Saturday 10 March 2007
By Batsirayi Muranje
HARARE - Suspected ruling ZANU PF supporters on Friday morning threw
four petrol bombs into the home of former Chitungwiza executive mayor
Misheck Shoko destroying property worth about Z$5 million.
Shoko, who was in the house with his family, escaped unhurt when
during the early morning attack at around 2am. He has since reported the
matter to the police.
"I just heard objects being thrown into the house and before I knew
it, the wardrobe and other property were on fire.
"When we managed to put out the fire with the help of neighbours about
an hour later, property worth about Z$5 million had been destroyed," said
Shoko, a senior member of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) party.
"I suspect the assailants could be ZANU PF agents because they have
always attacked my home since I was elected mayor in 2000," said Shoko.
Police could not be reached for comment on the matter yesterday.
Shoko was the first Chitungwiza executive mayor but was dismissed from
his post by President Robert Mugabe's government in 2003 for alleged
The attack on Shoko's home come amid rising political tensions in the
southern African country following violent clashes between the police and
MDC supporters in the working class suburb of Highfield last month.
The police have since banned rallies and protests around the country
with the opposition saying the ban amounted to a virtual declaration of a
state of emergency.
Nelson Chamisa, the spokesperson of the Tsvangirai-led MDC, said the
bombing of Shoko's house was part of the government's tactics of harassment
and intimidation to crush dissent.
"The MDC believes that the attack is part of a well-orchestrated
campaign by the regime and its agents to harass and intimidate our members.
"We believe that the jittery and cornered regime has now resorted to
its usual terror tactics in a vain attempt to stop the rolling train of
change," said Chamisa.
Political tensions have been rising in Zimbabwe following moves by
ZANU PF to extend Mugabe's term which was due to end next year by two years.
The MDC, civic groups have vowed to resist the plans. - ZimOnline
Saturday 10 March 2007
By Hendricks Chizhanje
HARARE - Zimbabwean milling companies have suspended flour deliveries to
bakers in protest over government's delay in approving a request for a hike
in the price of flour, ZimOnline has learnt.
The move will likely trigger massive shortages of bread across the country.
Last month, the millers wrote to Industry and International Trade Minister
Obert Mpofu seeking permission to hike the price of flour from Z$610 000 a
tonne to between Z$1.3 and Z$1.4 million.
The millers said the current price of $610 000 was not viable and could lead
to their bankruptcy if they continued to charge prices below their
Mpofu is still to respond to the millers' request.
Disgruntled millers who spoke to ZimOnline yesterday said they had found it
prudent to halt flour supplies to bakers until the government approved their
request to hike prices.
"We can't continue operating at a loss," said one miller who refused to be
named because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
Millers Association of Zimbabwe (MAZ) spokesperson, Mike Manga, denied that
millers had suspended operations but confirmed that operations were "a bit
Zimbabwean industries are in severe distress as a result of an eight-year
economic crisis that has manifested itself in rampant inflation of nearly 1
600 percent, massive unemployment and poverty. - ZimOnline
Fri Mar 9, 2007 6:50PM GMT
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's inflation hit a new record on Friday and
analysts say it is a pointer that President Robert Mugabe's government is
fast losing the battle to turn around a crumbling economy threatening its
The southern African nation is in the throes of a deepening economic crisis
dramatised by the spiralling cost of living and a government crackdown on
Critics say Mugabe's controversial and politically-motivated policies have
driven one of Africa's most promising economies into the ground. Zimbabwe
now suffers acute shortages of foreign currency, food and fuel, and has
unemployment above 80 percent.
The Central Statistical Office (CSO) on Friday said Zimbabwe's annual
inflation rate -- which was already the highest in the world -- surged to
1,729.9 percent in February from 1,593.6 percent the previous month.
On a monthly basis however, inflation slowed to 37.8 percent from January's
The inflation rate is a key indicator of the economic crisis, which many say
has been worsened by Mugabe's seizures of white-owned commercial farms to
resettle blacks, resulting in a massive fall in production in the vital
The government has branded inflation its chief enemy.
"Inflation is proving to be the number one enemy for the government but in a
more deeper political sense," said Eldred Masunungure, chairman of the
University of Zimbabwe's political science department.
"Zimbabweans are now searching for the cause of their misery and I believe
sooner they will be on a collision cause with the government and I am sure
the authorities know that. The clouds are gathering on the horizon,"
The year started with wildcat strikes by doctors, nurses, teachers and
university lecturers pushing for higher pay. The government last month
increased their salaries, in what analysts said was out of fear that the job
boycotts could widen and turn into street protests.
The analysts said price pressures still lurked as the Zimbabwe dollar
continued to depreciate on a thriving black market while rising wage demands
by workers and worries over another failed summer crop would see prices
The CSO said the inflation rate had been mainly pushed by increases in food
prices and the cost of electricity and fuel.
"The inflation outlook is dire and given the price pressures we will see the
inflation rate continuing to rise. This calls for an urgent implementation
of a social contract to freeze wages and prices," David Mupamhadze, chief
economist at ZABG Bank said.
The government has projected inflation will ease to between 350-400 percent
by the end of this year but analysts predict it will climb higher.
The International Monetary Fund sees the figure hitting 4,000 percent.
By Nasreen Seria and Brian Latham
March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe's inflation rate, the world's highest, may
have jumped above 2,000 percent in February for the first time as prices of
bread and gasoline soared.
Annual inflation probably accelerated from 1,594 percent in January,
according to economists John Robertson in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare,
and Yvonne Mhango at Standard Bank Group Ltd. In Johannesburg. The Central
Statistical Office may publish the report today or on March 12.
President Robert Mugabe's seizure of land from white farmers in 2000
triggered an economic crisis that led to a collapse in agriculture and
hyperinflation. The price of bread surged more than threefold in the past
week because of a wheat shortage and a dearth of foreign currency. Gasoline
prices more than doubled in the past month, pushing up transport costs and
extending power cuts that caused blackouts for as long as four hours a day.
``We don't know when it will end, just the cost of feeding myself and my
wife has doubled this month already,'' said Richard Chimunya, 37, a clerk at
a Harare-based food distribution company. ``I have to cycle to work because
I can't afford the bus fare now, it has gone up four times in the last
Inflation probably surged in February as producers rushed to raise prices
before the government began enforcing price controls, said Mhango at
Standard Bank , Africa's biggest lender. That price freeze has failed, with
gasoline retailers ignoring the controls and raising prices.
