- The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 2, 2000; 6:25 a.m. EDT
HARARE, Zimbabwe ** Zimbabwean authorities today said they had no
intention of prosecuting Associated Press photographer Obed Zilwa and
freed him to leave the country.
Zilwa immediately headed to the airport for a flight back to South Africa.
Security forces arrested Zilwa, a highly regarded South African
photojournalist, on Wednesday and accused him of bombing Zimbabwe's
only independent daily newspaper on April 22. Zilwa, who had
photographed the damage caused by the blast, repeatedly said he was
innocent. International press organizations demanded his immediate
His arrest was widely seen as an attempt to intimidate the foreign press,
which has been covering political turmoil and violent takeovers of
white-owned farms in this southeast African country.
Police released Zilwa into his lawyer's custody Saturday morning, but
confiscated his passport and plane ticket and ordered him to report to the
Attorney General's Office early today.
When he arrived at the office, officials told him they had no intention of
prosecuting him. He was given back his passport and told he could leave
Police officials told Zilwa before his release Saturday that they had no
evidence connecting him to the crime.
Zilwa, who is based in Cape Town, said he was not mistreated though he
described uncomfortable conditions in the jail cell at Harare's central
Zilwa was one of the first journalists on the scene of the bombing of The
Daily News offices in downtown Harare. No one was injured in the
Zilwa said he had been driving by after socializing with friends when he
heard the blast, asked a police officer what had happened and then drove
back to his hotel to get his camera equipment.
Almost immediately after the bombing, police said they were suspicious
that foreign journalists arrived at the scene so quickly. Many of the
journalists, including Zilwa, were staying at the nearby Meikles Hotel.
Commonwealth Meets Over Zimbabwe
By Sue Leeman
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, May 2, 2000; 7:56 a.m. EDT
LONDON ** Under pressure from Britain to take a tough stance on the
crisis in Zimbabwe, Commonwealth ministers met today to decide how to
respond to the occupation of white-owned farms and harassment of
opposition groups in the southern African state.
Foreign ministers from eight Commonwealth countries, including Britain's
Robin Cook, also were expected to discuss the failure of Pakistan's
military rulers to set a date for civilian elections.
But the focus was on Zimbabwe, where since February armed black
squatters have seized more than 1,000 white-owned farms and 13 people,
mostly opposition supporters, have been killed.
The opposition accuses President Robert Mugabe of instigating the farm
occupations in order to rally supporters and intimidate his enemies ahead
of parliamentary elections that are supposed to be held by August.
Cook said he hoped the Commonwealth members would issue a
statement backing Britain by saying they share its concerns "about the
breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe and the atmosphere of
intimidation that surrounds the forthcoming elections, if indeed they take
"That statement from the Commonwealth will have a considerable impact
around Africa, but perhaps particularly in Zimbabwe, where President
Mugabe had tried to pretend that the problem is only Britain," Cook told
British Broadcasting Corp. TV.
"What President Mugabe is crying out for is for us to treat him as a martyr
so he can then try to present himself, in elections, to his own people as
somebody who is standing up on their behalf against the old colonial
master," Cook said.
Cook said the committee would not consider imposing economic
sanctions on Zimbabwe or suspending it from the 54-nation club of Britain
and its former colonies. But such punishments may follow if Mugabe fails
to hold elections by August, as Zimbabwe's constitution requires, he said.
No date has yet been set for the ballot.
Last week, Britain refused to provide Zimbabwe with $57 million to help
land reform until Mugabe holds free elections and halts violence.
Mugabe has supported the farm occupations, saying they are a justified
protest against the unfair distribution of land in a country where 4,000
whites own one-third of Zimbabwe's fertile land. Officials on Saturday
announced Mugabe would invoke special presidential powers to seize
white farms without paying compensation.
Commonwealth leaders also have expressed concern that the generals
who seized power in Pakistan in October have so far refused to name a
date for elections. The Commonwealth suspended Pakistan after the
Zimbabwe Opposition Party Rallies
By Susanna Loof
Associated Press Writer
Monday, May 1, 2000; 2:49 p.m. EDT
KUWADZANA, Zimbabwe ** Opposition supporters should keep a
low profile and even pretend to support the ruling party if necessary to
guarantee their safety, the leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party
told a rally Monday.
"When they come and harass you, you can hide your MDC insignia, you
can go to their meetings, sing their songs, as long as on voting day your X
is for the MDC," Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan
Tsvangirai told more than 1,000 people in Kuwadzana, just outside the
Many in the crowd wore MDC T-shirts * an increasingly rare sight. "We
don't put them on because the moment we do, we'll be targeted," said
Brightson Masache, a factory worker who helped organize the rally.
