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From News24 (SA), 29 January

Mugabe suffers setback

Harare - There was panic in government circles on Monday night as President Robert Mugabe suffered yet another political setback when the High Court ordered Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar-general, to hold the Harare's mayoral and council elections on or before February 11, as ordered by the Supreme Court last month. The ruling came barely four days after Mugabe lost, in another legal challenge, his bid to remove an estimated 100 000 assumed opposition supporters from the voters rolls. Justice Moses Chinhengo, in an interim relief judgment granted to the Harare Residents and Ratepayers' Association against Mudede and President Mugabe, said the election must take place in two weeks time regardless of reservations from the government which wants to the polls to run at the same time with the Presidential contest on March 9 - 10.

The ruling threatens to throw the current preparations into chaos and confusion. "There is something sinister taking place in our courts," a government spokesperson said late on Monday. "We have argued that it is logistically impossible to hold these elections in February and it appears no one is listening." Asked specifically for the government's reaction to the latest court ruling, the spokesperson said: "We are still consulting. We will definitely appeal to the Supreme Court." Chinhengo said Statutory Instrument 13A of 2002, gazetted using presidential powers was invalid. The presidential order sets out March 9 - 10 as the election date for the new council. Chinhengo said: "Section 158 of the Electoral Act does not empower the president to issue a notice or a statutory instrument which has the effect of setting aside a court order. If the legislature intended to include court orders, it should have done so."

Chinhengo said that any appeal will not affect Monday's interim relief. "That in the event of an appeal being noted against this provisional order, notwithstanding such noting of appeal, this order is declared operative and in effect and shall not be suspended, unless a court or judge with appropriate jurisdiction is duly furnished with all documents filed herein, in accordance with due process, orders otherwise," Chinhengo said. The Ratepayers' Association, after four years of fighting the government to have elections held in Harare blames the registrar-general, as the chief elections manager, for allowing the state to appoint a commission running the city illegally. It seeks a final order to get the court to send Mudede to jail if he fails to implement its ruling. Chinhengo said: "Should Mudede fail to comply with any part of the interim relief granted under this provisional order, the applicants may approach this court to anticipate paragraph three of the final order, so that this court may commit Mudede to gaol until such time as such step or steps as may be specified by it are taken."

Chinhengo said Mudede should by Thursday (on or before January 31, 2002) give notice and fix February 11, 2002 or any preceding date for the holding of Harare council and mayoral elections. "Mudede shall fix February 4, 2002 as the day the nomination court shall sit to receive nominations of the candidates for the mayoral and council elections for the City of Harare," the judge ruled. He said the argument by Mudede that he does not have staff to hold the elections does not stand because during the hearing of the case before High Court judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, and before the Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku, in the Supreme Court last year, Mudede indicated that he was ready for the elections. "This means that the Supreme Court ruling is still valid and must be enforced. Mudede should have long taken steps to ensure the elections be held on or before February 11, 2002. It means that Mudede is more than just prima facie in contempt of the Supreme Court order."

Chinhengo said parliament did not give the president powers to invalidate the decisions of the courts because of the doctrine of separation of powers. Two weeks ago, a High Court judge, Justice Rita Makarau, ruled that Mudede was in contempt of court when he closed the voter registration process in apparent defiance of Justice Hungwe's order not to do so until an application by Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, was heard. Tsvangirai challenged the government order to force people to vote in their constituencies in the March presidential election and won last Friday. This the second time in a year that the courts have ruled against the use of statutory instruments by Mugabe to frustrate the legitimate concerns of Zimbabweans to seek redress in the courts.

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BBC
 
Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 22:27 GMT
Analysis: Zimbabwe splits Commonwealth
 

 
James Robbins

Deep divisions within the Commonwealth over Zimbabwe were vividly exposed at Wednesday's meeting in London.


The overall result is less than we had hoped for but more than we had expected

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
The disciplinary Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) of eight foreign ministers split on broadly racial lines: the old white Commonwealth represented by Britain, Australia and Canada, urged Zimbabwe's suspension; the new Commonwealth of African and Asian countries preferred words of condemnation.

The compromise was a statement calling on the government of Zimbabwe to ensure free and fair presidential elections in March.

The ministers called for an end to violence and intimidation and an end to party political statements by the police and the army.

Bad timing

The British foreign secretary did not conceal his disappointment. Jack Straw said that it was less than he had hoped, but more than he had expected.

Farm workers whose homes were burned
Political violence is increasing

The chairman of this ministerial group, Botswana's Mompati Merafhe, said it was not the right time to antagonise Mr Mugabe.

The priority must be to get election observers into Zimbabwe, and try to ensure the best possible conditions for free and fair elections.

On that last point at least, everyone at this meeting was agreed.


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Independent (UK)
 
Food shortages become election issue for Mugabe    
By a Special Correspondent in Harare
31 January 2002
Zimbabwe's draconian press reporting restrictions make it a crime for unregistered foreign correspondents to report from the country. As a result, our correspondent cannot be named.
 
Monkeys have moved on to the Cabanzas' smallholding east of Harare, ejected from woods behind the farm home by land invaders who have either chased the animals away or hunted them for food.
 
"We don't know what's going to happen next," said Irene Cabanza (not her real name), who has spent much of her life serving the ruling Zanu-PF government. "It has become frightening to farm." The lives of thousands of farmers, black and white, have been disrupted – and ruined – by lawless "land reforms" that have left Zimbabwe teetering on the edge of starvation.
 
Food shortages are a big issue five weeks before presidential elections. The country's veteran leader, Robert Mugabe, is trying to win by promising poor rural voters tiny portions of seized commercial farms, and by clamping hard on the opposition.
 
But hungry voters may be angry voters. Invasions by "liberation war veterans" of thousands of commercial farms and failing price controls have caused agricultural chaos, empty shops and queues for oil. Even if the country produced enough this year, 112 per cent annual inflation is making food unaffordable for many.
 
Now the government has retreated into fantasy-land, making wildly optimistic claims over the economy. A Harare food manager said: "Listening to what ministers are saying is surreal. We've doubled the cost of burgers in a month. We print menus without prices now."
 
The economy has shrunk by 30 per cent in two years since oppression followed the defeat of Mr Mugabe in a referendum on constitutional reform. It is expected to deflate a further 10 per cent this year. One in five adults is in formal employment, with 25 per cent of paid jobs lost in two years. Relative incomes are lower than 30 years ago.
 
On the side of a rural road, a man in a country with advanced agricultural sectors sells wooden ox-yokes for ploughing. His market is Mugabe's newly landed peasantry, the 135,000 people with no hope of state aid the government says it has settled on seized white-owned land.
 
