|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
12 June 2003
Remain Calm In The Face Of Open Provocation.
The MDC National Executive met today in an emergency session to review developments in the country. The Executive noted with concern the continued detention of the president.
The National Executive further noted with concern the continued detention of Getrude Mthombeni, member of the national executive, Abraham Mdlongwa, MDC chairman for Bulawayo and many party activists.
We maintain that our President and members of MDC arrested by the state agents are innocent. The arrests are nothing more than just harassment and intimidation of the MDC.
The National Executive welcomed the release without charge of the Secretary General of the party and reiterates its demand that the president of the MDC and many other leaders and supporters be released.
The regime is now panicking. Since the successful action of Zimbabweans the regime now realises without doubt that it does not have the support of the majority, but is only supported by a few Zimbabweans who have been drafted into sections of our professional Zimbabwe National Army, police and a few youths who have sold their souls for pieces of silver.
Zimbabweans scored a big victory against tyranny and marched the greater distance towards freedom through their heroic and united action last week.
We thank the people of Zimbabwe for their fortitude in the face of provocation and abuse by the regime and its unpopular machinery. We urge all Zimbabweans to remain calm in the face of repeated attempts to provoke them so as to get a pretext to crush their resolve through violence.
We should remain focused on our objectives and calculated in our actions. The regime does not know what is coming next and seeks to make you act outside your plan, resist the temptation. However, let us remain united and alert, let us remain ready to act within all lawful and peaceful means for our freedom from hunger and tyranny.
MDC Vice President.
HE MUST be getting used to it by now. On June 10th, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, appeared in court to be formally charged with treason for a second time. This time, the charge relates to his having tried to organise demonstrations of the sort that the government recently made illegal without police permission, which is rarely granted. The judge ordered that he be held in one of Harare's cells for a month, which will make it harder for him to organise peaceful expressions of popular discontent. His deputy, Welshman Ncube, was also arrested this week, but was released shortly after Mr Tsvangirai's appearance in court.
Mr Tsvangirai is already part-way through another treason trial. One of President Robert Mugabe's lavishly-paid agents claims that he plotted to assassinate the old man. Even Zimbabwe's tainted legal system might have difficulty convicting Mr Tsvangirai on the basis of such evidence. He was released on bail, perhaps in the hope that he would skip the country. Instead, he stayed, and organised a series of general strikes, including one that shut down most of Zimbabwe's remaining businesses last week.
He also tried to organise street protests, but these were greeted by hovering military helicopters and armoured vehicles with machineguns mounted on rotating turrets. Despite this show of force, several thousand people took to the streets, and were duly tear-gassed and beaten. More than 800 were arrested, according to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition party. Suspected ringleaders were rounded up and tortured. At least two people died.
The government threatened that it would revoke the licences of businesses that observed the MDC's call to shut down last week. Some shopkeepers pulled down their shutters because they feared that Mr Mugabe's heavies would start shooting. Factory owners protest that they could hardly have kept the production lines humming when none of their employees arrived to man them. But cancelling the licences of people who do not support him might enable Mr Mugabe to award more licences to his cronies.
In the past, his arbitrary style of government has enriched many within the ruling party, ZANU-PF. Party bigwigs have used their contacts to exploit the rigged exchange rate, or grabbed shares of farms and businesses confiscated from the regime's opponents. But even some of the least scrupulous ZANU hacks are starting to worry that if things carry on this way, there will be no Zimbabwean economy left for them to plunder.
There are growing signs that rage at the regime could evolve into violent unrest. The half or so of the population who are short of food are, perhaps, too weak to revolt. But urban Zimbabweans, furious at the hasty erosion of their living standards, may not be cowed for ever. As Mr Mugabe finds it ever harder to pay his various and sometimes mutually antagonistic security forces (the army, the police and the irregular militia), the danger of a coup grows daily. Alternatively, Zimbabwe might simply collapse.
The government of South Africa, Zimbabwe's powerful neighbour, does not want a failed state on its doorstep, so it is urging talks between the MDC and the government. The MDC insists that such negotiations can be useful only if they lead to a fresh round of elections, which, unlike last year's presidential poll, would have to be free and fair.
