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Bills Put Zimbabwe Under "Martial Law"

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Mugabe critics say new legislation is designed to silence dissent.

By Joseph Gumbo in Harare (AR No. 71, 27-Jul-06)

President Robert Mugabe is consolidating his grip on Zimbabwe through new
autocratic laws that analysts say are calculated to cripple opposition to
the veteran leader's 26-year-rule and muzzle criticism over the imploding

Mugabe's multi-pronged strategy to silence dissent includes attempts to spy
on private email and telephone messages, the jamming of private radio
stations broadcasting to Zimbabwe, and restricting civic and opposition
groups by branding legitimate resistance to Mugabe's rule "terrorism".

Alois Chaumba, the national director of the Catholic Commission for Justice
and Peace, said three new bills expected to be pushed through when
parliament resumes in August will effectively put the country under
undeclared martial rule, as Mugabe seeks to curb growing opposition to his
rule spawned by Zimbabwe's worsening economic hardships.

"It would seem there is a state of siege from the way the state apparatus is
being used to deny people their freedoms," said Chaumba.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has tabled the three laws - the
Interception of Communications Bill, the Suppression of Foreign and
International Terrorism Bill and the Non Governmental Organisations Bill -
all of which which now await Mugabe's assent.

Brian Raftopoulos, a senior lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe's
Institute of Development Studies, said the legislative package is clearly
designed to consolidate Mugabe's grip on power. "It is meant to create the
impression that the government is watching its opponents and that it is
aware of every move they make," he said. "This represents a movement towards
some kind of new fascism."

The Interception of Communications Bill, published on June 9, will give
Mugabe's government unfettered authority to monitor phones and emails sent
from both land- and internet-based addresses. Mugabe claims the bill is
meant to protect national security and fight crime. Under this legislation,
the government will establish a communications monitoring centre which will
"monitor and intercept certain communications in the course of their
transmission through a telecommunication, postal or any other related
service system".

Critics say the bill is part of a renewed government crackdown, which also
includes tough policing and political intimidation, designed to outlaw
criticism and entrench Mugabe's rule in the face of the growing swell of
opposition to his draconian policies.

"This is a well calculated move to crush any dissenting views," said
constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku, who chairs the National
Constitutional Assembly, a broad alliance of civic groups agitating for
constitutional reform. "It is a challenge to all the forces fighting for
democracy in Zimbabwe. This should not be seen in isolation. It is a
broad-based move to keep opponents in check. One can actually call it
intimidation, at best."

The Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill, which has
already sailed past its first reading in parliament, is another proposed law
in a cocktail of legal instruments that analysts say would further curtail
most basic freedoms. The law will see those convicted of working to
overthrow Mugabe jailed for life.

It comes in the wake of the brief detention earlier this year of opposition
members and police officers, who later had charges against them of
stockpiling arms and plotting to assassinate President Mugabe dropped. THe
authorities had accused the men of working with a UK-based organisation
called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement which was said to be plotting to end
Mugabe's 26-year rule.

The anti-terrorism bill is certain to sail through parliament, where Mugabe's
Zanu-PF party enjoys a comfortable majority.

In this year's alleged assassination plot on Mugabe, a Zimbabwe court denied
bail to Peter Hitschmann, a former soldier for the country's
pre-independence white government, who will soon face trial. Some political
analysts saw the arrest as an attempt to put pressure on Mugabe's opponents.
The state says an array of weapons found in the eastern city of Mutare were
meant to be used to disrupt Mugabe's 82nd birthday celebrations held there
in February.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, accuses the
opposition of working with western countries to try to oust him from power
through "mercenary activities".

The draft terrorism law defines mercenary activity as "an act aimed at
overthrowing a government or undermining the constitutional order,
sovereignty or territorial integrity of a state, or private military-related
assistance in an armed conflict between two or more states or within a

Analysts say the terrorism bill could be used by government to jail critics,
including journalists working for foreign media.

Mugabe has branded private radio stations broadcasting from outside the
country "terrorist organisations". The government has been jamming
broadcasts from Voice of America's Studio 7 radio station, almost the sole
source of reasonably independent information for the rural poor.

While the authorities have flatly denied jamming the broadcasts, media
experts say the jamming signal is originating from Thornhill Air Force Base,
near Gweru, using equipment provided by China. A statement issued by the
Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, MMPZ, said Studio 7 broadcasts were
"suffocated by a steady droning sound similar to that used to jam SW Radio
Africa and Radio Voice of the People frequencies last year". SW Radio and
Voice of the People are two banned independent radio stations that try to
beam broadcasts into Zimbabwe from outside the country.

Condemning what he termed "totalitarian tyranny of thought", MMPZ executive
director Andy Moyse said the latest jamming of Studio 7, combined with the
proposed "snoopers' charter" allowing interference with private mail and
internet communications, represented the "final steps in the total control
of all information received by Zimbabweans".

With his new package of legislation, Mugabe also intends to curtail
activities of civic society. The bill on non-government organisations, NGOs,
seeks to repeal the Private Voluntary Organisations Act and give the
government broad powers to close down groups considered to be critical of
its policies by imposing restrictive registration formalities. NGOs dealing
with human rights and governance would be denied access to outside financial
assistance in a bid to curtail their contacts with international
organisations. Organisations found to be in breach of these regulations
would be subject to criminal prosecution.

"The proposed NGO law will have the effect of criminalising civil society
organisations, especially those working in the field of human rights and
governance by making them liable to prosecution for legitimate and peaceful
activities of promoting human rights in Zimbabwe," said the Madhuku.

Madhuku added there was little to be be gained from challenging the
constitutionality of these laws, given that government has already shown it
will not obey court rulings that do not fit with its programme.

Mugabe has also published the Judicial Service Bill, which is aimed at
improving the working conditions of a new coterie of judges pliant to the
presidential will.

Joseph Gumbo is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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Zimbabwe finmin revises '06 growth forecast down


      Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:13 PM GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa revised his
forecasts for economic growth in 2006 lower in a policy review on Thursday,
and predicted that inflation would average close to 1000 percent during the

"The challenges we are facing, though seemingly entrenched, are
surmountable," he told parliament in a televised statement.

"The biggest challenge remains that of runaway inflation, which is
constraining economic growth prospects and imposing enormous social and
economic hardships on the population," Murerwa told parliament.

Zimbabwe's economy has been crippled by an eight year recession which has
pushed inflation to a world record near 1,200 percent and seen unemployment
soar to more than 70 percent.