The International Monetary Fund said on Sept. 16 that inflation may average
4,279 percent this year. That indicates consumer-price growth may peak at
8,000 percent, said Robertson.
Zimbabwe has faced food, fuel and foreign currency shortages since the
government-backed seizure of white-owned farms slashed agricultural output
and plunged the economy into an eight-year recession.
Rocketing inflation has hit consumers and worsened poverty in a country
where more than half the 13 million people live on less than $1 a day.
Chimunya and his wife together earn 200,000 Zimbabwe dollars a month, almost
all of which is used to pay for food.
``I have no power because I cannot afford the bills for electricity any
longer,'' he said. ``Prices of everything are going up day by day. No one
knows what will happen, but the people are facing hunger because many can't
afford more than one meal a day, some even less.''
The government has tried to enforce price controls. Police arrested the
managing director of National Foods Holdings Ltd. and the chief executive
officer of Blue Ribbon Foods Ltd. on Feb. 7 for raising flour prices.
In September, the government ordered bakers to reduce the price of bread by
39 percent. That has caused shortages as bakers can't pay costs at the lower
``We can't buy any bread at the moment,'' said Robertson, an independent
economist based in Harare. ``No one is prepared to make it at that price.''
The government has printed money to pay debts and subsidize some producers,
further boosting inflation. The Grain Marketing Board buys corn from farmers
at 5,200 Zimbabwe dollars a metric ton, and sells it to millers for 600
Zimbabwe dollars, according to the central bank.
Zimbabwe's central bank pegs the currency at 250 to the dollar. On the black
market, the Zimbabwe dollar has plunged 65 percent to 10,000 against the
U.S. currency since the beginning of the year .
``The printing of money is going to continue,'' Mhango said. ``Things have
gone too far for them to stop now.'' Economic conditions ``are getting
Central bank Governor Gideon Gono said on Feb. 6 he wants to let the
currency trade freely if the government can cut spending and stop printing
money. That will help boost exports, reviving agriculture and manufacturing
production, and bringing inflation down to ``low double digits'' next year,
The economic crisis may lead to political unrest as workers take to the
streets to demand higher wages, Mhango said. Police clashed with protesters
on the outskirts of Harare on March 4 after the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change was banned from staging rallies.
``Incomes aren't rising as fast as inflation and that is causing discontent
amongst civil servants, such as nurses, doctors and teachers,'' Mhango said.
The economic crisis ``is going to push forward any political protests.''
Senior members within the ruling ZANU-PF party, which led the fight for
independence from Britain in the 1970s, may be pushing Mugabe to retire next
year as a first step in halting the economic decline, the Brussels-based
International Crisis Group said in a report on March 6.
Former army general Solomon ``Rex'' Mujuru, the husband of Vice President
Joyce Mujuru, is leading a campaign within the party to oppose Mugabe's bid
to extend his term by two years to 2010. Mugabe, 83, said Feb. 21 he had no
plans to step down.
``It's becoming a less stable political arrangement,'' said Robertson.
``That's changed the nature of the game completely.''
To contact the reporters on this story: Nasreen Seria in Johannesburg
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: March 9, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: Police said they had tightened a cordon sealing off
diamond diggings in eastern Zimbabwe to "restore sanity" and stop
profiteers, including politicians and powerful officials, buying the stones
cheaply from peasants and smuggling them out of the country, state radio
Checkpoints sealed off the diggings at Marange, 220 kilometers (140 miles)
southeast of Harare, and all visitors needed official police clearance
documents to enter the area, it said.
The measure was to "restore sanity" to the remote district where seams of
industrial diamonds and gemstones were found close to the surface last year,
provincial police chief Obert Benge told the radio.
Only genuine relatives of villagers living in the area qualify for clearance
documents, he said.
"Senior officials who might intend to bulldoze their way into the fields
will prosecuted," he said.
Last week, a top official in President Robert Mugabe's office, William
Nhara, the principal director in Mugabe's Ministry without Portfolio, was
arrested with a woman, identified as Lebanese national Carole El Martni,
allegedly in possession of a bag of diamonds estimated at about 10,700
carats at the main Harare airport. Nhara was also accused of offering a
US$700 (? 530) bribe to airport security men who found the diamonds in
The two are scheduled to appear in court March 23 on charges carrying a
penalty of a fine or imprisonment.
The Marange diamond find led to a frantic Klondike-like rush to the district
last year. In the past six months police arrested more than 30,000 illegal
prospectors in a countrywide operation against unlicensed gold and diamond
mining and smuggling. Most were fined and released.
Earlier this month, Gideon Gono, governor of the state central bank,
estimated the nation lost up to US$50 million (?37 million) a week in mining
revenues through illegal smuggling of precious metals and stones.
Nhara was the first government leader arrested, but witnesses repeatedly
reported others and foreign nationals, traveling to the area in luxury cars
and off-road vehicles, buying diamonds well below their real value from
impoverished and illiterate villagers. The diamonds were smuggled to
neighboring South Africa for massive profits.
But some paid-off villagers managed to buy new clothes and even cars,
In one deal, a small bag of diamonds earned smugglers about US$200,000
(?150,000) in South Africa, said a Zimbabwean dealer who asked not to be
Trafalgar Square from on
Saturday, 10th March to support the big rally planned by ACTSA
It is very
encouraging that organisations such as ACTSA and British trade unions have
embraced our cause and we should do everything we can to support them. They can
call on a wide range of support and we can really add to the numbers - tell
everyone you know to come and to come on time. We understand from ACTSA that
the British and other media will be well-represented so it will be a really good
opportunity to show the strength of Zimbabweans in the
The Vigil will be manned during the rally and we look forward to seeing you all when the rally is over.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
By Tichaona Sibanda
9 March 2007
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) has organized a major rally in Trafalgar
Square on Saturday to celebrate the role of women in the global struggle for
Saturday's rally in central London will focus mainly on the struggle for
freedom in Zimbabwe and the role of women in that struggle. Hundreds of
Zimbabweans living in the UK are expected to attend the rally that will be
addressed by Lovemore Matombo the President of the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions, and his vice-president Lucia Matibenga.
Other speakers include Labour MP Kate Hoey and former Zimbabwe Test
cricketer Henry Olonga as well as Baroness Amos, leader of the House of
Lords. Simon Chase, one of the campaign organizers, said the three hour
event will start at 1pm.
'We have a special interest in the problems faced by Zimbabwean women
because we heard through the ZCTU that they were having problems preserving
their dignity because of the serious shortage of sanitary pads,' said Chase.
