By Peta Thornycroft
Last Updated: 2:27am GMT 17/03/2007Page 1 of 3
The price of a two-litre bottle of milk went up in Harare last week.
From 10,000 Zimbabwe dollars to 17,000.
Exchange one US dollar at the official rate today and you will receive
250 of the Zimbabwean variety. Ask the guy around the corner and he'll offer
you 11,000. This is Robert Mugabe's legacy to his people.
After 27 years of his rule, Zimbabwe, once one of the most prosperous
countries in Africa, is finally coming apart at the seams. Hyperinflation,
already running at 1,700 per cent, is expected to go into overdrive, with
fears of a 4,000 per cent rate by the end of the year. The life expectancy
for a woman is now about 38, compared with 65 in 1987. Three million of the
country's 13 million population have fled. And yet Mugabe survives, his
hunger for power as voracious as ever. Even at the age of 83 he is
contemplating running for another term as president, the ultimate
At the end of a week that saw Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), savagely beaten following
his arrest by police sent in to break up a prayer vigil, Mugabe is as
isolated as at any time since Zimbabwe was born out of the ashes of Ian
Smith's Rhodesia in 1980. Yet he remains defiant, telling Western leaders
who have condemned the latest outrage to "go hang".
How does Mugabe, the Marxist strongman, the "lucky coward" as one
critic described him to me this week, maintain power? The answer, in part,
is the maintenance of Zimbabwe on a war footing. In the world of Robert
Mugabe there is always a threat. In the 1980s it was apartheid South Africa.
Now it is the West, namely Britain and the United States, and what he
regards as their stooges in the MDC. Mugabe seems to have taken a leaf from
Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which eternal conflict is used to justify
eternal repression. It was no accident that Zimbabwean police have
threatened "standards used in war" against opponents of the regime, claiming
that a "war situation" now exists in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe courts his generals assiduously, meeting senior officers at
least once a week in sessions of the Joint Operational Command. Patronage is
the bedrock of his administration and keeping the comrades happy, the top
comrades who are known as the "chefs", is crucial. He makes sure that units
such as his presidential guard are insulated from the worst effects of the
economic catastrophe. Many, in their dotage now, have farms and access to
cheap foreign currency which they trade on the black market.
Meanwhile, his internal security service, the ubiquitous Central
Intelligence Organisation, keeps tabs on "dissident" - ie, democratic -
elements. The problem for Mugabe is that the scale of the disaster
confronting him is now so great that he will not be able to protect even his
generals from its effects.
Some 50 demonstrators were arrested at the vigil, and one man was shot
dead. Among those arrested was the MDC activist Sekai Holland, a woman in
her sixties. Both of her ankles and one of her hands were broken, and her
body left "purple from beatings". Her young attackers, most likely members
of Mugabe's crude youth militia, told her that her main crime was to be
married to a white man. Such reverse racism bodes ill for the remaining
whites in Zimbabwe, who have seen their farms - once the core of the
economy - confiscated. Many of those farms now lie moribund, neglected by
the "war veterans" to whom they were given.
President Mugabe is not an avowed racist. As a solitary youth he was
nurtured and educated by white Roman Catholic priests. But he is a master of
post-colonial rhetoric, using it to beat the whites during the farm
seizures, which were inspired by his fear of an MDC victory in the elections
of 2000. He has been more careful since then, ensuring that elections are
thoroughly and systematically rigged.
By such methods has Mugabe maintained his grip on power. It is all a
long way from the optimism of 1979 when, in the wake of the Lancaster House
agreement, he arrived in his homeland after years of enforced exile to be
greeted by rapturous crowds. The new Zimbabwe had all the ingredients for
success. Few would have foreseen the catastrophic decline in national
fortunes wrought by one man. So how did he do it?
The months following independence from Britain in 1980 were marked by
one of the best rainy seasons in history. The Zimbabwean countryside was
covered by immaculate maize and tobacco plants. Aid flowed in and exiles
returned home, determined to develop the country beyond an infrastructure
built by and for whites. They had some success.
Soon, Zimbabwe would become the best-educated country in Africa, with 85 per
cent literacy rates. A few white doctors joined forces with hordes of
public-service-minded black doctors in building a health service that
delivered the lowest rates of infant mortality and maternal deaths in
Africa. But these were the exceptions. Most whites, mourning the dead of the
guerrilla war that had sapped the strength of the Smith regime, and shocked
at finding a "terrorist" as their national leader, fled to South Africa or
shrugged their shoulders and got on with the business of making money. But
the seeds of disaster were being sown.
Wartime tension between Mugabe and his uneasy partner in the liberation
struggle, Joshua Nkomo, soon erupted. The traditional rivalry between
Mugabe's Shona tribe and Nkomo's Ndebele ignited in Matabeleland. Mugabe
embarked on a programme of ethnic cleansing named Gukurahundi, which means
"the rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rains". His North
Korean-trained troops are thought to have killed 10,000 people. Many
thousands of Ndebele fled the country, mostly to South Africa. To stop
further bloodshed, Mr Nkomo was coerced into joining Mugabe's government.
With the end of apartheid in 1994, Mugabe's excuse for keeping Zimbabwe on a
war footing was over. South Africa became Zimbabwe's most important
supporter - criticism of Mugabe's actions this week was noticeably muted.
But the restrictions on freedom allowed by a war posture were too attractive
to lose. Cue the renewed imperialist threat from London and Washington, and
the "enemy within".
Tsvangirai and his energetic sidekick, Gibson Sibanda, became public enemies
number one and two for reviving the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions,
which crossed tribal lines cultivated by Mugabe. As the centralised economy,
which had started to fail by the mid-1990s, continued on its downward slide,
academics and skilled people began leaving the country. Food riots followed
as the heavily regulated industries shrank and jobs became scarce in a
population that had doubled since 1979. When the trade unions could no
longer negotiate a living wage, anyone with a calculator realised Mr Mugabe
and his generals had to go.
The MDC was formed in September 1999 with the support of Zimbabwe's
remaining whites. They would later pay with their farms. The young party
came within a whisker of defeating Zanu PF in the 2000 general election.
Retribution was swift. Mugabe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, a new
recruit to Zanu PF, proved an adept censor, clamping down on the domestic
media and foreign correspondents based in Harare, while repression in
Zimbabwe was steadily ramped up. In 2002 Tsvangirai was charged with treason
after being caught on video allegedly discussing the possible assassination
of Mugabe. He was finally acquitted in October 2004. Today, even supporters
of the MDC doubt Tsvangirai's ability to outmanoeuvre his wily opponent. His
movement, meanwhile, is handicapped by divisions.
