|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Like many of Harare's residents, Morgan Mathuthu is dazed and confused by
this week's events. A casual trip on Monday to buy food at his local
supermarket in the Chitungwiza district turned into a four-day nightmare
that left him scarred, bruised and charged under Zimbabwe's Miscellaneous
"A police vehicle stopped in front of me. I was told to jump in and I ran
away. They fired two warning shots and I stopped. I was taken to St Mary's
Police Station, where I was beaten up. There was no talking as to why they
were doing this to me," Mathuthu, 38, said.
Later that evening, he and a
group of other detainees were taken to the
Central and Rhodesville police stations, both of which were full.
They were driven back to St Mary's
and ordered to sleep on the floor of a
cell with 87 other people.
"During the night, anyone who walked in would just beat us
said. He was released on Thursday, with a bizarre warning: if he wanted a
British ruler, he should go to London.
opposition Movement for Democratic Change this week called for
week-long mass protests aimed at forcing President Robert Mugabe to vacate
office. The veteran politician countered by deploying the army, police, war
veterans and his Zanu-PF party youth-militia to bludgeon any resistance or
The first day of the MDC's "final push" saw opposition
Tsvangirai fall victim to Mugabe's mastery and increasing repression.
Tsvangirai, who was meant to lead the march on Mugabe's
office in central Harare with senior leaders of his party, was detained for
defying a court injunction to stop the proposed protests.
The order, dismissed by the opposition as a "candle-light
two days after the government had deployed soldiers to crush "illegal
protests" on the streets of Bulawayo and Harare.
a thirst for change, Tsvangirai's arrest and the massive deployment
of army units inevitably raised fears among his followers and the majority
of Zimbabweans about carrying out the proposed march.
by Mugabe's ministers that security forces would act
harshly against demonstrators were fulfilled, and tanks were dispatched to
patrol the main urban centres, fortifying the strategy to frustrate the
momentum of the opposition.
Check points, manned by military police , were set up on
all major roads to
stop people and traffic from filtering into the city centres.
Soldiers brandishing rifles and high-calibre weapons
streets in a show of force.
Motorists had to
endure the frustration of delays at roadblocks, where
military police forced them to open car trunks and conducted body searches
for dangerous weapons, anti-Mugabe literature and opposition regalia.
This is the first time
that Mugabe has used the army to crush civil unrest
since the outbreak of riots in 1998.
Unlike those spontaneous food riots - which caught the
and took two days to quell - the MDC's proposed march turned into another
job stay-away. People could not face the harshness of the security forces,
who have a long history of brutality.
mobilise and march were met with brutal force - the streets were
cleared in just one day.
Job Sikhala, an MDC MP and national executive committee
member, said the
protests were not a failure because his party showed the world who "called
the shots in Zimbabwe".
"There was virtually no
business which took place this week. The message is
clear that Robert Mugabe is unpopular and unwanted in this country.
"The mass action was a
success in that people refused to come out of their
houses, and by staying indoors they heeded our call to protest against
Mugabe's rule. Mugabe tried to urge people to report for work but people
refused to heed his appeal."
While infantrymen controlled roadblocks, Harare's skies
military choppers menacingly hovering to spy on possible flash points,
particularly in the city's impoverished townships, where the MDC's
stronghold lies. The helicopters also dropped tear gas on unregulated
Mugabe has publicly boasted of his
willingness to use maximum force to
impose his policies, as shown by the harshness of his three-year land grab,
in which nearly all the country's white commercial farmers were evicted.
His imposition of force
reached its zenith when he unleashed Israeli-made
tanks on hapless university students, already worrying about food and jobs,
and citizens in the increasingly restive townships of Harare.
In Bulawayo, troops stormed
campus dormitories and gassed students, fearing
that they would aid the opposition protests. The students, along with
township residents, were beaten with truncheons. There are rising casualties
from assaults by the army and police.
The dreaded secret police singled out potential leaders of
routinely rounded them up, and used them as examples to would-be rioters.
The efficiency of the regime's vicious tactics
yielded the desired result
for Mugabe, but feelings of ill will are now evident on the streets of
Harare. By Thursday, close to 300 opposition supporters had been jailed.
While there is a strong feeling within
Zimbabwe that Mugabe must go, no one
seems prepared to stand up to his government's heavy-handedness.
Andrew Nongogo, the executive director
of Transparency International
Zimbabwe, believes that the Mugabe government is increasingly relying on
force to counter the MDC.
currently at an impasse between the moral high ground of the MDC and
the physical power of Zanu-PF. There has to be a spark of some nature before
those on the moral high ground feel that they no longer have to fear the
force. That spark didn't happen this week.
