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  • Christine Chumbler
    Zimbabwe delays media law debate Zimbabwe s government has withdrawn plans to push through a tough new media bill as planned on Tuesday. The parliament
    Message 1 of 83 , Jan 15, 2002
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      Zimbabwe delays media
      law debate

      Zimbabwe's government has withdrawn plans
      to push through a tough new media bill as
      planned on Tuesday.

      The parliament adjourned early after an
      acrimonious debate on a new labour bill to give
      the government power to de-register trade
      unions and ban strikes.

      The proposed law ran into heavy criticism -
      including from the government's own benches -
      and no vote was taken.

      The parliamentary legal
      committee, which is
      dominated by members
      of the ruling Zanu-PF
      party, warned that the
      labour amendment bill
      breached constitutional
      rights to freedom of

      It is now unclear when
      the media bill, which is
      designed to muzzle the
      independent media and ban foreign journalists
      from working in the country, will be discussed,
      but it could be later this week.

      Moves to introduce this bill follows President
      Robert Mugabe's pledge on Monday to hold
      free and fair elections and to let foreign
      journalists cover the elections on 9-10 March.

      The bill stipulates, among other restrictions,
      that all local reporters must obtain a one-year
      licence from a government commission, or face
      two years in prison.

      Meanwhile an opposition MP was "battling for
      his life" in hospital after being abducted and
      stabbed repeatedly.

      David Mpala, who represents Lupane, said from
      his hospital bed near Victoria Falls that those
      responsible were militants from Mr Mugabe's
      Zanu-PF party.

      Human rights

      The MDC's spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe told
      BBC News Online that this latest incident of
      political violence exposed Mr Mugabe as "a
      hypocrite and a liar".

      The United States' top human rights official
      arrived in Harare on Tuesday to discuss the
      Zimbabwean crisis, the Associated Press news
      agency reports.

      Assistant US Secretary
      of State Lorne Craner
      will hold meetings with
      government officials,
      civil and business

      Zimbabwe police on
      Monday night dispersed
      about 25 journalists
      who had gathered
      outside parliament,
      intending to hold an
      overnight vigil in
      protest at the media bill.

      Parliament passed two other controversial bills
      - the security and electoral bills - last week.

      The European Union has threatened to impose
      sanctions if Zimbabwe refuses to allow foreign
      observers to monitor the elections in March.


      Mr Mugabe promised free and fair elections
      shortly before the summit of the 14-nation
      Southern African Development Community
      (SADC) meeting in Malawi issued a closing
      communique calling on Zimbabwe to take a
      range of actions to reduce political tension.

      According to the communique, the
      Zimbabwean leader has also agreed to
      investigate political violence in his country.

      Mr Mugabe has come
      under a barrage of
      international criticism
      over the restrictive
      laws he has rushed
      through to ensure his

      Western governments
      have been pressing
      SADC to rein in
      Zimbabwe's leader, but
      the summit did not
      discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions
      against the country.

      "Let us give Zimbabwe a chance. President
      Mugabe has assured us that there will be free
      and fair elections. So let us wait and see. We
      hope that what we have been promised will be
      adhered to," Malawian President Bakili Muluzi,
      the summit host, told a news conference.


      US, UK to ferret out Mugabe's

      London | Tuesday

      BRITISH Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has condemned President
      Robert Mugabe's clampdown on Zimbabwe's independent media
      as "resonant of dictatorship", the Independent daily reported on
      Meanwhile Britain and the United States have begun a joint effort
      to identify millions of dollars thought to be stashed away in foreign
      bank accounts by Mugabe and his inner circle, the Financial
      Times said.
      The moves came as Britain signalled it was temporarily freezing
      deportations of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers while it reviewed the
      situation in the country, where political violence has prompted
      international concern.
      Straw said the new media legislation, which will outlaw insulting
      the president, was "completely inconsistent" with the principles of
      the Commonwealth, according to the Independent.
      "It has no place in a country with the least pretensions to
      democracy and is resonant of dictatorships down through the
      ages," Straw said. "Lively and controversial journalism is the test
      of a democracy".
      Britain -- Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler -- has threatened to
      seek the African nation's suspension from the Commonwealth if
      political violence there worsens.
      A bill to curb press freedom in Zimbabwe is due to be passed on
      The law is the culmination of a series of repressive measures,
      which are widely seen as being enacted to help ensure Mugabe
      wins the March 9-10 presidential election. The move to identify
      cash believed to have been salted away by Mugabe in accounts
      overseas could be a precursor to Washington and the European
      Union imposing personal sanctions on Mugabe and leading
      members of his government, the Financial Times reported.
      The so-called "smart" sanctions would involve freezing bank
      accounts and refusing visas so Mugabe and his circle could not
      visit western countries, the FT said.
      Some estimates put the sums allegedly looted from the
      Zimbabwean people in hundreds of millions of dollars, but the US
      State Department and Britain's Foreign Office have no accurate
      figure, the paper added.
      Britain's action in temporarily halting deportations to Zimbabwe
      comes amid fears for supporters of the country's opposition
      A Home Office representative said on Monday: "We can confirm
      that we haven't put anybody on a plane today and we have no
      intention to deport anyone in the next 24 hours."
      He was speaking after Home Secretary David Blunkett met his
      British opposition counterparts in London to discuss the situation
      in the southern African state.
      Simon Hughes, home affairs representative for the opposition
      Liberal Democrats, said he was encouraged that the Home
      Secretary was considering "the suspension of all deportations
      until after the March elections".
      A representative for Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier said an
      assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe would be issued to
      immigration officials shortly without giving a precise date.
      Britain's Observer weekly reported on Sunday that asylum
      seekers with links to the opposition Movement for Democratic
      Change had been arrested or attacked on their return to
      Zimbabwe. - AFP