The new crackdown is being interpreted as an attempt by Mugabe to disrupt
the opposition well before the next elections in 2008.
"This is a political game that is being played," said Alois Chaumba,
national chairman of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. "There
is no way we could have free and fair elections because of the amount of
intimidation going on at the moment."
Police claimed that last weekend's meeting - organised by the Save Zimbabwe
Coalition, an emerging alliance bringing together all the opposition
parties, civic groups and church organisations - was an anti-Mugabe
political rally disguised as a prayer meeting so as to circumvent a ban on
such events under the draconian Public Order and Security Act. The dead man
was said to be Gift Tandare, killed as security forces moved to head off the
meeting in the Harare suburb of Highfield. The police said he had been shot
dead after attacking officers.
Tevedzerai Marecha, an office worker in the capital, summed up the despair
of many this week: "Seven years ago Zimbabwe was a wonderful country. Now we
are in hell; we are slowly hurtling towards civil war."
Mugabe's fate continues to depend on the support of his generals and the
attitude of the ANC government in South Africa. Thabo Mbeki, the South
African president, has been reluctant to criticise one of the victors of the
liberation struggle of the 1970s. The African Union, supposed guardian and
protector of democracy on the continent, has been similarly discreet. How
far Zimbabwe will have to sink before its members finally demand change
remains to be seen. How Africa will respond to such rogue dictatorships is a
litmus test of its political progress.
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans must struggle on. This year, Mugabe will have to
import one million tonnes of grain to keep his people alive. Already, 1.5
million people rely on the World Food Programme to sustain them. Zimbabwe is
still an overwhelmingly rural society, with 70 per cent of the population
living outside the main towns and cities.
Yet, there are no food shortages in the supermarkets, and the staple food,
maize meal, is heavily subsidised and usually available. The problem is
poverty: unemployment is at 80 per cent and some 70 per cent of the
population cannot afford the basics of life. Transactions in gold, diamonds
and foodstuffs are controlled by a black economy that is almost impossible
Canute-like, Mugabe has insisted that the Reserve Bank maintain the rate of
250 Zimbabwean dollars to the US dollar, an order that more than anything
else illustrates his weakening grasp on reality.
Change in Zimbabwe will come - Mugabe's mortality will see to that - but the
agony could continue for years without foreign intervention or a coup. There
is talk of dissent in the army, but how deep it runs is unclear. And the
disaster that was the farm seizures continues. The industries that made
Southern Rhodesia a prized asset of the British Empire have been run down
through incompetence and neglect.
Mugabe, though, shows no desire to surrender his taste for the finer things
in life - shirts from Harrods, a new gas-guzzling Hummer bought for his
spendthrift second wife Grace, and a Chinese- style palace in Harare's most
expensive suburb, Borrowdale. That will no doubt be a great comfort to the
700,000 Zimbabweans who are without a home, many of them having lost theirs
when he ordered the bulldozing of shacks belonging to opposition supporters
To the chagrin of his opponents in his own party, Zanu PF, Mugabe is
devising plans for a political life extension. During the party's annual
congress in December, he suggested that the 2008 presidential elections
should instead be held alongside parliamentary elections scheduled for 2010.
Unusually, several delegates expressed disquiet at the proposal. Mugabe will
push the issue at a meeting of Zanu's governing committee later this month
but tensions within the party are becoming more public. Mugabe recently
struck out at his rivals, including his vice-president, Joyce Mujuru and her
husband. There are even suggestions that Mugabe could be forced into
retirement. The reforming element in Zanu could then link up with the MDC to
form a transitional government capable of negotiating aid from the West
needed to rescue the country from implosion. But Mugabe is a tough beast and
his party opponents are themselves divided. Zanu is still firmly in control
in its three stronghold provinces in Mashonaland. The bizarre and tragic
prospect presents itself of a 90-year-old man clinging to office while his
country falls about him.
Certainly, plans are being made for Zimbabwe's possible collapse. It is
known that British special forces have reconnoitred exit routes to be used
by British passport holders and others, should the situation demand it. But
Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, has until this week barely uttered
a word on the subject of Zimbabwe, which can hardly help the morale of its
lonely, embattled opposition.
The reality is that Mugabe never realised how much he depended on the white
farmers to keep the economy afloat. Tobacco regularly yielded US $450
million a year - 40 per cent of foreign earnings. This year, it will earn
barely a third of that. And all the time the economy spirals downward. In
the week to last Friday commuter fares almost doubled. Fuel costs did the
Soon, the only thing working in Zimbabwe will be Robert Mugabe.
At the end of a week that saw protests violently crushed, Chris McGreal reports from Bulawayo on a nation sliding into chaos
Saturday March 17, 2007
A girl looks from a broken window at an orphanage in Zimbabwe. Photograph: AP
The practice is just one of the increasingly desperate measures Zimbabweans are taking to survive in a collapsing economy where inflation runs at 1,700% a year and the value of local currency can plummet in a few hours.
They headed south across the Limpopo river, bribing their way into South Africa, and then sent word to their siblings that Johannesburg might not be the promised land but it at least offered hope.
Soon the able-bodied began to empty out of Mandluntsha in southern Zimbabwe. Today, 13 of the 25-strong Ntzombane family have decamped from the village to Johannesburg in an effort to help the very young and old left struggling at home.
"My children send 50 or 100 rand a time, or sugar or rice," said Mr Ntzombane in his three-roomed home set among the parched maize fields of Matabeleland. A pile of car batteries in the living room provide the only electricity.
"It is hard for them to find work when they get there so they do not have a lot to give. But it is better than staying here with no food and no job and Robert Mugabe."
The bulk of those who leave slip into South Africa, posing as tourists and traders if they have passports and jumping the border if they do not. But anywhere that holds out the prospect of a job is a destination: Namibia, Botswana, London.
What these exiles send back in remittances to their families in Zimbabwe is staving off the total collapse of an economy subjected to the world's highest inflation rate and starved of hard currency to keep basic services afloat.
Even some of Mugabe's most trusted allies are warning that his attempts to paint Zimbabwe as thriving and flush with food is a delusion as inflation wipes out the middle class and malnutrition claims the lives of children in what were once some of the country's wealthiest cities.
The brutal reality of what the exiles have left behind was laid bare this week as opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and others were severely beaten by the police and arrested on their way to a mass protest against the government. The US and South Africa condemned the assaults as pictures of Mr Tsvangirai's smashed and swollen head prompted outrage overseas. The opposition described the beatings as a turning point in the struggle to force Mr Mugabe from power.