He added that his organisation keeps the region in the public and political
spotlight through lobbying, publication of reports and media briefings. The
rally on Saturday is one such campaign that will keep the problems faced by
women in Zimbabwe in the spotlight.
This will be the second time in a week that Zimbabweans in the United
Kingdom will come together in a massive show of solidarity with the
suffering masses back home. Last week Saturday, hundreds of Zimbabweans
protested against the Zanu PF government's latest restrictions barring
political meetings and rallies around the country.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Violet Gonda
9 March 2007
A showdown is looming in Harare between the police and member organisations
of the Save
Zimbabwe Campaign. Pro-democracy groups are planning a peaceful rally in the
of Highfields this Sunday. Security has been tightened and some of the
organisers of the rally
have been receiving threats.
Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said: "There is heavy police presence and
roadblocks have been set up along all roads leading to Highfields."
Muchemwa said even Highfields commuter omnibus operators have been
threatened with arrest if they operate on Sunday.
Pastor Berejena an active member of the Christian Alliance said although he
had not yet heard of the transport ban he could confirm the heavy presence
of police in the area. He said the dictatorship may try to stop people from
gathering but encouraged the public to go to the venue to voice their
The police are reported to have banned Sunday's rally because they are too
busy and short staffed, but observers say they don't seem to be too busy to
set up mass roadblocks. In spite of this the Save Zimbabwe Campaign is
adamant the rally will go ahead at the Zimbabwe Grounds.
The Campaign, which was set up by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, includes
member organisations such as the National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwe
National Students Unions, the two MDC factions and Crisis in Zimbabwe
Muchemwa said the groups have been communicating with their structures to
attend the gathering.
He said the NCA flyers read: "The NCA is inviting all its members to come in
their thousands to attend the Save Zimbabwe Campaign rally on Sunday 11
March 2007 at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfields, Harare at 10am. NCA
Chairperson Dr. Lovemore Madhuku is among the key speakers to address the
rally. Kindly come and contribute to the push for a democratic and people
driven constitution. Come and make a profound statement against tyranny and
dictatorship. We will vote in 2008 under a new constitution."
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Violet Gonda
9 March 2007
All 37 activists from the National Constitutional Assembly who were arrested
in Harare on Thursday were released on Friday afternoon, after paying
admission of guilt fines of Z$2 500 each.
Meanwhile the 20 members of another pressure group, the Women of Zimbabwe
Arise, who were arrested in Masvingo on Tuesday were finally released on
bail of Z$30 000 each, also on Friday afternoon. WOZA spokesperson Annie
Sibanda said: "They had been in custody for three days over the 48 hours
allowed by POSA because police were using the usual delaying tactics,
blaming their equipment which they said were not working so they couldn't
take statements or fingerprints."
She said three of the activists were assaulted in police custody.
Allegations of police brutality are no longer unusual in Zimbabwe as the
police are increasingly using thuggish behaviour against peaceful
protestors. It's reported they used patrol dogs on NCA demonstrators as they
tried to march in the Harare on Thursday.
The pressure groups have been trying to hold peaceful demonstrations despite
a ban on public gatherings in all cities. The NCA is calling for a new
constitution while WOZA is demanding a better social and economic life.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
The Raw Story
By Clare Byrne,
Musina, South Africa- They say when Zimbabwe sneezes, the
whole region gets a cold. While observers this week were talking up
the imminence of regime change in Harare, the country continued to
haemorrhage economic migrants to neighbouring countries.
The respected International Crisis Group think thank speculated
earlier this week that divisions with Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF over
the 83-year-old leader's bid to extend his term for a further two
years represented "a realistic chance" for change.
"After years of political deadlock and continued economic and
humanitarian decline, a realistic chance has at last begun to appear
in the past few months to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis," the report
For the thousands of Zimbabweans who flee their country's economic
meltdown each week, change cannot come quickly enough.
On a hot Sunday morning near the Beit Bridge crossing with South
Africa a young man wriggles under the second of three razor-wire
The approach of our car sends him crawling backwards on his elbows
into Zimbabwe. From there the 27-year-old, who did not wish to be
named and is from the eastern city of Masvingo, tells Deutsche
Presse-Agentur dpa this is his second time in five days to attempt
the crossing. He was arrested and deported the first time.
He has no food nor money and is hoping to get a lift in a truck to
Johannesburg, where his brother lives. "There are no jobs back home,"
he said, using an expletive to describe the state of industry in
When an army jeep pulls up transporting some just-nabbed illegals
- two youths and two women, one cradling a small baby - he melts back
into the bush.
The riches-to-rags transformation of the one-time bread basket of
Africa has spawned a mass exodus of desperate migrants.
With inflation in Zimbabwe running at a record 1600 per cent, 4
out of 5 without a job and basic necessities such as bread and fuel
in short supply, even women with small children are risking life and
limb to quit the country.
Although Zambia is also witnessing an influx most head for South
Africa, the regional powerhouse and home to an estimated 3 million
Zimbabweans, or one-quarter of Zimbabwe's population.
Some cross the border legally on a visit visa and then overstay
their permit to look for work. Those unable to obtain a passport
because of a shortage of government money to process a backlog of
300,000 applications try their hand at border jumping.
The journey into South Africa is extremely hazardous.
"They are running away from wild animals, they are running away
from the amagumaguma (thieves), they are running away from soldiers
and farmers," a Zimbabwean woman who shelters illegals in the border
town of Musina told dpa.
People in the area tell of seeing migrants crossing the Limpopo
River on the border being eaten by crocodiles. Dierk Lempertz, who
runs a game reserve outside Musina, found a Zimbabwean woman naked,
"nearly dead" on his land. She had been robbed and raped, allegedly
"We gave her food and water and when she was strong again, we said
she has to leave the farm," says Dierk.
Brothers Stephen, 23 and Joseph, 26, from a village in central
Zimbabwe showed dpa ugly welts on their arms and legs where they were
beaten by thieves.
"They took off all the clothes, the money. If you have nice shoes,
nice watches they take these," they say.
Despite the hazards of the journey and the costs incurred - at
least a month's salary for a lift to the border and to pay a human
smuggler to be guided across - most illegals say life in better in
As farm labourers in Musina Stephen and Joseph earn 400 rands a
month, a fraction of what locals earn but around four times the
salary of an office worker in Zimbabwe and "enough to buy a cow" back
With a little money in South Africa they are also sure of being
able to buy food. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's disastrous
land reform programme, which saw white-owned farms left fallow after
being handed to cronies in the government and military, combined with
caps on food prices and drought have sparked widespread food
Illegals at risk of deportation stock up on basics such as cooking
oil before returning home.
