A Zimbabwean policeman who witnessed
the murder of the first white farmer to die in President Robert Mugabe's land
seizure campaign has admitted that police could have saved the man's life -
but were ordered by their superiors to stand by and let a gang of so-called
war veterans abduct and kill him. In the first inside account of how Mugabe
has turned the police force into an instrument of repression, Lovemore
Magombedze disclosed that he and others investigating the killing of David
Stevens were instructed by superiors in Harare to present it as a case of
killing in self-defence. The former detective has been granted asylum in
Britain. He fled from Zimbabwe in fear of his life after a colleague who
tried to reveal the truth about Stevens's death was killed by a lorry driven
by a leading war veteran. Magombedze was warned: "You will be next." "I used
to love my job, I got a lot of respect from people, but Mugabe turned the
police into his number one weapon," said the 31-year-old father of two who is
now working as a night guard in an Essex hotel. "The system was so
topsy-turvy that instead of war vets being arrested they were manning
roadblocks with us - and I was ordered to pervert the course of justice," he
The killing of Stevens, 48, in April 2000 marked the start of a
campaign aimed at keeping Mugabe in power, using the war veterans and thugs
from the ruling Zanu PF party. Stevens was abducted from his farm in Macheke,
60 miles southeast of Harare, by war veterans while his wife was collecting
one of their four children from a school hockey trip, He was driven to
Murehwa where he was tortured, then shot less than three minutes' walk from a
police station. One of his murderers drank his blood. Twelve other white
farmers have since been killed and all but 600 of an original 4,500 have been
driven off their farms. Most farms have been taken over by politicians,
generals, police chiefs, judges and relatives of Mugabe. Commercial food
production has collapsed, leaving 150,000 labourers unemployed and an
estimated 7m people facing starvation. The detective's chilling account of
the Stevens murder confirms accusations by human rights and opposition groups
that Mugabe has transformed the police into a political tool. It is also
an embarrassment for Interpol, which recently offered Zimbabwe's police
chief, Augustine Chihuri, the post of honorary vice-president. Stevens's
widow Maria, who now lives in Oxfordshire, said she was not surprised
by Magombedze's revelations. "I know the police killed my husband," she
said. "They are no longer there to protect people. I hope he doesn't expect
me to forgive him but I am glad that one of those police has finally decided
to come clean. It is time more people spoke out."
one of a small group of men on duty at Murehwa police station on the Saturday
morning when Stevens was killed. "Suddenly this procession of vehicles
arrived at the police station," he said. "It was like a movie: high-speed
cars, clouds of dust, shooting, brakes squealing, people opening car doors
and running out. Five white farmers were running away from the war vets,
pleading, 'Help us! They are shooting at us and want to kill us.' There were
between 30 and 50 war vets singing and chanting Zanu PF slogans and they had
vehicles belonging to the party and the Central Intelligence Organisation
(CIO). But we told them to stop and didn't allow them in. They only had
sticks and two or three small guns so we didn't think they could overpower
us." Then the officer in charge arrived. "This was strange," said Magombedze.
"Normally they don't work on Saturdays and nobody from the station had called
him. "This officer invited the war vets and CIO men into his office. To our
astonishment, he then allowed them to abduct the farmers from the police
station and take them to a compound in the township. The farmers were
screaming, 'These guys were shooting at us and you are letting them take us?
They are going to kill us!' " Shaking his head, Magombedze said: "The police
had the chance to save Stevens's life - we knew where he was and could easily
have got him out, but we didn't. I followed for a while with a colleague in
an unmarked car but we were pulled off so didn't witness the final moments. I
know what happened next from our subsequent investigation. The farmers were
separated in groups and taken to different places, including the cemetery for
heroes of independence. They were beaten up severely. At one point Stevens
said 'Why don't you just kill us? I can't take this any more'. One of the war
vets put the barrel of his rifle inside Stevens's mouth and fired. But he
didn't get a proper grip, probably because they were all high on marijuana.
So the bullet just cut through the skin and came out of the mouth. Then one
of them started screaming, 'Are you crazy? Don't you know how to kill a man?'