Agricultural specialists say Zimbabwe will run short of its staple food, maize, within four weeks and the country's 13 million people will be 1.1 million tons short of grain and oilseed over the next six months. Imports cannot make up the shortfall because of lack of finance and capacity to deliver. This agricultural year, as was the last, has been a disaster. Agricultural imports have fallen by more than a third in four years, from $3.2bn (£2.3bn) to an expected $2m this year.
 
Last week, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, warned that "hunger and starvation loom for millions". The Catholic Church and UN aid officials say 500,000 Zimbabweans urgently need relief. "Zimbabwe is no longer able to feed itself," an economist said. "We'll need to import at least half of our food for the next two years, and beyond that, if we don't start recovery soon."
 
Yet state-owned ZWNews reported a Grain Marketing Board spokesperson as saying: "There is so much maize in the country, we may not even need to import if we manage to impound all maize from commercial farmers."
 
The government claims it has seized 36,000 tons of maize from white farmers it accuses of hoarding food to topple Mr Mugabe. At the same time, ministers are also appealing for 98,000 tons of maize from the World Food Programme.
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ABC online (Australia)
 
Thu, Jan 31 2002 7:14 AM AEDT
 
Australia considers smart sanctions against Zimbabwe
 
Australia might unilaterally impose smart sanctions against Zimbabwe, following the failure of a meeting of Commonwealth ministers to suspend it from the Commonwealth Council.
 
While the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting condemned recent developments in Zimbabwe, it stopped short of imposing any form of sanction, an outcome described by Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer as disappointing but not surprising.
 
Australia is now planning to follow the lead of the European Union in imposing targeted so-called "smart" sanctions on things like non-humanitarian aid to the country, if conditions there do not improve.
 
The ministerial meeting did receive some informal indications though, that Zimbabwe may accept an advance party of Commonwealth election observers within the next few days.
 
Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, says Mr Downer has not done enough to convince other Commonwealth countries to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe.
 
Mr Rudd says Mr Downer must spend the next month before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting lobbying intensively for a different outcome then.
 
"It is not impossible that Australia could bring about changes of attitude and opinion in that period of time," Mr Rudd said.
 
"It does however require that Mr Downer make this a matter of first priority for himself in that period and not a secondary priority as appears to have been the case in his handling of this matter in the period leading up to the CMAG meeting in London."
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The Times
 
THURSDAY JANUARY 31 2002
 
Straw fails in attempt to isolate Zimbabwe
 
BY RICHARD BEESTON, DIPLOMATIC EDITOR
 
BRITAIN suffered a serious diplomatic defeat yesterday when its campaign to have Zimbabwe suspended from the Commonwealth was rejected by African and Asian countries, raising fears of a racial split in the organisation.
Despite nearly two years of politically inspired violence by the ruling Zanu (PF) party of President Mugabe against the Opposition, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) rejected a proposal by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to have Zimbabwe suspended.
 
“This was not the result I wanted,” Mr Straw said. He has campaigned publicly for tougher action from the CMAG, which has often been accused of being too weak with some members.
 
Australia, Britain’s closest partner in the eight-nation CMAG, which acts as a watchdog for the 54-nation Commonwealth, said that it would probably take unilateral measures against Harare in the absence of any other concrete moves. Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister, said that Canberra was considering freezing military and aid links with Zimbabwe. It was also exploring sanctions against Mr Mugabe and his ruling elite.
 
The Australians are particularly concerned that the question of how to deal with Mr Mugabe could undermine the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which they are hosting in Coolum, outside Brisbane, in March.
 
“In the next couple of weeks we will be looking at whether we should take unilateral measures,” Mr Downer said.
 
Although he insisted that President Mugabe, as a serving head of state, would be invited to the meeting, he suggested that he could be in for a rough reception if he decided to attend.
 
Of greater concern to the Commonwealth as a whole is the increasingly racial overtones in the debate about how to tackle Zimbabwe’s abuses of the Commonwealth democratic guidelines.
 
While ministers drew attention yesterday to a series of violations by the Mugabe regime, Mr Straw’s call for a suspension was supported by Australia, Canada and Barbados. It was resisted by Nigeria, Botswana, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Their views are thought to be shared by a majority of other Commonwealth nations drawn from the developing world.
 
Don McKinnon, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said that yesterday’s lengthy debate was goodnatured. The question of how to resolve the problem of Zimbabwe was similar to previous problems within the Commonwealth over Nigeria and Sierra Leone, he said.
 
Lieutenant-General Mompati Merafhe, the Botswana Foreign Minister, said that the Commonwealth was not trying to appease Mr Mugabe, simply to engage with the country ahead of key presidential elections in March.
 
“The issue on the table at the meeting was to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe,” he said. The Commonwealth hoped to put in place scores of election monitors throughout the country.
 
Nevertheless, there were fears that Mr Mugabe would regard yesterday’s failure to take action against Zimbabwe as a great moral victory and it would also encourage him to continue his actions against the opposition.
 
Brian Raftopoulos, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said that Mr Mugabe had tried to justify the current violence as part of a liberation struggle against the country’s former colonial masters. As a result he depended on the support of fellow African nations and the developing world to justify his campaign of intimidation.
 

Harare: About 40 demonstrators, all journalists, gathered outside the Zimbabwe Parliament to protest against a Bill that will allow the government to shut down the country’s outspoken independent newspapers. They scattered as they were stormed by riot police wielding batons.
 
 
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Ruling-party MPs revolt against Mugabe's 'dictatorial' tactics

By Peta Thornycroft in Harare

President Robert Mugabe was struggling to contain a rebellion within his party after Zimbabwe's parliamentary legal committee, dominated by MPs from the ruling ZANU-PF party, criticised his draconian media bill as "dictatorial and unconstitutional".

The party called a caucus meeting of its MPs yesterday to patch up the rift.

Standing before a packed parliament on Tuesday, Eddison Zvobgo, the chairman of the legal committee and a former ZANU-PF cabinet minister, launched a stinging attack on the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill. He declared that 20 of its clauses violated the Constitution.

The proposed law, which is the brainchild of Jonathan Moyo, the Information Minister, would ban journalists from working without his approval and prevent foreign correspondents from living in Zimbabwe.

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In a report read to the 150-seat parliament in Harare, the legal committee reminded MPs that they had all sworn an oath of office vowing to uphold the Constitution. It recommended they reject the proposed legislation.

However, parliament has the power to ignore the committee.

To thunderous approval from the opposition benches, Mr Zvobgo slowly dissected the bill.

