Mail and Guardian
02 July 2006 08:33
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has held talks with United
Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on the sidelines of an African Union
summit in Gambia, and Annan will definitely not be going to Harare later
this year, Zimbabwe state television reported late on Saturday.
The announcement ends days of speculation over whether Mugabe
would agree to meet Annan this weekend for private talks on the crisis in
Zimbabwe and whether the Zimbabwean leader would reissue last year's
invitation to the UN boss.
The meeting went on for less than an hour, the television said.
The report said Mugabe and Annan discussed Zimbabwe's relations
with former colonial power Britain. Mugabe blames Britain for Zimbabwe's
searing political and economic problems, accusing British Prime Minister
Tony Blair of internationalising a dispute between the two countries.
Earlier this week, Mugabe made it clear he would accept no
intervention in the Zimbabwean crisis, telling thousands of ruling party
supporters at a state funeral that Zimbabwe did not need rescuing.
Stung by criticism of his controversial campaign of slum
demolitions last year, Mugabe invited Annan to come to Zimbabwe to see the
situation for himself. But the invitation appeared to have been withdrawn
earlier this year. -- Sapa-dpa
Los Angeles Times
Farmer's opposition to Zimbabwe leader landed him in prison, where he found
By Robyn Dixon, Times Staff Writer
July 2, 2006
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Hard labor in a Zimbabwean prison might have
broken Roy Bennett if not for the other prisoners, who took over his work
hauling jugs the size of water coolers from a sewage-infested river and
muttered quiet words of encouragement.
For a white farmer, the generosity of the black prisoners jailed for crimes
of survival was humbling: Before his release in June 2005, he often found
scraps of impossible-to-come-by meat filched from the prison's kitchen and
stuffed into his bedroll.
Since 2000, the opposition politician's belongings have been looted, his
land occupied by invaders, his workers beaten, raped and in one case killed,
his house taken, his coffee farm seized by the Zimbabwean government and his
freedom lost for eight months in a case condemned by Amnesty International.
He believes all of it was politically motivated and carried out by the
regime of longtime President Robert Mugabe, which has redistributed
white-owned farms to blacks and ruthlessly suppressed dissent.
Four times he has been left with nothing but the contents of his suitcase -
thrice when his farm was invaded and looted and once when he fled to South
Africa in March after police discovered an arms cache and sought him for
questioning on treason charges, an offense that carries the death penalty.
The South African government in late May denied Bennett's asylum
application, concluding that there was no reason to believe he would not be
treated fairly. He plans to appeal.
The rejection by South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has been
criticized by the opposition and human rights activists. Nicole Fritz,
director of the South African Litigation Center, writing in the Star
newspaper, said that at best the decision reflects incompetence; at worst an
unwillingness to help those in need.
Bennett, rosy-skinned and round-faced, has the complexion and physique of a
prosperous farmer. He seems almost an accidental hero who could have
trundled through life without a care if not for the circumstances in his
"I feel very heartsore, because what has happened in Zimbabwe is not even
political. It's a result of tyranny and greed," said Bennett, a
Mugabe's policies have triggered the collapse of agriculture. Inflation is
above 1,000%, there is a severe hard-currency shortage, hospitals lack
medicines and the population is hungry.
Growing up on his father's remote farm, Bennett's only friends were the
children of the black workers, about eight of whom he says remain close
As a coffee farmer, he honored the rituals demanded by local tribal
tradition, setting aside produce for two chiefs and making sacrifices to
keep the river mermaid of legend happy. He made certain the rain-making
rituals were never neglected.
Bennett says he went into politics at the request of local chiefs and others
in his area.
In prison, Bennett said, fellow inmates and guards helped him not only for
humane reasons but in support of his status as a member of the opposition
fighting the regime. Prisoners constantly talked of their suffering and
their yearning for political change, he said.
Most days in prison, Bennett's labor consisted of walking waist-deep into
the filthy river, filling two 5-gallon cans and carrying them 200 yards to
water a vegetable garden. He had to haul water all day long.
