|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean opposition leader, appears in the Supreme Court today to defend himself against prosecution for terrorism. The Zimbabwean government is seeking foreign aid because of a shortage of food, following violent disruption of the country's farming. The Organisation of African Unity, which yesterday concluded its summit in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, backed off at the last moment from wholehearted support for the Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe – but the statement that Zimbabwe and Britain should "get together" on land ownership also managed to avoid full-scale condemnation of the violence that Mr Mugabe has unleashed.
Each of these three strands is depressing. Together, they send a singularly grim message. Mr Tsvangirai heads the Movement for Democratic Change – the party which courageously challenged President Mugabe in elections last year, and which is Zimbabwe's best hope for unseating Mr Mugabe, after 21 years.That is the reason why Mr Tsvangirai is now charged with terrorism, under laws framed by the white-minority rulers of the old Rhodesia for use against leaders of the independence struggle.
On Zimbabwe's food problems, the story is equally dismal. In normal circumstances, a finance minister's declaration that "our budget does not allow for food purchases" should be treated sympathetically. But these are not normal circumstances. Just as those who wanted democracy in South Africa supported sanctions against the apartheid regime – however painful they might be for ordinary South Africans – so the Mugabe regime disqualifies itself from international generosity when it is so obviously the author of its own misfortunes.
In some respects, the failure by the OAU to condemn Mr Mugabe is most depressing of all. At the weekend, foreign ministers at the summit criticised the attempts "to isolate and vilify Mugabe". According to this reading of events, the only reason that anybody in Europe might dare to criticise Mr Mugabe was because of a secret hankering for the old days of white colonial rule.
In reality, this confirmed the impression that the OAU itself lives in the past. Yesterday, the summit backed off from endorsing the tough language of the foreign ministers' weekend declaration. But, shamefully, it did not criticise Mr Mugabe, who declared: "We and the rest of Africa are now speaking in the same language."
Land reform is needed; the inequities of ownership must be addressed. But Mr Mugabe has had two decades to address the problems – and failed. (In just seven years of democracy, South Africa has done more.) Only when Mr Mugabe's own political position was threatened did he suddenly seize on this explosive issue. He encouraged licensed thugs; dozens have died and thousands were left homeless in the violence that followed. African leaders are in a uniquely strong position to "isolate and vilify" Mr Mugabe. Mr Tsvangirai was right yesterday to note that the failure to do so ignores "rampant lawlessness". Condemnation of the Zimbabwean government has nothing to do with colonialism, and everything to do with democracy. As Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, told the Lusaka summit this week: "Africa must reject the ways of the past and commit itself to building a future of democratic governance."
African leaders have talked in recent days about the proposed creation of a new AU – an African Union, theoretically modelled on the European Union, with its own parliament, executive and transnational laws. The political cowardice on Zimbabwean thuggery does not, however, set an encouraging precedent in this regard.
From The Independent (UK), 12 July
African leaders drop attack on UK's Zimbabwe policy
An annual summit of African leaders expunged criticism of Britain's policy over Zimbabwe from its final declaration yesterday in a face-saving move that also served to humiliate President Robert Mugabe. Lobbying by South Africa, Nigeria and other "modern" members of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was due to result in a mild declaration on Zimbabwe at the closing session in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, last night. It replaced a draft resolution by foreign ministers which, on Sunday, had expressed "concern" at moves by Britain "to mobilise European and North American countries to isolate and vilify Zimbabwe".
Ahead of the closing session, the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, said: "The declaration says that Britain and Zimbabwe need to get together and continue to search for a solution (over the redistribution of land). That supersedes the ministerial draft." The scrapping of the anti-British declaration, which had been unanimously adopted by the OAU's council of ministers, saved it from ridicule as it prepares to relaunch itself as the African Union (AU). President Mbeki is among presidents who want the AU - the brainchild of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi - to shed the OAU's image as a dictators' club, tolerant of corruption and coups. President Mbeki believes Africa should shed colonial allegiances and hang-ups and speak with one voice as an equal among other world lobbies such as the European Union. President Mugabe, on the other hand, expects an endorsement against former colonial powers such as Britain.