Many ordinary Zimbabweans are not so sure. Their president still looks firmly entrenched to them and popular confidence in the opposition has been sapped over the years since it failed to capitalise on widespread anger when Mr Mugabe stole the 2002 presidential election.
Today, in villages such as Mandluntsha, daily life is instead consumed by the struggle to eat and finding the money for medicines and to keep the children in school. With it there is a growing fear that diminishing food supplies will soon again be used as a political weapon by Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party against his most vulnerable opponents.
It is not only the poor who rely on money from abroad. Even in some of Zimbabwe's larger cities, such as Bulawayo, a once prosperous middle class has largely been eradicated by the fastest shrinking economy in the world.
A couple of years ago the supermarket shelves were bare but the problem today is not so much supply as the cash to afford what is available.
Felix Mafa, a 60 year-old former college lecturer in Bulawayo, has sold his cars and relies on a son who is a doctor in the US and another who is a shop manager in Namibia to send money to feed the rest of the family. "Instead of being independent I am sustained by my children. It's deplorable. It lowers my esteem as a father. I feel sorry that they have to look after me and my wife," he said.
"I'm a professional. I had cars and two houses. I sold my cars to pay for my other children to go to school. I gave one of my houses to my eldest son. He married and cannot afford a bed let alone a house."
"No matter how educated we are, there's no middle class. I cannot invite people to my house because what will they eat? There's the rich and the poor, and the rich are a few people connected to Zanu-PF who got it through corruption."
Many people are afraid to accuse Mr Mugabe directly, fearing retaliation. Among the recent curbs on freedom of speech is a law effectively barring criticism of the president, and it is used by the police. But people make it clear who they hold responsible.
Mr Mafa has a particular grievance. His son was among about 20,000 people killed when Mr Mugabe unleashed the army on Matabeleland in the 1980s to suppress opposition. "I think things have to be done non-violently, through negotiation between Zanu-PF and the opposition. If not, then sooner or later things will go to a civil war which will be terrible. But sometimes I wonder if that's what some of our leaders want," he said.
Mr Mugabe has hailed the violent seizure of white-owned farms that were once crucial to feeding the country, and their redistribution to small scale black farmers and the ruling party elite, as "completed successfully". He declared that the farmers have produced a "bumper harvest". Zimbabwe's president has also boasted that the economy is being wrestled from foreign control and his finance minister predicted economic growth this year.
But the reality was described by Mr Mugabe's ally, the reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono, who told parliament he is struggling to keep electricity on. He said there is no money to keep air force planes in the air, or to put unserviceable police cars back on the road. And 300,000 people are waiting for passports because there is no paper or ink to issue them.
Mr Gono warned that inflation could drive Zimbabwe's economy down "to levels never dreamt before". The International Monetary Fund predicts that prices could rise by 4,000% this year.
The reserve bank governor said he received constant pleas from food and petrol distributors, the national airline and the railways for foreign currency that has all but dried up because tobacco exports, once Zimbabwe's biggest source of US dollars, have fallen to a fifth of what they were before the land seizures. The other big earner, tourism, has also collapsed.
Mr Gono said the power company warned him: "If you don't give us money the nation will be in darkness."
But the money is not there and the bank's first priority is to use hard currency to buy maize because famine is looming. Drought and mismanagement has left Zimbabwe with less than half of the maize it needs to feed the country.
"If we were talking about local currency, I would say, 'Don't worry, in the next 30 minutes we will print money,'" said Mr Gono. But he said he is not in a position to print American dollars or British pounds.
Officially the Zimbabwe dollar is pegged at a steady 250 to the US dollar. But on the black market it is in freefall, diving from Z$3,000 to $1 in early February to about Z$12,000 yesterday.
Savings were long ago wiped out but now even salaries are frequently worthless. It often costs more to pay the bus fare to work than people earn.
Zimbabwe's doctors went on strike for weeks because their salaries eroded to the value of seven cans of baked beans a month. They returned to work only after their pay was increased to about £110 a month - while two-thirds of the population survives on 60p or less a day.
Many hospitals have lost more than half their doctors, and nurses often report to work no more than twice a week because they cannot afford the bus fares.
Bulawayo's main hospital, the UBH, has such a shortage of medicines that patients are required to bring their own. "There are patients dying of dehydration for want of a drip," said a doctor. "We can't treat diabetes any more. The nurses are unhappy because there are no gloves when they are handling patients with Aids."
Doctors say that all that is keeping the hospitals going are the junior doctors who need to stay to complete their qualifications and a few senior staff who remain out of humanitarian considerations.
Many have made their way to South Africa or Britain where their qualifications are valued. It is the same with teachers. One school near Bulawayo reported that 10 teachers left in a single week. All are assumed to have gone to South Africa where there is a teacher shortage.
The poorly-educated are not so lucky. Nobuhle Mpala's two room house in Makokoba township on the edge of Bulawayo is shared by 12 people, three generations, all living off the meagre earnings of the street trader. They include her sister's two children after their mother died of Aids last year. Ms Mpala has a four-year-old whose father left before he was born.
Where the family used to eat meat a few times a week, it now survives almost entirely on one main meal of vegetables a day. "I sell maize when I can get it, and tomatoes. It makes me about 80,000 dollars a month. Maybe 300,000 dollars a month would be enough to live. There are loan clubs so I borrow from them. At the end of the month you have to pay them back with 50%. If we can't then they charge more interest.
"We are not living softly because of the party that is ruling us. It is not a fair government. They get rich while we get poor. They should go. People want them to go," said Ms Mpala.
The governors of Matabeleland's two provinces have appealed to the government to declare them disaster areas because the crop has failed.
Drought has wiped out almost all the maize in the southern province and badly hit the crop in the north. But Mr Gono also blames those who took over formerly white-owned farms for a broader national food crisis which is expected to leave Zimbabwe with less than half of the maize it needs for this year. Already 1.4m people are dependent on food aid.
In Mandluntsha village, there is no crop at all this year. The headman, Ludidi Ntzombane, an 88-year-old who seeks protection from the relentless sun under a white pith helmet, endured 11 years in Ian Smith's prison for political agitation against white rule. Robert Mugabe jailed him for another four during the 1980s assault on Matabeleland.
None of that has broken Mr Ntzombane's defiance but he knows that the coming year will be difficult. Without food, the village will have to sell its only asset, the precious livestock.
Theoretically, maize donated by the World Food Programme is distributed without political favour but in Mandluntsha they have a different experience. A Zimbabwean state organisation hands out the food.
