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The forces of change mount against Mugabe



By Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Gethin Chamberlain, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:06am GMT 18/03/2007Page 1 of 2

Robert Mugabe is facing humiliation at the hands of his rattled
political supporters, who appear set on shattering his dream of a fresh term
as president of Zimbabwe.
The 83-year-old must face a meeting of the central committee of his
Zanu-PF party on March 29 knowing that his internal opponents are confident
of blocking his bid to stand again when his term of office runs out next
year.

In an attempt to save his political skin, the "old man" has hit on a
complicated formula that he hopes will force his opponents to back him. He
wants his term extended by two years, to 2010, so that presidential and full
parliamentary election cycles become synchronised. Otherwise, he has
threatened, he will call an early parliamentary election next year, forcing
his -party's MPs to campaign alongside him.

But those alternatives have horrified many in the party. With the
economy out of control and inflation on course to hit 4,000 per cent this
year, the last thing his MPs want is to appear on the same ballot as Mr
Mugabe.

"If a dog were to stand against him, the dog would win," one insider
observed last week.

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Nor, because of the rapidly collapsing economy, are they prepared to
allow him to hang on until 2010. One Zanu-PF insider said: "We're all
against him now. He will struggle to get our support for him to be the
candidate in any election."

The central committee meeting is crucial because, in December, Mr
Mugabe failed to gain the unanimous endorsement of the party's annual
conference to extend his presidency for two years. Instead, it delegated the
decision to the central committee.

After being written off more times than he has had opposition rallies
broken up, Mr Mugabe's time may finally be running out.

Almost a week after Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and dozens of others were horrifically
beaten in a crackdown on political demonstrations, even Mr Mugabe's fellow
African leaders appear to acknowledge - reluctantly - that something must be
done.

Yesterday the previously supine African Union was moved to express
"great concern" about the crisis and to call for human rights to be
respected. The Southern African Development Community, a group of
neighbouring countries, is also applying pressure, alarmed that a bloody
presidential election in 2010 would disrupt South Africa's hosting of the
football World Cup.

Zimbabwe's opposition has pled-ged to use any democratic means to
topple the president. "We are in the final phase of the final push," claimed
the MDC's secretarygeneral, Tendai Biti, yesterday.

In response, Mr Mugabe had the MDC's other president, Arthur
Mutambara, arrested at the airport on his way to South Africa. Gift Tandare,
the activist shot dead during the demonstrations after which Mr Tsvangirai
was arrested, was meanwhile buried in secret by the central intelligence
organisation to prevent further demonstrations.

Mr Mugabe warned the opposition they would face more beatings if they
staged protests. "We are the government. We will not be deterred by any
criticisms, which are completely unfounded, from carrying out our duties,"
he said.

The president is not going to leave office because of a few skirmishes
in a minority of townships around Harare last week, but there is one
opponent he cannot face down: the economy.

In the past 10 days the exchange rate for US dollars has doubled. Fuel
prices are rising by about 20 per cent every two days. "No one will travel
next week, because they can't afford the fares. I can't pay this price for
fuel," said one angry driver. Commuter fares went up about 30 per cent last
week. The talk in the streets is of money, the cost of food, soap and bus
fares, and where to get the lowest prices.

When the price of milk jumped on Wednesday to about Z$17,000 for a two-litre
bottle, from Z$10,000 on Tuesday, a woman at a supermarket check-out till in
Harare let out a wail. At the official rate of exchange, that two litres of
milk would have cost about 36.

There are few secrets in Harare and political gossip does the rounds almost
as soon as any decision is taken in State House or in Zanu-PF headquarters.
The burning question now is whether Zanu-PF MPs have the nerve to turn their
back on the president and, if they did, who would replace him.

Leading the resistance is Solomon Mujuru, the wartime guerrilla leader known
as Rex Nhongo, whose wife, Joyce, is one of two vice-presidents. The retired
general, a former defence forces chief and minister of defence, who quit
politics to make money, is one of the main players behind the scenes hoping
to oust Mr Mugabe - but not because he wants the top job.

He delivered military victory over the white Rhodesians to Mr Mugabe in 1979
and protected the president from dissent within the party's ranks, but now
he has had enough. Like anyone who can work a calculator, Gen Mujuru knows
the economy can no longer endure its international isolation, which cannot
end while the "old man" is at the helm. He would prefer Mr Mugabe to go
gracefully and to live in splendid retirement in his palace in Borrowdale,
10 miles north of Harare, writing his memoirs.

If that happened, Joyce Mujuru, a teenage recruit into Mr Mugabe's wartime
forces, could step up. Elevated to the number two position in 2005, she has
quietly worked to earn the trust of the productive sector of Zimbabwe's
economy. She has been to look at the chaos on the formerly white-owned
farms, held a garden party for business leaders and dropped in on the mining
sector. So far she has kept any promises she has given.

But insiders say the Mujurus both believe the job should go to Simba Makoni,
the mild-mannered former finance minister. He has not been an outstanding
success in the senior jobs he has held, they say, but he is a decent man.

Mr Makoni has ducked for cover for the past two years and some economists
regard him with misgiving. But he did at least buy the farm he runs in
eastern Zimbabwe, unlike many who seized theirs, and he would be utterly
disgusted at the treatment of Mr Tsvangirai.

He is politically acceptable to President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and is
well known within African organisations.

Another contender is Emmerson Mnangagwa, now a junior housing minister, who
was recently singled out by Mr Mugabe as a potential successor. However, as
head of security at the time of the massacre of thousands of Ndebele people
in Matabeleland province in the 1980s, he would never be accepted in the
south of the country. As Zanu-PF's secretary for administration, he has been
tainted by alleged financial scandals.

The outsider, but Mr Mugabe's favourite, is Gideon Gono, the governor of
Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank. He controls what is left of the money and has
engaged in an impressive personal publicity campaign since he took office in
2003. He is so much in awe of Mr Mugabe that he is said to have fallen off
his chair in delight on one occasion when taking a phone call from his
leader. Significantly wealthy himself, he is personal banker to Mr Mugabe
and decides how much money to print so that civil servants can be paid.

Last night two more of those injured in the demonstrations last week were
arrested at Harare airport as they tried to leave for South Africa. Mr
Mugabe is not giving up power without a fight.


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Time to turn the screw on repulsive dictator

The Telegraph

By William Hague
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 18/03/2007

No one who saw the images of Morgan Tsvangirai's beaten, scarred and
bruised body last week could help being absolutely appalled by the depths to
which Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe has sunk.

The footage of teargas in the streets of Harare, stories of brutal
police crackdowns on protesters and messages of defiance from an ageing
dictator, show that this is a regime, and a country, in crisis.

It did not have to be like this for Zimbabwe. When President Mugabe
came to power in 1980, it was one of Africa's most promising economies -
abundant in natural resources and with a well-developed financial system and
prosperous agricultural sector. It was commonplace at the time for Zimbabwe
to be described as the breadbasket of Africa.