Mr Mugabe, however, says that he cannot step down while his people are “disunited”. In a rare interview, he told South African state television this week that he is determined to battle on. “As long as there is that fight, I am for a fight. And I can still punch,” he said. Indeed
MISA fears new laws detrimental to media freedom
JOHANNESBURG, 12 Jun 2003 (IRIN) -
Zimbabwe's parliament on Wednesday passed two media bills which the Media
Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) described as the "last nails in the coffin"
of press freedom.
"The struggle is now quite difficult for us," MISA-Zimbabwe director Sarah Chiumbu told IRIN after the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Bill and the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill sailed through parliament without objections.
Amendments were needed to the original Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) after a parliamentary committee ruled last year that aspects of the law were unconstitutional. However, according to MISA, the amendments introduced by the Department of Information and Publicity in the Office of the President actually served to toughen AIPPA.
The act introduces a system of licensing of the mass media and journalists through a Media Commission whose board is appointed by the minister of state for information. The registration of media houses and journalists operating in Zimbabwe is mandatory, but is also at the discretion of the commission and, ultimately, the minister.
Minister of state for information, Jonathan Moyo, has argued that AIPPA would serve Zimbabwe's national interests rather than that of Western governments.
However, a MISA report alleged: "The act has one purpose, and that is protecting the institution of the government from scrutiny, by prohibiting and heavily penalising public/media inquiry and scrutiny into its affairs and, in addition, by an unrestrained control over journalists and media companies."
The definitions of "a journalist" and "mass media" are very broad under the amendment. "A journalist is defined as anyone who disseminates information for public consumption, and the definition of the mass media is expanded to include even a church newsletter," MISA information officer Rashweat Mukundu explained.
"The commission has the power to order journalists to appear before it to answer charges of misconduct. But we have courts of law for that - it shouldn't be a commission appointed by a minister," Rashweat said.
"MISA believes in a self-regulated, independent media council," he added.
The Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill, passed on Wednesday, introduced minor changes to the Broadcasting Service Act of 2001, which has also been heavily criticised by MISA and human rights groups for its restrictions on independent radio and television.
"Radio is the only source of information some people have. Theoretically the law allows us to start radio stations, but in reality it's all in the hands of the minister," Rashweat said.
This month the Supreme Court put aside a judgement in the case of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, owners of the country's only private daily, the Daily News, which challenged the constitutionality of the AIPPA registration process. Judgement is still reserved in an eight-month-old case of the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe, who have also challenged AIPPA.
"The only thing left to us are legal challenges, but the legal route is not giving us any reprieve at the moment," said Chiumbu.
Almost a week has past since the strikes and mass protests called by the opposition in Zimbabwe. The government and media outlets controlled by the government say the protests did not achieve anything, but the opposition considers them very successful.
For the government media, the opposition-called protests were a big failure. The stories that they have been running invariably describe them as a "flop."
|Paul Themba Nyathi|
"It is the first time in the history of struggles for human rights that a political party succeeds in shutting down the country for five days," said Paul Themba Nyathi, the party's spokesperson. "It is not just about shutting the country down for five days that we feel was a measure of victory, it is the confidence that sort of thing gave the people of Zimbabwe."
Mr. Nyathi said that the so-called "final push," as his party called last week's action, was meant to be part of a process to force President Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party to the negotiating table. And he said there has been a reaction from ZANU-PF
"I can tell you that we are receiving approaches from ZANU-PF for serious talks, and my view is that the mass stay-away, the final push, contributed immensely to that," Mr. Nyathi said.
|Morgan Tsvangirai, center, arrives at the Magistrates courts in Harare|
The MDC spokesman also acknowledged that there are differing views within his party, but he denied that there are any rifts.
"There are always rich and robust debates within the MDC about any action, there are always different views," he said. "But at the end of it, there is always consensus about the way forward."
Speaking of the arrest of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mr. Nyathi described it as an attempt by government to get his party to react, but he said the Movement for Democratic Change will not be provoked. He said it will take action at a time of its own choosing.