Hours before the final declaration, the 77-year-old had stated that the anti-British draft "enhances our solidarity with our African brothers". The OAU said in its final declaration that the Lusaka summit "reaffirmed that the land issue is central to ensuring durable peace, stability and economic development in Zimbabwe". The organisation reiterated its demand "for Britain to honour its colonial obligation" to fund land settlement. The summit called on Britain "to co-operate fully and enter into dialogue with the government of Zimbabwe with the purpose of finding a final solution to this colonial legacy".
Britain says it stopped funding Zimbabwean land resettlement schemes because corruption meant the poor were not benefiting. In 1998, an international donors' conference worked out a new approach, which the Zimbabwe government never implemented. Ahead of parliamentary elections last year in Zimbabwe in which the ruling party faced its first serious opposition challenge since 1980, President Mugabe put the land issue at the centre of his campaign. He promised to empower black Zimbabweans economically by giving them white-owned farms. He faces a presidential election next spring.
From The Daily News (SA), 11 July
Britain cautions OAU against backing Mugabe
Lusaka - Britain has cautioned African leaders meeting in Lusaka for the last Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit that backing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in his land dispute with London could undermine Western financial support for their ambitious African recovery plan. A British government source issued the caution in response to a resolution of the OAU Council of Ministers on Sunday which put the blame on Britain for the arbitrary seizure of commercial white farms. "We feel, depending on the way the leaders decide to pursue the issue, it may be negative on other important and progressive programmes the continent wants to embark on," the source said.
South African government officials, concerned about deterring investors by appearing to buck the rule of law, have tried to distance Pretoria from the resolution. Department of Foreign Affairs representative Ronnie Mamoepa said the fact that the OAU council of ministers had agreed to appoint a committee to help Zimbabwe deal with land reform showed that the OAU was not happy with land redistribution in its present form. However, South Africa is on record as supporting the Zimbabwe resolution. Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma attended the council of ministers' meeting and the Zimbabwe resolution was reported to have been adopted "unanimously". The resolution says the OAU committee made up of South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon, Kenya, and Zambia will promote international understanding of Zimbabwe's land reforms, and secure support for them.
From News24 (SA), 11 July
Not too late for Zim
Lusaka - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says it's not too late to find a formula to resettle thousands of poor, landless Zimbabweans without the country descending into anarchy. Annan acknowledged that land reform in Zimbabwe was necessary, but said he wanted it done legally - with fair compensation paid to white farmers whose properties were seized for redistribution to blacks. "It is not too late to take measures to calm the situation so that agricultural production can be continued and those who need to be resettled can be settled," Annan told a news conference in the Zambian capital Lusaka. Last week Zimbabwean Finance Minister Simba Makoni said the country would need to import food to offset falling output that analysts blamed on a wave of land invasions since last year. Industry officials said the country will need to import up to 800 000 tonnes of grain due to a sharp drop in maize and wheat production. But Makoni said there was no room in the budget to pay for imports. Self-styled war veterans have occupied hundreds of commercial farms since last year and disrupted production.
Annan, who was attending the annual summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), said the United Nations and other groups were ready to help with negotiations on land distribution and funding sources for compensation. But he said President Robert Mugabe's government had to ensure that the process was conducted legally. "I believe that land reform has to be handled in a legal manner...The responsibility lies with the government of Zimbabwe," Annan said. Violence linked to the seizure of white-owned farms and the run-up to parliamentary elections last year left 31 people dead, most of them opposition supporters. The veterans say they are only taking back what was snatched from their forefathers by British colonial masters. The Zimbabwean government has said it wants Britain to fund any compensation. At the Lusaka summit, the OAU agreed to appoint a committee of several countries to help Zimbabwe negotiate and resolve the land question, which remains a source of continued political instability ahead of presidential elections next year. Mugabe is expected to face a serious challenge from Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
From The Star (SA), 11 July
Tsvangirai set for crucial court battle
Harare - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, accused of acts of terrorism that could bar him from next year's elections, will challenge his prosecution on Thursday in a test case for freedom of speech in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was granted the right by the high court in May to refer his case to the supreme court to argue that a terrorism case against him was an attack on his right to free speech. President Robert Mugabe's government said it had accepted the high court ruling, and would try to convince the country's highest court that Tsvangirai had a case to answer. On Tuesday, Tsvangirai said he was ready, but had no doubt the supreme court would uphold his rights and rule as unconstitutional the law on which his prosecution was based. "Our supreme court has a history of fairness, of protecting the rights of all Zimbabweans, of dispensing justice and that is the reason we have been calling for the protection of their integrity," he said. "We are going to argue our case there... not outside." Tsvangirai is being prosecuted for telling MDC supporters in a speech last year that Mugabe might be overthrown violently if he did not retire.
