The ZIMBABWE Situation
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Chamisa attacked

Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 3:54 PM
Subject: Chamisa attacked, is in a critical condition

Kuwadzana MP and MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa was brutally attacked this morning on his way to Harare international airport to catch a flight to Brussels where he was scheduled to attend the EU-ACP regular rounds of meetings. Chamisa is one of the three MPs who represent Zimbabwe at the EU-ACP forums.
Hon Chamisa was accompanied by Highfield legislator Pearson Tachiveyi Mungofa at the time of the attack. He has since been rushed to hospital. Mungofa said a car without registration numbers intercepted them and forced him to stop. Thereafter in a classic banditry style the assailants came for Chamisa, pulled him out and bashed his head onto the tarmac, injuring his eyes. They took his passport, laptop, suitcase and all his documents. Mungofa was forced to make a U-turn and head for a hospital in Harare. Mungofa says he is in a serious condition.
More later!

Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 6:39 PM
Subject: Chamisa latest

Following the early morning attack on Hon Nelson Chamisa while o his way to the airport to catch a flight to Belgium for the ACP-EU normal round of parliamentary consultations, we are told police have moved into his Kuwadzana constituency, west of Harare, and sealed off the impoverished suburb. Church services were disrupted; flea markets forced to close ad ordinary people ordered to remain in doors. Several MDC activists in the area are being targeted for routine beatings.
Initial reports indicate that his skull has been cracked, his eyes smashed, his bags looted and seized, he is in a critical condition. Chamisa's trip is part of a regular paliamentary, government business and was known to the authorities for many moons before today's attack. Last week, Chamisa was attacked together with Morgan Tsvangirai, myself and many other senior offcials in Highfield. He was hospitalised for four days following a brain concution and other injuries.

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Zimbabwe opposition man badly beaten, colleague says


Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:14 AM GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean opposition legislator was badly beaten on
Sunday as he tried to travel to Belgium, a day after his colleagues were
stopped from taking a medical trip to South Africa, an official from his
party said.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change headed by
Morgan Tsvangirai, was at Harare airport on his way to an Africa, Pacific
and Carribean-European Union parliamentary meeting when about eight men
pounced on him.

"He was badly beaten by men who jumped out of two unmarked cars at the
airport," said William Bango, Tsvangirai's spokesman.

Chamisa was receiving treatment at a Harare hospital on his eye and left jaw
and had lost a lot of blood, Bango said.

On Saturday, police stopped two other MDC leaders, Sekai Holland and Grace
Kwinje, boarding a flight to South Africa for medical checks after they were
beaten in police custody a week ago, their lawyer said.

Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a splinter MDC faction, was also stopped
from travelling to South Africa, where he spends part of his time working,
an MDC official said.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

Police arrested Tsvangirai and dozens of opposition and civic group leaders
for holding an illegal rally several days ago, defence lawyers say.

A court hearing on Tuesday was cancelled after a state prosecutor ordered
Tsvangirai and others be treated in hospital.

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INTERVIEW-IMF sees Zimbabwe's economic collapse accelerating


Sun 18 Mar 2007 8:24:12 BST
By Andrew Quinn

CAPE TOWN, March 18 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's economic collapse is likely to
accelerate with inflation topping 5,000 percent by year-end as President
Robert Mugabe's government loses control of a crisis already rippling across
Africa, a senior IMF official said on Sunday.

International Monetary Fund Africa Director Abdoulaye Bio-Tchane said
Zimbabwe's government had shown little sign of coming to grips with its
mounting economic problems, promising more hardships amid sharply rising
political tensions.

"It depends on how much the people in the country can take," Bio-Tchane told
Reuters in an interview.

"The question is how far it could fall. The last four years we've seen GDP
falling by more than 35 percent. Inflation is running at more than 1,700
percent and our estimate is by the year's end it could move even beyond
5,000 percent."

Bio-Tchane's forecast came as Mugabe's government comes under rising
international condemnation over a violent crackdown on the opposition this

In response, the United States and other nations threatened to tighten
sanctions against Mugabe and other senior Zimbabwean officials.

Mugabe, 83, has warned against any "monkey games" by those he called the
stooges of his Western critics and said police would now be well armed to
deal with violence caused by the main opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC).

Bio-Tchane said Mugabe and Zimbabwe Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono
appeared unable to stem the economic slide, which has turned one of Africa's
most promising economies into a basket case beset by frequent shortages of
food, fuel and foreign exchange.

