March 16, 2007
Jan Raath in Harare
President Mugabe told his critics in the West that they could "go hang"
yesterday as he intensified a crackdown against rising opposition to his
Human rights workers spoke of an "ad hoc state of emergency" in a large
swath of Harare's volatile southwestern townships, where hundreds of police
were deployed, attacking ordinary people at random.
"The number of people being badly beaten up is very high," said a private
doctor who asked not to be named. "We're only seeing a tiny proportion of
it. People are terrified of leaving their homes at night."
As opposition militants showed that they were prepared to meet violent
repression with increasing retaliation, concern was growing last night that
Mr Mugabe may declare a state of emergency that would strip what is left of
the curbs on him. Unofficial reports said that the issue had been discussed
at Cabinet and in the politburo of his ruling Zanu (PF) party this week.
a.. Zimbabwe's crocodile staring at defeat
a.. Please don' t take this personally, Mr Mugabe . . .
a.. The 'perfect storm' that threatens his crumbling power
The southwestern townships have been the focus of a ferocious operation to
squash dissent since February 25, when police defied a court order to allow
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to hold a rally. The move set
off a violent reaction from opposition activists, culminating in the savage
three-hour assault on Sunday of Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC president, and 30
of his lieutenants and supporters.
"It's the West as usual," Mr Mugabe said yesterday during a surprise visit
to Harare by President Kikwete of Tanzania. "When they criticise the
Government trying to prevent violence and punish the perpetrators of that
violence, we take the position that they can go hang." Western diplomats
have linked Mr Jikaya's arrival with increasing alarm among African leaders
that the situation in Harare was out of control.
"The African Union is very uncomfortable," John Kufuor, the President of
Ghana and the Chairman of the AU, said in remarks that were
uncharacteristically blunt for an African leader. "The situation in your
country [Zimbabwe] is very embarrassing."
Doctors said that they were dealing with a constant stream of broken limbs
and severely bruised and bloodied victims. Among them were six young women
from Mufakose township who were dragged out of the shop they work in and
beaten up because police said the red company logos on their T-shirts were
Mr Tsvangirai was still in the private Avenues Clinic yesterday but a brain
scan around the four-inch laceration on his head revealed no sign of a
fracture, hospital staff said. "He's very cheerful," an official said.
"He's defiant and he's ready to roll." He was expected to be discharged
The state media has blacked out all information on the assaults but
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the Information Minister, made a tacit admission
yesterday when he said: "Those who incite violence or actually cause and
participate in unleashing it are set to pay a heavy price."
Human rights organisations reported a continuing run of arrests in Harare
yesterday, the second city of Bulawayo, the eastern city of Mutare, the
central city of Gweru and the nearby industrial town of Kwekwe, some of them
related to firebombing incidents in Harare and Gweru on Tuesday.
The pressure has not quashed the unrest. Police tried for a second time on
Tuesday to break up a continuing funeral vigil in Glenview township for Gift
Tadare, who was shot dead by police on Sunday. They have refused to release
his body. At 4am on Tuesday they opened fire on mourners refusing to stop
singing. The next evening they raided again, forcing mourners to lie on the
ground and beating them. The incident set off skirmishes as youths
barricaded roads and hurled stones at police.
In Dzivaresekwa township late Wednesday youths overturned an ambulance. A
central intelligence agent in Highfield was assaulted yesterday.
Not all the police officers have the stomach for violence. Township
residents spoke yesterday of groups of policemen who hid themselves when
they were deployed on riot duty.
A resident of Glenview said tha five officers had knocked on his door on
Tuesday and asked if they could hide in his house until their shift was
over. "They said that they had been sent to beat people but they didn't want
to. They stayed sitting on the lounge all day."
Thu Mar 15, 2007 11:36PM EDT
By Deborah Haynes
LONDON (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader vowed to fight on for
freedom from President Robert Mugabe despite suffering what he said was an
orgy of police beatings.
"Yes, they brutalised my flesh. But they will never break my spirit. I will
soldier on until Zimbabwe is free," Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
leader Morgan Tsvangirai wrote in an article for Britain's Independent
newspaper on Friday.
"Democratic change in Zimbabwe is within sight. Far from killing my spirit,
the scars they brutally inflicted on me have re-energised me," he said. "I
seek no martyrdom. I only seek a new dispensation in my country in which
citizens live freely in prosperity and not in fear of their rulers."
Tsvangirai also stressed the need for the support of other nations, adding:
"Let the pressure be maintained on the regime."
Mugabe on Thursday told Western countries to "go hang" after a barrage of
international criticism over charges his government assaulted Tsvangirai
while in police detention on Sunday.
The government has suggested Tsvangirai and his group resisted arrest and
accused opposition supporters of waging a militia-style campaign of violence
to topple Mugabe from power.
Giving his account of what happened on Sunday, Tsvangirai described how he
and several other opposition and civic group leaders were beaten up at a
police station in a Harare township.
"I was pulled out of my car by heavily built men in police gear and they
began smashing my head against the wall while pushing me inside the
station," he said.
"The orgy of heavy beatings continued once we were all inside the station.
They were mostly targeting my head and my face. The assaults -- punctuated
with obscene verbal attacks on my person, my family, my party the MDC, and
my supporters -- continued for a long time."
Tsvangirai said he had been going to a prayer meeting but returned home
because riot police had sealed off the area.
"So it's ludicrous for the Mugabe regime to claim, as they do, that I
started violence. I don't believe in violence," he said. Tsvangirai said he
only returned to the site once he heard that all the senior officials of his
party had been arrested.
"As they continued to whip me, my thoughts raced around in circles over the
rampant abuse of our public institutions by a desperate regime keen to cling
to power at all costs," he said.
"I felt like my head had been smashed open or I had been partially
decapitated ... I lost a lot of blood."