      Zimbabwe Party Office Burns Down

      By Michael Hartnack
      Associated Press writer
      Monday, January 14, 2002; 5:49 PM

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** Government-backed militants beat and critically injured several opposition activists in
      Zimbabwe during the weekend and burned down an opposition party office, officials said Monday.

      The unrest, which reportedly included police tear gassing an opposition rally and militants from President Robert
      Mugabe's ruling party spraying several homes in Harare with gunfire, capped a week marred by violence.

      Government-backed militants embarked on a fresh looting campaign of white-owned farms last week, forcing 23
      landowners from their homes. International observers have said Mugabe is using the land issue as a screen to
      bolster his support and crush dissent ahead of March presidential elections.

      With the tacit support of the government, militants have invaded hundreds of white-owned farms since early 2000.
      Mugabe has called their actions a justified response to the legacy of inequitable land ownership left by colonial

      On Monday, Mugabe pledged to ensure upcoming presidential elections were free and fair, and agreed to allow
      international observers and journalists to observe them. His reassurances were contained in a declaration issued at
      the end of a one-day summit of southern African leaders in nearby Malawi.

      Late Saturday night, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change office was set fire to by ruling party
      militants in the town of Kwekwe, 200 miles southwest of the capital Harare, opposition officials said.

      Also on Saturday, a rally held in Buhera, 80 miles south of Harare turned violent when police fired tear gas on the
      crowd of 5,000 opposition supporters, opposition officials said. Seven opposition supporters were beaten by
      ruling party militants and admitted to a hospital in Harare and listed in critical care.

      Opposition party lawmaker Roy Bennet who was scheduled to address the crowd said the police told him that
      opposition party rallies were now illegal.

      In other developments, 34 activists from MDC were arrested over the weekend, the opposition said, but the
      police had no comment.

      The police did say however, that ruling party activists sprayed several homes in Harare with gunfire over the


      U.S. Official Arrives in Zimbabwe

      By Michael Hartnack
      Associated Press writer
      Tuesday, January 15, 2002; 8:10 AM

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** The State Department's top human rights official arrived in Zimbabwe Tuesday as ruling
      party lawmakers prepared measures aimed at muzzling the media before March's presidential elections.

      Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner wants to ensure that the upcoming elections are held freely, said a
      spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe.

      President Robert Mugabe is fighting for his political survival and has cracked down on the opposition both
      through legislation and government-sanctioned violence, making the prospects of free elections unlikely.

      He pledged Monday to ensure the elections were free and fair and agreed to allow international observers and
      journalists to witness them.

      But lawmakers on Tuesday were scheduled to debate a bill banning foreign journalists from the country and
      requiring local journalists to register with the government or face up to two years in jail.

      The bill was expected to pass later this week and would follow two recent laws giving the police sweeping new
      powers of arrest and seizure during the campaign and limiting independent election monitoring.

      Instability in Zimbabwe could have repercussions for all of southern Africa, and Craner was scheduled to meet
      with government officials, civil and business leaders during his visit, U.S. embassy spokesman Bruce Wharton

      "His trip demonstrates the U.S. government's continuing concern about respect for human rights in Zimbabwe and
      our desire to assist in preparing for free, fair and peaceful presidential elections," Wharton said.

