[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
JOHANNESBURG, 8 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - Zimbabwean authorities have warned that
more arrests will follow as it unravels an alleged plot by opposition
members to overthrow the government following the discovery of an arms cache
in the east of the country.
Minister of Security Didymus Mutasa confirmed on Tuesday that security
forces had arrested Peter Hitschmann, a former member of the
pre-independence Rhodesian army, after police found weapons and
communication equipment at his home last week in Mutare, 260 km east of the
Five people, including three officials of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), have been arrested this week for alleged links to
Hitschmann, according to Arnold Tsunga, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for
They include MDC member of parliament Giles Mutseyekwa, and Brian James, the
party's Manicaland province treasurer. Another senior MDC member, Roy
Bennett, had been questioned by the authorities, said party spokesman Nelson
"None of the MDC members have been allowed access to their lawyers," said
Mutasa told IRIN, "More people - more members of the opposition - will be
called in [for questioning]. There are many people involved." He added that
the authorities had acted upon information gathered by its intelligence
According to the official Herald newspaper, among the arms recovered was an
AK-47 assault rifle, four FN rifles, seven Uzi sub-machine guns, four .303
rifles with telescopic sights, 11 shotguns, eight pistols, four revolvers
and communication equipment. Thousands of rounds of ammunition were
reportedly also recovered by the police.
John Makumbe, a senior political science lecturer at the University of
Zimbabwe, described the alleged plot as a "work of fiction" and an attempt
to discredit the opposition. "It is also an attempt to divert attention from
the country's problems," he commented, adding that it was not unusual to
unearth arms caches dating back to Rhodesian days.
The Zimbabwean authorities have however, linked Hitschmann to the Zimbabwean
Freedom Movement (ZFM), which announced its presence in 2003 in a video
recording showing two uniformed balaclava-wearing men seated before the
A statement, released in London by the previously unknown group, declared
the ZFM's intention was to launch an armed struggle to oust the ruling
ZANU-PF, but the movement was dismissed as a hoax by most analysts in
The organisation has been quiet since the statement, released by Peter
Tatchell, a gay rights activist who has twice attempted to place President
Robert Mugabe under citizen's arrest.
However, Mutasa claimed that the ZFM was affiliated to the MDC. "They are
all one and part of the same thing".
The authorities reportedly believe that Tatchell is a ZFM member who
contacted Hitschmann and senior MDC officials to set up offices in
Manicaland and open a bank account in Mozambique to finance operations to
overthrow the government.
But the MDC has distanced itself from "any violent attempts to overthrow the
government" and stated that it was "not a guerilla movement".
"We don't even know what the ZFM is; we don't even know who Hitschmann is.
We can never support any armed struggle," said Chamisa.
Wed Mar 8, 2006 11:45 AM ET
By Cris Chinaka and Stella Mapenzauswa
HARARE (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe's government on Wednesday
threatened to physically "eliminate" political opponents seeking to
overthrow it unconstitutionally after the discovery of an arms cache and
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa made the warning on state television
a day after the broadcaster said police had found weapons in the eastern
city of Mutare and arrested a former member of the military in the white
minority administration of what was once the British colony of Rhodesia.
Investigators said the suspect, Peter Hitschmann, claimed to have been
working with former members of the Rhodesian forces currently serving in
Zimbabwe's military to obtain the arms and plan acts of sabotage and
destabilization, Zimbabwe Television (ZTV) reported.
It was not possible to obtain independent verification of the ZTV report.
In an interview with ZTV, Mutasa said Zimbabweans had nothing to fear from
the arms cache but warned that government opponents might be eliminated.
"They (Zimbabweans) are absolutely secure. The only people who may not be
secure, and may I repeat, are those people who are causing these problems
because we will not spare them," Mutasa said.
"And if it came to a position where we have to eliminate them physically
because of what they are doing, then it is their fault, that is what they
are looking for, and we will not hesitate to do that," he added.
Mutasa suggested that main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was among
opponents who had entertained thoughts of removing Mugabe -- in power for
the last 26 years -- by force and warned the government would deal sternly
"If the people, as I must repeat, like Tsvangirai do not believe that, they
are living in cuckooland and we will not let them proceed along the
disastrous way that they have shaped for themselves," he said.
OPPOSITION MDC DENIES LINKS
ZTV said Hitschmann claimed he was working for an organization called the
Zimbabwe Freedom Movement that was coordinated by opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) members Giles Mutsekwa and Roy Bennett.
President Robert Mugabe accuses the MDC of working with Western countries to
try to oust him from power, mainly over his seizure of white-owned farms for
redistribution to poor blacks.
On Wednesday, Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for one of two estranged MDC
factions, said the party had no links with Hitschmann and slammed what he
called attempts by the government to derail its congress set for next week.
"This morning, the police arrested Giles Mutsekwa ... and Brian James, the
MDC's provincial treasurer for Manicaland. We see their arrest as a ploy by
the regime to destabilize the forthcoming congress by implicating our
officials in a case that concerns an employee of the state," Chamisa said.
"The MDC does not have any links with the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police)
special constabulary, Mr. Hitschmann, the so-called Zimbabwe Freedom
Movement or any person or group that seeks to effect a regime change through
the barrel of the gun, an armed struggle, violence and unconstitutional
Chamisa told Reuters that Mutsekwa had been called to Harare's main police
station while two unnamed MDC officials had been arrested in Mutare. "I have
no doubt that Mr. Bennett will be in police custody by the end of the day,"
ZTV said the arms cache recovered by security agencies in Mutare included
AK-47 automatic rifles, machineguns, shotguns, pistols, revolvers, tear gas
canisters, flares, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a two-way radio
The country is grappling with a deepening economic crisis widely blamed on
(Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe)
Two senior Zimbabwean opposition officials have been arrested after
police said they had found an arms cache in the eastern city of Mutare.
The Movement for Democratic Change identified them as MP Giles
Mutsekwa and regional treasurer Brian James.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa strongly denied that the party had any
links to the weapons, or plans of violence.
Security Minister Didymus Mutasa has warned that those planning
violence would be physically "eliminated".
The cache was said to contain rifles, machine guns and tear gas
canisters, which officials suspect were to be used in acts of "sabotage and
The alleged owner of the weapons, Peter Hitschmann, was a member of
the army before independence and is expected to appear in court.
State media has reported that he has told the police he was working
for the MDC.
"We wish to place it on record that the MDC does not have any links
with Mr Hitschmann, the so-called Zimbabwe Freedom Movement or any other
person or group that seeks to effect a regime change through the barrel of
the gun, an armed struggle, violence or unconstitutional means," said Mr
Chamisa, spokesman for the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr Tsvangirai has twice been charged with treason over alleged coup
plots - he was acquitted once and the charges were dropped the second time.
Referring to Mr Tsvangirai and anyone planning violence, Security
Minister Didymus Mutasa told state television:
"If it came to a position where we have to eliminate them physically
because of what they are doing, then it is their fault, that is what they
are looking for, and we will not hesitate to do that."
President Robert Mugabe played a key role in ending white rule in
Rhodesia and he and his Zanu-PF party have dominated Zimbabwe's politics
since independence in 1980. The main challenge to the octogenarian leader's
authority has come from the MDC.
But observers say the recent split in the MDC over whether to contest
last year's senate elections has weakened its opposition to Mr Mugabe.
The Movement for Democratic Change wishes to disassociate itself from the report in the state media, which insinuates links between one Peter Hitschmann and the party. We believe that the story in the paper is not only mischievous but also exposes a state instigated plot aimed at derailing the people’s congress, which is due next week.
This morning, the police arrested Giles Mutsekwa, the Mutare North MP and Brian James, the MDC’s provincial treasurer for Manicaland. We see their arrest as a ploy the regime to destabilize the forthcoming Congress by implicating our officials in a case that concerns an employee of the State, Peter Hitschmann.
According to the media reports, Hitschmann, who was found in possession of arms of war and is alleged to have recruited ex-members of the Rhodesian Army to work towards a regime change agenda in Zimbabwe, is in fact in the employ of the state as a police special constabulary. As such the insinuation confirms to us the existence of a plot to destabilize the party through any means possible.
Our experience shows that the dictatorship has targeted the MDC for vilification and demonisation. The destabilization project started in 1999 and has taken various twists and turns, without success. The dictatorship often revises its destabilization strategy each time there is evidence of a strong and organized MDC under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai. We recall that in 2000, one Nkomo, who worked for the police force bombed our party offices.
We wish to place it on record that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) does not have any links with the ZRP special constabulary, Mr. Hitschmann, the so-called Zimbabwe Freedom Movement or any person or group that seeks to effect a regime change through the barrel of the gun, an armed struggle, violence and unconstitutional means.
We wish to state categorically that while we believe Zimbabweans have lost faith and confidence in the electoral process and in elections, our desire to effect democratic change shall be realized through peaceful democratic resistance.
We have a people’s congress set down for the weekend 17 – 19 March. With 13 000 delegates expected to converge in Harare, this congress shall decide Zimbabwe’s future. The dictatorship is disturbed by this event, given that earlier attempts to destroy the party over the Senate election failed dismally. The Senate debacle saw the emergence of a splinter unit in the MDC. But all indications are that Zanu PF’s attempt to split the party has embarrassed the dictatorship, even after the regime supported the MDC rebels with billions of tax-payer dollars.
The MDC is moving ahead. Our Congress shall take place. The people shall decide the future. And the people shall win.
Nelson Chamisa, MP
Secretary for Information and Publicity
Thu 9 March 2006
MUTARE - Police in the eastern city of Mutare have arrested two
prominent members of the ruling ZANU PF party on charges of corruptly
acquiring grain and fuel worth billions of dollars from the state's Grain
Marketing Board (GMB) and National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM).
The two Esau Mupfumi, a member of ZANU PF's central committee and
Enock Porusingazi, who is the ruling party's legislator for Chipinge South
constituency, are believed to have resold the fuel and grain at inflated
prices on the illegal black market.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena could not be immediately reached to
establish the exact details of the charges against the two ZANU PF
politicians or when they were likely to be brought to court for trial.