"It is one step forward, two steps back," he said, saying Gono was fuelling
the crisis by expanding the already enormous fiscal deficit to some 40
percent of GDP this year, printing floods of new cash and subsidising
struggling state-run firms.

"They need to rein this in," he said. "But obviously they need more than
that. You can't let the economy function if people are not free to operate,
if their rights are not secured, including human rights."

"You will always find a few people who will benefit from this system, so
therefore it may continue. I can't give a date when the whole thing will
stop or collapse. But it will certainly continue falling. This will continue
impoverishing people, people will continue losing their jobs, continue
losing their purchasing power."


Bio-Tchane said Zimbabwe's woes were already felt across Africa as millions
of economic refugees stream out of the country, mostly to neighbouring South
Africa, while economic growth is hampered by the loss of regional trade and
investment opportunities.

"It's holding the sub-region back, and it is holding the whole Africa region
back," he said. "This was a booming economy, this was a net exporter of
goods and services in the past. Now exports are falling. It is a country
that is a net importer today."

He added that it appeared some countries were helping to bankroll Mugabe
through loans or other deals.

"We don't have evidence of the sources, but clearly they are getting some
financing," he said.

The IMF and other key Western donors, including the World Bank, suspended
aid to Zimbabwe more than six years ago over Mugabe's economic policies that
are blamed for the economic meltdown.

Western donors withdrew aid and other assistance, accusing Mugabe of
widespread human rights violations and for seizing white-owned farms, which
has turned the country from a regional bread basket to a nation barely able
to feed itself.

Despite the problems, Bio-Tchane said Zimbabwe could quickly access outside
help once it made the necessary economic reforms.

While the IMF in February maintained its suspension of financial and
technical assistance to Zimbabwe, Bio-Tchane said efforts to repay some $129
million in arrears to the fund had kept open its chances to obtain immediate
international help.

"They could be quickly eligible for technical assistance. And for funds, I
must say, in the case of Zimbabwe it is really the political commitments of
the government that are preventing everyone from cooperating."

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Australian Aboriginal Leaders Condemn Zimbabwe Bashings

Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 5:34 PM
Subject: Australian Aboriginal Leaders Condemn Zimbabwe Bashings

Some of Australia's most eminent Aboriginal community leaders, artists,
educators and performers have expressed their horror at the brutal bashing
and torture of Zimbabwean grandmother Mrs Sekai Holland and other
opposition leaders at the hands of the Mugabe regime in Harare.

Many Aboriginal Australians who were involved in the anti-apartheid
movement in the early 1970s have strong and fond memories of Sekai
Holland. She was a staunch supporter of the Aboriginal Land Rights
movement and the 1972 Aboriginal Embassy.

Naomi Mayer's of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service said that Sekai
was and is a strong but gentle person of principle and great integrity and
that it was outrageous for a grandmother to be brutalized in this manner.
Mrs. Mayers said that both the Redfern Legal Centre and the Redfern
Aboriginal Medical Service has written to the South African High
Commission (the major international sponsor of the Mugabe regime)
expressing concern for the safety of Mrs Holland and other opposition
leaders in Zimbabwe.

Other Aboriginal rights leaders and Aboriginal community members who said
that they were shocked and outraged by the actions of the Mugabe
Government included, Jenny Munro, Lyall Munro, Gary Foley, Sol Bellear,
Gary Williams, NSW MP Linda Burney, novelist and historian Tony Birch,
Kaye Bellear (widow of Aboriginal District Court Judge Bob Bellear),
novelist and Miles Franklin Award nominee Alexis Wright, artists Richard
Bell and Sam Wickman, , barrister Lloyd McDermott, and veteran campaigners
Lowitja O'Donohue, Evelyn Scott, Faith Bandler, Hans Bandler, Lester
Bostock, Dulcie Flower,  Euphemia Bostock, Joyce Clague and Colin Clague.

Activist and historian Gary Foley, who knew Sekai from the late 1960s said
that it was particularly ironic that the ANC Government of South Africa
were propping up the Mugabe regime at a time when the Zimbabwe government
is brutalizing a grandmother who once stood beside Australian Aboriginal
activists to fight against South African apartheid.