Murerwa said the economy would probably grow by 0.3-0.6 percent during 2006,
down from a previous estimate of 1-2 percent. It shrunk by 2.7 percent in

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Zim dollar hits a million to the pound as Murerwa unveils 'scandalous' supplementary budget

      By Violet Gonda

      27 July 2006
      More doom and gloom for Zimbabweans as money transfer agencies
announced the Zimbabwe dollar reached the 7digit mark, on the parallel
market. Several companies involved in exchanging money confirmed that the
Zimbabwean dollar hit the ZW$1 000 000 mark to the pound sterling, Thursday,
putting a huge burden on Zimbabweans both at home and in the Diaspora.

      Reactingto the news Tendai Mudzingwa, one of many Zimbabweans based in
London said; " I found the whole thing really frightening. I have been
getting text messages from currency dealers for the past 5 days and the
numbers increased over the last days. I just knew it was a matter of time
before it reached the million dollar mark."

      She added, "For me it really is frightening. It scares me to think how
my family and friends are going to be living in Zimbabwe and how I will
afford to be able to keep sending them money."

      In a week the dollar went from ZW$900 000 to a million against the

      The Zimbabwean dollar hitting the landmark million dollar rate comes
at a critical time when many are anxiously waiting to hear what Gideon Gono,
the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor is going to say in his Monetary
Review Policy.

      Economists say the effects of this are more price increases and a rise
in inflation. John Robertson said; "This is very scary because it shows that
the price of every imported product is going to be rising steeply."

      The economist noted that there has not been much of a change in the
steady progression of these figures saying: "We saw it going to more than
ZW$500 000 to the US$. So it's now getting about ZW$550 000 to US$1 and that's
what makes it equal to more than ZW$1m to a pound."

      There is a thriving black market industry in the country and most
companies including those registered with the RBZ are reportedly trading on
the parallel market.

      Robertson said the official exchange rate which still stands at ZW$100
000 to the US$ - a fifth of the market value, needs to be reviewed. "Until
it's corrected many people who export products would rather sell their
export proceeds on the parallel exchange market instead of on the official
exchange market where the government can get their hands on it."  Analysts
say because of the economic crisis, manufacturers have no choice as they
risk going bankrupt if they trade on the official market.

      According to Robertson, to get it right proper policies will have to
be implemented. The economist said the scarcity of foreign currency is a
result of the loss of principal export industries; the attack on property
rights has also resulted in the loss of investments. Zimbabwe has had so
many failures in meeting repayment terms in the past which has resulted in
the loss of credit rating. All these combined have contributed to a serious
shortage of forex which in turn causes price increases

      Meanwhile, Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa unveiled a ZW$327,2
trillion supplementary budget on Thursday. It is almost three times more
than last year's budget of ZW$129 trillion. Murerwa presented the
supplementary budget before parliament on Thursday.He also raised the zero
tax threshold from $7 million to $20 million, while reducing tax to 35% for
people earning above $54 million.

      Independent Tsholotsho MP Professor Jonathan Moyo told the website the supplementary budget was "scandalous" and "proof that
the government has totally lost control".

      Moyo said: "This cannot be a supplementary budget. How does a $327
trillion budget supplement a $129 trillion budget? This is the clearest
evidence that the country's economy is in complete meltdown and free fall.

      An eight year recession has crippled the country's economy pushing
inflation to a world record high of nearly 1 200%.

      SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Zimbabwe's failing economy deepens debt woes

Financial Times

By Michael Bleby in Johannesburg

Published: July 27 2006 17:54 | Last updated: July 27 2006 17:54

Zimbabwe's worsening economy is making it harder to service foreign debt
obligations, the country's finance ministry said on Thursday.

The country's total external debt stood at $3.968bn at June 30, including
arrears debt equal to $2.122bn, the document said.


"While Zimbabwe remains committed to honouring its external obligations, the
difficulties of the current situation arising under the sanctions
environment which followed the land reform programme limit the ability to
timely meet our external obligations," the government said in a policy
review document released in parliament on Thursday.

The size of the external debt makes it less likely Zimbabwe will be able to
meet its obligations to the International Monetary Fund when the country
undergoes its next assessment in September.

Zimbabwe has been in arrears to the fund since 2001 and in March it still
owed $119m, even after paying a further $9m it owned in February. Failure to
pay off the remaining debt could put Zimbabwe at risk of being kicked out of
the fund.

The country is wracked by one of the highest inflation rates in the world, a
result of a plunging currency and a government that prints money to pay debt
and salaries. In June the yearly pace of inflation stood at 1185 per cent.
Soaring prices and an inability to buy much-needed foreign imports have
contributed to the average life expectancy in the country of 12m people
dropping to 39 years.

The government is likely to devalue the currency next week by cutting three
zeros off the face value of the Zimbabwe dollar. One US dollar currently
buys 101195 Zimbabwe dollars at the official exchange rate and close to
300,000 Zimbabwe dollars on the black market.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday finance minister Herbert Murerwa said the
country would spend an additional 327.2 thousand billion Zimbabwe dollars
(US$3.2bn) paying the wages of restless civil servants. This comes on top of
an initial budget announced in December of 128 thousand billion Zimbabwe

Mr Murerwa also revised down his forecasts for growth this year. The economy
that used to be one of Africa's strongest would grow between 0.3 and 0.6 per
cent in 2006, down from his previous estimate of 1 to 2 per cent.

"The biggest challenge remains that of runaway inflation, which is
constraining economic growth prospects and imposing enormous social and
economic hardships on the population," Mr Murerwa told parliament.

In April, the IMF predicted that the Zimbabwean economy will contract 4.7
per cent this year after contracting 6.5 per cent last year.

Thursday's report predicted that the country's balance of payments would
also remain under "severe pressure" with foreign exchange remaining in short
supply. Zimbabwe's current account deficit for this year was projected to be
US$434m, while net capital inflows totalling US$271.6m were envisaged.

