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Speaker of Parliament threatens to unleash army on black farmer

Zim Online

Tue 13 June 2006

      BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe House of Assembly Speaker John Nkomo at the
weekend invaded a former white-owned safari farm in the southern Lupane
district and ordered the new black owner to leave by end of this week or
risk being booted off the property by the army.

      Nkomo, who is the national chairman of the ruling ZANU PF party and is
considered among moderates in President Robert Mugabe's government, has had
a long-running feud with black empowerment activist Langton Masunda over the
ownership of Jijima Safari lodge.

      But Nkomo, who is also seen as a possible future vice-president of
Zimbabwe in a post-Mugabe government, three weeks ago withdrew a lawsuit
against Masunda in which he had demanded Z$5 billion from the empowerment
activist for illegally occupying the lodge.

      An irate Masunda said: "Nkomo should not interfere with my businesses.
I am a black Zimbabwean and I am entitled to own a business like every
Zimbabwean in this country.

      "If Nkomo felt that I was on the property illegally then why did he
withdraw the case from the courts? His threats of using the army to force me
out of Jijima will not work."

      According to eyewitnesses interviewed by ZimOnline, Nkomo, who was
accompanied by six other unidentified people, stormed the safari farm and
told workers there that they should vacate the place by the end of the week
so he could take over the lucrative business.

      Nkomo yesterday refused to discuss the farm wrangle with ZimOnline
reporters. "Please can you just leave me alone and just leave these things,"
was all the parliamentary speaker would say before switching off his mobile

      The ZANU PF chairman has since last year battled to grab the Jijima
safari business arguing that it belongs to him because it was a part of Lugo
Ranch farm, a vast former white-owned estate allocated to Nkomo by the
government during its controversial farm seizure programme over the past six

      Masunda, who claims Jijima was allocated to him also owns another
farm, Volunteer farm, which was seized by the government from its former
white owners and is adjacent to Nkomo's Lugo farm.

      Top ZANU PF and government officials have allocated themselves the
choicest farms seized from whites with some of Mugabe's officials known to
have at least six farms each in open defiance of the government's publicly
stated one-man-one-farm policy.

      The controversial farm seizure programme - that Mugabe says was
necessary to correct a colonial land ownership system that reserved all the
best land for whites - has been blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into its worst
food crisis after the government failed to support black peasants re-settled
on former white farms to maintain production. - ZimOnline

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Pressure piles on Zimbabwe central bank to devalue dollar

Zim Online

Tue 13 June 2006

      HARARE - Pressure is piling on Zimbabwe's central bank to depreciate
the official exchange rate amid analyst projections that rising inflation
could drag the price of the local dollar on the unofficial parallel market
in coming weeks to more than 420 000 against the American unit.

      The southern African country's annualised rate of inflation raced to 1
193.5 percent in May from April's 1 042.9 percent as a six-year-old economic
and political crisis worsened.

      Economic experts have warned that the upward inflation spiral would
leave Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono with no choice but to
allow the local unit to slide in the coming weeks.

       "Such action will diffuse speculative pressure on the Zimbabwe dollar
by bridging the differential between the exchange rate and inflation," said
an economist with a Harare-based commercial bank, who declined to be named
for professional reasons.

      A Harare economist, James Jowa, noted that the monetary authorities
were caught between a rock and a hard place in that it was not guaranteed
that any devaluation now would trigger the required supply response on the
foreign exchange market.

      "It is a tricky situation and they (the authorities) know that as long
as they don't address issues to do with the supply constraints, the economy
will not move," said Jowa.

      Efforts to address foreign currency problems are hampered by the fact
that the government has since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2000
made it difficult for individuals and others to buy hard cash on the
official market.

      All the hard currency coming in through the official channels is
reserved for so-called strategic sectors.

      "This, coupled with the sub-economic exchange rate on the official
market, has effectively meant that no one is prepared to part with their
hard cash at the low exchange rate unless they are sure they will be able to
buy it at something closer to the official rate," said the bank economist.

      Gono, who has predicted that inflation would decline to about 400
percent by year-end before slowing down to less than 50 percent by mid-2007,
has since January resisted pressure to devalue the local currency.

      The Zimbabwe dollar has been officially pegged at 101 000 to the
United States greenback for about two months, having marginally slided from
99 201against the US unit.

      The embattled currency is, however, trading at between 320 000 and 330
000 to the American dollar on the illegal but thriving foreign currency
parallel market, which is more reflective of market sentiment.

      The analysts noted that based on monthly inflation figures, the
unofficial exchange rate could climb to between 410 000 and 420 000 against
the US dollar by mid-July.

      "This, however, assumes that monthly inflation remains at 28 percent
during the coming month which is highly unlikely at the rate we are going,"
said the bank economist.

      According to the Central Statistical Office, prices of goods rose by
28 percent between April and May compared to 21.1 percent between March and

      More pressure on prices during the coming month is expected to come
from recent increases in transport costs and electricity tariffs.

      The state-run Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority announced a 95
percent tariff hike effective this month, while urban transport operators
increased commuter fares by more than 30 percent in the past two weeks.

      The cost of bread also went up during the past fortnight, exerting
more pressure on the June inflation figure.

      The rate of inflation is seen breaching the 1 300 percent mark in
June. - ZimOnline

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Justice Minister appeals to Mugabe to evade trial

Zim Online

Tue 13 June 2006

      HARARE - Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has appealed to
President Robert Mugabe to help him evade trial in a case in which he is
being accused of attempting to defeat the course of justice.

      Zimbabwe's Attorney-General Sobuza Gula-Ndebele, recently indicated
that Chinamasa should be dragged to court for allegedly seeking to defeat
the course of justice in a political violence case involving State Security
Minister Didymus Mutasa.

      The Justice Minister is set to stand trial on July 3 in the eastern
town of Rusape on charges that he attempted to pay key witnesses amounts
ranging from Z$3 million to $6 million to induce them not to give evidence
against his political ally, Mutasa.

      Mutasa is accused of sending his militant supporters to beat up a
senior ZANU PF official and war veteran, James Kaunye, in the run-up to the
2005 parliamentary election. Kaunye was challenging Mutasa to represent ZANU
PF in Makoni North constituency in the poll.

      Mutasa's supporters are already languishing in jail after they were
convicted in the courts.

      Observers say the trial, which is part of ZANU PF's succession
battles, could fatally injure Chinamasa's standing in the  party.

      Chinamasa is part of a faction aligned to Emmerson Mnangagwa which is
battling for control of ZANU PF against another faction aligned to
Vice-President Joice Mujuru.

