|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
ITS TIME TO COMPLETE THE CHANGE: A NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE
In June 2001 I wrote that the political tide in Zimbabwe had turned and that the process of change was inevitable. Nothing has happened since then to alter my view except that we are now only two months away from a watershed election that will enable Zimbabweans to vote into power a man who has a vision for a new non violent, peaceful, transparent, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. That man is Morgan Tsvangirai. Because of the hardships that virtually all Zimbabweans are experiencing at present there are many who find it hard to believe that Morgan Tsvangirai can become President of Zimbabwe, much as they desire that to happen. Mugabe has, after all, said that Tsvangirai will "never, ever" rule and is doing all in his power to make that prediction a reality.
2001 has been a very tough year for most Zimbabweans. We knew it would be that way, and warned of it. The last few months have been the toughest: rampant inflation, increased violence, politically motivated detentions, selective application of the "law" and the passing of new unjust laws and policies have combined to plunge many into the depths of depression.
Very little that ZANU (PF) has done has come as a surprise to us. The events of this year have not been random or unplanned. On the contrary they have been part of a deliberate campaign by Mugabe and to subdue the Zimbabwean people. Mugabe has used a combination of physical and psychological measures to crush opposition to his tyrannical rule. The physical measures are fairly obvious: bombing the Daily News, threatening the Judiciary, murdering, beating and detaining members of the MDC, forcing farmers off the land, assaulting and displacing thousands of farm workers and raiding businesses and industry.
The psychological measures are less obvious but far more effective in undermining morale. And there have been many; indeed the pervasiveness of all the measures is staggering and requires listing. The passing of the Citizenship Act mid year and its deliberate misinterpretation by the Registrar General ("requiring" people to renounce a mere entitlement to citizenship of another country) has thrown many into a frenzy. The insidious threat of immediate eviction of farmers, and the barring of them from reaping their crops already planted, posed by Statutory Instrument 338 in November caused many farmers to lose all hope. The termination of Radio 1, and its subsequent replacement by first "Sport" and then, ridiculously, "Spot" Radio was deliberately done to depress people who enjoyed their programmes. Then there are all the rumors deliberately fed into the system: "10000 Libyans in the country as part of hit squads", "arms imported to deal with the opposition" and even the pathetic "Coltart evacuates family". All of these are designed to depress and to induce a sense of panic.
One would have thought that, having introduced such a wide array of measures, he would have succeeded in crushing opposition to his rule. However the last few weeks have seen Mugabe’s regime resorting to new, and increasingly desperate, measures. They have murdered their own as a pretext to detain, and brand, the MDC as "terrorists". The Public Order and Security Bill, "POSB", has been introduced in Parliament to prevent criticism of the President, to stifle peaceful forms of protest (such as civil disobedience) and create State of Emergency conditions without actually having to declare a State of Emergency. Likewise the "no" Access to Information Bill has been introduced with the clear intention of silencing independent journalists and the media. Finally, in a complete negation of the liberation struggle cry of "one person one vote", ZANU (PF)’s proposed amendments to the Electoral Act will make it harder for Zimbabweans to register as voters and more difficult for Zimbabwean civil society to observe and monitor the elections. All of these betray Mugabe’s sense of panic – he is are no longer confident that he can win an election even if it is fought in the extremely unfair conditions, which prevailed in the 2000 Parliamentary election. As draconian as these measures are, more than anything else they constitute an admission by ZANU (PF) that their violent and unlawful strategies have failed and they are now in deep trouble in the run up to the Presidential election.
For all the depression felt by many Zimbabweans the fact remains that this regime would not be resorting to such extreme measures if Mugabe were confident of winning the election. If those committed to democracy feel depressed it is nothing compared to the desperation and paranoia prevailing in the Mugabe camp, which is due to three critical factors working against them.
In summary these are: (1) the incredible turn around and support of the international community in the course of 2001, (2) the amazing courage and determination of Zimbabweans to secure change in the face of violence and tyranny and (3) the emergence of a government in waiting, led by a charismatic and competent leader, ready to lead Zimbabwe to a peaceful and prosperous future.
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
It may seem trite but Zimbabwe cannot survive without the support of the international community. Zimbabwe is relatively weak, landlocked and oil-less. Correspondingly both ZANU (PF) and the MDC cannot survive without the support of the international community. ZANU (PF), because it cannot hope to restore the economy and govern in the long term without that support. The MDC, because it does not have the physical power itself to guarantee a free and fair election. The views of the International Community regarding what is happening in Zimbabwe are therefore equally important to the MDC and ZANU (PF). ZANU (PF) needed the international community to buy its argument that land is the core issue and that it is an innocent actor. The MDC needed the international community to buy its argument that good governance is the core issue.
It was with this in mind that Mugabe selected his cabinet. For example his choice of Jonathan Moyo as Information Minister was not made with Zimbabweans in mind but rather with the international community, and especially SADC, in mind. When ZANU (PF) came within a whisker of losing the June 2000 election they realized then that they would battle to win the first-past-the-post-countrywide Presidential election. To win they would have to implement the fast track land programme and increase levels of intimidation and violence. But it recognized early on that it would have to create elaborate smokescreens because it could not embark on such schemes with impunity unless ZANU (PF) could portray itself as a relatively innocent actor. Mugabe knows that he will still have to govern Zimbabwe after the election and that he will not be able to do so without international assistance. In other words not only did ZANU (PF) have to get the international community to buy its argument as to what the cause of the strife within Zimbabwe was, but also it had to get the international community to turn a blind eye to abuses of human rights so that Mugabe’s government would be recognized and aid would flow after the election. And so Jonathan Moyo’s task has been to convey to the world that ZANU (PF) is merely responding to people pressure for land and that Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC are unreconstructed "terrorists". If the international community, and especially SADC, bought into ZANU (PF)’s argument, ZANU (PF) could subvert the electoral process with impunity. Mugabe cynically calculated that the West would apply a different standard to Zimbabwe ("African elections are violent") and that African nations would be sympathetic to the argument that the land invasions were uncontrollable and that in any event the MDC was just as violent as ZANU (PF). In other words he calculated that he would be able to get away with bludgeoning his way to electoral victory and that the international community would simply forgive and forget after he resumed the presidency.
The MDC has had to counter massive internal and international propaganda of ZANU (PF) that land was the core issue, that the violence was not of ZANU (PF)’s making but part of "spontaneous demonstrations" by landless people and that the MDC was a violent neo-colonial outfit designed to return Zimbabwe to Rhodesia
The MDC has faced a daunting task to overcome this strategy. Not only is Zimbabwe a tiny country with an inconsequential economy on the world’s forgotten continent, but also it had to contend with western skepticism and ignorance. Added to that it was up against a government that was prepared to use millions of taxpayers’ money to employ lobbyists. But the MDC has won this battle.