Twenty-seven years later, Mugabe's regime has brought Zimbabwe to its
knees. The country's inhabitants are poorer than they were in 1970. They
live in a land where thousands are killed by disease and malnutrition every
month and life expectancy is just 38 years. A place where only 15 per cent
of those who can work have a job and where half the population scrape an
existence on less than 50p a day.

All this would be more understandable, though no less acceptable, if
the country was ravaged by war and conflict. But it is not. The truth is
this has all happened during Mr Mugabe's stewardship.

Only two days ago, Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, wrote in
The Times that whatever President Mugabe might claim, this was not about his
personality. I cannot think of one thing it is more about. Make no mistake.
Mr Mugabe is not just part of the problem: he is the problem.

The latest violent clampdown last week awoke the wider world, once
again, to the nature of his regime. But it should not have surprised us. For
years Mr Mugabe's government has imposed draconian laws and undertaken a
systematic campaign of violence and intimidation against all forms of
opposition in order to maintain its grip on power.

After all, it was his government that evicted 700,000 of its poorest
people and demolished their homes in 2005. And it was Mr Mugabe's police
force that only last week shot dead the pro-democracy activist, Gift
Tandare.

Thus far, the international response to Zimbabwe's tragedy, however
well-intentioned, has been ineffectual and has not been able to prevent the
situation from deteriorating.

It is time for the international community to say enough is enough,
and to make last week's shocking events a turning point in the history of
Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is crying out for a political settlement that would see an
end to Mr Mugabe's dictatorship when his term expires next year, allowing a
power-sharing transitional government to take office until new presidential
and parliamentary elections can be held. Instead, Mr Mugabe is now trying to
force his party to accept changes to the constitution to allow him to extend
his rule.

Since Mr Mugabe has demonstrated that he has no intention of
negotiating, the international community must urgently increase the pressure
on him and his regime.

The European Union imposed restrictive measures against Zimbabwe,
including an arms embargo, and a travel ban and assets freeze on Mr Mugabe
and members of his regime, in 2002. Since then the measures have been
renewed each year - but they have not been substantially increased.

The EU should urgently impose additional European sanctions, including
those recently advocated by the respected International Crisis Group. These
include widening the scope of the assets freeze to family members and
business associates of those already on the lists, cancelling EU visas and
residence permits of those on the lists and their family members, and adding
the Governor of Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank to the EU list.

The restrictions must be rigorously upheld. In particular, no member
of ZANU-PF, including President Mugabe or anyone else who is on the EU
sanctions list, should be invited to the summit the EU is holding with the
African Union later this year. The EU should also seriously consider
applying the assets freeze to Zimbabwean institutions that are identified to
be complicit in the abuses that are being carried out by the current regime.

Beyond the EU, we must work with other countries that also have
sanctions in place against Zimbabwe, such as the United States, Australia,
New Zealand and Canada, to agree wider financial sanctions that maximise our
leverage on the Zimbabwean regime.

As we are seeing with North Korea, financial sanctions can be decisive
in inflicting a cost on the leaders who formulate disastrous policies for
their countries, without imposing hardship on innocent people.

And perhaps the time is now right for the International Criminal Court
to take a close and detailed look at the atrocities committed under the
auspices of Mr Mugabe and his government.

We must also urge Zimbabwe's neighbours to make a concerted effort to
resolve the crisis and to exploit their many points of influence with the
Mugabe regime. We must make the case now that the consequences of a total
collapse in Zimbabwe will fall heavily upon them and their region, and urge
them to put pressure on the regime to block the extension of Mr Mugabe's
rule and engage in talks with the opposition.

It is vital that the international community presents a united front
in pursuing a clear strategy that increases the penalties on the Zimbabwean
leaders, while showing that there is another way open if they change course.
This would be achieved by defining a set of US and EU incentives and
disincentives to accompany the sanctions, linked to specific benchmarks of
progress by Zimbabwe.

We must make it clear that the international community stands ready to
support and assist Zimbabwe, if its leadership is prepared to make the
dramatic change needed to give the country a truly democratically elected
government - a government that is determined to provide hope and relief for
its people, and is committed to economic and governance reform.

The fact that the people of Zimbabwe were brave enough to take to the
streets and protest against the Mugabe regime last week is a testament to
the resilience and spirit of those caught up in this horrific situation. The
time is now right for the international community to show a similar resolve
in bringing their misery to an end.

.. William Hague is Conservative MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire,
and Shadow Foreign Secretary


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Mugabe in fear of coup plot

The Sunday Times, UK
March 18, 2007

Dictator turns on his party elite

RW Johnson and Laura Thomas, Harare
AMID mounting signs of social unrest, the former head of Zimbabwe's army has
embarked on a charm offensive among foreign ambassadors in Harare,
convincing President Robert Mugabe that he is plotting a coup.

Solomon Mujuru, whose wife Joice is vice-president, has met the British,
French and US ambassadors, provoking fury from Mugabe, who now believes that
leading players in his own Zanu-PF party are scheming to overthrow him.

In an unprecedented attack on senior party figures, Mugabe claimed last
Friday that there was "an insidious dimension where ambitious leaders have
been cutting deals with the British and Americans".

He said: "The whole succession debate has given imperialism hope for
reentry. Since when have the British, the Americans, been friends of
Zanu-PF?"

Attacking the "monkey games" he alleged foreign diplomats were playing in
support of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Mugabe
threatened to expel them. But observers believe he is far more worried about
the dangers from within his party. In particular he is concerned that the
armed forces still seem loyal to the retired General Mujuru, whose contacts
with foreign diplomats signify his ambition.

Sources close to the Foreign Office in London confirmed that Britain would
be willing to work with any postMugabe leader to help restore both the
economy and democracy in Zimbabwe.

The dramatic collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar - which has fallen from Z$9,000
to the US dollar to Z$17,500 at its unofficial rate in the past five days -
is another sign of Mugabe's waning authority.

Harare residents awoke yesterday to find that the price of petrol had risen
overnight from Z$9,000 to Z$15,000 a litre, denoting a wholesale flight out
of the currency as traders realised that the local dollar might be worth
nothing at all if civil order broke down.

Nearly all the city's police have been drafted into huge high-density
shacklands on its periphery. These suburbs have been driven to the edge of
revolt by starvation, unemployment, Aids and violent repression.

In Highfield township, an MDC stronghold where Morgan Tsvangirai, the party
leader, was brutally beaten after police broke up an opposition prayer
meeting last Sunday, the question on everyone's lips was whether this brave
protest would mark the beginning of the end for Mugabe's 27-year rule.

Augustine Chihuri, the police commissioner, and other police chiefs have
begun to worry about their personal safety after firebomb attacks on police
housing. Chihuri, a Mugabe confidant, was seen loading up on Tuesday at a
Harare gunshop with 250 pistol bullets and 400 shotgun cartridges for his
private use.

Contingency plans are ready to move out as many of the 15,000 British
passport holders as choose to leave and to rush in foreign aid as soon as
the regime crumbles. Special forces are reported to have reconnoitred escape
routes.

If trouble comes, the main aim of the police will be to prevent angry mobs
from marching on the presidential palace and the luxurious homes of the
Zanu-PF party elite. With inflation officially up to 1,729% last month,
there are plentiful reasons for the elite to be nervous.