"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. It is a sobering thought," he said. Mr Zvobgo accused Professor Moyo's ministry of seeking "to grant themselves frightening powers".

Mr Zvobgo summed up by saying Professor Moyo's bill was "the most calculated and determined assault on our liberties, which are guaranteed by the Constitution".

Mr Zvobgo, a lawyer, was a founding member of ZANU-PF in 1963 and served in Mr Mugabe's cabinet for 20 years until he was sacked in 2000.

In London, Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, will argue that the eight-member Commonwealth ministerial "action group" meeting there should either suspend Zimbabwe immediately or recommend suspension to the Commonwealth summit in Brisbane in March.

The Telegraph, London; Associated Press and agencies

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Business Day
 
The pressure shows
 

EUROPEAN Union (EU) foreign ministers have given Zimbabwe until Sunday to meet demands to improve human rights and allow poll observers.
 
Should it not do so, they say, they will impose targeted sanctions, including travel restrictions and the freezing of assets, on Mugabe and 19 top henchmen.
 
SA's "quiet diplomacy" restated at the meeting of Southern African Development Community leaders in Blantyre earlier this month is now on the spot. A regional solution to the Zimbabwe problems has not been forthcoming. This means SA has not, in time, lived up to its role as a stabilising force in the region, one of the main reasons western powers seek close ties with Pretoria.
 
But it is possible that President Thabo Mbeki could now convince Harare through "quiet diplomacy" that SA cannot hold onto its policy indefinitely when Europe is on the verge of imposing such sanctions. And today a Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group could recommend Zimbabwe's suspension from the organisation.
 
SA could get itself off the hook by extending its quiet diplomacy to the EU sanctions and the Commonwealth threat. In other words, don't get in the way. Mugabe is finally under pressure and it shows. Mbeki can tighten the squeeze by quietly encouraging the Brits.
 
   Thursday
31 January 2002 
 
 
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Financial Gazette
 

Key poll role for military
 
By Sydney Masamvu Political Editor
1/31/02 3:22:24 AM (GMT +2)
 
ZIMBABWE'S governing ZANU PF party has stuffed the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) with military officials and war veterans and tasked them with spearheading voter education and supervising the presidential election in March, it was established this week.
 
The ESC is headed by prominent war veteran, lawyer and retired army Colonel Sobusa Gula-Ndebele.
 
He in turn has appointed Douglas "Think-tank" Nyikayaramba, a retired army brigadier, as his chief elections officer. Nyikayaramba retired from the army late last year.
 
Under the auspicies of the ESC, Nyikayaramba will be tasked with supervising the training of 1 080 election supervisors who in turn will train 22 000 election monitors to cover about 5 400 polling stations which will be established throughout Zimbabwe for the March 9 and 10 ballot.
 
The election supervisors will also perform the role of voter educators.
 
The election supervisors and monitors will be drawn form the ministries of defence, home affairs and education.
 
Government sources say retired and serving military officials, some from the intelligence service, have been called up to head various sections responsible for monitoring and supervising the presidential election, the toughest for President Robert Mugabe since he came to power at independence in 1980.
 
"We have a strong presence of military personnel involved in the conduct, monitoring and supervision of the presidential election," a source within the ESC told the Financial Gazette yesterday.
 
The ESC's members are appointed by Mugabe, who faces opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the March plebiscite.
 
According to the sources privy to ZANU PF's poll plan, most of the officials from the Ministry of Defence will be responsible for voter education campaigns, especially in rural areas, and will be aided by Mugabe's militants who call themselves war veterans.
 
Already retired officers from the army have been responsible for training more than 20 000 youths by ZANU PF under the guise of a national service in the past few months.
 
But the trainees themselves and the sources say the youths are, in fact, undergoing military training. The youths have been accused of waging a reign of terror against opposition members and ordinary Zimbabweans since Christmas last year.
 
Two senior ZANU PF members - State Security Minister Nicholas Goche and Youth Affairs Minister Elliot Manyika - have publicly ordered the youths in the past three weeks to halt their terror, which includes mounting roadblocks and forcing Zimbabweans to buy costly membership cards of the ruling party.
 
While members of the security forces will take charge of the election, the state has banned non-governmental agencies from carrying out voter education campaigns and monitoring the election, as was done in all previous national elections.
 
Parliament has also passed laws banning independent election monitors from the polls and denying voting to millions of Zimbabweans abroad.
 
The ESC, which is supposed to supervise elections, has refused any foreign assistance saying it has the capacity to effectively carry out its work despite acknowledge-ment that it is under-funded and ill-equipped.
 
The sources said other members of the ESC - Joyce Kazembe of the Southern Africa Political Economic Series Trust, Bulawayo lawyer Richard Moyo Majwabu and Chief Bepura, an ardent ZANU PF supporter - were now merely playing a ceremonial role after the military officials had taken charge of the conduct of the poll.
 
Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change is today scheduled to hold an urgent executive meeting to consider the role of the military in the conduct of the presidential election and to plot its response.
 
Nearly a month ago, army chief Vitalis Zvinavashe stunned Zimbabweans when he issued a statement which said the security forces would refuse to support or salute anyone winning the poll if he or she had not participated in Zimbabwe's independence war.
 
This was widely seen as an implicit threat against Tsvangirai, who is seen winning the poll but did not participate in the 1970s war.
 
The European Union and the United States government have warned that they will slap personal sanctions on Mugabe and his officials if the presidential election is not free and fair.
 
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Financial Gazette
 
Zim wants dispute declared with EU
 

1/31/02 2:43:02 AM (GMT +2)
 
THE Zimbabwe government yesterday said it wanted a dispute declared between itself and the European Union (EU) under Article 98 of the Cotonou agreement governing relations between EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) nations.
 
Responding to threats of sanctions by the EU on Zimbabwean leaders for their failure to uphold democracy and human rights, Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge told a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) ministerial task force on Zimbabwe in Harare yesterday that the EU had ignored Zimbabwe's concerns.
 
"We therefore intend to exercise our right to invoke the provisions of Article 98 of the Cotonou agreement to declare a dispute between Zimbabwe and the EU."
 
Mudenge accused London of rallying both the EU and the 54-nation Commonwealth group against Zimbabwe in a bid to stop it from seizing white-owned land.
 
He spoke as a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), a key panel, was underway in London to debate whether to immediately suspend Zimbabwe from the club of former British colonies for gross human rights abuses.
 
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, addressing CMAG yesterday, urged the panel to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth to pressure the government to end rising violence and ensure a free and fair presidential election on March 9 and 10.
 