"The MDC has
limited strategies because the government is prepared to use
any type of force to stop demonstrations, and the MDC just has to wait for
something to happen outside their party for people to go out fully on the
"They [the MDC] will have to rely on more force and
brutality from the
government, which will ultimately make people go onto the streets on their
own, without having to wait for the MDC to tell them," he said.
Shopping malls in central Harare echoed with emptiness, market
deserted and motorists stayed off the road, as people, too frightened to go
about their normal activities, chose to stay indoors .
"The army's presence on the streets shows that the government is
the people. The use of force by this government shows how far Mugabe can go
to defend its illegitimacy, and the action of the police clearly shows that
they are not a professional, but a partisan, force," said Harare resident
"Having to board a bus with
armed soldiers is a sign of victimisation and
suppression. What we need is fuel and money, but Mugabe deploys soldiers
instead of sourcing foreign exchange to import basics."
Schools remained open, but very few
teachers and learners bothered to attend
lessons. Ruling party fanatics, guarding school gates, forced teachers to
work despite many classes being half empty.
In one instance Zanu-PF supporters, who had been bussed
in from the
countryside , swamped a private school 60km northwest of Harare.
They ordered the closure of the primary school on Thursday,
authorities of taking the precautionary measure of evacuating the school
ahead of the proposed protests.
The youth militia and
war veterans had a mandate to interrogate people
roaming the streets, and to force businesses to open, despite the absence of
also banned, burnt, confiscated and tore all newspapers outside
control, as well as swooping on revellers at places of entertainment to
harass them for heeding the opposition's protest calls.
nightclubs and restaurants, most of which normally operate 24 hours,
were closed by 4pm, while a few remained open until 7pm. People fled the
possible terror unleashed on such venues after sunset.
Harare, known for its
vibrant nightlife, was enveloped in heavy silence.
With increasing reports of widespread casual assaults by ruling party
functionaries, no one wanted the sun to set before they got home.
Informal taxis ran empty and the
fuel queues, which have become a permanent
feature at all garages for the past two years, disappeared . Even
car-sellers removed vehicles from showrooms.
In the meantime, the state-run Zimbabwe United Passenger
Company buses plied
their routes with up to four soldiers on board. The soldiers were armed with
assault rifles, especially Russian-made AK-47s.
By Thursday the government had changed its strategy, and
secret police were
planted in buses so that the sight of soldiers would not deter people from
Although businesses opened
tentatively on Wednesday and Thursday after
Mugabe threatened to revoke operating licences, the toll on the economy has
intensified. By Tuesday, the local share market had lost potential revenue
in excess of $250-million .
Harare resident Vimbai Gora believes that the week of protest has
Mugabe and his government a clear message: "If Mugabe really won the
elections, why is he afraid of the people who voted for him? We just want
him to know that we have had enough of him. We are tired of being beaten by
his soldiers and the police."
Sunday Times (SA)
Mbeki's G8 report card: The good, the better and no Zimbabwe
Ignoring Africa's problems won't make them go away, writes Ranjeni Munusamy
President Thabo Mbeki was fascinating to observe upon his
return home from the G8 summit in Evian, France, as his usual cool, detached
demeanour made way for animated talk.
It was rare to see the President volunteer information to the media rather
than have journalists attempt to drag it out of him. But on this occasion ,
the information - perhaps because it was good news - came thick and fast.
The four African presidents who served as
the chief advocates of the New
Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) apparently had the world's most
powerful leaders eating out of their hands: "There was no matter which we
presented to them on which they disagreed," said Mbeki.
This year's dialogue between Africa and the G8 took place
in a troubled
global environment - the backdrop of the war in Iraq ; agitation over North
Korea; the Middle East crisis; and an unsettled global economy - competing
for the attention of the industrialised powers.
But Africa, Mbeki said, was the only part of the world with a
game plan for development. Nepad captured the imagination of the group of
industrialised nations, each of which has special personal representatives
working with the Nepad secretariat to flesh out its programmes.
So when Mbeki, Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, Senegal's
Abdoulaye Wade and
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika went to Evian proposing actual
development projects - having discussed the principle of a partnership at
previous G8 encounters - the world powers were willing to bite.
Mbeki said what remained was for African leaders to work out
the costing for
Nepad's programmes and to create an environment conducive to development. To
this end, it was agreed that a rapid deployment force would be set up for
peacekeeping missions. In addition, an early warning system and a peace and
security council would be established to manage conflict.
