it you will
be okay," said Martin. "We would not have survived if we had stayed."


The move was traumatic, but none of the family regret their decision to get
out while they could.

"When we first came I was crying a lot. I missed my granny and family and my
dogs," said 13-year-old Kim. "But now I have made lots of friends and get
invited to birthday parties a lot.

"I might go back to see my friends and family if they are still there, but I
don't think I will ever go back there to live. I will get a good education
here and have a good future."

Farmer Guy Watson-Smith has gone in a few months from being one of the
biggest tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe to living with his sister in Cape Town.

He too got his family out under threat of death as the government took his
farm and veterans moved in to systematically plunder it even though he won a
court order saying everything on it belonged legally to him.

He has been told that if he ever sets foot in Zimbabwe again he will be

"It has all been taken from me. If I go home they will kill me," he told
Reuters in an interview.

"We now have to look seriously at the possibility of not being able to go
back to Zimbabwe -- certainly not under the current government."

His teenage son and daughter have had to be whisked into schools in the Cape
after warnings that they too could be targets if they returned to their
boarding schools in Zimbabwe.

"They have been absolutely shattered by what has happened," Watson-Smith

"The options are few and far between," said Watson-Smith, now aged 51 and
who has worked as a farmer all his adult life. "We have to sit down and
really take a serious look at what the future holds."
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Independent (UK)

Britain presses Commonwealth ministers to suspend Zimbabwe

By Mary Dejevsky and Stephen Castle in Brussels
30 January 2002

Britain will use a meeting of Commonwealth ministers in London today to
press for a recommendation on formally suspending Zimbabwe from the
Commonwealth because of President Robert Mugabe's pre-election crackdown on
opposition groups and the media.
In principle, the ministers of the eight-member Commonwealth ministerial
action group (CMAG) have the power to suspend Zimbabwe's membership of
Commonwealth committees. But the authority to suspend Zimbabwe's membership
altogether resides with Commonwealth heads of state and government (CHOGM)
who will gather at their postponed summit in Australia at the beginning of
A recommendation to CHOGM to suspend Zimbabwe appears to be the maximum that
Britain expects from today's meeting in London. Jack Straw, the Foreign
Secretary, has said: "I will be arguing for a recommendation to suspend,
because violent intimidation of the opposition and the media on this scale
should have no place in the Commonwealth."
Mr Straw, and his Australian and Canadian counterparts, are known to favour
tough action, but British officials are not confident that the five other
CMAG ministers – from Botswana, Barbados, Malaysia, Bangla-desh and
Nigeria – would agree to immediate action. Mr Straw said: "The decision is
one for the Commonwealth as a whole." Britain also wants to avoid an open
black-white split that would set an unfortunate tone for the March
Commonwealth summit. Mr Straw and other British ministers have abandoned
their ultra-cautious tone in recent weeks to voice clear support for the
suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth if Mr Mugabe does not halt the
repression of opposition figures and the media.
But British officials stress that the twin threats of suspension from the
Commonwealth and possible "smart" or targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe's
leaders, should be seen as a means rather than an end. The priority is to
try to ensure that Zimbabwe's elections – on 9 and 10 March, less than a
week after the Commonwealth summit – are as "free and fair" as possible.
EU diplomats hope to meet Zimbabwean officials in Harare today to try to
clarify the government's intentions over the invitation of election
monitors. European officials want an explanation of Zimbabwean calls for the
monitoring team to be a joint one, drawn from the EU and a bloc of
developing countries. The EU will not accept a situation under which a joint
mission would produce one, unanimously agreed report which would restrict EU
observers from reporting freely.
So the EU is continuing with two parallel sets of preparations to suit
different possible outcomes, for the dispatch of an EU observer mission, and
for the implementation of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers said sanctions could come into play this
weekend if Harare refuses to admit election observers. Mr Mugabe and 20
senior colleagues face a visa ban and a freeze of overseas financial assets.
A ban on the export of equipment which might be used for internal repression
would also swing into place.
The EU could also implement sanctions if the observers are stopped from
operating freely, if the international media is prevented from covering the
elections, or there is a "serious deterioration in the situation on the
ground, in terms of a worsening of the human rights situation or attacks on
the opposition". Finally, the EU could introduce the measures if the
elections are judged not to have been free and fair.
Zimbabwe's parliamentary legal committee yesterday ruled that Mr Mugabe's
media Bill violated the constitution, threatened free speech and gave the
government "frightening powers". A repressive security Bill was passed into
law 10 days ago, but the media Bill has not yet been debated.
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Zimbabwe suspension unlikely says Downer
LONDON, Jan 29 AAP|Published: Wednesday January 30, 8:43 AM

Australia's push to have Zimbabwe suspended from the Commonwealth was unlikely to succeed and even sanctions could be difficult to impose, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.

