- Jul 28, 2003Mugabe holds talks with churches
27 July 2003 11:10
Zimbabwe's main alliance of civic organisations expressed cautious
optimism after a meeting between President Robert Mugabe and leaders of
the country's major churches on Friday.
Mugabe held two hours of talks at his official residence with senior
representatives of the Zimbabwe Christian Council. The council
represents the country's mainstream protestant and catholic churches as
well as the evangelical Christian churches.
Bishop Sebastian Bakare, of Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe, said after the
meeting he and bishops Patrick Mutume and Trevor Manhanga had called on
Mugabe to register their concern over what was happening in the country
and to try to facilitate dialogue between Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"Our strong desire is to bring them together in the interests of
Zimbabwe," the independent Daily News quoted Bakare as saying. Mugabe
had been "fairly responsive" to their approach. "We would like to carry
on with our discussion with the two parties so they can come up with a
home-grown solution, without having to get some outsiders to tell us
what to do."
Zimbabwean churches have been involved in exploratory shuttles for the
last three months to try and bring the country's two main political
antagonists to negotiate an end to the political and economic crises in
The impetus for dialogue received a sharp boost on July 9 when United
States president George Bush and South African president Thabo Mbeki
discussed the issue, and agreed on the need for urgent action.
Because of the political turmoil of the last couple of years,
Zimbabwe's once robust economy is in collapse. Inflation is forecast to
hit 1 000% at the end of 2003, while the gross domestic product has
slumped 30% in just three years and a famine looms.
Brian Kagoro, senior coordinator in the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition,
said the organisation supported the churches' initiative.
"It's encouraging that they have met, but it's the extent to which they
are able to agree on a commitment to unconditional dialogue that is
The country's established churches have turned against Mugabe in recent
months, with the ZCC last week apologising for its inaction during years
of "state-driven lawlessness and impoverishment".
There were Nigerian and South African-brokered dialogue initiatives
immediately after Mugabe's victory in flawed presidential elections in
March 2002, but these collapsed after three weeks when Mugabe broke off
formal talks because of the MDC's challenge to the election result.
The MDC, backed by independent international election observers, said
Mugabe had won by means of fraud, intimidation, repressive laws that
stopped Tsvangirai from campaigning, and the mass disenfranchisement of
Mugabe has refused to talk to the MDC until it dropped its court
challenge to the election results.
Remarks in the state press on Saturday indicated Mugabe was sticking to
this condition. The Herald, the ruling party's main mouthpiece, quoted
unnamed sources as saying that Mugabe told the bishops he was "concerned
about the impediments (to talks) cause by the MDC". This included the
MDC's refusal to recognise his re-election.
However, Mugabe was also quoted as welcoming the olive branch the MDC
put out to the government this week when it decided to drop a planned
walkout of Parliament during Mugabe's annual address at the opening of
Mugabe told the church leaders he hoped this was the beginning of new
thinking in the MDC ranks and that he looked forward to brighter things
to come. – Sapa
Zimbabwe: the terror goes on
28 July 2003 13:46
State-sponsored political violence increased with 113 cases of torture,
assault and other human rights violations recorded in June, according to
a report released by Zimbabwe Human Rights (ZimRights) on Monday.
The opposition believes political violence is expected to escalate in
the next few weeks ahead of next month's municipal elections.
ZimRights, a human rights watchdog, said the country's human rights
record had deteriorated to "pathetic" levels as ruling Zanu-PF
supporters continued to terrorise perceived opposition Movement for
Democratic Change supporters.
"In continued contravention of Section 21(1) of the Zimbabwean
Constitution, citizens are being routinely targeted on the basis of
genuine or perceived political affiliation," said ZimRights.
The report fingered state security agents as the main perpetrators of
violence apparently pandering to the whims of President Robert Mugabe to
consolidate his power. The retribution campaign also spilt over to
learning institutions as they were viewed by the government as the
breeding ground for opposition politics, said the report.
"State agents have reportedly been witnessed engaging in organised
violence and torture and intimidatory activities at institutions of
higher learning and medical facilities.
"Students from the University of Zimbabwe were among those victimised
by state agents, on suspicion that they were convening meetings in
support of the 'final push'," read the report.
The MDC last month called for street demonstrations, dubbed the "final
push", which they said were aimed at forcing Mugabe to the negotiating
table to hatch a solution to the ever-worsening socio-economic and
political crisis in the country.
The protests were violently quelled by heavily armed riot police, while
hundreds of angry protesters were nabbed, including the opposition party
leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
"While the Human Rights Forum unreservedly condemns the use of violent
means in the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and
movement by an individual or political party, (particularly the two
dominant parties in Zimbabwe, Zanu-PF and MDC) it equally condemns
regular use of organised violence and torture as a means to curtail this
right or to enforce law and order."
Particularly disturbing, said the report, were allegations that
high-level government officials were actively involved in organised
violence and torture.
ZimRights said more than five victims made allegations that the
minister of youth development, gender and employment creation, Elliot
Manyika, was actively involved in the torture of residents in high
density suburbs in Harare, specifically Glen View and Marondera. No
comment could be obtained from Manyika. - Sapa
[out of our usual scope of interest, but just way too extraordinary not
Equatorial Guinea's "God"
State radio in the tiny west African state of Equatorial Guinea has
hailed the nation's leader as "the country's God".
In a programme called Bidze-Nduan (Bury the fire) which deals with
"peace, tranquillity and the order reigning in the country" the radio
declared that President Teodoro Obiang Nguema was "in permanent contact
with the Almighty".
It said that the president was "like God in heaven" who has "all power
over men and things".
The BBC's reporter in Rodrigo, Angue Nguema, says a large proportion of
the national population listens to state radio and that there are no
newspapers in the country.
President Nguema won the 2002 presidential elections by almost 100% to
serve a third, seven-year term.
"He can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and
without going to hell because it is God himself, with whom he is in
permanent contact, and who gives him this strengtho," a presidential
aide announced on the show.
The radio show, which claims to "inform and mobilise the masses on
issues of national interest", has warned against any attempt to disrupt
the peace and order which, it said, had reigned since President Obiang,
61, took power in a coup 23 years ago.
The remarks were made in a weekly programme presented by the
presidential aide and broadcast in Fang, the language used by the
majority ethnic group, which makes up 80% of the population of about
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