      The Justice Minister is said to have appealed to Mugabe to help
smoothen relations between him and Gula-Ndebele, who is aligned to the
Mujuru camp and whom he believes is the author of his predicament.

      Chinamasa has had an uneasy relationship with Gula-Ndebele with the
two openly clashing in Cabinet earlier this year over policy issues.

      "Chinamasa met Mugabe last week and asked him to intervene between the
two over the feud. He accuses Gula-Ndebele of trying to pull him down and
eventually take over as justice minister.

      "He wants Mugabe's help to iron out the issues. Chinamasa is hoping
that with Mugabe's intervention the trial will fall away," said the source.

      Chinamasa refused to speak on the matter when contacted by ZimOnline.
"What has any of that go to do with the media? I have no comment," he said,
before cutting off the conversation.

      Gula-Ndebele could not be reached for comment yesterday.

      Mugabe has in the past flexed his muscles to shield several government
ministers from standing trial in Zimbabwe's courts despite clear evidence of
breach of the law. - ZimOnline

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Time to advocate serious sanctions

The Mercury

By pressuring Mugabe, can activists replace collusive states and business
that are benefiting from the status quo? asks Patrick Bond

June 07, 2006 Edition 1

Patrick Bond

The unwillingness of governments, multilateral bodies and big business to
promote rudimentary democracy and social justice in Zimbabwe is now
glaringly obvious. Renewed solidarity initiatives can be taken with more
confidence by grass-roots activists on both sides of the Limpopo River and

Item: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appears to have been intimidated into
not taking a trip to Harare, after President Thabo Mbeki raised expectations
that he would achieve a breakthrough.

Mbeki last week passed the buck to Annan and Zimbabwe President Robert
Mugabe: "It's best left to them, to the UN and the Zimbabwean government
and, hopefully, that will produce its outcome so that we remove this
particular matter from the international agenda." Mugabe simply refused to
give Annan an audience.

Item: Last Friday, the head of the European Commission's Harare mission and
the Austrian ambassador to Zimbabwe wrote a letter to the Herald newspaper
firmly stating: "There are no economic EU sanctions against Zimbabwe. There
have never been economic EU sanctions against Zimbabwe."

The bureaucrats were right, and they pointed out that for the latest year
data available, 2004, "Zimbabwe had a trade surplus of E261 million (R2.23
billion) with EU states."

Item: A few days earlier, South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma told parliament that Pretoria would not wield targeted "smart"
sanctions against Zimbabwe's rulers: "It may not be a very useful tool to
use right now because it doesn't seem to be yielding results, even in the
hands of the most powerful block in the world."

Of course not, but for a simple reason: Pretoria is a smart-sanctions
"buster" by permitting the Zimbabwe elite's shopping visits, real estate
speculation and illicit financial holdings. If Pretoria joined in imposing
smart sanctions, the results would be immediate and formidable.


Item: Big business is again hopping into bed with Mugabe, according to
Dianna Games of the SA Institute of International Affairs writing last week
in Business Day: "Many South African companies believe that Zimbabwe is
still a better and easier place in which to do business than many other
African countries because of its strong business culture, diversified
industrial base and relatively good infrastructure. And many companies are
still making good, albeit often declining, profits."

Pointing out that more than two dozen large South African corporations
employ about 20 000 Zimbabweans in mining, retail, franchising, commercial
agriculture and banking, she said: "There may be no better time for
investors to take a long, hard look at the opportunities that Zimbabwe
presents right now."

That was also a point made last year by Tony Hawkins, Professor of Business
Studies at the University of Zimbabwe and well known to Financial Times
readers: "South Africa has gained market share in exports, tourism and
services. South Africa's share of investment in Zimbabwe has also risen as
there has been an element of bargain-basement buying by some mining and
industrial groups."

Hawkins added: "South Africa is also taking significant skills from the
country, especially scarce black skills in health, education, banking,
engineering and IT. It would be too much to say that South Africa has
benefited in net terms, but there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that
it is securing some gains from the crisis."

Reflecting business confidence in Mugabe's ability to hold on, two large
multinational firms - South Africa's Implats and the French bank BNP
Paribas - last week announced, respectively, a R1.7 billion platinum
investment (36% of which represents a gift to the government for crony
"empowerment") and a R332 million credit secured by future nickel export

Another new Mugabe ally is the brutal dictator of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro
Obiang Nguema, who visited Zimbabwe in March and whose country's oil began
flowing to Zimbabwe last week. Nguema wants the British mercenary Simon Mann
extradited from Harare, where Mugabe's forces are holding him after he
transited Harare in a 2004 attempted coup bid.

Is pressure being applied by the West, as Mugabe often claims? Aside from an
arms embargo on the government, the EU's smart sanctions apply to just 100
key Zanu-PF leaders, and take the form of travel bans and a threat to freeze
any assets they place in European banks. There are similar provisions in the
US, but these countries together provide in excess of R1 billion in aid to
Zimbabwe, largely for food and humanitarian relief


No one calls for that aid to be turned off because it feeds millions of
people for whom Zimbabwe's own farms - especially the small-scale and
peasant sectors - generated maize surpluses, prior to the more general
meltdown of the country's agricultural infrastructure. The starvation threat
has less to do with the takeover of white farms and more to do with the
general lack of access to rural transport, fuel, pesticides, fertilisers,
farm implements, electricity and the like.

What about a renewed diplomatic initiative from the West? A good reflection
of the US imperial agenda in Zimbabwe may be last week's report in a Harvard
University journal authored by Todd Moss and Stewart Patrick of Washington's
Centre for Global Development.

Moss and Patrick argue against existing sanctions: "The US and EU may need
to review their sanctions legislation to ensure that it does not create a
legal problem or disincentive for re-engagement or private investment."

They also argue that a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe government will "have to deal
with an inherited external debt of some $5 billion (about R30 billion).
Clearing arrears will be the first step, but the arrears accrued within the
past few years account for nearly half the current debt stock, suggesting
that some special dispensation may need to be found with the multilateral
institutions and the Paris Club of creditors."

In contrast, the position advocated by civil society campaigners, such as
the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development and Zimbabwe Social Forum, is
that the vast but useless 1990s loans advanced by the International Monetary
Fund and World Bank should be completely cancelled.

Indeed, following the lead of the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube,
Zimbabwean civil society may need to more publicly advocate serious
sanctions, given the lack of pressure from opportunistic politicians and

Patrick Bond is Director of the UKZN Centre for Civil Society and coauthor
of Zimbabwe's Plunge, available from the University of KZN Press.

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'Zim not heading for chaos'


11/06/2006 22:48  - (SA)

Harare - Zimbabwe's Sunday Mail newspaper reports that the United States and
British governments want to create the false impression that Zimbabwe is
about to descend into political and economic chaos.