Mr. Foley said that Mugabe has dismissed criticism from the West as just
'white racists'. "Well it is time for Mugabe and his thugs to realize
there are black people in the west who also condemn his actions. Fascism
is fascism, whether its face is white or black!"

The Aboriginal Australians also called on the Australian government do
more to ensure the safety and security of Sekai Holland and her opposition
colleagues in Zimbabwe. They said the Australian government, which had
rushed in to help depose Sadam Hussein have an obligation to take more
firm action against a worse tyrant in Zimbabwe.

for further info:

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Zimbabwe opposition leader to face public violence charges

Yahoo News

HARARE (AFP) - Arthur Mutambara, leader of the breakaway faction of
Zimbabwe's opposition party, will be charged with inciting public violence
after being re-arrested Saturday, officials said.

The leader of a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) breakaway faction was
arrested at Harare International Airport as he was travelling to South
Africa where his family is based.
"He (Mutambara) is being charged with inciting public violence," Harrison
Nkomo, his lawyer told AFP Sunday.

"These are the same charges which he was charged with last week, which the
high court ruled against. We are now seeking for his immediate release from
the police cells as we have written a letter to the police and the attorney
general's office."

Mutambara was among 49 others, including the leader of the other MDC
faction, Morgan Tsvangirai, who were beaten by police after being arrested
last Sunday, when police prevented a mass prayer meeting.

On Monday last week, a High Court judge ordered police either to take the
opposition leaders to court by 12 noon, or to release them from custody.

Mutambara and other opposition and civic leaders were nevertheless brought
to court well after the judge's deadline.

The opposition activists were later released into their lawyer's custody
after the state failed to formalise charges against them.

Nkomo said they would file an urgent High Court motion on Monday seeking the
release of Mutambara.

Meanwhile, police said they had identified members of the gang that
masterminded the bombing of Marimba police station in the capital last week,
press reports said.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told the state-run Sunday Mail that they
had managed to identify the suspected opposition activists behind the
firebomb attack, which seriously injured two policewoman.

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Mutambara not assaulted together with Tsvangirai and others

Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 6:57 PM
Subject: Mutambara not assault togeter with Tsvangirai and others

I would add just one additional rider to this note - I spoke to Job Sikhala
on Friday and he told me he had been released by the Police early on in the
fracus and was not actually held for any length of time. He was not asaulted
in any way.


By Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

I WISH to bring to public attention certain incorrect information which was
contained in a story which was also carried on this website,
giving an eye witness account of how a particular police officer based at
Machipisa Police Station witnessed the brutal assault on MDC officials and
supporters. The story said Arthur Mutambara, the president of a faction of
the Movement for Democratic Change, was assaulted, but not seriously.

I spent Sunday and Monday night in the same cell with him; he was never
assaulted, as alleged by the Machipisa police officer quoted in the story.
In fact, after his arrest Mutambara was never taken to Machipisa where the
assaults took place. He was taken directly to Harare Central Police Station
and then to Avondale Police Station where I spent Sunday and Monday nights
with him in the same cell. There was not a single scratch on his face, his
head or anywhere else on his body. There was absolutely nothing on him and
that's a fact. He was actually asking us about how people had been beaten
about. Our two other cellmates, both supporters of the Morgan Tsvangirai
faction, Todiyi Todiyi and Chemhere asked Mutambara how come he had not been
assaulted. He said he was lucky to be taken to Harare Central, where he was
not subjected to any beating. Mutambara and his colleagues were driving
separately in Highfields where they were arrested, but they were taken to
Central. The Tsvangirai group was taken to Machipisa and that is where the
assaults took place. That is where I was taken. I witnessed the assaults.

In fact, as far as I could see and remember, most of the leaders from the
Mutambara faction, among them Job Sikhala, were never assaulted or hurt in
any way. The second point I would like to bring out is that contrary to the
policeman's testimony, the MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai and the rest of
the leaders and supporters who were brought and assaulted at Machipisa
Police Stations, were never at any point blindfolded before being taken out
of the station.

My own ordeal started as I was driving in Highfields with my colleague,
Tendai Musiyazviriyo, on that fateful day. The whole place was deserted,
shops having been forcibly ordered to close by the police around 8 am in the
morning. The police presence was heavy on the streets. After driving around
for about 45 minutes we were eventually stopped near Cyril Jennings Hall.
Six armed police officers, two of them women, told us to get out of the car.
They asked us to identify ourselves and we immediately brought out our valid
press cards. For the record, I am fully accredited with the Media and
Information Commission as a freelance journalist and have been accredited
since 2003. Upon presentation of the cards we were pushed to the ground and
told to lie down and then they suddenly started beating us.