MDC officials have said he suffered a suspected fractured skull as a result
of police brutality.
Mugabe, 83, has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980 and
frequently brands the MDC a puppet party sponsored by the West.
By Daniel Howden
Published: 16 March 2007
The border post at Beitbridge is a crash course in the complexities of a
country in freefall.
The town, such as it is, grew up around a bridge built across the Limpopo in
1920 by the German mining tycoon Alfred Beit. Today, it marks the border
between Africa's largest economy, South Africa, and its fastest shrinking
one, Zimbabwe. The traffic is almost entirely one way. Trucks, cars and
trailers are backed up for hours waiting to cross south to where the money
Less than a mile north of the Zimbabwean border, the tarmac road disappears
into red dust and a sign declares that a resurfacing project is under way.
The sign has been there since the last election. No one expects anything to
be built.Developers have flanked the road with shiny filling stations and
supermarkets with asphalt car parks. But this is also charade. There is no
petrol or diesel at the pumps. The car parks are empty. Instead the
forecourts are littered with people waiting patiently, sometimes days or
weeks at a time.
At the supermarket the aisles are full of produce, but the shoppers are few
and far between.
The prices change hourly. Economists expect Zimbabwe's inflation rate to
pass 2,000 per cent this year. To put that startling number into context,
the next worst rate in the world is Burma, with 60 per cent.
Since the turn of the century, this country's once sophisticated economy has
shrunk by half. The result is 80 per cent unemployment, and 85 per cent of
the population living in poverty. From unplanted fields to unwatered safari
parks to hospitals emptied of nurses and doctors, there is no sector of
society that has remained unscathed.
It was not always so. When, in 1980, Robert Mugabe won the first free
elections in independent Zimbabwe, he was feted by Western liberals as a
beacon of hope for Africa and hailed by his people as a liberator.
His early approach of soothing racial rivalries and respecting property
rights encouraged many. But that was never the whole truth. Soon after
taking power, he launched a brutal pogrom, the Gukuruhundi, against the
minority Ndebele people, killing as many as 25,000.
North Korean-trained and equipped soldiers were unleashed on the civilian
population and thousands of war veterans who had fought the white minority
army led by Iain Smith just as hard as the Zanu soldiers under Mr Mugabe's
command were murdered.
By 1995, when Nelson Mandela visited Beitbridge to open a new bridge and
salute the liberator, Mr Mugabe's grip on power was starting to loosen. His
strategy for holding on was to rip the country apart. Sensing that the only
violent threat to his authority would come from war veterans disenchanted
with their own fate in the new Zimbabwe, he scrapped the principle of
willing buyer and willing seller established in the 1979 talks at Lancaster
House and incited land invasions. Using the racial, anti-imperialist
rhetoric of the independence struggle, the President unleashed organised
militias to take back the land from their "oppressors".
At the forefront of this disastrous "land reforms" were Joyce Mujuru and
Emmerson Mnangagwa, two of the leading favourites to succeed the 83-year-old
Mr Mugabe should he die or, less credibly, step down.
The human cost of what followed - when scores of white farmers, and many
thousands more black farm labourers were intimidated or killed - was heavy.
The economic cost was crippling. What had been dubbed the breadbasket of
Africa was turned in a few short years into a famine zone in need of
emergency grain imports from the World Food Programme.
Zimbabwe's real economy, or what's left of it, is in the teeming slums and
flea markets that surround the ghostly modern Beitbridge. Here, everything
is for sale. Filthy single-storey brothels service the lorry drivers. No one
is testing for HIV - they don't need to, the infection rates are near total.
Touts rush to open car windows offering petrol, paraffin, hard currency, all
the things that can only be bought on the black market.
Bundles of the monopoly money of hyperinflation are passed shiftily from
hand to hand. In a world where paper money has almost no value, unless it is
South African rands, the system of barter has returned. But even this
informal sector is not left alone. As foreign currency reserves have
collapsed along with exports, the regime has turned its attentions to
squeezing the black market in search of the cash that it needs to survive.
In its most basic form, this has meant giving the green light to unpaid
police and security services to loot and extort the very street markets that
people are using to survive.
All across the country, stalls boasting little more than homegrown maize and
fruit picked from trees and carried on foot for miles into urban areas is
being confiscated and distributed among regime loyalists.
Everyone knows they are being watched. Mugabe's spies are everywhere. The
secret police of the Central Intelligence Organisation - plain-clothes
informants - are on the lookout for smugglers, border hoppers, opposition
members, anyone who could pose a threat or offer an income. They are also on
the lookout for journalists. The Mugabe regime would rather the world looked
elsewhere, so reporting without permission now carries a two-year prison
On the other side of Beitbridge, there is a new camp for the deported
migrants. Every day upwards of a thousand people are bused from Johannesburg
back into the country they are so desperate to escape. They stand in long
lines at a tent erected by the International Organisation for Migration. At
the end of the line is the promise of soup and a bus ride to Bulawayo or
Most of the people in the line will disembark, turn around and start the
trek back to the border. It is their only realistic chance of survival.
By Basildon Peta, Andy McSmith and Anne Penketh
Published: 16 March 2007
Britain will try high risk diplomacy by demanding that the Human Rights
Council of the United Nations sends a team of investigators into Zimbabwe to
gather evidence on the ground about the brutality of Robert Mugabe's regime.
The decision, agreed yesterday by Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary,
Margaret Beckett, is a sign of Whitehall's confidence that patience with
Mugabe across Africa, and particularly in South Africa, is wearing thin. Mr
Mugabe has responded to every British criticism of his government by
reminding his followers of Britain's past as Africa's colonial master - a
line which British ministers frankly admit has resonated with other black
The same note of defiance was struck again yesterday as Mr Mugabe told
Western nations to "go hang" after the barrage of criticism that followed
the heavy beatings of opposition leaders this week.