But sources at Mutare central police station told ZimOnline that
Porusingazi, who is also the ZANU PF youth chairman for Manicaland province
under which Mutare falls, is alleged to have duped NOCZIM to give him 300
000 litres of diesel which he claimed he wanted to use on his farm.
He is however said to have offloaded the fuel that is in critical
short supply in the country onto the black-market where prices are more than
treble the subsidised prices NOCZIM charges for diesel.
The government allows farmers to buy cheaper priced fuel from NOCZIM
for use to produce food for the country.
Porusingazi is also said to have siphoned huge quantities of the
staple maize from the GMB for resale on the black-market.
Mupfumi, who is one of Mutare's most promiment businessmen, is said to
have duped NOCZIM to him give more than 20 000 litres of diesel claiming he
wanted to use the fuel to ferry ZANU PF supporters to the party's annual
conference last December. But he is said to have resold most of the fuel on
Maize and fuel are among a long list of basic survival commodities in
critical short supply in Zimbabwe because there is no hard cash to pay
But top officials of ZANU PF and the government are making a killing
using their powerful positions to access the little food and fuel trickling
into the country and later resell these to ordinary citizens, virtually at
The powerful politicians are also accused of smuggling some of the
food for sale in neighbouring countries such as Zambia and Mozambique. -
Thu 9 March 2006
MASVINGO - War veterans in Masvingo town about 260km south of Harare
on Wednesday began reluctantly returning farm equipment seized from former
white farmers in a bid to comply with a court order issued late last year
instructing them to return the property.
While the war veterans said they would comply with the order, there
were fears that most of the equipment could no longer be accounted for.
High Court judge Bharat Patel last November ordered the Masvingo Farm
Equipment and Materials Committee, a committee headed by police officers and
war veterans to spearhead the seizure of farm equipment, to return seized
properties to the white farmers.
On Wednesday, trucks carrying equipment which included irrigation
pipes, tractors and combine harvesters could be seen ferrying the property
to several collection points in Masvingo amid fears that most of the
equipment could no longer be accounted for.
A senior police officer who was implicated in the looting of farm
equipment in Masvingo, Assistant Commissioner Loveness Ndanga said the
police were complying with the court order but dismissed suggestions that
they were holding on to some of the equipment .
"We are trying to comply with the High Court order. To say that some
of the property is missing is another thing which might need another court
battle. After all when the property was taken no one was listing it down,"
War veterans chairman in Masvingo, Isaiah Muzenda, said the former
fighters while complying with the court order, were mobilising their members
to demonstrate against High Court order.
Hordes of government supporters including war veterans took advantage
of the chaos on the farms to grab equipment from white farmers whom they
accused of sabotaging the government's land reforms.
But the seizures of equipment and farms from whites destabilised the
mainstay agricultural sector slashing food production by about 60 percent to
leave once self-sufficient Zimbabwe dependent on food aid from international
donors. - ZimOnline
Thu 9 March 2006
By Arufeya Gungumakushe
HARARE - I am extremely disappointed by the media's handling of the
entry into Zimbabwe's politics of former University of Zimbabwe student
leader Arthur Mutambara.
Mutambara was recently elected president of a faction of Zimbabwe's
main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
However as Zimbabweans, groaning under President Robert Mugabe's
dictatorship, we must be careful to avoid being unduly mesmerised and misled
by this super academic curiosity.
We are in the middle of a struggle to re-liberate ourselves from an
erstwhile liberation movement that mutated into a fascist monster.
The post-colonial oppressor has been stealing every election since
2000 and decided to reward his disgruntled losers by amending the
Constitution and creating a Senate to accommodate them. The MDC fought
against this amendment in Parliament, to no avail.
But recently, some less principled MDC leaders have been slowly
cozying up to the regime and engaging in dubious "quiet diplomacy" with
President Thabo Mbeki, stabbing MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the back.
Disregarding the fact that Morgan Tsvangirai, as MDC President, widely
consulted the rank and file membership on whether or not to contest in
predetermined Senate elections, the pro-Senate elitist group decided to call
him a "dictator" because they alone ought to decide for everyone else.
So determined were they to be in the Senate that they decided to
participate, if only to pick up the crumbs of Senate. After that, they
proceeded to loot the MDC's share of state funds.
Without consulting the rank and file party membership, they held their
own congress in the party's name, "democratically" elbowed out all aspirants
to the Presidency of their new party and, in typical ZANU PF fashion,
imposed Arthur G Mutambara as their new leader.
In accepting that imposition, Mutambara makes some very revealing
utterances which necessitate immediate scrutiny of this political curiosity.
In his own words, Mutambara is the "anti-Senate leader of the pro-Senate
faction of the MDC". How ridiculous indeed!
One wonders why, as a disciplined, anti-Senate ordinary member of the
MDC from its formation, Mutambara did not proceed to the party headquarters
and find out what was going on in the party leadership.
Oh no! The dream vacancy for president has occurred elsewhere and
that's where Mutambara indeed proceeds regardless of his own inclination.
How will he lead those who will not miss a chance to the grab seats in the
Senate or any other Mugabe patronage forum?
How does he explain how he, as a disciplined ordinary anti-Senate MDC
cadre, chose to join a group that preferred to split the party rather than
miss the Senate?
Zimbabweans must guard against importing professionally gifted exiles
who will lord it over them like a messiah.
Remember how Malawians literally begged Dr Hastings Banda to return
and lead them, only to discover that they had recruited a tiger with enough
"claws" to reduce them all to mice?
In another Freudian slip, Mutambara reveals a disturbing dimension of
his unconsciousness when he proclaims that the MDC needs a leadership that
is not "tainted" by the current struggles.
So those who have been leading the MDC, ducking bullets and surviving
all kinds of life-and death legal traps laid by the regime are "tainted"
while he, along with Welshman Ncube, Gibson Sibanda etc. are "clean"!
And he wants to unite with those who are "tainted"? Isn't that the
loud cry of an elite enfant terrible that only wants to play with other kids
so that he can control all the toys in the playgrounds?
How will he unite the MDC? By joining its opponents in branding the
remaining party leaders as a "tainted" lot? Mutambara will need a miracle to
convince MDC members that he is clean and they are tainted!
This is politics. It aint clean like robotics and mechatronics!
So far, Mutambara has been dropping enough slips for Zimbabweans to be
able to work him out. Take the one about the young Mugabe being among the
heroes of our struggle, different from the ageing one under whom Zimbabweans
are suffering today!
One can imagine who Mutambara unconsciously dreams himself to be in
another 40 years! But do Zimbabweans have to view their leaders in phases:
good once upon a time and bad today.
No! A spade is a spade. If a leader manipulated us into worshiping him
as a hero in the past and later turned us into slaves, that is even more
cynical than one who never pretended.
In picking unnecessily on the British and the now expropriated white
farmers, echoing Mugabe's opportunistic references to land reform,
sovereignty and the MDC's supposed "puppet" image, Mutambara continues
speaking unconsciously the hate language of the regime he purports to have
returned to fight and spreading its messages of deceit.
That is why the regime and the public media it has usurped speak
kindly of Mutambara and his Senate party and refers to the MDC President as
the "deposed leader".
Remember Chief Jeremiah Chirau and his ZUPO playing the black masked
Ian Smith in the late 1970s? Is someone imitating Smith to the last trick?
How does Mutambara define his party's difference from ZANU PF on these
matters? One notes with interest how Patrick Chinamasa is moving rapidly to
legislate for so-called "floor crossing" in Parliament.
The reason is very clear: to provide a legal basis for allowing
Mutambara's parliamentarians, all elected in the name of the MDC, to remain
in there against the wishes of the voters who elected them when it becomes
clear that what Mutambara is leading is anything but the MDC.
I smell a rat. Is this "quiet diplomacy" unfolding? This man is indeed
a tiger and the MDC leadership must know he is not for cuddling.
Mutambara's political credibility will depend, in part, on how he handles
Comment from ZWNEWS, 14 November 2003
A small sample of the London press corps was yesterday treated to a
production of downmarket melodrama, as the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement
launched its inaugural video onto a hitherto unsuspecting world. The MTV
awards this wasn't. A camera which didn't move from its tripod, an
off-screen interviewer, and two actors so wooden they had more grain than
the pictures, this low-budget presentation was reminiscent of 1970's footage
from the steamier sort of Latin American banana republic. Several of the
assembled hacks were heard stifling giggles as ZFM's National Commander,
Charles Black Mamba and Ntuthuko Fezela, the group's Deputy National
Commander, outlined their strategy in electronically distorted voices. ZFM -
the name suggests a radio station rather than a liberation movement - would
attempt to "take Mugabe alive".
The scene was dripping with tacky symbolism. The two commanders, in military
fatigues and ski-mask balaclavas, with Mr Mamba sporting a rather fetching
beret, sat side-by-side on benches which appeared to have been ripped from
one of Harare's commuter taxis. The flag behind the two goggled-eyed
characters had been doctored. The Zimbabwe bird floated alone in the white
triangle, searching forlornly for the red star which seemed to have slipped
off the standard. Other pictures show ZFM's "arms dump", which consists
mostly of stacked ammunition boxes and half-a-dozen superannuated rifles.
They really should find a new PR consultant. Speaking of which, the show was
compered by Peter Tatchell - world-renowned self-publicist, gay rights
activist, and now rebel group impresario - who stressed that he was not
involved with the organisation "in any way", but was solely a facilitator,
bringing it's message to the world. He did manage to find a half-decent
venue - the Institute of Contemporary Arts on The Mall between Admiralty
Arch and Buckingham Palace. Never has an African coup been launched from so
salubrious a postcode.
ZFM have a website. The address - www.zfm.cc - indicates that it is
registered in the Cocos Islands (population 630). Is this an unintended
consequence of global warming? Are a group of Indian Ocean islanders
plotting to take over Zimbabwe before their home disappears below the waves?
The Cocos Islands are an Australian territory. Is the combination of rising
damp and direct rule from Canberra proving too much? Do they see their
future with well-known anti-Australians in southern Africa? The islanders
have 287 working telephones, one radio station, no TV station, and no
railway. They would feel at home in Zimbabwe. Or could it be that ZFM's
website was registered as .cc because .com, .org and .net were already
taken. Whatever; they appear to have had some small help with their site,
which so far features "Communiqué 1" and a couple of photos, from a web
design company in less-than-exotic North London.