The newspaper, which usually reflects the thinking of President Robert
Mugabe's government, claimed the International Monetary Fund had been
instructed to stop financial assistance to Zimbabwe and wait for the
inevitable implosion.

Quoting unnamed sources, the paper said the US and British governments were
using think-tanks like the Brussels-based International Crisis Group to push
their agenda.

The group said in a report last week that, because of economic and political
turmoil, Zimbabwe was on the way to becoming a failed state, plagued by
unrest and violence.

The authorities in Harare regularly accuse Western states, especially the
former colonial power Britain and the US of trying to change the regime in

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Prisoners forced to go without food

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

HARARE, 12 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's economic crisis is reaching into
prisons cells, often forcing inmates to go without food for days, the
findings of two parliamentary committees revealed.

Shortage of food and a lack of water, sanitation and health services were
some of the problems in police cells and prisons across the country.
According to official sources, Zimbabwe is holding at least 21,000 prisoners
in 42 facilities that were designed to hold roughly 16,000 inmates.

After a visit to the Highlands police station on the eastern outskirts of
the capital, Harare, the parliamentary portfolio committee on defence and
home affairs, headed by MP Claudius Makova, told parliament last week: "The
shortage of food was said to have been exacerbated by the shortage of maize.
Suspects were said to have gone for two days without food and some were
relying on food brought by relatives."

The parliamentary portfolio committee on justice, legal and parliamentary
affairs, led by Faber Chidarikire, a member of parliament for the ruling
ZANU-PF party, described the situation in the prisons they visited as
"disturbing", and said malnutrition and disease outbreaks were common as a
result of food shortages.

"There were serious shortages of foodstuffs, such as sugar, mealie [maize]
meal, cooking oil, beans, meat and most basic commodities. The committee was
informed that as a result of these scanty allocations it was very difficult
to maintain the basic human standards, resulting in prisoners suffering from
malnutrition," Chidarikire told parliament.

He pointed out that resources in the undersupplied Zimbabwe Prison Service
had been strained by the number of prisoners suffering from AIDS-related
illnesses. "There were a lot of sick prisoners suffering from pellagra [a
vitamin deficiency disease], TB [tuberculosis] and other HIV-related
diseases. It is the committee's view that while the objective of
imprisonment should be maintained, prisoners should be allowed to get
adequate basic requirements."

"Terminally ill and old prisoners should be granted affordable bail so that
courts do not end up remanding undeserving prisoners in custody. This will
help reduce prisons population to manageable levels," he suggested.

Interviews with police officials and inmates revealed that the security
services had run out of funds to provide health services and food.

Constable Jairos (not his real name) at a police station near Harare, told
IRIN: "We have gone for more than a week without rations for prisoners. At
the beginning of each year we are given ... [an allocation in the national
budget] to buy food. However, that money has since been exhausted and our
officer-in-charge has applied for additional funds that we are still
awaiting. We have been told that the budget ran out fast because of

The Central Statistical Office (CSO) recently said annual inflation had
surged to 1,193.5 percent, up from 1,043 percent last month.

"We give them sadza [maizemeal porridge] and matemba [dried fish] boiled in
water once every day in the afternoon, when resources are available," Jairos
said. "At the beginning of the year, when we still had money, we would give
them plain tea in the morning and sometimes also feed them in the evening
before locking them up for the night."

Stella Chitando, 23, who was accused of stealing by the owner of a shop
where she worked and spent four days in police custody before being released
because of lack of evidence, told IRIN she had to depend on relatives for
food. "My aunt, with whom I stay, would make sure she brought me food every
evening ... I shared the same cell with around six other women and we would
share the little food that I or another inmate had been brought."

She said visitors were sometimes barred from giving food to their relatives
and friends. Jairos defended the move, explaining it was necessary to turn
away visitors for security reasons.

Sanitary conditions in the cells were poor. "I bathed only once during the
time I was in detention, because water supplies were irregular," Chitando
said. "We relieved ourselves right inside the cell and the room always
stank, since we could not flush down our waste." There were no sanitary
pads, and the women were forced to use old newspapers the police officers
gave them.

A female suspect who could not get medication for her asthmatic condition
had to be rushed to the nearby Harare General Hospital.

Often there was no light in the cells, as there were no electric bulbs.
Chitando said she had to share three thin, lice-infested blankets with other

"The shortage of blankets is, however, common at other police stations,"
Jairos explained. "Since it is winter, we are forced to wash blankets that
we would have used to cover the dead, some of which would be heavily
bloodstained, and give them to the prisoners." The washed blankets do not
always dry before evening comes and they have to be used.

Zimbabwe is trying to cope with four years of food shortages caused by
erratic rainfall, the impact of the chaotic fast-track land-reform programme
on the agricultural sector and a critical lack of foreign currency to import
inputs, such as fertiliser and fuel.

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'Kasrils in Harare to pave way for Mbeki to talk with Mugabe'

Business Day


INTELLIGENCE Minister Ronnie Kasrils had travelled to Harare in a bid to
kick-start talks between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and President
Thabo Mbeki, a Harare newspaper reported on Friday.

The Zimbabwe Independent said Kasrils had flown to Harare on a private
flight at midday on Thursday accompanied by National Intelligence Agency
boss Manala Manzini.

Also on the flight was the head of SA's secret service, Dennis Hilton, the
paper reported.

It said Kasrils first met officials from the South African embassy before
proceeding to talks with Zimbabwean State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa
at a hotel.

The two were to discuss the possibility of setting up a meeting between
Mugabe and Mbeki, the Independent claimed.

"There has been no official confirmation of Kasrils' visit. "I have to check
on that issue," said Lorna Daniels, a spokeswoman for SA's intelligence
services ministry.

Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, told the Independent he was not aware
of any plans for talks between the two southern African neighbours.

If the report of the visit is true, it may point to fresh efforts by Mbeki
to get Mugabe to the negotiating table to find a way out of Zimbabwe's
worsening economic and political crisis.

Mbeki has been pursuing a controversial policy of quiet diplomacy for six
years now, to the exasperation of some foreign policy critics.

Thousands of Zimbabweans flooding every week across the border to escape
hunger and poverty are generating tension in SA. Sapa-DPA

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Zimbabwe's judiciary bleeding dry

      June 12, 2006,

      By Michael Appel

      Johannesburg (AND) Zimbabwe's judiciary has been plagued by scores of
resignations in both the country's supreme court and regional magistrates
courts. Whilst the Zimbabwe government denies that political intimidation
has nothing to do with the resignations many argue otherwise.

