mostly zim news
- Journalist Assaulted, Street Sellers
Beaten, Copies Seized
Reporters Sans Frontieres
August 17, 2001
Posted to the web August 17, 2001
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
About 50 farms are thought to have been looted last
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
The Daily Herald charged that the white
farmers had assisted with the organisation of
the ransackings in order to provoke an
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
continuing in various
parts of the
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
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
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
Their arrest on 6 August sparked off the
widespread looting on white-owned farms in
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
This was the argument put forward by the
The farmers have also been ordered to
surrender their passports.
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
have been abandoned
in the area.
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.