By Blessing Zulu
30 March 2007
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, having emerged unscathed from a
regional summit where he had been expected to face a barrage of criticism,
consolidated his position at home Friday as the central committee of his
ZANU-PF party endorsed his candidacy for another presidential term in the
election to be held next year.
His domestic opponents, meanwhile, were besieged by security forces which
pursued a crackdown that intelligence sources said was intended to quell
unrest across the increasingly impoverished country and silence Mr. Mugabe's
Analysts said political violence against the opposition was likely to
intensify following the ruling party's decision to endorse the president's
candidacy and bringing general elections forward by two years to coincide
with the presidential ballot.
ZANU-PF Spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira told reporters after the meeting that
the resolution endorsing Mr. Mugabe was accepted by the central committee
and that "both the presidential and parliamentary elections will now be held
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that the party also resolved to
expand the number of seats in parliament to 210 from 150 to 210 and add 18
senate seats to the 66 in the upper chamber restored in late 2005 by a
The minister also said the central committee had also resolved that if a
presidential vacancy occurs between elections, parliament would elect an
acting president. The constitution now provides for a new election to be
held in 90 days, but as the ruling party holds a two-thirds parliamentary
majority it can pass amendments at will.
The week that saw Mr. Mugabe reassert his primacy within the ruling party
also saw a renewed crackdown on the opposition. More than 70 political and
civil society activists have been abducted or arrested in recent days by
suspected agents of the Central Intelligence Organization or by members of
the Zimbabwe Republic Police, opposition officials say. Many of those
kidnapped or arrested have been beaten, they charge.
Zimbabwean intelligence sources said the intention is to discredit the
opposition by accusing it of engaging in terrorist activities. Police
Commissioner Augustine Chihuri accused the West of sponsoring what he called
acts of terrorism. A raid Wednesday on the headquarters of the Movement for
Democratic Change faction headed by Morgan Tsvangirai was said to be staged
to search for weapons or explosives.
Mr. Mugabe echoed Chihuri's words in remarks to the central committee
Friday, said ruling party sources. He told reporters outside his party's
headquarters that Tsvangirai deserved the beating he got at the hands of the
police as he had provoked them.
Police were alleged to have severely beaten Tsvangirai and other opposition
and civil society officials arrested after authorities halted a prayer
meeting March 11.
MDC officials said more than 60 members had been arrested or abducted in the
past week. The National Constitutional Assembly, a civic organization that
has challenged the Mugabe government, said 16 of its members had been
abducted in recent days.
The Harare high court ordered police Friday to provide detained opposition
members with access to their lawyers, medical attention and food, and
ordered they be brought to court for arraignment by 2 p.m. or set free. But
police defied the order, according to MDC lawyer Alec Muchadehama. Nine
opposition members who appeared in court on Thursday were back in court
Friday, and were again denied bail.
National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that contempt for the country's
judiciary and the rule of law has become a hallmark of the Mugabe
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States called steps Friday by Zimbabwe's
ruling party to give embattled President Robert Mugabe another term in
office "sad" and "outrageous."
The State Department also chided Zimbabwe's neighbors for not taking a
firmer stand against a recent violent crackdown by Mugabe's government on
his political opponents when they held a regional summit meeting this week.
Mugabe, 83, was chosen on Friday by his ruling ZANU-PF party to stand again
as its candidate in presidential elections next year.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called the decision
a "tragedy" for the country, which Mugabe has ruled with increasing
authoritarianism for 27 years.
"It's sad, it's outrageous and certainly we hope better for the Zimbabwean
people," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said when asked about
Mugabe's bid for another term in office.
"The situation in Zimbabwe obviously can't continue as it is," he said,
referring to the deteriorating economy and humanitarian situation under
McCormack also lamented the outcome Thursday of a summit of 14 southern
African states which Washington had hoped would condemn Mugabe's recent
actions, but which instead adopted a declaration expressing solidarity with
Africa's oldest leader.
"It's safe to say that we would have wished for something a bit stronger out
of the SADC," he said, using the acronym for the South African Development
"We can take heart however that they actually did have this summit meeting
and actually did get together to actually discuss the issue of Zimbabwe, if
they didn't necessarily take the actions that one might have hoped they
would take," he said.
African officials said the summit was more critical of Mugabe behind closed
doors, but McCormack said the meeting "fell short" of sending the clear
signal to the Zimbabwean leader that Washington had hoped.
McCormack suggested that Mugabe had become emboldened by the relatively mild
response from his peers.
"Clearly he's become very intransigent in the face of a lot of international
pressure," he said.
The US spokesman said it was more important than ever for Zimbabwe's
neighbors, and particularly South Africa, to take a tougher stance.
"We've encouraged them to do everything that they possibly can," he said.
"The key to whatever solution is arrived at in Zimbabwe is going to be the
efforts of South Africa as well as others of Zimbabwe's neighbors," he said.
The United States and other governments have already imposed various
sanctions on Mugabe's government and McCormack said Washington was exploring
other measures it can take to increase pressure on the regime.
March 29, 2007
Posted to the web March 30, 2007
The past three weeks have seen an embattled Zimbabwean government unleash
terror on its citizens. Mary Ndlovu believes that the last weeks have
brought qualitative change to Zimbabwe that spells the end of Mugabe 's rule
sooner than later. Change is coming, she writes, but it is not likely to
bring us close to that goal. Rather it will be the first step of another
very long journey.
Three weeks ago an embattled Zimbabwe government declared a ban on public
meetings for three months. A week later, when a defiant opposition attempted
to hold a prayer rally in a historic Harare suburb, government responded
with brutal and calculated beatings of hundreds of opposition supporters,
residents and stunned by-standers - resulting in two known deaths and many
life-threatening injuries. Since then the world's press and diplomatic
communities have been in an uproar and newspaper editors have fallen over
each other predicting the pending demise of Robert Mugabe's 27 years of
Has Robert Mugabe's game finally come to an end? Has he now gone a step too
far for even his protectors to tolerate? Will the coming weeks see progress
toward the genuine change so many Zimbabweans are longing for?
Opposition leaders have said so - we have reached the tipping point, claims
Morgan Tsvangirai. Others are calling it the beginning of the end; Mugabe's
last stand. Not so hasty say the more cautious, it has happened before; we
have had massive public protests; we have had government brutality and world
The Zimbabwean people are not ready to face the dangers of extended public
protest, they say, and will likely again be cowed by the terror tactics of
government. At this point, we do not even have a state of emergency; Mugabe
still has many weapons in his arsenal, both literal and figurative. Mugabe
may have been weakened, he may be down for the count, but he is not out, and
could rise to his feet again.
The past weeks have indeed brought a qualitative change to Zimbabwe, with a
significant shift in the balance of power between the forces which keep
Mugabe in power and those which wish to remove him. Ultimately a
government's endurance rests on its success in maintaining a productive and
healthy economy which delivers at least subsistence to the population.
Mugabe has failed spectacularly in this sphere, with the economy in a state
of contraction for the past seven years, and in free fall for the past year.
This collapse has effects which undermine his political support. Firstly, it
makes it more difficult for him to dispense the largesse necessary to buy
the continuing loyalty of the political and security elite, and to keep the
lower ranks of the forces in line. Second, it makes the population, which
has remained largely quiescent and submissive in the face of oppression,
restive and prepared to risk more in confronting a hugely unpopular
government which has destroyed their lives. And thirdly it has spill-over
consequences in the region which are beginning to annoy and frustrate
Perceiving a weakening in Mugabe's power base, opposition leaders in
political parties, civil society organisations, student movements and
churches, have taken their cue and demonstrated greater determination and
willingness to come together to push him out.
Within the past weeks opposition elements have shown greater cohesion than
at any time in the past few years, the people are less afraid, neighbouring
governments are at last speaking out on the need for change, and the ZANU PF
elite are themselves realising that they do not want Mugabe to continue in
power any longer.
Add to this the alienation of the regular police, army and intelligence
forces, and the increasing unwillingness of a previously tamed judiciary to
play ball, and we do have a recipe for change in the near future. Most
critical of these elements in effecting an early change, is the ZANU PF
The opposition would take much more time to bring sufficient pressure to
bear, but the ZANU PF hierarchy has seemingly realised that rather than
squabbling about succession, their interests will be better served by
working together to ditch their unpopular and ageing leader. That may be the
only way they can save themselves, their positions and their misgotten
Certainly, Mugabe will not go easily. He is determined to hang on, and
prepared to use any violent means within his grasp. In case the regular
police waver in their support, he has side-stepped them by utilising youth
militia and party thugs, with or without uniforms, to intimidate opposition
forces by brutality, both targeted and indiscriminate.