      When looking at media reports from the past, the issue of Zimbabwe's
judiciary slipping gradually into the breadbasket of the country's executive
seems to be round about the time of President Robert Mugabe's highly
controversial land reform program.

      To foreigners or people unfamiliar with Zimbabwe, the term 'land
reform program' might conjure up images similar to Russia's land
collectivization programme in the early 1930's, in which Stalin physically
exterminated an entire social class of farmers called "kulaks" who were
opposed to the nationalisation of land.

      At the time, Stalin was trying to eradicate what he considered "rural
capitalism", and the same principle can be applied to what has ensued in
Zimbabwe over the last few years.

      Zimbabwe, a country existing mainly along agricultural lines, was in
2000 ravaged by the forced removal of white farmers from land by the ruling
party, Zanu-PF's war-veterans.

      Many opposed to Mugabe's land reform program did the only thing any
person living in a true democracy could do without resorting to
violence.they turned to the judiciary.

      The judicial system or the rule of law can loosely be defined as the
heartbeat of democracy, without which it cannot function. It is the standard
measure of the extent to which a government upholds constitutionality and
subjects itself to the laws of the land as well as international law. It is
also the protection of citizens from wide, arbitrary and discretionary
powers of the executive.

      The rule of law should govern supremely and neutrally, protecting
citizens against illegitimate state action and also protect individual and
private interests.  In essence it ensures that all citizens are treated
equally and are subject to the law rather than to the whims of the powerful.

      Many bodies within and outside Zimbabwe, including South African
President Thabo Mbeki, have criticised the way in which the Zanu-PF has
distorted the impartiality of the judiciary.

      The Zanu-PF actively encouraged its militia, war veterans and youths
to demonstrate against judges who were considered out of line. In November
2000, war veterans raided the Supreme Court building after it ruled that the
land reform program was unconstitutional.

      Non-governmental organisation (NGO), Human Rights First, reported
that, "judges who rule on politically significant cases with impartiality
and independence have been targeted because of their neutrality and
subjected to arrest under false charges, harassment, and threats on their

      "Since 2001, at least seven judges have been forced off the bench due
to such pressure. As a result, the effectiveness of the judiciary has been
undermined, contributing to a demise of the rule of law and a culture of
impunity for human rights abuses in Zimbabwe".

      Zimbabwean newspapers and media organisations that were critical of
Mugabe's land reform program found themselves not able to renew their
publishing licences and were subsequently banned.

      One such media organisation said, "Recent utterances by High Court
judges reveal that Zimbabwe's judiciary has all but surrendered its
independence to the executive and the ruling Zanu-PF.

       "Judges must defend the rights of people irrespective of colour,
tribe, political history or political affiliation. The law must protect even
Ian Smith, the former Rhodesian premier who thought whites were superior to

      "If the government feels Smith and the former Rhodesians have a case
to answer, let them press charges through the proper channels. That is the
rule of law".

      Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Mr Tsunga
believes that the Zimbabwean judiciary "has become impotent as a result of
being undermined by Robert Mugabe's government.

      He said, "There is no transparency in the appointment of judges in
Zimbabwe and the current judiciary is not independent, especially when it
deals with cases of political nature".

      He highlighted the fact that judges and magistrates who do not tow the
government's line are humiliated, beaten and transferred to other

      Sokwanele, a Zimbabwean online publication, reported that:

      "Political interference, poor working conditions and low salaries have
led to a spate of resignations in recent months, and among those left,
morale is at an all-time low.

      "The trend has accelerated since the year 2000 with a particularly
high level of resignations among magistrates. According to the ministry of
justice's own staffing statistics, 24 magistrates and almost as many
prosecutors resigned in 2003.

      "In the same year the ministry lost 39 employees from the lower
grades, including clerks, interpreters and recorders. In the first nine
months of 2004 the ministry lost a further 12 magistrates, 10 prosecutors
and 36 clerical staff."

      Reports from Zimbabwe's Daily Mirror on Monday confirmed the trend of
resignations and the county's chief magistrate, Herbert Mandeya, commented
that the Harare regional court has an establishment of eight magistrates,
but the numbers dropped from eight to five between December 2005 and May
2006. Bulawayo's complement of regional magistrates dropped from four to two
in the last nine months."

      Mandeya said this after two senior prosecutors, Morgen Nemadire and
Stephen Musonah, were sworn into the position of regional magistrates in the
country's capital Harare. Mandeya said that, "these gentlemen have done the
magistrates department a great honour by crossing the floor at a time when
the regional bench has literally been crippled by resignations".

      William Kasitomo and Godwin Chizhande resigned from the bench and are
rumoured to be going into private practices instead.

      Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, confirmed the current state of the
judiciary but said only that, "the country's public sector has always been
hit by a shortage of legal personnel".

      AND on Monday spoke to Zimbabwe's government spokesperson, George
Charamba, and asked whether there was a link between the controversial land
reform program and the resignations, to which he replied, "Don't attempt to
force a connection between the land reform program and the resignations".

      When AND asked Charamba whether judges who ruled against government
[Zanu-PF] in cases were ever victimised, he said, "they are allegations, and
that's all they are".

      Charamba reiterated that the high number of resignations was due to
young graduates being drawn in by the private sector, and for no other

      "People are not leaving the country to go abroad, they are just going
into private practices," said Charamba.

      Charamba's comment that lawyers were not going oversees was in direct
contrast with that of the Daily Mirror which said that, "Many more have left
the country to take up other professions in developed countries such as the
United Kingdom (UK), Australia and the USA".

      Johannesburg Bureau

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Tsvangirai - will he be able to carry the people with him in protests?

      By Nonthando Bhebhe

      HARARE - MORGAN Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition
party, has threatened to lead mass demonstrations in late June and July in a
bid to dislodge President Robert Mugabe from power. But Tsvangirai's
increasingly evident weak leadership, together with widespread public
disillusionment with the potential for change, suggests that the protests
will end in abject failure.

      Zimbabweans have endured steep economic decline and a steady erosion
of political freedom in the past six years, and many appear to have given
up - or at least to be reluctant to risk their necks for the Movement for
Democratic Change, MDC, which has failed to live up to the euphoria which
surrounded its birth in 1999.

      When the MDC first emerged on the Zimbabwean political scene, there
were high hopes that Tsvangirai would prove to be Mugabe's nemesis. However,
the president has survived the numerous attempts by his opponent to effect
regime change.

      "Tsvangirai has been like a boxer who, with his opponent against the
ropes, fails to deliver the killer punch," Abel Munenzva, a teacher in Mount
Darwin, 190 kilometres north of Harare, told IWPR. "The killer punch could
have come way back in 2000, when - after that landmark election - many
people were angry at how Mugabe so blatantly rigged it.