"I battled at the beginning. I battled with the whole process. I was
determined to see it through and not to break under the conditions. I didn't
want the authorities to break me," Bennett said in an interview in
When he arrived, he was forced to strip in front of senior prison officials
loyal to Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and was given a soiled uniform torn around
the crotch, affording no decency.
Only when the prison bosses or ZANU-PF guards approached would the
lower-level guards harass him, he said. Later they would tell him they were
"It was a very humbling experience because the prisoners and the guards did
everything to make my life better," he said. "They could see I was battling.
They'd come and encourage me and give me a hand and say: 'Just keep going.
It's not that bad, you'll get used to it just now.' "
Bennett says that as a politician he wanted to represent the local people
and improve their lives. He tried to join ZANU-PF before the parliamentary
elections of 2000, hoping to change the culture of corruption and impunity
"I thought naively that it would be possible to bring about proper
representation for the people," he recalled. The ruling party eschewed his
candidacy. At that time, the opposition was embryonic, but Bennett switched
to the Movement for Democratic Change.
In May 2000, after his switch, his farm was invaded by Mugabe loyalists.
Bennett was in the capital, Harare, but they rounded up and beat his
workers, and when Bennett's wife, Heather, tried to intervene, one of the
invaders held a machete to her throat and forced her to sing ZANU-PF
political songs. Pregnant at the time, she miscarried soon after.
The invaders occupied the farm for three weeks, looting everything from the
house. In the next four years, ZANU-PF officials, the military and police
repeatedly looted the farm, harassed, beat and intimidated the staff,
killing a worker in 2003. The next year, the army and police seized the
Despite Zimbabwe's economic crisis, widespread hunger and human rights
abuses - including the government's nationwide razing of shacks last year
that left at least 700,000 people homeless - African leaders have been
reluctant to criticize Mugabe. Some accuse foreign journalists of bias
against Mugabe, but others admire him as a liberator who freed his country
from white minority rule.
Bennett tries to avoid upsetting the South African government and doesn't
criticize its decision to deny him asylum. Instead, he says he is sure he
will get a fair hearing in the appeal process.
But he called on African leaders to recognize the abuses and "tyranny" in
Zimbabwe and the suffering of ordinary people.
"In Zimbabwe, you now have totalitarian rule where there's been
institutionalized violence. Total thug rule is what exists in Zimbabwe
today," he said.
"There's got to be a bursting point for everyone, no matter how passive you
are," he said. "I believe people in Zimbabwe are moving to that point. I do
believe it's going to happen. It could happen this year."
02/07/2006 16:36 - (SA)
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's deputy on Saturday issued
unusually strong criticism of the government's land reform programme, saying
farms had been seized from whites for political gains rather than for proper
Speaking in the absence of Mugabe, who is attending an African Union summit
in Gambia, vice-president Joseph Msika condemned the way land had been taken
and given to anybody who wanted land.
"We have not sat down to say, really, 'Is this person whom we're giving
land, is he having an aptitude for farming, is he a farmer? Is he going to
develop the land?'" Msika said in televised comments.
Mugabe launched his land reforms to local fanfare in 2000.
He said the programme, which has so far seen the seizure of more than 4 000
white-owned farms, was meant to take back farms stolen by whites during
Those farms would be given to the landless, Mugabe said.
But there was criticism when it appeared that the politically well-connected
were taking some of the best properties.
Although agricultural production has plummeted in the last six years,
robbing Zimbabwe of its breadbasket status and necessitating massive food
imports, very few government officials have ventured any real criticism of
Msika, who is acting president in Mugabe's absence, criticised blacks who
had merely taken houses belonging to white farmers.
"What they are doing is to go into the houses where whites were living and
they want land, they just plough a small hectarage, and they are saying
that's enough," he said.