To demonstrate this it is appropriate to start with the United States of America. Both ZANU (PF) and the MDC recognized that the approach of the USA was critically important, not just because it is so powerful but in particular because it holds so much sway in South Africa. That is why ZANU (PF) employed American lobbyists Cohen and Woods and subsequently Andrew Young to do its bidding in Washington. Cohen and Woods had much fertile ground to work with when they started. Successive MDC delegations to Washington in 2000 found that many influential members of the all-important Congressional Black Caucus still viewed Mugabe as a "liberator". Others had bought into the ZANU (PF) line that the chaos was the result of an unresolved colonial, and racial, legacy.
The tragic events of September 11th initially appeared to make the MDC’s task harder. The international media turned its attention elsewhere and it seemed to many hoping for democratic change in Zimbabwe that Mugabe had the perfect cover. But our fears have not been realized for, far from it going off the radar screen, Zimbabwe has come into sharp focus in the minds of many influential Americans since the 11th September.
The first inkling of this was given when United States District Judge Victor Marrero handed down his 130 page judgment on the 30th October 2001 in the case brought against Mugabe for damages by Adella Chiminya, Maria Stevens and others who have lost loved ones at the hands of Mugabe’s thugs. Judge Marrero found that Tapfuma Chiminya, David Stevens and the other loved ones were, because of their support for the MDC, "extra judicially murdered …by operatives of ZANU (PF) operating in concert with or significantly aided by high-ranking Zimbabwe government officials acting outside the color of state law". However the Judge found that he could not grant judgment against Mugabe because he enjoyed head-of-state immunity. The Judge was clearly pained by this and as he said "the enormity of the atrocities". Accordingly he qualified his judgment by stating:
"resort to head-of-state immunity as a shield for private abuses of the sovereign’s office is wearing thinner in the eyes of the world and waning in the cover of the law. The prevailing trend teaches that the day (will) come to pass when those who violate their public trust are called upon…to render account for the wrongs they inflict on innocents."
Then significantly the Judge, who sits in New York, made a telling link between the case at hand and the events of 11th September by stating:
"Today, events around us bear witness almost daily to the destructive power of individuals whose chosen way of life is to do wrong by inflicting harms of mass proportions. With modern means, the hands of one or a few persons hold the force sufficient to wreak in moments wanton destruction and horror of a magnitude that it once took whole armies to inflict….(t)o iniquity’s purpose of propagating large-scale grief, as evidenced by the case at hand, its capacity for injustice is virtually limitless because it honors none of the self-imposed restraints that contain the conduct of the civilized world within decent bounds."
Having made that link of terror the Judge concluded by calling for the law to "stand ready to adapt as appropriate, to shape, redress and remedy so as to answer measure for measure the particular evil it pursues" and granting judgment against the only entity he could, namely ZANU (PF). I have dwelt on this judgment because it illustrates what informed ordinary apolitical Americans think about what is going on in Zimbabwe, who is responsible for terror in this country and what should be done about it. The judgment also decisively placed Mugabe on the wrong side of President Bush’s fence dividing those who oppose and those who support terrorism throughout the world.
Ironically both Mugabe and Jonathan Moyo have further compounded their predicament since the beginning of November. Mugabe, in an emotional speech given on the 18th November, said that he would not be dictated to by those "in their tall towers" in the West and accused Tony Blair of being involved in acts of terrorism in Zimbabwe. In mid November the ZBC, which falls under Moyo’s command, started mimicking CNN’s by-line "The fight against terrorism" to describe ZANU (PF)’s crack down on the MDC. These actions demean America’s legitimate fight against real terrorists and lost Mugabe any remaining friends he might have still had in America.
The first sign of this loss of support was given in the photograph of Jesse Jackson congratulating Daily News editor Geoff Nyarota (who had just received a press freedom award in Washington) on the 28th November. Jackson, it will be recalled, has been in the past a Mugabe apologist. Jackson’s action in meeting Nyarota was a harbinger of things to come. In early December the House of Representatives was called upon to vote on the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill. ZANU (PF) thought that the Congressional Black Caucus would vote against it. But in a truly historic vote the Bill passed by 369 votes to 11. Not a single member of the CBC voted against it and the 369 affirmative votes included every informed and influential member of the CBC. So much for Mugabe’s assertion that this is only a racist Jesse Helms Bill! The action of the CBC in this regard demonstrates the determination of all Americans to fight terrorism in whatever forms it appears and is a damning indictment against Mugabe. The strong language used by highly respected former Chairperson of the CBC, Donald Payne, in supporting the language must have shaken Mugabe and ZANU (PF) to the core.
The signing of the Zimbabwe Democracy Economic Recovery Bill (ZIDERA) into law by President Bush just before Christmas completed the transformation, in the minds of Americans, of Mugabe from African statesman to tyrant and marked the beginning of a new chapter. The Act in itself is graphic evidence of the failure of ZANU (PF)’s propaganda campaign and an acceptance that the lack of good governance in Zimbabwe is at the core of Zimbabwe’s crisis. More worrying for Mugabe and his henchmen is the fact that ZIDERA signals America’s determination to assist in the democratization of Zimbabwe. If Mugabe does not hold free and fair elections there will be dramatic consequences for the ZANU (PF) elite in the form of personal sanctions. Gone too is Mugabe’s argument that the Zimbabwe crisis is simply a spat with its former colonial master, Britain. Finally, America’s lead will have, and already has had, a powerful influence over the way the EU, SADC, and the Commonwealth deal with the problem.
The transformation of the EU’s approach to the Zimbabwean crisis over the last year has been equally remarkable. At the beginning of 2001 France, Belgium and, to a lesser extent Spain, were not convinced that the MDC’s version of what lay at the core of Zimbabwe’s problems was correct. That attitude was complicated by the fact that France and Belgium appeared to be reluctant to jeopardize their relationship with Mugabe because of concerns related to Zimbabwe’s involvement in the Congo. Without the support of France and Belgium, forthright action against Zimbabwe in the EU would have been difficult if not impossible. The turn around of France and Belgium on the 29th October, when they voted with the rest of the EU to invoke Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement (the precursor to sanctions against Zimbabwe) surprised many of us in the MDC and was deeply shocking to ZANU (PF) – they just never believed that their erstwhile friends would do such a thing. The depth of their shock was displayed when Mugabe walked out (in a huff) of a meeting with senior EU ambassadors in Harare on the 23rd November. This is the man who used to be able to charm world leaders and who has successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of democratically elected leaders for decades. He finally lost his cool and let his guard down because he realized that the game is up. The bottom line is the EU is now also an avowed enemy of ZANU (PF) and former supporters of the party such as Sweden are vilified. The reason: the EU also has firmly rejected ZANU (PF)’s propaganda line and is demanding that there be free and fair elections and good governance. If there are not Article 96 will be pursued vigorously.
