- Mugabe ready to call elections
Amid growing international pressure, President Mugabe finally looks ready
to set a date for Zimbabwe's elections.
By NICHOLAS WATT in London and CHRIS MCGREAL in Harare
OBERT Mugabe was facing growing international pressure last night after
the Commonwealth launched a stinging attack on him for failing to uphold
the rule of law during the occupations of white-owned farms.
As another member of the Zimbabwean opposition was beaten to death by
supporters of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, Commonwealth foreign ministers
underlined their "deep concern" by sending the organisation's secretary general to
Don Mackinnon will tell President Mugabe that the intimidation of opposition
politicians must end to ensure that the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe are held
in a free and fair environment.
The decision to send Mackinnon to Zimbabwe came amid signs in Harare that
President Mugabe will set a date for parliamentary elections within days. In a
flurry of political activity, Zanu-PF's manifesto is expected to be launched today,
signalling that the delayed ballot could be held in early June after weeks of land
occupations and political violence that has claimed at least 15 lives.
Commonwealth ministers last night stepped up the pressure on the president
when they agreed a hard-hitting statement that unequivocally condemned the farm
occupations, which have been orchestrated by the government. After a day-long
meeting in London the ministers "voiced their concerns over the ongoing violence,
loss of life, illegal occupation of property, failure to uphold the rule of law and
political intimidation in the run-up to Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections".
The ministers also called on the president to live up to his pledge to abide by the
Zimbabwean constitution and hold elections "free of intimidation". During his talks
with President Mugabe, Mackinnon will discuss sending Commonwealth
observers to monitor the elections.
The foreign secretary, Robin Cook, last night welcomed the Commonwealth
statement, describing it as a "stinging criticism" of Mugabe which would send a
powerful message to Zimbabwe. "This shows that it is not just Britain criticising
Zimbabwe or Britain having a post colonial [attitude] towards Zimbabwe," Cook
said. "What Mr Mugabe has to admit is that this has been expressed by the
Commonwealth as a whole."
Foreign Office sources said last night that the statement represented a triumph for
Cook who lobbied the eight other members of the Commonwealth ministerial
action group ahead of yesterday's meeting. There had been fears that the
Commonwealth might temper its criticisms, but Cook said that the statement
included "all our conclusions".
As the ministers were meeting in
London, however, there were reports
of another death in Zimbabwe. The
opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) accused ruling party
supporters of abducting four of its
activists yesterday and murdering at
least one of them, Mathew Pfebve, 49,
a retired policeman, near Mount
Darwin, northeast of Harare. The three
other men are also feared dead after
they were dragged to a school and
"It was Zanu-PF thugs," said Pfebve's
brother, Elliot. "They came with iron
bars and bricks. They also beat and
hurt my 70-year-old father and left him
for dead but my sister took care of him.
"The police post is 500 metres away
from the school and they did nothing."
While the Foreign Office was delighted
with yesterday's Commonwealth
statement in London, Mugabe may be
more susceptible to pressure from
neighbouring South Africa where
President Thabo Mbeki has warned
that the upheaval in Zimbabwe could
spill across the border and destabilise
the region. The two men are expected
to meet at the end of the week.
Mugabe and his cabinet met yesterday to discuss the failure of talks with the
British government to resolve the land issue, and the election date.
A senior government source said the president would "set a date soon, within
days". Mugabe has apparently decided that with the opposition in retreat, and a
plan under way to invoke special powers next week to begin formal land
redistribution from white farms to poor blacks, the time is ripe for the vote.
The opposition MDC has already denounced the government for intimidation and
other pre-election abuses, but has said it will still participate in the poll.
"The violence and intimidation by the ruling party have already ruled out the
possibility of free and fair elections," said the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
"The rural people are being beaten and intimidated. The urban people are being
intimidated. The white farmers and the labourers have been brutally intimidated.
With a nation that is frightened, elections cannot be free and fair."
The leader of the war veterans' organisation which has led the farm occupations,
Chenjerai Hunzvi, has put further pressure on white farmers by demanding that
their union withdraw contempt of court charges against him.
Hunzvi is awaiting sentence on Friday for failing to obey a court order to tell his
members to leave the occupied land, and to halt violence against white farmers
and their black workers.
"As the leader of the war veterans, I have already been convicted of contempt of
court charges over farm invasions. How do commercial farmers expect me to
engage in serious dialogue with them if these charges remain? They must drop the
charges immediately," he said.
Hunzvi appeared in court yesterday on separate fraud charges over allegations of
stealing £7,900 from a compensation fund for victims of the liberation war.
The farmers union reported new land invasions in several parts of the country.
Five farms were seized in Masvingo, and two more in Mvurwi, northwest of
'War vets will stay' - Mugabe
OWN CORRESPONDENT, Harare | Wednesday 2.00pm.