"We have taken this land, and (are) using it for political gains other than
the development of the agricultural industry." - Sapa-dpa
From The Sunday Independent (SA), 2 July
Harare - David Drury's city-centre desk is so cluttered with eviction orders
for Zimbabwe's remaining productive farmers that he cannot immediately lay
his hands on the one he needs. A clutch of 90-day eviction orders
pre-printed on flimsy paper has been dropped off at the lawyer's office
during the past few days; probably the largest number in three years - and
they are still coming in. The last time eviction notices were flowing like
this was when white farmers were being killed or beaten up for trying to
stay in their homes and run their businesses. Now only a few hundred of the
4 500 commercial farmers who prospered here in early 2000 - before President
Robert Mugabe's land putsch - remain, clinging tenuously to their land. They
have had to cede ownership of most of the soil and their equipment to the
state. After a sudden surge of violence against white farmers last November,
the government appeared to change tack. In February Vice-President Joyce
Mujuru, backed by some senior ministers, made it known that farmers who had
survived the purge - and those who had previously been evicted and wanted to
return home - could apply for 99-year leases on their farms. "Productivity
must return to the land," the reserve bank's governor, Gideon Gono, said at
It was a dramatic, although implicit, admission that Mugabe's land grab had
failed. Zimbabwe could no longer feed itself and its economy had imploded
because the white farmers who grew the export crops that earned 40 percent
of the country's annual foreign exchange income were gone. Trevor Gifford,
an official with the Commercial Farmers' Union, said about 900 current and
former farmers had applied for the leases since February. To date, however,
not a single lease or official letter from the government has been issued
giving tenure to those still there. A handful have been given letters from
their local authority saying that they can stay, and three or four former
farmers believe they have been given the green light to return home. But
last week Didymus Mutasa, the lands minister, told a group of diplomats he
wanted all white farmers gone: "It does not matter if the land is not
productive, as long as we have that land," he said. Drury successfully
persuaded the Harare high court recently that three farmers who had been
forced by threats of violence to leave their farms - which he conceded was
now state land - should be allowed to return as they had not been legally
evicted. The Zimbabwean government immediately proposed another amendment to
the frequently mutilated Land Acquisition Act, and Mutasa - perhaps without
the support of all in government - got busy with a slew of new eviction
"We saw a whole pile of notices at the lands office," said one farmer from
central Zimbabwe who asked not to be identified. "I suppose this is the
final push." No one is sure exactly how many white farmers are still
involved in some aspect of agriculture on their land, even if indirectly or
through a third party. "I have to plough for new farmers on land I gave them
as they don't know how and don't have the equipment. It is in my interest
for them to be successful," one grain farmer said this week. Fewer than 10
percent of white farmers evicted since 2000 have been compensated by the
government with an average of about 3 percent of the value of their assets.
Two weeks ago the government printed a list of 700 more it intends to
"compensate" at ridiculously low prices. Some, especially the old, frail and
homeless, will probably accept it. John Worsley-Worswick, a former farmer
and spokesperson for the pressure group Justice for Agriculture, said last
week: "We don't know who is in control, as there is chaos and looting out
there and the last batch of productive farmers will be forced off while tens
of thousands of their skilled workers will become destitute. It is a cruel
torture for those still out there." Part of that torture is the cycle of
hope and despair caused by contradictory signals and actions from the
government. Whether this is a symptom of the jostling for power amid the
succession struggle within Zanu PF, or a deliberate cat-and-mouse game being
played with the farmers, nobody knows. Drury is, albeit wearily, going to
fight the latest land law devised by Mugabe's henchmen to rid Zimbabwe of
the last of its productive white farmers. "This is demonstrably an abuse of
process from a policy point of view and a legal point of view," he says with
a wry smile that acknowledges how incongruous those fine legal phrases sound
in a land that is now lawless. I am laughing in despair; you have to have a
sense of humour in Zimbabwe. It is a farcical, cloud-cuckoo land."