"The lorry comes and it doesn't have enough so they say they are giving it to the people with Aids," said Mr Ntzombane. "But we look at who gets it and we know it is political. They want to punish us for not supporting Mugabe."
The Zanu-PF party has tried to pressure the headmen and chiefs in the area into backing the party and getting their villagers to vote for it.
"The party is trying to force the chiefs and the headmen to work with the government. They are forcing us to go to meetings where they tell the chiefs and the headmen what to tell the people. They tell us to tell people to back the party or they will have problems," he said.
"The threats are tied to food. They threaten not to give food to anyone who doesn't support Zanu-PF. That's the pressure; somebody who is not a member of Zanu-PF is regarded as an enemy of the government."
The headman says that the local Zanu-PF councillor, Thomas Nyilika, arrives periodically to pile on the pressure. Sometimes the party youth militia, the "green bombers", turn up in an attempt to intimidate the villagers, particularly when there is an election in the offing.
"People here are afraid to say what they think. They are beaten up for criticising the government. They are not free," said Mr Ntzombane.
Facts of life
37 Life expectancy at birth in Zimbabwe
60 Average life expectancy in 1990
81 The infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births), compared with 53 in 1990
$340 The national income, per person, compared with $4,960 in South Africa
5.5m Zimbabweans live with HIV
1.1 m Children have been orphaned by Aids
6 People out of every 100 have a phone, compared with 47 in South Africa
56% Of the population earn less than $1 a day, compared with 11% of South Africans
· Source: Unicef
Sat Mar 17, 2007 2:30 AM BST
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain on Friday asked U.N. officials to brief
the Security Council on Zimbabwe's political oppression and economic chaos,
but South Africa made clear no action would follow.
Critics of President Robert Mugabe, 83, Zimbabwe's leader since independence
from Britain in 1980, accuse him of ruining the country's economy and
clamping down on any dissent.
Most recently, Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, was arrested on Sunday and emerged limping, badly bruised
and with a head wound.
He blamed his injuries on an "orgy of heavy beatings" while in custody.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said he asked for "a humanitarian
briefing" because of the attacks on Tsvangirai, the economic crisis and the
general political situation.
Jones Parry said he was not asking at this stage for specific action.
Instead, he said he wanted to focus attention on the events of the last week
and the economic and political situation, which had caused Zimbabweans to
flee to other countries in southern Africa.
But Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's U.N. ambassador, said that while he and
other council members had no objections to the briefing, the turmoil in
Zimbabwe did not affect international peace and security -- the council's
"We do not believe that the issue of Zimbabwe belongs in the Security
Council," Kumalo said. "So to bring it to the council is surprising."
Developing countries as well as China and Russia have prevented action on
Zimbabwe. Their main argument is that the council was encroaching on issues
such as human rights, which are handled in other forums.
In mid-2005, Britain was successful in organising a Security Council hearing
by Anna Tibaijuka, the head of U.N.-Habitat, who wrote a devastating report
on Mugabe's slum demolitions that threw 700,000 people out of their homes or
jobs without providing proper housing elsewhere.
By Simon Heffer
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 17/03/2007
It is more than 10 months since caravan-crazed Margaret Beckett became
At last, miraculously, she has woken up to the fact that the tyrant of
Zimbabwe, "Butcher Bob" Mugabe, is a criminally insane savage who thinks
that half-killing his political opponents is a perfectly reasonable way to
conduct political discourse. What took her so long? I know Mrs Beckett's
knowledge of foreign affairs remains such that she probably needs a road
atlas to work out where Wales is, but the scandal of Mugabe's rule, and of
his devastation not merely of his people's freedoms but of his country's
economy, has been blindingly obvious to everyone for years. Only now that
the South Africans have been goaded into rebuking him does Mrs Beckett feel
safe to tell him off.
One of the many ignorances of the Left is that they think only white people
are capable of being horrible to blacks. How dreadful that it has taken the
wounds on Morgan Tsvangirai's head to convince old Lefties like Mrs Beckett
that they might have been blitheringly wrong all these years.
Mr Mugabe's crumbling support within his traditional power base is a bigger
threat to his regime than the divided and disorganised opposition.
Jabulani Sibanda was once a man to be reckoned with in Robert Mugabe's
ruling Zanu-PF, and he may yet prove to be again. He ran the party in
Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo and, for a while, headed the war veterans'
association that led the seizure of white-owned farms.
But he was thrown out of the party for daring to say what is increasingly
heard inside Zanu-PF: that the party is little better than a mafia
plundering the country while ordinary people sink deeper into poverty. "I
was suspended from the party for calling all the leadership thieves. It's
true," he said. "We've reached the stage where we are ruled by highway
economic bandits. It's obvious to everyone what is happening."
"It is not only that the nation being betrayed but the party is being
misled. The entire leadership must go. Mugabe must go. They have lost the
confidence of the people."
Mr Mugabe's crumbling support within his traditional power base is a bigger
threat to his regime than the divided and disorganised opposition.
With the economy collapsing and another food crisis looming, some Zanu-PF
groupings are pressing for Mr Mugabe to retire at the next presidential
election due in a year, seeing it as the only way to rescue the party.
Others, who fear his departure would herald the collapse of Zanu-PF rule,
pressed for the presidential ballot to be delayed until parliamentary
elections in 2010. Mr Mugabe backed that option but has been unable to force
it on the party and has suggested he could instead run for election again
His critics in Zanu-PF view the uncertainty as a sign that his grip on the
party is weakening. They are becoming more public as rival factions led by
vice-president, Joice Mujuru, and rural housing minister, Emmerson
Mnangagwa, compete to succeed Mr Mugabe.
But there are those such as Mr Sibanda who believe the only way the party
can win a legitimate election is with a clean sweep of the leadership.
His biggest gripe is over the seizure and redistribution of white-owned
farms which he describes as a noble cause exploited by the ruling elite for
personal gain at the expense of the peasant families who were supposed to
benefit and the country as a whole because food production has fallen
sharply. "What is frustrating to the war veterans is the abuse they are
suffering a second time," he said. "They fought for the land and waited
years for it. But the land redistribution did not benefit those it was
It is a view shared by George Mlala, a former Matabeleland provincial leader
for Zanu-PF, who was thrown out of the party two years ago for allegedly
plotting against Mr Mugabe. He meets regularly with its officials in
Bulawayo who he said are just as unhappy with the leadership as he is. "The
party is dying. We need to remove the leaders," he said. "They are no longer
accountable to the people, the people are accountable to the party... I
don't mind being persecuted for taking over the land from white farmers. I
don't mind that we are criticised by the British and Americans. But we did
not fight against colonialism to replace it with the level of corruption
that is the system of government today."