ZIMBABWE's President Robert Mugabe issued a sharp
warning to whites on Wednesday that war veterans occupying
their farms are there to stay, as he launched the election
manifesto of his ruling Zanu-PF party.
He has also declared that his government wants to seize half of
the country's white-owned farmland. The land issue has
erupted in the past two months to claim more than a dozen
lives in bloodshed. Those whites who do not like this are free
to leave the country, he said.
Mugabe did not give any hint on the much-awaited general
election date. "Let nobody think we will call on the war
veterans to withdraw unless we obtain our land," he said.
Although his government does not have plans to kick out any
whites, he added, Britain is preparing to evacuate some 20 000
nationals from the country. Those willing to go were free to do
so if they are not comfortable with the land reform process, he
"The 20 000 that the British want to leave the country are free
to leave and we will assist them by showing them the various
ways out of the country."
He said while some 4 000 whites owned some 12,2-million
hectares of land with 70% of Zimbabwean landless, all that his
government wants is just half of that farmland.
"We will still be humanitarian, we want just about half of the
12-million hectares to come our way," he said. He said his
government will not acquire land from farmers owning only one
Mugabe launched the manifesto under the theme "land is the
economy, the economy is land" before a crowd of singing and
dancing Zanu-PF supporters at a conference centre in Harare.
Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday where
the land crisis was discussed and the date for the parliamentary
poll was expected to be fixed.
A presidential spokesman said the launch of the manifesto
would be followed by a meeting of the ruling party's
decision-making politburo. -- AFP
Zimbabwe Squatters Make Demands
By Susanna Loof
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, May 2, 2000; 7:11 p.m. EDT
HARARE, Zimbabwe ** Squatters occupying white-owned farms have
begun demanding transport, food and fuel from farmers, and have even
started advertising plots for sale, farmers' representatives said Tuesday.
Hundreds of war veterans * who are reputedly leading the occupations of
more than 1,000 white-owned farms * also marched through Harare to
the High Court, where their leader was on trial for fraud.
Occupations and attacks on farm workers have persisted, according to
the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents most of the country's
Farm workers were attacked in Mashonaland East, east of Harare, and
nine were treated in the hospital, the union said. Their conditions were
A laborer who was abducted April 30 remained missing, the union said.
Squatters on one farm in Mashonaland East had marked off small plots
and offered them for sale, the union said.
Several farmers reported they were forced to donate money to the ruling
party and to provide occupiers with vehicles, fuel and food.
"The demands ... are accompanied by threats, sometimes veiled, of
damage to property or violence. If the demands are not met, the invaders
are tending to help themselves anyway. An increasing number of vehicles
are being commandeered to transport people to rallies or to the next
invasion," the union said in a statement.
One farmer in Central Mashonaland, north of Harare, reported that
squatters told him it would be a waste to plant new crops because the
farm would be seized before the harvest, the union said.
Squatters have occupied 10 new farms in the past 24 hours, the union
In Londson, Commonwealth foreign ministers rebuked Zimbabwe on
Tuesday for failing to bring a peaceful end to the crisis, but stopped short
of any action, saying they wanted dialogue to continue.
In a strongly worded statement at the end of a day of talks, foreign
ministers from eight Commonwealth countries, including Britain's Robin
Cook, expressed "deep concerns" about the "ongoing violence, loss of
life, illegal occupations of property, failure to uphold the rule of law and
political intimidation in the run-up to Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections."
Ministers urged President Robert Mugabe to create an environment "in
which fair elections, free of intimidation and within the time schedule
prescribed by the constitution of Zimbabwe, can be held." No date has
been set for the ballot, which must take place by August.
The leader of the occupations, Chenjerai Hunzvi, appeared in court
Tuesday on charges he forged medical reports to receive benefits of more
than $10,000. Hunzvi, leader of the National Liberation War Veterans
Association, is also a physician.
Before Hunzvi's court appearance, hundreds of people marched to the
court singing revolutionary songs praising President Robert Mugabe.
Some carried a banner emblazoned with Mugabe's picture.
The president has supported the occupations, which began in February, as
justified protest against the unfair distribution of land in a country where
4,000 whites own one-third of the productive farmland.
Tuesday's marchers closed off the street outside the court, but allowed
access to select people, including journalists. A judge who arrived by car
was chased away.
Hunzvi also has been charged with defrauding two war veterans groups of
$70,000. In addition, a court found him in contempt for failing to urge an
end to the farm occupations. Sentencing in that case, the result of a
complaint filed by the farm union, has been set for Friday.
"How do commercial farmers expect me to engage in serious dialogue
with them if these charges remain? They must drop the charges
immediately," Hunzvi told the independent newspaper The Daily News.
Hunzvi and the union have agreed that the squatters can stay on farms, but
that violence must stop and farm work must be allowed to continue.
For BBC's perspective, and video clips, check out this site.
- 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.