If ZFM are who they say they are, why have they talked the talk before
walking the walk. Most "rebel" groups at least have the tactical foresight
to take a couple of hostages, or blow up a few telephone poles, before
presenting themselves to the world. So far, so ludicrous. But in Zimbabwe
this may play, not as farce, but as tragedy. For this drivel is the answer
to J Moyo's dreams. Here, on one video cassette, are all the visions of his
paranoid mind. A "gay gangster" - once memorably described by Mugabe as
British minister Peter Hain's "husband" - is seen associating himself with
promises of violent revolution, in the centre of British imperialism. Moyo
has been spouting this kind of rubbish week after month after year, and
suddenly the strands of "evidence", like London buses, all conveniently
arrive together. Perhaps this is not so much the answer to Jonathan's
dreams, as the product of them. This will go down like iced-beer with Moyo's
friends in Africa and beyond who, of course, suspected it all along. And
don't bet against more ransacking of offices, more mass arrests, more
treason charges, more draconian laws - on the pretext of this ridiculous
Comment from the Mail & Guardian (SA), 7 March
In two seemingly unrelated events, the east of Zimbabwe was rocked
recently - first by a violent earthquake and then by the election of
Manicaland local hero Arthur Mutambara as the president of the pro-Senate
faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). His election at the
congress in Bulawayo recently is significant, as he follows in the big
footprints left by other sons from the eastern province, from Ndabaningi
Sithole, the first leader of the original Zanu party, to assassinated
nationalist Herbert Chitepo, former finance minister Simba Makoni and MDC
founder Morgan Tsvangirai. In a country long dominated by members of the
Zezuru ethnic group, mostly notably President Robert Mugabe himself, the
fact that Mutambara is a Manyika is significant. His election speaks volumes
about the fluid nature of the power dynamics within Zimbabwean opposition
politics, and Mutambara is the first to acknowledge the disarray in the
opposition ranks. "My position was that the MDC should have boycotted those
Senate elections. I guess then that makes me the anti-Senate leader of the
pro-Senate MDC faction! How ridiculous can we get?"
Mutamabara is not an easy man to pigeonhole, ideologically straddling the
views of most of the country's power groupings. His views on land owe more
to Mugabe than Tsvangirai. "While we put the failure of the land reform
programme squarely on the Zanu PF government, we also acknowledge the
complicity of some Western governments which reneged on agreements and the
inertia of white farmers in seeking pre-emptive solutions." The olive branch
that he extended by calling for peace and reunification of "democratic
forces" has wilted even before budding. Tendai Biti, MDC member of
Parliament, rejected the overture, saying there is no shared ideology
between the two camps. He scathingly dismissed Mutambara's views on the land
question, referring to him as "someone who last bought bread in Zimbabwe 20
years ago". Mutambara's status as a member of the educated elite who have
spent decades living abroad may be a double-edged sword. On the one hand,
those who never left see him as out of touch with the realities of
Zimbabwean life. On the other, he may be persuasive in convincing the
estimated four-million highly skilled Zimbabweans living abroad, to come
home and rebuild the country. "They want to be global players. They want to
be globally competitive," he declared.
Of course, many of them are already global players, but perhaps not in the
sense Mutambara wishes. It is easier to find a Zimbabwean chartered
accountant in South Africa or the Jersey Islands than in Zimbabwe itself. A
Zimbabwean chartered accountant working in Johannesburg is emphatic that he
will not be going home - ever. "Having been exposed to an economy where
things work and where there is good governance, it will be a step back
returning to Zimbabwe," he explains. "In fact, I have just sold my house in
Harare because I don't intend going back. I am now part of this society.
From here, I may go to London or New York." Dr Robert Muponde, a Zimbabwean
working as a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic
Research, said it is unlikely that exiles will flock home, even if Mugabe
gives up power. The paradox facing the country is that the economy has to be
revived before many of the professionals go back, but it cannot do so if
professionals don't go back. "For many who go back, it will be a sacrifice.
They have to give up many comforts. It will be an act of patriotism."
March 06, 2006
I got a notice from my local post office last week notifying me that I had received a parcel. Origin: Kenya. Because of lack of business, the post office called Kamfinsa, has transformed itself into a kind of art gallery. These days it costs about Z$40 000 to post a letter so its not as if people are queuing up to write home. Many of the counters people once used for postal chores are now used as sculpture stands. If the cost of posting letters is out of the reach of most Zimbabweans then I’m not sure how many sculptures get sold. But they do brighten up the place.
Turns out that my parcel from Kenya was a book, Broken bodies, broken dreams: violence against women exposed from the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). It seemed a very timely arrival seeing as 8th March is International Women’s Day. That night I started reading it in bed and any chance of sleep was swiftly snuffed out.
Broken bodies, broken dreams covers all kinds of violence against women from the sexual abuse of children, female genital mutilation (FGM), dowry crimes and bride-price abuse, the abuse of older women and intimate-partner violence. It illustrates the violence through personal testimonies as well as very vivid and evocative photographs, mostly in black and white.
Some statistics jumped out:
The stories, the statistics, the photographs obviously don’t make for pleasant bedtime reading but Broken bodies, broken dreams: violence against women exposed, got me thinking about violence against women closer to home.
Many years ago I visited a small Mozambican town called Vilancoulos. It’s a kind of a lazy, laid back place with not a whole lot going on – at least back then. Some friends and I were looking for a place to stay and ended up spending the night at a little guesthouse run by a South African woman. We had a good night even if it was interrupted with us fending off a couple of tsotsis (thieves) who tried to break into our car. Our host was very much a part of life in Vilancoulos contributing to the town through her tourism venture. She also started informal house discussions with local women to talk about HIV/AIDS, condoms and sexual health.
Turned out that some of the men about town didn’t take kindly to women taking their sexual health seriously. One night she got a visit from a gang of men who had come to teach her a lesson. She was gang raped, she had cigarettes put out on her body, and if that wasn’t enough, they tied her to the back of a car, front first, and dragged her through the streets of Vilancoulos.
She survived, as so many women do, but the scars, both external and internal must be raw, and deep and painful.
Last week I was reading the Mail and Guardian, a weekly South African newspaper. One particular headline caught my eye:
Not just another murder
The article discussed the rising number of hate crimes directed at the gay and lesbian community, especially in the townships (ghettos) in South Africa. Zoliswa Nkonyana, a young 19-year-old lesbian, was clubbed, kicked and beaten to death by a mob of about 20 men on February 4th. They chased her, pelted her with bricks and then finished her off with a golf club. When I read this article I was reminded of the outrage and the enormous media coverage of the murder of Matthew Shepard in the US. And I wondered to myself why Nkonyana’s vicious assault took over two weeks to filter from the streets to the media, finally ending up as a page 7 story in a weekly newspaper. Would it have been different if Nkonyana had been middle class, middle aged or a visiting foreigner like Amy Bhiel, instead of just a queer girl from the ghetto?
And even closer to home, here in Zimbabwe, I know so many, too many, women who have experienced sexual abuse and violence, most often perpetrated by a close family member or friend. Yes, those UN statistics that I mentioned earlier aren’t a thumb suck. The million-dollar question is What Are We Going To Do About It? Immediately a quote from Broken bodies, broken dreams: violence against women exposed comes to mind: –
We need to voice the violence, to hear the stories of all those affected by violence . . . Spreading the word, breaking down the taboos and exposing the violence that takes place among us is the first step towards effective action to reduce violence in our own societies.” – Gro Harlem Brundtland
It starts with all of us voicing the violence, telling our stories.
As fellow blogger Sokari says:
Silence is not an option.
Canada's Foreign Policy newsletter
Embassy, March 8th, 2006
By Sarah McGregor
John Schram, Canada's former ambassador to Zimbabwe, says engaging in
personal diplomacy is the best way for Canada to be taken seriously in and
encourage change in one of the world's fastest collapsing countries.
*By Sarah McGregor
Canada steps lightly around the Mugabe government to avoid provoking a
diplomatic row, and instead targets efforts to win influence with ordinary
Zimbabweans, says Canada's recently retired ambassador to Harare, Zimbabwe's
capital. "It is civil society that can change things," says John Schram, in
an interview. "Canada should be encouraging them to talk to each other
Mr. Schram says Canada lashing out at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's
regime is counterproductive in that it could flame international tension.
Zimbabwe is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis as one of the world's
fastest collapsing economies. The policies of Mr. Mugabe are blamed for food
and fuel shortages, skyrocketing inflation, an unemployment rate of 70 per
cent, violent land seizures, demolition of informal settlements and other
human rights violations.
International pressure so far has been unable to weaken Mr. Mugabe's tight
grip. Mr. Schram says the situation has evolved into a waiting game for
political leaders, but he encourages people-to-people alliances through
trade, business and conversation. "I think we have to be patient," says Mr.
Schram. "If [Zimbabweans and other outside actors] are prepared to wait then
we should be too."
Adekeye Adebajo, a leading African security expert speaking last month at
Foreign Affairs' headquarters, agrees. He says international attempts to
bring change have proven there are no easy answers. "Nobody knows what to do
about Zimbabwe," says Mr. Adebajo, executive director of the Centre for
Conflict Resolution in Cape Town, South Africa. Mr. Adebajo says many
nations are of the opinion that Zimbabwe's political crisis may persist
until Mr. Mugabe's term expires in 2008.
In Zimbabwe, Mr. Schram mounted a campaign of personal diplomacy. He and his
wife Alena hosted twice-monthly dinner parties for mostly black religious
leaders, judges, academics, journalists, corporate heads and civil society
champions. Table talk focused on hot topics that stoked "lively discussion,"
and exposed some people to entirely new perspectives, says Mr. Schram. "I'd
start by saying 'I'm going to ask you to start talking about...' and then
pick an issue of relevance. We'd go around the table -- and everyone would
have something to say."
Mr. Schram says the conversations were "off the record and out of sight."