From The Star (SA), 11 July
Police chief to sack opposition supporters
Harare - Zimbabwe's police chief has vowed to dismiss members from the force who support opposition politics, the state-owned Herald reported on Wednesday. "Those officers who believe they can abandon the government of the day in order to support the opposition are misguided and they will be kicked out of the force," Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri told the paper. An undisclosed number of officers have already been fired on those grounds, the police chief said. Chihuri is a self-declared supporter of the ruling Zanu PF of President Robert Mugabe. Police in Zimbabwe have been consistently accused of neglecting their duties. Violent attacks on the opposition by ruling party supporters left at least 34 people dead in the run-up to last year's general elections. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims another five of its supporters were killed in politically-motivated attacks last week. Dismissing pro-opposition supporters from the police force was acting in "the interests of the majority", Chihuri added. The ruling party scraped a narrow victory over the MDC in last year's elections, winning 62 of the 120 contested seats against the MDC's 57. Presidential elections are due early next year in which 77-year-old President Mugabe will be standing as the ruling party's candidate.
From The Financial Gazette, 12 July
27 MDC officials arrested
At least 27 officials and activists of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were arrested in Bindura and Kwekwe yesterday in what is emerging to be an organised police crackdown on the opposition party in all major urban centres ahead of three parliamentary by-elections and the crunch presidential ballot. The arrests came hard on the heels of weekend police raids on the offices of the MDC in Harare and Bulawayo, where other activists were detained for questioning
In Bindura, 16 MDC supporters were held yesterday and two campaign vehicles belonging to opposition party candidate Elliot Pfebve seized in the town as the police intensified attacks on the MDC ahead of a by-election there in two weeks’ time. Pfebve is challenging Mashonaland Central governor Elliot Manyika for the Bindura parliamentary seat, declared vacant after the car crash death of Youth Affairs Minister Border Gezi two months ago. Pfebve said late yesterday he was still trying to negotiate the release of his supporters and cars from Bindura Police Station. He said police claimed to have seen his vehicles in the Chiveso area of Bindura, where Zanu PF supporters had allegedly been injured in political violence on Tuesday night. The MDC politician rejected the police charge. "They are desperate. They are cooking all kinds of stories to get a pretext of detaining our supporters. No amount of intimidation will win them the election," he said in a telephone interview from Bindura Police Station. The officer in charge of the station, Solomon Pswarayi, refused to be interviewed on the phone and referred all questions to his superiors who could not be reached for comment.
In Kwekwe, a group of 60 police officers and members of the government’s spy Central Intelligence Organisation swooped on the MDC offices there early in the day and arrested 11 party officials. MDC’s information secretary Learnmore Jongwe said the security agents, moving in their now familiar British-made Defender Land Rover cars, searched his party’s offices without an official search warrant, which is illegal. Police in Kwekwe refused to comment on the arrests when contacted by this newspaper. Those arrested in Kwekwe include the MDC’s Midlands provincial chairman Evans Ruzvidzo, his deputy Isaac Muzimba, provincial secretary Edgar Sithole, treasurer Lameck Muyambi and regional coordinator Sylvester Majekuza. Jongwe said the MDC had yet to establish why the 11 had been detained. They were still in police custody at the time of going to print.
MDC’s secretary-general Welshman Ncube condemned the arrests and accused Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, a member of the ruling Zanu PF party, of unashamed partisanship. Earlier this week Chihuri threatened to sack all senior police officers he accused of backing the MDC, which emerged from the shadows last year to nearly topple President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF, in power since independence from Britain two decades ago. MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to challenge Mugabe in the presidential ballot, which must be held by April next year, in a contest analysts see as a one-sided show because of the dramatic loss of political support by Mugabe.