Now he has declared that the traditionally loyal although also divided war
veterans will form a reserve army. And a pact with Angola to provide police
to support his rule is rumoured. Dissenters to Mugabe's continued rule from
within ZANU PF have the permanent threat of arrest and punishment for
economic crimes dangled over them, and the implied threat of violence as
Clearly the food weapon will again be used against any who do not show their
loyalty in another year of drought and scarcity. He is a master at splitting
any social or political force which he does not control; in Zimbabwe he has
split the churches, the political opposition, and civil society
organisations; internationally he succeeded in splitting the Commonwealth
and now there are signs that the Angolan alliance is an attempt to split
SADC. Down he may be, perhaps, but certainly still fighting, with no
intention of leaving the ring.
But Mugabe will eventually go, and it appears now that it will be sooner
rather than later. If his own party supporters see him as a liability his
days are numbered. Their loyalty has for some time been conditional on his
ability to protect their criminal activities. With this becoming less and
less possible, they have no reason to keep him in place. While it is useless
to speculate on the timing, when Morgan Tsvangirai says that he will be gone
before the end of this year, it is now believable.
Our focus then shifts to the question of how he will go, bringing us to
consider the scenarios which could play out before us. We have reached the
time of greatest hope but the time of greatest danger, because the way in
which Mugabe goes is of utmost importance to the future of Zimbabwe and
There are two major issues - will it be a peaceful change, or will it be
violent - and will the change bring progressive forces into power, or will
it simply be more of the same?
Mugabe's use of violence, denying non-violent means of resisting him, tends
to provoke violence in response. Although all the opposition forces espouse
non-violence, in the face of intensifying, irrational repression, it is
possible that groups of dissenters will turn to violence.
The current sporadic use of sabotage tactics against police and civilian
targets could be the work of agents provocateurs, but could also be the work
of disgruntled opposition elements who want to do anything to express their
anger. They are not a threat to the government, as they lack organisation
and weaponry, at least at the present moment.
A more serious threat to government would be action by disaffected army
units, with or without the connivance of senior military and political
figures. Serious fighting could result if the army were to divide into units
loyal to Mugabe and units loyal to other factions of ZANU PF, or acting
independently. It might well lead to the removal of Mugabe, but could also
usher in a period of civil strife and uncertainty such as has occurred in
Cote d'Ivoire. It would probably also lead to international intervention of
various sorts, which might or might not produce a satisfactory political
But experience in the rest of Africa shows that once weapons are used to
promote the interests of individuals or groups, the results are highly
detrimental to civilians at all levels, and the chaos produced is normally
long-term, not short-term. Thus civil strife, or even a violent overthrow of
Mugabe by his own soldiers can hardly be considered a desirable solution.
Fortunately, it does not appear very likely, but is certainly a possibility.
The second scenario would be one in which opposition forces, acting on their
own without support from the ZANU PF hierarchy, but possibly with assistance
from within the police and army, were able to pressure Mugabe into resigning
or fleeing as he sees his support base melting away. In such a case,
opposition forces would be likely to call for international assistance in
effecting a transition and holding new elections. A transition which is
driven by popular mass action is desirable as it empowers the people to make
the leaders accountable to them. Furthermore, it is likely to put in place a
system of trial and punishment for perpetrators of violence and exploiters
of the nation's wealth, ending impunity for crimes.
But the truth is that the opposition in Zimbabwe would take many months to
organise the people into such a powerful formation. Although the capacity of
the combined opposition forces to pressurise Mugabe is probably
underestimated, the main goal which unites them is to remove the man
himself. Even if they were able to pull off an 'Orange revolution' which is
always being held up as a model, their ability to deliver the dreams of the
masses of Zimbabwe is highly questionable.
Elements amongst them which show a commitment to genuine participatory
democracy and an economy of fair distribution of wealth are very weak. They
have not shown that they have the will or the skills to replace a highly
corrupt political and government structure which answer to the people's
Nevertheless, such a people driven change would be the most desirable,
simply because it would remove the corrupt power structure of ZANU PF and
hold it accountable for the destruction of a once vibrant nation and the
immiseration of its people. We live in hope that it would at least produce
something better than what we have been subjected to for the past 27 years.
The other likely prospect is a 'negotiated settlement'. This is currently
being promoted, not only by Western governments, but also probably by South
Africa and the majority of SADC. This position sees the opposition MDC as
being too divided and too weak to effect the removal of Mugabe, making
factions of ZANU PF opposed to Mugabe's continuation in power critical to
The idea is to use some of his immediate subordinates in the party to broker
a deal in which Mugabe is persuaded (or even forced) to vacate office in
exchange for impunity from any form of accountability for his crimes against
his people. Talks between ZANU PF and the MDC on a new constitution and
arrangements for 'free and fair' internationally supervised elections in
2008, would follow, resulting in a new government taking office. It would
then receive massive support from the IMF to resurrect the economy.
The first scenario is the most dangerous, the second the most desirable, but
the third ultimately the most probable. If current reports of 'talks' can be
believed, the second 'solution' may already be in process.
Much as we would like to see a change, we should not be fooled into
believing that such an outcome will solve our problems. Since it relies on
Mugabe's lieutenants to remove him, it means they will remain in place; but
they are equally guilty of the crimes of which he would stand charged.
Unless they are also removed, impunity will prevail and they will keep the
current corrupt anti-democratic patronage system in place. Moreover, can we
trust SADC to supervise a transition? Who will repeal the oppressive
legislation which ensured that recent elections could not be fair?
The same people who put it in place? Who will restore citizenship to those
Zimbabweans who have been stripped of it and denied their vote? How do we
install a new election machinery and overhaul the Registrar General's
electoral roll if ZANU PF leaders remain? And how can we trust those African
governments which previously declared obviously flawed elections free and
fair to guide us through new elections?
We may wish for a peaceful transition, but are we wise to again allow the
perpetrators of massive human rights abuses to go unpunished? Many voices
are raised to urge Zimbabweans to allow Mugabe to retire gracefully in order
that we gain a peaceful transition. But does this mean we allow the
establishment through which he perpetrated the abuses to continue as well?
The lessons of history are that when there is impunity abuses continue. Such
an outcome does not augur well for the future.
There is a danger in this scenario that we will see a sort of replay of
1979. At that time, when liberation movements had a complete victory over
Ian Smith within their grasp, the international community intervened to
prevent it, and force compromises whose consequences remained to haunt our
Is this what is happening again? Will Western and Southern African nations
intervene to help remove Mugabe himself, enforce compromises in the shape of
impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses, re-establish a safe
environment for world and regional capital, and leave the people little
better off than before?
The main difference, however, is that opposition forces in 2007 are much
further from victory on their own, and history will not wait for those who
are unable to seize the moment.
In spite of a history of 'people's struggle' in Southern Africa, the outcome
has almost always been the appropriation of the political process by the
few. Deals are worked out between opposing elites which put one or the other
or a combination in power.
In general, the need to deal with abuses is swept aside, international
capital pours in to revitalise investment opportunities for the world's
entrepreneurs, and the people are fed an illusion that change has occurred.
Sadly, we must accept the truth that progressive forces have not yet evolved
sufficiently to achieve power in Zimbabwe or indeed the region as a whole. A
non-violent negotiated removal of Mugabe by elites in Zimbabwe and outside
will at least break the current impasse.
We can only hope that it will open some cracks which the committed might use
to create democratic space. In that space they must continue the struggle to
achieve the vision of a just society. Change is coming, but it is not likely
to bring us close to that goal. Rather it will be the first step of another
very long journey.
* Mary Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean human rights activist.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at
Freedom House Press Release
Washington, D.C.,March 30, 2007
Resolutions approved at the emergency SADC summit held this week in response
to the crisis in Zimbabwe do not go far enough, Freedom House said today. In
particular, basic civil liberties such as freedom of expression and assembly
must be reinstated in Zimbabwe as SADC-facilitated negotiations take place.
On Wednesday, March 28, leaders from 14 African nations gathered in Dar es
Salaam, Tanzania, for an emergency two-day meeting of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) to address the mounting political crisis in
Zimbabwe. While observers, including Freedom House, had hoped SADC would use
the opportunity to make a strong statement against the recent political
crackdown in Zimbabwe, the result was instead a continuation of quiet
diplomacy. The major outcome was the decision that South African President
Thabo Mbeki will facilitate a dialogue between ZANU-PF and the opposition
"Hopes on the part of the international community that SADC would issue a
strong statement insisting that President Mugabe restore freedom of
expression and assembly in Zimbabwe were, unfortunately, misplaced," said
Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. "Dialogue is the best
route out of this crisis-but it must be accompanied by a recognition that
civil liberties need to be immediately restored. Otherwise, the outcome will
be essentially business as usual in Southern Africa-with the result being
the ongoing suffering of the Zimbabwean people," she added.
