Zim news brief
- Zimbabwe minister fingers
Harare | Thursday
ZIMBABWE Home Minister John Nkomo said this week that
white farmers and not pro-government war veterans are behind the
recent upsurge in violence in the countryside.
"No war veterans have been causing any problems on the farms,"
Nkomo said late on Wednesday.
"It is true the farmers have been attacking properly and legally
resettled farmers," he said.
Militant veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war have for the
last 18 months spearheaded the forcible invasions of white-owned
farms, and have been closely tied to the political violence that has
wracked the southern African nation, according to repeated
reports by rights groups and international observers.
Nkomo insisted that only a criminal element was behind any
violence tied to the occupiers, and he said authorities had dealt
with those criminals.
"The public is being treated to a lot of propaganda, negative
publicity, and we understand that it is a political gimmick," he
But the farm violence has had a strong political colouring, and has
been closely linked to the intimidation of opposition supporters.
At least 34 people died in political violence ahead of last year's
parliamentary elections, while rights groups say 19,000 were
Nkomo was interviewed on state television hours after a judge in
the northern town of Chinhoyi delayed a hearing for 21 white
farmers accused of attacking occupiers on a farm, citing security
concerns at the courtroom.
The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) said the clashes began
after occupiers barricaded a farmer inside his home outside
Chinhoyi, 100km northwest of Harare, and his neighbours came
Police said the farmers attacked the occupiers without
Magistrate Godfrey Gwaka remanded the high-profile case to
Thursday and ordered the 21 farmers held overnight.
The official Ziana news agency said Gwaka was afraid that people
at the courthouse in the northern town of Chinhoyi were likely to
get violent, especially as it was almost dark when the farmers
Independent and foreign journalists were not able to enter the
courthouse, as militant youths, identified by residents in Chinhoyi
as supporters of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, chased
Late Monday an eighth white farmer died after suffering an axe
blow to the head in his home on Friday in central Zimbabwe. -
- No Commonwealth ban
Many white farmers have fled the violence
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe cannot
be barred from the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting in October, despite
internal and overseas calls to do so, says the
Politicians and Zimbabwean exiles have called
for Mr Mugabe to be refused entry because of
political violence in Zimbabwe.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
said that, while he understood the anger about
the situation in Zimbabwe, Australia was
obliged to accept every leader at the
three-day conference taking place in Brisbane.
He added that banning people and refusing to
talk to them was not necessarily the most
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he
did not agree with the call to ban Mr Mugabe.
He said the Commonwealth leaders should use
their influence to make a difference to the way
Zimbabwe was ruled.
With Zimbabwe in political and economic crisis,
those who can afford it have been leaving
Zimbabwe for good on flights.
But for many ordinary
Zimbabweans, who are
worse off now than at
any time since
independence, they are
increasingly trying their
luck heading into South
About 50,000 have
been sent back in the
past year after
crossing the border
says that many of Zimbabwe's young educated
generation, the country's future, have to be
forced back to a homeland they do not want
to be in
Meanwhile, the High Court in Zimbabwe
granted bail on Monday to 21 white farmers
who have been held for two weeks, accused of
assaulting landless black squatters.
They are expected to
be released on
However, Judge Justice
Rita Makarau said the
bail had been granted
on condition that 20 of
the farmers did not
return to their home
province for the next
They also had to surrender their passports to
The decision came as a judge, widely seen as
a government supporter, was confirmed as
Zimbabwe's new Supreme Court Chief Justice.
A BBC correspondent says the move is an
indication that President Mugabe's hold over
the judiciary is tightening.
Meanwhile, in a further blow to Zimbabwe's
ailing economy, international airlines say they
will no longer take payments in local currency.
Major airlines like British Airways, Air France
and Alitalia say the Zimbabwean dollar is
The official exchange rate for $1 is Z$55, while
the black market is pegged at Z$300.
The decision is the latest indication of just
how much Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed
and is likely to hit Zimbabwe's tourist industry
- Mugabe told to leave
bodyguards at home
London, Harare | Wednesday
ZIMBABWE will be allowed to attend next month's
Commonwealth summit in Australia, despite concerns about the
"harassment" of its people, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander
Downer said on Tuesday.
Concluding a two-day meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial
Action Group in London, ministers voiced their concerns that the
situation under President Robert Mugabe - widely blamed for
political violence against white farmers - had not improved.
"The problems in Zimbabwe simply cannot be ignored by the
Commonwealth," said Downer. "The harassment and acts of
violence are a matter of enormous concern in our country."
Yet unlike Pakistan, barred from attending the Commonwealth
Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane, the African nation will
be allowed to attend, although only after two further meetings to
review the violence that is blighting the former British colony.