I remember trying to reach for my cell-phone which was lying on the tarmac.
It was smashed to the ground by a woman police officer who then kicked me in
the mouth. I started to bleed from the mouth and the nose. The beating
suddenly stopped. I was told to surrender the car keys before we were
handcuffed and thrown onto the back of a police truck. As we drove to
Machipisa Police Station, heads down, we were accused of being sellouts and
puppets of the west and also of working together with the political

When we arrived at the police station we were told to get out of the police
vehicle and to join about 10 people who were lying on the ground in the
station grounds. We just stood there in utter disbelief. We were shoved to
the ground, handcuffed and the beating started again. I have never
experienced so much pain in my life and I honestly thought I was going to
die. After the beating, which was mainly concentrated on my back and
buttocks, they removed the handcuffs. We were ordered to march into the
charge office. I did not march; I ran as fast as I could but was tripped by
a police officer who apparently thought I was trying to run away. I fell to
the ground, quickly got up and entered the charge office. I remember seeing
a police officer bringing our smashed camera equipment and dropping it on
the floor in the charge office.

A woman officer began to take details of our particulars and equipment. I
could not talk as I was in so much shock and pain. Tendai told them my name.
The MDC president, Tsvangirai, then arrived at the police station,
accompanied by William Bango. They were ordered to join their supporters who
were lying on the ground in the fenced area of the station. Tsvangirai was
the first to be attacked, being set upon even before he was ordered to lie
down. Our details recorded, we were ordered to go out and join Tsvangirai
and the others. I remember entering the fenced area and seeing Tsvangirai
being struck several times with batons. He did not scream. I thought I was
dreaming, as I could not imagine this was happening to such an important and
respected man in Zimbabwe. He just lay there and tried to raise his hands to
defend his head from the blows. He kept on uttering the words, "Chii nhayi?
Chii nhayi?" (What is it? What is it?).

For the next hour or so were subjected to the most excruciating torture I
have ever experienced in my life. I felt sorry for Sekai Holland who was
brutally assaulted several times and also for a one-legged MDC supporter on
crutches who was repeatedly beaten. I remember him crying out for his sons,
thinking he might never see them again. Grace Kwinjeh was lashed with a
whip. A belt with metal studs caught her on the ear. A part of the ear
nearly came off. The women were very brave. They never screamed. When the
beating stopped we were told to get back onto the truck. The vehicle had
been parked in the open exposed to the sun for hours.

I remember very well from the temperature reading in my car that it was
around 36 degrees on that day and to be told to lie down on the metal floor
of an open truck that had been parked in the sun was like jumping into a
frying pan. A cool breeze of air came as a relief when the truck started to
move. Our first stop was Harare Central Police Station where we were told to
get off and again lie on the tarmac for about another hour. A senior police
officer instructed that we should go to a water tap, two at a time, to wash
the blood from our faces and elsewhere on our bodies. I don't know whether
this was done out of sympathy or whether they wanted us to remove the bloody
evidence of the beatings which we had experienced.

I remember helping Tsvangirai to his feet; he could hardly stand up. But he
collapsed. Someone brought a cup of water which he poured on his face and he
regained consciousness. Everyone who could walk was given a chance to wash
themselves. Then they started taking down our names. Blood continued to ooze
out of my nose and mouth. The washing did not stop the bleeding from
Lovemore Madhukus head and the large cut on Tsvangirai's head. Blood flowed
freely from an open wound below the knee of Tsvangirais bodyguard. The blood
cloated eventually. It was obvious most of the injured people needed to be
rushed to hospital.

This did not happen, however. Instead we were ordered an hour later to get
back onto the police truck. Our next stop was Borrowdale Police Station
where Tsvangirai and three other people were dropped off. From there we
proceeded to Malborough Police Station where Lovemore Madhuku, Job Sikhala
and other people including my colleague, Tendai were dropped off. I was
dropped off at Avondale Police Station with Sekai Holland, Todiyi Todiyi and
Chemhere. Initially they dropped off William Bango. Then one of the
policemen said Bango should jumpback onto the truck as they did not want him
in the same cell with Mutambara. Mutambara arrived later and joined Todiyi,
Chemhere and me in the same cell. Unforunately Mai Holland, who is 64, fell
from the truck when the police ordered her to get off. She could hardly
walk. The truck proceeded, or so I later learnt, to Braeside Police Station
and eventually to Mbare.