He took out his shotgun, placed it against Stevens's chest and fired. The
other farmers were severely beaten up and left for dead though they had not
Magombedze was put on the investigation under the
supervision of officers from Harare. "We were given clear orders on the
'facts' the government wanted to come out. The official version was to be
that Stevens's death was caused by self-defence. "We were not allowed to
arrest the war vets even though they were trespassing on property, abducting
and beating people and committing all sorts of atrocities. Murehwa is not a
big area and I knew quite well who they were. But this was a political case
and the forms where we normally write the grounds of the case were left
blank. The statements of the other white farmers were left out and some
witnesses were forced to say Stevens was shooting at them." A policeman since
1991, Magombedze felt "torn apart" by the case and was unable to sleep,
tormented by nightmares. Last year he and his colleague on the Stevens case
decided to approach foreign election observers to tell them the truth. They
were spotted by Mugabe's intelligence agents. Shortly afterwards his friend
was killed. "Then a CIO guy warned me, 'You know what happened to your
colleague? We are after you next.'" The Stevens case was not the only time
Magombedze was ordered to ignore evidence. Investigating the murder of a
father and son in Nyamhanga village, he found that a local Zanu PF MP had
ordered party thugs to kill them. "We even had taped confessions," he said,
"but I was told to change the evidence to let the killers free." When
Magombedze arrested a well-known war veteran who had burnt down a restaurant
his station chief was furious and the arsonist was freed. Magombedze decided
to flee and sought leave, claiming his mother was seriously ill. He flew to
London with his wife and children - and heard later that his younger brother
had been beaten and his mother's house had been set on fire. Four men were
tried last October for the murder of Stevens, but were freed. From the safety
of his new home in Britain Magombedze said with sadness: "I miss my country
but it has become a land of fear."
MDC still willing to talk to Mugabe June
29, 2003, 17:45
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC), which has launched a court challenge to
President Robert Mugabe's 2002 victory in presidential polls, says the MDC is
still willing to talk to Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.
Tsvangirai, responding to a recent mass action in the country, says: "The
final push, some people misinterpreted it as an attempt to overthrow the
government. I think that was a figment of peoples imagination. We were very
clear about what we wanted. We wanted to raise the tempo on the government to
come to the negotiating table and that to us, that is one of the most
effective demonstrations by Zimbabweans and not just by staying at home, but
by actually going on the streets."
Mugabe insists that he won
the election fairly in 2002 and says the MDC is a puppet of former colonial
power Britain which will only rule in Zimbabwe 'over our dead bodies'.
However, Tsvangirai, who faces two trials on separate counts of treason,
still hopes that dialogue between the MDC and the government can have a
positive result. "Our approach should be that the two parties must come to
the negotiating table and put their cards on the table, that is how you
proceed," he said.
"But you see this business of insisting
that the MDC must do this, must do that, must do that, we have already done
more than a fair share of bending over backwards, without necessarily being
pushed to capitulation. What we are talking about is not a win, win
situation, it's a compromise and we are prepared for that compromise," said
The veteran trade union leader, who was jailed
for two weeks this month after MDC supporters staged huge anti-Mugabe
protests, said the country's political turmoil would likely continue until
Mugabe goes, because he was the stumbling block. "We don't mean any harm to
Mugabe, we believe in reality that Mugabe is a national liability, it's a
fact and he is the stumbling block. If he cannot even appreciate the fact
that we have half of the seats in parliament, does not even appreciate the
fact that the MDC won the presidential elections, and rather than tolerate
the existence of an opposition. Then you start finding, 'Why is this man not
tolerant enough to accept that multi-party is actually helpful?," he
Tsvangirai said that he had never put his treason trial
as a condition for anything, adding that he wanted to face the full wrath of
the law. he said that if he was wrong then he should be punished by the law.
He said that he did not want to negotiate with personal considerations. "We
are just saying that, look, the crisis needs the two parties to sit down
and talk. Lets sit down. After all, in April last year an agenda had
been agreed," he said.