As the meltdown of Zimbabwe beings to be felt throughout southern
Africa, the "quiet diplomacy" of South African President Thabo Mbeki
vis-a-vis his liberation-era ally Mugabe is being increasingly called
"We should not pretend that all is well in Zimbabwe," Zambian
Foreign Affairs Minister Mundia Sikatana said this week, urging the
Southern Africa Development Community to mediate between Mugabe and
the European Union to end Zimbabwe's isolation.
Zambia's outburst coincided with a report by the International
Crisis Group suggested that powerful factions within Mugabe's party
opposed his bid to remain in power until 2010 instead of 2008. These
factions might force the authoritarian leader to retire, the report
"Mugabe has killed our country," a tracker on a game reserve in
Musina said repeatedly. "If Mugabe retires, things will come better,"
© 2006 - dpa German Press Agency
March 09, 2007 Edition 1
President Thabo Mbeki seems to have renewed efforts to help resolve the
He met with President Robert Mugabe for face-to-face talks in Accra, Ghana,
The meeting, on the sidelines of Ghana's 50th independence anniversary
celebrations, was held as the Democratic Alliance castigated Mbeki for "his
curious silence on Zimbabwe while that country continues to burn".
It was not clear who had initiated the hour-long meeting. But Mbeki is
understood to have been eager to re-engage Mugabe over human rights issues,
which have worsened in Zimbabwe over the past few weeks.
Dozens of opposition leaders have been arrested and opposition political
gatherings have been banned.
Mbeki's spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said he did not know what the
presidents discussed at the meeting.
He also said he did not know who had initiated it.
A Zimbabwean government official said his understanding was that Mbeki had
been eager to meet Mugabe over "what he perceives as problems in Zimbabwe",
but he too could not say outright whether it was Mbeki who had initiated the
Mbeki has faced criticism for having "abandoned" Zimbabwe while he focuses
on resolving conflicts in more far-flung areas.
In a statement on Wednesday, the DA urged Mbeki to end his "curious silence"
on Zimbabwe and to deal with Mugabe firmly.
The DA's call was preceded by an uncharacteristic statement by Zambia's
Foreign Affairs Minister, Mundia Sikatana, urging Southern African countries
to stop pretending that all was well in Zimbabwe.
Sikatana said Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders must
acknowledge the crisis in Zimbabwe and press Mugabe to accept dialogue to
resolve the country's crisis.
Zimbabwe is in its eighth straight year of an economic recession that has
manifested in rampant inflation of nearly 1 600%, widespread unemployment
and grinding poverty.
SADC leaders have hitherto refused to openly criticise the Zimbabwean leader
and previous meetings between Mugabe and Mbeki have not borne any obvious
Mail and Guardian
Fanuel Jongwe | Harare, Zimbabwe
09 March 2007 10:29
She may have forged a successful career in international
business but Zimbabwean Pamela Chigwida had no qualms about taking on a new
challenge -- learning Chinese at the newly opened Confucius Institute in
"There are lots of business opportunities in China but you can't
do much if you can't speak their language," said the 29-year-old.
Chigwada is one of around 50 students who have enrolled in the
new Chinese language and culture institute which opened its doors at the
University of Zimbabwe this week in a reflection of Beijing's growing
influence in Africa.
Apart from learning Mandarin, students will also get a chance to
learn about Chinese history, art and even acupuncture, according to Wu
Jiahua, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Harare.
Students are being offered the chance to not only study in the
daytime, but businessmen and women who cannot afford to take time off can
attend classes in the evening.
The government in Beijing, which played host late last year to
an unprecedented gathering of African leaders, has stumped up $100 000 to
fund the institute at a time when Zimbabwe is experiencing economic
meltdown, largely as a result of a 1 600% annual rate of inflation.
The institute is "a very important way of developing our
cultural ties with Zimbabwe and Africa," said Wu.
"We have excellent bilateral relations with Zimbabwe and have
lots of ideas for the course, to make those relations grow.
"We will facilitate cultural exchanges as well as visits by
lawyers from China to familiarise the students who want to go to China on
business with our laws."
On a recent swing through Africa, Chinese President Hu Jintao
insisted that Beijing did not just want to milk the continent for its
bountiful natural resources but develop a two-way relationship which could
benefit both sides.
The funding of the institute is being held up as a proof that
such talk is being translated into action.
After her first Mandarin lesson, Chigwada said she had been
inspired to sign up to lessons after encountering obstacles on several trips
to China where she purchased both clothing and electronic equipment to sell
"I have been to China several times on business, and
communication was a real impediment ... I had to use sign language to
negotiate prices," she said.
"It [the lesson] was fun, exciting and hopefully it will help me
when I go back to China on business."
Isolated by Western governments over the political and economic
crisis in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has looked to foster new
relations with Asian countries such as China as part of the "Look East"
China has supplied planes and military equipment either for free
or at knockdown prices. However not everyone is so happy at the growing
Chinese presence, with the flood of cheap Chinese goods in retail outlets
said to have forced thousands of workers out of jobs.
Although it was not accorded the honour of a visit from Hu, the
Zimbabwe government is convinced that it can foster a special relationship
"We have excellent political, diplomatic and economic
co-operation with China," Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge said at the
signing of the agreement last year to start the Chinese school.
"To strengthen this warm friendship, we need to deepen our
cultural co-operation through language and other educational studies."
Wu also painted a picture of a blossoming relationship, saying
that plans were already under way to double the number of classes from the
current two when more teachers are deployed from China.
But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the opening of the
institute at a time when a cash crunch has prompted the authorities at the
University of Zimbabwe to shut down dilapidated halls of residence at the
A local students union has derided the new institute as a waste
of money and a ploy to gloss over the problems bedeviling the university,
including a shortage of textbooks.
"Who needs to learn Chinese when things are as tight as they are
at the moment?," queried local student activist Benjamin Nyandoro.
"Chinese is hardly spoken in this part of the world. We are more
concerned about trying to raise money for courses that will really benefit
us all in the long term."
Beloved Chiweshe, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National
Students Union (Zinasu), said there was no guarantee Beijing would continue
funding the new centre after the initial start-up.
"Our query is will the Chinese sustain their funding for the
institute because the university is already struggling to maintaining
existing structures." - AFP
March 09 2007 at 04:39PM
Harare - A top associate of President Robert Mugabe has been denied
bail over allegations of trying to smuggle diamonds out of Zimbabwe and then
trying to bribe the police to cover up the crime.