Meanwhile, MDC’s national youth chairman Nelson Chamisa said yesterday his department had embarked on a campaign to discourage all Zimbabwean youths from participating in the government’s proposed National Youth Service (NYS). He charged that the project, to take off shortly, was aimed at preparing Zanu PF youths to intimidate opponents nationwide ahead of the by-elections and presidential poll. "The youth service is in fact an experimental pilot project aimed at preparing the youths to unleash a reign of terror against Zanu PF opponents ahead of the by-elections and next year’s presidential elections. We won’t have anything to do with it, "Chamisa said. The government says the NYS is aimed at instilling discipline and patriotism among youths, whose employment in state institutions will now depend on whether they have done their youth service stint.
From News24 (SA), 12 July
Labour leader quizzed
Harare - Police on Wednesday questioned Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Wellington Chibebe in connection with last week's national strike, which the government had declared illegal, the labor leader said. "They questioned me in connection with the stayaway and the violence that occurred," Chibebe said. "They wanted to know the role of the ZCTU in organising the stayaways." Chibebe was questioned for two hours by police about possible violations of the colonial-era Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), routinely used by the government to crack down on political dissidents. He was released without charge, although police could decide to press charges later.
"The ZCTU is not clear of the police actions, but according to the two police officers, they intend building a relationship with the labour centre," the group said in a statement. "But the question lies on the type of relationship, which is not clear. Earlier on the government had declared the mass action illegal." ZCTU, a powerful umbrella group of labor unions, organised the July 3-4 strike, which succeeded in forcing Zimbabwe to a standstill. The unions called the general strike to demand fuel price cuts after the government last month declared an overnight increase of about 70 percent.
Government has yet to respond to workers' demands, and the ZCTU said on Friday it would launch an open-ended stayaway if the government did not rescind the price hike. The strike cost Zimbabwe's economy up to $9.1 million, according to the state-run Herald newspaper. For the last three months, the ZCTU has faced a sometimes violent challenge from militant liberation war veterans who have occupied white-owned farms here since February 2000. Led by the firebrand war vet leader Joseph Chinotimba, the pro-government veterans have formed a rival labor grouping, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), and launched raids on urban businesses since April. So far, none of the ZCTU's affiliate unions have switched to the war vets' group, whose labor relations tactics have included extortion, intimidation and beating of business owners. The rivalry stems from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's effort to win back urban voters before the presidential election due early next year, in which he is likely to face a stiff challenge from Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change.
In a draft resolution obtained by AP, the foreign ministers praised President Robert Mugabe's efforts to seize white farms without compensation and they noted with concern "British moves to mobilise European and North American countries to isolate and vilify Zimbabwe".
The foreign ministers drafted the resolution at an Organisation of African Unity summit in Lusaka. It was expected to be formally adopted by the heads of state at the end of the summit tomorrow.
The resolution also condemned Britain for refusing to honour commitments to help fund land reform it had made during negotiations preceding Zimbabwe's 1980 independence.
Britain, which pledged nearly 55m for land reform in 1980, delivered nearly 90% of that money before freezing the fund in1990.
It said Zimbabwe violated the agreement by forcing unwilling farmers to sell their land to the state. Ruling party militants and squatters began occupying white-owned farms in Zimbabwe a year-and-a-half ago, demanding they be nationalised and turned over to landless blacks.
The government has since earmarked about 4500 of 5000 white-owned farms for seizure.
The foreign ministers said that the unequal distribution of land, where a handful of white farmers own a disproportionate amount of the best farmland, was at the heart of the "political, economic and social struggle in Zimbabwe." Sapa-AP.
HARARE As the spectre of starvation looms over Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has appointed an emergency ministerial task force to import maize urgently to stave off the imminent crisis.
Zimbabwe has 290000 tons of maize in stock and the crop forecast is 1,44-million tons. The shortfall is at least 500000 tons. Experts say the maize import target should be 700000 tons. The country also needs to import 100000 tons of wheat.
The emergency team's appointment came as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's president, Morgan Tsvangirai, accused the government of "incompetence and mismanagement" in handling the food security issue.
Tsvangirai told reporters yesterday that Mugabe and his ruling Zanu (PF) party were squarely to blame for the latest food problem in the country.
"Since the beginning of this year, this government has put a solid wall of opposition to our warning there would be food shortages," Tsvangirai said.
He said it was not surprising that two cabinet ministers admitted last Friday that the country was facing maize shortages. Zimbabwe was also in the grip of fuel and foreign currency shortages.