Zimbabweans have been extremely critical, with good cause, of the Commonwealth over the last two years. It all started with Secretary General McKinnon’s disastrous assurance given just before the June 2000 election that Mugabe would act decently. Since then there have been a succession of wishy-washy Commonwealth statements and actions (or more appropriately inactions) that have discredited the organisation. It is not surprising that ZANU (PF) until recently were happy to have the Commonwealth monitor Zimbabwean elections. The strongly worded statement, that the situation constituted a "serious and persistent violation of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values", emanating from the Commonwealth Ministers’ Action Group (CMAG) on the 20th December would have shocked ZANU (PF). CMAG resolved to review the situation at its next meeting, to be held on the 30th January 2002, and Zimbabwe has been placed on the formal agenda of the meeting, in itself a statement that the Zimbabwean crisis is now sufficiently serious to merit special attention. Not even the Commonwealth now buys into ZANU (PF)’s agenda.
Accordingly by the end of 2001 a broad coalition of the United States, the EU and the Commonwealth emerged. All are determined to ensure that Zimbabwe has free and fair Presidential elections. The only apparent source of comfort to ZANU (PF) was the statement issued by some SADC Ministers on the 12th December welcoming the "improved atmosphere" in Zimbabwe. ZANU (PF) has made much of this statement, which has led many to believe that SADC is going to look the other way and allow ZANU (PF) to abuse the electoral process. Whilst there is no doubt that some SADC countries, which are themselves undemocratic, support ZANU (PF) it would be wrong to assume that the SADC Ministers’ statement represents the views of the most influential countries in the region. It is pertinent to note that Ministers from Angola and Namibia dominated the SADC meeting and that Ministers from South Africa and Botswana left the meeting prior to its conclusion.
Indeed far from SADC looking the other way there are signs that democratic leaders in the region are increasingly concerned about Zimbabwe. Festus Mogae, the President of Botswana, openly criticized Mugabe and his war veterans in an interview in the Sunday Times on the 11th November. During the week commencing the 26th November President Mbeki spoke out against what was happening in Zimbabwe on no less than 3 separate occasions. On the 20th December a high ranking ANC delegation arrived in Harare for talks with ZANU (PF) and prior to its arrival the SABC announced that part of its mission was to secure free and fair elections. It is highly significant that neither party at the conclusion of the talks made any press release and save for one article in the Herald claiming, without any supporting statement from the ANC, that the ANC was in solidarity with ZANU (PF), the ZANU (PF) propaganda machine has been remarkably quiet about the visit. If anything the government controlled media and Jonathan Moyo have spent most of December criticizing South Africa. In the December 18th edition of the Chronicle there was a vicious cartoon portraying Nelson Mandela as a lackey of Bush and Blair. In Parliament on the 18th December Jonathan Moyo said: "Those who see the likes of the BBC, CNN and SABC as voices of democracy are either naïve or plain mad". Subsequently Moyo stated in a press conference that the South African media were still under the control of apartheid forces. Throughout December there was a sustained attack on the ANC in the Herald implying that it was now being influenced by, and had sold out to, the New Nationalist Party. Clearly ZANU (PF) now perceives the ANC as an enemy because it too is insisting on a fair electoral process.
The real test of who is in control of SADC and what the most powerful States in SADC think about the Zimbabwean situation will be shown when the SADC Heads of State meet in Malawi on the 13th January. Whatever happens there however what is now clear is that a very powerful coalition comprising the United States, the European Union, an overwhelming majority of democratic Commonwealth countries and the two most powerful neighbours of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, has emerged during the course of 2001. This coalition is determined to ensure that free and fair elections take place and has come to the conclusion that whilst the land issue is an important unresolved issue, the principal problem is the absence of good governance. The MDC now has the most powerful and influential countries on earth singing from the same hymn sheet as it and this particular hurdle is now firmly overcome. There will be no going back on the international community’s insistence that free and fair elections be held in compliance with the SADC Electoral Norms and Standards as passed by the SADC Parliamentary Forum in Windhoek in March 20001. ZANU (PF) will only snub that insistence at its peril.
One final thought: once a politician, or a political party for that matter, is marked as a pariah the stain is indelible. There is now nowhere for Mugabe to hide. Either he complies with the international community and holds elections in compliance with the SADC Standards, in which case he will lose by a mile, or he does not, in which case if he manages to win the result will not be recognized by the countries which count in the region and the world in any event.
SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE
Of course it doesn’t matter what the international community thinks if an overwhelming majority of people within the country concerned back the policies of its government. History shows us that regimes, which enjoy the backing of a significant majority of its people, can ride the storm of international opprobrium for some time, especially if they have strong economies. Zimbabwe, to put it mildly, does not have a strong economy and so if Mugabe is to fly in the face of world opinion he will need the support of a significant majority, not just to win the election but also to endure the hardship of international isolation.
In the run up to the 2000 Parliamentary election I speculated about three possible scenarios. The first, and most negative from an MDC perspective, was that the MDC would win a majority of seats in the cities but because of intimidation would only win a smattering of rural seats and as a result would only win about 30 seats countrywide. The second was that the MDC would win convincingly in the cities and in certain rural areas that were traditionally anti ZANU (PF) and would garner between 50 and 60 votes. The third was that the MDC would win the cities and all rural areas aside from ZANU (PF)’s heartland and in doing so would win a Parliamentary majority of between 80 and 90 seats. In all my talks given at the time I believed that the second scenario was the most likely. The reason I mention this is that at the time I did not make outlandish predictions. I firmly believed, from the evidence before me at the time that ZANU (PF)’s intimidation of certain areas was still effective and as a result we could not win in those areas. Furthermore it was apparent that ZANU (PF) was still sufficiently unified to retain substantial support in its heartland.
From the evidence before me now I believe that, despite intimidation, electoral fraud and dirty tricks, there could well be a landslide victory in favour of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai. I say so for the following reasons:
The net result of this painstaking exercise of going through the country Province by Province is that it demonstrates that the MDC and its President Tsvangirai now enjoy majority support in some two thirds of the physical area of Zimbabwe and the support of some three quarters of the population. If one takes a map of Zimbabwe and one draws a line eastwards starting at Lake Kariba, on the north eastern boundary of Binga constituency, continuing up the eastern boundary of Gokwe in a north westerly direction to eventually encircle Harare, continuing in a southerly direction (to exclude Chikomba Constituency) and thereafter northeastwards to end at the Mozambique border north of Nyanga, one will see the extent of MDC’s support. An overwhelming majority of people who live south of that line now supports the MDC and President Tsvangirai. Everything below that line includes all the cities and most the rural areas. North of the line only includes the Gokwe area of Midlands Province and the three rural Mashonaland Provinces.
In the face of this, and only just over two months away from the Presidential election, all ZANU (PF) has to offer the people is violence. ZANU (PF)’s principal campaign platform of land to the people has been exposed for what it is, a sham. During the Christmas recess I have personally witnessed in two entirely separate areas, hundred of kilometers apart, occupiers having moved off land already occupied to plant crops in their communal land fields. Whilst that is obviously not the case countrywide even taking ZANU (PF)’s distorted figures only some 100,000 people have "benefited" from the so-called fast track land programme. Even those have simply been dumped on land without being given title, without the provision of water, schools, clinics and roads. In other words the vast majority of the some 6 million eligible voters have not benefited one iota from what is the nub of ZANU (PF)’s platform, indeed they are struggling more than ever before. In recent weeks it has emerged that many of the best farms have been reserved for Mugabe’s cronies. So much for "land to the people"!