The ministerial group was established by Commonwealth Heads
of Government in 1995 to deal with serious or persistent violations
of the Harare Commonwealth Declaration.
The declaration, made in Zimbabwe in 1991, set down guiding
principles for the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth,
including: a commitment to international peace and democracy;
equal rights for citizens regardless of sex, race, colour, creed or
political belief; the promotion of sustainable development;
provision of education and health care; and protection of the
Measures that the group can take range from quiet diplomacy and
statements of concern to suspension from the Commonwealth.
Reading from a prepared statement at the close of the two-day
meeting in London Tuesday, Commonwealth Secretary-General
Don McKinnon said Commonwealth ministers would continue to
discuss Zimbabwe at a specially convened meeting later this
week in Abuja, Nigeria. Developments would be reviewed at a final
meeting immediately prior to the heads of government meeting on
"They (the ministers) hoped that the Abuja meeting would make
progress towards reaching a solution which would benefit all the
people of Zimbabwe," McKinnon said.
Downer said the Australian government had turned down a
request from the Zimbabwe government to bring its own armed
security guards to the Brisbane summit.
"We have explained that it would be entirely inappropriate for
President Mugabe to be accompanied by armed security guards
from Zimbabwe," Downer said. "We will provide appropriate
During the meeting at Marlborough House in central London,
ministers finalised their report, which will be presented to
Commonwealth heads of government in Brisbane next month.
Meantime, the growing number of farm workers displaced by land
invasions in Zimbabwe has prompted agricultural groups to call for
immediate humanitarian assistance to deal with the crisis, the
UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks reported.
"There's certainly a role here for international organisations, these
people urgently need feeding programmes and shelter," Godfrey
Magaramomba of the Farm Community Trust (FCT), a
Harare-based NGO, said on Tuesday.
The FCT has been trying to assist former farm labourers in
Hwedza, 100km southeast of the capital.
Self-styled war veterans and Zanu-PF supporters evicted about 2
000 families from 14 commercial farms in the area two weeks
Magaramomba said that those evicted were now living in appalling
conditions in makeshift camps and squatter settlements along
"We've been held up from helping these people by pro-government
provincial authorities and by war veterans on the ground," he
added. Evicted farm workers have told FCT that after being
labelled opposition supporters by war veterans, they are then told
not just to leave the farms, but to leave the area completely.
Analysts said that making large numbers of farm workers
destitute effectively disenfranchised them.
"Kicking people out of where they live and vote appears to be a
new tactic aimed at diluting opposition support in rural areas,"
one observer said. Over 2 800 commercial farms have been listed
for compulsory acquisition. - Sapa, Irin
- Socialism is... waiting in a
queue for food
ANDREW MELDRUN, Harare | Tuesday
ZIMBABWE'S president vowed yesterday to return the country's
crippled economy to a socialist command system, telling
businesses opposed to the move to "pack up and go".
Robert Mugabe said his government would strictly enforce the
price freeze on basic foods imposed last week and threatened to
seize any companies that shut down because the new prices
made their production unprofitable.
"Let no one on this front expect mercy," an angry Mr Mugabe
said. "The state will take over any businesses that are closed.
We will reorganise them with workers, and at last that socialism
we wanted can start again."
"Those tired of doing business here can pack up and go," he said.
Claims that market-driven economic principles should not be
tampered with were "absolute nonsense".
Zimbabwe dropped its socialist economic policies a decade after
it gained independence in 1980. It embraced IMF and World Bank
economic reforms. In recent years, rampant corruption, huge
budget deficits and mismanagement have dragged the economy
down, with hyper-inflation, 60% unemployment and a desperate
shortage of hard currency.
Mr Mugabe's war veterans have stormed shops to ensure they
keep to state price controls.
"We've heard this rhetoric before, but this time I think it is more
serious," said a white business owner. "The war veterans have
destroyed large scale farming. Now they want to destroy
"He can call it socialism, but we know it will be shortages and
long queues," said a black worker, who did not want to be named.
"Last week we could not afford bread. This week we cannot get
Trying to regain support ahead of the presidential elections early
next year, Mr Mugabe last Friday ordered price cuts of between
5% and 20% on maize meal, bread, meat, vegetable and cooking
oil, milk, salt and soap.
Yesterday the supermarket shelves were bare for all the
price-controlled items. Bakeries said they were losing money at
the set prices, and reduced deliveries of bread.
A Harare bakery chain put 200 of its workers on shorter working
hours as production was cut.
Adding to Zimbabwe's woes is the decision by South Africa -
whose president opposes Mr Mugabe's policies - to expel 20 000
Zimbabweans working there as farm labourers. The repatriations
start today. - The Guardian