      "Another opportunity came in 2002, with the rapid economic decline in
the country and another fraudulent poll which saw Mugabe hang onto power."

      In the 2000 ballot, the MDC won 57 out of 120 parliamentary seats in a
brief spell of opposition optimism. Many western organisations observing the
vote, including the European Union and Transparency International, said it
was rigged by the ruling ZANU PF party and that opposition supporters had
been intimidated.

      The presidential election of March 2002, in which Mugabe narrowly
defeated Tsvangirai, was marred by violence and by restrictions on
opposition activity, and was so widely criticised that Zimbabwe was expelled
from the Commonwealth, the club of former British territories.

      While the MDC cried foul, renewed hope came in June 2003 in what
Tsvangirai dubbed the "final push" - a nationwide action in which the bulk
of ordinary Zimbabweans were supposed to assemble in major towns and the
capital Harare, and march to State House in a massive demonstration designed
to force Mugabe to capitulate.

      But the people, wearied by increasing economic hardship, rigged polls,
a government that resorted to violence without qualms, and opposition
leaders who led from the back, failed to heed the call. Even the normally
radical student movement boycotted the "final push".

      In March 2005, ZANU PF won 78 of the 120 directly elected seats in
parliament in a vote that once again was criticised as fraudulent by
external observers.

      In the wake of the three flawed elections since 2000, the opposition
has lacked a clear strategy for dislodging Mugabe. According to Munenzva,
"This has mainly been because the man everybody entrusted with the
leadership of the new struggle for freedom, Tsvangirai, has fallen far short
of expectations. After the 2002 presidential election, he showed himself
more than ever to be a weak leader, unable to lead his people into the
battle and unsure on what course of action to take."

      Tsvangirai showed indecision after his party was defeated in last year's
election, when he said people should "defend their vote". This turned out to
mean launching a series of court cases contesting constituency results. But
with a judiciary appointed and controlled by Mugabe, the legal route was
never going to bring the opposition much success.

      Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out the Rubbish) which Mugabe launched
last year against poorer urban communities was another missed opportunity
for Tsvangirai. More than 700,000 people watched their homes being destroyed
by the security forces in what the government said was a regeneration
project but many say as a way of eroding the MDC's urban support base.

      Critics, including Anna Tibaijuka, United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan's special envoy to Zimbabwe, saw it as a giant social engineering
project designed to force potentially troublesome urban communities back
into the countryside to reduce the possibility of a popular uprising.

      Tsvangirai left most of the condemnation of this humanitarian tragedy
to the international community.

      Another opportunity now beckons for Tsvangirai to show his mettle.

      The Zimbabwean economy has imploded, with acute shortages of fuel,
food and electricity, a dearth of foreign currency, and the world's highest
rate of inflation at 1,040 per cent year on year, and rising. Most
Zimbabweans are now so impoverished that they can no longer afford basic
health care, accommodation and education.

      Hopes of a change to this situation rose again in April, when
Tsvangirai warned Mugabe that his 26 years of uninterrupted power were
nearing their end.

      "Mugabe has subjected us to all kinds of torture, and his officials
have even threatened to physically eliminate us," said the MDC leader. "But
we are not moved, and mobilisation for mass action is surely under way."

      In an attempt to demonstrate his serious intent, Tsvangirai said that
this time he would lead mass protests from the front. He and other MDC
leaders have been widely accused over the past six years of encouraging "the
masses" to take the lead while they stay at the rear of the action.

      Mugabe warned his opponent that he would be "dicing with death" if he
tried to seize power through street protests.

      "If you want an excuse for being killed, be my guest," said the
president. "Go into the streets and demonstrate."

      He made it clear that ZANU PF forces, battle-hardened in the war
against white rule in the Seventies, would react ruthlessly and turn any
protests into a bloodbath.

      Tsvangirai responded at a big MDC rally, "I am prepared to die in
order to liberate the people of Zimbabwe from ZANU PF's misrule."

      But now it seems he is less likely to risk dying for freedom than he
suggested back in April.

      In Zimbabwe, the mere mention of mass protests invokes images of
running battles with the police and the army.

      "If people thought the government was brutal in the Nineties, this
winter's demonstrations [in June and July] are likely to be bloodier than
ever, as they threaten ZANU PF's hegemony," said a secretary who works for a
state-owned company. "For Mugabe it will mean a final stand."

      The weekly Zimbabwe Independent, which takes an anti-Mugabe stance, is
now reporting that Tsvangirai is putting mass protests on the back burner,
and favouring instead the kind of international intervention that has so far
failed to end crisis in Zimbabwe.

      "Most MDC supporters were bracing for a showdown with government over
deteriorating living standards and a collapsing economy," said the newspaper
on June 2. "But indications are that hard-pressed Zimbabweans will have to
wait a little longer before the 'cold winter of resistance' begins."

      Responding to reports that Tsvangirai and his fellow MDC leaders had
got cold feet about their plans for public protests, party spokesman Nelson
Chamisa said, "The nation is now ready for mass action. Obviously, we are
not going to alert the oppressors by making a public announcement in advance
of the event."

      If, as now seems unlikely, a mass protest does materialise, its
success or otherwise will be important in determining Zimbabwe's future.
Should the protests go ahead but fail once more, the 82-year-old Mugabe's
rule will be cemented, and a proposed amendment to the constitution
extending his term until at least 2010 will be passed by parliament.

      Many commentators still think that if Tsvangirai displayed courage and
organisational skills, he could easily lead a public angered by increasing
hunger and poverty.

      John Makumbe, a political science lecturer at Harare's University of
Zimbabwe, said, "We are on the brink, and anyone who thinks the political
situation is manageable at this rate of economic deterioration is going to
be shocked. For many people, especially in the urban areas, life has become
unaffordable and unbearable, and these people are waiting to vent their
anger through mass demonstrations."

      However, despite this widespread view, the fact remains that all past
attempts by the MDC, as well as by the National Constitutional Assembly, the
leading civil group campaigning for political change, and by the umbrella
labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, to organise mass
protests and boycotts to bring about regime change have failed

      So the big question is just how many people would be prepared to
venture onto the streets for a political opposition that has let them down
badly so many times before?

      "It is difficult to organise marches now. People are afraid. People
are intimidated," admitted a top MDC official who asked to remain anonymous.

      Harare bank clerk Humphrey Mutasa expressed a common sense of
pessimism when he said he would refuse to take part in any demonstration
called by Tsvangirai.