ZANU (PF) has simply not addressed the key issue that is affecting everyone in the country, namely the collapsing economy and increasing poverty. Ironically even the ZANU (PF) campaign advertisements published in the last few days acknowledge this: "Say no to artificial shortages!" – "Vote for price controls!" The advertisements are an admission that under Mugabe’s government there are shortages and high prices which need controlling. Hardly a great reason to vote for the person responsible!
Finally violence is increasingly counter-productive for ZANU (PF). The people of Zimbabwe have simply had enough and their level of anger now far surpasses their level of fear. In short they simply want a change and a new start, not the same old man for another 6 years. And for those who agree with my assessment but who fear that the election will be rigged let me say the following. Rigging the election is undoubtedly part of Mugabe’s plan but can only succeed if the margin is only a few tens of thousand votes. There were strange figures that came out of some of the rural Mashonaland rural constituencies in 2000 where the ZANU (PF) vote appeared to have been bolstered. However even with that rigging ZANU (PF) had a deficit of some 70,000 votes against the combined total of the opposition. We are now two years on and the actual margin of defeat for Mugabe is going to be much more than 70,000 (it will be hundreds of thousands if Masvingo Province votes either for Tsvangirai or simply does not vote at all). A deficit of several hundred thousand votes makes rigging enormously difficult.
A final word is necessary regarding the mood of the Zimbabwean people. The MDC has, in the last few weeks, brought a succession of cases to the High Court to level the playing field. As a result of case we have managed to get the numbers of new prospective voters who have registered. There are some 700,000 new registrations! One of the arguments advanced by the Registrar General’s office for their inability to supply us with a copy of the voters’ roll was because they had only managed to process to date some 80,000 of the these new registrations! Rest assured that the vast majority of these 700,000 new voters are not particularly happy with the present regime and they have not registered for fun. Why else do think government has made it so difficult for people to register? The people are ready.
The people being ready is one thing; having a decent candidate to vote for is another thing entirely. Which leads me to the coup de grace in the form of Morgan Tsvangirai. Whilst I have known MDC President Tsvangirai since 1992 I have only got to know him well since being invited by him to join the MDC in 1999. Getting to know him has been a sheer pleasure. He is a man of great intellect, integrity, courage, compassion and humour. In fact I firmly believe that in Mr. Tsvangirai we have a truly great leader who will become a statesman of world renown. I have consistently impressed by his wisdom in tackling tricky issues and by his commitment to a vision of a non-racist, non-sexist, democratic Zimbabwe.
It is hard to convey why I have so much admiration for Tsvangirai. A few random examples of his character may help. When our child Bethany was born in September Tsvangirai took time off his hectic schedule to phone me to say "makorokoto" (Shona for congratulations). When I was concerned in November by the death threats I had received a meeting with him restored my equilibrium. When some of our younger members went over the top in campaigning for positions last year in Harare, bringing the MDC into disrepute, Tsvangirai dealt with the issue quickly, resolutely but fairly and put the party back on track. When he was ambushed twice last year he remained absolutely calm and focused. He does not have an ounce of racist blood in veins. He is truly a great leader and Zimbabwe will be blessed to have him as President.
Some skeptics may argue that my own experience is all very well but Tsvangirai is not known by the Zimbabwean people and we may well end up like the Zambians, lumped with a President very few people want. After all the people of Zambia were also ready for change. Over 80% of those eligible to vote turned out to vote in the recently held Parliamentary and presidential elections. Over 70% of those who voted, voted against the so-called ruling party candidate, Levy Mwanawasa. The will of the people was denied however because, despite all the opposition’s claims of rigging, even on the Zambian government’s own figures Mwanawasa won with only 28,7% of the vote. The dreaded "Kenya syndrome", namely the inability of the opposition to coalesce around a single candidate, did in the Zambian people. The "Kenya syndrome" is more likely to occur in countries where ethnicity is a major factor or where the opposition is unable to produce a single candidate who stands head and shoulders above the rest of the opposition candidates. The latter problem is exacerbated when a good opposition candidate does not have the backing of a strong party behind him or her.
Fortunately Zimbabwe does not suffer from any of these blights. Ethnicity will not be a factor in our elections as far as the MDC is concerned. The MDC team of President Tsvangirai and Vice President Sibanda attracts support countrywide and in both urban and rural settings. Ndebele people have thronged President Tsvangirai’s meetings in Matabeleland in 2001 and Shona people have done the same for Vice President Sibanda in meetings held recently in, for example, Zaka in Masvingo. If anyone will have a problem attracting support from specific ethnic groups it will be Mugabe whose chickens are coming home to roost. Mugabe will battle to attract support in regions he has alienated such as Matabeleland, Masvingo and Manicaland. Indeed Mugabe was the MDC best candidate ZANU (PF) could have offered because he is so intensely disliked by various ethnic groups throughout the country. We were absolutely delighted that the ZANU (PF) Congress decided to stick with the soon-to-be-78 year old Mugabe. The problem for ZANU (PF) is compounded in Matabeleland in that his only possible Ndebele Vice President running mates, Msika or John Nkomo, did not even dare to contest seats in Matabeleland in the 2000 elections cognizant of their inability to win. Both are deeply unpopular in Matabeleland in stark contrast to Vice President Gibson Sibanda who won his seat with a majority of over 80%.
What then of the prospect of multiple candidates from other parties as happened in Zambia? In the 2000 elections ZANU (PF) secured 48% of the vote, the MDC 46% and the balance went to a variety of small opposition parties, the main one being ZANU Ndonga which secured the only other opposition seat of Chipinge South. There are only three other political parties of any consequence namely, the UANC led by Bishop Muzorewa, ZAPU and the Liberty Party (both regional parties based in Bulawayo). All three attracted minimal votes and many of their candidates lost their deposits in the 2000 elections. ZANU (PF) has been desperately trying to promote candidates from these parties and it has been intriguing to see how, for example, the government controlled Chronicle newspaper in Bulawayo has been promoting the fortunes of Paul Siwela, the Secretary General of ZAPU who appears to have desires to contest the Presidential election. His plans to contest were dealt a bit of a blow when the ZAPU Central Committee recently decided that it would not field a candidate in the election. Since that decision was taken the Chronicle has done its utmost to discredit Agrippa Madlela, the ZAPU President who, one would have thought, would be ZAPU’s logical candidate, but who believes that ZAPU should not contest the election.