Proof of their positive impact usually came by phone or email to Mr. Schram
in the following days. "People have told us later on that it was a decisive
factor for them, a turning point that made a profound difference," he says.
Mr. Schram calls this type of engagement a "worthwhile" way for Canada, a
middle power, to be taken seriously and reach its foreign policy aim to help
the people of Zimbabwe.
"Confrontation doesn't do any good for ordinary Zimbabweans -- which is our
real objective. We would just suddenly find ourselves ineffective," he says.
Mr. Schram says Canada "cut ourselves off" by declining to attend the
reception marking Mr. Mugabe's re-election in 2002, and also lost traction
in 2003 when Zimbabwe pulled out from the Commonwealth. But Mr. Schram says
even if bilateral efforts are blocked, there is an enormous role for Canada
to affect change at the grassroots.
"I think [Canada] will go further if we can make sure civil society is
effective. We can support the people of Zimbabwe. I always felt badly when
the impression is given that nothing can be done," he says.
Mr. Schram, a 37-year veteran of the Foreign Service, served in South Africa
during the fall of apartheid. He was posted to Africa for 11 consecutive
years as head of mission in Ghana, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
Mr. Schram returned to Ottawa in September and now divides his time as a
sessional lecturer at Carleton University in Ottawa and Senior Fellow at
Queen's University in Kingston.
Mr. Schram says he discovered the importance of giving people a voice while
in South Africa where his wife administered a $2 million dialogue fund. "It
is a Canadian way of doing things and it was visionary," says Mr. Schram.
Jim MacKinnon, Oxfam Canada's coordinator for Southern Africa, returned two
weeks ago from Zimbabwe. He reports that a tendency towards donor agencies
offering only emergency assistance -- the "funding treadmill" -- means
long-term development plans are stalled. "The disappointment has been the
[low] prioritization of the [former] Liberal government for Zimbabwe. I
think the neglect that John Schram lived under in Harare is not good
enough," he says.
Mr. MacKinnon says he commends Mr. Schram's diplomatic style, but criticizes
the Canadian government for its shrinking financial commitment. In 2005,
Canada earmarked $5.5 million for the development work of non-government
organizations in Zimbabwe, which is being reduced to $4 million this year.
"I agree that the main focus should be on civil society [but] they've
basically squeezed it off," he says, adding has high hopes the Tory
government will boost the Canadian presence.
Foreign Affairs declined to comment on whether the future government will
tweak its policy stance on Zimbabwe.
Currently, Canada refuses to distribute aid dollars through government
channels, and has imposed a travel ban on senior government officials. It
has also restricted the sale of military equipment to Zimbabwe.
08/03/2006 16:36 - (SA)
Harare - Zimbabwe's central bank govenor has asked the government not to
hike power tariffs by 560% in one go, saying the move would wreak havoc on
firms already struggling to survive in a moribund economy.
Gideon Gono told the government in a memorandum received by AFP on Wednesday
that the hike which was recommended by the cabinet should be cascaded with
quarterly increases of 95% and a final increase of 70%.
Gono said: "The proposal seeks to preserve the decision already taken by
cabinet, at the same time supporting the economy's overall objective to
vigorously fight inflation through containment of precipitious cost
escalations to producers and consumers.
"The phased framework will have a more favourable signalling effect, than
would be the case if we move on the basis of the big-bang approach which
front-loads the realignment factor by 560% on one go," he said.
Zimbabwe's inflation rate is currently 613.2% but Gono has warned that it
could peak to 800% in March before receding to below 500% in June and
dwindling to a double-digit figure in 2007.
Its once-model economy has been on a downturn for the past five years,
characterised by runaway inflation and shortages of foreign currency and
Gono said if the 560% was imposed in a single shot, it would have a
"devastating effect" on other parastatals and major firms.
He warned that the "shock-therapy way would drive into extinction ...
centre-pivot companies ... and major mining houses."
The southern African country's power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Authority
last hiked tariffs in 2003. Power outages are rampant across the country.
Zimbabwe generates 65% of its power from hydro and thermal generation whilst
35% is imported from South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
JOHANNESBURG, 8 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe missed an opportunity to produce
sufficient crops to meet national consumption requirements this season due
to inadequate inputs and uncertainty about land rights, says an agricultural
The country has experienced food shortages over the last four years, mainly
due to erratic weather conditions, the impact of the chaotic fast-track land
reform programme on the agricultural sector and a lack of foreign currency
to import inputs, such as fuel and fertiliser.
Wheat stocks have dwindled to the point where millers have warned that
supplies would only cover a few more weeks, while the crop forecast for the
maize harvest this year points to another deficit in production.
The agricultural expert, who did not wish to be named, told IRIN that
Zimbabwe "had a very small wheat crop last year", and the current low supply
was a result of "imports not keeping pace with consumption".
In terms of maize, "we're looking at a similar crop to last year, between
700,000 mt and 850,000 mt, so we're probably looking at a shortfall of
between 500,000 mt and 600,000 mt".
The lack of wheat was critical because bread played an important role in the
national diet as a substitute for the staple maize-meal porridge.
"The biggest problem is that the maize-meal price has gone up because the
current crop is not yet ready for harvest - it's probably in peak demand
right now - and the price has shot up to Zim $500,000 [about US $5] per 20
kg of milled maize," the expert noted. The official Herald newspaper
reported that a 10 kg bag of maize meal was selling for up to Zim $600,000
(about $6) on the parallel market.
As a result, the staple was priced beyond the reach of a large proportion of
the population. "If there's no maize meal around, or people cannot afford
it, they will consume bread - it is an important part of the local diet -
but, again because of the shortages of wheat, the price has gone up to Zim
$70,000 [$0.70 cents] for a loaf. It used to be around Zim $35,000 [$0.35
cents]," the expert explained.
Although bread was available in shops, it too had become relatively
unaffordable to the millions of Zimbabweans struggling to make ends meet as
the country's economic meltdown continues.
"We are struggling; we missed an opportunity this [planting] season to
become self-sufficient. We could have produced well in excess of our
[consumption] requirements had there been the inputs available for farmers
to plant, as we had a very good season in terms of rain," he commented.
The agricultural expert noted that banks were loath to lend money to
farmers, given the uncertainty over security of tenure, so that "financing,
fuel, electricity, fertiliser and chemicals are all limitations. Anything
that has a foreign currency component, that we have to import, is in short
08/03/2006 20:00 - (SA)
Harare - Police in the Zimbabwean capital are finding it difficult to rent
homes because landlords have negative perceptions of them after last year's
shack demolitions, say reports on Wednesday.
Superintendent Bobby Murwira of Harare police said: "After Operation
Murambatsvina (Restore Order), most members of the public have become
negative towards members of the force.
"Accommodation rentals are hiked every time to force them out and that is
He was speaking to a parliamentary committee that toured some police
stations in Harare on Tuesday.
Because there was not enough space for all members of the force in official
police camps, many officers were forced to look for accommodation elsewhere,
usually in Harare's high-density suburbs.
The suburbs were hard-hit by Operation Murambatsvina, which was launched in
May last year.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 700 000 people lost their
homes and jobs under the operation.
Reporters Without Borders
8 March 2006
Reporters Without Borders today condemned a purge being carried out by the government within The Daily Mirror newspaper in which three journalists have been fired or forced to resign by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
"The CIO's behaviour is unacceptable," Reporters Without Borders said. "Journalists are being offered the choice of conforming to the government's dictates or leaving. The Daily Mirror was one of Zimbabwe's last independent newspapers. The free press is being stifled by the government, which continues to flout court decisions and warnings from press freedom groups."
The CIO is deliberately making it extremely difficult for The Daily Mirror's journalists to work in order to get rid of the current staff and hire new journalists. As result of harassment, Paidamwoyo Chipunza resigned on 6 March, becoming the third journalist to quit the newspaper in less than a week. She had worked for The Daily Mirror since February 2004 and was its representive in the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists.
Reporter Sydney Kawadza was fired on 23 February while his colleague Takunda Maodza was suspended because of his alleged "poor performance." Various sources contacted by Reporters Without Borders said the two had been treated in this fashion because of their articles about the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), including the current dispute among its members. The CIO, which was opposed to the management's decision to assign Maodza to cover the MDC, accused him of being an MDC sympathizer.
The departure of these three journalists follows earlier moves aimed at weakening the newspaper. Editor Pattison Matsikidze was suspended in December. The financial director of the group that owns The Daily Mirror, Ngoni Mangadze, and his accountant, Francis Kutinhi, were fired at the same time because they were recruited by Ibbo Mandaza, the newspaper's founder and former editor.
The purge of journalists being carried out by the CIO at The Daily Mirror is targeted at those considered loyal to Mandaza. Despite a high court ruling in his favour, Mandaza is still suspended and cannot work as a journalist.
Bureau Afrique / Africa desk
Reporters sans frontières / Reporters Without Borders
5, rue Geoffroy-Marie
75009 Paris, France
Tel : (33) 1 44 83 84 84
Fax : (33) 1 45 23 11 51
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Web : www.rsf.org
By Dumisani Muleya
08 Mar 2006 at 07:49 AM EST
HARARE (Business Day) -- Just when people were thinking that reason -
something which had escaped from the Zimbabwean government - was beginning
to return to the country, the lunatic bolted out of the asylum.
Government pulled a shocker this week with an unexpected proposal to take
over mines on arbitrary terms - with 25% shareholding grabbed for free!
Authorities said government would acquire 51% in foreign-owned mining
companies that produce platinum and diamonds. They said 25% equity would be
expropriated without paying a cent, and the remainder would be purchased
over five years.
Under the proposed ownership structure, government and indigenous companies
will also take 51% of gold and emerald mines. In other minerals, Zimbabwean
companies will secure half of the shareholdings.
The transfers will take place over seven years, with 20% taken within two
years, 40% in five years. The 50% target will be achieved in seven years.
New mines will be required to have government or local ownership from the
Affected companies and other stakeholders have immediately voiced their
opposition to the proposal. South Africa mining houses such as Anglo
Platinum [JSE:ANANP], the Implats Group [JSE:IMPO], Metallon, Mmakau Mining
and Shaft Sinkers, as well as other foreign mining companies like the
British-based Rio Tinto [NYSE:RTP; LSE:RIO], will be the most affected.