From The Sunday Times (SA), 2 July
Buddy Naidu and Dominic Mahlangu
As economy collapses, deserters turn to violent crime; SA intelligence looks
north for links to Jeppe bloodbath
Police intelligence operatives visited Zimbabwe this week to investigate
links between five of the suspects in last Sunday's ambush killing of four
policemen and that country's military. Sixteen men were arrested in the
aftermath of the shoot-out in Jeppestown, Johannesburg - three Mozambicans,
five Zimbabweans and eight South Africans. Eight suspected robbers were
killed at the scene. Earlier that morning they had robbed a supermarket in
Honeydew, Johannesburg. The Zimbabwe visit came as an emotional Safety and
Security Minister, Charles Nqakula, told the Sunday Times he was calling a
meeting of top police officers tomorrow to discuss a comprehensive response
to violent crime. He spoke of his distress after entering the bloodied,
bullet-riddled house hours after the standoff last Sunday. "The most
poignant moment for me was when I saw inspectors Van Heerden and Schoeman in
an embrace lying down there. Obviously ... they sensed that they were
nearing their end [and] went into an embrace," he said. Nqakula was
referring to inspectors Frikkie van Heerden and Gert Schoeman, who died with
Inspector Nzama Victor Mathye and Constable Peter Seaward.
Speaking at the funeral of Mathye yesterday, Nqakula urged the police to
wear their bulletproof vests because criminals had now declared war on them.
He added: "I urge you to use [your] firearms to defend yourself and the
lives of all peace-loving South Africans." Intelligence operatives say
numerous robberies since 2002 could be traced to former Zimbabwean soldiers,
but that they have received no help from the authorities in that country.
They further accuse the South African government of dragging its feet and
not acting on intelligence in an effort "to maintain diplomatic relations".
On Friday, Nqakula told the Sunday Times the police were under-resourced and
lacked intelligence-gathering skills. Tomorrow's emergency meeting with the
police's top brass will include the National Commissioner and all the
provincial commissioners.The meeting comes in the wake of a series of
violent crimes in the past fortnight. In a frank interview, Nqakula admitted
there were "serious weaknesses" and that the police lacked basic
investigative and intelligence-gathering skills. He said it was clear that
criminals were out "to kill as many police officers as is possible". The
meeting tomorrow would focus on a "short-term solution" to bring about "a
sense of confidence in our people regarding policing in this country".
Nqakula said last Sunday's shootout could have been prevented if the police
had had better intelligence.
Intelligence officers, meanwhile, said there was an increase in the number
of soldiers deserting the Zimbabwean army because of that country's economic
meltdown. Zimbabwe has in recent years struggled to pay the salaries of its
soldiers. In the past five years South Africa has recorded a number of
highprofile cases with links to Zimbabwe. These include: In January, Themba
Charles Mahlangu from Zimbabwe was arrested at The Glen shopping mall. Two
months earlier he had allegedly killed Johannesburg police officer Enver
Enoch, and the same day had allegedly robbed an American Express outlet in
Fourways. He was also sought in connection with a robbery at Gold Reef City
in 2005; In March, gunmen stole more than R70-million in cash from an SAA
flight. Suspects were arrested en route to Zimbabwe; .In 2004 Durban police
nabbed six members of the infamous Hammer Gang, responsible for robbing
several banks and foreign-exchange agencies. Four of the men were Zimbabwean
and it was alleged at the time that they had stolen US dollars and taken the
money to Zimbabwe; and, after an airport heist in 2002, in which more than
R115-million was stolen, four of those responsible were arrested at a
An intelligence officer confirmed that former Zimbabwean military men were
using their skills to good effect in South Africa - employing South Africans
as runners to help them get accommodation, hideout spots and vehicles. "A
number of soldiers are leaving the Zimbabwean army and coming [here]. The
group that was involved in last Sunday's shooting involved people with
serious military training," he said. Police suspect that the weapons
recovered, which include AK-47s and other powerful guns, were supplied by
Mozambicans, while the Zimbabweans oversaw the operation in cahoots with
several locals. "Unfortunately our hands are tied ... Anything involving
Zimbabwe or our [other] neighbours is handled via Pretoria," said an
official. Kenny Fihla, head of Business Against Crime, said the involvement
of foreigners in crime was becoming a serious problem. "We should not be
apologetic. We do have a sense that illegal foreigners are involved in these
armed heists and robberies," he said.