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Open Forum 2006 - Zimbabwe: skills and reconstruction

Saturday 16th September 2006, 2.00-5.30pm (doors open 1.30pm)

Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental & African Studies
(SOAS), Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H
0XG (nearest tube Russell Square)


Speakers: Dr Stephen Munjanja, (Harare Hospital),
Tabitha Khumalo, (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions)
Raymond Majongwe (Progressive Teachers Union of
Zimbabwe) and Rev Nicholas Mkaronda, (Crisis Coalition
of Zimbabwe), Forward Maisokwadzo (Ass. Of Zimbabwean
Journalists UK) Shane Lunga (Zimbabwe Futures).
For enquiries and advance registration (free) please
email or telephone  0208 348
more details at

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Zimbabwe finance minister asks Parliament for more money

Zim Online

Fri 28 July 2006

      HARARE - Zimbabwe Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa on Thursday asked
Parliament to approve a Z$327.2 trillion supplementary budget more than
twice the amount of money the government had initially said it would spend
in 2006.

      Murerwa had at the end of last year set the budget for 2006 at $123.9

      In the most vivid illustration of the Harare administration's appetite
to spend more in the face of runaway inflation - the world's highest at
1184.6 percent - Murerwa told parliamentarians that the initial amount
budgeted for the year was finished.

      The government would ground to a halt if Parliament did not approve
additional expenditure, he said in an hour-long speech greeted with derision
from opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party legislators.

      "Resources initially allocated are no longer sufficient to enable the
government machinery to function up to the end of the year, making it
necessary that I revisit the 2006 budget estimates," said Murerwa, as MDC
parliamentarians called on him to resign because he had no idea how to fix
Zimbabwe's six-year economic crisis.

      Murerwa appeared to put blame for the government's growing need for
cash on his boss, President Robert Mugabe, saying the supplementary budget
was also necessary to raise resources for several additional government
ministries set up by Mugabe well after the 2006 budget had been finalised.

      The Finance Minister said the additional money he was seeking
Parliament to approve would be used to finance operational budgets of line
ministries, capital projects and some projects under the National Economic
Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) which the government says will turn
around the economy.

      Economic experts say the NEDPP - one of no less than four economic
blue-prints the government has announced since 1999 but with little benefit
to the economy - will certainly flop unless President Robert Mugabe's
government learns to live within its means.

      The government would also have to address its appalling human rights
record, restore the rule of law and uphold democracy in order to be
reintegrated into the international community whose help is vital to any
programme to resuscitate Zimbabwe's comatose economy, economic experts say.

      Murerwa frankly admitted that government-backed farm seizures were
frightening commercial banks from funding the agriculture sector, which
until the government began its land grab exercise in 2000 was the backbone
of an economy that was among the most vibrant in Africa.

      "Farm disruptions have also continued to undermine the confidence of
banks to finance bankable farming operations. Banks require guarantees that
when they finance crops, farmers will be able to harvest, and therefore
repay their loan obligations," said Murerwa.

      He said the government would "now take a firm stand against any new
unwarranted disruptions on farming operations". But similar promises in the
past by both Murerwa and Mugabe to act to end farm seizures have come to
naught as top officials of the government itself and of the ruling ZANU PF
party continue plundering former white farms.

      The Finance Minister attempted to lessen the burden for ordinary
Zimbabweans by widening the tax-free threshold to $20 million from $7
million per month beginning the first of September. He also adjusted tax
bands to end at $54 million per month, above which income will be taxed at
35 percent.

      Murerwa said the new measures will release about $35 trillion to
taxpayers, thereby enhancing purchasing power.

      Zimbabwe is battling an immense economic crisis that is characterised
by hyperinflation and shortages of fuel, electricity, essential medicines,
hard cash and just about every basic survival commodity.

      The MDC and major Western governments blame the crisis on repression
and mismanagement by Mugabe, who has ruled the country since independence
from Britain 26 years ago.

      The 82-year old President denies ruining Zimbabwe and says his country's
problems are because of economic sabotage by Western countries out to fix
his government for seizing white land for redistribution to landless
blacks. - ZimOnline

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Business, opposition dismiss fiscal review statement

Zim Online

Fri 28 July 2006

      HARARE - The main political opposition, business community and
economists dismissed Finance Minister Hebert Murerwa's Thursday fiscal
review statement saying it did not proffer viable solutions to the country's
six-year old economic crisis and was silent on critical issues lying at the
root of the crisis.

      "The presentation was too narrow and did not touch on critical issues
such as the mending of international relations which are paramount to the
improvement of balance of payments position," said Harare-based economic
analyst James Jowa, echoing the views of many analysts and commentators
interviewed by ZimOnline.

      Murerwa presented his mid-term fiscal review statement to Parliament
as well as a supplementary budget that at Z$327 trillion was more than
double the $123.9 trillion the Finance Minister had last year said the
government t would need for the year.

      In his fiscal statement, Murerwa predicted the mainstay agricultural
sector would grow by 23 percent mainly as a result of a 62 percent expansion
in cotton production, which  he said would reach 320 000 tonnes this year up
from 198 000 tonnes last year.

      Murerwa maintained government predictions - which are contested by
almost every independent expert - that Zimbabwe would this year harvest 1.7
million tonnes of the national staple food, maize, up from 750 000 tonnes
reaped last year.

      The Finance Minister also predicted increases in out of key crops such
as wheat, soya bean and sorghum. But he admitted the key manufacturing
sector remained depressed because of foreign currency shortages, energy
outages and a declining domestic demand position.

      The mining sector was projected to fall by 10.8 percent while tobacco
production fell sharply from 74 million kg produced last year to about 50
million kg this year, according to Murerwa. He also said Zimbabwe's balance
of payments position remained under "severe pressure" with a deficit of
about US$ 434 million.

      The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce lamented the fact that
Murerwa had not announced any plans to revive the collapsing energy sector,
saying power cuts were crippling industry.

      "The minister did not say anything on the resuscitation of thermal
stations and increase in generation capacity and this is a disappointment
for industry given the power problems we face. We are also worried about
government's failure to live within its means," said an official of the
business organisation.

      The spokesman of the main faction of the splintered opposition
Movement for Democratic Change party Nelson Chamisa dismissed Murerwa's
predictions of economic growth which he said were impossible until Mugabe's
government addressed a host of political problems responsible for the
country's economic collapse.

      Chamisa said by asking Parliament to approve a supplementary budget
more than twice the original 2006 budget, Murerwa was signalling that the
government had given up tackling inflation.

      He said: "The surprising thing is that the supplementary budget is
almost three times the size of the annual budget. The annual budget was only
$123.9 trillion while the supplementary budget is $327 trillion, this is
absurd. Inflation is now governing this country." - ZimOnline

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Bulawayo to host donor conference on water provision

Zim Online

Fri 28 July 2006

      BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo will next month
host a conference of donors and representatives of foreign governments to
raise money to finance water provision as the government continues dithering
on long-term solutions to the city's unending water problems.