In reaction to the results of yesterday's SADC summit, Freedom House
emphasizes the need for immediate steps to restore basic rights to Zimbabwe.
In particular, repressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act
must be removed, and freedom of speech and assembly reinstated.
Additionally, SADC must set a firm deadline that clearly outlines when
negotiations should reach a settlement.
"For negotiations to be effective in addressing the crisis in Zimbabwe, SADC
must be clear that they mean business, and must outline conditions prior to
any talks occurring," said Ms. Windsor. "Otherwise, the talks could wind up
being little more than a pretense."
Deterioration of civil liberties in Zimbabwe has continued this week with
reports of ongoing abductions and arrests of activists. On the day the SADC
summit opened, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was re-arrested, along
with several other party members in a police raid at the headquarters of the
Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's main opposition party. The
following day, Promise Mkwananzi, President of the Zimbabwe National
Students Union went into hiding after receiving death threats from
authorities. Scores of other Zimbabweans, including opposition party
members, students and members of civic groups, have been arrested or
abducted in recent days.
Zimbabwe is one of the world's most repressive states, and crackdowns
against independent media, civil society and political opponents are common.
In the 2007 version of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's annual survey,
the country earned the lowest possible scores for political rights and civil
Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports
the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights and
civil liberties in Zimbabwe since 1980.
East African Standard, Kenya
Because of his role in Zimbabwe's freedom struggle, long detention, and
anti-West leaning, President Robert Mugabe could lay claim to political
Because he one time gave Zimbabwe his whole, he could easily pass along as
an African patriot in the league of our icons Nelson Mandela, Julius
Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
Because of his past as a vicious fighter against colonialism, one could also
forgive his language, arrogance, posturing, and the ease with which he goes
after the Opposition with knobkerries, breaking limbs, and opening up
One could explain he is ironfisted because of having been incarcerated; a
squeak by the Opposition has the ring of latter-day bootlickers, the modern
puppeteers of the West.
Because of his age, 84 to be exact, one might argue his erratic actions, and
the emerging face of a brute in office, could just be nothing but the red
flag on the onset of senility.
Therefore as Africans, much as we condemn his actions and harangue his
close-knit circle, we ought to respect his age. Otherwise, what would
explain the fact that he walked out of this week's African leaders'
extra-ordinary meeting on the crisis in his country, smiling at news crew?
The continent expected that the least he would go through was a dressing
down by his peers. For despite his populist policies, such as the peasant
take-over of white-owned lands, Zimbabwe's economy is not only on the
nose-diving, but the slide appears unstoppable. Yes, one can argue that it
is an independent State whose affairs we should not meddle in.
But given the catastrophic nature of Mugabe's Zimbabwe, and the general
human suffering, the African leaders must hammer out a peaceful solution.
It is not enough to blame America and Britain, or Mr George W Bush and Mr
Tony Blair, who Mr Mugabe has told to 'go hang'. The people of Zimbabwe, the
food basket Mugabe has reduced to a basket case, are least concerned with
this diatribe. Their worry is the direction their country has taken.
That is why it is comical that though the African leaders who emerged from
the gliding doors, confident that they had made progress, simply chose to
offer South Africa's President, Mr Thabo Mbeki, the task of facilitating
talks between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and President Mugabe's
Yes, it is a good decision but it is not enough. Relations between the two
forces stink to the high skies. Only this week, Mugabe had MDC leaders
arrested. Earlier in the month he unleashed his terror gang on them, and
none, including the leader, escaped without injury.
Mugabe needs to be publicly rebuked and dressed down.
In his hands Zimbabwe has sunk so low, with inflation standing at 1,700, the
lowest in the World. Eight out of 10 its adults have no jobs. Yes, Tanzania's
President Mr Jakaya Kikwete, who chaired the talks, conceded the leaders had
made a landmark decision. But it is race against time. That is why niceties,
such as the call for a study group to look at Zimbabwe's plunging economy
and strategising on how to salvage it, has the ring of a diplomatic textbook
fad. So too is the line on the communiquÈ calling on the West to end
economic sanctions and adopt diplomacy.
There is nothing in the communiquÈ on timelines, dates, or benchmarks. Not
even contingency plan should Mbeki flop. Yes, African leaders have failed
By Dr Alex T. Magaisa
Last updated: 03/31/2007 06:16:39
OVER and above the human rights issues and severe economic problems, one
principal aspect around which local and international opinion on the genesis
and character of the Zimbabwe crisis is sharply divided is the
anti-imperialist discourse as set, defined and championed by the ruling Zanu
Given the way in which this discourse has moulded regional and international
reaction to the crisis, no matter how strongly disdainful some individuals
feel about the matter, it cannot be easily brushed off. Rather, pragmatism
requires that the task must be to critique the premises of this
anti-imperialist discourse for purposes of enlightening those whose view of
Zimbabwe is somewhat jaundiced by the incessant rhetoric. This is of
practical importance, as Zimbabweans now look the African bloc to negotiate
a way out of the crisis.
Even its worst critics are sometimes hard-pressed to not concede that, at
least until now, Zanu PF has largely succeeded in re-defining the Zimbabwean
problem in its own (anti-imperialist) terms and resultantly, to galvanise
African backing and starve off pressure.
Faced with difficult internal socio-economic challenges threatening its
reign in the late 1990s, Zanu PF played the key card of anti-imperialism,
conveniently building this agenda around the sensitive and legitimate Land
Question, which, in my opinion, had been mishandled at the Lancaster House
Constitutional Conference in 1979, when short-sighted Constitutional
arrangements were put in place, leaving room for its future manipulation, as
events have demonstrated. Unsurprisingly, Africans in similar situations
have found it hard to disconnect from the emotion that attaches the
legitimate question of resource distribution.
As it happened, Zanu PF was able to turn what was essentially an internal
challenge to its style of governance by concerned citizens in the late
1990s, into a broader struggle, defining itself as the driver of
revolutionary change and a victim of a Western conspiracy for daring to do
so. It did not help that in November 1997, the then new Labour government in
the UK appeared to disown what it regarded as past obligations of previous
UK governments in respect of the Land Question. That was an error of
judgment, which could have been avoided.
As it is, the November 1997 letter from the British government to the
Zimbabwe government, has been waved constantly, as an indicator of the UK's
breach of its obligations on the land issue and therefore, as the source of
Zimbabwe's problems, notwithstanding the fact that the record of the
Zimbabwe government was already in a state that, in law could be referred to
as, res ipsa loquitor - the economic deterioration was patently clear, it
did not require further evidence to demonstrate the government's failures.
In the process, Zanu PF has tried regularly, to characterise the MDC as no
more than an agent of Western imperialists. The veracity of this persistent
allegation is immaterial in the scheme of things, because its impact was to
ensure an overriding perception, among Zanu PF loyalists and Africans on the
continent, that the MDC was an imperial vehicle.
Some might say, with the benefit of hindsight, that the MDC itself could
have done more from an early stage, to vigorously counter this perception in
order to gain the confidence of the African countries that appeared to
swallow wholesale the government rhetoric and therefore view the MDC with
It does not help that sometimes MDC's Western sympathisers unwittingly
provide invaluable raw material for the Zanu PF propaganda machinery, such
as when a couple of years back, British PM Tony Blair suggested in the House
of Commons that the British government was working with the MDC to bring
about change in Zimbabwe or more recently, when Minister of the Foreign
Office, Ian McCartney, erroneously stated that President Mugabe's daughter
is studying at a London University. Zanu PF seizes upon these unfortunate
incidents to hype its anti-imperialist rhetoric, that the MDC is a tool of
the West which concocts falsehoods to demonise Zimbabwe and President
It is arguable that until now, the lack of serious African effort in
resolving the crisis owes as much to African leaders' affinity to their
liberation era comrade, President Mugabe, as it does to the suspicions sown
in their minds about the character of the MDC as a creature of the West. It
matters very little that this characterisation is incorrect - the image
alone, left unchecked, has been damaging.
The tragedy is that to most Africans, the bone of contention between Zanu PF
and Zimbabwean opponents in respect of governance matters has therefore
played second-fiddle to the anti-imperialist agenda propagated by Zanu PF.
Consequently, whatever mistakes, wilfully, recklessly or negligently
committed by Zanu PF since 1980, have invariably been considered by the
African leaders to be immaterial or at best, incidental, to the broader
picture of the purported goal of restoring resource redistribution. Little
attention is paid to the fact that the modalities are as important as the
goal itself and that the methods adopted in Zimbabwe have so far been
The net product of this complex mash of perception and reality, is two
diametrically opposed standpoints that have emerged among Zimbabweans and
observers: on the one hand, that the MDC represents Western interests and on
the other hand, that Zanu PF represents crazy power-mongers hanging on
through redundant anti-imperialist rhetoric. And therein lies the problem,
because there is very little space for alternatives that fall outside of the
two standpoints but wit the capacity to accommodate valid aspects of both.