When Mugabe visited his sister Sabina in the Avenues Clinic last Wednesday,
he found that she had been placed in a ward near Grace Kwinjeh, an
opposition activist who had been so badly beaten by police that her right
ear was nearly severed from her head.

In an interview, Kwinjeh said she could not remember how many times she had
passed out. Every time she had fainted her attackers stood her up so that
they could carry on beating her. At the hospital Mugabe simply ignored her.

With scant information in the state-controlled media, mobile phone networks
jammed last week as people scrambled for news of the beatings, while nightly
power cuts plunged much of the city into darkness.

The pictures of hideously beaten opposition leaders are still unseen here.
Mugabe showed his contempt for the international response when he said his
critics could "go hang".

The flashpoint for a fresh confrontation may prove to be the burial of Gift
Tandare, an MDC activist and married father of three who was shot dead by
police on his way to last Sunday's meeting. Party officials wanted a
high-profile funeral for him in Harare, but the police, fearing unrest,
refused to release the body to his family.

A government spokesman last night confirmed that Tandare had been buried in
secret. His family was forbidden to attend. Apresidential spokesman said it
would have been a "defilement" to give up any land for the burial of "the
dead thug's remains".

Police barricaded roads near his home as hundreds of mourners tried to
gather with his young wife in the Shona tradition.

At least 116 MDC activists were still in police detention and the entire
party executive in the Midlands town of Kwekwe has been tortured in police
cells.

But even if the MDC musters its full strength and rival factions unite, it
is difficult to see the opposition toppling the regime if the police and
army remain loyal. The main threat to Mugabe may prove to be from within
Zanu-PF, as Joice Mujuru, the 52-year-old vice-president, battles for power
with Emmerson Mnangagwa, 65, the rural housing minister.

Mujuru, a guerrilla commander in the war against Ian Smith, claims to have
single-handedly shot down an army helicopter with her AK47. Her husband, the
former guerrilla leader and the army's boss for 10 years after independence,
is one of the richest men in the country. "I was up. But Tsvangirai did not
take it, saying he did not want to be responsible for causing a bloodbath.

Zimbabwe has been a frustrating story to cover over the past few years.
First there are the difficulties of entering clandestinely and interviewing
people without putting them at risk. But one of the saddest aspects has been
watching the rest of Africa give standing ovations to Mugabe.

I had always felt irritated that Zimbabweans were endlessly complaining that
the West should intervene. Why did they not do something for themselves?

But in May 2005, I happened to be in the country at the start of Operation
Murambatsvina (Drive out the Filth) when government bulldozers began
destroying hundreds of thousands of homes in shanty towns, supposedly in the
name of urban beautification. In fact it was because of the fear that the
inhabitants might rise up.

I looked on in horror as people with blank faces watched everything they had
worked for being smashed to pieces. Later, as the police got bored, they
instructed people to take axes to their own homes and throw their belongings
on the fires. Nobody protested and I realised just how oppressed the
Zimbabweans were.

Many of the people who might have risen up have gone. An astonishing 3.4m
Zimbabweans have left the country, 70% of the working population.

Those who remain are for the most part weak, hungry and sick. Almost a fifth
of the population is HIV-positive. In Zimbabwe this develops into full-blown
Aids far faster than elsewhere because of a lack of didn't fight the
liberation war to end up a poor man," he once declared.

Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa, the much-feared former head of the Central
Intelligence Organisation, are in effect war-lords, one supported by the
armed forces, the other by the secret police.

Mugabe fell out with Mujuru last year when he tried to postpone elections
from 2008 to 2010. The Mujuru faction blocked him.

Mugabe switched his support to Mnangagwa and now says that, at 83, he wants
to stand for president again next year. But he may have a good reason to
back Mnangagwa, who earned a fearsome reputation for atrocities in
Matabeleland in the 1980s and would be more likely to shield Mugabe in
retirement from the possibility of a trial for crimes against humanity.

Relations between Mugabe and the Mujuru camp have never been worse, and it
is clear that virtually the whole of the army high command sides with the
vice-president, making it unwise for Mugabe to push too hard. "The fact that
the Mujuru faction has the full endorsement of the army makes the prospect
of a coup very real," said a senior civil servant.

One critical question is which way South Africa will lean. The ruling
African National Congress contented itself with a statement referring to
"the alleged mistreatment of opposition leaders in police custody", urging
that "these allegations be thoroughly investigated".

Were President Thabo Mbeki to cut off credit or prevent fuel flowing into
Zimbabwe, he could bring Mugabe to his knees, but his policy is one of
laissez-faire.

Mbeki has, however, made it clear that he would like to see Mnangagwa
succeed.

The final factor in this witches' brew is the state of the police and the
army. The lower ranks, in both cases, are in a woeful state - ill paid,
often hungry and, in the case of the police, increasingly fearful of popular
anger. Hundreds of soldiers have deserted.

Mugabe's own presidential guard was given a thorough shake-up in January
after a dispute over pay escalated into a mysterious incident in which shots
were fired. According to usually well informed sources, 22 men were
executed.

An open mutiny from the armed forces is unlikely, but the conditions make it
easy for dissidents in the high command to manipulate the men below them.

Meanwhile, the townships tremble with anger. Arthur Mutambara, head of one
of the MDC's factions who was also arrested last weekend, said: "If there is
going to be any war, this is the time to declare war."


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'Emergency law' on streets as Mugabe bids to cling on



As Zimbabwe's beleaguered president makes more threats, the opposition
parties are standing defiant, reports Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg

Sunday March 18, 2007
The Observer

An unofficial state of emergency has been imposed on Zimbabwe by President
Robert Mugabe, with police beating people who venture on to the streets
after dark and breaking up gatherings as small as four people, report
residents.
In Harare, government gunmen yesterday seized the body of opposition
activist Gift Tandare to prevent his burial from becoming a focal point for
the opposition. Tandare was shot dead by police at the prayer rally last
Sunday where Morgan Tsvangirai and others from the Movement for Democratic
Change were arrested and later beaten.

'Armed Central Intelligence Organisation men stormed the funeral home and
took away Tandare's body still in its coffin,' Nelson Chamisa, an MDC
spokesman, said. 'People attending his wake have been beaten
indiscriminately. Mugabe's thugs are not even respecting the dead,' Chamisa
added. 'This is against African culture and against God. It is the act of a
frightened regime. Mugabe is trying to provoke violence.'
Tsvangirai was still feeling 'dizzy' from his injuries and was resting at
home, said his party officials. He has five stitches to a head wound and a
broken arm. Four others beaten with him remain in hospital. 'This incident
has just heightened the stakes,' said Tsvangirai. 'This has created even
more impetus and more determination on the part of Zimbabweans.'

Domestic and international pressure against the Mugabe government is
mounting. The British government has this weekend called for the UN Security
Council to be briefed on the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, while the
14-nation Southern African Development Community announced that a special
meeting on the escalating Zimbabwean crisis will be held in Dar-es-Salaam on
25-26 March. This follows talks between Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete
and Mugabe last Thursday.