      "To tell you the truth, I would rather suffer quietly at home and in
peace than be beaten up and still continue to suffer," Mutasa told IWPR.
"Nothing will change after the mass protests. Let's say people pour into the
streets. And then what? They will just throw stones and call Mugabe names.
That will not force Mugabe to flee the country, will it?"

      Many Zimbabweans feel let down by earlier half-hearted boycotts called
by the MDC which proved short term.

      A secretary at a power utility said she would rather protect her job
than get fired for heeding the call to demonstrate. "Imagine being
unemployed in this environment," she said. "Nothing will change; nothing has
ever changed when past opposition demonstrations have occurred. So why

      To succeed, a fresh round of demonstrations would require proper
planning and organisation, accompanied by an honest analysis of why past
protests have failed. Analysts say the MDC has to come up with clear
objectives that will encourage people to overcome their fear of government

      Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly and
a long-term advocate of mass action, says the protest movement should not
merely aim to oust Mugabe, but should represent a broad-based demand for
democratic reforms.

      Those who take this view say the "final push" of 2002 failed because
the sole objective was to force Mugabe to flee. Journalists interviewed for
this report said the MDC should learn from demonstrations that rocked
Zimbabwe 1997-98, when there were widespread strikes against job losses,
poor working conditions and government corruption. People might be more
likely to take to the streets if the talk was of bread-and-butter issues.

      The stakes are high for the MDC as leaders attempt to judge and
capitalise on the public mood.

      "His [Tsvangirai's] credibility is on the line," said Tony Hawkins,
Professor of Economics at the University of Harare.

      "This time he really must deliver or risk political oblivion."

      Nonthando Bhebhe is a pseudonym for a journalist in Zimbabwe.

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Zim vulnerability study to be out in July

      June 12, 2006

      By Tagu Mkwenyani

      Harare (AND) A much awaited study to ascertain the level of
vulnerability among Zimbabweans facing food shortages is expected to be out
in the next few weeks.

      The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment 2006 will be used by government
and aid agencies planning relief efforts. Over the past few years the number
of Zimbabweans who have become vulnerable to food shortages and resultant
diseases has increased as a result of hunger. An economic meltdown has also
worsened the situation with the majority of Zimbabweans now living below the
poverty datum.

      According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), a family of six
in Zimbabwe now requires about $50 million to survive, yet the few
Zimbabweans lucky to employed in country where unemployment is above 80
percent earn below $10 million. "Data collected for the 2006 Zimbabwe
Vulnerability Assessment (ZimVac) has been completed. About 3 000 households
were interviewed.

      The report is to be released around the 1st week of July 2006," says a
report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). FAO is planning to
hold a Targeting Workshop for NGOs for the 2006/07 agricultural season which
will establish the number of households to be assisted with seed and
fertiliser assistance. "The date will be decided as soon as the data from
the ZimVAC has been released," said FAO.

      The vulnerability report will clear the air over the number of people
requiring assistance in Zimbabwe. There have been conflicting reports over
the past few months with some aid agencies saying close to five million
Zimbabweans were threatened with starvation. Others have put the figure at
three million. The government has, however, maintained that it has put in
place mechanism t ensure that no one dies of starvation in Zimbabwe.

      Zimbabwe Bureau

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Iran pledges to give Zim agric technical support

Sunday News, Zimbabwe

Farming Reporter

THE Minister of Agriculture, Dr Joseph Made, says the government of Iran has
agreed to provide technical support in agriculture with Zimbabwe.
This will see the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) assembling 1 000
tractors from Iran.
Speaking to the Sunday News following a recent tour by a technical team from
Iran, Dr Made said Iran agreed to provide special support to the country's
research and extension sector.
"We need to train our extension officers, and Iran has some of the leading
scientists in crop science, agricultural mechanisation and farming support
inclusive of financial and human resources support,'' he said.
He said Iran has the biggest livestock institute and this comes at a time
when Zimbabwe is making efforts to restock the national herd that has
dwindled to less than 300 000 due to recurrent droughts.
"The co-operation will extend to manufacturing and supply of vaccines to the
agricultural sector. It is our mission to provide enough vaccines in the
wake of Foot-and- Mouth disease, anthrax and blackleg,'' he said.
In the past two years under the mechanisation programme the Government,
through various farming organisations, has managed to import 400 tractors
from Iran and more are expected.

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Life in Zimbabwe gets tougher

From AFP, 12 June

Harare - Inflation in Zimbabwe has skyrocketed to nearly 1,200 per cent, an
economic phenomenon set to bring further misery to people grappling with
acute food and fuel shortages, high unemployment and abysmal poverty. The
country's statistical office Friday said that 12-month inflation in May had
soared to 1,193.5 per cent and that prices were on an average 13 times
costlier than in the same month of 2005. "The year-on-year rate of inflation
in May 2006 was 1,193.5 per cent, gaining 150.6 percentage points on the
April rate of 1,042.9 per cent," said Moffat Nyoni, acting director of the
Central Statistical Office (CSO). "This means that on average, goods and
services normally purchased by households for final use in Zimbabwe were
about 13 times as expensive in May 2006 as they had been 12 months before,"
he said. Zimbabwe's inflation rate crossed the 1,000 per cent threshold to
reach a world-record high of 1,042.9 per cent in April. It set off a spate
of price increases. The cost of bread went up by more than 50 percent to
130,000 Zimbabwean dollars while public transport fares doubled.

At the start of this month, the central bank issued a new 100,000-dollar
banknote four months after unveiling another currency denomination. Economic
analysts said central bank targets to slash inflation to below 500 per cent
in June and double digits next year were nearly impossible. "Those who speak
in parables and say inflation will just go down without fundamental policy
changes are propagandists," analyst Daniel Ndhlela told AFP. "Inflation will
continue to rise until the government addresses the factors driving it,
which are lack of foreign investment, the printing of money by the central
bank and the fixed exchange rate which is fuelling a parallel foreign
currency market." Economic analyst Eric Bloch said inflation would not start
decelerating in June as projected. "In the meanwhile, for the low-income
earners, the economic hardships will continue," he said. Zimbabwe's main
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said: "You wonder how a Zimbabwean is
surviving every day on less than one US dollar in this kind of inflation."