      The city fathers hope the August 26 conference would be able to raise
through direct donations and pledges Z$6 trillion and US$3.4 million
required for various projects to improve water supply to the city of 1.5
million people that is nestled at the heart of the drought-prone
Matabeleland region.

      City spokesman Phathisa Nyathi told ZimOnline: "We have devised
various projects to augment water supplies to Bulawayo . but the projects
have to be funded and that is the reason we have called a donors conference
so as to source the cash to finance the projects."

      Bulawayo, a heartland of opposition support, has over the years faced
acute water shortages and in the last few months some suburbs had to go for
weeks on end without water because the city council was unable to supply the
precious liquid.

      The government has promised, especially at every election time, to
build a huge pipeline drawing water from the mighty Zambezi river up north
on the border with Zambia down to Bulawayo several hundreds of kilometres

      But the pipeline project that would also require substantial help from
international donors has remained an election propaganda topic with little
achieved on the ground.

      Nyathi said: "The Matabeleland/Zambezi water project has been talked
about for too long. It is not our project it is in the hands of other
people, it is a government project and we have no control over that project
and the realisation that we cannot rely on that government project has
pushed us to act."

      Bulawayo sources water from five dams near the city with a total
capacity of 173 million cubic metres. The dams at the moment hold 112
million cubic metres, a quantity authorities say means the city shall
experience more water shortages before the next rain season starts in about
four months.

      The city council wants to use funds raised from donors to among other
things sink boreholes across the city, build water booster stations and to
rehabilitate the Nyamandlovu aquifer that also supplies water to the city. -

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Commuters in Bulawayo brace for fresh round of fare increase

Zim Online

Fri 28 July 2006

      BULAWAYO - Commuters in Zimbabwe's second biggest city of Bulawayo
will from next Monday have to dig deeper into their pockets after public
transport operators hiked fares by more than 50 percent as the country's
economic crisis worsens.

      The Bulawayo United Public Transporters' Association said on Thursday
it will hike fares from the current Z$100 000 to $150 000 for a single trip
from the surrounding suburbs into the city centre.

      A spokesman for the association, Strike Ndlovu, attributed the latest
increase to the recent hike in the price of fuel which is in critical short
supply in the country.

      "Everything is going up and that includes vehicle spare parts, which
we import using foreign currency obtained on the black market.

      "Fuel has gone up as well and as a business entity, we have to raise
the fares in order to remain viable in this harsh economic climate," said

      Police spokesman for Bulawayo, Inspector Shepherd Sibanda, condemned
the plans to hike fares saying the move was illegal as it had not been
approved by the government.

      "That is strictly illegal and as the police we cannot lie and allow
people to be duped. We are going to enact roadblocks on major roads and
arrest those that we find charging the exorbitant fares," he said.

      The latest fare increase will certainly worsen conditions for the
majority of Zimbabweans reeling under a severe six-year old economic crisis
most critics blame on mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe's
government. - ZimOnline

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UK to probe corrupt Zimbabwean man

Zim Online

Fri 28 July 2006

      JOHANNESBURG - The British government says it will probe a corrupt
Zimbabwean man who works in the immigration department following reports
that he had admitted helping hundreds of asylum seekers to remain in Britain
in return for cash.

      "We take theses allegations very seriously and will investigate
immediately," said Lin Homer, the director general of the Immigration and
Nationality Directorate (IND) that deals with immigration matters.

      The Sun tabloid said Joseph Dzumbira, a Zimbabwean who works for the
IND, had told its undercover reporter that he charged up to 2 000 pounds to
help foreigners get false asylum papers.

      Dzumbira also told the reporter that he could help asylum seekers
pretend they were from Zimbabwe and avoid being deported from the United
Kingdom. The UK has temporarily banned deportations of Zimbabweans because
of security concerns back home.

      There are hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who are living in
Britain after fleeing political persecution and economic collapse at home. -

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New taxes, tolls for Zim -- and a little tax relief

Mail and Guardian

      Michael Hartnack | Harare, Zimbabwe

      27 July 2006 06:29

            Zimbabwe Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa announced new measures
on Thursday to raise state revenues in the face of rampant inflation,
including extra levies on fuel and the construction of toll gates on all
major highways.

            Faced with the world's highest inflation rate of 1 185%,
President Robert Mugabe's government is confronting demands for
Z$327-trillion ($3,2-billion) in extra expenditure, Murerwa told Parliament.

            "This is unsustainable for the government and therefore there is
a need to rationalise," he said.

            Taxes on gasoline and diesel will increase and eight new toll
gates will be added, he said.

            However, Murerwa offered relief to taxpayers, raising the income
threshold to pay a minimum 15% from Z$7-million ($69) a month to
Z$20-million ($198) a month. The top rate of 35% will now be paid on incomes
of more than Z$54-million ($534) a month.

            Independent economist John Robertson said this still makes
Zimbabweans among the highest-taxed people in the world. "Only a domestic
servant would be earning less than Z$20-million," he said.

            Murerwa said he hopes his tax-relief measures will put
Z$35-trillion ($346-million) back in the pockets of Zimbabwe's 12-million
people, "thereby enhancing their purchasing power".

            He made no mention of a possible devaluation of Zimbabwe's
currency -- worth $2 when Mugabe came to power at independence in 1980 but
now trading at an official rate of Z$101 000 to the United States dollar and
more than Z$250 000 on the black market.

            Robertson said he expects Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono to
address the issue in a policy statement on Monday.

            Murerwa said Z$28,6-trillion ($283-million) will be allocated to
what the government terms "quick-win solutions" for Zimbabwe's economic
woes, identified under a newly launched National Economic Development
Priority Programme. Targeted sectors include agriculture, mining,
manufacturing and tourism.

            "There is nothing really surprising except his belief that these
various methods of overcoming the problem are going to work," said
Robertson. "The Z$28-trillion doesn't seem to be a quick win but a quick
lose -- it costs a fortune before we start."

            Robertson and other government critics trace Zimbabwe's crisis
to chronic overspending during the 1990s and a breakdown in property rights,
culminating in the seizure of more than 5 000 white-owned commercial farms
for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

            Evictions of the last remaining white farmers continue despite
official reports that much of the seized farmland that was once among the
most productive has been vandalised and left derelict. -- Sapa-AP

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Zimbabweans Blamed For South African Crime

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Political violence at home has given the Zimbabwean refugees a serious image
problem in their new homeland.