A defiant Mugabe retorted that his police will 'hit harder' and threatened
to expel Western diplomats, in a speech last Friday. Exposing his growing
isolation, he admitted that members of his own Zanu-PF party are plotting
against him.

Mugabe blamed the opposition for instigating the violence. Speaking to the
youth wing of Zanu-PF, he lambasted critical Western diplomats.

'We will kick them out of this country,' said Mugabe, according to the
French news agency AFP. 'I have asked the minister of foreign affairs to
summon them and read the riot act to them. We shall tell the ambassadors
that this is not a country which is a piece of Europe.'

Mugabe also warned the opposition against anti-government demonstrations.
'If they do it again, we will bash them again,' he said. Mugabe said that,
because of attacks on policemen, all officers, including traffic police,
would now be fully armed.

'We are under a state of emergency: it would just be a waste of breath for
Mugabe to declare it,' said political science lecturer John Makumbe. 'We are
seeing police beating people in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, Kwekwe.
It has spread all over the country.'

Makumbe said police were breaking up groups of people on the street: 'Even
people walking to church are harassed. Nightclubs are closing because no one
will go out after dark.' He warned that tensions were rising and the
opposition was more united and determined.

'There is a risk of more violence. People are saying the difference between
dying quietly in our houses and dying on the streets is the same. Only
negotiations can defuse the situation. In Zimbabwe, we are pressing for a
transitional period and a new constitution leading to free and fair
elections. The international community must support that, especially
Africa.'

Zimbabwe was at 'a turning point', said Makumbe, and there was no going back
to when 'Mugabe's power was unquestioned. Even his own party is shook by
tremors that are weakening Mugabe.'

Restoring democracy will not be easy. 'It's not instant coffee. It's going
to be a long haul and messy and it has already started to be bloody.'

Many Zimbabweans are frightened. 'It's scary. Everybody is angry and wants
change. But police are beating us and keeping us in our homes,' said Fred
Chihota, 29, who lives in Harare's Mabvuku township. 'Prices go up every day
and people cannot buy bread. People say nothing will get better until Mugabe
goes. Nobody supports him. Nobody. I don't know what is going to happen. It
feels like things are going to explode.'

Chihota had been made redundant and now ekes out a living selling trinkets
for the dwindling tourist trade. 'We want to meet and plan what to do, but
the police and army are always patrolling and breaking up any meeting of
just a few people. We must stay in our homes, but we contact each other by
cell phones. We send text messages. That is how we are communicating.'

Students are being sent home early from night schools because police
arrested young people as they went home, reports Harare factory supervisor
Iddah Mandaza: 'My son is missing his classes, but he knows he must get home
early. The police are beating people. But people are angry because prices
are going up and up every day.'

Doctors report they are treating a stream of injuries from beatings by
police, the army, the Zanu-PF youth militia and the CIO.

Zimbabwe's previously splintered opposition has vowed to unite under the
Save Zimbabwe campaign to challenge Mugabe's rule. That newfound unity was
highlighted last Friday when Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway faction
of the MDC, stood with Tsvangirai's deputies and vowed to fight together.

'Our core business is to drive Mugabe out of town. There is no going back.
We are working together against Robert Mugabe and his surrogates,' said
Mutambara at a press conference in Harare last Friday. 'I hope Robert
Mugabe, a sick and old man, you are listening. We mean business.'

Mutumbara acknowledged that opposition factions had differences but said
recent events had united them: 'We are living under a criminal and brutal
dictatorship. Mugabe can go to hell and go hang.'

Confirming the opposition's new-found unity of purpose, Tendai Biti,
secretary-general of the MDC, added: 'The struggle in Zimbabwe is completely
about democracy. I can assure Robert Mugabe that this is the endgame. We are
going to do it by democratic means, by being beaten up and by being
arrested - but we are going to do it,' he said. 'We are in the final stage
of the final push.'

The beating of Tsvangirai and some 30 others galvanised opinion in Zimbabwe
and in the international community.

'Mugabe and Zanu-PF have now undressed themselves before the entire world.
No longer is Zimbabwe seen as a black/white issue or a land issue. It is a
question of democracy and basic human rights,' said Roy Bennett, the MDC's
representative in South Africa. 'Now that the leadership of the opposition
have gone to the front and have been beaten, the people of Zimbabwe are
going to follow.

British Foreign Office minister Lord David Triesman called for African and
European nations to step up action against Zimbabwe, telling the BBC that
Mugabe's policies were 'bordering on crimes against humanity'.

The British envoy to the UN called for the Security Council to be briefed on
developments in Zimbabwe. Emyr Jones Parry said he sought a 'humanitarian
briefing, because of 'the impossibility of the present situation'. South
Africa's UN ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, expressed surprise at the call,
saying Zimbabwe 'is not a matter of threatening international peace and
security'.

Nobel peace prize-winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said his fellow African
leaders should 'hang our heads in shame' for not strongly denouncing abuses
in Zimbabwe.

Archbishop Tutu issued a written statement, which said: 'How can what is
happening in Zimbabwe elicit hardly a word of concern, let alone
condemnation, from us leaders of Africa?'


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'They beat my head and stomped on my groin'



Last Sunday the MP Nelson Chamisa was one of 30 people badly beaten in a
police attack that has drawn worldwide attention to the brutal regime of
Robert Mugabe. Here he tell Andrew Meldrum of his ordeal

Sunday March 18, 2007
The Observer

'I began protesting Robert Mugabe's government nearly 10 years ago when a
student. I was very young then, but I am bearded now and my voice has
deepened. But still I was shocked by the savagery. They were not beating
only me, they were beating the 30,000 people who voted for me, who voted for
change.'
Still in pain, Chamisa was hospitalised for five days after the beatings: 'I
was going to the prayer meeting in Highfield, sitting in the back of the
car. As soon as we stopped, the police came and said we were in a prohibited
area and were under arrest because we were a source of chaos and violence.'

He was taken to Machipisa police station where he found other MPs and MDC
supporters already in a cell. 'They clapped to see me and joked that now
they have a spokesman. But I told them I heard the police talking in the car
that today they are going to teach us a lesson. I feared they were going to
torture us.'
Other MDC officials were brought in - Tsvangirai, Lovemore Madhuku, Sekai
Holland and Grace Kwinjeh. 'There were 30 of us. We all used our cell phones
to tell people we had been arrested and to bring food. Then a gang of about
35 very rowdy police came in. They told us to lie on our stomachs. They beat
us with truncheons, metal bars, rifle butts and a sjambok (a short whip).'

'They shouted things like "Mugabe is king of this country. He will die in
office. You will die first". They lifted my legs and stomped on my testicles
so hard they moved up into my abdomen. I screamed. They beat my back and my
head with truncheons. Then I was hit with an iron bar on my buttocks. They
used that bar on Morgan and on Grace Kwinjeh. The sjambok is terrible
because it rips away your flesh.

'Other police watched as if they were spectators at a wrestling match
shouting "Hit him. Make them bleed." They called out Madhuku and made him
stand and then beat him badly. Then Grace. They used the iron bar on her
head until her ear was flapping. They called my name and I was in the
roasting pan. At that point they all went for Tsvangirai, hitting his head
so hard his blood flew on the wall. When he fell unconscious they poured
water on him and beat him some more.

