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  • Christine Chumbler
    Journalist Assaulted, Street Sellers Beaten, Copies Seized Reporters Sans Frontieres PRESS RELEASE August 17, 2001 Posted to the web August 17, 2001 Paris RSF
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 20, 2001
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      Journalist Assaulted, Street Sellers
      Beaten, Copies Seized

      Reporters Sans Frontieres
      PRESS RELEASE
      August 17, 2001
      Posted to the web August 17, 2001

      Paris

      RSF asks the President to intervene

      In a letter addressed to the President of Malawi, Bakili
      Muluzi, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF - Reporters
      Without Borders) protested against the increasingly tough
      repression against the independent press. RSF asked the
      head of state to publicly confirm his commitment to press
      freedom and to act quickly so that media professionals
      can work freely and safely throughout the country. "It is your
      responsibility to call on militants and supporters of the
      ruling party to remain calm" explained Robert Menard,
      general secretary of RSF. "We ask you to take necessary
      measures to ensure that newspapers are freely distributed
      in Malawi, without considering their editorial tendency"
      added Mr. Menard.

      According to information gathered by RSF, members of
      the youth league of the ruling United Democratic Front
      (UDF) assaulted Brian Ligomeka, correspondent of the
      South-African agency African Eye News Service, on 12
      August 2001. The journalist was covering the arrival of
      foreign heads of state attending the summit of the
      Southern Africa Development Community at the
      international airport in Blantyre when several men caught
      him and pushed him outside the buildings. The youths of
      the party accused him of being a spy for the opposition
      and threatened to kill him. They then beat him up. Brian
      Ligomeka is suffering from a bruised jaw and leg. He
      stated that a policeman finally helped him to escape and
      took him to the closest police station. "I am grateful to him
      because after many police officers just looked at the UDF
      officials beating me, he saved my life" testified the
      journalist. The police launched an inquiry but nobody has
      been arrested yet.

      The previous day, John Saini, a reporter with the magazine
      Pride, had been threatened by UDF officials at the airport.
      The men asked him to stop publishing stories critical of the
      government.

      Furthermore, on 14 August unknown people attacked
      newspaper sellers in the streets of Blantyre and took their
      copies of the independent weekly The People's Eye. They
      then went to the premises of the weekly and seized 300
      copies of the latest issue. The editor Chinyeke Tembo
      closed the office "until the tension eases". The People's
      Eye published an article criticising the silence of the
      President Bakili Muluzi about a third term bid. The
      President is finishing his second term and several UDF
      officials asked him to run for a third time. But according to
      the Constitution, nobody can be elected as President more
      than two times.

      *****

      Mugabe Suffers Setbacks At SADC
      Summit

      Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)
      August 17, 2001
      Posted to the web August 17, 2001

      Embattled President Robert Mugabe and his delegation to
      the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)
      summit in Malawi this week returned home disappointed
      after suffering reversals on a range of issues.

      While Mugabe said it was the best summit he had
      attended, in reality he suffered a number of significant
      setbacks, observers say.

      Diplomatic sources said Mugabe and his entourage had a
      rough ride in Blantyre and came back empty-handed
      because Sadc leaders declined to offer the ringing
      endorsements of his proposals the state media had
      confidently forecast.

      Mugabe suffered setbacks on several key issues: land
      reform; the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security;
      the New Africa Initiative; and the long-standing
      Harare-London political stand-off. Sources said the usually
      sabrerattling Zimbabwean leader was reined in by his
      colleagues.

      Instead of offering the much-hoped-for revolutionary
      solidarity on Mugabe's increasingly violent land reforms,
      Sadc leaders openly said they were worried about the
      situation in Zimbabwe.

      Sadc established a task force comprising Botswana,
      Mozambique and South Africa - the main countries
      concerned about Mugabe's repression and the current
      crisis he is busy stoking - to find ways of rescuing Harare
      from the quagmire it has buried itself in. The team was
      expected to visit Zimbabwe before the end of the month.

      Observers said this was not what Mugabe had in mind
      when he headed for Malawi.

      "If a country's neighbouring states decided to speak about
      their 'brother's' problems in public, it was, in diplomatic
      terms, tantamount to drawing the line on its actions," said
      Dr Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute for Security Studies in
      South Africa. Observers have called the move a
      masterstroke by President Thabo Mbeki to unite his allies
      in a multilateral initiative that Harare will find difficult to
      ignore.

      "When your neighbouring states start talking to
      representatives of commerce and industry, organised
      agriculture and opposition parties within your own borders,
      you do not have much of a choice," Cilliers said.