Ordinary workers bearing the brunt of the economic recession resort to
skipping meals, walking or cycling long distances to work as they battle to
stretch their wages to the next pay day. Munyaradzi Rusike, who works at a
food outlet in central Harare, said it was impossible to plan a family
budget. "If you forget to buy something in a shop in the morning and return
in the afternoon, there is a good chance that you will find the price
doubled." The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe last week said the cost of living
for a family of six rose 19.5 per cent from $41 million in April to $49.1
million in May, pointing out that the average worker earned less than $20
million. The country's main labour body, The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions warned in May that it was planning mass strikes to demand higher
wages to cushion workers against rising living costs. Zimbabwe is in the
seventh consecutive year of economic recession characterised by high
inflation, unemployment, chronic shortages of basic goods like sugar and
cooking while more than 80 per cent of the 13 million population is living
below the poverty threshhold, according to economic analysts. The government
often blames the country's woes on sanctions imposed against President
Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle by the United States and the
European Union. But critics say the recession was sparked by controversial
land reforms under which the state seized land from white farmers for
redistribution to landless-and often unskilled-blacks, thereby wreaking
havoc on the key agriculture sector.

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Scratcher's downfall

From The Sunday Times (SA), 11 June

The good life came to an end for Mark Thatcher after he blundered among the
plotteres in the 'Wonga Coup'. What was he up to? An unrepentant 'Scratcher'
gives Adam Roberts his acerbid answers to an African riddle.

Cape Town is popular at Christmas. From mid-December to mid-January, South
Africans decamp from Johannesburg, Pretoria and other landlocked cities and
head for the beaches, cafes and hotels of the "Mother City". Most years when
he lived in the luxurious enclave of Constantia, Mark Thatcher threw a house
party. His parties were well attended, especially when his mother was
present - as became increasingly frequent after her husband died. But his
neighbours and guests were hardly grateful. "If it wasn't for his mother, he'd
be an East End barrow boy," said one. Another described him as having "an
ego the size of a herd of elephants and the attention span of a gnat". He
was said to be rude to waiters and imperious to everyone.

Greg Wales, a British businessman who has long pursued his fortunes in
Africa, vividly recalls flying to Cape Town from Johannesburg shortly before
Christmas 2003 to attend Thatcher's party. It was an exhilarating journey in
a private plane. The South African pilot, Crause Steyl, took him down into a
narrow gorge in the Drakensberg mountains, racing low inside the canyon and
twisting the plane sideways to bring them through. Also enjoying the ride
was Simon Mann, a former SAS officer and adventurer. Most who have known him
rather like this upper-class Briton; women found his old Etonian manners
endearing. A South African who met him socially thought him "quite charming,
not too dominating. Physically he is not a hulk, he is not a marine, but
smallish, slim-boned". Wales, Steyl and Mann were old friends with a
mission. They were going to spend Christmas and the New Year putting the
final touches to plans for a coup in Equatorial Guinea - one of the nastiest
oil-rich nations in Africa - that they hoped would make them hugely wealthy
for the rest of their lives. Several other characters, either engaged in the
"Wonga Coup" or very much aware of it, were also in the Mother City that

Among Thatcher's house guests was a jovial, sandy-haired individual called
Nigel Morgan, a former member of the Irish Guards whom Thatcher had earlier
helped through a difficult patch in South Africa by providing him with a
home for a spell. Morgan's story is one that Graham Greene might have
relished. He trained briefly as a Jesuit priest after working for a think
tank that advised Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Known to Mark Thatcher,
Mann and other friends as Nosher or Captain Pig, Morgan has a startlingly
red face, having spent years under the African sun while swallowing tumblers
of pink gin and whisky. His love of hearty English food and cigars is
matched only by the pleasure he takes in spinning yarns and arguing about
politics. He would later be accused of betraying his friends, though he
denied it. Morgan is not simply a bon vivant. He trades intelligence. When
he first heard whispers of a plan for mercenary action in west Africa he
suspected that his friend Mann was involved. He resolved to get close to the
action. As a freelance intelligence man he wanted a chance to make money.
This could be a moment to do business in Equatorial Guinea with Mann running
things. On the other hand, he had close ties with the South African
authorities and would be expected to pass on what he knew to them.

Morgan managed to get James Kershaw, a young South African friend who was a
capable administrator skilled in electronic communication, a job as Mann's
personal assistant. Although Kershaw says he had no idea what was going on,
he effectively became a mole at the centre of Mann's operations. Mann
probably knew, but did not mind, that old Nosher got some information from
Kershaw. He may also have suspected that Morgan relayed some of it to the
South African authorities. Perhaps he hoped that, if the government severely
disapproved, it would pass a message of discouragement back to him. If so,
he should have known better. After a more than a decade supplying South
African mercenaries for African wars, he had been given South African
citizenship on condition that he would lead a quiet life. According to one
source he was removed to a safe house and debriefed thoroughly about his
past before being allowed his passport. Recruiting mercenaries was now
illegal in South Africa, which wanted to rid itself of its old reputation as
a haven for "dogs of war". "They told him that he must not be involved in
any military adventures any more. He agreed," says a South African with
connections in the intelligence world.

Yet Mann passed paperwork to Morgan and dined with him 22 times in the
months before the coup. After large tumblers of pink gin they moved on to
steaks and heavy red wine, chatting lightly and cracking jokes. One moment
it was trivial, then Mann would slip in serious questions. A thinly
disguised discussion of his plot followed. It was, recalls Morgan, as if
Mann were writing a film script and discussing fictional characters, not
plotting a real event. Mann half-jokingly threatened to kill Morgan if he
leaked a word. The next minute, however, he was asking for advice. Morgan
passed on information, documents and detailed warnings to South African
officials. He produced 10 intelligence reports about a coup - or, as he
termed it, a "catalyst for regime change" - in Equatorial Guinea. These were
read by South African intelligence, an organisation that, working under a
black government, was eager to distance itself from the sinister Boss
security service of the apartheid era. Morgan faced a moral quandary.
Although he helped to foil the coup plot, and thus helped South Africa's
government score an impressive intelligence victory, strengthening its moral
credentials in the region, he effectively betrayed friends who believed they
could trust him. However one judges this morally, the coup was doomed from
the start.

Into this intrigue fell the luckless - and apparently clueless - figure of
Mark Thatcher. None of the plotters trusted or liked him enough to tell him
what was really going on, but they were happy to take his money. Although
others went to prison, he ended up as the most high-profile casualty -
poorer by hundreds of thousands of pounds, branded a felon, divorced, barred
from America where his children live and even asked to move on by the Monaco
authorities when he attempted to settle there. How did he get himself into
this mess? The story of the Wonga Coup has been much enjoyed by students of
coup plots, African adventures and high jinks in the tropics. But Thatcher's
role has never been fully explained. Like a man waving a golf club in a
thunderstorm, Mark Thatcher invites intense and unwelcome attention. In
conversation he can be affable enough, though aggressive, too. When thinking
hard he puffs out his cheeks and glares. In the course of three interviews
with me he joked that any unflattering comments published about him would
lead to my needing "a new dental surgeon", and if I dared identify him with
the Equatorial Guinea plot I would end up "as Mr Stumpy" - walking around on
stumps for legs.