'Assistant Commissioner Mabunda came in. He congratulated the police on
beating us. "These are the ones that are making us give up our leave days
and work extra," he said. They ordered me to stand and then hit me down.
Then they had us walk single file past them and each officer would hit each
one of us as hard as they could. Some had broken bones and had trouble
walking, but they would not let us help each other. Then we had to lie on
our stomachs again. On your stomachs you cannot see what is happening and
what will hit you.

'They ordered us on a truck. I was crawling because I couldn't walk and they
taunted me. Morgan was unconscious. Everyone was in bad shape. They drove
around and dropped us at various police stations. It was a miracle there was
not a single death.'


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Zimbabwe nears state of emergency as the anti-Mugabe rebellion grows

Independent, UK

Plans to 'bring the country to order' raise fears of a return to the
repression of the 1980s that cost 20,000 lives
By a Special Correspondent in Harare
Published: 18 March 2007

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is preparing to declare a state of
emergency to try to keep control of the country as pressure mounts against
him internally and externally.

Authoritative sources said Mr Mugabe's cabinet had agreed in principle at a
meeting last week to impose a state of emergency if current measures put in
place did not "bring the country to order". It would result in a curfew with
all opposition activities banned and the movement of people severely
restricted.

Zimbabwe last saw the imposition of states of emergency in the early 1980s
when Mr Mugabe battled to contain a rebellion by bands of dissidents against
his government in southern Zimbabwe. In the subsequent crackdown more than
20 000 civilians were murdered.

The brutal assaults by police on opposition leaders last week seem to have
backfired on Mr Mugabe on all fronts, increasing pressure on him to resign.
Internally, they united the two factions of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) in a renewed determination to drive him from power.

Externally, the assaults provoked a rising chorus of condemnation from
around the world and threats of more sanctions. They even prompted southern
African regional governments - which have largely done nothing about
Zimbabwe so far - to consider taking action. Their leaders are concerned
about a spillover from the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, where inflation
stands at 1,730 percent and unemployment at 80 percent.

The Tanzanian government announced this week that Tanzania, Namibia and
Lesotho, the three governments currently responsible for regional security
in the Southern African Development Community, would meet on 26 and 27 March
in Dar es Salaam to discuss the crisis. And yesterday, the African Union
expressed "great concern" about Zimbabwe's crisis and called for human
rights to be respected.

After his release from hospital, where he was treated for the head injuries
inflicted by police last Sunday, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main MDC
faction, said he believed democratic change was now in sight. He said he had
endured an "orgy of beatings" in custody, adding: "They brutalised my flesh.
But they will never break my spirit. I will soldier on until Zimbabwe is
free."

Increased numbers of riot police and soldiers on Harare's streets were the
only outward sign of the tumult gripping the country yesterday. But while
the city centre remained tranquil, a new mood of militancy is driving Mr
Mugabe's opponents. "Now I believe the revolution has begun," says
33-year-old Emerald Mhlanga (not his real name), an MDC youth organiser.

Mr Mhlanga, whose father fought for Mr Mugabe's guerrilla army against Ian
Smith's white minority Rhodesian government in the 1970s, is part of a
vanguard of a generation engaged in what they say is a new freedom struggle.
A patchwork of scars and six missing front teeth are the visible
consequences of his seven years of political activism.

Last Sunday, Mr Mhlanga sneaked past police roadblocks into the impoverished
Harare township of Highfield to attend the rally held by a coalition of
opposition leaders. He was with his friend Gift Tendare. "Gift was one of
the strongest MDC cadres. I spoke to him a few minutes before and he said,
'Either I'm going to be shot, or the police officers are going to do
something.'"

Violence quickly flared, and as the crowds responded to tear gas and water
cannons with a barrage of stones, Mr Tendare was shot dead in the chest. His
body lay on the road for more than an hour, say witnesses. At his funeral
wake two days later in the Harare suburb of Glenview, police engaged in
running battles with youths, again opening fire and wounding two.

The ruling Zanu-PF has effectively fractured into three factions: Mr
Mugabe's, Vice President Joice Mujuru's and that of the former intelligence
minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mrs Mujuru fought in the 1970s liberation war
and is married to Solomon Mujuru, the country's former army chief, who now
has vast business interests here. Mr Mugabe has apparently been playing the
two successor camps off against one another.

Meanwhile the repression goes on. Last week the police stormed the offices
of the powerful labour movement, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and
seized documents and videotapes. The ZCTU has called for a two-day national
strike next month.


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South Africa 'stood by' as Tsvangirai lay in a police cell, bloodied and beaten



By Stephen Bevan in Pretoria, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:50pm GMT 17/03/2007

South Africa's ruling African National Congress party rebuffed
attempts to get it to intervene in a bid to save the life of the Zimbabwean
opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

As Mr Tsvangirai, the leader of Movement for Democratic Change, lay
beaten and bloodied in a police cell having been refused access to a doctor
or his lawyer, the MDC's exiled treasurer, Roy Bennett, wrote to the top ANC
official requesting an urgent meeting to brief him on what was happening.

"I was hoping the South African government would make a statement
against the Mugabe regime, because at that stage we were fearing for the
life of Morgan Tsvangirai," said Mr Bennett, who himself fled Zimbabwe after
a campaign of intimidation against him.

Yet, despite follow-up phone calls, and another letter, he received no
response. Yesterday Mr Bennett said he was "lost for words" at the ANC's
attitude.
The revelation of the ANC's rebuff will fuel criticism of South
Africa's policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards its northern neighbour. Tony
Leon, the leader of South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance, accused
President Thabo Mbeki of "dithering, inaction and often tacit support" of
Mugabe.

The ANC's reticence is all the more perplexing, given the signs that
patience is wearing thin elsewhere in Africa. Even the 53-member African
Union, which has never criticised Mugabe directly, issued a statement
yesterday saying it "recalls the need for the scrupulous respect for human
rights and democratic principles in Zimbabwe".

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Nelson Mandela, South Africa's former
president, told The Sunday Telegraph that he had privately "expressed his
concern over events of the past few days in Zimbabwe" and had been "happy"
to learn about an earlier statement by the AU chairman, President John
Kufuor of Ghana, calling events in Zimbabwe "uncomfortable" and
"embarrassing".

Yet, from President Mbeki himself there has been only a deafening
silence.

It was left to a junior foreign affairs minister to issue a statement
last week expressing the government's "concerns" and urging the Zimbabwean
government to respect the rule of law - and even that was coupled with an
appeal to opposition leaders to engage with the government.

This was far from representing the tough new line heralded by the BBC
and others, according to William Gumede, author of a biography of Mr Mbeki.
He described the response as " a classic piece of fence-sitting".

"My sense is that Pretoria has lost control of the process. They don't
know what to do and there is a sort of paralysis," he said.


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West looks east for African cure

The Scotsman

IAN MATHER DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT AND BRIAN BRADY WESTMINSTER
CORRESPONDENT (imather@scotlandonsunday.com)
AS THE despotic regimes of Zimbabwe and Sudan horrify the international
community, western governments and diplomats are beginning to think the
unthinkable - China could be the key to solving Africa's human rights
nightmare.