      The taskforce will complement other initiatives already in
      place to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. Nigerian President
      Olusegun Obasanjo, whom Mugabe described as a
      master of conflict resolution, is the mediator in the
      Zimbabwe/Britain quarrel.

      There is also a Commonwealth ministerial group recently
      appointed to deal with the Zimbabwe emergency. The
      team, chaired by Nigeria, comprises Britain, Australia,
      South Africa, Kenya, Jamaica, and Zimbabwe itself.

      "President Mugabe and his delegation wanted Sadc
      leaders to issue statements supporting their land reform
      programme and condemning Britain for events in
      Zimbabwe," a source said. "But the summit refused to do
      that."

      Mugabe wanted to build on the solidarity he managed to
      extract from the Organisation of African Unity/African Union
      in Zambia last month. The AU set up a seven-member
      team to explain Zimbabwe's land reforms on international
      platforms. It also expressed support for Zimbabwe on land
      reform although heads of state later refused to endorse a
      Zimbabwean- drafted statement by foreign ministers
      criticising Britain for the country's problems.

      In Blantyre Sadc refused to endorse a protest note against
      Britain that Zimbabwe circulated. Zimbabwe did not want
      its economic problems and issues of governance
      discussed. Although it succeeded in ensuring the matters
      were not on the agenda, the regional leaders still managed
      to tell Mugabe they were disturbed about events in his
      country when they set up the taskforce.

      Mugabe suffered yet another blow when he finally
      surrendered the organ on politics, defence and security,
      which he had been clinging on to for six years, showing a
      marked unwillingness to let go. President Joaquim
      Chissano of Mozambique replaced Mugabe as chair of the
      organ for a one-year term. Tanzanian President Benjamin
      Mkapa was elected Chissano's deputy while Mugabe
      remained on the troika by virtue of being outgoing chair.

      Sources said Chissano came in with the backing of South
      Africa which was opposed to the method using
      alphabetical order to determine the chair and the deputy
      as had initially been suggested. It was said South African
      President Thabo Mbeki did not want that because although
      Botswana, his ally, would have been chair, it would have
      been harnessed in the troika to Zimbabwe and the
      Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Harare and
      Kinshasa are close allies.

      "The South Africans realised that Mugabe would remain in
      charge of the organ if Botswana and the DRC took over
      and that's why they rejected the alphabetical order
      method," another source explained.

      Mugabe, who has harboured ambitions to be a regional
      baron, also suffered another embarrass- ment when he
      was left out of the 15-member taskforce of African heads
      of state on the implementation of the New Africa Initiative,
      which incorporates President Mbeki's Africa Millennium
      Recovery Plan (MAP). It was felt that the team would have
      suffered a credibility crisis if it included dictators who
      plundered their economies.

      *****

      Storm Over Land in Zimbabwe
      Critics Say Mugabe Seizing Farms To Punish Foes

      By Jon Jeter
      Washington Post Foreign Service
      Monday, August 20, 2001; Page A01

      CHEGUTU, Zimbabwe -- With its withered tobacco leaves, rot-black sunflowers and an untended wheat
      crop that has turned a dour shade of green, Phil Matibe's Paarl Farm is a 1,100-acre wasteland, idled by a
      government land-reform program that evicted the commercial farmer and his family two months ago.

      The peasants ushered onto the farm by government officials have stripped bare Matibe's tractor, chopped
      down scores of trees for kindling and shacks, ransacked his tobacco barns and, for good measure, set fire
      to his house and corn crop. The work stoppage has left nearly 100 farmhands jobless and hungry,
      scavenging the parched fields for nuts and rats to eat. They, too, must leave the farm by month's end,
      provincial officials have told them.

      Entering a campaign season in which he faces the first electoral challenge in his 21 years in power, President
      Robert Mugabe has trumpeted land reform as the unfinished business of the liberation war that freed this
      southern African country from British rule in 1980. Flouting the country's laws and ignoring increasing
      international pressure, Mugabe's governing party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
      (ZANU-PF), has used fiery appeals to pan-African nationalism and a fervent pledge to relieve rural poverty
      to justify its accelerated efforts to transfer farms with the most fertile soil to landless blacks.

      But the government-led assault on Paarl Farm speaks volumes about Mugabe's motives, his policy and its
      feasibility. Matibe is neither white nor British, but a black Zimbabwean who purchased this farm with his life
      savings two years ago. He is also a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the surging
      new political party that threatens ZANU-PF's uninterrupted reign.

      Among those who have been given plots of Matibe's land are a banker and three police officers who are
      ZANU-PF loyalists.

      And instead of easing poverty, Mugabe's fast-track resettlement program is actually widening it, critics say,
      by killing the crops that Zimbabwe relies on for trade and food, and by leaving thousands of farmworkers
      jobless and homeless just as the country is facing massive food shortages and soaring unemployment.