For all the chaos characterising Zanu PF rule, it would be foolhardy for any
serious observer to completely dismiss those aspects of its perspective that
remain legitimate and valid, though they may somewhat be soiled by the
attendant unnecessary vitriol. But Zanu PF itself must understand that
Zimbabweans are not foolish and that they do appreciate the broader picture
and dynamics of international politics.
There is a large body of Zimbabweans that does not necessarily agree with
Zanu PF politics, but still has issues with the West and its handling of
international affairs. Yet those people are often contemptuously dismissed
as Western puppets simply because they have been critical of Zanu PF. Zanu
PF must appreciate that it does not hold a patent on ideas or criticism of
the West. The bottom line is that one can still oppose Zanu PF without
necessarily becoming a stooge of the West. To say that every Zanu PF
opponent is a Western puppet is to disrespect and underestimate the
intelligence of Zimbabweans.
Similarly, notwithstanding Zanu PF propaganda, it would be unreasonable for
any serious observer to simply dismiss the valid claims of the MDC. It is a
significant political player in Zimbabwe, which commands considerable
support and it would be contemptuous to suggest that a large section of the
population is so ignorant that it willingly submits itself to be used by the
West. Yet the MDC itself must also be awake to the fact that in the maze of
Zanu PF failures, there are also some valid points raised that cannot be
dismissed without due consideration. Those ideas may be currently unpopular
not because they are irrational but because their source is no longer taken
The MDC and its loyalists ought to appreciate that not everyone who
disagrees with Zanu PF necessarily agrees with MDC's political agenda.
Therefore, it is disrespectful to characterise every person who is critical
of the MDC as a Zanu PF loyalist. They are critical not because they hate
the MDC or support Zanu PF, but because they would like to see the country
improve, regardless of who rules the country.
There is a large body of people that remembers that during the liberation
struggle and after independence, it was almost taboo to question the party
line and this lack of checks and balances between the leaders and the
citizens has contributed to the poor quality of governance, which has landed
us in this quagmire. Fundamentally, in order for it to gain the African ear,
the MDC ought to cleanse itself of the unfortunate image of a Western puppet
by encouraging its sympathisers to adopt an approach that does not
antagonise the Africans that are now really vital in resolving this problem.
The anti-imperialist rhetoric has been crucial in defining the approach of
the African countries to the Zimbabwe crisis. Zanu PF has played the card
for too long now but signs are that the African leaders are beginning to see
through the façade. There are, undoubtedly, some key points that are raised
within the Zanu PF perspective but equally so, the MDC has staked its claim
and it is becoming increasingly laughable to summarily dismiss it as a
Efforts must continue to enlighten the Africans about the nature of the
domestic crisis outside of the anti-imperialist rhetoric. The MDC itself can
do this by taking up those legitimate issues raised within the Zanu PF
perspective and demonstrating to the African allies that they have the
capacity and willingness to deal with them. This should allay their
concerns. The best way to counter the negative image is to play the game and
Dr Magaisa can be contacted at email@example.com
30th Mar 2007 22:26 GMT
By Trevor Ncube in Johannesburg
A one-time admirer of Robert Mugabe reflects on the harm the president has
inflicted on to Zimbabwe - and what can be done to reverse the damage.
ROBERT Mugabe used to be my hero. At university, where I was a member of the
student council, I remember how proud I was when he came to visit us. I
lined up to shake his hand, and it was a moment I cherished.
Here was an African leader whom I looked up to. I admired the way he spoke,
his manner of thought, his vision. I looked forward to when he addressed the
nation, and marvelled at how he fired such strong sentiments of patriotism
As I travelled the world, I was proud to be Zimbabwean, and especially proud
that Robert Mugabe was my president.
Zimbabwe was African, independent and free, and Robert Mugabe was my man.
How things have changed.
Zimbabwe, the former breadbasket of the region, is now an economic basket
case. Life expectancy is plummeting, and more and more people are abandoning
The constitution, the legislature and all other vital institutions have been
distorted solely in the service of one man. He has personalised the police,
army and security services and rendered parliament useless.
A man who could have been a Nelson Mandela - a figurehead for Africa - has
instead destroyed people's lives and dreams. He has devastated a jewel of a
In pursuit of personal benefit, of his desire to stay in power, he has
become a monster who clings on to power only because he can.
The recent beating of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is thus not only a
traumatic event for the opposition leader, but also a symbol of what has
happened to the entire country.
When I reflect on recent events, I remind myself that this could have been
I have not suffered one per cent of what Tsvangirai has. But I have been
thrown into a cell with 15 other people.
A few years ago, when I was visiting Bulawayo for my brother's wedding, my
passport was seized. I was essentially a prisoner in my own country, and I
had to go to court to get my documents back.
More recently, the government tried to revoke my citizenship, and for three
months I was a stateless person.
My mother is Zimbabwean, I was born in Zimbabwe, and I lived there for the
first four decades of my life. In 1994, I received an award as Zimbabwean
editor of the year.
But the government said that because my father was born in Zambia, I was not
The real reason, however, was that Mugabe regarded me as one of his enemies
because I run the only two remaining independent newspapers left in the
Fortunately, I was able to win the case.
But I ask, why did Zimbabwe lose its respect for humanity?
We have a society in which the government decides who qualifies as
patriotic. If you do not agree with us, you are an enemy of the state and
have no rights.
This lack of mutual respect is the deepest tragedy, the most fundamental
distortion of a long period of misrule.
Robert Mugabe has poisoned our national pride, and it will take us a long
time to get back to where we were at independence in 1980.
I am often asked what more the international community could do. Are they,
and especially Britain as the former colonial power, to blame?
In all fairness, I believe that the international powers have been outplayed
by a very wily fox, and it is very hard to hold them responsible for the
situation inside the country. Mugabe has made it impossible for anyone to do
anything meaningful, apart from marching on Harare.
However, I personally do judge Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa,
South Africa is the regional powerhouse, and if Mbeki had condemned the
elections that were stolen in 2000, then the rest of the continent, and the
international community too, would have been able to take a much stronger
position, and much bloodshed might have been spared.
Now, however, South Africa is engaging more constructively in the current
crisis. The situation has got worse, and they are serious concerned that
their neighbour might collapse completely.
Through various regional structures, several African leaders are playing a
more active role, trying diplomatically to open the way for Mugabe's
departure and the establishment of a new government in Zimbabwe.
We do not know how all this will play out, and there have been false dawns
Yet all these factors make the current crisis a moment of hope as well as
We are exactly 50 years from the beginning of the post-colonial experience
in Africa, and it may be that we have now come full circle.
Even at this worrying moment, if African leaders can come together to
resolve the crisis, we could be seeing a rebirth not only of Zimbabwe but of
the continent as a whole.
Clearly, we have learned some lessons from the last half-century, and one of
them is that the days are gone when we can blame everything on colonialism.
What Africans, and especially Zimbabweans, have to do now is assume
responsibility for the crisis themselves and find their own solutions to it.
The scale of the challenge is enormous, and international support and
expertise will be vital in tackling it - re-establishing democratic
institutions and rebuilding a devastated economy.
But the biggest and most long-term challenge will be recreating a sense of
mutual respect and in fact rebuilding society. We will have to cleanse
people's minds, and rebuild their respect for life, dignity, and property,
and for each other.
Then it will be up to Africa to ensure that Robert Mugabe is the last
strongman of the continent. Never again must one man hold the hopes and
dreams of a nation to ransom.
Trevor Ncube is chief executive of South Africa's Mail & Guardian, owner of
Zimbabwe's Independent and Standard newspapers, and chairman of the Africa
division of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.
March 30, 2007
Posted to the web March 30, 2007
The bishops of Zimbabwe's powerful Catholic Church have issued an unusually
strongly-worded letter to their congregations drawing an analogy between the
current struggle and the struggle for liberation from white rule.
In a pastoral letter for Easter, the bishops draw on theological insights
which implicitly cast Zimbabwe's rulers in the role of oppressors, and
ordinary Zimbabweans as the oppressed: "Oppression is sin and cannot be
compromised with," they say. "It must be overcome. God takes sides with the
They suggest that young Zimbabweans see their leaders "habitually engaging
in acts and words which are hateful, disrespectful, racist, corrupt,
lawless, unjust, greedy, dishonest and violent..."
The language of the letter might have been expected from Archbishop Pius
Ncube of Bulawayo, but is extraordinarily harsh for a formal joint statement
from the country's Catholic Bishops' Conference.