China has for decades been condemned for its own record on human-rights
abuses. But owing to its burgeoning economic and political activities in
Africa, it is increasingly becoming the only outside power with any hope of
halting the slide towards disaster in two of the continent's most troubled
states.

Beijing's unique opportunity to pressure Africa's two pariah states over
human rights abuses derives from its "mission to Africa" to secure resources
to feed its booming economy.

The result is that, in both Zimbabwe and Sudan, China now has a level of
political influence that is unmatched by the US, and by Britain, the former
colonial power.

The crisis in Zimbabwe reached a critical stage last week when police
assaulted Morgan Tsvangirai, leaving the opposition leader with a fractured
skull.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett insisted that she held Robert
Mugabe personally responsible for the brutality and economic chaos. But the
Zimbabwean president responded to the outcry by telling the West to "go
hang".

In Sudan, an unprecedented cry of despair from 14 relief organisations over
being prevented from reaching 200,000 displaced people in Darfur has brought
Khartoum's standoff with the international community to crisis point.
Sudan's justice minister, Mohammed Ali al-Mardi, dismissed as "baseless"
allegations that his government was responsible for orchestrating war crimes
in Darfur.

Yet the West is impotent to act against either government. The US and
Britain have excluded themselves from any rescue mission, and intend to rely
on further financial sanctions, measures that have no record of success.

Logically, African governments themselves should take action. But the
African Union's force of 7,000 troops in Darfur is ineffective. It is too
small for an area the size of France, and is ill-equipped and underpaid.

There is, however, a reluctant acceptance that China has the influence to
make a positive difference. Beijing is Sudan's biggest foreign investor,
buys two-thirds of the country's oil - worth US$2.9bn last year - and sells
arms to Khartoum.

Its relationship with Zimbabwe is just as close. In the past six years,
since western countries started to shun the southern African country, trade
between Zimbabwe and China has surged under Mugabe's so-called Look East
policy to $0.5bn a year.

China has also granted Zimbabwe a $2bn loan, the biggest ever secured by
Mugabe's government.

"Beijing is wooing Africa by chequebook diplomacy with Chinese
characteristics, its aid and trade binge underwritten by China's recently
accumulated wealth and its vast foreign exchange reserves," said Jacques
Delisle of the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of
Pennsylvania.

"China's stature as donor and trade partner for Africa now is on the same
scale as that of the United States."

And as a permanent member of the Security Council, China is well placed to
veto any moves initiated by the West that do not suit its purposes in
Africa.

Foreign Office ministers maintain the official line that China has a
legitimate right to make diplomatic incursions into the continent,
particularly as it has an accelerating need for raw materials to fuel its
booming manufacturing sector.

However, sources at the Foreign Office and elsewhere in the government
stress the growing nervousness among western powers over the potential for
disastrous repercussions if China chooses to use its power for selfish ends.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, a member of the government as Baronesses in
Waiting, HM Household, laid bare the anxiety underlying the UK position, on
Zimbabwe and Sudan in particular.

"China is now a great world power and with that comes a responsibility which
goes further than commercial interests," she said.

"Zimbabwe, where Mugabe and his regime are destroying the economic base and
destroying lives, where infant mortality is accelerating and where the
average life expectancy is 37 years for men and 34 years for women, is
perhaps the starkest example of where we hope that China can be more
supportive of international efforts to encourage reform. As in Sudan, this
is the right thing to do, but it is also in China's self-interest to play by
the international rules."

The solution for the British, the Europeans and the US has been a concerted
attempt to lock China into those international rules by engaging her in
multilateral efforts to tackle Africa's problems.

In 2005, Tony Blair invited a Chinese representative to sit on the
Commission for Africa, last year the Department for International
Development hosted a delegation from China that reviewed how the UK manages
its overseas development assistance, and Africa has featured prominently in
all ministerial contacts with the Chinese in recent years.

The strategy has borne fruit, particularly on the development agenda, but
western governments are keenly aware that the Chinese are always likely to
go their own way when the collegiate approach threatens their national
interest.

A symbolic example is the growing concern over the number of Chinese weapons
filtering into Sudan. When a recent report uncovered breaches of UN and EU
embargoes on weapons exports to Sudan, the UK accepted that China was not
helping.

But the response, from Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman, underlined the
UK's powerlessness. "We are aware of reports that Chinese weapons have been
found in Darfur," he said. "We are actively encouraging China and other
states to support work towards an arms trade treaty which would end the
irresponsible trade in conventional arms."

A senior Foreign Office source said the incident demonstrated the
"volatility" of the relationship with China. "We treat them with kid gloves
and they don't really respond," he said. "The weapons thing is just an
example of what is happening on a grand scale in Africa."

The frustration is not confined to officials. Another minister, Kim Howells,
reinforced the sense of China not playing by the rules after it refused to
support a UN plan to deploy a 22,500-strong force in Darfur.

"It is difficult to understand why Russia, China and, of course, Qatar
abstained in the crucial vote on Sudan," he said, "although we are glad that
they abstained rather than trying to veto any movement on this issue."

It was a meagre concession but, in the world of China and her pursuit of
influence in Africa, it seems like the most the West can expect.


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The jibes of tyrants fail if Europe unites



The European Union, 50 this week, has a moral and historical duty to exert
diplomatic pressure on Africa's monstrous leaders

Mary Riddell
Sunday March 18, 2007
The Observer

This is a story of war and bunfights. Start with the party thrown by Robert
Mugabe to mark his 83rd birthday. Herds of cattle were slaughtered and drums
of beer imported for a banquet that filled a football stadium. Outside, the
people starved and the morgues filled up. Soon afterwards, Morgan
Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, had his skull smashed by the President's
men. In Zimbabwe, the hangover of excess and brutality goes on.

Next Sunday, the leaders of the European Union will gather in Berlin for
another celebration, to mark the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Two spectres
will haunt the 50th anniversary of a prosperous club. The first is Zimbabwe,
the second Darfur. Both languish in the shadow of slaughter and repression,
the birth parents of modern Europe.
Africa has changed, too. Today's version barely resembles the continent
whose image dominated the G8 concerts of 2005. Poverty is not history,
despite some progress, and nor is tyranny. Some countries grow more vibrant
and economically stable, but Africa stands tainted by two monstrous leaders
destroying their people as the world looks on.

In Mugabe's imploded country, bread is rare, torture routine and
Tsvangirai's mangled face a metaphor for a ruined land. In Sudan, General
Omar al-Bashir has turned Darfur into a graveyard and presided over what UN
investigators last week decried as 'gross and systematic' human-rights
abuses.

Britain and Europe have promised much to Africa. What, in the face of such
outrages, must they do now? Mugabe, the most sinuous of politicians, has
played skilfully on Britain's strident denunciation of his land grabs of
1990. In his version, a narrative bolstered by our right-wing press, only
white farmers matter to old colonialists. Many in southern Africa have
backed the myth of Mugabe the liberator.