      "This," said Matibe, 34, "is not about correcting a colonial imbalance. This is about punishing your enemies
      and rewarding your friends. This is about staying in power no matter what the damage is to your country or
      its democracy."

      Whites account for less than 1 percent of Zimbabwe's population of 12 million but, in a country roughly the
      size of California, own a third of the arable land. There is a consensus among economists, development
      experts and diplomatic officials that the concentration of land in the hands of a tiny elite deprives millions of
      poor blacks of a crucial resource in an economy heavily dependent on agriculture.

      But critics say that as ZANU-PF's popularity wanes, Mugabe, 77, has used land as a smoke screen to
      cloak his party's mismanagement of the country and also as the principal component of a patronage system
      that nourishes political devotion and tramples dissenters.

      'Famine Is Unavoidable'

      The results have been dire in a country in which nearly a third of the population is forced to survive on the
      equivalent of a dollar a day.

      Nearly 40 people have been killed since mobs of ZANU-PF supporters, led by veterans from the country's
      independence war, began occupying white-owned farms 18 months ago. The land grabs began in the weeks
      before Zimbabwe's most recent parliamentary elections and many of the white farmers targeted were
      supporters of the opposition MDC.

      This month, clashes in Chinhoyi, a rural area about 75 miles northwest of the capital, Harare, drove more
      than 100 white farmers and their families from their homesteads. Twenty-one white farmers were arrested
      and were being held without bail on charges of causing public violence.

      The lawlessness and the refusal of the police to intervene have led investors to flee the country and donors
      to freeze funds, driving the unemployment rate to 60 percent. The inflation rate has been 65 percent over the
      past year, and a trade organization representing the country's 4,500 mostly white commercial farmers
      announced this month that the disruptions caused by the illegal occupations of nearly 2,000 large-scale
      farms would reduce crop yields by more than 25 percent next year. Relief agencies are preparing to import
      up to 500,000 tons of grain to a country once known as Africa's breadbasket.

      "I think famine is unavoidable," said Ian Kay, a white commercial farmer who said his tobacco and wheat
      crops will be only half their usual volume as a result of squatters who forcibly settled on his farm in June.

      "All preparation for [next month's] planting season has come to a halt," Kay said. "Whenever one of my
      guys tried to plow, three or four [squatters] would walk up to the tractor and tell him to get off or they
      would set him and the tractor on fire."

      Agriculture Minister Joseph Made this month announced that the government plans to step up its seizure of
      farms, nearly doubling from 12 million to 20 million the number of targeted acres.

      And with the U.S. Congress expected to pass the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill, which would ban travel to the
      United States for Mugabe and his cabinet unless the illegal farm occupations are suspended, Western
      diplomats and others fear that the violence and food shortages will escalate in the months leading up to the
      presidential election next spring.

      Home Affairs Minister John Nkomo this month suggested that the governing party would declare a state of
      emergency -- and possibly martial law -- if U.S. lawmakers passed the bill, which ZANU-PF has
      characterized as a sanctions measure that would affect Zimbabwe's national security.

      "And now you have this talk of sanctions?" a visibly angry Mugabe said recently at a holiday gathering to
      commemorate the black freedom fighters who perished in the independence war of the 1970s. "Just what is
      our crime? Our crime is that we are black, and in America the blacks are a condemned race."

      Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said in an interview last week that criticisms of the government's
      land policy are exaggerated and manipulated by white farmers and colonial interests intent on preserving the
      economic inequities that remain in sub-Saharan Africa a generation after most countries won their
      independence.

      "Food shortages we've always had in Africa, and we always will have food shortages," he said. "This is a
      major, major adjustment we are undertaking, and there is going to be an economic slump.

      "There will be difficulties, but they are difficulties associated with transformation, and in the long run that
      transformation will be to the benefit of all Zimbabweans. This is about finding a new place for the black man
      in our economy."

      That new footing is uncertain as of now. The estimated 350,000 people who work on Zimbabwe's
      commercial farms represent nearly a quarter of the country's workforce, but of the 122,000 families the
      government claims to have resettled, fewer than 1,900 are families of black farmhands.

      Despite its contentious relationship with Mugabe, the mostly white Commercial Farmers' Union puts the
      number higher, estimating that roughly 10 percent of the 6 million acres seized have gone to former
      farmworkers.

      The General Agricultural and Plantation Workers' Union of Zimbabwe estimates that only three of every
      500 people resettled by the government are displaced workers.

      'Where Will We Go?'

      Until the convoy of government cars and truck beds filled with squatters pulled up to Phil and Pearl Matibe's
      front door in June, their sprawling farm was home to 123 workers and their relatives living in mud-and-grass
      huts.