Tsvangirai said Mugabe had thwarted
a regional initiative mounted by South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi to resolve
Zimbabwe's crisis, which has driven the country's economy close to
Once an African economic star, Zimbabwe now battles
chronic food and fuel shortages and inflation riding at 300%, one of the
highest rates in the world. - Reuters
government has turned on religious groups and clergy members as it seeks to
clamp down on what it perceives as "anti-government prayers".
who have long lost hope in their government's ability to extricate them from
abject poverty and see their only salvation in praying hard for their
country, now find themselves with little space to do this.
groups have been dispersed over the past few months by police suspecting them
of being undercover political meetings convened without their permission and
in violation of strict security laws.
Sony Chimbuya, a reverend in the
Church of Christ in Masvingo Province and former senior official of the
Zimbabwe Council of Churches, was summoned by plainclothes police this
'I was ordered not to say prayers which are political' The
Criminal Investigations Department's law and order section wanted to know why
he was fanning "anti-government prayers".
Chimbuya told the Daily News:
"I was ordered not to say prayers which are political.
"They even told
me that I should write down my prayers for them to scrutinise.
took my curriculum vitae and warned me to be careful with my prayers."
was released without being charged.
Police in Masvingo confirmed that
they questioned Chimbuya but declined to give details.
he was not a political activist but a preacher.
"I just believe in peace
and unity in the country," he said.
"Our church is full of both MDC and
Zanu-PF supporters and we do not talk about that in the church."
Daily News said the police seem to have been concerned that Chimbuya
was invited to pray before a rally which was addressed by opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials.
The clergy member had
also been invited to pray at functions organised by the militant Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions.
Chimbuya said his mere presence at such
functions did not mean that he was an MDC activist.
"I am just
shocked. I have been invited to lead prayers even at Zanu-PF functions but
that does not mean that I support that party," he said.
In the second
largest city of Bulawayo, Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube has been
repeatedly intimidated and harassed by the police for
leading "anti-government prayers".
a.. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the United States not to over-reach
as it pressures President Robert Mugabe to step down.
"There must be a
balance in how outside pressure can be applied in order to bring results,"
Tsvangirai told The New York Times in an interview published on Saturday.
South Africa: Official hopes to reach "common understanding" with
US on Zimbabwe
June 29, 2003 2:18pm
Pretoria, 29 June:
South Africa has expressed the hope to reach a common understanding with the
United States on Zimbabwe during US President George W Bush's upcoming visit
"We hope - we can get a common approach," Deputy Foreign
Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad told reporters in Pretoria on Sunday.
hope this visit will give us an opportunity to frankly discuss Zimbabwe and
to discuss what we are supposed to do."
Bush is scheduled to arrive in
South Africa on the evening of 8 July and is expected to meet President Thabo
Mbeki in Pretoria the following day.
His brief African tour will then see
Bush heading off for Botswana, Uganda, Nigeria and Senegal.
Secretary of State Colin Powell was critical of South Africa's approach to
Zimbabwe in a US newspaper article last week.
He said South Africa, along
with other countries on the continent, "should play a stronger role that
fully reflects the urgency of Zimbabwe's crisis".
African leaders should
do more to convince Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to respect the rule of
law and enter into dialogue with the opposition, Powell added.
reiterated South Africa's stance that it could not impose a solution on
Zimbabwe. Only the Zimbabweans themselves could solve their
problems. Outsiders could merely assist.
He did not appear to be
perturbed by Powell's statement, saying it also contained positive
"I think all of us accept that we have to do something quickly
to assist the Zimbabweans to move forward," Pahad said.
"If there are
technical differences, we have to discuss them and indicate what our approach
is to solve the problems. I hope - they (the US) will get a better
understanding that there is only that route to go."
If the US had another
way it should be put on the table and be discussed. Pahad said visits to
South Africa by the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom and France both
ended in a common approach on Zimbabwe. The US visit would hopefully have the
same outcome.[Passage omitted].