Now, at last, there are murmurs of censure from neighbours including Thabo
Mbeki, whose craven complicity up to now may stem from his own resentment
over white land ownership in a fragile South Africa. Mugabe's defiance is
undented. 'Go hang,' he told the West. In his preference, Tony Blair would
be first to swing.

Since condemnation has played into Mugabe's hands, Europe needs other
weapons. Strengthening existing sanctions, such as a travel ban and an
assets freeze on key Mugabe underlings is not as feeble as it sounds.
Stopping dignitaries from buying their shoes at Gucci and having their
varicose veins fixed in Harley Street is often no great blow to the
powerful, who can find other options. But outside pressure coupled with the
shortening sell-by date of Mugabe's patronage may make his henchmen question
their loyalty to a despot who must know he is close to the end.

Besides tougher sanctions, Margaret Beckett also wants UN human-rights
monitors to move into Zimbabwe. But this watchdog, fully committed in Sudan,
is in its infancy, while the African Union (AU) is barely three years old.
Among such fledglings, the EU at 50 is solidly middle-aged, with the
hormonal mood swings to prove it. If it is ever to take a central role in
the world, and atone for the meddlesome record of many member states in
Africa, now is the time.

A Europe forged from war, atrocity and oppression is ideally placed to help
orchestrate the diplomatic pressure that South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia
must apply on Zimbabwe. As Tom Cargill of Chatham House says, it should also
be lobbying China to act responsibly. Any dialogue between Britain and
Zimbabwe has often been conducted at a scream, which has played straight
into a dictator's hands. Some commentators demand, idiotically, that Blair
scream louder.

The way forward, instead, lies in the solid diplomacy that has unravelled in
the swashbuckling Blair era, as Foreign Office expertise has been parcelled
out to the Department for International Development and the Cabinet Office.
It is possible to dream of many fates for Mugabe. If hyperinflation does not
get him, the grief and rage of the dispossessed may drive his downfall. For
now, anno domini still looks the best hope for a country where women are
lucky to reach 34 and even a hellish ruler cannot hope for immortality.

Any notion that some silver bullet from the West will finish Mugabe has
merely cemented his tenure. But though the Zimbabwe problem is for Africa,
Europe has a role to play in applying what pressure it can in Harare and
elsewhere on the continent. According to Richard Dowden of the Royal African
Society, Mugabe has no bottom line, nor a wish to 'be part of planet Earth'.

By contrast, Sudan's General Bashir, though vile and murderous, has a proven
track record of buckling under threat. Europe, shamefully, has applied none
throughout a government-sponsored war of attrition in Darfur. Four million
citizens rely on aid. Collectors sent out for firewood are mainly female,
because men get murdered while women may just get raped. And yet not a
single useful EU sanction exists. If Bashir's top brass want to buy their
diamonds in the Rue St Honore, as a break from strafing villages, they may
do so with impunity.

Clearly, Europe cannot do everything to save Darfur. That does not entitle
it to do nothing. It should urgently, and as a minimum, impose travel bans,
freeze murderers' assets and help stifle funding for militias. Instead,
foreign ministers have formally expressed concern on 53 occasions, which
means that more than 200,000 people have each taken to their graves a
micro-sliver of an EU regret. Some punishment. Behind the scenes, Bob Geldof
is busy again, helping devise events to kickstart anger and force political
action in Europe from this month onwards. Even his critics should be glad,
as the death toll rises, that someone has a sense of urgency.

Obviously, the UN has a vital role in Africa, but Europe can act without
fear that Russia or China will flout its collective will. It can, and
should, look far ahead, partnering the new breed of African leader and
helping to train the AU troops that will be needed to keep the peace in
countries ripped asunder by the old sort in the decades to come. When the
EU's feeble foreign ministers meet in April, they had better have something
positive to propose on both Zimbabwe and Darfur.

The revellers at Europe's 50th birthday party should remember how it all
began. More than half a century since the Holocaust, the first rule of
deferred horror still applies. During times of extermination and oppression,
the eyes of the world stay dry and blind. But countries uncoupled from the
precepts of humanity and the rule of law cannot be left unchallenged as
their citizens suffer and die. Europeans, of all people, should know that.

mary.riddell@observer.co.uk


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John Rentoul: The tragedy of Tony Blair

Independent, UK

'I don't get rid of them all because I can't, but when you can, you should'
Published: 18 March 2007

The tragedy of Tony Blair is that by pursuing a liberal interventionist
foreign policy he has discredited liberal interventionism. Last week he was
roundly abused in parts of the British press for his failure to do anything
or even say much about Robert Mugabe, the monstrous president of Zimbabwe.
Most weeks he is also berated for his unwillingness to get tough with the
Sudanese government over the slow-burning genocide in Darfur.

Neither charge makes much sense. It arises from an Anglocentric assumption
that much that is bad in the world is our responsibility, and that we should
do something about it. Talk about post-imperial guilt. David Remnick, the
editor of The New Yorker, diagnosed it accurately a couple of years ago.
Britain, he wrote, is the one country where "the people feel Schadenfreude
toward themselves".

Yet in Zimbabwe, for which we do have a historical responsibility, the one
ploy that Mugabe can be relied on to use is that of condemning the old
colonial power for dictating to black Africans or for taking the side of the
few white farmers that are left. It shouldn't work, but he has been using it
for 27 years and it still does - especially in South Africa. In Sudan, the
obstacle to tougher action is not Britain or the US (which used the
"genocide" word first) but China and Russia, who wield the veto on the
United Nations Security Council, and the Arab League.

There is a strong moralistic flavour to British public opinion that demands
that "something must be done" when news of horrors from abroad reach these
shores. This has been the case at least since Gladstone's Midlothian
campaign on behalf of Bulgarian Christians persecuted by the Turks. It
persists today, regardless of the lack of any obvious means of doing
something, and it persists despite the disaster of Iraq - or even,
paradoxically, because of it. The Prime Minister took us to war to depose a
vicious tyrant in Baghdad, it is often said, so how can he not bomb the bad
men of Harare and Khartoum?

To which Blair often answers, easily winning the point: just because you
cannot do something about every injustice in the world does not mean you
should not do something when you can. He told Clare Short, in one of their
discussions before the invasion of Iraq, when she made precisely this point:
"If it were down to me, I'd do Zimbabwe as well."

He said something similar to Peter Stothard, the former editor of The Times
embedded in Downing Street when the bombs started to fall on Baghdad: "They
ask: why we don't get rid of Mugabe, why not the Burmese lot? Yes, let's get
rid of them all. I don't because I can't, but when you can, you should."

It was the high noon of Blair's Gladstonian phase. The shining steel of an
ethical foreign policy was tempered by a ruthless pragmatism. UN resolutions
and Saddam's miscalculated defiance - in the face of a US administration
that had abandoned its isolationist turn after 9/11 - provided a chance to
act on the "something must be done" impulse.

The trouble is that this impulse is fickle. Last week the BBC Question Time
audience swung round in a matter of minutes. "Something must be done" about
Zimbabwe, went up the cry. As soon as the problem with getting heavy with
Mugabe was pointed out - by Clare Short, as it happened - the audience was
all but howling for the bombing of Johannesburg to begin tomorrow. "South
Africa must do it," everyone was agreed.