The G8 leaders also agreed to dedicate funds to water,
Playing on international
goodwill, the African leaders raised concern over
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations that are deadlocked on the
issues of agriculture subsidies and access to affordable drugs.
the meeting that he did not believe there would be any shift
without the direct intervention of the G8. The leaders agreed to resolve the
matter before a Cancun ministerial meeting scheduled for September.
also committed to speeding up debt-cancellation processes to relieve
African countries from exporting capital to service debt.
Minister Gordon Brown proposed setting up an international
financing institution to centralise development funding. Mbeki said this
would eliminate the need for negotiations with different countries.
whether there was anything that didn't go according to plan, Mbeki
conceded that some issues were left unresolved.
French President Jacques
Chirac proposed a moratorium on the flow of
products from the developed world into Africa, pending the outcome of WTO
negotiations, to relieve pressure on Africa's markets. But a moratorium
would affect aid packages from the US, which donates its surplus food stocks
to countries with food shortages, so no agreement was reached.
Moving closer to home, Africa's capacity to
spend funds donated for
development is of concern. Mbeki proposed the establishment of an
implementation arm for Nepad to ensure that capacity constraints don' t
hamper the rolling out of funds.
did not broach the subject, some internal differences exist
between Nepad's merchants.
Wade, for example, would prefer Nepad to place greater
emphasis on African
investment in Africa. His concerns related to the logic that whoever paid
the piper called the tune - and as things stood, the G8 could have a grip on
the African agenda.
A matter of more
immediate concern was that Mbeki would have us believe that
the crisis in Zimbabwe was not even raised at Evian.
But the G8 leaders issued a
carefully worded statement on Zimbabwe,
condemning the government's repression of the opposition and human rights.
Reading between the
lines, it is clear that Zimbabwe was an issue in the
context of Nepad.
"Consistent with the fundamental principles of the Nepad
welcomed the contribution of other African states to promoting a peaceful
resolution of the crisis and a prosperous and democratic future for the
people of Zimbabwe," they said.
It is safe to
presume that Mbeki dished out his stock response on Zimbabwe -
we are trying to restart dialogue which both the government and opposition
are committed to, and that the people of Zimbabwe must decide their own fate
Mbeki seemed almost afraid to speak frankly about Zimbabwe,
a stance at odds
with the fact that its political and economic explosion can no longer be
Admitting that there was growing
international pressure on Africa over
Zimbabwe, would not have countered or minimised his achievements.
The truth only works when it's the whole
truth, not censored good news.
Sunday Times (SA)
This is just the start, says MDC
Focus on Zimbabwe
But further mass action may jeopardise a negotiated settlement
Sunday Times Foreign Desk and Ranjeni Munusamy
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan
Tsvangirai has vowed to intensify mass action against President Robert
Tsvangirai, who was arrested on Friday on a new treason charge, said the MDC
would now shift up a gear in its strategy to undermine Mugabe's government
following a five-day stayaway this week.
"From now onwards we will embark on rolling mass
action at strategic times
of our choice and without any warning to the dictatorship," he said.
"The peaceful mass action that we embarked
upon is the beginning of a new
multi-faceted phase towards a permanent resolution of the crisis."
The threat of further mass action is
diminishing hopes for a negotiated
settlement to Zimbabwe's crisis.
But MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi said his party would
dialogue with the ruling Zanu-PF.
"We are still
committed to talks because this is the only way to resolve
But he denied South African President Thabo Mbeki's claim in
week that dialogue was already under way.
his party was still awaiting direction from Mbeki, Nigeria's
Olusegun Obasanjo and Malawi's Bakili Muluzi, who were facilitating talks
between the parties.
The MDC was outmanoeuvred by the Zimbabwean government this
week as security
forces suppressed the opposition's efforts to get its supporters to "rise in
Mugabe's government fought
the mass action in the courts and the streets,
and through a propaganda war in the media.
The police, the army, the ruling Zanu-PF's youth
militias and intelligence
agents were all used to crush the MDC demonstrations.
But Tsvangirai said his campaign against Mugabe,
code-named The Final Push,
showed that he commanded the will of the people, while his rival controlled
only the forces of coercion in the form of the state machinery.
"The regime responded with predictable brute force
and mass reprisals," he
When the mass action ended on
Friday, Zanu-PF deployed hundreds of its youth
brigades, wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "No to Mass Action", to combat
the week, Zanu-PF youths held sway in the streets, attacking MDC
supporters and by-standers.