      After giving the Matibes a week to move their household belongings and two young children, provincial
      officials told the workers they would have to leave because they had not registered to receive plots on the
      resettled farm.

      "Where will we go?" said Kariba Hanoki, a farmworker for 38 of his 59 years. "We have nothing. We have
      no food. We have no soap. We have no money to go back to the rural areas where we came from."

      More than a dozen farmworkers gathered around him, telling similar stories of life without jobs, food or
      money, and of eating whatever they could find -- nuts, beans, even dead rodents -- in fields they are unable
      to harvest without equipment.

      "We were hoping that Mr. Matibe could arrange something for us," said Loyas Konorine, 30, a mother of
      two, who worked on the farm for five years. "But now we understand that Mr. Matibe is having a difficult
      time as well."

      Matibe purchased the farm with money saved from a munitions firm that he founded, and he invested more
      than $150,000 in improvements and equipment.

      While farmworkers often complain of poor pay and abuse by white farmers, several here said the Matibes
      were fair people who even took one of Hanoki's eight children to live with them at a friend's apartment in
      Harare when they were evicted to lighten their foreman's burden.

      Charamba, Mugabe's spokesman, said he was unaware of Matibe's case but that in some isolated
      instances, land records failed to identify a farm's owner and listed a previous owner instead.

      A black farmer whose property was wrongly targeted for acquisition, he said, could appeal to the
      agriculture minister.

      Uninsured for damage that results from political violence, Matibe said he is unsure what to do now.

      He does not regret his work with the MDC because he believes that Mugabe has outlived his political
      usefulness. But he failed to appreciate, he said, precisely how desperate ZANU-PF is to stay in power.

      "I am as indigenous as anyone," Matibe said. "I was born and bred in Zimbabwe and all I know is farming. I
      wanted to give my farm to my two children. But now I am landless . . . because I had the audacity, the gall .
      . . to think."

      *****

      White farmers reject
      looting allegation

      About 50 farms are thought to have been looted last
      weekn
      By Barnaby Phillips in Johannesburg

      White farmers in Zimbabwe have dismissed as
      "absurd" allegations in the government-owned
      press that they helped instigate the recent
      wave of looting and destruction on their own
      farms.

      The Daily Herald charged that the white
      farmers had assisted with the organisation of
      the ransackings in order to provoke an
      international reaction.

      The Commercial Farmers Union, which
      represents white farmers in Zimbabwe, has
      denied any involvement in last week's looting,
      in which about 50 white-owned farms are said
      to have been ransacked.

      The Union says
      sporadic attacks and
      harassment are
      continuing in various
      parts of the
      Zimbabwean
      countryside.

      The events of the past week have resulted in
      the increasing international isolation of
      President Robert Mugabe's government.

      But any diplomatic breakthrough on the
      Zimbabwean crisis is unlikely before early next
      month, when Nigeria is due to host talks
      between Britain and Zimbabwe.

      *****

      White farmers released
      on bail

      About 50 farms were looted in the past two weeks
      The High Court in Zimbabwe has granted
      conditional bail to 21 white farmers accused of
      inciting violence in the northern town of
      Chinoyi.

      The judge ordered the farmers to pay bail of
      about $1,800 each.

      They are accused of beating up government
      supporters who had invaded a farm belonging
      to a white farmer and were arrested on 6
      August.

      Their arrest on 6 August sparked off the
      widespread looting on white-owned farms in
      northern Zimbabwe.

      Judge Rita Makarau said 20 of the farmers
      would not be allowed to return to their home
      province for four weeks.

      Justice Makarau said she had imposed this
      restriction because of the possibility of more
      violence if the farmers returned to their
      communities.

      This was the argument put forward by the
      state prosecutors.

      The farmers have also been ordered to
      surrender their passports.

      Denial

      During their two weeks in custody their heads
      have been forcibly shaved and they have been
      shown on Zimbabwean television in chains.

      The farmers deny
      starting the clashes
      with black war
      veterans saying they
      were attacked when
      their neighbour was
      threatened by the
      militants. About 100
      white-owned farms
      have been abandoned
      in the area.

      The Commercial
      Farmers Union, which represents white farmers
      in Zimbabwe, say sporadic attacks and
      harassment are continuing in various parts of
      the Zimbabwean countryside.

      They have also expressed concern about
      thousands of labourers who have been left on
      farms in the north of the country which were
      abandoned during last week's mayhem.

      An estimated 4,000 workers depend for their
      livelihood on the farms which have been looted
      in Doma and Mhangura, two key farming areas
      in Mashonaland West province.
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