Source: SAPA news agency web site,
Johannesburg, in English 1250 gmt 29 Jun 03
Cairo, 29 June: President Husni
Mubarak and President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe discussed Sunday [29 June]
the Mideast situation and Egypt's efforts to overcome obstacles to the
implementation of the road map peace plan, the Egyptian foreign minister
In statements to reporters, Ahmad Mahir said Mubarak and Mugabe
also reviewed Africa's supportive stances of the Arab rights and current
efforts to achieve peace. The two presidents agreed to step up bilateral
cooperation and to pursue cooperation through the African Union, Mahir
Mubarak-Mugabe talks also covered the overall African situation
ahead of the next African summit in Maputo, Mozambique, next week. They
expressed hope Africa would overcome the current difficult conditions in
Liberia, Congo and the Great Lakes region. The two leaders also agreed to
intensify African cooperation efforts to ensure security and prosperity for
all African peoples. They stressed the need to fight diseases in the
continent and provide medicines at affordable prices, Mahir
Source: MENA news agency, Cairo, in English 1425 gmt 29 Jun 03
Lecturing Africa: How quickly the
West forgets Michael Holman IHT Saturday, June 28,
LONDON Secretary of State Colin Powell seems to have
forgotten the legacy of Western misrule when criticizing South Africa's
response to the crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe (IHT, June
24). . Patronage of tyranny and tolerance of corruption have long been at
the heart of Western policy across Africa, from Kenya under Daniel arap Moi,
to Zaire under Mobutu Seke Seso and Liberia under Samuel Doe. For all
the protestations to the contrary, commercial interests or strategic
concerns continue to take precedence over principles: West Africa is expected
to provide 20 per cent of U.S. oil imports in 10 years, a forecast that
buys tolerance for some of Africa's most venal and mismanaged
governments. . It was ever thus. "He may be a son of a bitch," President
Lyndon Johnson famously observed in defense of Washington's alliance with a
South Vietnamese leader, "but he is our son of a bitch." . The United
States and Britain should not be surprised when this doctrine proves to be a
two-edged sword, and provokes what they see as a perverse and irrational
solidarity among the weak, as when Arab states rally around Saddam Hussein,
or when African states fall short of outright condemnation of President
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. . Britain at least should know better. It has
more experience after all. Yet far from recognizing that the past still
shapes current events, the government believes that it can start afresh,
without the baggage of history. For those in Britain who determine policy, it
seems that Africa's history begins when Labour won office. . Life is
too short, and we are too busy, one minister told me, to become bogged down
in the shortcomings of colonialism. . But Britain's record in Africa in
general, and in southern Africa in particular, is no better than its record
in the Middle East, even if it does receive less attention. . Just
about wherever Britain and the West has been involved, from the Horn
of Africa to the Cape of Good Hope, Africa bears the scars. The legacy
lives on. . Nowhere are the consequences of Western misjudgment more
evident than southern Africa, where the denial of responsibility is at its
loudest. Britain was as complicit in the consolidation of white power in
Rhodesia in the early 1960s, as surely as it helped create Iraq's fearsome
armory. . From the petty to the profound, Britain has got it
wrong. . British rule in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, lasted six decades
- yet when the country became independent, it had barely a dozen university
graduates. It was Britain that imposed the Central African Federation of the
Rhodesias and Nyasaland on the voteless African majority. And it was Britain
that presided over its dissolution, on terms that gave the bulk of the
armed forces to white-ruled Rhodesia, soon to declare illegal
independence, triggering a war that scarred the region. It was Britain that
jailed the leaders of African nationalism in nearly every one of the
colonies. Britain and the United States are not driven by malice, nor is
Prime Minister Tony Blair pursuing a sinister neocolonialist strategy. He
genuinely believes that the colonial past belongs to the history books. He,
like Colin Powell, just fails to understand that, as in the Middle East,
Africa's history still shapes events, still molds values, and still
influences policies. . It is not so much the West's lectures about human
rights abuses that irritate Africa. It is that they are delivered
selectively. All too often the admonitions smack of hypocrisy, coming as they
so often do on behalf of powerful men who may wield big sticks, but are moral
dwarfs. . The writer, brought up in Zimbabwe, was Africa editor of the
Financial Times from 1984 to 2002.