Mr Mugabe made his remarks as regional African leaders, apparently impatient
with Mr Mugabe's intransigence, deployed the Tanzanian President Jakaya
Kikwete to try and encourage internal dialogue to resolve the long-running
economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe. Mr Kikwete made an unscheduled
visit to Zimbabwe on behalf of regional leaders who are worried about the
ever deteriorating situation in the country. "I came to brief the President
on my visit to Europe and discussions that always come up on the situation
in Zimbabwe. There are so many issues we discussed and we agreed on the way
forward on a number of issues," was all Mr Kikwete would say.
He then left Mr Mugabe to dominate the press conference with his
"It's the West as usual... when they criticise the government trying to
prevent violence and punish the perpetrators of that violence, we take the
position that they can go hang," Mr Mugabe said yesterday.
His statement was made as Zimbabwe police said three officers were badly
hurt late on Tuesday when suspected opposition supporters petrol bombed a
police station in a Harare suburb, leaving their house in flames. They said
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party's "orgy of violence was
spreading" in the country.
"We believe that the attacks are assuming a militia-type of form," a police
spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, said as state television showed the badly burnt
officers in hospital.
The MDC strongly denied the accusations and said that they were part of
efforts by the Mugabe regime to portray itself as the victim.
Speaking in London, Mrs Beckett said yesterday: "I am sorry to say that in
many parts of Africa, Mugabe is viewed as a kind of hero of the revolution,
and if it comes to a choice between the hero of the revolution and the
colonial oppressor, they know whose side to be on."
The Human Rights Council, which is currently meeting in Geneva, will be
asked to put together a team of investigators to visit Zimbabwe, although it
is recognised that there is a strong chance that they will be refused entry.
The council will also be asked to pass a resolution condemning this week's
attack on the opposition party, and Britain will ask the EU to add the names
of perpetrators of the violence to the lengthening list of senior
Zimbabweans banned from Europe.
Angus Reid Global Monitor : Politics In Depth
March 16, 2007
The Mugabe government reaches a new low, again.
Mario Canseco - The devastating attack on Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has focused the attention of the world on the
seemingly impossible task of opposing Zimbabwe's dictatorial regime.
Tsvangirai suffered a cracked skull when he was beaten by police as he tried
to attend a prayer vigil in Harare. The image of Tsvangirai, barely able to
open his eyes after what was described by his close supporters as "torture",
has led to widespread condemnation.
Yesterday, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe-celebrating his 27th year as the
de-facto ruler of one of the most impoverished countries in Africa-dismissed
the chorus of dismay. "It's the West as usual," Mugabe declared. "When they
criticize the government trying to prevent violence and punish the
perpetrators of that violence, we take the position that they can go hang."
Mugabe is supposed to step down next year, but after years of mixed
messages, it seems unlikely that he will choose a successor. The president
claims that the authorities responded quickly to stop a major problem, and
said the MDC is looking to bring him down by any means. He even described
the opposition's actions as an "orgy of violence" that was spreading in the
The most recent incident exemplifies a type of governance that should have
been eradicated from the planet a long time ago. Mugabe has effectively
stymied the action of the legislature and established tough guidelines for
his political rivals. In 2005, the government generated a Senate out of thin
air, and provoked a rift among opposition supporters, who pondered the best
strategy to counter yet another setback in their struggle against Mugabe.
The key piece of Mugabe's puzzle of repression is the Public Order and
Security Act (POSA), which allows law enforcement officers to circumvent,
cancel and postpone political rallies in a manner that would be
unjustifiable in almost every other nation.
POSA mandates all parties to notify police in advance of public meetings. As
if the rules were not harsh enough, police officers actually invoked the
provision to stop the door-to-door activities of opposition politicians
during the last House of Assembly electoral campaign. Sympathizers and
candidates of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
(ZANU-PF) were conspicuously spared.
In addition, the 2005 process was affected by one of the lowest forms of
political campaigning. The government, at a time when most of the country
awaited the start of the harvest season, used food disbursements as an
electoral tool. This is the way Mugabe sought to earn the support of his
countrymen, some of which had already faced the devastating effect of
Operation Restore Order-a government-sponsored urban clearance campaign of
housing evictions and demolitions-and a collapsed economy.
Corruption has also been a problem, and residents have been quick to express
they feel powerless. Last year, almost three-quarters of Zimbabweans
expressed little faith in the police's capabilities to enforce the law
against government officials-the lowest ranking in the 18 African countries
included in the Afrobarometer.
Mugabe's policies are responsible for the largest non-conflict related exile
currently taking place in the world. Human rights organizations estimate
that 4 million people have left Zimbabwe, to settle in South Africa and
other neighbouring nations. Zimbabwe's inflation rate is expected to hit
4,000 per cent before the end of the year, and the average life expectancy
has plummeted from 62 years in 1990-when Zimbabwe was still regarded as the
"breadbasket of Africa"-to a paltry 34 years for women, and 37 years for
So far, the Commonwealth's suspension of Zimbabwe has been ineffectual, and
the decision of the United Nations (UN) to condemn Operation Restore Order
was merely ornamental. In a month when South Africa assumes the rotating
presidency of the UN Security Council, the attack on Tsvangirai is a perfect
opportunity to test the will of the continent's perceived leader, and a
chance for the global organization to show poise when dealing with a despot
that does not possess nuclear weapons.
March 16, 2007
Our columnist on a regime close to its tipping point
For those who like their irony raw and bloody, I recommend The Herald, the
state-run newspaper mouthpiece of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's brutal, ageing
autocrat. Earlier this week The Herald declared: "The state has been lenient
with Tsvangirai," referring to Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean opposition
leader. "Why should Tsvangirai be treated with kid gloves?" Working himself
into a righteous lather, the editorial writer gave warning that if
Tsvangirai continued his campaign of defiance it would "result in misery for
himself and his family and those among his supporters who are prepared to
follow this political corpse into the grave". Here was a violent threat,
disguised as journalism.