Challenging Mr Mugabe does not translate to support for the opposition MDC ,
which has split under rival wings. The leaders of the two factions, Morgan
Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, were severely beaten on their way to an
anti-government protest on Sunday. But Mr Sibanda is suspicious of foreign
support for Mr Tsvangirai who is often more highly regarded by the Foreign
Office than by local voters.
"People are suspicious of why the British support Tsvangirai. Is it that
they want him as CEO of their company called Zimbabwe and to put their
people back on the farms," he said.
By Guardian Unlimited © Copyright Guardian Newspapers 2006
By Mike Pflanz, Africa Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:27am GMT 17/03/2007
Margaret Beckett's stern words and pressure for more effective EU
sanctions against Robert Mugabe's regime will be a welcome further boost to
those fighting to end the abuses of his rule.
But many activists agree that Britain will struggle to force a change
in the way Mr Mugabe runs Zimbabwe, and should instead work to convince
Africa's governments to apply the pressure themselves.
Every time Britain makes mention of Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe rattles out
his populist mantra that the former colonial power is meddling again.
This further strengthens his still significant support among those
actors in Africa who refuse to look past his propaganda for fear of
alienating their own constituents.
European Union sanctions freezing Mr Mugabe's assets held overseas,
banning him and 100 leading cronies from travelling and restricting their
business activities abroad have not worked since they were introduced in
Bolstered EU sanctions, or new ones from the UN, will send a powerful
message but it is unclear if Zimbabwe's leader will listen.
"The force for change has to come from those who still fail to condemn
Mr Mugabe's actions," said Kathryn Llewellyn, head of campaigns for the
London-based organisation, Action Archbishop Desmond Tutu has shown the way,
saying yesterday: "We Africans should hang our heads in shame. How can what
is happening in Zimbabwe elicit hardly a word of concern let alone
condemnation from us leaders of Africa.
"Do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans, are being
treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid
This is the kind of powerful stuff Mr Mugabe needs to be hearing from
Thabo Mbeki, activists argue, who all too often hides behind a smokescreen
of promises about 'behind the scenes pressure' on the Zimbabwean tyrant.
Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania, met Mr Mugabe for closed door
talks on Thursday, and emerged saying the discussions were "a great success"
but added no further details. It is unclear if he rebuked Mr Mugabe.
After lamentable recent internal squabbles, Zimbabwe's opposition has
talked of being unified as never before by the beating handed out to Morgan
Tsvangirai and other leading activists.
The Conference of South African Trades Unions (Cosatu) has stepped up
its already fiery rhetoric against Mr Mugabe, boosting its sister
organisation in Zimbabwe.
"Other such influential civil society groups across the continent
should be given wholehearted international support to pressure their own
governments to force Mr Mugabe to change his ways," said Miss Llewelyn.
"Mr Mugabe will never heed the West. The pressure for change must come
from within Africa."
By Magugu Nyathi
ZIMBABWE'S opposition and pro-democracy group leaders yesterday showed a
united front by holding a press conference and announcing their defiance
campaign would continue regardless of brutal responses from the Zanu PF
Through the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, the leaders are demanding that a
presidential election be held next year as President Robert Mugabe's term
comes to an end but under a new people-driven constitution. Without a new
constitution, they have vowed to fight on and refuse to go to the polls.
The warring Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions also announced
they will be fighting out elections together with only one candidate
standing against Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF as opposed to the situation that
led to their split in October 2005.
Addressing a press conference at Bumbiro House, leaders of the Save Zimbabwe
Campaign deplored police brutality saying the heavy-handed manner through
which police responded to a peaceful prayer rally reminisces an unrepentant
dictatorship that has no respect for people's civil and political liberties.
The pro-democracy leaders spoke as founding MDC president, Morgan
Tsvangirai, was recuperating at home after being discharged following
Sunday's ruthless attacks by the police and alleged torture in the cells.
"As leaders of our various organisations under the umbrella of the Save
Zimbabwe Campaign, we call upon the people of Zimbabwe to continue with the
inevitable pursuit for democratic change against repressive odds", read a
statement released to the press.
Leaders of civic and political formations, including Lovemore Madhuku,
chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly, Tendai Biti, the MDC
Secretary-General, Jonah Gokova, the Co-ordinator of the Christian Alliance
and Arthur Mutambara, the MDC (Pro-Senate) president spoke passionately
about the need for an urgent solution to the ever-deteriorating situation in
Madhuku narrated how he was assaulted in full view of the Officer Commanding
Law and Order at Harare Central. The officer, only named as Mabunda, is said
to have told Madhuku during Sunday's clashes that it wasn't his fault the
police were assaulting the opposition leaders but were acting according to
instructions from the State.
"The mandate of Save Zimbabwe is to push for democratic reforms in Zimbabwe
and that democracy can be achieved first and foremost by having
constitutional reforms thereby leading to a free and fair election so as to
have an accountable government. The issue of voting in 2008 is not just
about the dates but its about voting under a new constitution so as to have
genuine elections. As Save Zimbabwe we are prepared to pay the ultimate
price and even to die for people's problems to be address."
Mutambara told the media that the opposition was united in its quest to
fight against the government.
"We are calling for a total rebellion and war as Mugabe is not recognized as
the president. The defiance of POSA should continue as the struggle
continues. We will not recognise the regime," he said.
"There is need for constitutional reform leading to electoral law reforms.
This is the end of the game and the final phase of the final push. I will
not stand against Tsvangirai and Tsvangirai will not stand against me in an
election as the opposition we will pass a common resolution."
He added: "If Mugabe and Zanu PF have any illusion and they think that they
are facing a divided opposition, we have news for them. We are united in our
fight against Mugabe. That is the essence and the meaning of the past six
days of defiance."
Madhuku said the Zimbabwe government must be made to accept the need for a
new constitution, otherwise elections would be meaningless if they continue
to be held under existing laws.
"A new constitution will among other things, provide for an anti-rigging
mechanism as the rigging machinery, which Mugabe uses. He depends on the
The Save Zimbabwe Campaign leaders hope to see independent institutions that
will run elections freely and fairly in Zimbabwe with enough international
Mugabe Foe Sees Resistance Growing
By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 17, 2007; Page A01
HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 16 -- Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
relaxed in the lush garden of his home Friday, a 5-month-old grandson on his
knee. But for the five blue stitches on Tsvangirai's head or the bandage
covering his broken left hand, there were few clues that he had spent the
three previous days in intensive care, or the two before that in prison
cells, bloodied and dazed by vicious beatings from police.