The SADC task force is in Zimbabwe to review how far the government has fulfilled promises it gave three weeks at a SADC leaders' summit that it will act on violence and lawlessness which have killed more than 100 people in the past two years.
 
Most of those killed have been opposition followers, including nine white farmers.
 
The EU on Monday gave President Robert Mugabe until February 3 to ensure the March ballot is fair and that it is witnessed by international observers and media or face sanctions that will target him personally and his top officials and not Zimbabwe.
 
Under Article 98, the dispute between Harare and Brussels would have to be first referred to EU/ACP ambassadors and then to a council of foreign ministers of the two blocs before being sent for arbitration.
 
But top EU diplomats in Harare said this process would still not stop the impositions of sanctions by the EU if Zimbabwe failed to ensure a fair presidential ballot and if it did not uphold human rights and democracy.
 
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Financial Gazette
 
Mugabe snubs Obasanjo again
 

1/31/02 2:46:44 AM (GMT +2)
 
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe flatly refused to join Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in a meeting with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai at State House in Harare last week, diplomatic sources said this week.
 
 
The visiting Nigerian leader, who met Tsvangirai alone at Mugabe's residence for three hours early last Monday morning, had tried to broker a meeting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the two chief opponents in the crucial March 9 and 10 presidential election.
 
Obasanjo was approached by Zimbabwe to help ease strained relations between the southern African country and Britain, its former colonial master, following a standoff caused by the invasions of white-owned farms by Mugabe's supporters and the breakdown of law and order.
 
The Nigerian leader played midwife to the stillborn Abuja agreement on land reform signed by both Harare and London in the Nigerian capital in September last year.
 
The agreement has failed to take off because of Mugabe's reluctance to rein in lawless supporters of his ruling ZANU PF party, including self-styled war veterans who continue to defy Abuja by forcibly occupying new commercial farms.
 
Britain has refused to release money for the land reform plan until Harare adheres to the agreement and to Whitehall's pre-requisites of a transparent, rational and legal land reform programme and the cessation of hostilities against the opposition and the media.
 
Obasanjo has however continued undeterred with his mission to help solve the Zimbabwe crisis and last week tried to set up a meeting between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in Harare but the Zimbabwean leader flatly turned down his request, the sources said.
 
"The fact that he has turned down Obasanjo's request once again to meet Tsvangirai, especially at this time, is a sign that Mugabe is not prepared to give up his fight to retain power at all costs," one diplomat said.
 
At his meeting with Tsvangirai, Obasanjo is reported to have asked the opposition leader, who is widely expected to win the March ballot if it is free and fair, to guarantee a safe and honourable exit from power for Mugabe should the veteran Zimbabwean politician lose the election, the most fiercely contested since independence in 1980. - Staff Reporter 
 
 
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Financial Gazette
 
Obasanjo launches bargain for safe Mugabe exit
 
By David Masunda Deputy Editor-in-Chief
1/31/02 2:49:01 AM (GMT +2)
 
THE midnight rendezvous in Harare last week between visiting Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has set in motion the protocol for President Robert Mugabe's departure from State House after the March poll that he is widely expected to lose, experts said this week.
 
 
Tsvangirai last week said the Nigerian president requested safe passage for Mugabe when the two met at State House for three hours and that the ZANU PF leader be treated with respect if he loses the highly contested election.
 
Obasanjo also wanted an assurance that Mugabe would be given enough time to vacate State House, his home for the past 21 years.
 
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist since independence from Britain in 1980 but faces the biggest test of his rule of two decades from Tsvangirai, the veteran trade unionist and founder of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
 
Analysts say the ageing former guerrilla leader, now increasingly isolated, cannot win a free and fair poll in March because of his mismanagement of the economy and his administration's rampant corruption blamed for Zimbabwe's collapse.
 
Richard Cornwell of the South Africa Institute of Security Studies said southern African leaders from South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique were already persuading Mugabe to leave office peacefully if he lost the March 9 and 10 ballot.
 
"The African leaders are trying to persuade Mugabe that it's not in his best interest to rig the March election and that should he lose, he will be provided with an exit strategy," Cornwell told the Financial Gazette by telephone from Pretoria.
 
He said the South African government might also be cobbling up an exit package to help ease Mugabe's retirement, as it did for former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda when Frederick Chiluba defeated him in 1990.
 
The South African government provided Kaunda with a retirement home in Pretoria and later persuaded the Zambian leader to quit the political stage altogether.
 
"Mugabe could also be treated like a regional elder statesman just like former South African president Nelson Mandela," Cornwell observed.
 
Cornwell was however doubtful that Mugabe would bow out gracefully and cautioned that he might still try to hang onto power even if he lost the popular vote.
 
"Losing is one thing and accepting defeat or announcing one's own defeat is another," he said, adding that the only safety net left to ensure Mugabe's departure was the growing discontent against his rule within the governing ZANU PF party.
 
Besides the outcome of the March election, said Cornwell, what might hasten Mugabe's departure could be the ongoing intra-party fighting in ZANU PF and the food shortages.
 
"The food crisis in Zimbabwe is not going to go away within months, it will be felt for two to three years to come,' he said.
 
Emmanuel Magade, a University of Zimbabwe lecturer, said while Obasanjo's reported request to Tsvangirai was "intriguing", it would be proper for the MDC leader to offer Mugabe an honourable exit if he lost the poll.
 
"My opinion is that whether one agrees with Mugabe's policies or not, one cannot run away from the fact that he is the founding father of this nation," he said.
 
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Financial Gazette
 
ZANU PF accused of using illegal ballots
 
By Basildon Peta Special Projects Editor
1/31/02 2:47:57 AM (GMT +2)
 
CRUDE campaign tactics employed by Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU PF reportedly scaled new heights this week when its members allegedly started distributing unauthorised ballot papers in rural areas and assaulting those who failed to appropriately mark President Robert Mugabe's slot on the ballots.
 
 
Several people interviewed by this newspaper who saw the ballots said these were not specimens but genuine ballots.
 
Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) chairman Sobusa Gula-Ndebele said the ESC - the state agency which should approve campaign materials - was unaware of such a development but promised to investigate to establish whether "this was indeed happening and whether it will prejudice the holding of a free and fair election".
 
ZANU PF's legal supremo Patrick Chinamasa said the allegations were, at face value, meant to discredit ZANU PF and were coming from what he said were MDC (the opposition Movement for Democratic Change) journalists.
 
He later asked for written questions to consider a detailed response but had not responded up to the time of going to print. Repeated efforts to get comment from Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, who is in overall charge of elections, also failed.
 
A dozen teachers and villagers from Mashonaland East and Masvingo provinces said ZANU PF officials were distributing ballot papers to every person of voting age in their villages and schools and asking them to fill in the ballots.
 