By Benedict Unendoro in Harare (AR No. 71, 27-Jul-06)

In my language, Shona, there is a saying that neighbours run from a poor man
as if he is a sorcerer. An experience I had in Johannesburg the other day
seemed to prove this to be true.

I arrived at Johannesburg International Airport on a chilly morning prepared
for the winter cold with a woollen jersey and a leather jacket. But I was
not ready for what was to come.

My hosts, as usual, had arranged for a taxi shuttle company to pick me up
from the bustling airport. The driver should have waiting with a placard
with my name on it.

But there was no one waiting for me. The same thing had happened on my
previous visit a month earlier. I visit South Africa on business from
Zimbabwe nearly every month.

For half an hour, I must have looked like a cow lost from the herd. I moved
around the arrivals hall reading and re-reading the signs held by other
drivers while fending off other taxi drivers offering their services at
exorbitant prices for the drive through Johannesburg's crime-ridden suburbs,
where people live behind high walls and electric fences.

Then the man came. I recognised him from a distance as he has picked me up
from the airport on several occasions.

He is a streetwise, middle-aged man whose convoluted name I have never been
able to pronounce, let alone attempt to spell. He was cool, and neither
apologised for being late nor offered to carry my bag. Instead he told me he
had left his car about 200 metres away and we had to walk to it.

I am no athlete these days, and I was breathless and struggling by the time
we reached the car. He ordered me to throw my bag on the back seat and to
take the front passenger seat. Normally drivers open doors for their
passengers: that is a standard courtesy in the taxi shuttle business, as
is a seat in the back. Meekly, as a simple Zimbabwean in the big city, I
made no protest, tossed my bag in the back and settled down in the front

We drove quietly for some time. I noticed he had not locked the doors -
regular procedure in Johannesburg against smash-and-grab merchants. I feared
for my bag each time we stopped at a "robot" - the word Johannesburgers use
for traffic lights which as often as not do not work.

I was quietly thinking about how best I could extract an explanation about
his lateness and unprofessional behaviour when he looked at me out of the
corner of his eye, smiled cynically, and abruptly said, "Zimbabweans are now
killing our police here."

"So I have read," I replied, as I suddenly understood the reason for his
cold behaviour.

"They [Zimbabweans] are everywhere now, on street corners, in alleys,
literally everywhere. Crime has escalated," he said.

"So can you please lock the doors so these Zimbabwean criminals do not steal
my bag at the next robot?" I asked. He complied.

We drove on in more silence, but I wanted to ease the chill between us.

South Africans are beside themselves with pride and bragging about their
country's hosting of the next football World Cup. So I tentatively asked:
"Are you guys ready for the 2010 World Cup?"

He shot back, "Is it true that when these guys are deported back to
Zimbabwe, Mugabe throws them into camps where they get military training?"

Okay, now I'd got the message loud and clear. My fellow Zimbabweans living
in South Africa as refugees - some two to three million, according to media
reports - are accused of being menaces who are responsible for most of the
violent crime that plagues Johannesburg, and whom international soccer fans
had better watch out for in four years' time.

The top criminals are highly trained former soldiers in Mugabe's army who
have quit because they are so poorly paid, my driver informed me.

I replied that only a dozen years earlier, before apartheid finally
collapsed, I was teaching South African refugees at a college in Harare. One
thing they always said about Zimbabwe's capital was how peaceful the city
was and how one could walk from one end to the other in the middle of the
night without being mugged. One of my refugee students loved to talk about
how Harareans cringed in horror when one day, in the middle of the street,
he took out a flick-knife to slice sugar cane.

So I told my driver I could not understand how my own people, who recoiled
at the mere sight of a knife, could all of a sudden turn into such hard-core
criminals. After all, South Africa itself had been regarded as one of the
world's most violent countries for decades before it became a democracy with
Nelson Mandela as president in 1994. How could it possibly be that in just
in just 12 years, South Africa had become a nation of saints, while
Zimbabweans fleeing their troubled country were now responsible for all the
crime and violence here? That puzzled me.

I don't think South Africans really are more xenophobic than citizens of
other countries, but I have realised that Zimbabweans have created
misconceptions about themselves in the past six years or so since our
country began its precipitous and disastrous decline.

The majestic Victoria Falls used to be the image that defined my country to
the outside world. That is no longer the case. The picture that now
characterises Zimbabwe is that of President Mugabe holding out his clenched

Since the day he told the world he wanted to see the "white man tremble" and
unleashed thugs onto commercial farms to drive out white farmers, Zimbabwe
has been perceived and defined internationally as a violent nation. It has
been a fair definition ever since the day an agent of Mugabe's Central
Intelligence Organisation petrol bombed two members of the opposition at a
rural centre and got away with it.

We have become a nation that bombs newspaper offices and printing presses.
My country is now one in which armed soldiers invade nightclubs and beat up
patrons, a country where police officers look the other way when ruling
party thugs beat up members of the opposition, a country in which the ruling
party has a private army that goes around terrorising people who choose to
hold different political views.

When the world sees all these ugly images on television and reads about them
in newspapers and books, they inevitably conclude that Zimbabwe is a violent
nation. And when a few Zimbabweans join criminal syndicates in foreign
lands, and are caught at it, naturally there is some outcry.

According to my driver, there is another angle to "this Zimbabwean thing".

"There is a misconception that Zimbabweans here work harder than South
Africans," he said. "But they are willing to take any job that comes along,
and when they are ill-treated they don't complain because they have nowhere
to go. South Africans would complain and take their cases to the labour
courts. When our people lose their jobs to the 'makwerekwere'
[Zimbabweans], they complain. Complaining is not laziness."

When Zimbabwe was still ticking over nicely and we were the second largest
economy in southern Africa, I remember how we treated our poorer Mozambican
and Malawian neighbours. We referred to the Mozambicans as "Moscans" and
blamed them for all the crimes taking place in Zimbabwe. The Malawians, for
whom we also had several bad names, were seen as taking our jobs because
they never complained. Now we are getting a taste of our own medicine.

But all was not doom and gloom on my latest venture to Johannesburg. In the
hotel bar, there were several people who spoke highly of Zimbabwean
professionals teaching at South African universities and of the doctors who
have helped prop up South Africa's healthcare system, which is faltering
thanks to the country's eccentric health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
whom South Africans ridicule as "Doctor No."