William Nhara, an outspoken supporter of Mugabe who worked as a
principal director in a ministry of state, was nabbed by the police at the
Harare International Airport with two accomplices last week for trying to
smuggle 10 773 carats of diamonds valued at hundreds of thousands of US
dollars to the Middle East.
Nhara added drama to the case after he wrote a letter to Mugabe from
prison apologising for what he had done.
Harare provincial magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe denied Nhara bail
saying he was a flight risk. He also denied bail to Nhara's accomplices,
Tonderai Guhu, 23, and Carole Goerges El Martini, a Lebanese woman. -
Independent Foreign Service
This article was originally published on page 4 of Daily News on March
The Herald (Harare)
March 9, 2007
Posted to the web March 9, 2007
VANDALISM of the National Railways of Zimbabwe's telecommunications network
has contributed to some of the railway accidents that have occurred recently
in the country, the House of Assembly heard on Wednesday.
Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Cde Hubert Nyanhongo told
the House that the parastatal was not in a position to urgently rehabilitate
the vandalised signals system because of foreign currency constraints.
He was responding to a question by St Mary's MP Mr Job Sikhala (MDC) during
a question and answer session.
Mr Sikhala wanted to know what the Government was doing to curb rail
accidents in view of the latest accident on Tuesday when a commuter omnibus
travelling from Dzivaresekwa rammed into a locomotive at a level crossing
along Kirkman Road near Sanganayi Inn, killing 36 people.
Mr Nyanhongo, however, said the latest accident appeared to have not been
caused by malfunctioning telecommunications signals as the driver of the
commuter omnibus did not stop at the level crossing.
By Dennis Rekayi
MUTARE - The suspension and subsequent expulsion of firebrand politician
Edgar Tekere from the ruling Zanu PF party was unconstitutional and should
be disregarded, senior Zanu PF officials in Manicaland have said.
The top provincial Zanu PF members told zimbabwejournalists.com the party's
provincial coordinating committee, which expelled Tekere at the weekend, did
not have the authority and mandate to preside over the matter.
Instead, Tekere's disciplinary case should have been handled by the party's
district organ since the former Zanu PF secretary general was only an
ordinary card-carrying member. Tekere did not belong to the party's higher
echelons following his readmission into Zanu PF last year.
The Manicaland province is apparently torn into two distinct camps over the
issue with one supporting Tekere and the other Mugabe. But the majority who
support Tekere are speaking behind closed doors fearing reprisals from
President Robert Mugabe, who responded with venom after Tekere's book, "The
Struggle of a Lifetime" which talks about their time during the war and
related issues, was published.
"How can the provincial coordinating committee handle a disciplinary case of
an ordinary card-carrying member?" questioned one Zanu PF chef in
"Tekere's case should have been referred to the district where he belongs
and not to any other organ of the party," said the member who asked not to
The outspoken Tekere has once again added paraffin to the fire, piling the
pressure on Mugabe, claiming there apparently was a pact between him and
Mugabe that Mujuru should be elevated because of her achievements during the
war until she became the leader of Zimbabwe.
He said this while speaking at the Quill Club at the Ambassador Hotel last
night. He said it was untrue that he was being used to demonise Mugabe and
portray Mujuru, whom he addresses by her nom de guire, Teurai Ropa,
positively. He said it has always been known that Mujuru would one day
become the President of Zimbabwe.
"We used to talk with most appreciation of Teurai Ropa. Mugabe and I agreed
at independence that Teurai must be consistently elevated because of her
achievements in the liberation war. She was outstanding and everyone knows
that," the firebrand politician told journalists at the Quill Club.
"I wrote good things about Teurai Ropa in my book and now I am an enemy. I
wrote the truth. Mugabe must leave Teurai alone. His time is up and he must
go now with his cruelty. He now says Teurai wants to oust him from the
presidency. Ngaatisiyire Teurai wedu (He must leave Teurai alone)."
Such comments led to his second expulsion from the party he helped found.
In Manicaland many of his supporters in the ruling party are saying Tekere
should have appeared before a disciplinary hearing presided by district
leaders who would have made a decision, which in turn would have been sent
to the provincial executive for endorsement.
Most of the officials here think Mugabe is using divide and rule tactics he
has used so well to his advantage over the years he has been in office.
"They continue to do down the leadership from Manicaland. It is wrong," said
one senior Zanu PF leader in the province. "If Tekere is not telling the
truth then why doesn't the President tell us his side of the story. We still
have a lot of stories that need to be told about the liberation struggle so
the time to act is not, take advantage of the debate started by Tekere and
tell us. The two know each other well but what we should say no to
collectively is the continued victimisation of our leaders here for speaking
It also emerged this week that the decision against Tekere had angered was
veterans in the province who contend that President Mugabe was settling
personal scores against his former ally during the war of liberation. A
rebellion over the issue was quickly quashed by Mugabe's men at a war
veterans' meeting in Mutare over the weekend.
"Tekere and Mugabe were in detention together for a very long time, they
know each other very well," one war veteran reportedly told the weekend
meeting, which ultimately and reluctantly ruled in favour of the expulsion.
"They did a lot of things together which none of us here knows so it is
important for them to settle their differences without involving us."
The war veteran was quickly overruled. Sources said Zanu PF politicians from
the province were under pressure to act against Tekere, especially after it
was made clear Mugabe had been angered by utterances he made in his book and
in the media.
Tinaye Chugudu, the Zanu PF chairman here told journalists the Manicaland
province had "unreservedly condemned" Tekere's book, A Lifetime of Struggle,
which was launched in January.
Chigudu said the autobiography "clearly and explicitly denigrates and
vilifies" Mugabe. He said the party would not consider an appeal by Tekere.
Political maverick Tekere, who is 69 years old, is a former Zanu-PF
secretary-general and a founding member of the party. He was booted out of
the party a decade ago after attacking Mugabe's one-party policy and
corruption within the higher echelons of the party.
He rebuked his colleagues for acquiring massive riches in a short space of
time regardless of the fact that most of them did not even "own a spoon at
independence". He formed the short-lived Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) to
oppose "corruption in President Mugabe's government".
He was readmitted into the party last year on condition he took no party
office for five years. It still remains unclear why Tekere, who has said he
does not want to be buried at the national shrine when he dies, went back to
the Zanu PF fold.