They would then assault anyone who would either have failed to cast a vote on the ZANU PF slot or would have voted for the opposition.
 
"I know of one guy who was badly assaulted after he filled in a very small X on the ZANU PF slot. Another was beaten up after his X encroached on to Tsvangirai's face," said a teacher from Chikomba, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity.
 
The use of unauthorised ballot papers is reported to be rife in Hwedza, Sadza, Mupatsi and Dorowa areas of Mashonaland East Province and in Zaka in Masvingo.
 
The Financial Gazette also heard this week that ZANU PF members, mostly armed militia, were forcing people to vote along these lines in Gokwe and Nembudziya areas of the Midlands. This newspaper could not independently verify any of these reports.
 
The alleged use of the illegal ballot papers to aid Mugabe's re-election comes in the wake of information that ZANU PF militias are moving door-to-door in some urban areas compiling the identity registration numbers of people without ZANU PF party cards.
 
The Financial Gazette this week interviewed several people from Chitungwiza, Kambuzuma and Budiriro areas who confirmed having had their details recorded after failing to produce party cards.
 
The teachers interviewed on the alleged illegal voting were unable to explain the origins of the ballot papers being used by ZANU PF. They said the militias had told them that these were the exact ballots to be used in the actual presidential election.
 
They said nothing on the ballots indicated that they were only specimens. In fact, they appeared to be genuine ballot papers, they said.
 
The interviewees said they had not been able to get samples or copies of the ballots because the papers were being collected and packed neatly into boxes immediately after the stage-managed voting.
 
Ballot papers for elections are usually printed only after the nominations court has sat and the candidates and the parties contesting the elections are confirmed.
 
Those who saw the ballots being used by ZANU PF said they featured the logos of the ruling party, the MDC, ZANU Ndonga, the Bulawayo-based ZAPU and Shakespear Maya's National Alliance of Good Governance.
 
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Financial Gazette

SA civic bodies to deal with Zim crisis

1/31/02 2:50:53 AM (GMT +2)
 
A COALITION of South African civil organisations this week said it will mobilise resources to deal with the impending humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.
 
The coalition includes the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the South African Non-Governmental Organisations (NG) Coalition, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Lawyers for Human Rights, the Network of Independent Monitors and Amnesty International.
 
In a communique released after a meeting this week, the coalition said: "We realise that democracy is under threat and remain highly concerned regarding ongoing human rights abuses (in Zimbabwe).
 
"This network, which seeks to rally civil society, has as its objectives the following: to marshal resources within South African society to deal with the impending humanitarian and refugee crisis; to ensure an appropriate response from NGOs, governments, inter-governmental organisations and civil society, especially those in provinces neighbouring Zimbabwe."
 
The coalition said it would also support and engage the South African government in initiatives related to the defence of democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe, mobilise and pool resources and build upon partnerships with Zimbabwean civil society.
 
Over 500 000 Zimbabweans are said to be in need of food handouts from the government and relief agencies following widespread harvest failures caused by inadequate rainfall and disruption to commercial farming by ruling ZANU PF party supporters occupying farms.
 
Thousands of internal refugees forced out of their homes by political violence, also blamed on ZANU PF mobs, have turned to civil society for assistance and the situation could worsen as the crucial presidential election on March 9 and 10 nears. -Staff Reporter
 
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Financial Gazette

Threats fail to move Mat in crucial ballot
 
From Njabulo Ncube Bulawayo Bureau Chief
1/31/02 2:54:42 AM (GMT +2)
 
MAPHISA, Matabeleland South - "You can take a horse to a watering hole but you cannot force it to drink," so goes the old saying. It seems to ring true in this dry and dirt-poor rural outpost of Matabeleland South.
 
 
In interviews this week, scores of villagers in and around the growth point of Maphisa said they would not be cowed by violence into voting for President Robert Mugabe when he squares up against Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in crunch presidential elections on March 9 and 10.
 
It was clear from conversations with most of them that Tsvangirai would get their votes.
 
They said Mugabe, Zimbabwe's sole ruler in the past 22 years, had long let them down and his chaotic land resettlement scheme had done little to win their minds and hearts.
 
Instead, they referred to the drought now ravaging Matabeleland South as well as to Mugabe's harsh suppression of an insurrection against his rule in the province in the 1980s and said his political scorecard was badly tainted.
 
Amon Thebe, a 65-year-old subsistance farmer from Mbuya Village, a few kms from this rural business centre, said he could not wait to cast his vote in the watershed ballot.
 
"We have suffered a lot here under Mugabe," he told this reporter at a local pub after ascertaining that I was not a state security agent.
 
Not even the threatening presence of the green-shirted youth brigades who roam the dusty outpost could sway the villager from speaking out his mind.
 
"He (Mugabe) must go and this is the time. We will be in full force come the voting days. These boys (the youth brigades) can beat us but deep down they know what is happening here," he said.
 
"Instead of harassing people to vote for Mugabe, they should be cleaning the mine shafts at nearby Antelope Mine and Balaghwe where innocent people were killed," he said, referring to thousands of civilians killed by army troops in a sweep through the province to crush about 100 armed rebels between 1982 and 1986.
 
Some of the victims were thrown into the two mine shafts.
 
Moddie Mlilo, another villager, said: "We should not be forced to give him another six years. He has messed up in 22 years. We are hungry here and very little is available."
 
Mlilo said in the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary elections, Mugabe's militant war veterans - many of them too young to have even been born during the 1970s war - went around assaulting villagers in and around the constituency.
 
"It did not work because people voted wisely. The same will happen this time," she added.
 
In the parliamentary polls, the villagers dumped Ananias Nyathi, a ZANU PF stalwart and prominent business chief, for Lovemore Moyo, a young executive whose relatives were among the victims of the army's crackdown known as Gukurahundi.
 
"We have seen worse things. These youth brigades and their leaders should know one thing about the people of this region: we are as resilient as our donkeys," Mlilo said confidently.
 
"A donkey can survive very severe droughts. We showed this resilience during the days of PF ZAPU when we stuck with Umdala (Joshua Nkomo). What we want is change."
 
Lovemore Moyo, the MDC legislator for Matobo, said it would be folly for Mugabe to expect any votes from Matabeleland.
 
"The people here will buy ZANU PF cards because they are forced to and will take his food but come election time they know where to put the cross," he said.
 
"ZANU PF knows it from past experience, during the time they had problems with Nkomo, what people here do. They unanimously voted for Nkomo even with the army roaming the area and threatening villagers," he said.
 