The letter says black Zimbabweans are today fighting for the same rights
they fought for during the liberation struggle.
"It is the same conflict between those who possess power and wealth in
abundance, and those who do not; between those who are determined to
maintain their privileges of power and wealth at any cost, even at the cost
of bloodshed, and those who demand their democratic rights and a share in
the fruits of independence; between those who continue to benefit from the
present system of inequality and injustice, because it favours them and
enables them to maintain an exceptionally high standard of living, and those
who go to bed hungry at night and wake up in the morning to another day
without work and without income; between those who only know the language of
violence and intimidation, and those who feel they have nothing more to lose
because their Constitutional rights have been abrogated and their votes
"Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into
open revolt in one township after another."
The bishops warn that the country has reached what they call "a flashpoint,"
and is in an "extremely volatile" situation.
"As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and
more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the
State responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions,
banning orders, beatings and torture."
To avoid further bloodshed "and avert a mass uprising," the bishops call for
"a new people-driven Constitution that will guide a democratic leadership
chosen in free and fair elections..."
Their statement identifies the crisis in Zimbabwe as "first and foremost a
spiritual and moral crisis," but also a crisis of governance and of
leadership. There are Christians, including office-bearers of the Catholic
Church, on both sides of the current struggle, the bishops say:
"They are all baptised, sit and pray and sing together in the same church,
take part in the same celebration of the Eucharist and partake of the same
Body and Blood of Christ. While the next day, outside the church, a few
steps away, Christian State Agents, policemen and soldiers assault and beat
peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and torture detainees."
The Catholic Church has been an important force in Zimbabwean society, more
supportive of the liberation struggle than many other churches. President
Robert Mugabe is among many Zimbabwean leaders who was educated by Catholic
30th Mar 2007 22:29 GMT
By Norman Chitapi in Harare
Events over the last two weeks have added to the pressures facing the
Zimbabwean leader, but the opposition will need to keep up the momentum
since the president is likely to cling to power as long as he can.
WITH Zimbabwe strangely calm after the horrific events of the past two
weeks, some frustrated onlookers believe the opposition has once again
failed to seize the moment.
The assault on Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, leader Morgan Tsvangirai
and about 50 others while they were held in police cells after being
arrested on March 11 sparked international condemnation and galvanised
public opinion against President Robert Mugabe.
But the opposition has yet to find a way of keeping up the pressure on the
beleaguered government to open up the democratic space and kick-start the
process of writing a new constitution - a key demand they believe must be
met if the country is to move towards democracy.
Zimbabwe is likely to hold a presidential election next year, and Mugabe
will probably stand again, putting paid to any hopes that a new constitution
will be written and an internationally supervised poll held.
"I think the MDC and other forces fighting Mugabe are of the mistaken
opinion that he will succumb to international pressure and change his ways,"
said one analyst, who did not want to be named.
The analyst said people underestimate the concerns that drive the Zimbabwean
leader. Besides fearing prosecution after he retires, Mugabe is even more
worried about fading into ignominy without leaving a legacy.
"He would not be able to live with the shame, so he wants to be the last man
standing," said the analyst.
Even within the ranks of the ruling ZANU-PF, there are growing signs of
dissent at a leader who refuses to go.
"Mugabe is an evil man," said a senior ZANU-PF official, who opposes Mugabe's
failed bid to extend his term to 2010 or to stand in next year's
"He is aware his time is up, but he won't let go. He is evil, a coward and
doesn't trust anybody to protect him from prosecution and public humiliation
once he leaves power."
The party official said Mugabe had made up his mind to die in office rather
than face possible prosecution for crimes against humanity.
A political lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe said the reason Mugabe
was venting so much anger on opposition leaders was that senior members of
his own party had rejected his proposal to stay in power until 2010 - two
years after his term should expire.
"After crushing the opposition, he wants to see who will openly challenge
him in his own party," the lecturer said.
Another analyst said the violence perpetrated by police was alienating
Mugabe from the people he wants to vote for him.
"He is a desperate man.. He has no friends at home and abroad and therefore
wants to die behind the huge walls of State House."
To show that he still means business, Mugabe this week awarded hefty pension
increases to the veterans of the 1970s war of liberation. He sees the
veterans as trusted allies and uses them whenever his rule is under threat.
He has also increased remuneration for the Youth Brigade, commonly referred
to as the Green Bombers. Members of these two groups now earn more than any
But questions are now being asked about how much faith Mugabe has in the
loyalty of his security forces, with news that 3 000 Angolan police officers
are set to arrive in Zimbabwe next month, on what is being described as a
Assuming the opposition can recapture and build on the momentum of the past
two weeks, analysts interviewed by IWPR predicted that Mugabe would not
survive a mounting resistance movement - especially if the spirit of
rebellion infects the security forces on whom he relies to crush his
Critics have spared no epithet to condemn the brutal beating of opposition
supporters and leaders as they tried to gather for a prayer meeting in the
poor township of Highfield, some 15 kilometres west of the capital Harare on
The authorities said the meeting defied a three-month ban on political
meetings, but this order is itself a breach of Section 27 of the Public
Order and Security Act, which states that political gatherings can be
prohibited "for a period not exceeding one month".
The prayer meeting was organised by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, a coalition
of groups opposed to Mugabe's rules and ranging from student movements to
political parties and trade unions.
Some observers believe the scale of the crackdown, which saw Tsvangirai and
scores of other activists arrested and beaten, as well as the fatal shooting
of activist Gift Tandare, is evidence of Mugabe's desperation to cling onto
power and his deep-rooted fear of broad-based popular revolt.
Mugabe was unmoved by the international opprobrium, and told his western
critics "to go hang" for condemning the police brutality. State-sponsored
violence continued with the severe beating MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa at
Harare airport on March 17 as he was trying to board a plane to attend a
meeting in Brussels.
Mugabe also threatened to expel European Union and American diplomats,
accusing them of interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs in order to
"effect regime change through the agency of the MDC".
He charged the West with siding with the opposition parties, which he has in
the past accused of being mere fronts for Britain and the United States. The
detainees were accused - in what has become the customary terminology - of
provoking the police and trying to make the country ungovernable.
Few Zimbabweans now swallow the official line that the police are just
trying to protect lives and property. Reports from Highfield and Mbare
indicate that following the crackdown on protestors, police went on the
rampage, beating up civilians and breaking doors in search of MDC "thugs".
Police have reportedly spread their intimidation tactics into rural areas -
the traditional stronghold of the ruling ZANU-PF - to crush MDC support
The government has not even made a pretence of investigating the cause of
Tandare's death, or the beatings of opposition members in police custody.
While the international criticism has been strongly-worded, the reaction
closer to home - in the Southern African Development Community and the
African Union has been typically muted. the African Union's chairman,
President John Kufuor of Ghana, described events in Zimbabwe as
"embarrassing", while South Africa's foreign ministry said it would not
deviate from its policy of "quiet diplomacy", adding that what it called
"rooftop diplomacy" only played into the hands of populist demagogues.
However, in a departure from the generally low-keyed response from the
region, Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa said "quiet diplomacy" had failed
to solve the economic and political crisis facing Zimbabwe.
During a visit to Namibia last week, Mwanawasa likened Zimbabwe to the
"sinking Titanic" whose passengers were "jumping off in a bid to save their
Former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, also responded with
strong words, saying Africa should hang its head in shame at what one of its
own, Mugabe, was doing to his people.
One of the analysts interviewed by IWPR said South African president Thabo
Mbeki is facing a dilemma - he does not want to antagonise Mugabe, but he
does not want to preempt a possible leadership change.
Norman Chitapi is the pseudonym of a journalist in Zimbabwe.
Saturday 31 March 2007
By Pfudzai Chibgowa
HARARE - The Zimbabwe government on Thursday said it will next May begin
removing hundreds of villagers from Gonarezhou National Park to make way for
the giant Transfrontier Park in the area.
Speaking at a meeting to prepare for the 2010 soccer World Cup to be held in
neighbouring South Africa, Dr Bradah Maunganidze, said government would soon
evict the villagers to allow the national park project to take off.
Maunganidze, who is the principal director in the information ministry, sits
on the National Taskforce on Tourism, Image-building and Publicity, a body
set up by the government about two years ago to rebuild the tourism sector.
"We have allowed the people who moved into Gonarezhou to harvest their crops
before they are moved in May," Maunganidze said.
"There is no way the Transfrontier Park can make an impact while people are
hunting in the same area. Zimbabwe has to benefit from the tourists that
will visit the park and we want them to even stay on this side of the
Limpopo," he said.
The Transfrontier Park, which spans over three countries, Mozambique, South
Africa and Zimbabwe, is expected to be among the major tourist attractions
for the 2010 World Cup.