Mr Downer doubted tomorrow's Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting in London would reach a consensus on what action to take against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

He said CMAG would probably make recommendations to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), to be held in Queensland in March, but even then he was not confident of action being taken against Mr Mugabe who has been accused of planning to rig upcoming elections amid a campaign of terror against opposition parties, their supporters and the media.

"We support the British call, it's a point that we've made on many occasions, Zimbabwe is in breach of the Harare Declaration and should be suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth," Mr Downer said.

"And that should be done by the heads of government. Whether you get a consensus to do that, I think that would be very hard to do."

While the chances of a consensus for suspension appeared faint, so too were the prospects of economic sanctions, although Mr Downer believed the Commonwealth should follow the European Union's lead.

The EU yesterday unanimously agreed to place visa bans on Mr Mugabe and other senior government members and their families and to freeze assets they held in Europe.

The sanctions would be imposed if Mr Mugabe denied free access for the international media during the campaign for the March 9-10 election, if his government stepped up attacks on the opposition and if the poll was not judged to be free and fair.

"I don't know whether the Commonwealth itself will go down the path of sanctions but anything like that will be a matter for the heads of government," Mr Downer said.

"I think if there are sanctions, we would look at the type of measures the European Union is considering rather than economic sanctions.

"President Mugabe has imposed his own economic sanctions on his country by presiding over a crumbling economy which has seen the GDP fall by about 25 per cent in the last year so there's no need for anyone else to take further measures."

Tomorrow's meeting of the eight-member CMAG, the Commonwealth's democratic watchdog, consists of Australia, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Barbados, Bangladesh, Canada, Nigeria and Botswana, which will chair the meeting.

Mr Downer said there was little the meeting could do other than decide on recommendations to take to the 54 leaders at CHOGM.

Mr Mugabe's expected absence, however, may make it a 53-member meeting as he is unlikely to travel to Queensland only days before the Zimbabwean poll in which he is desperate to extend his 22-year rule.

By Paul Mulvey

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Senior Mugabe ally denounces draft press Bill BY JAN RAATH IN HARARE AND RICHARD BEESTON, DIPLOMATIC EDITOR PRESIDENT MUGABE’S attempt to gag the press suffered severe embarrassment yesterday when it was ringingly denounced by a senior member of his own Zanu (PF) party.

Eddison Zvogbo, head of a parliamentary legal committee, said: “I can say without equivocation that this Bill was the most calculated and determined assault on our liberties guaranteed by the constitution in the 20 years I served as Cabinet minister.”

Dr Zvogbo, who was dropped from the Cabinet in 2000, said that the draft law to license journalists breached the constitution in at least 20 respects. The committee that he heads said that the Bill, framed by Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, was obscure, vague, ill-conceived and dangerous.

Ministers made clear that they planned to override the objections and would press ahead with the legislation. The Bill is seen as vital weapon in Mr Mugabe’s armoury to help him to win the presidential elections in March.

Freedom of expression, enshrined in Zimbabwe’s Constitution, was synonymous with freedom of speech, Dr Zvogbo said. “Ask yourself whether it is rational for a government in a democratic and free society to require registration, licences and ministerial certificates in order for people to speak.”

Britain will intensify its diplomatic offensive against Zimbabwe today when Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, presses Commonwealth Foreign Ministers to suspend the country’s membership.

Speaking only a day after the European Union threatened to impose economic sanctions on Harare unless it admits election observers this weekend, Mr Straw said that he wanted similar pressure to be exerted by the Commonwealth and the United States.

“I will be arguing for a recommendation to suspend Zimbabwe because violent intimidation of the Opposition and the media should have no place in the Commonwealth,” he said before today’s meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

The eight ministers in the group are obliged to uphold democratic principles among the 54 nations of the Commonwealth. They have the power to exclude Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth’s main bodies and to recommend to heads of government meeting in Australia in March that its membership should be suspended.

“The decision is one for the Commonwealth as a whole . . . I am not going to predict whether there is going to be a consensus either tomorrow or at (the summit),” Mr Straw said.

Britain, Canada and Australia have been fierce critics of Zimbabwe but other Commonwealth members, particularly African nations, have been more muted in their criticism. British diplomats said it was not clear whether they were now ready to support action against Zimbabwe.

Nevertheless Harare is facing unprecedented pressure before the presidential elections. Six EU election monitors are due to arrive in Zimbabwe on Saturday. If they are not admitted the EU has decided to impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of 20 senior Zimbabwean figures, including President Mugabe.

“President Mugabe has five days to make up his mind: international observers or international sanctions. Fair elections or face the penalty,” Mr Straw said. “He has a well established record for delaying tactics but we’ve got no intention of playing games.”

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