In his first hours home, with international outrage still high over Sunday's
police crackdown on an opposition rally, Tsvangirai declared himself
Despite the arrests and police assaults on nearly 50 top opposition
activists, he said, the movement had been strengthened by an experience that
has left many wounds but also a new determination to confront President
Robert Mugabe's nearly 27-year-old government.
"This incident has just heightened the stakes," said Tsvangirai, 55, a
former mineworker and union organizer. "This has created even more impetus
and more determination on the part of Zimbabweans."
Political tension has risen sharply in recent months as years of economic
troubles have turned increasingly acute, with inflation so high -- the
official annual rate is 1,730 percent -- that Zimbabweans say they rush to
the store whenever they get cash before prices rise yet again. Fees for
schooling, transportation and health care have moved beyond the means of
many. The few luxuries of Zimbabwean life, such as milk for tea, have been
Seven long years of a grinding economic slide have left Zimbabweans
embittered and volatile, they say. Life has grown so relentlessly, joylessly
difficult that Mugabe's ever-rising threats to punish those who demonstrate
against him no longer instill fear.
Add to that a suddenly emboldened opposition, and a crisis long growing
appears to finally have reached its tipping point, activists say.
"People were waiting for Tsvangirai to lead," said John Sithole, 54, a lean,
wily, street-level activist in Tsvangirai's party. "In people's hearts and
in people's minds . . . they were simmering, but they were waiting for
somebody to trigger."
Fueling the recent spate of protests, including Sunday's opposition
political meeting that deteriorated into a rock-throwing confrontation with
riot police, are growing legions of frustrated, jobless youths who say their
only hope for bettering their lives comes from forcing out Mugabe, the
country's leader since 1980.
His recent announcements making clear his desire to run for another term as
president have reenergized opposition forces that spent most of last year
squabbling with each other. Sunday's assaults have further emboldened
"People at this juncture are now ready to get into battle," said Innocent
Kasiyeno, 23, an official with the Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe.
"The amount of fear is now decreasing each and every day."
The next confrontation could come as soon as Saturday, when a funeral is
scheduled for a man shot to death by police in rioting Sunday. Tsvangirai
plans to attend the service and speak at the graveside.
Police have not denied beating Tsvangirai and others, saying only that
opposition activists provoked trouble by defying the prohibition on
"If they repeat it, they will get arrested and get bashed by the police,"
Mugabe told youth members of his ruling party Friday, according to the
Reuters news service. "We now must have our police well armed."
Zimbabwe's decline dates to the overrunning of white-owned commercial farms
in 2000 by black peasants who claimed to be veterans of the nation's war of
liberation. Mugabe supported the hectic and often-violent process, saying it
righted historical wrongs against Africans whose land was stolen by European
settlers. But it also decimated the most crucial industry and biggest earner
of foreign exchange.
The economy has contracted ever since, with unemployment spiking past 80
percent and buying power reaching levels not seen since the 1950s. Once a
major exporter of corn, Zimbabwe is now a chronic recipient of international
An estimated 3 million Zimbabweans have fled to other countries, while those
remaining behind have watched the most basic necessities become
unaffordable. The national population is 12 million.
The economic rot gradually has worked its way through Zimbabwean society.
Farmworkers first lost their jobs. Then small traders found their shops
destroyed by a government crackdown on the informal economy. Inflation has
raised the cost of transportation so high that teachers can barely survive.
And in recent months, according to news reports here, police and soldiers --
the keys to Mugabe's grip on power -- have begun walking away to protest
The incident Sunday began as a political rally in Highfield, the poor,
bustling township southwest of Harare where Mugabe's ruling party was
founded in 1963 as an anti-colonial liberation movement. Hundreds of police
arrived at the site before dawn, activists said. With the area effectively
sealed off, Tsvangirai gathered with fellow opposition leaders in a nearby
township and went home after agreeing that only a small delegation should
proceed, he said.
But when reports spread that dozens of activists had been arrested,
Tsvangirai said, he drove to the police station in Highfield to check on
their condition. What he saw were dozens of prominent anti-government
campaigners lying facedown on the ground, many bloodied, while police hit,
kicked and beat them using black batons.
The police soon ordered Tsvangirai to lie down as well, he said in an
account supported by several other witnesses speaking in separate
interviews. Men and women in police uniforms beat him on the buttocks, back
and head while he was on his stomach on the concrete floor of a police yard.
Tsvangirai contended that they were not police but war veterans, who in
recent years have operated as the ruthless enforcement arm of Mugabe's
"I was actually surprised that they would dare beat me," he said. "You could
feel the tension, the hate."
He recalled passing out, then regaining consciousness in another part of the
police station; his face was in a pool of blood, and officers were pouring
water on his head to revive him.
On another occasion, one of the uniformed men leapt in the air to stomp him
with both feet in a manner Tsvangirai said reminded him of a professional
wrestling move. The only difference, he recalled with a smile, was that the
man bounced off Tsvangirai's thick midsection and fell to the ground.
After the beatings, he and the other activists were blindfolded, then driven
across Harare to various police stations. He passed out two more times that
day from exhaustion and seemed disoriented during a brief stop at a hospital
the following morning, officials from his party said.
Doctors later gave Tsvangirai two pints of blood and scanned his head for
evidence of a skull fracture or brain damage. Those tests were negative, he
said. He was released Friday morning.
Anti-government activists have long criticized Tsvangirai for not moving
aggressively enough against Mugabe. When Tsvangirai's party split in 2005,
leaders of breakaway factions accused him of being ineffective and of having
But his critics were quiet this week. And Tsvangirai said the momentum
gained in recent months, including other incidents in which police cracked
down on public demonstrations, will not be lost. He said Zimbabweans have
learned that the only place they can defeat Mugabe is in the streets.
"Unless they are prepared to stand up to Mugabe, this man is prepared to
burn down the building," Tsvangirai said. "There's no letting up."
Scoop, New Zealand
Saturday, 17 March 2007, 3:51 pm
Press Release: ITUC
Zimbabwe: ITUC Protests to Mugabe, Requests ILO Intervention
Brussels, 16 March 2007 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has addressed a strong
protest letter to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, following the attacks
on trade unionists, the ransacking of the offices of the Zimbabwe Trade
Union Congress (ZCTU), the killing of pro-democracy activist Gift Tandare
during the peaceful demonstration on 13 March and the vicious beatings of
opposition politicians and human rights activists, including Movement for
Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose skull was fractured by
security forces during a sustained assault.