Speaking at the same meeting, Indigenisation Minister Paul Mangwana said the
government was determined to bring sanity to national parks, conservancies
and the agricultural sector.
More than 700 families, with tacit approval from the government, invaded
Gonarezhou national park around 2000 as part of the government's violent
Sources within the tourism sector said President Robert Mugabe's government
was under pressure from the World Bank and the European Union donors who
refused to release funds for the project until the villagers were evicted
from park. - ZimOnline
Saturday 31 March 2007
By Prince Nyathi
HARARE - Australia on Friday said it had increased funding for civic groups
in Zimbabwe to help them reassert their "political and civil rights" in the
face of growing repression by President Robert Mugabe's government.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downing, said Australia would soon launch
a new and vigorous campaign of support for the people of Zimbabwe against
the "repressive and incompetent policies" of Mugabe's government.
Under its Australian Fund for Zimbabwe, civic groups would this year get
about US$6 million to help them in their push for democracy. Canberra did
not indicate how much it was givig to Zimbabwean civic groups before.
"In response to the brutal attacks by the Zimbabwean authorities on its
political opponents, Australia's funding through civil society organisations
has been expanded," said Downer in a statement.
Mugabe sparked international condemnation earlier this month after his state
security agents brutally tortured Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
leader Morgan Tsvangirai and several other key officials of his party.
Australia, the United States and Britain were at the forefront in
criticizing Mugabe's treatment of Tsvangirai with the European Union and the
US calling for more sanctions against the Zimbabwean leader.
Downer said Australia was shocked by the "shameful incompetence and
vindictive brutality of President Robert Mugabe's regime."
A meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders in Dar es
Salaam, on Thursday to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe failed to do much to
unlock the political crisis in Zimbabwe.
SADC appointed South Africa's Thabo Mbeki to mediate in Zimbabwe. -
By Jonga Kandemiiri
30 March 2007
Zimbabwean teachers who ended a strike last month after the government
raised their salaries 525% to a monthly minimum of Z$528,000 (US$$20), are
threatening to go back on strike unless the minimum is raised again to Z$1.4
million a month.
Officials of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said hyperinflation
has eaten up the salary increases granted by the government in February.
The union demand drew a quick response from the government: officers of the
Central Investigations Department paid a visit to PTUZ headquarters on
Thursday looking for Secretary General Raymond Majongwe, union officials
Majongwe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
his members are still failing to make ends meet even after the recent
The East African Standard (Nairobi)
March 31, 2007
Posted to the web March 30, 2007
Robert Mugabe's chickens are coming home to roost in Harare, Zimbabwe. The
people of this once upon a time jewel in the crown of independent Africa are
paying the price of political hypocrisy and for pandering to the whims of a
dictator. Very simply put, the country is in economic and political mess.
Once, in August 1998, I came back home from a lowly book fair in Harare to
report in the pages of The Sunday Standard that Zimbabwe was standing at the
gates of Africa. Downtown Harare was making her maiden contact with the
pothole and the orange vendor had arrived in the once upon a time immaculate
streets of the former Salisbury.
The Zim Dollar was in freefall, even as an entire slew of the nation
prostrated and ingratiated themselves before an ageing dictator with a
plethora of Nile problems.
Wondering why nothing good ever seemed to come out of us - we black people
who are called Africans - I observed that Zimbabwe would have to go through
some very difficult years before she could know good times.
Predictably, I found myself at the receiving end of barbed criticism from
readers. Africa could do without apologists of colonialism and
Afro-pessimists of the ilk of Barrack Muluka, one irate critic wrote. And
although it is not my stock in trade to respond to my critics, I made an
exception on this occasion. I wrote a follow-up piece in which I argued that
Afro-optimism was not the preserve of sycophants and assorted praise
singers. Mugabe would bring Zimbabwe to its knees over the next one decade,
An appointment with their doom
Nine years later, it is with profound sorrow that I note my words have come
to pass. You do not need to be a prophet to see that the person in charge of
the ship of State and his cronies are going to run the vessel into a titanic
iceberg. When people close their eyes to the naked truth because of such
things as tribalism (like Shona nationalism), and plutocracy then they
surely make an appointment with their doom.
When parochial nationalism becomes good bedfellows with unbridled autocracy,
then the people should ask not for whom the bells toll, for they toll for
Now some of our people think that it is our responsibility to bathe them in
flattery in these writings, even when they obviously deserve to be taken to
task. Ask Mr Jimna Mbaru of the Nairobi Stock Exchange.
Mbaru is a gentleman who made his hay in the sheen of the sun of
Africanisation of personnel in the wake of Kenya's independence.
He was then working under the late Dr Julius Gikonyo Kiano, the supremo of
Africanisation in the 1960s. In the proper order of time, Mbaru would become
twice over the boss of the Nairobi Stock Exchange.
Something very suspect at NSE
Obviously Mbaru understands investment only too well. He must therefore know
what he means when he says that should ODM-Kenya field a single presidential
candidate, the stock market would collapse. But that is not all, wearing
what is obviously a cheeky-to-wicked smile, Mbaru goes on to say that at the
stock market, they are only waiting for the day ODM-Kenya will disintegrate,
for the stock exchange cannot be allowed to collapse.
Fair enough, the stock exchange should not be allowed to collapse. All
stable stock exchange markets respond to political activity. But is
something very suspect here? Is Mbaru confirming what the grapevine has said
from time to time that this market is ruled by artifice rather than by real
market forces? Or is he conversely saying that "stock exchange iko na
Whatever the case, it is the sum total of this little-men-around-Mugabe
arrogance that is burying Zimbabwe in its own filth. A responsible citizenry
with voters' cards is behooved to nip mischief of this kind in the bud.
Opulence of future president
But there is something else that needs to be nipped in the bud. I have seen
in the media pictures of Raila Odinga's brand new car. I do not know much
about cars, not having grown up around these things, really. But I hear that
this one of Raila is something else.
They say it goes for Sh45 million. Now I do not begrudge people of their
things. But do I really want my future president to be running around in a
Sh45 million apparatus, even before he has got into the Big House on the
Quite honestly, private citizens should be left alone to enjoy the fruits of
their labour - or their friends' labour, as we hear is the case here.
But when my future president displays an appetite redolent of unbridled and
opulent ostentation, I get worried.
Is this a sign of things to come?
Is my future president giving me a snapshot the lifestyle he expects my
taxes to fashion? For this kind of appetite is self-feeding. And when you
can no longer get these toys from the regular sources, you must invent new
sources. Or some friends, who have their own vested interests, will still
give them to you. Are gifts of this kind the drawing boards of future Anglo
Leasing kinds of deals?
In journalism we say there is no such thing as a free meal. What
expectations do people have of you when they give you a Sh45 million gift?
And what could that kind of money do for the Kibera slum dwellers? No, Ayi
Kwei Armah was so right - the beautiful ones are not yet born.
Here he tells how he was forced to leave his home country and
seek refuge in the UK and how he feels the asylum system has, so far, failed
him. In 1999 I enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe to study law; soon
after I was elected to the students' Executive Council as Vice President.
I was the first branch chairman for the Movement for Democratic
Change at the university and heavily involved with the National Constitutional
Assembly. I wasn't a part-time political activist - I was fully involved
in trying to liberate our country from the barbaric and brutal regime of Robert
Mugabe. In 2001 I was expelled from the University for political
activism. I'd studied law for three years but they refused to give me my results
or grant me a hearing. Beaten and tortured I became victimised and targeted by the state system, the
central intelligence organisation and the police. On three occasions the police raided the house I was staying in
with other activists, at gun point. They would blindfold us, load us into a
truck and drive us to the law and order maintenance section in Harare.
They would beat us, pour water on us, make us simulate sexual
positions on the floor and threaten us with death. We couldn't get any protection from the police because they were
the ones doing it. We couldn't get protection from the MDC because they were
also victims of the system. In 2002, two of our close comrades were murdered by the state
system. Batani Hadzizi was brutally assaulted and murdered in his room at the
university. And Lameck Chemvura was strangled with a shoelace before being
thrown from a moving train. There was a warrant out for my arrest and fearing for my life I
went to hide with an aunt. But she was too fearful and turned me away.
Escape route A couple in the UK told me they had been following the situation
in Zimbabwe and had read articles and literature on my website. They offered to
assist my escape and invited me to stay with them in the UK. However, when I arrived in England I discovered that my hosts
were not a couple as had been represented in our communications, but a single
elderly man. He was expecting some way of compensating for his kindness that
I was not able to provide. He kicked me out. I was destitute. I slept on the streets of
Croydon for three days. Eventually a Zimbabwean businessman gave me a place to sleep but
said he would not be able to employ me because of my status. No way back All the while I was thinking that the situation would get better
in Zimbabwe. I was hoping to go home, finish my studies and graduate as a
lawyer. But things got worse. There was infighting within the MDC itself.