Any symbols of resistance to Mugabe's rule -
newspapers and minibus drivers who refused to carry people to work - became
beatings, assaults, torture and intimidation of the
public by the security forces were the order of the day.
The army prevented injured people
from receiving treatment at hospitals. On
Wednesday, security forces stormed Avenues Clinic in Harare.
"The gang was looking extremely charged and
fired up, walking in a confusing
manner, shouting on top of their voices, getting into wards, including those
that are out of bounds to anyone other than hospital staff, grabbing people
violently and inflicting all sorts of verbal and physical abuse on them,"
said one of the victims at the clinic.
Two people were killed in the security crackdown. Police
Bvudzijena confirmed the deaths.
He vowed that the
police would continue their crackdown on acts of
"sabotage, banditry and terrorism".
One of the men killed was Tichaona Gaguru, who was
abducted and beaten by
soldiers. He subsequently died at Chikurubi police clinic.
When Gaguru's family held a funeral for him on Thursday, two
days after his
death, his brother Kunaka was also attacked by Zanu-PF youths and suffered
The other person who died, Amon
Nyandongo, was stoned to death in Highfield
as security forces clashed with protesters.
By the end of the mass action, up to 500 people had been
senior MDC officials, MPs and supporters.
people have been tortured, brutalised and murdered by a regime that is
meant to protect them," Tsvangirai said.
"The people's message of peace was
met with blood and iron."
Sunday Times (SA)
State militias block MDC's D-day protest
Focus on Zimbabwe
Dingilizwe Ntuli and The Telegraph, London
It had been dubbed Zimbabwe's D-day. But Zanu-PF youths swamped the streets
of Harare on Friday, the final day of the weeklong mass action, blocking the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change from marching in the streets.
Helicopters hovered above the city as the youths moved around clad in
T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Enough is enough: no to mass action",
brandished sticks and dispersed crowds on street corners.
Two thousand ruling party militiamen took up positions
and paramilitary police. Some were posted at key intersections and others
patrolled the streets.
Army trucks and
jeeps ferried soldiers through the city, while police in
patrol cars cruised city streets reporting any suspicious movements by radio
Hundreds of militia took up positions in the city's main
square, where the
opposition leaders had called on supporters to gather.
About 100 Zanu-PF members were seen marching down one of the
leading to the square, in an apparent attempt to block off the area. Others
guarded the entrances to the square.
officials said groups of supporters tried to gather in downtown
Harare, but did not proceed to the square because they were so heavily
Some of the ruling party militias were seen
shouting at people on the
street, demanding that shops observing a general strike in Harare be
However, most businesses in Harare remained closed.
The strike shut down much of Zimbabwe's economy this
week despite the
government's action against street demonstrations.
In the second city of Bulawayo, opposition officials
said troops in full
combat gear were patrolling the streets.
government vowed to crush the protest action, saying that a court
banning anti-government demonstrations was still in force and that further
protests would be stopped, state television reported.
Speaking to reporters from his home shortly before being
arrested for the
second time this week, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai suggested that further
protests would be organised underground.
"From now onwards, we will embark on rolling mass action
at strategic times
of our choice and without any warning to the dictatorship," he said. "More
action is certainly on the way."
Tsvangirai also said the people had been heard this week and
that the heavy
military response from Mugabe proved that only force was keeping him in
"He has ceased to be a civilian leader . . .
he is now a civilian dictator
propped up by sections of a subverted police and military," said Tsvangirai.
The opposition blames Mugabe for
sinking the country into political and
economic ruin. There are shortages of food, medicine, fuel and currency, and
annual inflation stands at 269%. Widespread starvation has been avoided only
with international aid.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, speaking on state radio on
that people "bent on causing disorder will be dealt with decisively".
Nathan Shamuyarira, the ruling party's secretary for
information, told state
media that the Zanu-PF politburo, its top policy-making body, recommended
"stringent security measures" to stop the protests.
"The time has now come for a showdown with the MDC. It was
agreed that we
should also use the manpower resources in our movement to stop the MDC from
disrupting the economy," Shamuyarira told the state-run Herald newspaper.
A doctor who worked in the casualty section of a Harare
hospital this week
said about 80 injured people were treated in the first three days.
"This week we have seen worse soft tissue injuries than
ever before," he
added. "The beatings must have been very vicious. We have also seen many
Scores of people were
arrested throughout the country. On Wednesday,
Tichaona Kaguru, an official of the MDC in Harare, died after allegedly
being abducted and tortured by members of the security forces.