We dare not make fun of our own ridicule ministers in Zimbabwe: you get
arrested and thrown in clink for doing so, under one of the many draconian
laws the Mugabe government has pushed through parliament.

Some of my fellow drinkers at the Johannesburg hotel bar were generous
enough to express caution about newspaper reports on Zimbabweans'
involvement in crime, saying South Africa has plenty of highly trained
disgruntled soldiers and former African National Congress guerrilla fighters
of its own who are more than capable of serious acts of violence.

Nevertheless, the messages are clear. For all sorts of reasons, we deserve
the hostile press we get. Until we stop all the political violence, the
world will not see us for the decent people most of us are. Only then will
our national image be once again defined by the beauty of the Victoria Falls
rather than the ugliness of an 82-year-old ruling oligarch.

Benedict Unendoro is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Zimbabwe.

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Mugabe Blasts Crooked Ministers

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

The president accuses ZANU-PF leaders of corruption, but critics say he
himself is responsible.

By Kudzai Mabhiza in Harare (AR No. 71, 27-Jul-06)

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has unexpectedly read the riot act to top
ZANU-PF officials, some of whom hope to succeed him, lambasting them as
corrupt and unfit to fill his shoes.

"People want to acquire wealth through self-aggrandisement," Mugabe told a
recent meeting of his party's central committee. "These cases are increasing
in number. What has become of us? You are not being fair. Some of you are
being crooks even in leadership positions."

He expressed concern that the calibre of the people vying for the party's
and the country's top posts is so low that they will tear the country apart
in the process and plunder its wealth with utter disregard for its people's

Critics, however, described Mugabe's tirade as hypocritical, saying it is
the president himself, through his policy of political patronage and
rewarding the elite with gifts of farms taken from white owners, who has
stoked the corruption that pervades the party and government.

"Hopefully the president has come to realise that he is the one to blame for
failing to stamp out endemic corruption in the corridors of power," said one
local analyst who did not want to be named. "It is Mugabe's duty to ensure
that whoever takes over from him will not loot state coffers with impunity,
but will try to salvage the country from the mess he created."

As early as 1988, the and then ZANU-PF secretary-general, firebrand
nationalist Edgar Tekere warned Mugabe that corruption in high places was
gnawing away at Zimbabwe's economic fabric. The president ignored the
warning and fired Tekere the following year from both party and government,
saying he had failed to substantiate allegations of massive corruption by
top ministers.

But many people said at the time that Mugabe was protecting cronies whom he
used in his tribal power-balancing act between the main ethnic factions of
the wider Shona nation.

Faced with the prospect of leaving power by the end of this decade,
82-year-old Mugabe now seems to have begun worrying that there is no one
among his chosen elite who has clean hands.

His tough speech seemed to be directed at specific senior ZANU-PF officials
vying for the top posts, who he thinks lack sufficient integrity to run the
country should he die while in power. But so deeply is graft embedded in the
system that critics say it will be impossible to find a "clean" person
anywhere in the ZANU-PF hierarchy.

Government corruption became obvious 18 years ago, when investigative
reporters uncovered the so-called "Willowgate" scandal, in which several
ministers were proved to have acquired Mazda cars at knockdown prices from
the Willowvale assembly plant in Harare and then resold them for handsome

In the Nineties and into the new century, corruption at top level came to
dwarf Willowgate. As farms were confiscated from white owners, ministers
acquired multiple landholdings. There has been widespread abuse of a VIP
housing scheme, with relatives and friends of ministers and top military
officers and civil servants issued with luxury homes at low prices.

Top ZANU-PF politicians and their relatives have been accused of plundering
the 40 million dollar War Victims Compensation Fund, meant to provide
disability payments to former guerrilla fighters in Zimbabwe's liberation
war of the Seventies. "New farmers" allocated scarce fuel at heavily
subsidies prices have been reselling it on the black market with huge profit
margins. Elsewhere, there has been mass looting of minerals and commercial
farm equipment.

But it seems unlikely that any senior people will ever face justice while
Mugabe remains in power.

The solution so far seems to have been to make a scapegoat of the new deputy
information minister, Bright Matonga, who was arrested in late July on
charges of soliciting 85,000 US dollars in bribes from companies tendering
to supply buses to the state-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company.
Matonga was the firm's chief executive before joining the government.

Commenting on Mugabe's surprise anti-corruption speech, in which he also
ordered ministers to be faithful to their wives, the independent weekly
Financial Gazette said in an editorial, "Most cynical Zimbabweans retorted
'too little, too late', because corruption has been left for too long to
permeate every facet of public life. The stony-faced silence that greeted
the head of state's podium-thumping indignation was a dead giveaway. Even
his [Mugabe's] most sycophantic and vociferous supporters knew it was
pointless to threaten to close the stable door long after the horse has

Kudzai Mabhiza is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Zimbabwe.

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Mugabe's descent from icon to despot - Black US trade unionists see the light