Deep-rooted poverty in the province, now worsened by a withering drought, would not help matters, the MP noted.
 
A councillor in the Matobo rural district council, speaking on condition he is not named for fear that he may lose his unsolicited monthly gratuity from the government, took a swipe at Paul Siwela, leader of a splinter ZAPU opposition party based in Matabeleland who is widely seen as a ZANU PF protégé.
 
"He is a sell-out," the councillor said, echoing the sentiments of most villagers.
 
"How can he claim that people in Matabeleland are behind him when no one, not even one person, knows his existence? Where was he when we were suffering?"
 
The MDC's Moyo said it would be a waste of time for Mugabe to spend resources campaigning in the province.
 
"Instead, he should be helping feed starving people so that they can go and vote and not to look for food on March 9 and 10," he said.
 
Villagers said the government has deployed the youth brigades in and around Antelope Mine Hospital and at Bhalaghwe, a move analysts said was futile if it was meant to intimidate the peasants.
 
As political commentator Bhekithemba Sibindi put it: "People in Matabeleland are very complicated, especially the villagers. They are very consistent, even when they are in abject poverty. They stand up for their rights."
 
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Financial Gazette

Rampant poaching could cost Zim CITES partners

1/31/02 2:55:14 AM (GMT +2)
 
RAMPANT elephant poaching by ruling ZANU PF supporters could cost Zimbabwe the support of its regional partners in the lobby to remove southern Africa's elephants from the international list of endangered species, it was learnt this week.
 
 
Sources told the Financial Gazette that Botswana, Namibia and South Africa - the country's partners in the lobby for controlled trade in elephant products - had threatened to abandon Zimbabwe to fend for itself at the 12th Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to be held in Chile in October.
 
They said the three countries were concerned about uncontrolled poaching within Zimbabwe's national parks and conservancies by war veterans and other ruling ZANU PF supporters occupying commercial farms.
 
"They have indicated that unless Zimbabwe puts its house in order before the next CITES meeting, it will go to the crucial meeting on its own as they feel that Zimbabwe would jeopardise their chances of success," a source close to preparations for the meeting said.
 
Traditionally, countries with common interests gang up to collectively lobby intransigent animal rights groups opposed to the killing of game at such meetings.
 
Zimbabwe and its three southern African partners are seeking the removal of their over-abundant elephant populations from CITES' Appendix Two, which allows limited trade in elephant products, to Appendix Three.
 
Appendix Three allows free trade in elephant products, but only in countries where poaching is under control.
 
"With what is happening in the conservancies and farms at the moment, it would really be difficult to convince CITES that poaching is under control in Zimbabwe," a source said. "This is why these countries are planning to exclude Zimbabwe in their lobby."
 
The Zimbabwean government has indicated that it will spend $30 million on a campaign to convince CITES to allow the resumption of international trade in elephant products.
 
Failure to do so could see the country losing out on a lucrative multi-million-dollar trade that has in the past benefited the economy.
 
- Staff Reporter
 

Financial Gazette

Comment
 
A sham challenges world’s conscience
 

1/31/02 2:26:49 AM (GMT +2)
 
ALL the gloves are finally off modern history’s unprecedented sham which the government is desperately trying to sell to the world as a valid presidential ballot. ?
 
Not that anyone with an inkling of the machinations of the Zimbabwe government would have expected anything particularly different.
 
But the sheer magnitude of the unfolding fraud is frightening. It lays bare the unparallelled determination of a group of people to stall the sweeping march of history and progress and, perhaps more ominously, to damn the world for the sake of sweet power!
 
Nothing but the facts could make this point more forcefully, and the indisputable facts read like a script for a Western-style movie:
 
The official in charge of the actual balloting, chief elections officer Douglas Nyikayaramba, turns out to have been a brigadier in the army and a well known ally of President Robert Mugabe, one of the contenders in the election.
 
Nyikayaramba, who will virtually determine the conduct of voting at every polling station, will dutifully report to Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, who himself has publicly let it be known that he is a member of Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF.
 
As if this was not enough, the head of the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) — the state agency now solely charged with staging and supervising all elections — is Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, a former military intelligence chief in Mugabe’s Office.
 
Gula-Ndebele, a lawyer, will of course be assisted in his work on the ESC by other Mugabe appointees, never mind the constitutional rider which states for the doubters that the agency must be independent of its master.
 
Then ALL polling officers — the thousands of men and women who will be posted across Zimbabwe at each and every polling station to check on the balloting — must be civil servants.
 
And ALL election monitors, dutifully trained by and accountable to the ESC, must also be civil servants, with many of them drawn from "the ministries of education, home affairs and defence", to quote a news report from state television at the weekend.
 
Furthermore, ALL monitors and polling agents are barred under new legislation from travelling in the same cars which transport ballots. If these officials so wish, the law says, they can follow the vehicles in their own!
 
Please note that thousands of unemployed people calling themselves war veterans and others trained by the government in the "national youth service" had already been deployed across the length and breadth of the country to ensure that the povo and other sections of the population got the message loud and clear.
 
For its part, the dominant state news media — especially the sole broadcaster — dares not let up on its propaganda blitz against the opposition while painting ZANU PF as Zimbabwe’s saviour. Editors ignoring these instructions do so at their peril.
 
Then add the millions of dollars being dangled in front of poor and hungry peasants and the offer of land, more land and even more land and you have a complete picture of the farce.
 
That was until earlier this week. Then the President made clear he would not tolerate any poll observer who is likely to condemn the conduct of the ballot.
 
He ordered — in the same manner of his decrees in Zimbabwe — the European Union (EU) and its allied African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group to have a joint and NOT separate observer mission which MUST be headed by the ACP.
 
In other words, no observers from the noisy and unhelpful EU would be allowed into Zimbabwe unless the 15-nation group stuck to the conditions of the decree.
 
The President did this despite Harare’s unwavering and oft-stated belief that no state can and should ever interfere in another’s affairs because all are sovereign!
 
Needless to say, all poll observers — minus those from comradely nations such as Nigeria and the cowardly Southern Africa Development Community — would have to wait until virtually the last minute to enter Zimbabwe to see what, if anything, could be observed!
 
We have only one question: will long-suffering Zimbabweans, plus the international community, allow this gigantic sham to stand
 

Financial Gazette

A journey through troubled Zimbabwe
 

1/31/02 2:19:36 AM (GMT +2)
 
LAST December I made the usual pilgrimage to Zimbabwe. I could have sung with Ray Phiri "Trouble in the land of plenty" but I felt I needed to hear Thomas Mapfumo’s Chimurenga Explosion exploding in my head.
 