Equatorial Guinea, a tiny former Spanish colony, might reasonably claim to
be the most wretched nation on earth. It sits in the armpit of Africa,
divided between a square of mainland territory and a scattering of islands.
Almost nobody has a good word for it. If you see a man limping on both legs,
quipped one American ambassador, you know he has been to Equatorial Guinea.
Senior churchmen and politicians talk of the "magical powers" of its rulers;
there are said to be regular witch-burnings. Most commentators rank Obiang
Nguema, its president, as one of the worst leaders anywhere in the world.
But he is also an extremely rich man thanks to the oil reserves found in
abundance around his islands. The Cape Town plotters planned to replace
Obiang with an exiled Guinean politician, Severo Moto, and then to keep such
a grip on the weak new government that they would be able to run the nation
like a company, reaping huge rewards from their "investment". Mann believed,
wrongly, that he had political backing from Spain, where Moto was living,
the United States and key African governments, even South Africa. He also
had promises of $10m in finance from private investors, but he needed more.
His hunger for funds led to one of his bigger blunders: involving the son of
the former British prime minister.

Thatcher moved to South Africa from the United States in the early 1990s,
running a trading business focused on finished oil products. His expertise,
he says, is in logistics. He was well travelled; but while many outsiders
fall in love with the continent, despite its manifold problems, he grew
fiercely pessimistic about it. "Africa is dead; it's dying of cancer," he
told me. He blamed venal presidents for most of Africa's woes. South Africa,
his adopted home, he saw as having a dismal future. In 1997 he struck up a
friendship with Mann, the two sharing an enthusiasm for business in mining,
oil, security and aviation. Mann was fond of Thatcher, but few others liked
him. One plotter later said: "I put up with him, largely because I admired
his mother. He put up with me because I was friends with Simon and he is an
SAS groupie. He's a pain in the arse in large doses. He is heavily insecure,
probably because he is the son of two bright parents . . . he is not the
sharpest pebble on the beach." Crause Steyl, the pilot, dealt with Thatcher
but did not like him. "He was not the kind of personality I'd warm up to . .
. Luckily the only thing I had to take was his money."

In interviews with me Thatcher made it clear he disliked the government of
Equatorial Guinea, but he denied he ever supported a coup. He suggested a
coup plot was little different from terrorism, and "bearing in mind my
family has been subject to an actual terror attack in Brighton, I'd never
knowingly be involved in something like that". Yet Thatcher was said to be
eager to become involved in Mann's affair even while other plotters kept him
at arm's length. He was associated with the plotters from the early days of
their operations in mid-2003. Greg Wales, who wrote a lengthy non-military
document describing how outsiders could take power in Equatorial Guinea and
run it, wanted Thatcher excluded. He wrote that if Thatcher's involvement
were known then the "rest of us, and project (are) likely to be screwed as a
side-issue to people screwing him". Short of excluding Thatcher from the
scheme, Wales emphasised that his role should be kept hidden. There was no
remedy if Thatcher's part were suspected, so "ensure (it) doesn't happen".

According to Steyl, Mann also "feared Mark's inferiority complex might lead
to the British press having a field day" but was still willing to involve
him. The reason was simple, said Steyl. "The money. He brought us nearly
$280,000." The idea was to get Thatcher to fund a helicopter that would be
used in an airport attack against Obiang. Steyl continued: "The only thing
Mark actually did was lease a helicopter. Apart from that, nothing. We never
discussed Equatorial Guinea with him. We said we wanted to take an aeroplane
to west Africa. But it was clear to me he was suspicious." Ron Wheeldon,
Thatcher's South African lawyer, said: "I think he had no idea what was
going on. He thought he was investing in an air ambulance to operate in west
Africa." In December 2003, Mann told Thatcher he had found a suitable
helicopter. It could be chartered for a three-month period. According to
court documents Thatcher later told prosecutors that in December 2003 he
"began to doubt Mann's true intentions and suspected that Mann might be
planning to become involved in mercenary activity in the west African

When I interviewed him, however, he suggested that even in January 2004 he
still had no idea the helicopter he had agreed to fund was to be used for
mercenary activity. Despite his "misgivings", in early January he deposited
$20,000 into a bank account controlled by Steyl's company AAA Aviation. A
few days later he paid in another $255,000. Why did he do so, despite his
suspicions? Presumably because he thought that working with Mann might
produce an adventure as well as a profit. "He thought he'd put his bum in
the butter," said someone who knew him well. Steyl used Thatcher's money to
charter a civilian helicopter; but within three weeks its role in the coup
was dropped and it was returned to the charter company. None of Thatcher's
money was returned to him, however. Instead, early in March, $100,000 was
transferred from Steyl's AAA Aviation account to an account set up by Mann
for coup finances. The helicopter Thatcher had helped to charter was,
effectively, unused and some of his money had been appropriated. But those
facts would not keep him out of trouble.

As the final days to the coup ticked down in February 2004, the plotters
were indiscreet and arrogant. In bars and restaurants, men boasted of what
they planned. The lower ranks, hired as mercenaries, got drunk and
loose-tongued in Pretoria's pubs. The plot was even debated at a semi-public
meeting at Chatham House in London weeks before it was due to take place.
One hired gun later said he refused to join because it had become an open
secret. "There were also just too many people involved and it did not have
the element of surprise you needed to pull off something of this
proportion." Intelligence reports warning of an impending coup were
circulating. Another of the key plotters, Nick du Toit, a former South
African special forces soldier, was warned by friends inside the South
African Secret Service (SASS) that his activities were under scrutiny.

Mann's money-raising efforts were overt. At a big garden party he pitched
for contributions from his guests over the champagne. His financiers pushed
him on. Under pressure, he made quick and bad decisions. One financier
complained Mann "lost the plot" in the final weeks of the botched operation.
Widely liked and respected as a soldier, he fumbled an over-complicated
operation. When it started to go wrong, a braver or more cautious man might
have dared to cancel. But he was propelled on by the investors, by the need
to recoup losses, by his belief he had political backing, by his own vanity
and by his love of adventure. By mid-March the plot was blown to pieces.
After a tip-off from South Africa, Mann and a planeload of mercenaries were
seized in Zimbabwe, and an advance party led by du Toit was rounded up in
Equatorial Guinea itself. A King Air jet with Wales and Moto, the putative
new president, on board took off from the Canary Islands for Equatorial
Guinea, with Crause Steyl at the controls, but they got no further than Mali
before turning back.

To be continued...

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