The same tactic is being employed, with similar lack of success, to get Wilson Khumbula MP to stand as ZANU Ndonga’s Presidential candidate. Khumbula until recently was the President of ZANU Ndonga. He has been suspended from the party and there are strong indications that ZANU Ndonga will not want to field a candidate. So despite ZANU (PF)’s best efforts to split the opposition vote by assisting the campaigns of a multiplicity of opposition candidates they will not succeed. If anything President Tsvangirai will pick up votes from the supporters of these small parties, especially from the largest of them all, ZANU Ndonga. In sum this will in essence be a two horse race. In any event our electoral laws are different to Zambia in that in Zimbabwe the winning candidate has to win a majority of votes cast and if a majority is not achieved in the first ballot then the two top candidates have to contest a second ballot against each other. So at the end of the day this will be a straight contest between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
Another important reason why the opposition vote will not be split sufficiently to usher Mugabe back into power by default is because in MDC President Tsvangirai Zimbabwe has got a charismatic candidate the opposition and civil society can coalesce around. Having been a highly successful Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) prior to his election as President of the MDC, Tsvangirai has a very high and positive profile that transcends the ethnic, class, racial and gender divide. My personal experience of Tsvangirai is shared by hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans countrywide. In a word he is Presidential and it is not hard for Zimbabweans to conceive that he would be a good President. Even if other opposition candidates do stand none will have the presence or profile of Tsvangirai.
But it is the backing of an effective party that is the most compelling reason why our election will be different to the Zambian election. The MDC since its formation in September 1999 has been subjected to a literal baptism of fire at the hands of ZANU (PF) and its surrogate police force and CIO. We have now had over 90 of our supporters murdered by ZANU (PF) thugs; virtually every single MDC MP has been either detained, or assaulted, or had his or her house searched, or received death threats. The MDC has been subjected to the most bizarre selective application of the law. Charges have been fabricated against MDC leaders and prosecuted vigorously whereas ZANU (PF) leaders who openly advocate murder are not even arrested. The electronic media is brazenly the mouthpiece of ZANU (PF). And so it goes on. But the reality is that, despite all of this harassment (in fact perhaps because of the harassment) the MDC is now stronger than it was in June 2000. Not only do we now have elected structures countrywide but also we now have the capacity and ability to govern.
Unlike ZANU (PF) which is trapped in its one-track mind of its disastrous "fast track land programme" the MDC has developed comprehensive policies to turn Zimbabwe around. President Tsvangirai has spent the last six months progressively unveiling the MDC’s economic, health, education and labour policies (to mention a few). All these policies have been formulated in consultation with experts from the relevant sectors of Zimbabwean society and have been hailed by serious commentators within Zimbabwe. The MDC has unveiled a three-year recovery plan that President Tsvangirai will start to implement as soon as he has been inaugurated in April.
But the MDC is more than just a body with good structures and policies - most importantly it has spirit! I have just had the pleasure of attending the MDC’s Annual Conference that was held in Gweru on the 22nd December. I have three words to describe the Conference: joyous, hilarious and constructive! There was absolute (and heartfelt) agreement that Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda shall comprise our Presidential team unlike the deep divisions within the ZANU (PF) camp regarding Mugabe’s candidacy. Most of the meeting was devoted to debating and agreeing on key policy issues such as tackling the economy, dealing effectively with the Aids pandemic and restoring the rule of law unlike the ZANU (PF) Congress which only seemed to discuss Mugabe’s declaration of war on the Zimbabwean people. In stark contrast to the tone of the ZANU (PF) meeting prayer and a recommitment to the principle of non-violence marked the MDC Conference. As a white Zimbabwean I felt profoundly privileged to be part of the proceedings of a movement that is non-racist and has a vision for not only a new democratic Zimbabwe but also a new beginning for Africa. I feel excited about the prospect of serving under Morgan Tsvangirai’s Presidency.
THE FINAL LAP
I have always said that this battle to bring genuine democracy to Zimbabwe would not be easy and that the more cornered Mugabe and ZANU (PF) felt the more vicious they would become. That holds true now more than ever before and we are under no illusions how tough this final stretch will be. But we are now on the final lap. Before the end of this week Mugabe is obliged, in terms of the Electoral Act, to announce the date of the election. The election has to be held by the 17th March and Mugabe’s present term of office expires, come what may, State of Emergency or none, at midnight on the 31st March. In other words as I write the election is less than 70 days, or 10 weeks away.
Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you that the final few kilometers are the hardest; every joint aches and one cannot believe that one will finish, but finish we will, and that is all we have to do now. The international community now understands clearly what is going on in Zimbabwe and will do all in its power to assist the transition to democracy. The people are ready, silently and patiently waiting to cast their ballots. And finally the next President of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, is ready. All we have to be make sure that we are registered and ready and able to vote in March.
Many people ask in meetings whether Mugabe will allow President Tsvangirai to take office once he wins pointing to Mugabe’s oft repeated statement that the MDC and President Tsvangirai will "never, ever" govern. Not only has Mugabe not learnt from Zimbabwe’s own recent history (Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith said there would "never be majority rule in a thousand years only to be proved wrong a short time after making that statement), but he also commits the terrible mistake of assuming that he is god and able to guide the course of history. History is replete with examples of dictators who believe that they will rule forever. In just the last 60 years Mussolini, Hitler, Idi Amin, Ceuscescu, Mobutu and Milsovic spring to mind. All had grand plans, all were extremely vicious and irrational at the end, but all were swept from power. Mugabe can plan as much as he likes but ultimately he has to deal with the people and God.
I will conclude by quoting verses from my favourite book of the Bible. These verses from Isaiah 40 have sustained me for many years:
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind
sweeps them away like chaff.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
It is not easy being in the middle of a whirlwind as this dictatorship is swept away and I understand fully how many in Zimbabwe, especially those in the farming community, feel completely at the end of their tether. But I believe with all my being that if we remain steadfast, do what is right and trust in the good Lord we will be sustained and our strength will be renewed sufficiently to see us through this transition to democracy. God bless you and keep you all this New Year.
David Coltart MP
7th January 2002.
The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect the views of the MDC.
Freedom of Information and Right to Privacy Bill
The bill establishes a Statutory Media Commission, which will require all journalists to apply for a one-year renewable licence to be allowed to work.
Licences will only be awarded if a stringent set of requirements are met, and can be revoked at any time for those who breach a planned code of conduct.
Those found guilty of any offence will face a fine of up to Z$100,000 ($1,875) or two years' imprisonment.
The Public Order and Security Bill
Constitutional lawyers have warned that the wide-ranging provisions of this bill - which give unprecedented powers to the police - are similar to apartheid-era security legislation in South Africa.
Punishment for breach of the bill ranges from the death penalty to jail terms to heavy fines.
The bill makes it illegal:
Senior police officers will have powers to control and disperse public gatherings and crowds whenever they deem it reasonable to do so.
Electoral Act Amendment Bill
Changes to the Electoral Act would have placed significant obstacles in the way of those registering to vote. After its rejection, it bill cannot go through this session of parliament.
The Zimbabwean parliament is reconvening on Tuesday to consider a package of controversial bills ahead of the presidential election scheduled for March.
Critics say they are aimed at improving President Robert Mugabe's chances of winning the election.
This comes as the European Union has announced it will hold talks with Zimbabwean ministers in Brussels on Friday.