"Political dishonesty of this nature and downright incompetence on the part of an individual who has been assigned to man a key public office is totally unacceptable," he said. "We should, however, hasten to point out that the problem facing Zimbabwe at this particular hour goes beyond (Land and Agriculture MinisterJoseph) Made," Tsvangirai said. "Made is only a manifestation of Zanu (PF)'s policy flip-flops."
Mugabe was too embarrassed to admit his "disastrous" policies triggered the food crisis; hence his government's earlier denials that Zimbabwe had to import grain. The food shortages were caused by Mugabe's chaotic land reform programme and his government's inability to support small-scale farmers.
"The causes are the lack of support for small-scale farmers, coupled with the impact of the Zanu (PF) policy of farm invasions in the large-scale farming sector," said Tsvangiari.
The MDC said it had drafted a comprehensive plan to rescue the country from the threat of famine. It urged the government to consider its proposals as part of the holistic national effort to avert the food crisis.
The high-profile task force consists of Made, Ignatius Chombo (local government, public works and national housing), Joyce Mujuru (rural resources and water development), Swithun Mombeshora (transport and communications) and Simba Makoni (finance) as well as former members of the state-owned Grain Marketing Board, Canaan Dube and his deputy, Justin Mutasa.
At a rally in September 2000 in front of thousands of supporters, the Movement for Democratic Change leader called on President Robert Mugabe to step down saying: "If he doesn't go peacefully, he will be removed by force".
If Mr Tsvangirai loses the appeal he will be tried in the High Court
He faces life in prison if convicted, but Zimbabwean law does not prevent a convicted prisoner from standing in presidential elections.
They are due next year, and Mr Tsvangirai is expected to present President Robert Mugabe with a strong challenge.
The case comes amid a sharply declining economy and and growing political unrest.
Riot police in Zimbabwe have used truncheons to break up a demonstration in the capital, Harare, by several hundred students who've been protesting over reports of a big rise in fees.
The protest, outside the education ministry offices, came after the state-owned Herald newspaper announced fee rises by as much as 40-fold for university and college students.
Zimbabwe University student leaders say they now plan to take their protest to the vice-chancellor.
Students have held a series of demonstrations in recent months protesting against the government's non-payment of living allowances and the privatisation of college cafeterias which has seen sharp rises in food prices.
The intimidation of the MDC also continues.
The chief of Zimbabwe's police force said on Wednesday that he will dismiss officers who back opposition parties.
This threat came as the police continued their raids on the offices of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
An MDC spokesman said the latest raid - in the Midlands provincial capital of Kwekwe - followed ones in Bulawayo and on the party headquarters in Harare.
The police also questioned a trade union leader for two hours following the stay-away on 3-4 July which brought Zimbabwe to a halt.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said its secretary-general Wellington Chibebe had been asked about his political affiliation and who had been responsible for calling the strike.
The government declared the strike action illegal
|Police arrest 27 opposition activists in Zimbabwe|
Police are reported to have arrested 27 members of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe.
They follow police raids on the offices of the Movement for Democratic Change in Harare and Bindura.
Party leaders claim police are cracking down on the organisation on orders of President Robert Mugabe before three parliamentary by-elections and next year's presidential election.
The raids and arrests in Bindura and Kwekwe come after police commissioner Augustine Chihuri vowed to dismiss officials who supported the MDC.
Mr Chihuri said the police force should support the government of the day.
The Star says 16 MDC members were arrested in Bindura, including parliamentary candidate Elliot Pfebve.
In Kwekwe, 11 MDC members were arrested at the party's offices.
Mr Pfebve said: "They are desperate. They are cooking up all kinds of stories to get a pretext to detain our supporters."
Police officials in Kwekwe and Bindura refused to comment.
Story filed: 15:02 Thursday 12th July 2001
HARARE, Jul 11, 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Zimbabwean Minister of Health and Child Welfare Timothy Stamps Wednesday said his country will record a zero population growth rate by the end of next year.
This is mainly attributed to the success in the family planning campaign and deaths caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the minister said at a celebration to mark the World Population Day in Harare, explaining that "this has led the country to become the first developing country to record a zero growth rate in history."
It was reported that at present, more than 2,000 people in Zimbabwe are dying every week from HIV/AIDS and the life expectancy in the country has been reduced to 34 years from 55 a decade ago.
This year's World Population Day was marked under the theme "Population, Environment and Development". The HIV/AIDS pandemic was a major highlight at the celebrations.