I was glad I played it then because the chimurenga exponent was going to disappoint me twice — with his latest album and his concert at the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors.
 
But first I had to grapple with the hurdles of driving into Zimbabwe through Beitbridge. At this time of the year one had to contend with the long queues, the scorching sun and the rude immigration officials but home is home even riri zuru rapinda nyoka.
 
You could see the culture change — some officials could barely conceal their greed but they had to be careful of their new colleagues who had just been deployed from the then Department of Taxes. The new staff were keen to show they meant business and you should have seen how they pretended to read your set of papers and then raised all sorts of silly questions. Some four hours after arrival we were through with all formalities.
 
A couple of metres up the highway was a police roadblock. The policemen seemed kind enough and laughed heartily. I wondered how they could allow themselves to be turned into brutes at the drop of a hat by some senior official with a political agenda. It puzzles me all the time: this sudden metamorphosis from human being to vampire.
 
Despite everything it is hard not to love this country. One of the things I had come to do was to renounce citizenship of a country I had never claimed to be mine.
 
I spent two full days running in circles trying to make sense of Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede’s instructions, which even his clerks did not understand. It was a trying time spending hours in dust and heat pleading with some clerk that at that point could either render you stateless. Ah the bitterness of it.
 
But the clerks were just minor players in the tragic-comedy playing itself out in my country. Prices, like our leadership, had gone mad. Cooking oil was scarce and my brother had gotten tired of cooking his meat and vegetables using butter.
 
Another friend remarked: "Kudya muriwo uneshena hazvichaita. Apa blazo negero rake vomhanyira kuLibya kunorova muriwo une mafuta."
 
 
 
The irony was reading the newspapers and seeing ruling party advertisements screaming "Say No To Artificial Shortages". They could have done a better job with adverts stating their true position: "SAY YES TO VIOLENCE".
 
And the violence is very real. I remember on the Beitbridge-Masvingo highway I came across a very dubious veterinary control roadblock. The whole set up stank of ZANU PF militia. The sole guard there looked very much a Comrade Disaster. I don’t know where he had come from but you could not mess with him.
 
And for someone supposed to check the spread of foot-and-mouth disease he had an AK47 rifle. He reminded me of Graham Green’s tonton macoute (secret police) in the novel The Comedians.
 
Across the road in the bush was a camp with one policeman and several other people roasting mealie cobs. Maybe he was really doing his patriotic duty fighting foot-and-mouth but I was not prepared to take a chance — I gave him some money for a beer or whatever he drank. He softened and let me pass.
 
But a lot of other things were not right. ZBC and the state media had reached new lows in their mindless propaganda war trying to defend the indefensible.
 
If they interviewed Mapfumo and he said he did not support violence and that yes there must be land redistribution, but done in an orderly manner, then the state media would have had screaming headlines: "Dr Mapfumo supports govt on land".
 
In 1994 when the Interahamwe were preaching their hatred and calling on Hutus to kill all Tutsis and moderate Hutus, I could not grasp that level of insanity. Now that this same madness has visited my land I can now understand how a demonic leadership can whip crowds of brutes into a frenzy and embark on orgies of destruction.
 
But someone will have to pay for all this. Very soon!
 
But outside ZANU PF’s inferno some other things were happening. On the music front it looked like uhuru was on the horizon. David Chifunyise, Willom Tight and a host of young masalads were liberating spaces that had been occupied for donkey years by the unimaginative gaeriatrics at ZMC and Gramma.
 
The night club scene was happening with Chez Ntemba kicking as usual.
 
But I was shocked to read the rave reviews for Mapfumo’s show on New Year’s eve. That show was very boring simply because one couldn’t hear a thing. The acoustics were so bad you only knew what song he was playing when the crowd at the front started singing along.
 
The venue was also uninspired. A huge hall with a grimy floor, unfinished in parts and simply too big for the number of people who attended. Similarly, Tuku’s show on that same day was fine but very predictable. He seemed somewhat tired but the crowd was having a whale of a time.
 
In business some people seemed to have awakened from a slumber and were chasing the dollar with incredible ingenuity despite the hard economic front. Finance houses and banks were coming up with innovative schemes and our women (ever entrepreneurial) were all over southern Africa and now testing the waters in Tanzania.
 
The entry into the economy by new players was solely overdue. Having had a very bad experience at both the Crowne Plaza and at the Holiday Inn, I was convinced that new players were needed in every sector of our economy. Not the type that is typified by the politics of patronage but a new breed driven by need to create wealth for both themselves and for their country.
 
Meeting my friends again was an inspiring experience. We spoke of other friends that had left for that other world beyond the blue and just shook our heads wondering "who’s next?"
 
We also wondered at the fate of friends who had left the country for good. A dedicated Zimbabwean friend could not take it anymore. Him and his wife (they are both prominent scientists) were relocating to the US.
 
As I left that terrible beauty that is Zimbabwe, I could hear Oliver Mtukudzi screaming "Hatidi hondo. Hatidi mhirizhonga". A week later I read that ZANU PF’s militia had sealed off some towns and was on the hunt for opposition party members.
 
Chris Kabwato, who is based in Johannesburg, is involved in the arts.
 

Financial Gazette

US$175m due to IMF
 
By Joseph Ngwawi Business News Editor
1/31/02 1:06:44 AM (GMT +2)
 
ZIMBABWE must pay more than US$175 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this year to enhance its chances of winning back crucial economic aid from the Bretton Woods institution but analysts say the beleaguered Harare administration could again fall behind in its payments due to a crushing foreign currency crisis.
 
The government, which has constantly defaulted on its commitments to the IMF and other multilateral financial institutions in the past three years, is expected to fork out US$97 million in scheduled financial obligations to the Fund plus about US$80 million in arrears that had accumulated as of December 31 2001.
 
The latest information from the IMF shows that the interest component on Zimbabwe’s arrears to the Bretton Woods institution stood at US$5.4 million at the end of last year while overdue principal was US$75.1 million.
 
This reflects a 25 percent increase in Zimbabwe’s arrears to the IMF from about US$64 million at the end of September 2001.
 
The IMF declared Zimbabwe ineligible to use the institution’s general resources in September last year, citing the country’s failure to meet its financial commitments.
 
Analysts this week said the cash-strapped government, battling severe foreign currency problems and has to raise funds to import food to feed starving villagers, would again default on its commitment to the IMF and further alienate the country from the international community.
 
University of Zimbabwe business lecturer Anthony Hawkins said President Robert Mugabe might decide not to honour his obligations to the Fund, preferring to meet pressing food requirements and other essential imports this year.
 