On the day that article was published, Tsvangirai and opposition colleagues
(who had tried to attend a banned prayer rally) were already being
methodically beaten and tortured by Mugabe's thugs in a police station south
All tyrannies have a tipping point, a moment when the power of the dictator
crumbles and he reads the writing on the wall, finally hearing the voice
that tells him: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."
Usually, that point is marked by a symbol, an image, an event that seems to
capture the weakness and barbarity of the despot: the destruction by
sledgehammer of the Berlin Wall; the raising of the Soviet flag over the
Reichstag in 1945. In Iraq, the moment came with the toppling of Saddam's
statue, leaving two vast and trunkless legs, as hollow as the regime itself.
For Nicolai Ceaucescu, nemesis came as he gazed over a balcony to address
the crowd and heard, not the regimented chants of cowed subjects, but the
susurration of revolt and mockery: his look of angry bewilderment was his
own death warrant.
For Mugabe, the symbolic image that marks the end may be the photograph of
Tsvangirai, emerging from police captivity, head gashed and face swollen,
and his wrist broken. Violent suppression of dissent is routine in Mugabe's
Zimbabwe. What makes this incident special is the sheer incompetence with
which it was inflicted. This was meant to be another obvious warning to
Mugabe's enemies; instead, it has surely emboldened them.
When Tsvangirai and his bruised and broken colleagues were brought to court,
the judge took one look at their injuries and dispatched them to hospital.
Charges, if there ever were any, appear to have been dropped, and any
pretence of a genuine legal process has gone. This was not the cool, cruel
misuse of state power to sustain a dictatorship, but a vicious and panicky
response by a brittle and nervous tyrant.
Adding to the chaos, the regime has sought to suppress the truth about what
happened to Tsvangirai, but with only partial success. One newspaper has
dared to publish a photograph of the mauled opposition leader, but everyone
in Zimbabwe knows the reality of what was done to him.
Totalitarian regimes rely on artificial control, the consistent projection
of omniscience, strength and permanence: the stoking of fear, underpinned by
lies and fake grandeur. The secure dictator exudes calm and decisive menace.
Last week's events, by contrast, were messy, disorganised and
self-defeating. Mugabe cannot kill or even silence Tsvangirai, but only hurt
him. "We must make him cry," his torturers allegedly shouted as they beat
him. These are the actions of a regime spiralling out of control.
The fall of Mugabe has been prophesied repeatedly over the past seven years
as Zimbabwe has descended into dystopia, a nightmare of armed gangs,
government corruption, famine and chaos passionately evoked by Peter Godwin
in his new memoir When a Crocodile Eats the Sun. No peacetime economy has
ever disintegrated so fast. The number of Zimbabwean dollars needed to buy a
single brick today would have purchased a three-bedroom house with a
swimming pool in 1990.
Yet demographic and economic disaster alone will not remove Mugabe. Indeed,
the 83-year-old crocodile is manoeuvring to extend his rule to 2010 and
beyond. No amount of condemnation from the international community will
budge him, particularly while South Africa, disgracefully, declines to exert
its full influence on this repellent regime.
Mugabe will only go if he hears, for himself, the whisper of rebellion, as
Ceausescu heard it on the balcony in Bucharest, that indefinable sound
promising that tomorrow will be different from today. The signs are
building: Mugabe's sometime allies are jockeying for position, anger is
spreading among underpaid police and troops and, as hunger bites, the
protests are growing more violent.
On Wednesday Mugabe went to visit his ailing sister Sabina in hospital. This
was the same clinic where Tsvangirai was being treated for his multiple
injuries. In another moment of hefty symbolism, Zimbabwe's President chose
not to see the victim of his own brutality. But Mugabe's freedom to choose
what he wishes to see in the country he has wrecked is steadily narrowing.
Instead of the writing on the wall, Mugabe can still read the fantasy
adulation in The Herald, which recently ran a five-part series extolling his
"legacy" as "a source of inspiration to millions of Zimbabweans". He can
ignore the groundswell of fury and hear only the voice of his own
But Mugabe is a tyrant, not a fool. He can try to prevent his people from
witnessing what he has done to his opponents, but he has seen it himself.
Mugabe knows that when he sees the photograph of Tsvangirai, bruised,
battered and half-blinded, he is looking not at a vanquished enemy, but
staring defeat in the face.
March 16, 2007
THE news from Zimbabwe is never good these days, but the latest reports to
come out of Robert Mugabe's dictatorship are particularly grim.
Last Monday, opponents of the Mugabe regime attempted to stage an
anti-government rally in the capital, Harare, and were met with a show of
force that saw an entire section of the city shut down, dozens of
protesters - including opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai - arrested and
one activist shot dead.
But the true nature of the regime was fully revealed two days later when
those detained were released from Harare Magistrates Court. A crowd of 300
supporters watched as 50 battered and bloodied detainees, supported by
medics, gingerly picked their way down the courthouse steps to meet a convoy
of ambulances that would take them to hospital and treat the injuries they
had sustained in custody.
Here one must admire Mr Tsvangirai and his fellow members of the Movement
for Democratic Change, who in refusing exile, at great personal risk,
deserve the full attention and sympathy of the world community. Those who
delight in comparing the US to Nazi Germany should look to Zimbabwe to see
what a real dictatorship looks like.