The three bills which members of parliament have been recalled early to consider include:
The media unions in Zimbabwe say the proposed legislation is draconian and have said they will ignore it.
As well as banning foreign journalists, if made law it will only allow local journalists to work if they have government accreditation, renewable every 12 months.
Tough jail terms are threatened, as are hefty fines, for journalists publishing news likely to cause alarm and despondency.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the media bill would stop the lies being told by foreign correspondents about the situation in Zimbabwe.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said that the Zanu-PF party is now the most racist and fascist regime.
From The Star (SA), 7 January
Mugabe steps up 'propaganda war'
Harare - Zimbabwe's ruling party has launched a media blitz for President Robert Mugabe's re-election bid, with a date for the March poll expected to be announced soon. The weekend drive also coincided with reports that militants from Mugabe's Zanu PF party have stepped up a violent campaign against the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of the elections. Zanu PF has been splashing a series of advertisements in both private and state-owned newspapers, projecting the embattled former guerrilla leader as a nationalist threatened by a Western-backed rival. The adverts, as well as dozens of articles in the government media, praise Mugabe's social, agricultural and economic policies and attack his critics and rivals - mainly MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who is expected to give the 77-year-old president the toughest contest of his career.
The government-owned Sunday Mail newspaper said Mugabe - who is determined to extend his 22-year-old hold on power despite a severe economic crisis blamed on his controversial policies - will announce the March polling dates this week. Government officials were not available to comment on the report, which was attributed to highly placed sources. In its media blitz, Zanu PF mixes attack and defence almost in equal measure, calling its black opponents puppets of former colonial power Britain and Zimbabwe's former white rulers. The white opponents are portrayed as racists who hanker for white rule under the former Rhodesia - Zimbabwe's colonial name.
In one full-page advertisement entitled "Rhodesians Never Learn," Zanu PF attacks John Robertson, one of Zimbabwe's top economists, for criticising Mugabe's land seizure policy in a recent newspaper article. Zanu PF charges that Robertson is "a public supporter of the treacherous British-sponsored MDC" who is working with former Rhodesian war veterans to undermine black majority rule, alleging that "his views are Rhodesian and racist". "What we reject is the persistence of vestigial attitudes from the Rhodesian yesteryears, attitudes of a master race, master colour, master owner and master employer. Our whole struggle was a rejection of such imperious attitudes and claims to privilege," the advert said. Robertson dismissed the charges as a measure of desperation. "I think people will see this kind of propaganda for what it is, a sign of desperation," he told reporters.
Zimbabwe's ruling party has also stepped up its propaganda on radio and television, taking up more slots on the state-owned broadcasting service to defend Mugabe's controversial seizures of white-owned farms. In the past, the MDC has accused Mugabe and Zanu PF of relying on slogans and insults to avoid focusing on policy issues, and their record in office. On Saturday, the MDC accused youths loyal to Mugabe of attacking one of its offices and the home of a legislator, as violence rises ahead of the presidential elections. The MDC says five of its supporters have been killed in the last two weeks, and MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube says at least 100 people have been murdered in the last two years. Zanu PF narrowly beat the MDC in general parliamentary elections in June 2000 after a violent campaign that left at least 31 people dead.
From The Sunday Times (UK), 6 January
Mugabe puts security forces on double pay
The embattled president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has doubled the pay of the country’s security forces as part of a campaign for victory in March elections, which he hopes will keep him in power for five more years. All police, soldiers and war veterans received the increases on New Year’s Day, putting their salaries and allowances well ahead of those of other public-sector workers in a crumbling economy, which is effectively bankrolled by Colonel Muammar Gadaffi of Libya, who has given Mugabe a £250m credit for oil imports. As commander-in-chief of the defence forces, Mugabe can do virtually as he pleases with the army and police, all of whose top brass are stalwarts of the ruling Zanu PF party. The war veterans who have helped push white farmers from their land over the past two years are controlled by the defence ministry, which classes them as a strategic reserve force.
Government sources said the decision to allocate the equivalent of another £400m to the defence budget was taken before Christmas at a meeting of commanders chaired by Mugabe, who belies his 77 years with a punishing work schedule. Opponents of the government accused Mugabe of an election "bribe", intended to buy the loyalty of the security forces before ordering them to crack down on critics of Zanu PF during the campaign. It was Mugabe’s insistence on rewarding the war veterans for their unstinting loyalty that prompted a series of economic upheavals that have taken Zimbabwe from self-reliance to basket-case status. Four years ago he gave them lump sums of more than £600 each, along with monthly allowances of £25. Zimbabwe could not afford such blatantly political gestures then, and the economy has shrunk to half the size since, while inflation is galloping away at 104%.
Finance ministry officials said the latest pay rise – almost double the award made to civil servants - was the largest since independence from Britain 21 years ago. "This is a clear move to keep the loyalty of the armed forces ahead of the coming presidential election," said Brian Raftopolous, a researcher at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies. As another plank of his election preparations, Mugabe is bringing back 8,000 soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they have ostensibly been protecting the government of Joseph Kabila against marauding forces from Uganda and Rwanda. In reality the troops have been guarding diamond mining concessions given to Mugabe by Kabila’s father, Laurent, before he was assassinated last year. Analysts in Harare said they expected many soldiers to be flown back to the Congo if Mugabe wins the elections.
Last week the government published a list of 100,000 blacks selected to receive land seized from white farmers. Yesterday a white farmer, Hennie Bezuidenhout, was badly beaten as four white families were marched off their farms in the northern Centenary province by Zanu PF activists. The local party leader said they would be allowed back if America dropped proposed sanctions against Mugabe’s government. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change and the main challenger to Mugabe, has accused the president of bringing the nation to the brink of what he called a "low-intensity civil war". Last year there were rumours that junior army officers were plotting a coup against Mugabe, but in reality there has been little sign of any military revolt against his rule.
Gadaffi’s largesse has helped Mugabe overcome the chronic fuel shortage that threatened to bring the country to a standstill last autumn. Although it is not clear how Gadaffi expects to be repaid, it is understood that Libya has received shares in various state industries. One businessman who had met Libyan delegations in Harare said they had been offered stakes in an oil pipeline, a refinery, farms, railway schemes and hotels at Victoria Falls, the country’s main tourist attraction. Mugabe’s people are nevertheless rapidly running out of food. The agriculture ministry admits it is facing shortages, and a recent internal memo said 150,000 tons of maize had been secretly ordered from neighbouring Zambia. Ironically, Zanu PF has funded a new advertising campaign that depicts empty supermarket shelves under the caption: "Say no to shortages, vote Zanu".