A similar phenomenon was played out over a longer period on the issue of
Iraq. When the invasion began, British public opinion was narrowly
supportive. But then the looting started and the dangers of "when you can,
you should" became steadily more evident.

An ethical policy pursued pragmatically can be judged only on its practical
results. So far there has been one positive outcome - the removal of
Saddam - which is why Blair repeats so often his refusal to apologise for
it. The rest - the weapons of mass destruction, the world safer from
terrorism, the spread of democracy - has all been swept away, or, at best,
is waiting for the uncertain verdict of decades hence.

That leaves Blair in the uncomfortable position of appearing to deny the
obvious: that the effect of the invasion has been to plunge Iraq into chaos.
He is forced into this position because he has lost the argument that the
effects of not intervening in Iraq would have been worse. He admitted as
much in his interview on Sky last week: "I know this is not a majority view
in Western opinion." He never will be able to win the argument on the basis
of a hypothetical history of what might have happened. The best he can hope
for is that Iraq gets better over the next four years rather than worse.

So the consequences of the Iraq war are grave, and not only because of the
lives lost. The danger is of a new, more serious surge of American
isolationism, which would bring Blair full circle to Chicago. He chose the
city as the venue of his speech on the doctrine of interventionism at the
time of the Kosovo conflict in 1999 partly because it was the symbolic home
of the US isolationist tendency before the Second World War.

After Blair has departed the stage and, more importantly, after President
Bush has gone (20 January 2009 if you want to plan the party now), their
successors will have to forge new principles of international relations.
They will be able to do so free of the suspicion of personal motive that
clings to Blair and Bush. Yet the experience of Iraq may be as profound as
that of Vietnam a generation earlier - even though the conflicts were
utterly different in character and the US death toll was 27 times greater in
Vietnam.

The tragedy of Tony Blair is that he came to office determined to learn the
lesson of the Clinton-Major preference for jaw-jaw over the threat of
war-war in the Balkans. Yet while intervention was (just) possible in some
places, the achievements of peacekeeping in Sierra Leone, and of ousting
Milosevic in Serbia and the Taliban in Afghanistan are not enough to
outweigh the disastrous state of Iraq. Blair leaves office with Britain, the
US, Nato and the United Nations less willing to intervene militarily for
humanitarian ends than they were a decade ago.


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Our corrupt system is failing, admits bank chief



By Gethin Chamberlain, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:39pm GMT 17/03/2007

Mafia-style dealings, corruption, and political manipulation have
contributed to the economic crisis engulfing Zimbabwe, says the head of the
country's central bank.

With the country teetering on the brink of hyper-inflation and wages
15 times lower than the official poverty line, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
has resorted to printing billions of Zimbabwean dollars in a failing attempt
to keep the economy afloat.

The World Bank is predicting inflation of 4,000 per cent by the end of
the year. Business deals can only be negotiated a few hours ahead because
prices are rising so rapidly, and the collapse of the once-stable currency
means an exchange rate of Z$22,000 to the pound.

advertisement
In a devastating assessment of the economic situation, Gideon Gono,
the governor of the Reserve Bank has admitted that the consequences of
failing to tackle the situation are "too ghastly to contemplate".

Mr Gono - a favourite of President Robert Mugabe and the man many
think is being lined up to succeed him - writes: "If we continue with this
casual and sometimes selfish approach, we risk subjecting the majority of
our people to continued suffering under the inflationary yoke, foreign
currency shortages, transport hardships, inadequate pay levels, shortage of
basic commodities, parallel market operations and negative growth."

Mr Gono's previously stated belief that the economy could be turned
around was what so endeared him to Mugabe, but even he has now been forced
to make the tacit admission that political expediency has been allowed to
override economic considerations and common sense - benefiting a few, at the
expense of the national good.

Outlining some of the ways that Mugabe's attempts to subsidise his
supporters had created "a fertile haven for corruption", he revealed how:

. The government buys maize from farmers - often former soldiers and
Mugabe's natural supporters - at Z$52,500 a ton but sells it to millers for
a mere Z$600 a ton. The millers sell it back to the government at the
original price, pocketing the difference.

. Farmers are permitted to buy fuel at just Z$330 a litre, but can
sell it on at the market price of Z$6,500, making it vastly more profitable
to deal in fuel than to grow crops.

. Subsidised electricity typically costs consumers Z$20,000 a month,
equivalent to the price of a small bundle of firewood or two packets of
candles. The bank has had to bale out the state-run generating company.

According to the bank, "illegal, intimidatory and mafia-style
dealings" take place "day in, day out". Unless the problem is addressed, the
country can "kiss goodbye to any hopes of recovery over the foreseeable
future".

The bank's solution has been to print more and more money, although
the flow was temporarily halted last year when it ran out of foreign
currency to pay for the paper and ink it needed for the banknotes.

The result has been financial meltdown. Last week, the poverty line
for an average family was set at Z$938,000 (about 45) a month, but a
labourer earns on average just Z$65,000, while a lecturer only manages
Z$80,000. Living costs have risen inexorably. Last month the price of
vegetables rose by more than 150 per cent, milk by 90 per cent.

A room costs Z$25,000 a month to rent, while the bus fare to work for
a 22-day working month is Z$120,000. Many get up in the middle of the night
to walk to work instead.

Hyper-inflation, defined as a 50 per cent increase in prices per
month, is imminent. In February, according to the Consumer Council of
Zimbabwe, the price of a basket of goods rose by 49.5 per cent.

The trade unions question how long it can go on. Lucia Matibenga, the
vice-president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, said Mugabe and his
Zanu-PF party had packed the nationalised industries with placemen in what
amounted to "a military coup" and relied on fear and cronyism to prop
themselves up. Like many others, she questioned how long the rest of the
world could stand by and allow it to continue.

"Zimbabweans don't love violence but the only time the world reacts is
when there is blood," she said. "Do they want blood in the streets before
they come in, or would they rather work on a strategy now?"

The Reserve Bank's solution to the crisis was to call for a price and
wage freeze from March 1. Last week, there was still no sign of agreement on
such a deal.


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Labor questions cricket tour

Sydney Morning Herald

March 18, 2007 - 9:03AM

Federal Labor has questioned whether the Australian cricket tour to Zimbabwe
should go ahead in June.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Robert McClelland said there was a history of a
Australian sporting organisations taking quite independent stances from the
government on whether to proceed with overseas tours.

"I certainly think it is worth talking with them and saying is it something
they really want to do given what is an outrageous abuse of our principles
in Zimbabwe," he told the Ten Network.

"That is something to legitimately raise. They make the decision but I think
we are entitled to say is this a good thing visiting Zimbabwe in these
circumstances."

That follows the brutal suppression of an prayer meeting in which
politicians and others protesting against the government of Robert Mugabe
were savagely beaten and arrested.

Mr McClelland said sporting boycotts did work for South Africa over as
period of time.

"These are things to look at from not only politics but the community
sporting organisations," he said.

AAP

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