Mugabe has attacked his deputy, Joice Mujuru, saying she was using Tekere to
demonise him so she could ascend to the country's presidency. The issue
remains a thorny issue within Zanu PF, according to insiders.
Institute for War and Peace Reporting
Groundswell of opposition to the Mugabe regime triggers new police
By Sydney Chirimuuta in Harare (AR No. 99, 8-Mar-07)
The Zimbabwe government, sensing a rising groundswell of defiance to its
rule, has launched an unprecedented assault on fundamental freedoms of all
Zimbabweans, hoping to stave off its demise.
The onslaught against dissenting political voices has intensified since the
governing ZANU PF realised there is near open rebellion against 83-year-old
President Robert Mugabe's contentious plan to cling to power for another
Zimbabweans want the next presidential election to go ahead next year as
scheduled by law. But anyone openly expressing a desire to get rid of a
leader whom they hold accountable for destroying the economy, creating 1,600
per cent inflation and an unemployment rate of more than 80 per cent, is now
being targeted by the authorities.
Residents of townships - where anger and opposition to the government is
intense - live in fear of midnight raids by soldiers and police officers
whose actions are reminiscent of the last days of Ian Smith's white minority
At Ardbennie, Kuwadzana, Highfields, Glennorah, Glenview and many other
low-income ghettos surrounding Harare, residents have been beaten up in bars
and beer halls - their only crime discussing Zimbabwe's deepening political
crisis over a drink.
Not even members of parliament are being spared. In a Glenview raid in early
March, police arrested and jailed opposition MP Paul Madzore and harassed
his wife and housemaid.
Three members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC - deputy
secretary for international relations Grace Kwinjeh, Kambuzuma MP Willas
Madzimure and deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma - were arrested in
connection with legal public demonstrations held in Harare, also in early
March. They were accused of inciting violence, they have been charged.
Assaults on MDC legislators are clearly part of an unfolding strategy by
police, using the draconian Public Order and Security Act, a reincarnation
of the colonial Law and Order (Maintenance) Act that Smith used so
effectively against the majority black population. Despite allegations of
crimes by ruling ZANU PF party MPs, there is no evidence of police action or
even investigations against them.
Critics say it is Mugabe himself who should be the first to stand trial for
repeatedly inciting violence against political rivals, including the MDC
which he made threats against at his 83rd birthday party in February.
Asked for his reaction to the army's torture of prominent journalists Mark
Chavanduka and Ray Choto, who needed subsequent treatment in a London
clinic, Mugabe said: "I will not condemn my army for having done that. They
can do worse things than that."
When he launched the confiscation of white commercial farmland in 2000 which
plunged the country into a spiral of economic decline, he warned farmers who
resisted, "We have degrees in violence... I will be a black Hitler,
Last November, the MDC threatened to launch mass protests, and Mugabe
responded, "Be warned. We have trained armed men who can pull the trigger."
With many Zimbabweans cowed by the iron fist, the government has recently
begun concentrating again on the remaining bulwarks of democracy and
freedom - the judiciary and the media. Journalists have been harassed and
assaulted to prevent them doing their work, and independent newspapers have
been burnt by organised mobs, under the gaze of law enforcement officers.
The disruption by police of a peaceful rally held by opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai in Bulawayo in early March is another sign that the
government is no longer even pretending to rule democratically.
Subsequently, all rallies throughout the country were banned - a move
condemned by the MDC and civic groups who say it amounts to a declaration of
a state of emergency by Mugabe.
This led the Brussels-based International Crisis Group to observe in a
statement: "The desire to remove Mugabe within the year provides a rare
rallying point that cuts across partisan affiliations and ethnic and
Sydney Chirimuuta is the pseudonym of a journalist in Zimbabwe.
HARARE - The beleaguered Zimbabwe Cricket board fears it faces a player
mutiny after the World Cup, this paper has learnt.
Last week, in a desperate attempt to contain the players' intentions, ZC
ordered the 15 players to sign two-year contracts or lose places in the
senior national team.
"ZC convened a meeting (last) Wednesday and told us to sign two-year
contracts because they are afraid that several players will leave the
country after the World Cup," said a senior Zimbabwe cricketer.
The board has also been accused of favouritism in its selection of
journalists to cover the tournament.
An ZC insider revealed, "It is difficult to work with these (ZC) people as
the selection criteria for the Zimbabwean delegation is scandalous".
He told this paper that the ICC takes care of five people from each
participating nation. Of these five, only three have been made known to the
association while the other two have remained a closely guarded secret.
Friday March 9, 2007
Extract from The Guardian
Inspiring news from South Africa where Rowan Williams, our beleaguered
Archbishop of Canterbury has had a meeting with the Bishop of Harare. You
might think that on the scale of things Nolbert Kunonga, a crony of the
Mugabe regime - who has been accused by his black parishioners of inciting
murder against his opponents, embezzlement, seizing a white farm for his own
use and demanding that Zimbabwe's starving churchgoers should all contribute
to a wedding anniversary present for him and his wife - might be considered
a little beyond the pale even for the famously inclusive Anglican communion,
on a par, say, with Gene Robinson, the American gay bishop, about whom
African archbishops are constantly critical. But no: Dr Williams merely
asked Kunonga "to encourage the development of an independent voice" in
Zimbabwe. So that's all right then.
9 March 2007
PRESIDENT TSVANGIRAI’S ADDRESS TO THE ANNUAL FOREIGN CORREPONDENTS DINNER, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I understand you had invited the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to be with you at this important occasion today. So, Mr. Chairman, while some may have been expecting an S Class Mercedes Benz, tonight you are going to get something else!
I present myself to all of you as a representative of a battered nation: a nation bleeding from a dysfunctional political system, with a people reeling under the weight of a criminal state; a nation under a dictatorship that has defied local and international advice on universal principles of governance, respect for individual and property rights. I lay myself before you as a leader of a people under siege from a dictatorship that has adopted a lone warrior mentality in the conduct of international relations to defend its waning political power base.
I am here this evening with a firm conviction that open debate and discussion about Zimbabwe’s national affairs is healthy for democracy and for our own humanity as Zimbabweans. I am guided by a humble belief in a united country and administered by a legitimate and caring unitary state; a nation in which our differences and our diversity are respected and celebrated as a source of national identity and national strength.
I further submit myself to all of you as a leader of the MDC, a symbol of a post-liberation alternative—seeking a new epoch whose signposts for national advancement are being spearheaded by broad social movements whose primary motivation resides in the pursuit of the ideals of the liberation struggle. The MDC assumed the guardianship of the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people; it is an idea whose time has come.