The MDC has accused ruling party militants of beating up its supporters
and forcing some to participate in pro-government rallies. Attacks against
workers on white-owned farms, many of whom are thought to support the
opposition, continued overnight.
The political violence has claimed 13 lives in recent weeks. It began in
February, when squatters claiming to be veterans of Zimbabwe's
independence war swarmed onto hundreds of white-owned farms. To
date, they have occupied more than 1,100 farms.
President Robert Mugabe has supported the occupations, saying they are
a justified protest against unfair land distribution in a country where 4,000
whites own one-third of the fertile farmland. Officials on Saturday
announced Mugabe would invoke special presidential powers to seize
white farms without paying compensation.
Police said Monday that a shop and car belonging to MDC parliamentary
candidate Timothy Mukalera were bombed Thursday. No one was
injured in the explosion in Gweru, 150 miles southeast of Harare. A
suspect has been arrested, a police spokesman said.
Mukalera said the ruling party was behind the explosion.
Workers at five farms were attacked overnight, said a spokeswoman for
the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents most of the country's
white farmers. None of the victims were hospitalized.
A leader of the occupations, Chenjerai Hunzvi, said Sunday he would
travel around the country to make sure the violence ends and to ensure
that planting could begin soon. With worries high over the crisis' effect on
the economy, Hunzvi urged farmers to bring their harvested tobacco *
Zimbabwe's biggest export * to auction. The auction season began
Wednesday, but sales have been dismal.
Despite Hunzvi's talk of ending the violence, there is no sign the land
seizures will end. Squatters moved onto four new farms overnight.
Police have often been accused of standing by idly during attacks on the
"We are very concerned with the attitude of police toward the
opposition," said Kurauone Chihwayi, the president of the Zimbabwe
National Debate Association, who monitored Monday's MDC rally for
human rights abuses. "They've been very inactive. They've not responding
to political violence unless (the victim) is a member of the ruling party."
Chihwayi reported no human rights violations by police at the rally, but
said MDC youths had harassed people watching the event, telling them
they must join the rally or leave. Some youths said they would "mark" the
people who did not participate, Chihwayi said.
Zimbabwe Veterans Make New Attacks on Farmworkers
HARARE, May 1 (Reuters) - Fresh attacks on black farmworkers in Zimbabwe
by self-styled war veterans were reported on Monday despite a call by the
veterans' leader to stop the violence.
About 200 veterans swooped on four farms in the Mvurwi area, northeast of
Harare, beat farmworkers and forced them to sing songs praising President
Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party, a spokesman for a local farm support
group told Reuters.
In another incident near the central town of Zvishavane, a farmworker and two
guards carrying the payroll for a local farm were ambushed by suspected
veterans, the spokesman said.
The driver was assaulted but managed to drive away with the money. The
guards were chased into the bush. "We are concerned about the safety of the
two guards," the spokesman said.
Veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi urged his supporters on Friday to end
violence on white-owned farms, saying they would continue to occupy land but
should not interfere with farming.
"I don't hold much hope about the promises of peace. My farm manager has had
death threats. He doesn't sleep here anymore. He has left the farm," said one
white farmer, who did not want to be named, in the Marondera area, southeast
A Reuters correspondent on Monday visited five deserted farms in the area
where the few remaining farmhands said acts of intimidation were continuing.
"Sometimes we think it's better that we give Mugabe another 20 years in power.
I have seen what war can do and I don't want another war situation," a farmhand
At least 14 people -- farmers, farm workers and opposition supporters -- have
been killed in the past two months since militant government supporters began
invading hundreds of white-owned farms on land they say was stolen by British
colonists in the former Rhodesia.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) said on Monday that attacks on farmworkers were disrupting the
harvesting of key crops.
"Farmworkers cannot do their job because veterans are intimidating them.
Mugabe's people have banned tobacco and stopped the preparation for the
wheat crop. Maize is lying on farms when it should be harvested," Tsvangirai
told about 3,000 supporters at a May Day rally near Harare.
In some areas there is an uneasy truce between the veterans and farmworkers
who are working the abandoned farms.
On the Lonely Park dairy farm, 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Harare, the
beating of farmworkers has stopped but the intimidation continues with
farmhands and their families regularly subjected to lectures vilifying the
opposition and white landowners.
- Zim police raid churches, round up displaced
21 July 2005 04:25
Police raided church halls in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo, rounding up people who had been sheltering there since their homes were destroyed in a so-called urban renewal drive, a human rights lawyer said on Thursday.