I submitted my formal application for asylum, rather
reluctantly, in September of 2006. I am sure that the asylum system is designed
to deter people from using it. You can wait forever; there is no feedback, no progress update.
You have to go to a reporting centre or police station once or twice a week. You
are fingerprinted like a criminal. Plus, financially, you are restricted in what you can do. What
kind of society can you join when you only have £30 per week to live on?
If people know that I am an asylum seeker they look down on me.
I feel very vulnerable because I have no established right to be here. And so,
you see, the whole situation is so humiliating. Waiting game I don't know anything about what happens next. I have written to
the Home Office four, five times but they do not reply to my letters. I've made
several calls but they won't tell me anything. I am in limbo. The whole problem is in the delay itself because without knowing
when a decision is going to be made you can't plan your life. Many times I've contemplated suicide because I feel useless and
am unable to provide for my family. My parents in Zimbabwe are wondering why they wasted their time
educating me at all. They feel like I have abandoned them. This is a continuation of the persecution I received in Zimbabwe
but without the violence. It's more of a mental torture. The Times Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to
30 March 2007, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Courage Shumba, 30, is
currently awaiting a decision from the Home Office on his application for
My Week: Robert Mugabe
March 31, 2007
According to Hugo Rifkind
Monday We are out the back of the sprawling presidential compound, having a
relaxed afternoon braai. With three US dollars' worth of Zimbabwe currency
on the fire, the flames have been burning for four hours. And the British
say I have harmed this country? "Why do my people no longer love me?" I
demand. "What more can I give to them?" I am attended by a team of recent
graduates from the University of Zimbabwe. They were given the choice of
working for me or going to jail. They are all extremely loyal.
My graduates all shrug, and continue gorging themselves on the barbecue. It
is a surprise to see them eat this way. They seem to have adopted this
European look that has become popular. Grace, my fashionable wife, calls it
"Maybe it's an image thing," suggests one. "Maybe it's time to ditch the
moustache." I have a moustache?
Tuesday I cannot see this moustache, although my eyes are not what they
were. I would ask my fashionable wife, but she has taken the jumbo jet to
Paris to see how many shoes she can get for 20,000 hectares of Matabeleland.
The telephone rings. It is little Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. Although I am
careful never to exploit this, I am told he is in awe of me, because I am
the original hero of southern African independence. Last month he lent me
series five of The West Wing on DVD. He keeps calling to ask for it back.
"You can't have it," I say.
"I understand," says Thabo, solemnly. "Might I be permitted to ask why?"
"No," I say. "Go away." Little Thabo rings off. Later he rings back to
Wednesday I am in my compound in Harare, holding a brainstorming session
with my graduates. Under pain of death, they have been told to suggest
reasons why I might be growing unpopular.
"The moustache?" suggests one, meekly. I glower at him, and he starts to
"British propaganda!" I shout, after a few minutes of silence. "Tony Blair
and the homosexual British Establishment! It is they who have destroyed this
country!" The graduates all nod. We agree that the British have consistently
presented our abandoned farms, decimated economy, rampaging war veterans and
inflation running at 1,800 per cent in a really, really bad light.
Thursday Grace arrives home from Paris. She has bought 6,754 pairs of shoes.
"Actually," says one of the more ambitious graduates. "Your Excellency has
solved the problem of the war veterans. In successfully reducing the life
expectancy of Zimbabwe to 37, you have ensured that nobody alive today can
have been more than a toddler during our wars of independence."
"Yet another unacknowledged triumph!" I agree. "Perfidious Albion!" None of
the shoes fit. Grace flies back to Paris.
Friday "Seriously," says little Thabo when he calls in the afternoon, "I don't
mind. I can just buy it again, if I have to. It's just, I'm right at the end
of series four, and I wondered if . . ."
"Silence!" I shout. "A curse on you and your DVDs! Advise me! I am losing my
country! What can I do to be popular again?"
Thabo falls silent. "Well," he says eventually. "You could always lose the
moustache. It's a little odd. Some people say it is a bit too much like
"I don't even have a moustache!" I shout.
"Of course you don't," agrees Thabo. "Sorry." *
JAG Open Letter Forum No 480
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Letter 1 - J.L. Robinson
It appears from your OLF letters that I am grossly mistaken - I have taken
The CFU is actually doing an excellent job and all is well in agriculture in
Obviously it must have been a very good thing that they did dismiss Ben
Freeth - that bible punching little upstart, perhaps?
Maybe the photographs of ZRP torture victims than turned up mysteriously on
my e-mail - and were then forwarded to an Australian Federal Minister - were
fraudulent just like Zanu said?
Only people in the country must do anything to help, not people outside who
might see matters from a different perspective and have varying circles of
influence - in line with Mugabe's policy, of course.
Zanu also appears to want a monopolistic one sided aproach to information
and debate - ZBC, ZTV, Herald and Chronicle only - is this now becoming
Mbeki is a complete angel, surely?
Letter 2 - R. Johnson.
J's letter of the 28th March to Clive Midlane is very misleading and nasty.
Firstly, when Clive Midlane was referring in his letter to the 'lucky ones',
he was talking about the farmers whom a certain Minister called the 'lucky
The Minister went on to say that most of the farmers who are still on their
farms, will be thrown off shortly, and only those that have fully embraced
Zanu PF will be the 'lucky ones' allowed to carry on farming. Clive Midlane
was not saying that all the farmers who are still farming are the 'lucky
ones', and they all support this evil regime.
Secondly, why J is so bitter that Clive Midlane has a lovely home and
office, and is able to work over-sea's, is beyond me.
There are 4 million Zimbabweans working outside the country, as it's the
only way they can survive.
Maybe J can't put his name to the letter is because he is one of these Zanu
PF collaborators who doesn't want bright lights shone into dark places.
Well done Clive Midlane on rattling a few cages.
Letter 3 - Marc Bezuidenhout
In response to Dr. Norman Reynolds' article, entitled "What to do next?",
taken from 'The Zimbabwean' and published on 'Zimbabwe Situation' on
29/03/07, I would like to enquire as to some of the practical workings of
Under point number 4. Dr. Reynolds refers to 'locally produced food', as
well as a 'very large new agricultural industry run by the poor'.
I am not sure if I misunderstood his comments, but would like to know where
the 'locally produced food' is going to come from. Surely we are not going
to rely on this 'very large new agricultural industry'. Just because a man
is hungry does not qualify him as a farmer. Who is going to operate this
industry? Where are "the poor" going to find the money or expertise? Farming
is a high-risk, extremely technical and expensive occupation that requires
total dedication. The "new farmers" have shown the world that they have none
The destroyed farms in Zimbabwe represent the dissolution of probably U.S.
$5-7 billion in real wealth. The Zimbabwean economy relied heavily on this
industry to provide employment and create more wealth. A few hundred
remaining farmers will never produce what 5000 farmers produced prior to the
land grab (theft) exercise which began in 2000.
The only way to revive the Zimbabwean economy is to begin repairing what
caused the collapse in the first place: agriculture. With no valid Title
Deeds the land owners (new or old) cannot borrow money to grow crops. A
person who has had to pay for his land is more likely to work hard at making
it a success. Any country that relies on food handouts will never be truly
free or independent.
With no valid Title Deeds, the only way to fund agriculture would be through
international aid. Some in the international community might ask: "Why
should we pay for the reconstruction of Zimbabwe?" The correct answer would
be "because the international community stood by and watched Mugabe destroy
his country". Their alternative - via aid contributions - would be to keep
feeding 13 million people, donating petrol and electricity (that would be
you, Mr. Mbeki), medicines and providing homes. Sustainable commercial
agriculture is essential for Zimbabwe to thrive. The last 7 years have shown
Zimbabweans what life is like with no farmers: would anyone wish to carry on
living with no farmers? Not likely.
The international donor community, World Bank and IMF would be wise to
provide affordable finance for the rightful owners of the farms in Zimbabwe
to enable them to start feeding their fellow Zimbabweans, earning foreign
exchange to purchase essential imports and repay our external debts. There
should be no question as to whether or not title holders are the 'rightful'
owners of the land: most farms stolen by the Mugabe government were bought
after independence, with the approval (Certificates of no interest) of the
The ethnic cleansing of white farmers from Zimbabwe should be condemned for
the crime that it is. Bear in mind that when Mugabe assumed power most of
the white Rhodesian population abandoned the country. Those that remained
chose to become a part of the promising new nation called Zimbabwe, pay
taxes and contribute to the economy. The white farmers, however, have been
punished for feeding the nation and its neighbours for 20 years, building
schools, clinics homes and dams, providing employment and contributing taxes
to the government coffers. They were an easy target to detract from Mugabe's
Once Zimbabwean agriculture was back on track, the rest of the economy would
again be able to thrive and diversify around it. A country should never rely
too heavily on one industry, but equally any country that deliberately
destroys its most successful industry is courting disaster. Zimbabwean
agriculture was envied throughout Africa, and respected throughout the
Importantly, also, is the fact that people need to eat.