The ITUC letter called on Mugabe to release immediately and without charge
all persons detained during the March 11th and 13th events, to guarantee the
safety of all those from the trade union movement and other civil society
organisations, to ensure that the victims of the police violence receive
proper medical attention and to cease interference in the internal affairs
of the trade union movement. The ITUC has also raised the case with the
International Labour Organisation, requesting it to intervene with the
Zimbabwe authorities to help ensure that these demands are met.
International pressure continues to mount on the Mugabe regime, including
from other African countries. ITUC affiliates around the world are
maintaining contacts with national governments to put pressure on the
regime, and African and international support for a 2-day stayaway being
planned by the ZCTU for 3 and 4 April continues to grow.
Founded on November 1 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million workers in 153
countries and territories and has 304 national affiliates.
By Ntando Ncube
South Africa's ANC parliamentary caucus has expressed grave concern over the
current situation in Zimbabwe saying torture, assault and acts of violence
against any citizen should not be condoned.
Moving an urgent motion on Thursday, Andries Nel, the acting Chief Whip,
said government and all stakeholders in Zimbabwe must respect and uphold
human rights and the rule of law.
His statement follows the assault on Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition MDC
leader during an operation by the police to thwart a planned prayer meeting.
Nel said the caucus had called on government of South Africa to intensify
its efforts in assisting the people and leaders of Zimbabwe to address the
challenges facing that country in line with the spirit and positions of the
African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
He spoke as Tsvangarai was released from hospital on Friday. He was in a
wheelchair when he left the hospital.
"We have noted with concern the current situation in Zimbabwe, including
reports of the alleged assault of opposition leaders while in police
custody," said Nel. "We call on all stakeholders in Zimbabwe to respect and
uphold the constitution and the laws of the land, to work to safeguard the
rights of all the citizens and, to continue to seek peaceful and inclusive
He expressed hope that a thorough investigation would be conducted into the
assault and torture allegations with necessary action being taken against
the perpetrators in accordance with the law.
Nel's comments come at a time when there has been an international outcry
over President Thabo Mbeki's silence over the deteriorating situation in
Zimbabwe. His government has been attacked for not out-rightly condemning
brutalities by the Zimbabwe police against Tsvangirai and his opposition
colleagues as the international community rallied to speak against the
assaults and the killing of an opposition activist.
The harshest criticism for Mugabe came from US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice who branded Mugabe's regime as being "ruthless and
"The world community again has been shown that the regime of Robert Mugabe
is ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of
Zimbabwe," Rice said in a statement.
Rice said the US government held Mugabe directly responsible for the "safety
and well-being" of Tsvangirai and other detained officials.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also sharply criticised the Zimbabwe
government saying that its actions "violate the basic democratic right of
citizens to engage in peaceful assembly," while the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, Louise Arbour, called for a full investigation.
"This form of repression and intimidation of a peaceful assembly is
unacceptable, and the loss of life makes this even more disturbing," Arbour
Statements of condemnation also came from the governments of Germany,
Canada, Spain and Britain, among others.
Even France, whose role in Africa is often controversial due to its backing
of repressive regimes, condemned the arrests.
Life is not a struggle to survive for everyone in Zimbabwe
The Western media portrays complete desperation; that it is a war-like situation here and that the country is ungovernable and unstable.
But it is not.
Isolated incidents occur. There are pockets of people who are trying to rouse the rest but it is not widespread.
Inflation is not affecting everyone. Some people are still living comfortable, very comfortably, and they are not politically connected.
Lack of motivation
Opportunities have arisen away from the traditional economic powerhouses and certain sectors are thriving especially those with connections to the black market.
Business opportunists are reaping the benefits and this is one of the reasons that is stopping change from coming.
Businessmen lack motivation to change the situation.
A popular uprising by the masses, although a fine idea, is unlikely because people are too scared, too intimidated. Especially here in Bulawayo.
Twenty years ago, Mugabe's Fifth Brigade army committed huge atrocities here in Matabeleland [Bulawayo is the Matabeleland capital].
It was called Gukurahundi which in [Mr Mugabe's] Shona language means: "The early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains" and it resulted in 20,000 deaths. As had been its intention, it quelled possible future dissent by Zimbabwe's minority, the Ndebeles.
Feeling the pinch
Harare doesn't have that history. People from there are the ones who might begin to rise up.
Desertion is on the rise. Many police are running away to Botswana or South Africa
But if it is going to work it has to be national, and not just isolated to the cities. The rural areas would also have to join in. For them to do so they would have to start feeling the pinch - they have to go against the authorities that feed them, see behind the food, and revolt against that.
The most likely path to change will come from within the ruling party, which is divided into rival camps.
A friend of mine is a policeman. He tells me that dissent is increasing and there is a lot of unhappiness in the lower ranks of the force; and likewise in the army. It stems from the fact that now, it is only the top officials who are remunerated well.
He also tells me that desertion is on the rise. Many police are running away to Botswana or South Africa.
The Sun, UK
By OLIVER HARVEY
Chief Feature Writer
March 17, 2007
HE is the smug Hitler of Africa who lines his cronies' pockets while his
Zimbabwe's blood-soaked tyrant Robert Mugabe has led his nation into the
The thug has butchered thousands, crushed all those who dare oppose him and
turned a fertile land into a poverty-ravaged nightmare.
But this week a brave and decent man stood up to this ruthless bully.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 55, took to the streets of Zimbabwe to
For his troubles, Mugabe's thugs savagely whipped and beat him.
He appeared in court two days later with a badly bruised face and stitches
in a severe head wound.
Tsvangirai may be battered, yet he is unbowed.
The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change party said: "They
brutalised my flesh but will never break my spirit.
"I am heartened by the solidarity we got from all over the world.
"Let the pressure be maintained on the regime."
Mugabe - still full of bluster after 27 years in power - told his critics in
the West to "go hang".
Last night a Zimbabwean seeking asylum in Britain told The Sun: "It's Mugabe
who should be hanging - on the end of a rope.
"The West should use force to remove Mugabe just like they did with Saddam.
"Tsvangirai is a good man, a brave man."
The 33-year-old-dad - who refused to give his name in case of reprisals
against his family back in Zimbabwe - added: "Mugabe is killing our country,
he is butcher.
"He is the Hitler of Africa and the only thing he understands is force.
Mugabe is desperate now as he feels power slipping through his fingers.
"He is like a wounded leopard and is now at his most dangerous."