Implats has an 86% stake in Zimplats [ASX:ZIM], its Australian Stock
Exchange-listed Zimbabwean subsidiary. Metallon, owned by Mzi Khumalo, owns
the largest gold mines in Zimbabwe, while Mmakau, headed by South Africa's
Transport Minister Jeff Radebe's wife Bridgette, and Shaft Sinkers own
Eureka Gold Mine.
Zimbabwe has a lot of minerals along the Great Dyke belt. It has gold, base
metals such as nickel and chrome, platinum group of metals, energy minerals
including coal, industrial minerals such as lithium, tantalite and graphite,
diamonds, coal-bed methane, and small quantities of uranium.
The country also has other natural resources. However, its population is
currently languishing in poverty due to a man-made economic disaster.
Analysts say the proposed mining legislation will only make the situation
worse. They say it will inflict irreparable damage on the mining sector
already reeling from effects of the prevailing economic crisis.
The plan, reminiscent of Zimbabwe's chaotic land seizures, could destroy
mining, one of the few remaining functioning sectors of the economy.
Independent consultant John Robertson said the new legislation was "economic
sabotage". He said it would keep new investors at bay and hurt those who had
already put money into a number of companies, while reducing prospects of
As a result, he said, Zimbabwe's foreign currency crisis and shortages of
fuel, power, productions inputs and basic commodities would continue. "It's
going to be a demolition job on the economy by government and will leave
this economy in ruins," he said.
The decision will also magnify Zimbabwe's political risk, especially as it
comes against a background of unrelenting land invasions by state agents and
other violations of property rights.
The recent 17th amendment of the constitution - which strips the courts of
jurisdiction on land seizures and legalises nationalisation of acquired
land - underlines Zimbabwe's sovereign risk as an investment destination.
Ironically, the government's point man on the economy, Reserve Bank governor
Gideon Gono, said in January that there would be no economic recovery and
new investment unless there are "investor-friendly policies and protection
of property rights."
The International Monetary Fund, where Gono is trying to secure balance of
payments, will refuse to bail out the country under these conditions.
Effective policy formulation and implementation has collapsed because
government has at least two camps battling for political influence.
Gono and other reformers such as Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa are
battling with President Robert Mugabe's diehards, including ruling party
Zanu (PF) spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira and other political dinosaurs, to
introduce economic reforms. The reformers want a paradigm shift on economic
policy but are being thwarted by Mugabe's adherents.
The policy paralysis has weakened the bureaucracy and created a major
leadership vacuum which allows for opportunistic measures like the new
mining laws. This dysfunction in the system is now a millstone around the
neck of Zimbabwe's economy.
Dumisani Muleya is Harare correspondent and Zimbabwe Independent news
State Department Releases 2005 Human Rights Country
United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
March 8, 2006
Posted to the web March 8, 2006
Countries in which power is concentrated in the hands of rulers that cannot
be held accountable for their actions were among those cited as having the
poorest records on human rights in the U.S. Department of State's annual
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released March 8.
Such regimes, which include the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK
or North Korea), Burma, Iran, Zimbabwe, Cuba, China, and Belarus, seriously
restrict fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, association,
religion and movement, the State Department said in the introduction to the
The 2005 reports, which provide analyses of the human rights situations in
196 countries, are designed to assess human rights conditions worldwide. The
reports, according to the introduction, demonstrate that the United States
is committed "to working with other democracies and men and women of
goodwill across the globe to reach an historic long-term goal: " 'the end of
tyranny in our world.'"
The introduction summarizes human rights improvements in the Balkans,
Colombia and the Great Lakes region of central Africa, which encompasses the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
Although human rights violations and miscarriages of justice occur in
democratic countries, "countries with democratic systems provide far greater
protections against violations of human rights than do non-democratic
states, " according to the State Department. Further, human rights and
democracy are closely linked, and both are essential to long-term stability
In 2005, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Indonesia, Lebanon and Liberia made
major progress toward democracy, democratic rights and freedom.
Yet a disturbing number of countries across the globe passed or selectively
applied laws against the media and NGOs, including Cambodia, China,
Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Belarus. Syria refused international calls to
respect the fundamental freedoms of its people and did not cooperate fully
with the U.N. International Independent Investigative Commission on the
assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
Russia adopted a restrictive new law on nongovernmental organizations and,
by the end of 2005, all independent nationwide television stations had been
taken over either by the state or by state-friendly organizations. (See
"A robust civil society and independent media help create conditions under
which human rights can flourish by raising awareness among publics about
their rights, exposing abuses, pressing for reform, and holding governments
accountable," the State Department reported.
Countries with worsening human rights records and overall climates of
lawlessness and corruption include Sudan, Nepal, Cote d'Ivoire, Chechnya and
elsewhere in Russia's Northern Caucasus region.
The purpose of the reports is not only to bring to light human rights
achievements and violations but to illuminate future tasks and the potential
for greater cooperation in advancing the aspirations of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
The full text of the 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices is
available on the State Department Web site.
Following is the introduction to the reports:
These reports describe the performance of countries across the globe in
putting into practice their international commitments on human rights. These
basic rights, reflected in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
have been embraced by people of every culture and color, every background
and belief, and constitute what President Bush calls the "non-negotiable
demands of human dignity."
The Department of State published the first annual country reports on human
rights practices in 1977 in accordance with congressional mandate, and they
have become an essential element of the United States' effort to promote
respect for human rights worldwide. For nearly three decades, the reports
have served as a reference document and a foundation for cooperative action
among governments, organizations, and individuals seeking to end abuses and
strengthen the capacity of countries to protect the fundamental rights of
The worldwide championing of human rights is not an attempt to impose alien
values on citizens of other countries or to interfere in their internal
affairs. The Universal Declaration calls upon "every individual and every
organ of society â-oe to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and
by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their
universal and effective recognition and observanceâ-oe"
President Bush has committed the United States to working with other
democracies and men and women of goodwill across the globe to reach an
historic long-term goal: "the end of tyranny in our world."
To be sure, violations of human rights and miscarriages of justice can and
do occur in democratic countries. No governmental system is without flaws.
Human rights conditions in democracies across the globe vary widely, and
these country reports reflect that fact. In particular, democratic systems
with shallow roots and scarce resources can fall far short of meeting their
solemn commitments to citizens, including human rights commitments.
Democratic transitions can be tumultuous and wrenching. Rampant corruption
can retard democratic development, distort judicial processes, and destroy
public trust. Nonetheless, taken overall, countries with democratic systems
provide far greater protections against violations of human rights than do
The United States' own journey toward liberty and justice for all has been
long and difficult, and it is still far from complete. Yet over time our
independent branches of government, our free media, our openness to the
world, and, most importantly, the civic courage of impatient American
patriots help us keep faith with our founding ideals and our international
human rights obligations.
These country reports offer a factual basis by which to assess the progress
made on human rights and the challenges that remain. The reports review each
country's performance in 2005, not one country's performance against that of
another. While each country report speaks for itself, cross-cutting
observations can be made. Six broad observations, supported by
country-specific examples, are highlighted below. The examples are
illustrative, not exhaustive.
First, countries in which power is concentrated in the hands of
unaccountable rulers tend to be the world's most systematic human rights
violators. These states range from closed, totalitarian systems that subject
their citizens to a wholesale deprivation of their basic rights to
authoritarian systems in which the exercise of basic rights is severely
In 2005 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea)
remained one of the world's most isolated countries. The systematically
repressive regime continued to control almost all aspects of citizens'
lives, denying freedoms of speech, religion, the press, assembly,
association, and movement, as well as workers' rights. In December 2005, the
regime further receded into isolation by calling for significant drawdowns
of the international nongovernmental organization (NGO) presence in the
In Burma where a junta rules by diktat, promises of democratic reform and
respect for human rights continued to serve as a façade for brutality and
repression. Forced labor, trafficking in persons, use of child soldiers, and
religious discrimination remained serious concerns. The military's
continuing abuses included systematic use of rape, torture, execution, and
forced relocation of citizens belonging to ethnic minorities. The regime
maintained iron-fisted control through the surveillance, harassment, and
imprisonment of political activists, including Nobel Laureate and opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remained under house arrest without charge.
In 2005 the Iranian government's already poor record on human rights and
democracy worsened. In the June presidential elections, slightly more than a
thousand registered candidates - including all the female candidates - were
arbitrarily thrown out of contention by the country's guardian council. The
newly elected hard-line president denied the Holocaust occurred and called
for the elimination of Israel. The ruling clerics and the president oversaw
deterioration in prison conditions for the hundreds of political prisoners,
further restrictions on press freedom, and a continuing rollback of social
and political freedoms. Serious abuses such as summary executions, severe
violations of religious freedom, discrimination based on ethnicity and
religion, disappearances, extremist vigilantism, and use of torture and
other degrading treatment continued.
In Zimbabwe the government maintained a steady assault on human dignity and
basic freedoms, tightening its hold on civil society and human rights NGOs
and manipulating the March parliamentary elections. Opposition members were
subjected to abuse, including torture and rape. New constitutional
amendments allowed the government to restrict exit from the country,
transferred title to the government of all land reassigned in the land
acquisition program, and removed the right to challenge land acquisitions in
court. The government's Operation Restore Order, initiated to demolish
allegedly illegal housing and businesses, displaced or destroyed the
livelihoods of more than 700 thousand persons and further strained the
country's weak and depressed economy.
In Cuba the regime continued to control all aspects of life through the
communist party and state-controlled mass organizations. The regime
suppressed calls for democratic reform, such as the Varela Project, which
proposed a national referendum. Authorities arrested, detained, fined, and
threatened Varela activists and the government held at least 333 political
prisoners and detainees.
China's human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to
commit serious abuses. Those who publicly advocated against Chinese
government policies or views or protested against government authority faced
harassment, detention, and imprisonment by government and security
authorities. Disturbances of public order and protests calling for redress
of grievances increased significantly, and several incidents were violently
suppressed. Key measures to increase the authority of the judiciary and
reduce the arbitrary power of police and security forces stalled.