Brian Raftopoulos, a political
scientist in Zimbabwe, said it appeared that
the sides were engaged in a standoff.
"[The mass action] proves the opposition can shut down the
country and keep
people away from work, but the government has shown they can keep [the
opposition] off the streets," he said.
The MDC had called on its supporters to rise up.
"You have been harassed, abused, tortured and brutalised.
"Your leaders have been abducted and
arrested. Rise up in your millions to
demonstrate publicly your utmost disapproval of this violent dictatorship,"
the opposition said in advertisements and fliers calling for mass marches on
But Tsvangirai acknowledged that the show of force was intimidating.
"Maybe people were reluctant to take that step in view
of the presence of
police and other state agents who overwhelmed them," he said.
Security forces using rifle butts, volleys of live fire, tear
gas and water
cannons have so far prevented any large-scale street demonstrations.
Independent human- rights monitors said scores of
people were injured as
police and troops patrolled impoverished township suburbs and, along with
ruling-party vigilantes, assaulted suspected opponents, often raiding their
homes at night.
Police said at
least 300 people were arrested.
Sunday Herald (UK)
How long can Mugabe cling on by brute force alone?
As Zimbabwe's president uses youngsters to crush opposition, parallels with
Hitler are hard to ignore, writes Fred Bridgland in Johannesburg
President Robert Mugabe, whose regime in disintegrating Zimbabwe becomes
more fascist by the day, publicly vowed to eliminate Morgan Tsvangirai 'like
a fly' shortly before the opposition leader was arrested on fresh treason
charges that carry the death penalty.
Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), yesterday
appeared in a Harare court to be charged formally with treason for inciting
the overthrow of Mugabe during last week's five-day anti-government work
stayaway. Tsvangirai is already on trial for treason -- and has been since
February -- facing trumped-up state charges that he plotted to assassinate
'[The MDC] called on urban people to embark on mass action and march to
State House to strip me of the presidency and give it to Tsvangirai,' Mugabe
told a rural rally shortly before Tsvangirai was arrested by police on
Friday evening. 'They thought I would be sitting on a chair waiting for boss
Tsvangirai to come. They thought I would open the gates in preparation for
his arrival and instruct soldiers and policemen [guarding State House] to
put down their guns.'
Mugabe, speaking in Shona (the major language in Zimbabwe) at Mhondoro, in
his Zezuru clan heartland, said: 'Tsvangirai thought I would then say,
'There you are, take over the presidency,' and that I would step aside.
'That's what Tsvangirai was dreaming. But he hadn't been taught a lesson --
and he is still to be taught a lesson.'
Mugabe, who once boasted that he had degrees in violence, added: 'Does he
know where we come from? If he comes that way we will blow him away like a
Mugabe's intemperate language matches his use of his youth militia, known as
the Green Bombers, as extra-judicial hit men to intimidate and crush any who
dare to oppose or criticise the president and his ruling Zanu-PF elite, who
returned to power in heavily rigged elections just over a year ago.
Mugabe is deploying the Green Bombers much as Adolf Hitler used the
brownshirts in the early years of Nazi rule to eliminate opponents and
establish rule by terror.
Last week thousands of Green Bombers were bussed by police and soldiers into
central Harare to occupy the capital's main square, where opposition leaders
had called on supporters to gather prior to a planned mass march on State
House. The Green Bombers -- so-called because of the olive-green uniforms
they receive in their rural training camps -- wore white T-shirts emblazoned
with the slogan 'No To Mass Action'. Marchers were unable to assemble as the
Green Bombers, police and army unleashed widespread violence on suspected
Human rights groups and Western diplomats have accused Mugabe of
deliberately training more than 10,000 National Youth Service recruits as
violent thugs to be unleashed on opponents of his regime. Mugabe maintains
that the youths, mostly teenagers with little education from poor
backgrounds, have been recruited and trained for desperately needed
community service projects.
Not so, said former Youth Service member Makhosi Ngusanya, one of a growing
band of Green Bombers who have fled to Hillbrow, a former white inner suburb
of Johannesburg that is now home to large numbers of immigrants, destitute
South Africans, prostitutes, drug dealers and criminal syndicates.
'They told us that if we became good Green Bombers they would make us
soldiers and give us land,' said 19-year-old Ngusanya. 'But they didn't give
us anything. And all they taught us was to kill. It got too bad. There was
too much beating -- old people, young people, our own aunts and uncles. I
had to run away.'