It is hard to fathom the hideousness of the state Mugabe has created. A
tinhorn Maoist, Mugabe delights in Marxist rhetoric, provokes constant
upheaval and understands well the cultural revolutionary's dictum that power
flows from the barrel of a gun. As early as 1976, Mugabe was fond of saying
that "the people's votes and the people's guns are always inseparable
Inflation, now at 1600 per cent, is forecast by the International Monetary
Fund to rise to 4000 per cent by the end of the year. Lacking money to bury
their dead, Zimbabweans are now reduced to abandoning dying relatives at
hospitals. And the lack of certainty over prices, power supply and the
tenure of land holdings has destroyed the incentive to engage in any
agricultural activity save for ripping up trees and selling the wood for
Yet it is far easier to diagnose Zimbabwe's ailments than to cure them.
International sporting boycotts targeting South Africa were a major factor
in forcing the end of apartheid; Australia should honour this example by
calling off September's scheduled cricket tour to Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's neighbours have been largely silent about Mugabe's outrages,
though South Africa, which has previously given Mugabe quiet support and
diplomatic cover, has now publicly urged the Zimbabwean Government to
"ensure respect for human rights and leaders of various parties". And the
UN, just as it has failed to act in Darfur, has done little about Zimbabwe
beyond issuing ineffectual condemnations. Indeed, in 2005 the UN even
granted it a seat on its now-defunct Commission on Human Rights.
Meanwhile, tightening the economic sanctions already in place against
Mugabe's regime is morally fraught, given the burden this would place on the
poor. The US, bruised by its failings in Iraq and loss of international
credibility, is in no mood to intervene. Awful as it is to contemplate, it
may be that time is the only thing on the side of beleaguered Zimbabweans.
Mugabe recently turned 83, an event he marked by spending several hundred
thousand dollars on a vulgar weekend of celebrations at a football stadium
for 20,000 guests, including children who were supposed to, as the
state-controlled media reported, "interact with political leaders (who)
would inspire them to serve their country with decorum".
Internally, opposition to his rule is said to be growing, prompting the
International Crisis Group to state last week that the situation in Harare
was "reminiscent of the last stage of Mobuto's reign in the Congo" - though
regime collapse is no guarantee of a better life for Zimbabweans.
As always, it is a sad thing to see a dictator so abuse his people. But it
is even sadder to see those who could say or do something about it remain
The Japan Times
Friday, March 16, 2007
Zimbabwe appears to be continuing its slide toward the abyss. Its economy
has virtually seized up. The government of President Robert Mugabe adopts
increasingly harsh measures to block protests over economic mismanagement
and to crush any political opposition. Reportedly Zimbabwe is now a threat
to its neighbors and could destabilize the region. Therein lies the only
real hope for the country: Only when South Africa, Zimbabwe's neighbor and
biggest supporter, becomes genuinely concerned about the situation there,
will there be some hope for change.
The collapse of Zimbabwe's economy began seven years ago, when Mr. Mugabe
seized the land of white farmers to give it to landless blacks. He justified
the move by arguing that whites had exploited the country and the black
natives had a more deserving claim to the land. In fact, the expropriations
were designed to win support from angry black army veterans who Mr. Mugabe's
government had largely ignored. And many of the best pieces of property were
taken not by ordinary citizens, but by the president's closest allies and
The expropriations turned Africa's "bread basket" into a basket case. The
new owners had little if any knowledge of farming. Land went fallow and
agricultural production plummeted. Tobacco production, one of the three
pillars of Zimbabwe's economy, is now forecast to be just 20 percent of the
1999 level; food output has fallen by two-thirds. The government has
admitted that maize production is only third of its annual needs and it will
have to import more than 1 million tons to make up for the deficit.
According to the United Nations World Food Program, 1.4 million Zimbabweans,
some 15 percent of the population, will need food aid until the next harvest
The centrality of agriculture to the country's economy means the shortages
are felt in many ways. Food makes up one-third of the goods in the consumer
price index basket that is used to calculate inflation in Zimbabwe.
Shortages increase prices and deprive the country of export earnings to pay
for other goods. The result has been official inflation that topped 1,700
percent, making it the highest in the world; the International Monetary Fund
estimates the rate could hit 4,000 by the end of the year. Lacking funds,
Zimbabwe cannot import gasoline, medicine and other critical needs. There
are daily blackouts and water shortages. Unemployment has reached 80
Rather than addressing the real problem -- the land reform measures -- the
government has adopted increasingly repressive measures. Many opposition
politicians and their supporters have been harassed and arrested.
Demonstrations have been banned, but that has not proven effective as the
hardship increases. Police recently arrested 75 prodemocracy protesters, but
the leaders vowed to continue. On Sunday, police arrested and allegedly beat
Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's most prominent opposition leader.
Mr. Mugabe's primary concern is the constitutional convention that will be
held next year. It is widely believed that he intends to either run for yet
another term as president or to claim the presidency for life. That
threatens to split his ruling Zanu-PF party, elements of which recognize the
damage done by the president's policies and who worry about responsibility
for the mess that survive him. There are signs that some of them are
prepared to work with the opposition to build a coalition government. That
requires a functioning opposition, which has been too divided to mount a
serious challenge to the ruling party. (Of course, the government's hardline
tactics have compounded the opposition's ineffectiveness.)
Mr. Mugabe's future may depend on the actions of his neighbors. Perhaps the
most important of these is South Africa. The government of President Thabo
Mbeki has provided economic and political support for Mr. Mugabe; if he has
complaints about Zimbabwe's policies, he voices them quietly, behind closed
doors. He has been reluctant to take a harder line when dealing with Mr.
Mugabe because he respects one of the continent's great independence
leaders. But he also fears that Mr. Mugabe might whip up sentiment among
South Africa's poor and disaffected blacks.
That hands-off attitude must change. Mr. Mugabe's policies have undermined
his legacy and pose a real risk to southern Africa. Implosion in Zimbabwe is
unlikely to be contained. It is estimated that there are already 3 million
Zimbabweans -- out of a population of 11.6 million -- in South Africa.