Restrictions of the media and the Internet continued. Repression of minority
groups continued unabated, particularly of Uighurs and Tibetans. New
religious affairs regulations were adopted expanding legal protection for
some activities of registered religious groups, but repression of
unregistered religious groups continued, as did repression of the Falun Gong
In Belarus President Lukashenko continued to arrogate all power to himself
and his dictatorial regime. Pro-democracy activists, including opposition
politicians, independent trade union leaders, students, and newspaper
editors, were detained, fined, and imprisoned for criticizing Lukashenko and
his regime. His government increasingly used tax inspections and new
registration requirements to complicate or deny NGOs, independent media,
political parties, and minority and religious organizations the ability to
Second, human rights and democracy are closely linked, and both are
essential to long-term stability and security. Free and democratic nations
that respect the rights of their citizens help to lay the foundation for
lasting peace. In contrast, states that severely and systematically violate
the human rights of their own people are likely to pose threats to
neighboring countries and the international community.
Burma is a case in point. Only by Burma's return to the democratic path from
which it was wrenched can the basic rights of the Burmese people be
realized. The junta refuses to recognize the results of the historic free
and fair legislative elections in 1990. The regime's cruel and destructive
misrule has inflicted tremendous suffering on the Burmese people and caused
or exacerbated a host of ills for its neighbors, from refugee outflows to
the spread of infectious diseases and the trafficking of drugs and human
beings. On December 16, the UN Security Council held a landmark discussion
on the situation in Burma.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is another example. When the
Korean peninsula was divided, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK or
South Korea) were at roughly the same economic point, and both were subject
to authoritarian rule. Political and economic freedom has made the
difference between the two Koreas. Today, North Koreans are deprived of the
most basic freedoms, while the regime's authoritarian rule produced tens of
thousands of refugees. The government earned hard currency through illicit
activities, including narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting of currency and
goods such as cigarettes, and smuggling. Pyongyang has not heeded the
international community's repeated calls to dismantle its nuclear programs.
The Iranian government continued to ignore the desire of the Iranian people
for responsible, accountable government, continuing its dangerous policies
of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, providing support to terrorist
organizations, and advocating - including in several public speeches by the
new president - the destruction of a UN member state. Iran's deprivation of
basic rights to its own people, its interference in Iraq, its support for
Hizballah, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations, and its refusal to
engage constructively on these issues, have further isolated it from the
Similarly, the government of Syria refused international calls to respect
the fundamental freedoms of its people and end its interference in the
affairs of its neighbors. Syria continued to provide support for Hizballah,
Hamas, and other Palestinian rejectionist groups and did not cooperate fully
with the UN International Independent Investigative Commission on the
assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister al-Hariri. The
Chief Investigator's reports concluded that evidence pointed to involvement
by Syrian authorities and made it clear that Syrian officials, while
purporting to cooperate, deliberately misled the investigators.
By contrast, in the Balkans, a marked overall improvement in human rights,
democracy, and the rule of law over the past several years has led to
greater stability and security in the region. Increasingly democratic
governments are in place, more war criminals are facing justice, significant
numbers of displaced persons have returned home, elections are progressively
more compliant with international standards, and neighbors are deepening
their cooperation to resolve post-conflict and regional problems. Many
countries of the former Yugoslavia have made progress in bringing persons
accused of war crimes to trial in domestic courts, which is important to
national reconciliation and regional stability. At the end of 2005, however,
two of the most wanted war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko
Mladic, remained at large.
Third, some of the most serious violations of human rights are committed by
governments within the context of internal and/or cross-border armed
conflicts. The Sudanese government's 2003 attempt to quell a minor uprising
of African rebels in Darfur by arming janjaweed militias and allowing them
to ravage the region resulted in a vicious conflict. The Department of State
in September of 2004 determined that genocide occurred in Darfur. It
continued in 2005. By the end of 2005, at least 70 thousand civilians had
perished, nearly 2 million had been displaced by the fighting, and more than
200 thousand refugees had fled into neighboring Chad. Torture was widespread
and systematic in Darfur, as was violence against women, including rape used
as a tool of war. There were reports of women being marched away into the
desert; their fate remained unknown. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement
signed by the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement
opened the way to ado pt a constitution in July and form a government of
national unity to serve until elections in 2009. The African Union deployed
seven thousand troops to Darfur, where their presence helped curb some but
not all of the violence. At the end of 2005, government-supported janjaweed
attacks on civilians continued.
Nepal's poor human rights record worsened. The government continued to
commit many serious abuses, both during and after the February-April state
of emergency that suspended all fundamental rights except for habeas corpus.
In many cases the government disregarded habeas corpus orders issued by the
Supreme Court and often rearrested student and political party leaders. The
Maoist insurgents also continued their campaign of torturing, killing,
bombing, conscripting children, kidnapping, extorting, and forcing closures
of schools and businesses.
The political crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, which continued to divide the
country, led to further abuses in 2005, including rape, torture, and
extrajudicial killings committed by government and rebel security forces.
There were fewer reports of rebel recruitment of child soldiers, and many
were released. Violence and threats of violence against the political
opposition continued. Despite continued efforts by the international
community and the African Union, the political process to establish a
power-sharing government remained stalled. By the end of September, little
work had been completed to prepare for the scheduled October 30 elections,
and disarmament of the New Forces rebel group had not begun. On October 6,
the African Union decided to extend President Laurent Gbagbo's term in
office by up to one year.
In Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia's Northern Caucasus region, federal
forces and pro-Moscow Chechen forces engaged in abuses including torture,
summary executions, disappearances, and arbitrary detentions. Pro-Moscow
Chechen paramilitaries at times appeared to act independently of the Russian
command structure, and there was been no indication that the federal
authorities made any effective effort to rein them in or hold them
accountable for egregious abuses. Antigovernment forces also continued to
commit terrorist bombings and serious human rights abuses in the North
Caucasus. The year 2005 saw the continued spread of violence and abuses
throughout the region, where there was an overall climate of lawlessness and
The Great Lakes region of central Africa, encompassing the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda, has been plagued
by civil war, large-scale interethnic violence, and severe conflict-related
human rights abuses for well over a decade. However, there was less violence
overall in 2005, and the human rights situation improved markedly,
encouraging tens of thousands of displaced persons, particularly Burundians,
to return home. Burundi concluded its four-year transitional process, and
there were historical electoral advances in the DRC. Governments in the
Great Lakes region made significant progress in demobilizing thousands of
child soldiers in their military forces and those belonging to various rebel
groups. At the same time, various armed groups based in eastern Congo
continued to destabilize the region and compete with one another for
strategic and natural resources, despite UN-supported Congolese military
operations to disband armed groups in t he DRC. Thousands of rebels from
Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, including Rwandan rebels who led the 1994
Rwandan genocide, continued to oppose the government of their respective
countries, attack civilians in the DRC, and commit numerous serious abuses,
particularly against women and children. The governments of Rwanda and
Uganda reportedly continued illegally to channel arms to armed groups
operating and committing abuses in the eastern DRC.
In Colombia, human rights violations related to the 41-year internal armed
conflict continued. However, the government's concentrated military
offensive against illegal armed groups and ongoing demobilization of
paramilitary groups led to reductions in killings and kidnappings. Colombia
also began a four-year process to implement a new adversarial
accusatory-style criminal procedures code. However, impunity remained a
major obstacle, particularly for officials accused of committing past human
rights abuses, as well as for certain members of the military who
collaborated with paramilitary groups.
Fourth, where civil society and independent media are under siege,
fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly are
undermined. A robust civil society and independent media help create
conditions under which human rights can flourish by raising awareness among
publics about their rights, exposing abuses, pressing for reform, and
holding governments accountable.
Governments should defend - not abuse - the peaceful exercise of fundamental
freedoms by members of the media and civil society even if they do not agree
with their views or actions. Restrictions that are imposed by law on the
exercise of such freedoms can only be justified to the extent they are
consistent with a country's human rights obligations and are not merely a
pretext for restricting such rights.
When states wield the law as a political weapon or an instrument of
repression against civil society and the media, they rule by law rather than
upholding the rule of law. The rule of law acts as a check on state power,
i.e., it is a system designed to protect the human rights of the individual
against the power of the state. In contrast, rule by law can be an abuse of
power, i.e., the manipulation of the law and the judicial system to maintain
the power of the rulers over the ruled.
In 2005, a disturbing number of countries across the globe passed or
selectively applied laws against the media and NGOs. For example:
The Cambodian government utilized existing criminal defamation laws to
intimidate, arrest, and prosecute critics and opposition members over the
course of the year.
China increased restrictions on the media and the Internet, leading to two
The Zimbabwean government arrested persons who criticized President Mugabe,
harassed and arbitrarily detained journalists, closed an independent
newspaper, forcibly dispersed demonstrators, and arrested and detained
opposition leaders and their supporters.
In Venezuela new laws governing libel, defamation, and broadcast media
content, coupled with legal harassment and physical intimidation, resulted
in limitations on media freedoms and a climate of self-censorship. There
continued to be reports that government representatives and supporters
intimidated and threatened members of the political opposition, several
human rights NGOs, and other civil society groups. Some NGOs also charged
that the government used the judiciary to place limitations on the political
In Belarus the Lukashenko government stepped up its suppression of
opposition groups and imposed new restrictions on civil society. There were
politically motivated arrests, several independent newspapers were closed,
the operations of others were hindered, and NGOs were harassed.
In Russia raids on NGO offices, registration problems, intimidation of NGO
leaders and staff and visa problems for foreign NGO workers had a negative
effect, as did the parliament's adoption of a new restrictive law on NGOs.
The Kremlin also acted to limit critical voices in the media. The government
decreased the diversity of the broadcast media, particularly television, the
main source of news for the majority of Russians. By the end of 2005, all
independent nationwide television stations had been taken over either by the
state or by state-friendly organizations.
Fifth, democratic elections by themselves do not ensure that human rights
will be respected, but they can put a country on the path to reform and lay
the groundwork for institutionalizing human rights protections. Democratic
elections are, however, milestones on a long journey of democratization.