Themba Ndlovu, 22, said he had been forced to take part in attacks on white
farmers and to set their homesteads ablaze. He had been promised money and
land but received nothing. 'We used crowbars and firearms,' he said. 'I have
not killed, but I have raped. I raped a 12-year-old girl. We have attacked
people from the MDC party -- many people. I need to change my life. That is
why I ran away from Zimbabwe.'
The Green Bombers are trained in six-week sessions at many
by the government. 'They are taught to appreciate the country's history,'
according to Mugabe's minister of youth development, Elliott Manyika. 'If
people are beaten it might be the work of some people who want to tarnish
the image of the programme of national service.'
Yes, it is true she was taught history, said a 21-year-old woman and former
Green Bomber who gave her name as Sithulisiwe when she testified recently at
a service led by Archbishop Pius Ncube at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city.
'They taught us the history of our country, starting from colonial slavery,
and they told us we should hate whites,' said Sithulisiwe, who was abducted
18 months ago and taken to a Green Bomber camp where she was repeatedly
gang-raped before being sent away after she was made pregnant and
HIV-positive. She is now the mother of a seven-month-old girl, Nokthula,
which means 'peace' in Ndebele, but does not know which of her assailants is
'I can't even count how many times I was raped by different men,' she said.
'If we complained to the camp commander we were beaten and they would call
us sell-outs to the MDC.'
Young teachers are also 're- educated' in the Green Bomber camps. 'The
ruling party wants a situation where everything is militarised and
Zanu-ised,' said Takavafiria Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers
Union for Manicaland, in southeastern Zimbabwe, from where many teachers
have been abducted.
'They want us to sleep Zanu, breathe Zanu, live on Zanu food and tell our
children there is nothing on earth apart from Zanu.' Zhou said that course
instruction includes regular denigration of Tsvangirai and Tony Blair -- who
allegedly wants to recolonise Zimbabwe -- and songs praising Mugabe, Fidel
Castro and Muammar Gaddafi, who has been given extensive Zimbabwean farmland
in exchange for oil.
The young teachers, said Zhou, received a certificate of national service on
graduation and a copy of a little book praising Mugabe's achievements.
Newspaper adverts for teachers' jobs now state: 'Preference will be given to
national service graduates.'
The question now
being universally asked after the MDC's unsuccessful 'final
push' last week to topple Zimbabwe's ruthless, paranoid and ageing autocrat
is: How long can this all go on?
Other than to say that Hitler himself finally created the conditions for his
own downfall, and that Mugabe is emulating the FŸhrer, nobody knows. While
Mugabe won last week's battle, he is now so widely discredited beyond his
own narrow circle that he will inevitably lose the war. The fear is that he
will leave a wasteland that will take decades to restore to health.
Zimbabwe has the fastest-shrinking economy in the world due to crazed,
suicidal and dysfunctional policies now being called 'Mugabenomics'.
The latest evidence came 10 days ago when the country ran out of bank notes.
The government reacted by ordering the mass printing of new money that, in
turn, fuelled inflation already running officially at 270% but thought in
reality to be nearer 500%.
The paradox is that as the mass of Zimbabweans grows poorer and hungrier,
Mugabe, his wife Grace, known scathingly as 'The First Shopper', top
politicians, police officers, army and air force officers and the country's
co-opted judges grow rich on the loot of a discredited government that this
weekend was tossed out of the International Monetary Fund for failure to
repay its massive foreign debts. Foreign aid, investment and loans have
dried up and there are acute shortages of food, fuel, foreign currency and
Nevertheless, history may judge last week as a 'tilting point' in the
Zimbabwe saga. The undeniable reality is that the world, observing last
week's bitter events, knows that Mugabe is now able to survive only by brute
force. As the Harare-based weekly Independent commented : 'Mugabe and his
minions are increasingly living in a foreign country, one over which they
have no authority.'
08 June 2003
Sunday Herald (UK)
Foreign Editor David Pratt introduces the week's world news
Rumours of Robert Mugabe's impending political demise are nothing new. There
are even some who suggest that the Zimbabwean leader is looking for a way
out. Somehow though, Mugabe continues to outlive the rumour-mongers, and if
indeed he is looking to step aside or politically compromise, there were
precious few signs of it on the streets of Harare last week.