Instability would force yet more across the borders and could destabilize
its neighbors. The result, according to a new report, could resemble the
chaos and violence in Zaire when dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was driven from
power in 1997. That prospect should spur its neighbors to act, although the
record thus far provides little hope for such far-sighted initiative.
By Ed Johnson
March 16 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is working closely with the European Union
to ``change the behavior'' of President Robert Mugabe's regime and will try
to ensure that any further sanctions don't hurt the Zimbabwean people, the
State Department said.
``We want to try to do what's effective'' without worsening the humanitarian
crisis in the African nation, department spokesman Sean McCormack told
reporters in Washington yesterday.
Mugabe's government is already subject to travel bans and asset freezes for
stifling political dissent in Zimbabwe. The U.S. said it is considering
other steps after main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other
activists were arrested and beaten by police after a March 11 rally in the
Western governments can ``go hang,'' Agence France-Presse cited Mugabe, 83,
as saying yesterday as he rejected criticism of his government and the
treatment of opposition supporters.
Members of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change ``went out of their
way to effect acts of violence,'' said Mugabe. ``We don't accept their
Tsvangirai, 55, suffered ``massive lacerations'' to his head when he was
beaten by police, although the results of a scan show he hasn't suffered
brain damage, Frances Lovemore, director of the Amani Trust, which counsels
torture victims, said yesterday.
``The brain is fine and the only other damage he has is extensive bruising
and a fractured hand,'' he said.
The United Nations and EU yesterday said any further sanctions against
Zimbabwe must be tailored to ensure they don't hurt the population, AFP
``Sanctions have to be weighed carefully,'' said UN Deputy Secretary General
Asha-Rose Migiro, who met yesterday in Brussels with European Commissioner
for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, the news agency said.
Michel said he wouldn't favor sanctions which ``penalize the population in
some way,'' the report added.
Zimbabwe, a former British colony known as Rhodesia, became a republic in
1980, 15 years after a unilateral declaration of independence by a
government then run by the white minority.
Under Mugabe, food production plummeted after the government seized
white-owned farms for redistribution to black supporters of the president.
With little financial backing or farming skills among those who gained
control of the land, many of the farms were left to deteriorate.
Zimbabwe is in its eighth consecutive year of recession and has the world's
highest annual inflation rate, at 1,730 percent. The government imposed a
three month ban on political rallies in Harare, as anger mounts over the
country's economic collapse.
``It's a real tragedy,'' said McCormack, adding Mugabe's regime has
systematically dismantled democratic rights and caused ``terrible economic
``We'll take a close look at what we might do to try to bring about a change
in behavior of this regime,'' said McCormack, who declined to say whether
the U.S. is considering unilateral sanctions or action through the UN
To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at
Last Updated: March 15, 2007 21:54 EDT
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
March 15, 2007
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on President Mugabe's comments today
saying that Western governments should -- you know, basically go and hang
themselves because of their criticism of his handling of protests and --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a real sad state of affairs in Zimbabwe. It's a real
tragedy, what's occurring there in terms of the systematic dismantling of
democratic rights, the abuses of human rights that we have seen recently,
and just the terrible economic destruction that the Mugabe regime has
wreaked on the Zimbabwean economy. This is now an economy that is suffering
from hyperinflation and it's sad because it's the people that suffer.
Certainly, they suffer as a result of the lack of political rights, of the
lack of human rights, but they're also suffering the very real effects of an
economy that is just -- is going down the drain and it's a sad thing to
watch. So it's -- you know, while Mr. Mugabe may want to paint this as an
issue of his defying the rest of the world trying to dictate to him what
should be happening in Zimbabwe, it's really a case of the international
system expressing real concern for a tragedy that is unfolding in that
QUESTION: The UN and the EU have suggested that imposing new sanctions on
Zimbabwe will make the situation even more difficult for people who already
face inflation of like 1700 percent or something.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I know the U.S. is considering new sanctions against Zimbabwe. How
are you looking at those new sanctions and how will you be able to impose
those without causing even more grief to people on the ground there?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a tough issue. It's always a hard issue when you try to
balance the possible effect of diplomatic tools that you might have at your
disposal, for instance, sanctions and the effect they'll have on the regime
versus the effect that they may have on the population which is already
suffering. So we'll take a close look at what we might do to try to bring
about a change in behavior of this regime and that we are working very
closely with the EU as well as others on this. We're consulting closely. I
can't tell you that we've come to any final conclusions in that regard.
QUESTION: So it would be a joint effort in terms of sanctions or are you
going to go unilaterally?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll take a look at what we think is the right thing to do.
QUESTION: Are you looking at some UN action? Is this going to be something
circulating in the next few days or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, there are a number of options available to us so
we'll -- we want to try to do what's effective as well as what is something
that has as minimal effect as possible on the humanitarian situation that's
unfolding in Zimbabwe.
March 16, 2007 Edition 1
What are we to make of South Africa's continued policy of quiet diplomacy
over Zimbabwe after that government's latest craven abuse of the rule of
There will be very few people left unmoved by the sight of Zimbabwean
opposition activists being carried, or barely managing to limp, from the
Harare magistrate's court this week en route to medical treatment for the
first time since their incarceration 48 hours before.
We have seen much brutality from Zimbabwe, so much so that some of us,
especially our leaders, seem to have become inured to such scenes.
The question now is simple: how much longer must we wait until the country
actually implodes, with obvious consequences for us, the country's southern
Tragically, conflicts the world over, most notably in the Middle East, have
shown us over and over that there can never be a military solution to what
is essentially a political problem.
This, however, does not absolve us of responsibility to our Zimbabwean
brothers and sisters or the southern African region as a whole.