They are essential to establishing accountable governments and governmental
institutions that abide by the rule of law and are responsive to the needs
In Iraq 2005 was a year of major progress for democracy, democratic rights
and freedom. There was a steady growth of NGOs and other civil society
associations that promote human rights. The January 30th legislative
elections marked a tremendous step forward in solidifying governmental
institutions to protect human rights and freedom in a country whose history
is marred by some of the worst human rights abuses in the recent past. In an
October 15 referendum and December 15 election, Iraqi voters adopted a
permanent constitution and elected members of the country's new legislature,
the Council of Representatives, thus consolidating democratic institutions
that can provide a framework for a democratic future. Although the historic
elections and new institutions of democratic government provided a structure
for real advances, civic life and the social fabric remained under intense
strain from the widespread violence principally inflicted by insurgent and
terrorist elements. Addit ionally, elements of sectarian militias and
security forces frequently acted independently of government authority.
Still, the government set and adhered to a legal and electoral course based
on respect for political rights.
Although deprived of basic human rights for years, Afghans in 2005 continued
to show their courage and commitment to a future of freedom and respect for
human rights. September 18 marked the first parliamentary elections in
nearly three decades. Women enthusiastically voted in the elections, which
included 582 female candidates for office. Sixty-eight women were elected to
the lower House in seats reserved for women under the 2004 Constitution.
Seventeen of the 68 women would have been elected in their own right even
without the set-aside seats. In the upper House, 17 of the 34 seats
appointed by the president were reserved for women; the Provincial Councils
elected an additional 5 women for a total of 22 women. The September 18
parliamentary elections occurred against the backdrop of a government still
struggling to expand its authority over provincial centers, due to continued
insecurity and violent resistance in some quarters.
In Ukraine there were notable improvements in human rights performance
following the Orange Revolution, which led to the election of a new
government reflecting the will of the people. In 2005 there was increased
accountability by police officers, and the mass media made gains in
independence. Interference with freedom of assembly largely ceased, and most
limitations on freedom of association were lifted. A wide variety of
domestic and international human rights groups also generally operated
without government harassment.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim majority country, made
significant progress in strengthening the architecture of its democratic
system. Through a series of historic local elections, Indonesians were able
directly to elect their leaders at the city, regency, and provincial levels
for the first time. There were improvements in the human rights situation,
although significant problems remained, and serious violations continued. A
critical development was the landmark August 15 peace agreement with the
Free Aceh Movement ending decades of armed conflict. The government also
inaugurated the Papuan People's Assembly and took other steps toward
fulfilling the 2001 Special Autonomy Law on Papua.
Lebanon made significant progress in ending the 29-year Syrian military
occupation and regaining sovereignty under a democratically elected
parliament. However, continuing Syrian influence remained a problem.
Liberia emerged into the international democratic arena with its dramatic
step away from a violent past and toward a free and democratic future. On
November 23, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was declared the winner of multiparty
presidential elections, making her Africa's first elected female head of
state and marking a milestone in the country's transition from civil war to
democracy. The transitional government generally respected the human rights
of its citizens and passed legislation to strengthen human rights. However,
police abuse, official corruption, and other problems persisted and were
exacerbated by the legacy of the 14-year civil war, including severely
damaged infrastructure and widespread poverty and unemployment.
Sixth, progress on democratic reform and human rights is neither linear nor
guaranteed. Some states still have weak institutions of democratic
government and continue to struggle; others have yet to fully commit to the
democratic process. Steps forward can be marred with irregularities. There
can be serious setbacks. Democratically elected governments do not always
govern democratically once in power.
In 2005, many countries that have committed themselves to democratic reform
showed mixed progress; some regressed.
The Kyrgyz Republic's human rights record improved considerably following
the change in leadership between March and July, although problems remained.
President Akayev fled the country after opposition demonstrators took over
the main government building in the capital to protest flawed elections. The
July presidential election and November parliamentary election constituted
improvements in some areas over previous elections. However, constitutional
reform stalled and corruption remained a serious problem.
In Ecuador, congress removed democratically elected President Lucio
Gutierrez in April following large scale protests and public withdrawal of
support by the military and the national police leadership. Vice President
Alfredo Palacio succeeded Gutierrez, and elections were scheduled for 2006.
Although the transitional government of the Democratic Republic of Congo
postponed national general elections until 2006, the country held its first
democratic national poll in 40 years. Voters overwhelmingly approved a new
constitution in a largely free and fair national referendum, despite some
In June, the Ugandan parliament approved a controversial amendment to
eliminate presidential term limits, clearing the way for President Museveni
to seek a third term. However, citizens voted in a national referendum to
adopt a multiparty system of government, and the parliament amended the
electoral laws to include opposition party participation in elections and in
The Egyptian government amended its constitution to provide for the
country's first multiparty presidential election in September. Ten political
parties fielded candidates, and the campaign period was marked by vigorous
public debate and greater political awareness and engagement. Voter turnout
was low, however, and there were credible reports of widespread fraud during
balloting. Presidential runner-up Ayman Nour, his parliamentary immunity
stripped away in January, was sentenced in December on forgery charges to
five years' imprisonment after a six-month trial that failed to meet basic
international standards. The November and December parliamentary elections
witnessed significant gains by candidates affiliated with the outlawed
Muslim Brotherhood. These elections were marred by excessive use of force by
security forces, low turnout, and vote-rigging. The government refused to
admit international observers for either the presidential or parliamentary
elections. The National Council for Human Rights, established by the
Egyptian parliament, issued its first annual report, frankly describing
During the Ethiopian parliamentary elections in May, international observers
noted numerous irregularities and voter intimidation. Scores of
demonstrators protesting the elections were killed by security forces.
Authorities detained, beat, and killed opposition members, NGO workers,
ethnic minorities, and members of the press.
Azerbaijan's November parliamentary elections, while an improvement in some
areas, failed to meet a number of international standards. There were
numerous credible reports of local officials interfering with the campaign
process and misusing state resources, limited freedom of assembly,
disproportionate use of force by police to disrupt rallies, and fraud and
major irregularities in vote counting and tabulation. Thus far, additional
actions taken during the postelection grievance process have not fully
addressed the shortcomings of the electoral process.
Kazakhstan showed improvements in the pre-election period for the December
presidential election, but overall it fell short of international standards
for free and fair elections. The Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights noted serious
limitations on political speech that prohibited certain kinds of criticism
of the president, unequal access to the media for opposition and independent
candidates, and violent disruptions of opposition campaign events.
Legislation enacted during 2005, in particular the extremism law, national
security amendments, and election law amendments, eroded legal protections
for human rights and expanded the powers of the executive branch to regulate
and control civil society and the media. But the Constitutional Court deemed
unconstitutional a restrictive NGO law.
Uzbekistan's human rights record, already poor, worsened considerably in
2005. A violent uprising in May in the city of Andijon led to
disproportionate use of force by the authorities and a wave of repressive
government actions that dominated the remainder of the year. The uprising
started after a series of daily peaceful protests in support of businessmen
on trial between February and May for Islamic extremism. On the night of May
12-13, unidentified individuals seized weapons from a police garrison,
stormed the city prison where the defendants were being held, killed several
guards, and released several hundred inmates, including the defendants. They
then occupied the regional administration building and took hostages. On May
13, according to eyewitness accounts, government forces fired
indiscriminately into a crowd that included unarmed civilians, resulting in
hundreds of deaths. In the aftermath, the government harassed, beat, and
jailed dozens of human rights activists, journalists, and others who spoke
out about the events and sentenced numerous people to prison in trials that
did not meet international standards. The government forced numerous
domestic and international NGOs to close and severely restricted those that
continued to operate.
In Russia, efforts continued to concentrate power in the Kremlin and direct
democracy from the top down. To those ends, the Kremlin abolished direct
elections of governors in favor of presidential nomination and legislative
approval. In the current Russian context, where checks and balances are weak
at best, this system limits government accountability to voters while
further concentrating power in the executive branch. Amendments to the
electoral and political party law amendments, billed as intended to
strengthen nationwide political parties in the longer term, could in fact
reduce the ability of opposition parties to compete in elections. This
trend, taken together with continuing media restrictions, a compliant
parliament, corruption and selectivity in enforcement of the law, political
pressure on the judiciary, and harassment of some NGOs, resulted in an
erosion of the accountability of government leaders to the people.
Pakistan's human rights record continued to be poor, despite President
Musharraf's stated commitment to democratic transition and "enlightened
moderation." Restrictions remained on freedom of movement, expression,
association, and religion. Progress on democratization was limited. During
elections for local governments in 2005, international and domestic
observers found serious flaws, including interference by political parties,
which affected the outcome of the vote in parts of the country. Police
detained approximately 10 thousand Pakistan People's Party activists in
April prior to the arrival for a rally of Benazir Bhuto's husband, Asif Ali
Zardari. The security forces committed extrajudicial killings, violations of
due process, arbitrary arrest, and torture. Corruption was pervasive
throughout the government and police forces, and the government made little
attempt to combat the problem. Security force officials who committed human
rights abuses generally enjoyed de facto legal impunity.
Despite hard realities and high obstacles, there is an increasing worldwide
demand for greater personal and political freedom and for the spread of
democratic principles. For example, in the Broader Middle East and North
Africa (BMENA) region, recent years have witnessed the beginnings of
political pluralism, unprecedented elections, new protections for women and
minorities, and indigenous calls for peaceful, democratic change.
At the November 2005 Forum for the Future held in Manama, Bahrain, 40
leaders representing civil society organizations from 16 BMENA countries
participated alongside their foreign ministers. The civil society leaders
outlined a set of priorities with a particular focus on rule of law,
transparency, human rights, and women's empowerment. Among those serving on
this civil society delegation were representatives from the Democracy
Assistance Dialogue (DAD), who presented the outcomes of discussions and
debates held over the course of the year between civil society leaders and
their government counterparts on the critical topics of election reform and
the development of legitimate political parties. The growing DAD network
includes hundreds of civil society leaders from the BMENA region. To better
support growing reform efforts in the region, a Foundation for the Future to
provide support directly to civil society and a Fund for the Future to
support investment in the region, wer e also launched at the Forum. The
level and depth of civil society participation at the Forum for the Future
was historic and positive and set an important precedent for genuine
dialogue and partnership between civil society and governments on issues of
The Forum for the Future is just one of the many mechanisms through which
the United States, other Group of 8 countries, and regional governments
support the indigenous desire for reform in the broader Middle East and
The growing worldwide demand for human rights and democracy reflected in
these reports is not the result of the impersonal workings of some dialectic
or of the orchestrations of foreign governments. Rather, this call derives
from the powerful human desire to live in dignity and liberty and from the
personal bravery and tenacity of men and women in every age and in every
society who serve and sacrifice for the cause of freedom.