'Bad economy is bad politics' Malawi's President, Bakili Muluzi, is said to
have told Mugabe last Monday. A bit sweet, some might say, coming from a man
who allegedly sold most of his country's emergency grain reserves to pay off
IMF debts -- most of the cash remains unaccounted for -- and changed his
country's constitution to allow him another potential term in office.
Perhaps in Zimbabwe's case it might be more accurate to say 'bad politics,
Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe is now in dire economic straits,
and as with Newton's third law of motion, so it is with Mugabe's rule. For
every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In a week that saw the
arrest of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Fred Bridgland reports on the
the latest brutal crackdown.
In Aqaba, Jordan, earlier last week it all looked so chummy. George W Bush,
Ariel Sharon, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in the sunshine
formally launching their 'road map' to peace. But by calling off their
ceasefire talks, the Islamic resistance movement Hamas threw up the first of
many roadblocks to the fledgling peace process.
Robert Tait goes from Tulkarm's Palestinian refugee camp to Jerusalem's Zion
Square, to meet those reluctant to compromise in the search for peace.
It's like a tale from Caligula's time, orgies, depravity, murder, and the
public and private faces of a former mayor. The good people of Toulouse
continue to reel from the allegations associated with this quaint corner of
France. Rob Parson's investigates a truly 'colossal scandal.'
A scandal of a different sort has rattled Italian gastronomes, as one of
their beloved food critics is put through the meat grinder by fast-food
giant McDonald's. Hilary Clarke talks to Edoardo Raspelli about his battle.
08 June 2003
Zanu PF, MDC hold secret talks
* says Pretoria as parties deny claims
By Innocent Chofamba-Sithole-Deputy Editor
AS regional and international pressure continues to mount on Zimbabwe
and President Robert Mugabe to ease the deepening political and economic
crisis in the country, both Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) have denied statements from Pretoria claiming that
the two parties were secretly engaged in talks to find a negotiated
Responding to questions raised by opposition legislators in the South
African National Assembly on Thursday, President Thabo Mbeki said Zanu PF
and the MDC were currently engaged in talks, and he expressed optimism that
the process would yield positive results.
“The Zimbabweans are talking to one another, they are negotiating, and
I’m quite certain that out of that process will come an agreement that will
take the country forward.” His spokesman, Bheki Khumalo also told the Sunday
Mirror yesterday that there was, indeed, engagement between the parties in
Zimbabwe over the way forward concerning a solution to the country’s
problems. “Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate on that, I think it’s an obvious
statement of fact (that the two parties are talking to each other),” Khumalo
But MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesman, Will Bango said the
claims by Pretoria were actually news to the MDC leader. “Mr. Tsvangirai is
not aware of any such discussions taking place. No such meetings are taking
place at any level of the party,” he said. MDC secretary-general, Welshman
Ncube could not be reached for comment on his party’s alleged secret
negotiations with the ruling party.
Zanu PF spokesman, Nathan Shamuyarira also brushed the claims aside:
“There is nothing whatsoever. Maybe Mbeki was referring to the separate
dialogue which he had with MDC leaders and Zanu PF when he was here last
month.” Mbeki, Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo and President Bakili
Muluzi of Malawi visited the country early last month to try and initiate
dialogue between the MDC and Zanu PF.
But a highly authoritative source in Pretoria yesterday told this
paper that the process was a sensitive one, hence the tough political
posturing and denials by the two parties.
“I’m not at liberty to reveal any details, but certainly, there is a
clear distinction between what political parties say and what they do,” he
said, preferring anonymity.
The two political adversaries have firmly stuck to their
non-negotiable positions relating to the resumption of the stalled
inter-party talks. The MDC has insisted that the fundamental issue in any
future dialogue with the ruling party remains the question of President
Mugabe’s legitimacy. Explaining the objective of the mass action which the
MDC undertook last week, Ncube told IRIN news agency that “the whole purpose
of this action is to force Zanu PF to come and negotiate the issue of
(Mugabe’s) legitimacy unconditionally, so that (we can resume) dialogue and
a way forward can be found.” Shamuyarira said Zanu PF remained open to
dialogue, accusing the MDC of being the stumbling block to the resumption of
“MDC is the one blocking dialogue in the sense that they want to
settle these matters in the courts. We think that political issues are not
settled in the courts,” he said.
“We had dialogue with Ian Smith, leading to independence, and we also
had dialogue with PF Zapu, resulting in the national Unity Accord of 1987.
So, we want to start dialogue as soon as they (MDC) are ready,” he added.
Addressing a group of G-8 diplomats ahead of his party’s proposed
street protests, Tsvangirai ruled out the possibility of a power-sharing
government with the ruling party.