One Zimbabwean wrote on an internet blog: "No doubt the fall-out over this
violence will last only a few days before the world neatly sweeps it under
the carpet - and the dirty underbelly of African politics.
"Please would someone out there actually DO something about this Mugabe
Another said: "Britain, in my view, has more legal grounds to invade
Zimbabwe than it did Iraq." Wild-eyed Mugabe, 83, is happy to be compared to
Wartime Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. He even sports a tiny moustache and raises
a clenched fist at rallies.
In March 2003 he declared: "I am still the Hitler of the time.
"This Hitler has only one objective - justice for his own people,
sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people
and their right to their resources.
"If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold."
Mugabe's ZANU-PF party swept to power in the 1980 election. It drew most of
its support from the Shona ethnic majority.
He then crushed dissent among the minority Ndebele people with his North
Korean-trained Fifth Brigade, which killed an estimated 20,000 suspected
Hundreds of other opponents have died since then and around a million
Ndebele have fled.
Yet Mugabe is still desperately clinging to power in Zimbabwe, formerly
Rhodesia, one of Britain's richest African colonies.
Now a nation which was once the breadbasket of southern Africa is ravaged by
Mugabe ordered white farmers to be stripped of their land, which devastated
the agriculture-based economy.
While many in Africa applauded the redistribution of land originally seized
from black farmers, many argue that Mugabe has done more damage to the
nation than white colonialists ever did.
Two thirds of his people - more than seven million poor souls - are short of
food because of his destructive land grabs.
The average life expectancy today in Zimbabwe is just 37 for men and 34 for
women - the lowest in the WORLD.
More than 80 per cent of Zimbabweans are living in poverty, with chronic
unemployment and inflation running at more than 1,700 per cent - the highest
in the world.
Millions are threatened with famine thanks to his brutal policy of
distributing food supplies solely to his supporters. Basic goods such as
bread, sugar and petrol are often not available in local shops. Yet Mugabe
has spent £6million on a 25-bedroom retirement palace built. The ceilings
are lavishly decorated by Arab craftsmen and the roof is being covered in
tiles from China.
While Mugabe enjoys all this, children as young as 11 are sent to camps to
be beaten into submission.
Girls are tortured and given to be raped as rewards for Mugabe's youth army.
And he made 700,000 people homeless when he ordered the bulldozing of their
Little wonder thousands have fled the country, with many seeking asylum in
the UK. While Zimbabwe descends into a dark age, much of the West wrings its
hands but does little.
The EU has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe but that doesn't stop Mugabe's
wife, Grace, from being a prized VIP shopper on the streets of Paris.
In 2003 the 42-year-old blew an estimated £75,000 in just two hours in Paris
fashion houses while her husband's people went hungry.
Despite strong pressure, Zimbabwe's big neighbour, South Africa, has been
reluctant to get involved, instead pursuing a policy they call "quiet
Following their own struggles with apartheid, black South African
politicians have been reluctant to criticise Mugabe's actions against white
farmers. Yet even they have spoken out against the despot following the
beating dished out to Mr Tsvangirai and other opponents.
Now there is real hope that Mugabe's bloody regime may finally be collapsing
Opponents like Morgan Tsvangirai are gaining strength. Disgruntled security
forces and dissent from within Mugabe's own party mean the regime could yet
Opposition MP Trudy Stevenson said: "It's too early to say if it's the end
but it's another sign the regime is cracking."
Brave Mr Tsvangirai added: "Far from killing my spirit, the scars they
brutally inflicted on me have re-energised me."
And he added: "Our goals are within sight."
Sadly one thing is for sure, the man who is happy to be called Africa's
Hitler won't go without a fight.
Saturday Mar 17 15:00 AEDT
By Daniel Street
When five of my best friends and I journeyed to Zimbabwe in 1999, the
country's stirring natural beauty contrasted with the ugliness of poverty.
Walking down the streets of the capital, Harare, was tense, often unsafe,
and perilous on one occasion as we watched with our own eyes a sliding
economy accelerate crime and corruption.
At the time I can recall asking locals for their reaction to President
Robert Mugabe. Many recounted they'd initially idolised Mugabe as the hero
of the liberation struggle, but that had changed. Now they were complaining
he lived like a king while many of them were scavenging for scraps of food
on the street. Even then black Zimbabweans could sense their leader was no
longer a freedom fighter, but developing habits of a dictator. They were on
the brink of his tightening grip on power.
That same year I travelled in Zimbabwe, a charismatic unionist named Morgan
Tsvangirai founded and became leader of the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) - an opposition party opposed to Mugabe's rule. Within a year Mugabe
was beginning his land reform programs - seizing white-owned farms and
giving them back to Zimbabweans, mostly to his own supporters.
The economic meltdown that ensued strengthened the MDC and turned Mr
Tsvangirai into an even more credible challenger. But the passage of time
would see Mugabe and his henchmen bludgeon the opposition into near
submission, rig elections and close down the independent press.
The recent violent beating of Mr Tsvangirai, and dozens of other opposition
figures following a prayer rally, has added a new dimension to Mugabe's
long, bloody war on dissent. In the face of a barrage of international
criticism over charges his government assaulted the Opposition leader while
in police detention, 83 year-old Mugabe has told western countries to "go
hang". The stakes of international diplomacy have been raised.
While the United Nations decides what course of action to take next, Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer says the government is reviewing its plan to
evacuate around 700 Australians living in and around Harare. Describing the
situation in Zimbabwe as a crisis, Mr Downer noted that former Prime
Minister, Malcolm Fraser, helped bring about constitutional change in
Zimbabwe acknowledging "this democracy has now been grotesquely abused by Mr
Just how much more brutality and misery can Zimbabweans handle? Quite a lot,
calculates Robert Mugabe. He's just declared himself ready to stand in next
year's election for another six-year term. Despite his country having the
highest inflation in the world and fastest shrinking economy - just
two-thirds the size it was in 1999 - the aging president, having ruled
Zimbabwe for 27 years, is determined to continue leading a repressive
But Mugabe could have a fight on his hands. Following his violent beating,
Morgan Tsvangirai promised to fight for freedom from President Mugabe. He's
called on the support of the international community: "Let the pressure be
maintained on the regime." But that could manifest itself into an escalation
pf heavy-handed actions by Mugabe. He's warned the opposition they will pay
a price for any campaign of violence to overthrow his government.
Eight years after touring Zimbabwe, my friends and I could never have
imagined we would be seeing this fight for freedom and democratic change in
Zimbabwe on a tragic course - and fearing the worst is still to come.