By Violet Gonda
8 March 2006
There is growing restlessness in Zimbabwe, which has resulted in
people taking to the streets. A group of NCA members held a peaceful
demonstration in Harare Wednesday against "illegitimate laws and an
NCA National Youth Chairman Alois Dzvairo said more than 300 activists
took to the streets and marched from Chinhoyi Street to Africa Unity Square
without any disturbances. "People came out in full force today. Youths
together with the women's wing of the NCA. There was a lot of jubilation,
they had all the vigour that is needed."
He said there were no disturbances from the police because the
pressure group planned the protest in a way that the police were caught
The growing unrest has seen students in tertiary education recently
embarking on demonstrations over the latest ten-fold increase in tuition
Dzvairo said plans are underway to organise demonstrations that will
encompass all stakeholders. "We are working in solidarity with the students.
Imagine someone being asked to pay more than Z$30m when your father earns
Z$6m in industry. It's unrealistic."
At least 30 students were arrested in Bulawayo Tuesday during
demonstrations over the fee hikes. The protesters were from the National
University of Science and Technology, the Hillside Teachers College and the
Mfundo Mlilo the Secretary General of the Students Executive Council
at the University of Zimbabwe warned that students throughout the country
would embark on anti poverty demonstrations this week.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Minnesota State University
Foremost experts in Southern Africa's AIDS issue, politics and land use warn
of grim outlook in embattled region.
by Isaiah Ombati
March 08, 2006
Something grim is emanating from the Southern coast of the Africa. What
could that be? It's something that has proved to be a death knell in the
lives of people inhabiting planet earth.
Poor land policy in Zimbabwe and HIV/AIDS pandemic in Botswana - both in
Southern Africa - have painted a grim picture on the continent that is
largely blamed for its problems.
Fifty percent of university and college students in the African land of
Botswana are infected with the deadly disease HIV/AIDS according to
Minnesota State associate professor and chair director of MSU's earth
science programs, Donald Friend. Friend led a forum Friday in Armstrong Hall
that featured two professors from Germany and their appalling revelations of
the ever-increasing AIDS problem in Southern Africa.
Professors Fred Krüger and Cyrus Samimi of the Institute of Geography at the
University of Erlangen Germany are leading experts from Europe on the
Krüger spoke of the African welfare state and HIV/AIDS crisis. He said that
most people mistake Southern Africa for South Africa. By distinguishing this
fact, he clarified that the former refers to African region containing such
countries as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola and Malawi
whereas the latter refers to one country located at the southern-most
extremity of the African continent.
Botswana, a country of about 1.5 million people, is plagued by the HIV/AIDS
pandemic. Three out of five adults have the disease. Krüger said that life
expectancy in the country has dropped from 69 to 36. More than 37 percent of
the sexually active population - between 15 and 49 - are infected with the
disease, he said.
"This is partly because of poor healthcare, ignorance, poverty and religious
cultures," Krüger said.
Krüger also said the problem has been spreading relatively silently during
the past fifty years not only in Botswana, but in other African countries
due to the cultural taboos that prevent people from publicly discussing the
The 1999 United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) claimed that 90 percent
of 15-year-olds in Southern Africa have contracted the disease.
"HIV is a silent tragedy and I've seen people die in their backyards and not
in the streets," Krüger said.
Krüger, a human geographer, earned his master's degree in 1990 and his Ph.D
in 1995 in the field of Geography and has written 45 scholarly articles. He
is committed, along with his colleague Cyrus Samimi, to transforming the
livelihoods and economies of Botswana and Zimbabwe.
"Abstain, be faithful or use a condom," Krüger said. "The things that you do
while living have nothing to do when you are dead."
According to his Krüger, HIV/AIDS existed in the African continent before it
was detected in the United States 26 years ago. He said the crisis, if
intervention fails, may lead to instability and loss of control that will
culminate in a lack of workforce as people will be attending funerals and
failing to work.
Samimi, a physical geographer, is a Ph.D holder and has written 25 scholarly
articles. He presented a speech entitled: "Political Ecology in Southern
Africa - Consequences for Land Use and Economic Development."
Samimi said that the invasion of large tracts of land by white settlers,
originally from Britain during the Zimbabwean regime, has resulted in
unprecedented famine. He said the crisis in Zimbabwe started in the 1990s
when the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) party was established to push
for land reforms.
In Samimi's view, the land issue was politicized and led to an invasion of
white settlers who - most of them having nowhere to go - opted to migrate to
the neighboring countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
"Their investment was greatly welcome in those countries," he said.
But the situation in Zimbabwe remained worse in the sense that land tenure
systems - mainly communal system - led to under-utilization of the land. The
lands were shared in communities and no proper farming systems were in place
to boost crop production.
Zimbabwe, however, recorded the largest production of cereals in 1996 and is
currently the largest producer of tobacco followed by the United States. But
the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been steadily declining due to lack of
investment and carries an inflation rate of 600 percent per year, Samimi
Director of International Student Office, Thomas Gjersvig, who attended the
discussion, said the presentation was very good.
"This is one of the very factual presentations that I've heard and it was
informative," he said.
Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
March 8, 2006
Posted to the web March 8, 2006
Swollen by heavy rains in central Mozambique and in neighbouring countries,
the Zambezi river reached flood warning level on Wednesday at several
points, according to the National Water Board (DNA).
At Zumbo, on the border with Zimbabwe, the river rose from 4.78 metres on
Tuesday to 5.4 metres on Wednesday morning, considerably higher than the
flood alert level of five metres.
Further downstream, at Mutarara, the rise over the same period was from 4.57
to 5.05 metres, and at Caia, the rise was from 4.73 to 5.13 metres. At both
these measuring stations, the flood alert level is five metres.
No information has reached the DNA from the Marromeu station, the last one
before the Zambezi delta, but, given its proximity to Caia, it seems safe to
assume the flood alert level of 4.75 metres here has been reached or
At Tete city, the river is not yet in flood, but it has continued to rise
ominously, reached 4.87 metres on Wednesday morning, just 13 centimetres
below the alert level.
The seriousness of any flood on the Zambezi depends heavily on the behaviour
of the Cahora Bassa dam. The dam lake is capable of storing vast quantities
of water - but it is nearing its full capacity.
Measured at the dam wall, the lake rose from 323.77 metres on Saturday to
324.15 metres on Monday. When that reading reaches 326 metres, the lake is
regarded as completely full.
The dam management has increased discharges from the lake from 1,569 cubic
metres a second on Monday to 1,749 cubic metres a second on Tuesday. Despite
this increase, most of the water entering the lake is being stored there:
the inflow into the lake was measured at 5,254 cubic metres a second on
Another river causing concern is the Licungo in Zambezia province. Heavy
rains in the Licungo basin pushed the height of the river, measured at the
town of Mocuba, to 6.7 metres. This is well above the alert level of six
metres, and the DNA expects the Licungo to continue rising over the next 24
In Sofala province, the river Buzi remains above alert level. The river was
measured at 5.75 metres high at Goonda (where the alert level is five
metres) on Wednesday, and since rain is continuing in the region the river
is bound to go on rising.
Most of the rivers in the south of the country are subsiding. But the
Incomati, measured at 5.29 metres in Magude, in Maputo province, remains
above the flood alert level of five metres.
Thu 9 March 2006
HARARE - In a landmark judgment yesterday, Justice Simpson Mutambanengwe
ruled that fugitive High Court Judge Benjamin Paradza could be sentenced in
absentia because he fled from the administration of justice.
Mutambanengwe, who last January convicted the runaway Paradza of corruption,
will pronounce sentence today.
Zimbabwe's Constitution and the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act accord
an accused the right to be present before sentencing and to make submissions
But Mutambanengwe, a retired Zimbabwean High Court judge and now a member of
the Namibian Supreme Court bench who was specially appointed to hear
Paradza's corruption case, said the fugitive judge forfeited his right to be
heard before sentencing when he skipped bail.
"I therefore consider that the accused who abused his right to be heard as
the accused in this case has done must not be allowed to benefit from that
abuse and impede the administration of justice," ruled Mutambanengwe. "The
right to be heard is enshrined in the country's constitution but he chose to
abuse this court by fleeing from justice."
Paradza, who is believed to be in hiding in Britain, could be sentenced in
absentia to 10 years in jail after Mutambanengwe found him guilty of
attempting to coax two Bulawayo-based judges to release a passport of his
business partner who was facing murder charges.
The judge's business partner, Russell Labuschagne, was at the time on bail
after his arrest for murdering an alleged fish-poacher at his farm in
Zimbabwe's northern Binga district. Labuschagne, whose passport had been
seized by the state as part of his bail conditions, was subsequently jailed
for 15 years for the murder.
Paradza wanted the passport released so Labuschagne could travel overseas to
scout for hunting business with the judge standing to gain U$60 000 from the
business. - ZimOnline
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
March 8, 2006
Posted to the web March 8, 2006
Zimbabwean health officials have endorsed the use of condoms only where
people fail to abstain or remain faithful to their partners.
Health Minister David Parirenyatwa warned that the availability of condoms
should not be viewed as a "licence" for irresponsible sexual behaviour.
"Condoms are not the answer to [HIV/AIDS] ... How we view sexual relations
at a time when AIDS continues to decimate our population is the most
important thing," the local Herald newspaper quoted him as saying.
The minister attributed his country's recent decline in HIV prevalence -
from 24.6 percent to 20.1 - to the government's strategy of 'Abstinence, Be
faithful and Condom-use' - the 'ABC' model, as well as the consistent and
proper use of condoms.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]