I hit a pothole in Harare last Wednesday and it smashed my front wheel
assembly. In an effort to find the spares needed I went out to a dealer and
when I walked into the Managers office I was astonished to find a close
friend behind the desk. It had been five years since I had seen him last and
he told me what had happened to him.
He had been working in the Karoi area the last time I had seen him and when
the farmers in the district had been dispossessed he had found himself also
out of a job and also dispossessed. After 30 years of work he and his wife
found themselves without a home, just a few old pieces of furniture and some
clothes and a small car.
To compound his problems, his wife of over 30 years, was battling with
cancer - a struggle she lost after two and half years and he had found
himself without his wife and companion as well as his assets and means of
making a living.
He rented a small house in a medium density area in Harare and with the help
of a younger businessperson, set up a car dealership in one room with a
laptop computer. When I walked into his office three years later, he was the
General Manger of a substantial business, was expanding rapidly and looked
set for real success. Where others were struggling, he was making good money
and doing well.
Not only in that sphere had he done well, but two years before he had met
and subsequently married a lovely woman in Harare and they were starting all
over again with a new house in Borrowdale. Soon, he said, he would move to a
new site in Chisipite where they were starting another dealership.
He and I are both active Christians and he said to me that morning that his
faith had been sorely tested by these events. What was God doing? How could
such a calamity happen to me? What was the purpose of it all? All valid
questions for someone, like Job in the Old Testament, who also lost
everything - family, children, livelihood, wealth. So tested that he was
still not back in an active fellowship even though his wife is a firm and
This story is a common one here in Zimbabwe. We talk about the farm
invasions and somehow the true horror of what went on in those days fails to
register. We forget that the men and women who owned those farms, in many
cases, had moved onto them when they were just empty bush. They had worked
together to carve them out of the bush living in pole and mud huts and
cooking over wood fires before gradually getting onto their feet and
building beautiful homes and raising families.
The stories are legion - gaining experience by working for other farmers,
then buying your own place with borrowed money and the struggle - over many
years, even decades to get out of debt and to build up what was eventually a
productive farm in a remote area with dams, irrigation and all the other
things that are needed to make a real go of modern farming today. To then go
through UDI with 14 years of mandatory UN sanctions and then 8 years of
civil war when you were always on the alert and faced danger and violence
Then after Independence in 1980, thinking that this was a new day - no more
ambushes or land mines on the farm road, no more agric alerts and call outs.
Put the guns away and get back to real farming. Accepting the new realities
and national leadership. Growing your enterprise to the point where you were
making an impact across the world. Then out of the blue, the systematic,
wholesale and brutal theft of your assets and livelihood and way of life -
on a purely racist and corrupt basis.
Some 4 000 farmers and their direct employees were affected by this act
together with 350 000 farm workers, managers and skilled employees. At the
time there were 10 000 white men on those farms - all armed, all trained and
experienced and all determined people. But not a shot was fired, they
accepted what was being done to them without violence and resorted to the
law as a defence, only to finds that this line of defence had also been torn
away from them by the State.
What we do not appreciate is the trauma that this process involved - for the
men and their families. The loss of everything they had worked for -
sometimes for three or four generations, the loss of homes and all security.
The loss of community and sense of belonging; these are the real losses. The
rest we can replace - if not here then elsewhere, but the intangibles are
How does anyone get over such trauma? What do you do when confronted with
such circumstances? Nobody ever said that the world was a fair place - Jesus
himself said that "in the world you will face tribulation", not maybe, will.
So this is not an uncommon experience. We are not the first community to go
through such circumstance; how we handle these situations is what sets us
In my friends case, he did not quit, did not leave the country, he did not
commit suicide - all legitimate and understandable reactions to overwhelming
loss. No, he picked up the pieces of his life and started afresh. I looked
at him after he had told me his story and I said to him "what you are doing
is walking on the water".
My mind was on that story in the New Testament where the disciples were
crossing a lake in a small boat and a storm came up - ever been on Kariba
when that happens - it is fast and nasty. Jesus came to them walking on the
water. Peter saw him and asked, "If that is you, can I come and walk on the
water with you?" Jesus said yes and Peter got out of the boat in the storm
and walked towards Jesus. Then his mind told him this could not be
happening - he looked at the stormy waters and began to sink.