From News24 (SA), 7 January
Zim, EU to talk this week
Harare - The European Union is to hold critical talks in Brussels on Friday with the Zimbabwe government, which faces the threat of EU sanctions over its human rights record and violent land reforms, a newspaper reported here on Monday. The state-owned daily Herald, quoting a senior government official, said Zimbabwe would send Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, Interior Minister John Nkomo, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Information Jonathan Moyo to Brussels for the talks. Relations have been tense between the European Union and Zimbabwe after the Harare government refused an EU request to allow election observers at presidential elections due in March. In November, the EU invoked Article 96 of the Cotonou agreement which governs relations between the European Union and its African, Caribbean and Pacific partners. Under the agreement, formal consultations with Zimbabwe are to be held, after which the EU can consider punitive action against the southern African nation if no progress is made.
Last month the European Parliament called for economic sanctions against Harare and said assets of President Robert Mugabe and his close associates should be frozen. EU parliamentarians blamed the government for the poor state of the country's economy, and said the deteriorating legal and human rights situation was a "direct consequence of deliberate and reprehensible actions of the Mugabe regime". Zimbabwe has been accused of clamping down on political opponents, independent judges and journalists. It has also been lambasted for allowing pro-government militants to wage a violent campaign on white-owned farms in a bid to speed up land reforms aimed at redressing colonial-era imbalances.
From iafrica.com, 7 January
SA is the key
Harare - If Zimbabweans had hoped that the year 2001 would slow the rapid descent of their country into political and economic chaos, those hopes were soon dashed. In January, by-elections were disrupted by violence, farm invasions escalated, and President Robert Mugabe's efforts to oust members of the judiciary widely viewed as independent were intensified. During the course of the year, Mugabe forced four senior judges to retire or resign. Foremost among them was Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay. Despite criticism from international law associations, Justice Gubbay was quickly replaced by Godfrey Chidyausiku, said by Zimbabwean observers to be a government supporter. Within months Justice Chidyausiku overturned an earlier high court ruling that the government's land resettlement program was unconstitutional. By the year's end the government had identified about 95% of the commercial farmland for its controversial resettlement program. The government says the resettlement program is designed to benefit landless Zimbabweans. But the government program has not halted widespread and often violent farm occupations orchestrated by war veterans and supporters of Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party. In an annual review of political developments in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International said Mugabe's land policies are not about land reform, but rather about "rampant torture by the state and its proxies designed to bludgeon dissent." The organization said Mugabe's government is determined to remain in power by any means, including harassment, arbitrary arrests, assaults, and killings of anyone who stands in its way.
This view is shared by analysts such as Moeletsi Mbeki, board member of the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg, who says those who oppose or are perceived to oppose Mugabe are frequently the subject of attack. "There is a campaign really of violence against the opposition party and especially against the electorate that is likely to vote for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change," he said. Dozens of opposition Movement for Democratic Change supporters have disappeared or been killed, and dozens more, including party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, have been arrested. While some remain behind bars, the courts have dismissed all the charges against Tsvangirai and several others. Analysts say the attacks on the opposition are part of a campaign being waged by the ruling Zanu PF and Mugabe with the sole aim of maintaining political power. Tendai Dumbuthsena, a Zimbabwe columnist and former journalist, says the current goal is to return Mugabe to power in the presidential election scheduled for March. "Everything that he is doing," he said, "from manipulating the election register, denying perceived supporters of the opposition the vote, making it very difficult for young people in urban areas to register to vote because they are unlikely to vote for him, to amendments to the electoral act preventing the presence of observers not sanctioned by the government, etc., etc., to the violence, to the intimidation. All this is designed to guarantee that there can only be one winner when the election is held."
The Zimbabwe government vehemently denies its policies are aimed at anything other than overcoming the inequalities caused by colonial and minority rule and ensuring that ordinary Zimbabweans have access to arable land. Mugabe and senior government officials reject the charge their supporters engage in violence and accuse their critics of being racist. The international community, including the European Union and the Commonwealth, has condemned events in Zimbabwe. In December, the United States passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. It will allow the United States to impose so-called "smart" economic and travel sanctions against individuals responsible for the deliberate breakdown of the rule of law and politically motivated violence. Zimbabwe Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the law was aimed at increasing the suffering of Zimbabweans.
But analysts such as Mbeki and Dumbutshena disagree. They support the so-called smart sanctions, but they also say it is the countries of the Southern Africa Development Community, particularly South Africa, that have the real leverage to influence the Zimbabwe government. For Dumbutshena, Zimbabwe's neighbours must make it clear to Mugabe that unless he ensures the presidential election is free and fair by international standards, they will refuse to recognize his government. "I made the point about legitimacy," he said. "If Mugabe realizes that SADC withdraws recognition of his government, he is totally exposed to punitive measures from the rest of the world. If SADC were to reject the outcome of the elections, the African Union would follow suit because it will be guided by what the SADC heads of state say and it will leave him diplomatically exposed."
Both analysts note that Zimbabwe remains highly dependent on South Africa economically. In the early 1980s, at the insistence of the international community, South Africa's apartheid government used economic pressure on the government of then-Prime Minister Ian Smith to force it into negotiations that ultimately ended white-minority rule in Zimbabwe and brought Mugabe's Zanu PF to power. "Well South Africa is the key country," said Dumbutshena. "You will recall that during the years under Smith, it was when the British and the Americans persuaded South Africa to a hard line on Smith, that the tide decisively changed. That relationship still exists - the relationship of Zimbabwe being largely dependent on South Africa for its economic well-being."
Dozens of local journalists have been harassed or beaten by police or by Mugabe's supporters. Presses belonging to the independent Daily News were destroyed in a bomb blast days after war veteran leader Chenjerai Hunzvi declared at a rally the newspaper had been "banned in Zimbabwe." Several foreign journalists were expelled and many others denied visas to report in Zimbabwe. At year end, the government served notice it plans legislation that will impose severe licensing restrictions on journalists in Zimbabwe. The law will go to parliament in early January and makes provision for severe penalties, including lengthy prison terms, for any infractions of the licensing rules. During the year, the Zimbabwe economy went into free fall. Land occupations prevented many commercial farmers from producing tobacco, the country's largest foreign currency earner. The government appropriated what little foreign currency there was to pay for oil and electricity, but this did not prevent frequent fuel shortages and electricity outages. Food crops have also been affected, resulting in severe food shortages and skyrocketing prices. By the end of the year, official inflation was running at 103%. In August Tito Mboweni, South Africa's reserve bank governor said "the wheels had come off" in Zimbabwe in the year 2001. In the year 2002, Zimbabweans will be looking to South Africa and other governments in the region, to help them find ways of moving their country forward again.
Comment from ZWNEWS, 8 January
Zimbabwe is Africa in microcosm
African leaders, generally speaking, want to have their cake and eat it. On the one hand they seek to cling to power as long as possible, to reward their friends and families, to run their nations for their own convenience. On the other they demand the respect accorded to the leaders of liberal democracies and the largesse of the West and will damn as racists anyone who questions their right to either. Nelson Mandela showed it could be different which is why the likes of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, loathes Mandela. The crisis in Zimbabwe has made many African leaders get off the fence and they have come down heavily laden with excuses and justifications on Mugabe’s side: on the side of tyranny, corruption and brutality. Did anybody really think it would be different? Zimbabwe is Africa in microcosm: clever, industrious people; aspirations for multi-party democracy and multi-racial society; leaders from a cartoon book.