He said while his party wanted dialogue with Mugabe, the MDC “will not
be part of any negotiation process which simply seeks to incorporate us as
junior partners into the structures of illegitimate power dominated by
Mugabe and his cronies” as such an arrangement “will only serve to expand
that illegitimacy and ultimately sanitise the Mugabe regime”.
But one analyst said the MDC’s apparent insistence on legitimacy was a
negotiating position which they took after losing the 2002 presidential
election and which the British lurched on to in order to keep Mugabe on his
“To have left Mugabe alone would have been to put him in an
unassailable position and thereby mark the death of the MDC,” he said,
preferring to remain unnamed. The analyst said the opposition party would
ultimately give up this hardline stance and enter into dialogue with Zanu
“After all, Mugabe is exercising both de facto and de jure power; he’s
ruling the country,” he said, adding that the regional and international
pressure on Zimbabwe to resolve its multi-layered crisis could not be abated
any longer, hence the need for an immediate resumption of inter-party talks.
But University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political scientist, Eldred Masunungure
ruled out a resumption of talks in the immediate future. “The chances for
that have significantly diminished, and the atmosphere (for dialogue) has
been poisoned,” he said, referring to last week’s mass action by the MDC and
the State’s total response to it.
“The government and Zanu PF are very angry at what happened and the
impasse is likely to continue because we have two non-negotiable positions,
they differ on the very preliminaries for talks,” Masunungure, who chairs
the UZ’s department of political and administrative studies, said. He said
the fundamental blockage to the talks was the absence of political trust,
with the MDC suspecting Zanu PF of being a manipulator. “For the MDC, if
they drop the court challenge, their problem is that they would be left with
nothing in their hands. (They can only do that) unless it’s reciprocal and
they are left with a tangible dividend which they can market to their
constituency,” Masunungure said.
Dubbed the “final push”, the MDC’s mass action was aimed at securing
major concessions from Zanu PF, among which were demands for the “immediate
and unconditional exit” from power of President Mugabe, followed by a fresh
presidential poll within 90 days, as provided for under the country’s
Lancaster House-drafted Constitution.
Analysts said following the MDC’s failure to stage popular street
protests, the opposition party appears less likely to cajole its political
adversary into hastily sending it an unconditional invitation to the
Addressing a rally at Mamina in Mhondoro on Friday, President Mugabe
said Tsvangirai “has to be taught a lesson” for calling on urban people to
embark on mass action and march to State House. Telling his supporters that
the MDC leader was creating his own downfall, Mugabe said: “Those whom the
gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” Analysts said Mugabe’s
statements revealed a bias towards a more mascular response to the
opposition party, as opposed to dialogue.
Tsvangirai was on Friday arrested by the Zimbabwe Republic Police
(ZRP) on fresh charges of treason. Mugabe, who has embarked on a countrywide
tour to meet his supporters, explaining the government’s various
developmental programmes and policies, has also said people should start
debating the issue of his successor.
The MDC’s failure to shake the foundations of real power - the state’s
coercive apparatus - has diffused it as a clear and present political threat
to the government, thus giving the ruling party some breathing space.
Mugabe’s open encouragement of debate on his successor is seen widely
as indicative of an imminent intra-Zanu PF leadership transition which, if
managed successfully, could pre-empt the need for talks with the MDC.
However, analysts say the unrelenting economic slide - marked by steep
inflation and crippling shortages of fuel, basic foodstuffs and bank notes
of the country’s free-falling currency - remains a millstone around the
But Shamuyarira was upbeat that Zanu PF had the capacity to turn
around the economy.
“We have the capacity to turn around the economic situation; Zanu PF
is a party which is tried and tested. We have had many hurdles, we have
faced many vicissitudes which we have survived,” he said.
According to a study prepared by independent economic researchers,
Zimbabwe’s Southern African neighbours have suffered losses of up to R18
billion owing to the country’s political and economic crisis, with South
Africa alone losing up to R15 billion due to the country’s crisis.
Information and Publicity Minister, Jonathan Moyo yesterday dismissed
the study as “fiction”.
On the succession issue as a way of pre-empting talks with the MDC,
Masunungure said it was a possibility that a leadership transition within
Zanu PF could be a way of resolving the current political and economic
“If Zanu PF re-invigorates itself and changes its leadership, it could
be a way of renewing its relevance for the foreseeable future,” he said,
“But that is assuming that Mugabe himself is the ugly face of Zanu PF.”