As we were removing our shoes and belts before entering the police cells
Mutambara came in smartly dressed in a black suit. I had last seen Mutambara
as we were driving in Highfields. He was arrested and taken to Harare
Central without being beaten up. I spent two nights with him. He had a clean
shaven head, in any case he told us he was lucky not to be beaten. We talked
about politics, family and many other issues. I found it very interesting
that when more people were brought into our cell the following day and we
asked them what was happening outside they all told us that the whole MDC
leadership had been arrested and that there was absolute chaos around the
country. They all told us that Tsvangirai, Madhuku and Mutambara had been
arrested. None of them identified Mutambara who was sitting right next to me
until they were told who he was.

We were treated fairly well at Avondale Police Station. Mutambara was
accorded much respect by the police. They called him Professor. I don't know
whether they were mocking him. But he had access to The Herald. They gave
him a pen and paper "to communicate with his lawyers". Amai Sekai Holland
was very helpful. Her sister brought her some ointment and she shared it
with me. It really helped ease the pain on my back and buttocks.

As I write this story my lawyer Beatrice Mutetwa is involved in battle with
the police as they are refusing to release my car and broken camera
equipment. This was the worst experience of my career since I entered the
world of photo-journalism at The Daily News in 1998.

Since I parted ways with Mutambara on Tuesday I have constantly wondered
whether the preferential treatment he received from the police was, in any
way, a strategy by the government to create further friction between the two
opposition leaders or whether they were just protecting their man, as is
often alleged.

 (An award-winning photo-journalist, Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi is the Zimbabwe
Times photographer in Harare.) 
Last Updated ( Friday, 16 March
2007 )

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Mugabe holds power by creating hell in Zimbabwe

Billings Gazette

Published on Sunday, March 18, 2007

Guest Opinion:

Zimbabwe - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe appears cornered. Faced with a
rapidly imploding economy, growing opposition from within his own ZANU-PF
political party and an increasingly militant opposition, he is throwing
caution to the wind and lashing out in all directions.

The country appears to be on the brink of degenerating into chaos. The
recent police attack on Mugabe's political opponents was the president's way
of reacting to the growing public anger against him and his ruling party
that's being fueled by the country's economic meltdown.

The arrests and beatings of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, along with other political and human-rights
activists, has only served to once again focus international attention on
the rapidly deteriorating nation and Mugabe's repressive regime.

Runaway inflation

So far, the aging president has rejected all of the opposition's demands and
instead has responded with the use of force.

Some local observers contend that the latest violence may have actually been
orchestrated by government authorities who believe that the growing
political instability will allow Mugabe to either cancel or postpone the
presidential vote scheduled for next year.

Mugabe, who turned 83 last month amid great pomp and fanfare, has announced
that he would seek another term of office if asked to do so by the ZANU-PF

Critics blame Mugabe for the once prosperous country's current crisis. The
annual rate of inflation last month topped 1,700 percent - the highest in
the world - and the unemployment rate is estimated at 80 percent. There are
chronic shortages of food, medicines and fuel.

"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."

While the MDC alleged that the police had killed three of its members who
were en route to a prayer meeting, authorities would only confirm one death.

The police alleged that the prayer meeting, organized by the Save Zimbabwe
Coalition - an emerging alliance of opposition parties, civic groups and
church organizations - was in fact an anti-Mugabe political rally that
violated the nation's draconian Public Order and Security Act.

Torture by police

But it was the sight of a beaten and battered Tsvangirai in court that has
sparked international outrage. Even the justices on the Zimbabwe bench were
forced to acknowledge that the MDC leader had clearly been tortured at the
hands of the police.

"These actions are symptomatic of a rogue regime that has lost all
semblances of sanity and decency," said Innocent Gonese, the MDC legal
affairs secretary.

There is growing sense of despair on the streets of the capital.

"Seven years ago Zimbabwe was a wonderful country," said Tevedzerai Marecha,
an office worker in Harrare. "Now we are in hell; we are slowly hurtling
toward civil war."