Wednesday's raids came just days before the release of a United Nations report on Zimbabwe's controversial Operation Murambatsvina.
On Thursday, some of the hundreds of thousands left homeless were allowed to return to the demolished township of Hatcliffe, on the northern outskirts of the capital, Harare, state media reported.
Police have torched and bulldozed townships, informal markets and other structures deemed illegal since launching the demolition campaign on May 19. Vendors accused of black-market dealing have also been arrested or had their goods confiscated.
Independent estimates of the number affected range from 300 000 to more than a million.
Only a small number of people were removed in the church raids, said attorney Jenny Coltart.
"Many of the churches have already moved the people last week on to a farm they had negotiated for, but there were some who had not moved," she said. "The police came in late last night, loaded them on to trucks and drove off."
Church leaders were trying to locate them on Thursday.
An estimated 20 000 people had their homes destroyed in Hatcliffe, on the northern outskirts of the capital, in May. Many of them were given just 30 minutes to pack their belongings and were forced at gunpoint to tear down their own houses.
Late on Wednesday, Deputy Housing Minister Morris Sakabuya told Parliament about 3 100 plots have been demarcated in the township and are being allocated to "vetted" families, the national broadcaster and state-run Herald newspaper reported.
"Only those with lease agreements were allowed back, while those with receipts showing they had paid for their stands were also given lease agreements," Sakabuya was quoted as saying.
Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo told Parliament the government will help the displaced rebuild but warned that any returnees who fail to meet state building standards will be evicted again.
Trudy Stevenson, an opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmaker who represents the area, was not impressed.
"How will they all find out about this when some have gone to Mozambique, Malawi or [been] chased back to their 'rural areas' by police?" she asked. "What about the seven weeks schoolchildren have missed, the people on anti-retrovirals and other medication who have been without it? How many have died? Who is going to find the orphans and tell them?"
Many of the displaced also lost their livelihoods and do not have the means to rebuild, she added.
President Robert Mugabe's government has promised Z$3-trillion (R2,1-billion) for the reconstruction effort, but economists question whether the funds are available at a time of economic crisis.
The government defends the campaign as a clean-up drive in overcrowded, crime-ridden slums.
But the opposition says it is aimed at breaking up its strongholds among the urban poor and forcing them into rural areas where they can be more easily controlled by chiefs sympathetic to the government.
Last month, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent an envoy to assess the humanitarian impact of the campaign.
Anna Tibaijuka, the Tanzanian head of UN Habitat, submitted her report earlier this week. A copy was also sent to Mugabe for review before it is made public, expected on Friday or Monday. -- Sapa-AP
Zim defiant over loan conditions
Nic Dawes and Rapule Tabane
21 July 2005 11:59
If South Africa agrees to a loan request from Zimbabwe, one of its conditions would be an end to the Murambatsvina campaign to demolish illegal structures in urban areas. (Photograph: AP)
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may well choke on the tough conditions attached to any loan package offered to him by the South African government -- despite Zimbabwe's worsening foreign currency crunch.
Mugabe's spokesperson, George Charamba, told the Mail & Guardian that Zimbabwe would not accept financial help tied to conditions, adding that South Africa was one of numerous countries Zimbabwe had approached.
"I don't understand why the South African media is treating the loan request as unique to South Africa. We have also made representations to the Indian government," Charamba said.
Mugabe is due to visit China this weekend and diplomatic observers believe China is the country most likely to step into the breach.
Beijing is anxious to secure access to minerals such as platinum and chrome, which Zimbabwe has in abundance, and may provide a way for Mugabe to acquire hard currency without making political concessions.
In the first clear sign that South Africa is prepared to use its economic leverage to break Zimbabwe's political logjam, President Thabo Mbeki's Cabinet was expected this week to discuss Mugabe's request for a $1-billion loan facility. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), meanwhile, is taking final steps in preparation to expel Zimbabwe for its persistent failure to pay a $295-million debt.
Government officials stress that no decision has yet been taken to extend a credit line, but that any help will be based on a South African assessment of what is appropriate for Zimbabwe's needs and will entail stringent terms.
These are understood to include the resumption of talks on constitutional reform between Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an end to the Murambatsvina, or "drive out filth" campaign to demolish illegal structures in urban areas, and economic reforms.
Charamba, was adamant that Zimbabwe would reject conditions, particularly a call for new talks with the MDC. "We meet the MDC on a daily basis and dialogue with them in parliament," he said.
"Should the MDC request talks outside Parliament, it will be considered. But firstly, they would have to clarify their call for sanctions, which are now causing untold suffering to ordinary Zimbabweans. That would be our precondition."