When life deals us a bad hand and we are faced with stormy, angry, water we
can do a number of things - we can stay in the boat and hope we survive, we
can get out of the boat and walk on the water. When done by faith we then
find that we can indeed walk on the water, there is life after all that has
happened. That was the experience of Job - it can be our experience as well.
Jesus finished that earlier saying about tribulation by saying, "but be of
good cheer, I have overcome the world." When we step over the gunwale we can
find that this is also true. We do not forget the past, it still hurts, but
we find comfort and new pleasure in the experience of walking on the stormy
waters of life.
Bulawayo, July 2 2006
Mail and Guardian
30 June 2006 07:59
Nothing could have conjured the images of a riven country
more eloquently than the Zimbabwe national day of prayer. An event meant to
unite a country was marked by a slanging match that would not have looked
out of place before a heavyweight boxing match.
At the event staged at the Glamis Arena in Harare, the
country's President, Robert Mugabe, was initially conciliatory, urging the
church to point out his government's "shortcomings, sins of commission or
But later he turned to lay into the outspoken Roman
Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube: "When the church leaders start
being political, we regard them as political creatures - and we are vicious
in that area," he said.
This tone was not out of place in a week in which Bishop
Levy Kadenge of the Methodist Church, who is the convener of the
anti-government Christian Alliance that boycotted the event, had not been to
his house since Thursday last week. Reports say that a Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) officer told him "we want to wipe you out".
His secretary general, Jonah Gokova, recently said that
the bishop was not in hiding and was "at his office". However, Kadenge had
been "advised not to speak to the press".
Gokova said the Christian Alliance was formed in response
to concern from church members after last year's urban clean-up operation
that left up to 700 000 people destitute.
Ncube told Irin News that church leaders who have aligned
themselves with the government had compromised themselves. Last month he
claimed that some leaders had been bribed to support the government. "The
church should be a safe haven for the tortured. This government continues to
abuse people's rights and church leaders should be warned that their
solidarity with those who have caused so much suffering leaves the victims
feeling betrayed," he said.
Head of the organisation behind the national day of
prayer, Christian Denominations and Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe,
Bishop Trevor Manhanga, however, insisted that working with the government
was the best way in finding a solution to Zimbabwe's problems. "We refuse to
join our detractors and short-sighted citizens who do not see anything good
about the country," he told Irin News.
Analysts argue that in a country where people have lost
faith in opposition politics and the ability of Mugabe's government to find
a solution to the country's problems, many people have turned to
They point out that the church has, consequently, become
the new arena for the control of the minds and hearts of the people.
Analysts say that the church is no longer reading from the same gospel at a
time when people, despairing of the divided opposition, are looking to it
Banjul, The Gambia, 07/02 - Leader Moammar Kadhafi participated in the
meeting of the "seven-member" commission set by the African ordinary summit
in Sirte (Libya) in order to take actrions toward implementation of Libya`s
proposals for the formation of the United States of Africa.
The Libyan proposals cover the creation of ministries of foreign affairs,
defence, foreign trade, transport and communication at the continental
In addition, Libya is proposing the removal of customs barriers between
member countries of the AU, the unification of transport and communication
means and the launching of an African satellite.
The secretary of the Libyan general people`s Committee for External
Relations and International Co-operation, Abderrahman Chalgham, said in
Banjul that Kadhafi alerted participants at the meeting that time was of
paramount importance to complete the missions of the commission.
Chalgham said the Libyan leader also emphasised the importance of holding
the commission meeting before the AU`s next summit slated for next January
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in order to define practical points to be
At the end of the "seven-member" Commission meeting, Leader Moammar Kadhafi
met with leaders and heads of delegations from African countries and
regional and international organisations.
They were Presidents Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Olesugun Obasango of
Nigeria, Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, Omar Hassan El Beshir of Sudan,
Idriss Deby of Chad, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, John Kofuor of Ghana,
Mamadou Tandja of Niger, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi of
the Comoros and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d`Ivoire.