Frederick Tsotso is a journalist in Zimbabwe who writes for The Institute
for War & Peace Reporting.

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Starved and beaten, a nation cannot rise up

The Australian

Christina Lamb
March 18, 2007
IT IS a shock to see someone you know on the front pages of the newspapers
looking battered and bruised, with one eye closed and swollen and jagged
stitches across his skull.
The picture of Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, told us far
more than any words about the lengths to which President Robert Mugabe will
go to quell criticism..
Yet for anyone familiar with Zimbabwe's despotic regime, it was not really a
surprise. The first time I met Tsvangirai I was heavily pregnant and he had
narrowly escaped being thrown out of his 10th-floor office window by Mugabe's
thugs. Both of us were coming to terms with a new situation.

We sat in the scruffy office that served as headquarters of the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), of which he was president, and he told me
that he had been working at his desk a few days after leading a general
strike against tax increases when seven men had burst in.

Tsvangirai, 55, is a powerfully built former miner, but they smashed his
head with a chair, then pushed him towards the window. He was convinced that
had he not raised the alarm by shouting to his secretary, he would have died
"Hell hath no fury like a government on its last legs" was the opinion of
the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper after that attack. Tsvangirai was of the
same opinion. The army had had to be deployed to deal with Zimbabwe's first
food riots and he was convinced that Mugabe's days were numbered.

Shortly afterwards, in September 1999, he launched the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) - the first real opposition that Mugabe had faced
since leading the country to independence from Britain in 1980.

Every time I have met Tsvangirai since, he has asked about the "baby". Last
summer, sitting in the garden of his bungalow in Avondale, amid the clamour
of some of his six children, he inquired as usual. "Morgan, that baby is now
seven years old," I laughed. "That shows how long all this has been going on

During that time Zimbabwe has notched up a series of unenviable records. It
has the world's highest inflation and fastest-shrinking peacetime economy.
Mugabe's violent programme of farm seizures has turned the former
breadbasket of southern Africa into a land of hunger with the lowest life
expectancy anywhere - just 34 for women and 37 for men - and the highest
percentage of orphans.

How has Mugabe been able to hang on as his country falls apart? I have
covered the last three Zimbabwean elections - parliamentary in 2000 and
2005, and presidential in 2002 - and there was a tide of anger against
Mugabe and his Zanu-PF. Yet a combination of rigging and state control of
the media ensured victory for the ruling party in rural areas, even if it
had to concede the cities to the opposition.

Although it seemed clear to outsiders that Mugabe was not going to allow
mere elections to remove him from power, Tsvangirai has appeared shocked by
each defeat. After the third stolen election, MDC candidates gathered at the
party's Harvest House headquarters in Harare and were horrified to discover
that there was, as they put it, "no plan B".

Why have Zimbabweans not taken to the streets as people did in Yugoslavia
and Ukraine to force out unpopular leaders? If ever there was a chance it
was after the voting in 2002 when youths wandered the capital waving red
cards like football referees to signify that Mugabe's time 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 drugs and nutrition. The
attention of these people is focused on survival.

Amid such horrendous conditions, the opposition played into Mugabe's hands
by splitting in November 2005. This was largely caused by Tsvangirai's
high-handedness in overruling a party decision to contest Senate elections.
There are now two rival MDC factions, although they came together last
Sunday for a prayer meeting, which is perhaps why Mugabe's thugs broke it up
so violently, killing one MDC activist and badly beating Tsvangirai and

The last time I saw Tsvangirai he was bleak. "Mugabe has no exit plan," he
said. "His only plan is to hold on to power."

The pictures of Tsvangirai's smashed and swollen face have refocused
attention on him and revitalised his own resolve. "Far from killing my
spirit, the scars they brutally inflicted on me have reenergised me," he
wrote afterwards.

Perhaps more importantly, the international condemnation might finally
provoke action from neighbouring South Africa, which provides Zimbabwe's
electricity and could literally switch off the lights.

With so many Zimbabweans dying that bodies are being left in mortuaries
because people cannot afford to bury their relatives, the words of
Archbishop Desmond Tutu had particular resonance. "What more has to happen
before we who are leaders, religious and political, of our mother Africa are
moved to cry out, 'Enough is enough?' " Tutu asked.

Christina Lamb is the author of House of Stone: The Story of a Family
Divided in War-Torn Zimbabwe (Harper Perennial)

The Sunday Times

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