He added: "I don't understand why South Africans will put a condition that we end Operation Clean Up when it has already ended. We are now at the next stage, Operation Hlalani Kahle (stay and live well), which will focus on housing delivery that goes beyond people affected by Operation Clean Up."
Nevertheless, the IMF's threatened withdrawal appears to have created a window of opportunity for the South African government to push ahead with plans for a "carrot-and-stick" package, which Finance Minister Trevor Manuel has been quietly punting for some time.
Zimbabwe needs hard currency to buy fuel, electricity and basic commodities. With its reserves exhausted, the government has been reduced to buying dollars on the black market to fund imports.
After a visit to Harare by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi, Manuel and Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni met officials, led by Zimbabwe Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, last Friday.
South African sources said that while the Zimbabwean delegation "painted a picture" of their currency crisis, any funding would be shaped by their own assessment of the situation. The credit facility was unlikely to amount to the reported $1-billion.
"It is far from a done deal," one official said. "The conditionalities will be tough and Mugabe isn't going to like them at all."
China is seen as Zimbabwe's most likely benefactor, as it makes no pretence of using aid to promote democracy and good governance.
Western and African diplomats are worried that the link between economic assistance and good governance, established by initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), may be undermined in China's drive for resource security.
In 2004 it agreed to a $2-billion line of credit for Angola after an IMF loan fell through when the MPLA government would not agree to anti- corruption conditions. The loan is backed by oil guarantees and commitments to employ Chinese construction firms in the rebuilding of infrastructure.
Mugabe has already concluded agreements to buy fighter jets and riot control gear from the Chinese government. Despite these concerns, observers in Harare are buoyed by what they see as a marked difference in pace and tone from South Africa and the African Union. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangarai embarked on a hectic round of African diplomacy ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles, meeting, among others, current AU chairperson and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to insist on the importance of linking democratic reforms and economic recovery.
Obasanjo and Mbeki, who split in 2003 over Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth, appear to have gone to Gleneagles united on that issue, even as Zimbabwe's urban demolition campaign refocused international attention on the crisis.
Chief government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe was reluctant to give details of the Cabinet discussions or the recent meetings with Zimbabwean officials. "The discussions have been about how we can assist in the Zimbabwean economic recovery programme as well as the normalisation of the political situation," he said.
"There is no agreement on a loan, but if the issue arises, it would be referred to Cabinet and a loan facility would have to be confirmed by Parliament."
Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon, meanwhile, questioned whether South Africa could afford the loan, saying taxpayer funds should not be used to bail out a dictator.
In a speech in Cradock on Thursday, he said: "South Africa should not provide any assistance beyond emergency relief until the Zimbabwean government meets strict conditions, including, but not limited to: ending Operation Murambatsvina; opening formal, public negotiations with opposition parties under the supervision of the African Union and the United Nations; allowing international aid agencies to operate freely within Zimbabwe; and providing proof of all purchases made with money donated or loaned by South Africa."
UN condemns Zimbabwe slum blitz
A major UN report has called for an immediate end to Zimbabwe's slum clearance programme, declaring it to be in violation of international law.
Hundreds of thousands of homes in the country's shanty towns have been torched and bulldozed in recent months.
Zimbabwe says the demolitions aim to clean up urban areas and ensure building regulations are followed.
But the UN report, to be released in full later on Friday, says the policy is disastrous and inhumane.
The BBC's Susannah Price at UN headquarters in New York says the UK and US are likely to use the hard-hitting document to renew their calls for the UN to take immediate action.
To date, the Security Council has refused to call a meeting on the clearances.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe usually rejects any criticism, as coming from racists, or their stooges, opposed to his nationalist stance but correspondents say this will be more difficult with this report.
It was compiled by Kofi Annan's special envoy Anna Tibaijuka, a respected international diplomat from Tanzania, a country with close political links to Zimbabwe.
The report calls for an immediate halt to the slum clearances which it says have affected a total of two million people.
"While purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures [the operation] was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering," it says, according to an excerpt cited by the Associated Press news agency.
Zimbabwe says the policy - known as Operation Murambatsvina [Drive Out Rubbish] - is intended to crack down on black-market trading and other criminal activity in the slum areas.
But the report says, whatever the motive, the result is ill-conceived and inhumane.
Hundreds of thousands have been forced to seek shelter elsewhere as their homes are destroyed.
The opposition says the evictions are meant to punish urban residents, who have rejected President Robert Mugabe in favour of the opposition in recent elections.
The report has already been presented to Zimbabwe's government and will be presented to all UN members on Friday.