As an inspirational platform and a viable political alternative, all of us see the MDC as a vehicle already in motion and whose driver and passengers are destined towards a new Zimbabwe. Recent events and developments point to an inevitable collapse of the criminal regime. Widespread pressure for change has seen the virtual imposition of a state of emergency across the country. Meetings and all forms of political gatherings have been banned – and usually that signals the last kick of dying administration before it finally folds up.
We are in a hard transition, both political and generational. Our founding parents of the nation, our liberation icons, have lost focus and are failing to establish a legacy our people shall respect and cherish. They can’t even give way to their own people in Zanu PF, nor can they allow a free ad fair vote to enable Zimbabweans to look for alternatives.
Zimbabweans are a peace-loving people. That they have avoided an armed conflict, as is normal throughout Africa, to resolve the crisis shows their maturity and firm belief in an orderly transition.
In the MDC, our proposals for a lasting resolution of the national crisis are fast becoming the only acceptable avenue for a soft-landing. We have to save Zimbabwe through stakeholder dialogue, a confidence-building transitional window, a people-driven Constitution and free and fair elections – a process now accepted by other Zimbabwe watchers like the International Crisis Group as the only way out of the current stalemate.
Any nation in crisis cannot afford to ignore ideas and advice from reputable stakeholders like the ICG. You cannot build bridges with the international community unless you work with voices of reason. There is an international ethic that requires nations to listen to each other and pursue policies developed through the broader participation of their diverse communities.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the odds against us in this struggle may be daunting. But I am fully convinced that we shall triumph and realise our goal of national integration and save Zimbabwe from a rapacious clique that has pushed us to where we are today. It is common cause that the regime in Harare has failed, during the past 27 years, to establish a single nation in Zimbabwe. The high levels of marginalisation, discrimination and retribution are clear to all, including open reverse racism.
The biggest challenge facing a new Zimbabwe shall be the development of a diverse nation in which a person’s ancestry shall never be seen in political terms as a source of friction and discrimination. Across the racial and ethnic divide, access to our birthright and to our national resources has been severely restricted by the criminal regime in Harare, using an outdated and opportunistic form of nationalism grounded in the militarisation of civilian governance institutions and corruption.
The new Zimbabwe before my eyes, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, is a country an MDC government shall expose to a rigorous programme of national healing and national integration before it can take off in earnest. The wounds are too deep. Our people need to speak out and express themselves out of the present racial and ethnic fragments to a distinct nation. In my vision, no single social or political grouping must be permitted to dominate any other. We have committed ourselves to a complicated, post-colonial struggle for freedom, justice and democracy in a continent still trying to come to terms with a realization that black-on-black oppression exists. In a new Zimbabwe, everyone must be free to be different.
We have to eliminate the current misery and mistrust, and the sense of betrayal; and to enable the women, men and children of Zimbabwe to experience a changed political dispensation. We need to develop a culture of openness and accountability in public affairs. Our economic programmes shall be anchored on an unfettered and non-negotiable respect for the rule of law, respect for private initiative and property rights, equity and equal access to national opportunities. We fully recognise the depth of our current democratic crisis and the harm that has been caused to our society.
We pledge to undo the social fragmentation and economic disarray that has cast such a long and dark shadow over the basic dignity of our people, threatening the prosperity and welfare of our children. Our economic programme shall emphasise stabilisation and food security as national emergencies. As a priority, we shall set free land ownership from the current emotional trap and allow this finite resource to perform as an economic asset through a serious revival of commercial agriculture.
Zimbabweans are aware that a piece of land requires a balanced mixture of science, capital and expertise in order to make sense. They know that if a right mixture is put in place, every piece of Zimbabwe can be transformed into a prime source of life and wealth. Access to land and land use patterns shall draw lessons from the chaos we have experienced. As a limited resource, we shall balance our business needs, our environmental concerns and the need for fairness and equity in our land policy.
In line with the new international thinking, we desire a new Zimbabwe that realises its inter-dependence on a global culture and a moral ethic that upholds the sanctity of life, the indispensable place of a human being in a nation and the centrality of the rule of law to an individual’s sustenance.
Zimbabwe shall require a massive injection of international capital, either through direct foreign investment or partnerships and basic therapy normally associated with emerging democracies that show promise and a sane political thinking. As a product of civil society, I respect the place of social movements to any nation’s quest for advancement. We value the voices from labour and business; we value a free Press; we believe in justice and fair play. We listen. We value our basic and non-negotiable freedoms and rights, guided by the ideals of the liberation struggle.
Such a background commits us to the desire to end all forms of oppression and discrimination, in pursuit of a society based on equality, cultural advancement and national prosperity. We subscribe to the principle of sustainable development grounded in prosperity, quality of life and community stability. Our social agenda starts and ends with our social democracy thrust. In the new Zimbabwe, my role shall demand a speedy implementation of my contract with the people. The people demand the establishment of irreversible institutions of governance to safeguard their freedoms. The status quo discourages robust, independent and effective institutions, common in all functional democracies to hedge and protect ordinary people from open political abuse. I am determined to oversee an essential transitional process whose thrust shall see the critical building blocks for a society whose main institutions shall protect everybody – from a peasant to a president.
Never again shall any one person or political party undermine the dignity of Zimbabweans. In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the initial life of a new Zimbabwe shall see the foundations of our nation’s rehabilitation and stabilization programmes. We must end our pariah status; inspire investor confidence; and implore on our neighbours in the SADC region to assist us to rejoin the family of nations.
Our behaviour shall be critical to the process. We have to abandon the present lone warrior mentality that has weakened us substantially. We know that Zimbabwe needs the world. We shall engage all nations that share universal norms and standards on the dignity of the human being and quality life. As we navigate through a delicate transition to a new Zimbabwe, much depends on the support we draw from our neighbours in the SADC region. The people stand ready to avoid a violent end to the regime in Harare.
The coalition of forces that sustained the regime in Harare over the past 27 years, once cemented by force and material inducements, has virtually collapsed. It is doubtful whether Robert Mugabe will be able to reconstruct a consensus, even if he tries to use the old carrot and stick strategy. As the warring factions inside ZANU PF continue to tear each other apart, the country might gradually move towards a power vacuum which, as you know, in other countries, such a vacuum has led to adventurism and disaster.