Our government has laudably and successfully intervened in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, in the internecine Great Lakes conflict and a host of
other smaller disputes, yet bizarrely has remained effectively mute on the
one crisis that poses the most immediate and most threatening conflict of
them all - the one on our own doorstep.
The time for quiet diplomacy has passed. It is now time for a constructive
and visible engagement with Zimbabwe to bring about a lasting and just peace
for all of its citizens and its many neighbours, who at the moment can only
sit on the sidelines and watch in horror.
March 16, 2007
Brutal regimes often try to hide from the outside world the price their
people pay for their own failed policies. Then a single event will bring it
back to the surface and into our headlines. On March 11 Zimbabwean police
broke up a prayer meeting in Harare. One man was killed, 50 people were
arrested and the badly battered face of the opposition leader, Morgan
Tsvangirai, has been seen in papers and on televisions across the globe.
For those of us who have watched the tragedy of Zimbabwe unfold over recent
years, this latest appalling attack comes as little surprise: it is a
symptom of a country in crisis. An economy in free-fall - GDP halved since
2000 and inflation set to top 5,000 per cent. A quarter of the population
dependent on food aid, four in every five without a job and one of the
lowest life expectancies in the world: a girl born in Zimbabwe today will,
on average, die before she reaches 35. Little wonder that between three and
four million people have already left the country.
We in Britain have always been clear on Zimbabwe. We want change for the
better - joining the millions of Zimbabwean voices calling for their own
Government to listen to its people, take heed and change. But the regime
controls the media and portrays Robert Mugabe as standing up for the rights
of Africans against outside interference. So we have a twin focus. First, we
are doing what we can to alleviate the suffering of Zimbabweans, while
making sure that assistance is not exploited to prop up the regime. In the
past five years we have given more than £140 million to humanitarian
projects and to combat the HIV/Aids epidemic that has infected one in five
Zimbabweans. That money is helping to keep millions alive. And we are also
offering a full consular service to the large community with ties to the UK.
Secondly, we support all those working for peaceful change. We condemn
violence from any quarter and, despite the incredible provocation, we hope
that this latest attack will not lead to further bloodshed. We are playing a
leading role in EU efforts to isolate President Mugabe's regime. We have
targeted its leaders rather than impose wider sanctions that would harm the
very people we are trying to help. So the EU has banned 130 people from
coming to Europe, we've frozen their assets and banned all arms sales.
This is not - whatever President Mugabe may claim - a personal attack on
him. We care about policies not personalities. We want reform. We want
sensible economic measures. We want a return to freedom of association and
freedom of the press. We want free and fair elections. More importantly, so
do the people of Zimbabwe. We don't care if this is done by Mr Mugabe or by
What matters is that the situation for ordinary Zimbabweans improves. They
By Brian Latham and Antony Sguazzin
March 16 (Bloomberg) -- Philip Gwatidza sleeps in a cave at night and evades
policemen by day as he scrabbles for diamonds in the gravel of eastern
Gwatidza, 30, is one of as many as 20,000 people who have been illegally
hunting for gems with shovels as they fight to make a living in a country
where seven out of 10 people are unemployed and annual inflation was 1,730
percent last month.
``Times are hard,'' said Gwatidza, clad in a plastic sheet to fend off rain,
tattered pinstriped trousers and no shirt or shoes. ``Most of us are now
unemployed. We need to get money for our parents and our brothers and
The fight for gems is depriving Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's
cash-strapped government of funds it needs to import fuel, power and food.
Smugglers who buy the stones are also undermining the Kimberley Process
agreement, signed by 45 nations, that requires certificates of origin for
all gems to halt the illegal trade that has financed African wars.
The Marange diamond seam was disclosed in September by Nettlestead,
England-based African Consolidated Resources Plc, which owned the property.
The government's Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. seized the 10-hectare
(25-acre) site in December, citing pre-existing property rights. Andrew
Cranswick, chief executive officer of African Consolidated, says his company
may seek compensation.
After the announcement that diamonds had been found, thousands of people
converged on the area.
``They came in droves, lifting diamonds on a scale never seen,'' Cranswick
said from Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. ``Those stones have found their way
into South Africa, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Israel and Lebanon.''
Today the site is guarded by police officers who, thanks to rampant
inflation, earn the equivalent of $5 a month. State-owned newspapers have
reported that police have been digging for gems themselves and a senior
government official was caught at Harare airport with diamonds in his
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono said Feb. 27 that smuggling
costs Zimbabwe as much as $40 million a week.
The illegal mining has eased poverty in Marange. Diamonds have been
exchanged for everything from satellite dishes to goats, said local resident
``Our whole area has been transformed,'' Benhura said. ``This is empowerment
like you've never seen.''
The illicit trade led Mugabe, 83, to declare last month that he may
nationalize all diamond mines. As many as 27,000 illegal diamond and gold
miners have been arrested, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.
Zimbabwe has the world's fastest-shrinking economy after a failed land
redistribution program, in which white-owned farms were handed over to black
subsistence farmers, devastated the country's agricultural production.
Political unrest erupted March 11, when opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
was beaten and arrested by police who broke up a prayer meeting in Harare.
Mining is now the country's main source of foreign exchange, accounting for
almost half of exports in 2004, according to Johannesburg-based Standard
Bank Group Ltd.
While the area around the Marange concession is being patrolled by police,
security is lax.
Smugglers hide gems in car tires to get through road blocks, said Rina
Kakore, 51, who lives near Marange. Her hands are calloused and two
fingernails are missing as the result of searching for stones she says are
heart-shaped and emit a green light when viewed from an angle.
``I can buy a bag of diamonds from the Marange diggers for as little as
200,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($713),'' a man who gave his name as Isaiah Jeche
said in an interview in Harare. ``Those same stones will earn me about
20,000 rand ($2,700) from the Lebanese traders in Johannesburg.''