I look forward to the 'Impact of the plan' from Dr. Reynolds next week.
Letter 4 - Fran Lagesse
Dear Mr Quintana
Barrie and Mary Ball can be contact through their son & daughter in law, who
live next door to them in Chiredzi
Mike & Sarah Ball, email: email@example.com
Cellphone : 011-414246, Landline: 031-2478 (rarely works)
Ruth & Graham Dabbs (Ruth is Barrie & mary's daughter, also in Chiredzi),
cellphone: 011-214434, Landline: 031-2490 (rarely works)
Hope you manage to get in touch with them. Both Barrie and Mary have been
quite ill the last months but are at home at the
Letter 5 - Marion Herud
OK, folks, enough with the in-fighting already. We have all suffered. We are
all in varying amounts of distress. We have all had to make hard and painful
choices (even no decision can be considered a choice). We are all
Let's recognize the real enemy here ... it is NOT the people who
stayed/left, those that farmed/didn't. Let's keep the problem in perspective
and not allow others to divide and conquer us. Please!
Yours, Marion Herud
Letter 6 - Vivien Mackintosh.
I felt I had to respond to recent emails about those of us who "took the
gap" and "urging action from far away in Oz and New Zealand" but I would
like it to be known to all those "lucky ones" left behind that I think it
took more courage to leave and go to the unknown than to stay with the devil
you know - no, life has not been easy for us as many of you assume and we
have done work you wouldn't dream about, just to put food on our tables,
keep our children educated and live to a decent standard - often doing more
than one job at a time and then still having to do everything at home to
keep our homes in a tidy state. We left since we had no livelihood left in
Zim and refused to bargain or negotiate with those squatting on our farm,
and so made our choice. We have now made a new life but we keep in touch
with what is going on all the time and we may even have a clearer picture
from the outside as to what is happening there. Good luck to you all - we
watch with interest.
Letter 7 - Sally Bown
What a pity Zimbabweans have descended to the low level of some other
nationalities and are now devouring each other over who went or stayed and
There is a season and place for everyone at the appropriate time lets spend
our energies in helping each other, not tearing each other down and pointing
Letter 8 - Just another stressed out zimbo
How sad that at this time in Zim we are at each other's throats about who
has lost the most, who is suffering the most, who does this, and who did
that. Surely we can all be more understanding of each other, and remember
that each of us had had to take the steps that we thought were the best for
our family and where we were at the time. Whether you had to move to
another country or just to another part of the country because you now had
nowhere to live, it was traumatic to say the least for all of us. Let's give
each other space and understanding. We've all gone through our own
personal hells, and if some of us have been more successful at finding our
feet again, well, that's wonderful. For others of us who are perhaps even
losing ground, let's think of them with compassion. We need to stand
together, even if its only in spirit, not break each other down. All of
us, in whatever circumstance, are stressed, but don't lets take it out on
Regards, Just another stressed out zimbo.
Letter 9 - Gerhard & Jocelyn Erasmus
Firstly let me say how much we enjoy & appreciate your good work!! We are
one of the so called people who took the gap. We lost our farm, home &
business in 2003. This was an enterprise started from nothing in 1955. This
was the only home I ever knew & shared with my parents, my wife & my
children until we lost it all in 2003. We stayed on in Harare for a further
2yrs, always hoping & praying that things would change. It was with a heavy
heart that we had to leave friends & family behind to head to NZ.. There is
not a day that goes by that I don't close my eyes & walk every inch of the
farm & other places we used to visit. Our thoughts & prayers are with ALL
the suffering people in Zim. We desperately wanted to stay on in Zim, but
due to financial circumstances couldn't. It is not easy being in a strange
country at the age of 52 . We pray every day that things will change & we
will be one of the first to return when things change for the better as they
will very soon. We should not be pointing fingers at each other, but rather
be supportive of each others situation. I have met many Zimbos here in NZ,
some who have been here for many years, & have yet to meet one who would not
be back home tomorrow!! Yes, there are people who have supped & still are,
with the devil. They know who they are & the Lord will be their judge! From
here we can only admire & salute the brave people who are putting their
lives on the line to fight for what is right. We do what we can from here by
informing the people here about the plight of Zimbabwe. I have had many New
Zealanders I have met here, express their outrage at the situation there. It
has been an extremely stressful ,heartbreaking & trying time of our lives!!
We put our faith & trust in The Lord & we know that he will show us the way.
We will always be Africans!!
Sincerely, Gerhard & Jocelyn Erasmus, KeriKeri, New Zealand. PS If there is
anyone wanting to correspond, our email address is
firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.
Letter 10 - Jimmy Anderson.
Well done to Clive Midlane for bringing up the topic on what the Minister
refered to as the 'Lucky ones'. (The Minister stated that most of the
remaining farmers will be removed very soon, and only the 'lucky ones' will
We all tried to subdivide our farms and coexist with the madness, but to no
Every month, more and more farmers are forced to leave after trying
everything possible to stay on their farms, while enduring a nightmare for
their families and their labour.
So yes, it will be very interesting to see who the 'lucky ones' are, and
what part they played in supporting Zanu PF when this madness comes to an
All letters published on the open Letter Forum are the views and opinions of
the submitters, and do not represent the official viewpoint of Justice for
Here he tells how he was forced to leave his home country and seek refuge in the UK and how he feels the asylum system has, so far, failed him.
In 1999 I enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe to study law; soon after I was elected to the students' Executive Council as Vice President.
I was the first branch chairman for the Movement for Democratic Change at the university and heavily involved with the National Constitutional Assembly.
I wasn't a part-time political activist - I was fully involved in trying to liberate our country from the barbaric and brutal regime of Robert Mugabe.
In 2001 I was expelled from the University for political activism. I'd studied law for three years but they refused to give me my results or grant me a hearing.
Beaten and tortured
I became victimised and targeted by the state system, the central intelligence organisation and the police.
On three occasions the police raided the house I was staying in with other activists, at gun point. They would blindfold us, load us into a truck and drive us to the law and order maintenance section in Harare.
They would beat us, pour water on us, make us simulate sexual positions on the floor and threaten us with death.
We couldn't get any protection from the police because they were the ones doing it. We couldn't get protection from the MDC because they were also victims of the system.
In 2002, two of our close comrades were murdered by the state system. Batani Hadzizi was brutally assaulted and murdered in his room at the university. And Lameck Chemvura was strangled with a shoelace before being thrown from a moving train.
There was a warrant out for my arrest and fearing for my life I went to hide with an aunt. But she was too fearful and turned me away.
A couple in the UK told me they had been following the situation in Zimbabwe and had read articles and literature on my website. They offered to assist my escape and invited me to stay with them in the UK.
However, when I arrived in England I discovered that my hosts were not a couple as had been represented in our communications, but a single elderly man.
He was expecting some way of compensating for his kindness that I was not able to provide.
He kicked me out. I was destitute. I slept on the streets of Croydon for three days.
Eventually a Zimbabwean businessman gave me a place to sleep but said he would not be able to employ me because of my status.
No way back
All the while I was thinking that the situation would get better in Zimbabwe. I was hoping to go home, finish my studies and graduate as a lawyer. But things got worse. There was infighting within the MDC itself.
I submitted my formal application for asylum, rather reluctantly, in September of 2006. I am sure that the asylum system is designed to deter people from using it.
You can wait forever; there is no feedback, no progress update. You have to go to a reporting centre or police station once or twice a week. You are fingerprinted like a criminal.
Plus, financially, you are restricted in what you can do. What kind of society can you join when you only have £30 per week to live on?
If people know that I am an asylum seeker they look down on me. I feel very vulnerable because I have no established right to be here. And so, you see, the whole situation is so humiliating.
I don't know anything about what happens next. I have written to the Home Office four, five times but they do not reply to my letters. I've made several calls but they won't tell me anything. I am in limbo.
The whole problem is in the delay itself because without knowing when a decision is going to be made you can't plan your life.
Many times I've contemplated suicide because I feel useless and am unable to provide for my family.
My parents in Zimbabwe are wondering why they wasted their time educating me at all. They feel like I have abandoned them.
This is a continuation of the persecution I received in Zimbabwe
but without the violence. It's more of a mental torture.
Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to