The Zimbabwean

WASHINGTON - The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) has launched a
major campaign to clip Mugabe of his "liberator" image in the African
American community by exposing the thuggish actions of his regime against
the Zimbabwean people.
CBTU President William Lucy has announced that CBTU would aggressively reach
out to African American media, labour websites/blogs and other progressive
media this summer to get Americans "tuned into the Zimbabwe crisis." Lucy
also said CBTU would join other organizations in demonstrations at the
Zimbabwe Embassy and other locations.
Lucy, who is also international secretary-treasurer of the 1.4
million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees,
said: "CBTU will not be a silent witness to this tragedy unfolding on
distant soil liberated by heroic freedom fighters. Zimbabwe's people, who
are suffering crushing poverty, homelessness, hunger and rampant violations
of human and trade union rights, need to know that their cries for help echo
in our hearts, no less than those of our sisters and brothers in South
Africa who prevailed over the racist apartheid regime."
Mugabe's descent from icon to despot is wrenching for many black Americans.
In the 1960s, a lot of black activists here gave money and claimed
solidarity with Zimbabwe's liberation fighters. Josh Williams, president of
the Washington, D.C. central labour council, recently returned from a visit
to Zimbabwe with a verdict on Mugabe's leadership.
"He [Mugabe] has lost touch with the people," Williams said. Williams, who
represented the AFL-CIO at the 25th anniversary convention of the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions in May, said "Workers find it hard to accept that
many of them are being beaten, arrested and harassed by the same people that
they marched with 25 years ago for liberation."
Mugabe's hand of repression greeted Williams when he arrived at the airport
in Harare. "There were about 20 other labour organizations that sent
representatives to the ZCTU convention," Williams said. "But when we arrived
at Zimbabwe's airport, 11 delegates were denied admission and sent back home
by the government, apparently because they had been critical of past actions
taken by Mugabe."
Barely two months ago, police officers raided the headquarters of the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. They ransacked the accounts department
under the pretense of searching for documents relating to foreign currency
transactions and fraud allegations. Union officials believe this attack was
designed to remove the current union leadership ahead of the annual meeting
last month of the International Labor Organization, which has repeatedly
cited the Mugabe regime for violating ILO conventions on freedom of
The government's campaign to destabilize ZCTU also includes mass arrests,
death threats, and bogus investigations; the threat of imprisonment of
leaders; the use of provocateurs to disrupt ZCTU meetings; and the creation
of splinter unions to undermine and weaken ZCTU. Government thugs have even
assaulted leaders of ZCTU's Women's Advisory Council, injuring one woman so
badly that she had to be taken to a clinic for x-rays.
He told the 1,500 delegates, "It is one thing to be independent. It is
another to be free. We are still fighting for our freedom in Zimbabwe." The
audience responded with a chorus of "Amen's'" when Chibebe added,
"Oppression is oppression, whether by a white person or a black person."
Lucy, who sits on the powerful AFL-CIO Executive Council, said CBTU's
Zimbabwe resolution and its invitation to Chibebe to speak to thousands of
black workers from every sector of organized labour in the U.S. "upped the
ante on Zimbabwe." He added, "It's time we - in the labor movement and in
the African American community - said 'Enough is enough: Hands off the
workers movement in Zimbabwe!' Bring back peace and democracy in Zimbabwe."-
Dwight Kirk, based in Washington DC, writes on employment and union issues.

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Torture cases rise sharply - Rights Forum

The Zimbabwean

By a Correspondent
HARARE -  Torture cases rose sharply in May to 84, and there were some 232
recorded incidents of unlawful arrest and detention, the Zimbabwe Human
Rights NGO Forum said in its monthly report on political violence.
The report, with its catalogue of arrests and beatings by police, abductions
and general brutality routinely inflicted by state agents, made the
expressions of outrage in the state-run media at the beating up of
opposition member of Parliament Trudy Stevenson sound particularly contrived
and synthetic.
The attack on Stevenson and four other officials of the pro-Senate faction
of the MDC provided a feast for the state-run media, which denounced it as
savage, brutal and barbaric and, before any court hearing, repeatedly said
it was the work of members of the Morgan Tsvangarai-led MDC. The
Tsvangarai-led MDC has claimed the perpetrators belonged to the ruling Zanu
(PF) party.
"They (the state media) would not reconcile their accusations of the MDC as
a violent party with results of a study by the Zimbabwe Torture Victims
Project attributing 99 percent of Zimbabwe's political violence to the
ruling party and state security agents," noted the Media Monitoring Project
Zimbabwe (MMPZ).
The Torture Victims Project findings supported an earlier report - based on
actual incidents brought to court - by the Human Rights Forum. A detailed
analysis of the court cases overwhelmingly attributed political violence to
law enforcement agencies and ruling party activists, with the MDC
responsible for but a fraction of the violence cases recorded.
Among those arrested and reportedly tortured in May, the Human Rights Forum
said, were dozens of students from Bindura State University after class
boycotts and the torching of a computer lab.
Some incidents reported by the Forum stand out for the sadism and the total
indifference of the police to who witnesses their assaults.
For example, 23 National Constitutional Association (NCA) demonstrators
demanding a new constitution were hauled off in police trucks from the
intersection of Second Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue on May 11. At Harare
Central Police Station they were allegedly beaten up by police at the
parking bay. Once inside, apart from more assaults, "sewage water with dead
rats was reportedly poured into the cells," said the Forum. They were
released the next day after paying admission of guilt fines under draconian
laws preventing free speech and association.
"The Human Rights Forum notes with great concern that violence and torture
continue to be used in Zimbabwe by state agents as a way of quelling
dissent, as well as extracting information from the public, be it for
political or criminal purposes," said the report.
Then there were the soccer fans singing political songs in a bus on their
way home after a match who were taken to Mungate police station after a
herdsman on the bus reported them. Eleven ran away and the remaining eight
were assaulted with electric cords, sjamboks and booted feet.
Academic John Makumbe was seized from his office at the University of
Zimbabwe by suspected CIO agents on May 17. A day later it was again the
turn of NCA demonstrators. After being reportedly assaulted by riot police
at Africa Unity Square, 32 of them were detained at Harare Central Police
Station for four days in overcrowded cells which had human waste on the
floors. The detainees included women with babies.
The Forum, a coalition of 16 groups, traditionally chooses its words
carefully. It said: "The ongoing harassment and arrest of innocent citizens
who are exercising their civil liberties is of continuing concern . and
needs to be addressed by the State and its agents as a matter of urgency."

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Irate customers lambaste housing developers

The Zimbabwean

HARARE- Confusion and resentment continue to plague the Charlottes Brooke
housing development scheme outside Harare, and Homelink has announced that
it is no longer financing homes in the scheme.
Disgruntled customers say they have just received email notification from
the developers that they would not get any refunds should they decide to
pull out of the scheme.
"This is contrary to promises made during a promotional visit to the UK last
year. We were never told that if we withdrew from the scheme we would have
to sell the stands, which we paid for in Pounds, in Zimbabwe dollars. Then
we still have to pay the outstanding balance in pounds and incur whatever
costs. We believe this is a deliberate omission to trap people," said an
irate customer.
In response to questions from The Zimbabwean this week, Homelink Chief
Executive John Heath, said speculation and rumours had surrounded the
development for some time, but most were incorrect.
"Homelink has financed a total of 13 customers within this scheme, of whom
only six have made partial payment to Homelink. Our prime focus at this
stage is to retrieve funds belonging to our clients from the developers.
Charlottes Brooke is not a Homelink project and we discontinued financing
homes in the development late last year," said Heath.
Charlottes Brooke is owned by the Msipa brothers, Charles and Masimba,
through their companies Angwa Associates and Patriot Properties
respectively. Masimba Msipa told The Zimbabwean that confusion had arisen
because the two companies had conceived and pioneered the Homelink Housing
Development Programme (HHDS) in conjunction with Homelink (Pvt) Ltd, a
company wholly owned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
"Patriot Properties is an HHDS agent, and is partnered internationally by
Angwa Associates. In their respective capacities as agent and international
partner, Patriot Properties and Angwa Associates originate and manage
Homelink funded foreign currency denominated mortgage facilitates for
non-resident Zimbabweans.
However, Angwa Associates also happen to be the principal sales and
collection agent for the Charlottes Brooke Property Development in both the
UK and USA. The Charlottes Brooke development is privately owned and is not
directly funded by Homelink as in the case of HHDS programmes," he
Msipa insisted that all clients involved in the 2005 shell house
construction packages would be refunded by the end of 2006.
However, he said his company had received numerous requests for refunds
involving its land only packages, which were not funded by Homelink, when
the purchasers ran into financial problems.
"We have always tried to match those people wishing to withdraw with those
on the waiting list to ensure that distressed clients are not further
prejudiced. However this is not always possible. It is important for all
parties to keep in mind that this is a service we offer gratis rather than a
contractual obligation on our part," he said. -Staff reporter