Zimbabwe has two official diamond mines. Murowa is run by Rio Tinto Plc and
RioZim Ltd. River Ranch is owned by a closely held company of the same name.
Under the Kimberley agreement, named after the South African town that was
the site of a 19th century diamond rush, gems must have documentation
showing they were obtained legitimately. The European Commission, which is
currently in charge of enforcing the accord, is reviewing the area's diamond
trade, said Xavier Marchal, the European Union's ambassador to Zimbabwe.
On the 100-kilometer (62-mile) highway between Harare and the town of
Mutorashanga, travelers are searched at five roadblocks.
``They even search through our hair to see if they can find gold dust,''
said Mavis Musarurwa, a housewife traveling to Harare. ``It's quite
degrading, but many people are smuggling gold to South Africa.''
For now, the state's revenue needs are being given precedence over those who
say they need to steal to survive.
``Times are very hard in Zimbabwe now and people are trying to make money by
any means they can,'' said police Sergeant Taurayi Jokonya, who commands a
roadblock on Harare's city limits. ``It costs the country a lot of money.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Harare via the
Johannesburg bureau on firstname.lastname@example.org ; Antony Sguazzin in
Johannesburg email@example.com Godfrey Mutizwa in Johannesburg at
By Sheila Ochi
HARARE - The Southern African Development Community has turned the screws on
President Robert Mugabe, sending Tanzanian leader, Jakaya Kikwete to
Zimbabwe over worsening repression in the country.
Kikwete, the SADC chairman for Politics, Defense, and Security arrived in
Harare yesterday morning, and went straight into talks with Mugabe at State
House before flying out back to Tanzania.
Sources said SADC leaders had mandated Kikwete to convey the organization's
displeasure at Mugabe's increasing use of state security agents to crush
Zimbabwe's security situation has caught worldwide attention after state
agents brutally assaulted Morgan Tsvangirai, the main opposition MDC party
leader, Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional reform activist, and hundreds of
opposition and pro-democracy leaders and activists.
Several senior members of Tsvangirai's party were also tortured by the
security agents, reported to be army commandos after they attempted to
attend a prayer meeting organized under the Save Zimbabwe Campaign and
Christina Alliance banners.
The police say the meeting was political and disguised as a prayer grouping
to beat a ban on political rallies and demonstrations imposed on Harare.
Sources said Kikwete told Mugabe that SADC was unhappy with Zimbabwe's
deteriorating human rights situation.
"He told Mugabe that fellow SADC leaders felt ashamed by the Zimbabwe
government use of state apparatus to deny people fundamental rights. SADC
leaders are afraid that Mugabe is threatening the region's security
situation. The patience has worn off and SADC thinks it is time to tell
Mugabe that his actions are unwelcome. This could be the start of a tough
stance by SADC on Mugabe," said a source.
State security minister Didymus Mutasa, who was part of Mugabe's entourage
that met Kikwete at Harare International Airport told
Zimbabwejournalists.com: "We view it as a consultations visit. What is
happening in this country does not warrant international interference. We
are on top of the situation, maintaining and promoting peace."
This week's torture of opposition and labour leaders has drawn sharp
criticism from the US, several EU countries and from UN secretary general,
Kim, Ban Moon.
Uncharacteristically, the African Union and the country's rich neighbour,
South Africa also voiced concern at Harare's actions.
John Kofour, the AU chairman and president of Ghana described the situation
prevailing in Zimbabwe as both embarrassing and unacceptable.
South Africa's deputy foreign affairs minister, Aziz Pahad issued a
statement encouraging Mugabe to respect the rule of law and to allow critics
to speak and assemble freely.
Critics have in the past accused South Africa and fellow African countries
of failing to condemn Mugabe despite evidence of growing rights abuses.
By a Correspondent
JOHANNESBURG - The South African Institute of Race Relations (SIRR) has
condemned the arrests of opposition MDC legislator Lovemore Moyo and senior
party official Sam-Sipepa Nkomo along with 16 others at a meeting in
Nkomo and Moyo were arrested today together with 16 other activists for
allegedly holding a "secret" meeting that police said was part of the
opposition's defiance campaign after the thwarted Highfield prayer meeting
The head of development at the Institute, Frans Cronje, said the corrosion
of democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe had left ordinary Zimbabweans
vulnerable to the worst excesses of the state.
In such an environment, Cronje said, "there was little that ordinary
Zimbabweans could do to improve conditions in their country"
"The situation in Zimbabwe could be expected to deteriorate further to the
detriment of the whole Southern African region. Long term economic damage
was also probable as international observers questioned the region's
stability and commitment to good governance," said Cronge.
The institute further expressed grave concern at the South African
government's lukewarm response to reports of the latest abuses in Zimbabwe.
The institute said in failing to clearly condemn what was happening in
Zimbabwe, the South African government risked squandering any 'moral
capital' it had left.
The institute reiterated its earlier warning that by failing to speak out
South Africa had 'resigned itself to future abuses still to be perpetrated
by the Zimbabwe government against its people'.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition's Media and Advocacy manager Immanuel
Hlabangana said this puts a test SADC and AU's commitment to human rights
principles that their members are party to.
"The international community obviously looks up to the AU to be the first to
comment and act on its members if its credibility is to be gained from the
previous non functional OAU, we as Crisis urge the SADC and AU to put in
place a team to lead a mission to Harare to verify the extent of human
rights violation and abuse of state institutions, used by the government to
brutalize and torture civic and opposition political leaders" said
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) also said it was dismayed and
horrified at the brutality displayed by the Zimbabwe government as it
continues to crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly.
Even more horrifying, said MISA, was the deafening silence from SADC
governments in the wake of the most brutal arrests and torture of members of
the media and civil society.