In December 2001 a Southern African Development Community (SADC) committee of ministers, meeting in Harare, announced their support for Mugabe’s fast track land reform programme. Not content with this, they then expressed concern about hostile media coverage of Zimbabwe and praised the Zanu PF government’s commitment to democracy. What was surprising about this was that anyone was surprised by it: consider the manoeuvres of African diplomacy since the Zimbabwe parliamentary elections in June 2000:
In July 2000 the government of Zimbabwe announced that it would seize 3,000 farms without compensation; leader of the self-styled war veterans, the late ‘Hitler’ Hunzvi, declared that the war veterans were higher than the law. An OAU summit in Lome declared the parliamentary elections fair and democratic and condemned the USA and the UK for their attitude to Zimbabwe.
In August 2000 Amnesty International noted that over 900 people had been victims of political violence since the elections. In Windhoek in Namibia a SADC mission voted that South Africa and Malawi intercede with the UK to seek funds for Zimbabwe land reform.
In September 2000 ZANU PF supporters first fire-bombed and then attacked and ransacked the MDC offices in Harare. A SADC ministerial conference voted to support the Zimbabwean government in its quest to recover stolen agricultural land.
In October 2000 Mugabe declared an amnesty for all those accused of political crimes during the elections. His police force brutally put down riots in Harare. President Nujoma of Namibia publicly accused the UK of reneging on its agreement to support land reform. Mugabe told a SADC conference in Windhoek that any white farmer who wished to farm would be permitted to do so. The conference believed him.
In November 2000 Mugabe dismissed a Supreme Court order to cease illegal land invasions. So-called war veterans invaded the Supreme Court. Police fired on a crowd and killed an eight-month-old child. In Gaborone SADC ministers warmly applauded the late Security Minister, Nicholas Goche, who claimed that the Zimbabwean government would abide by the 1998 Donors’ Conference guidelines on land redistribution.
In December 2000 Mugabe told the Zanu PF Congress that the party must continue to wage war on the whites who were not indigenous to Africa. Attackers killed 70-year-old farmer Harry Elsworth. Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo visited Harare to put pressure on the UNDP; Obasanjo called for the West to pay for land reform in Zimbabwe.
In January 2001 Zanu PF unleashed wholesale violence during the Bikita East by- election. ‘Hitler Hunzvi’ attacked the Daily News; its presses were later destroyed by army land mines. Vice President Msika said that there would be war if the MDC won an election. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches offered support for the land reform programme and warned white farmers not to go to the courts. South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that South Africa’s duty was to keep Zimbabwe strong.
In February 2001 Zanu PF forced out Chief Justice Gubbay, expelled BBC reporter Joseph Winter, attacked journalists and carried out further violent land invasions. President Mbeki said that his principle task was to support the government of Zimbabwe, the ANC ruled out sanctions, the SADC Council of Ministers ruled out any interference in Zimbabwe.
In March 2001 there were high levels of violence. Zanu PF youths murdered Robson Tinarwo for refusing to renounce the MDC, so-called war veterans invaded properties including a children’s home in Harare. SADC re-elected Mugabe chairman of its defence and security organ. (Mugabe was also, by the way, welcomed to the Elysee Palace by President Chirac.)
In April 2001 so-called war veterans attacked businesses in Harare and MDC supporters, particularly in Muzarabani. Colonel Ghaddafi said that whites should be thrown out of Africa having first paid compensation to black Africans.
In May 2001 Minister of Information, Jonathan Moyo, publicly backed the Zanu PF campaign against business; aid depots and businesses were ransacked. There were numerous Zanu PF attacks upon farms and schools. The Sudanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe warmly praised Zanu PF for its "bold steps to redress the land imbalance."
In June 2001 the Amani Trust estimated that 200,000 Zimbabweans had been subject to political violence in 2000. Former US Ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young, was quoted by the Zimbabwean state media as saying that all white farmers should burn in hell. President Moi of Kenya accused the UK of failing to honour its obligations to land reform in Zimbabwe.
In July 2001 11 MDC supporters were murdered, many more were arrested; there was much Zanu PF violence at the Bindura by–election. In Lusaka the OAU accused the UK of seeking to vilify Zimbabwe.
In August 2001 invaders murdered a 76-year-old WW2 veteran; police arrested 22 white farmers in Chinhoyi. Mugabe subsequently accused them of disgracing the country. Zanu PF youth went on the rampage in Chinhoyi and surrounding areas, looting and destroying farms. President Joseph Kabila expressed ‘unwavering support’ for the Zimbabwe’s land redistribution which would lead to prosperity. President Chissano opposed direct or indirect sanctions. A SADC conference condemned British interference in the 2000 elections.
In September 2001 Mugabe accused the Jews of shutting down businesses in Zimbabwe; Zanu PF youths went on the rampage in Makoni West and Bulawayo. The Amani Trust attributed 95% of incidents of violence to Zanu PF supporters and government employees. Farmers appealed for food and shelter for thousands of farm workers driven by Zanu PF from Hwedza. The World Conference against Racism applauded Minister of Justice Chinamasa who claimed that Zanu PF was fighting against ‘the extinction of black people.’ In Abuja the Commonwealth agreed that land was at the heart of the Zimbabwe crisis.
In October 2001 the government arrested directors of The Daily News. Zanu PF supporters shut down schools in the Gokwe area and attacked Morgan Tsvangirai; violent land invasions continued. Foreign Minister Mudenge accused the EU of dirty tricks; government media accused Canadian minister Kilgour of ‘fits of racist bigotry.’ In a follow-up visit to Harare the Abuja committee reiterated that land is at the heart of the crisis despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In November 2001 police raided MDC offices and arrested numerous MDC supporters and officials, Zanu PF supporters burned down the MDC offices in Bulawayo, Vice President Msika threatened a bloodbath, Mugabe used presidential powers to legalise the seizure of any farm. The Kenyan High Commissioner accused British minister Peter Hain of discrediting Zimbabwe. The Nigerian High Commissioner in Zimbabwe accused the independent Daily News of producing material that was "an insult to the whole black race."
In December 2001 police arrested Morgan Tsvangirai yet again. New regulations sought to debar potential MDC voters from voting. A packed Supreme Court legalised theft of farms. War veteran leader Andrew Ndlovu said there will be war if the MDC wins the election. More horrendous intimidation in rural areas. Four MDC supporters were murdered; War veterans described the 11th September outrage as the work of ‘the hand of the Almighty’. Mugabe described Prime Minister Blair as a ‘difficult and troublesome little boy.’ In Harare the SADC task force backed Zimbabwe and praised an "improved atmosphere of calm and stability." A SADC meeting in Luanda promised to stand by Zimbabwe against the EU. The Nigerian High Commissioner to Harare said that he could not understand why Britain would not pay for land reform.
It is possible that Mugabe has conned his African counterparts time and time again and made fools of all of them. But surely they can’t be that gullible. Can they?