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Acquitted MDC activists receive death threats

The Zimbabwean

JOHANNESBURG -Five MDC activists, who were acquitted of murder charges by a
high court here last week are now living in fear following some death
threats from their arch-rival faction.
The five MDC activists, who belong to the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction
include Philemon Moyo, Philemon Ncube,Thembelani Ndebele, Danisele Ngwenya
and Memory, and have since reported the matter to the Hillbrow police
The five were acquitted of murdering Lungile Moyo during the run-up to 2005
parliamentary election.
In an interview with CAJ News on Friday last week, Moyo said he and the
others received anonymous phone calls threatening them with death. He
claimed that the anonymous caller phoned them one by one insisting that
justice from a"live bullet" would be meted soon.
"The courts have found us not guilty on murder charges but these other
fellow MDC activists, who made us arrested are now threatening to kill us.
We have since appealed for police protection at Hillbrow, but we don't know
as to whether they would manage to always have their eyes on us," said Moyo.
Zimbabwe Action Support Group (ZASG) Chairman, Remember Moyo, condemned the
death threats and called for unity of purpose between the two warring MDC
factions in South Africa. Moyo called for the law to take its course on
whoever commits crimes. - CAJ News

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Operation Maguta - state-sanctioned slavery

The Zimbabwean

INSIZA - It's the end of another long and hungry Friday. Insiza villager
Lydia Sibanda was woken by a piercing siren just before dawn and
force-marched by a team of soldiers to plough a winter maize field under
sub-zero temperatures in an official programme termed Operation Maguta.
She has no idea what price she will be paid for her efforts and the
compulsory acquisition of the crop when it is ready for harvesting.
In the late afternoon shade, conversations among the farm workers are
punctuated by bitter complaints about the state-sanctioned slavery on
Silalatshani Irrigation Scheme, a farm expropriated from a white farmer and
now under the administration of the Zimbabwe National Army. Anger simmers
but is kept in check by fear of roving soldiers supervising the impoverished
farm workers.
A talkative bone-thin mother of three in a threadbare green dress refuses to
give her name saying she is afraid of the soldiers. In an adjacent hut her
three-year-old daughter is crying. She has malaria, but she says she cannot
get the time to send her to the hospital because she has to work the whole
day in the fields.
"We are tired of being treated like slaves; we are tired of being forced to
work on an empty stomach. They caused the food shortage and now they are
making us work like slaves," said maMkiza, a famished mother of four. She
rails against the government's excuses.
"You cannot blame the drought and sanctions. It is because the government
chased away the white commercial farmers and gave away the land to people
ill-equipped to farm."
Some of her neighbours, wary of beatings and harassment by soldiers for such
blunt talk, send disapproving glances, but she continues boldly:"It's not a
secret that the soldiers here are abusing us. Everyone is talking about it."
Having thrown white farmers off their land, the military has taken over the
running of many of the farms in a desperate effort to boost production and
avert massive food shortages. Military men have set up camps on the land
where black farmers were resettled across Matabeleland and are ordering them
to grow mainly maize, the country's staple food. Teams of soldiers are
forcing other farmers to plough up other crops such as onions, tomatoes and
potatoes in other areas.
I saw villagers at Silalatshani Irrigation Scheme in Insiza being coerced by
soldiers to weed a winter maize crop using very short hoes. Gun-toting
soldiers would literally herd the farm workers, clad in tattered garb, with
some of the armed forces poking fun at their subjects.
The famished villagers, who were forced to start tilling the land at 6am,
were denied water, and only got a break at 12pm for "lunch," which
constituted a plate of boiled vegetables and stale sadza. Reports that the
soldiers were flogging "defiant and lazy" farm workers using sjamboks could
not be independently verified. But the forced labour gave a graphic
illustration of the true horror of the army-led Operation Maguta, which is
deliberately fostering a situation where notions of human decency are
debased, and where this debasement is celebrated.
"They even took away our entertainment. We can't even gather for a party
anymore," said the frail-looking Lydia, speaking in a hushed tone. "It is
not because of the economic hardships. but the soldiers stationed here do
not want any noise."
Villagers recalled how military lorries arrived in the area early this year,
off-loaded farming implements which included disc harrows and planters at
the Irrigation Scheme.
Some of the equipment was taken to nearby farms where the Chinese have been
clearing vast stretches of virgin land.
The operation, conceived and spearheaded by the Joint Operations Command
(JOC) comprising the army, police, prisons and the intelligence service,
started in November last year with the seizure of equipment from individual
farms across the country.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made, widely blamed for misleading the country
on food stocks in the past, heads the initiative while Defence minister
Sydney Sekeramayi is his deputy.
Made refused comment on the matter. But in tacit admission of failure of his
chaotic agrarian reform programme, President Robert Mugabe told Parliament
recently that the military initiative was an attempt to meet the nation's
food requirements.
"To enhance agricultural production and meet national requirements of 1,8
million tonnes of cereals, targeted production has been introduced through
Operation Security/Maguta/Inala by government," Mugabe said. "The major
objectives of the programme are to boost the country's food security and
consolidate national strategic reserves."
Mugabe says government's target was to ensure food security and surplus for
export by putting at least 300 000 hectares of maize under irrigation. He
has confessed that his government's seizure of white-owned farms has
benefited fewer than 10% of landless blacks as the programme was hijacked by
ruling party officials and their relatives. Fields now lie fallow and
support only subsistence crops.

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