"I don’t think there is any intention of paying the outstanding amount, particularly as the government knows there is no chance of regaining the support of the IMF this year," Hawkins told the Financial Gazette.
 
Consultant economist John Robertson said: "Government has a very difficult task of meeting all its commitments to the international community and risks alienating itself from the rest of the world."
 
Zimbabwe needs to import more than 500 000 tonnes of grain this year to avert hunger in the wake of disruptions of commercial farming by Mugabe’s supporters who, since 2000, have seized and occupied hundreds of farms nationwide in the name of land hunger.
 
The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP), which has been coordinating international efforts to avert hunger in Zimbabwe, last week threatened to suspend a US$60 million food aid programme, citing fears over the security of its staff.
 
The threat followed an assault of aid workers by ruling ZANU PF supporters, who are rampaging throughout the country ahead of a crucial presidential ballot in March pitting Mugabe against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
 
Other donors have also been considering supplying food aid to Zimbabwe but are reluctant to use government distribution channels, fearing that Mugabe could use the food to try to buy votes.
 
The WFP has been working through non-governmental organisations such as Christian Care and World Vision to distribute the food to the needy.
 
Mugabe, who turns 78 in February, faces the toughest challenge to his 21-year reign from Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, in a presidential poll set for March 9 and 10.
 
The Zimbabwe government asked for food assistance only towards the end of last year after repeatedly refusing to acknowledge the impending crisis. 
 
 

Financial Gazette

War vets illegally sell $40m farmers’ assets
 
Staff Reporter
1/31/02 1:34:44 AM (GMT +2)
 
ABOUT $40 million in commercial farmers’ assets in Zimbabwe have been sold off by war veterans in Mashonaland East province under the guise of paying "gratuities" to farm workers whose employers have been evicted from their properties, it was learnt this week.
 
A Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) spokeswoman said war veterans were leading workers in the illegal auction of farmers’ assets and that her organisation was worried the situation could spread to other commercial farming areas.
 
"A drought of reason continues to prevail on Zimbabwean farms as assets worth $40 million went under the hammer of injustice," the spokeswoman told the Financial Gazette.
 
"The illegal auctions are being conducted under the guise of supplying gratuity packages to staff of farmers illegally evicted from their farms."
 
She said the illegal auctions had started two weeks ago at Alamein Farm in Mashonaland East, which is owned by Guy Watson-Smith, a farmer forced to flee Zimbabwe in December by ruling ZANU PF supporters who claimed they had been allocated the property.
 
Cattle, household goods and farming implements were sold on the farm after the war veterans refused to allow the High Court-sanctioned removal of $120 million in assets from the property.
 
"At least three public auctions have since been carried out under cover of supplying ‘gratuity packages’ for the staff of 300 workers, who were previously employed by Watson-Smith," the CFU spokeswoman said.
 
"Events on the Watson-Smith farm have spread to other areas of Beatrice over the last few weeks."
 
The CFU said another Beatrice farmer, Steve Terblans, had fled at the beginning of this month from a farm gazetted for compulsory acquisition after receiving death threats from the veterans.
 
In a statement this week, Terblans said the veterans had lied to his workers, claiming that he had left Zimbabwe, resulting in the employees demanding their benefits from the farm manager.
 
"I was instructed to pay the workers their dues," he said. "The war veterans refused to recognise my right to remove my movable assets, claiming that these were being acquired."
 
He said workers at his farm had applied to the High Court demanding $650 000 in severance pay, while the veterans had auctioned off 230 head of cattle on his farm on January 17 and also impounded machinery and household goods, effectively leaving Terblans destitute.
 
Attempts to secure police intervention had failed, the commercial farmer said.
 
There was no immediate comment from police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, who was said to be out of the office on Monday.
 
The veterans and other ruling party supporters began occupying commercial farms in February 2000 and have been responsible for violence, costly work stoppages as well as the theft and damage of farming implements and crops.
 
The disruption of farming caused by the occupations has contributed to severe food shortages that could trigger a serious humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe this year. 
 

Financial Gazette

Bread shortage looms large as 65% farmers are kicked off their land
 
Staff Reporter
1/31/02 1:08:40 AM (GMT +2)
 
SIXTY-FIVE percent of Zimbabwe’s wheat growers have been served with government notices to vacate their properties from the end of next week in a move that will slash the country’s wheat output by half this year, the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) said this week.
 
CFU deputy director for commodities Jerry Grant said 65 percent of 700 commercial wheat growers, who produce 93 percent of the 400 000 tonnes consumed by the country annually, had received orders to vacate their properties.
 
This means that wheat production this year will decline by at least 221 000 tonnes, he noted.
 
The orders were issued under Section Eight of the government’s controversial Land Acquisition Act, which gives farmers 90 days to stop farming and vacate their properties, and affect commercial wheat growers mainly in Mashonaland West and East provinces.
 
"Sixty five percent of these (wheat) farmers have Section Eight orders and cannot farm," Grant told the Financial Gazette.
 
"They cannot even prepare their land because there is no indication from the minister (of Agriculture and Rural Resettlement) of whether the farmers will be able to continue with their farming operations."
 
The government has yet to respond to a plea by farmers to be allowed to continue with their work and to even prepare land for new crops.
 
Grant said: "Unless a decision is made soon, it will be disastrous for Zimbabwe because of the shortages, so we are very concerned about this."
 
Zimbabwe is faced with severe shortages of the staple mealie-meal that is produced from maize. The shortages have forced many households to turn to bread as a substitute.
 
Increased demand for bread and the millers’ inability to import gristing wheat, which is used in the manufacture of flour, have resulted in a rise in wheat usage and could see Zimbabwe rapidly depleting its stocks.
 
Grant said the wheat growers’ plight was being worsened by the failure of the government-controlled Grain Marketing Board, weighed down by a $32 billion debt, to pay farmers for wheat delivered to it in September and October last year.
 
According to farming industry sources, of the 300 924 tonnes of wheat delivered by farmers to the GMB last year, only 120 000 tonnes had been paid for by the end of last year.
 
The CFU official said wheat producers were also concerned about the deteriorating security situation on commercial farms, where increasing numbers of farmers were being expelled from their properties by militant government supporters.
 
He said some wheat farmers were moving their irrigation equipment into the cities to prevent theft and damage.
 
"Irrigation farmers have had to dismantle centre pivots (used in the irrigation of wheat) for security reasons," Grant said.
 
Supporters of President Robert Mugabe, who faces a tough election on March 9 and 10, have seized hundreds of farms nationwide since 2000 in the name of land hunger.
 
At least nine farmers and scores of blacks have been killed in the often violent campaign.