SADC is thus implored to maintain a keen eye on the situation in Zimbabwe, more than at any other time. Mugabe’s primary concern now is simply to manage factions which no longer share a common set of interests. In turn the factions themselves have abandoned any hope of achieving a consensus or compromise. They are now involved in a dog-eat-dog political game. As a people, we need an exit strategy from this trap before it is too late. What the international community is recommending is in line with our thoughts. We communicated a roadmap to peace over a year ago. We are still pushing the regime to get out of the state of denial and show a patriotic desire to save Zimbabwe from further hemorrhage.
I thank you,
Monsters and Critics
Mar 9, 2007, 22:07 GMT
Harare - The Zimbabwe government has identified another 61 white farmers it
says could be given land under the country's controversial land reform
programme, state television reported Friday.
Only around 450 white farmers, out of more than 4,000 seven years ago,
remain on farms around Zimbabwe, following the launch of a government
programme of white-land seizures in 2000.
The television said the Matabeleland North land committee had identified 61
white farmers in the south of the country to benefit from the
government-sponsored land reform.
Until now only around 30 white farmers countrywide have been given official
permission to carry on farming. The new figure is still a fraction of the
700 or so who have applied for leases.
As government continues to rationalize the land reform programme, white
commercial farmers who have been resisting government moves to evict them
have been given until the 31st of July this year to vacate acquired pieces
of land or face the wrath of the law, the TV said.
White farmers still farming have been given conflicting information on when
and whether they should leave. An earlier deadline of February 3 passed
without any notable evictions taking place.
Friday's report said white ranchers in Matabeleland North would have to sell
their cattle by the July 31 deadline.
Some officials within the government are keen to see production increase in
the key agricultural sector, once Zimbabwe's economic mainstay.
Erratic rains, combined with lack of experience and capital among the new
black farmers, has caused a massive decline in agriculture.
Last week, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono announced that around 15,000
new black commercial farmers who include government and ruling party
officials, would no longer receive state subsidies.
He had earlier lambasted some of them as lazy and said the government could
no longer afford to import the staple maize grain, which he said ought to be
grown by the new farmers.
© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
By Carole Gombakomba
09 March 2007
Talks between striking Zimbabwean university lecturers and authorities have
reached an impasse, sources close to their talks said Friday, adding
University of Zimbabwe officials may close the institution next week if
there is no progress by then.
The Zimbabwe National Students Union, meanwhile, reported a heavy presence
of riot police around the Harare campus as students continued a class
boycott in protest of high fees and to express solidarity with striking
lecturers, who seek pay increases.
Chairman Fidelis Mhashu of parliament's committee on education, told
reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the
government's response to the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe's institutions of
higher learning has been disappointing.
Lecturers at Bulawayo's National University of Science and Technology have
agreed to go back to work while a negotiating forum is established. Chinhoyi
University of Technology lecturers also returned to work pending results of
talks on Monday.
International Herald Tribune
New council stymied in pursuit of abuses
By Warren Hoge Published: March 9, 2007
UNITED NATIONS, New York: The United Nations Human Rights Council will begin
a three-week session in Geneva on Monday amid expressions of frustration
from rights advocates at its early performance and alarm over proposals that
might weaken it further.
"So far it's been enormously disappointing, and the opponents of human
rights enforcement are running circles around the proponents," said Kenneth
Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
The council was created in an overwhelming vote - 170 to 4 - of the General
Assembly a year ago to replace the Human Rights Commission, which had been
widely discredited for allowing participation by countries like Sudan, Libya
and Zimbabwe, which used membership to prevent scrutiny of their own human
The commission was long a major embarrassment to the United Nations. The
former secretary general, Kofi Annan, who first proposed its replacement in
2005, said that it had "cast a shadow on the reputation of the United
Nations system as a whole."
When the 47 members of the new council were elected last March, tighter
entry requirements succeeded in keeping the most notorious rights abusers
off the panel, and there was some hope of less politicized behavior.
But countries from Africa and the Organization of the Islamic Conference
have dashed those hopes by voting as a bloc to stymie Western efforts to
focus serious attention on situations like the killings, rapes and pillage
in the Darfur region of Sudan, which the United Nations has declared the
world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Most notably, as happened with the commission, the council has focused the
panel's condemnation almost exclusively on Israel.
The council has already passed eight resolutions against Israel, and the
Islamic group is planning four more in the current session. No other country
has been cited for human rights violations.
The United States voted against creation of the council last year, saying it
would not be a sufficient improvement over the commission. In the past week,
it decided for the second straight year not to seek membership on the panel,
and R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs,
linked that decision to the council's stance on Israel.
"It spent the entire year slamming Israel," Burns told the House Foreign
Affairs Committee on Tuesday. He noted that the council had held formal
hearings against Israel "but not against Burma and not against Zimbabwe and
not against North Korea and not against Iran."
Annan's successor, Ban Ki Moon, told a human rights gathering in December
that he was "worried by its disproportionate focus on violations by Israel."
The council, he said, "has clearly not justified all the hopes that so many
of us placed on it."
The new session is the fourth this year, and an immediate issue attracting
attention as a measure of the council's purposefulness is what it will do
about an assessment mission to Darfur that was barred from entering Sudan
last month. The options are to publish a factual report, to publish a report
with recommendations or to take no action.
"What they do with the Sudan mission will be a bellwether for the future of
the council," said Peter Splinter, the Amnesty International representative
in Geneva. He indicated he was not optimistic.
"Sudan took the floor last week and said they rejected the mission entirely,
and they are going to have the backing of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference," Splinter said. "If the council ducks the situation in Darfur,
that's not going to speak highly to its credibility."
The Islamic group is expected to point out that Israel barred entry of an
assessment mission to the Gaza Strip in December and that the mission's
leader, Desmond Tutu, the former South African archbishop and anti-apartheid
campaigner, decided not to make a formal recommendation.
"It was a mistake for that mission not to write a report, but if you allow
governments to prevent a report by simply not admitting a mission, then
you're giving them a way of silencing the council," Roth said.
In another potential blow to the council's effectiveness, a proposal is
circulating that would do away with many of the council's 41 rapporteurs -
experts who produce sometimes graphic reports of abuses in individual
countries. The proposal specifically exempts the mission that monitors the
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an organization based in
Geneva that follows UN human rights activities, said, "The situation is
grim, and one example is that the one aspect that has always been thought of
as a bright spot - the experts - may be eliminated."
Despite the disappointment with the council's early performance, Splinter
said that it was premature to give up on the panel because it was still
setting up its rules and procedures. It is supposed to resolve these
institutional matters by mid-June.
"It's going through its adolescence, and it's awfully painful, but we have
to get past it and see what we have in the end," he said.