      David Coltart, a high-ranking member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said the 56
      opposition lawmakers in Parliament would fight the bill's passage. However, the ruling ZANU-PF party controls

      Zimbabwe's crumbling democracy has sparked concern throughout Africa and the international community.

      In the latest round of violence, opposition lawmaker David Mpala was wounded critically after 20 ruling party
      militants attacked him and slit his abdomen, opposition officials said Tuesday.

      Police were investigating the attack in Lupane, 280 miles west of Harare. A spokesman said the assailants were
      unknown and Mpala could have been the victim of a carjacking.

      Opposition spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said the attack was politically motivated.

      Ruling party militants also beat and seriously injured a 53-year-old white farmer in Mutoroshanga, 56 miles north
      of Harare, neighbors said Monday.

      Meanwhile, police said two Movement for Democratic Change activists were arrested for attacking ruling party
      youths with logs and axes in Nkayi, 161 miles southwest of Harare.


      Voice from Zimbabwe: A
      family's ordeal

      Lewis Machipisa in Harare reports on one
      family's experience of political violence in

      Trymore Midzi was last seen by his mother
      early in the evening on 20 December, when he
      told her he was going back to his house

      The 24-year-old
      opposition activist lived
      in Bindura, some 90km
      north of the capital,
      Harare, which is a ruling
      party stronghold.

      "Around 2100 that same
      night, some people
      came and said our son had been abducted. We
      went to report to the police but they did not
      help us," his mother said.

      "My son was found unconscious in a vegetable
      garden stark naked the next morning with deep
      cuts all over his body and bleeding," explained
      the mother, trying to hold back her tears.

      Her husband, a former police officer, takes
      over the story.

      "When we arrived he
      managed to talk and
      told us who had beaten
      him. He told us they
      were Zanu-PF youths
      and trainees of the
      national service
      training scheme. We
      rushed him to Avenues
      Hospital in Harare
      where he later died.

      "What surprised us is
      that the security officers took our son's body
      from the mortuary without our permission," said
      the father.

      "We managed to bury our son but when we
      went to his grave the next morning at around
      0730 we were attacked by a mob of Zanu-PF

      Running for our lives

      He said they were carrying iron bars, spears
      and axes and started chasing them.

      "They were saying they
      wanted to kill us. One
      said they wanted to kill
      me and my other son
      because of Trymore's
      support for the
      opposition. They said
      they would kill my whole

      "How the 11 of us managed to escape is still
      God's secret. I am only alive because I
      managed to outrun the attackers."

      Unfortunately, he believed his brother-in-law,
      Moffat Chivaura, was not so lucky.

      "He could not run fast
      as he is a heavyweight
      and was caught. And
      since 29 December, we
      have not seen or heard
      from him. We just hope
      he is still alive."

      He said they had not
      slept well since the
      attack and were
      always crying and
      praying for their

      "If they have killed him like they killed my son,
      they should tell us so that we can bury him
      properly," he pleads.


      "The police are not helpful at all. One senior
      police officer in Bindura promised he would get
      to the bottom of the matter. But we are now
      shocked to find out that he goes around
      boasting that he belongs to Zanu-PF and that
      he would deal with opposition supporters.

      "The police officer is an ex-combatant who, we
      are told, co-ordinates attacks on the
      opposition supporters.''

      Trymore's father,
      mother, a brother and
      an uncle fled their
      seven-roomed house in
      Bindura and are now
      staying at a safe house
      here in Harare. But
      they miss their home

      "Some of our friends
      have told us that our
      house has now been
      turned into a Zanu-PF
      house where youths
      are living. It hurts me so much. We worked so
      hard for the house," says Mrs Midzi.

      Trymore was the bread winner of the family
      looking after his diabetic mother who suffers
      from high blood pressure.


      "I am unemployed and he was looking after all
      of us, paying rent and buying food. It's a great
      loss to the whole family," said his father.

      "My wife should be going for her check-up at a
      government hospital but we are afraid that we
      may be caught there and killed. We now live in
      constant fear. Some of our relatives do not
      know where we live because of the fear of
      being abducted," he adds before gazing into
      empty space.

      "I have never suffered
      like this in my whole
      life. This is the worst
      time in my life," he

      "Trymore had 17
      stitches on his head and deep cuts
      everywhere. In my whole life as a policeman, I
      have never seen anything like that."

      "They are even intimidating all those people
      who came to our son's funeral. They have
      attacked homes of our church members who
      came to comfort us during our mourning period.
      What have we done to deserve this?'' asks Mr
      Midzi, holding his head in his hands.

      But despite the beatings and the murder of
      their son, the Midzi family says it will not give

      "They can beat and kill us but they can't force
      us to support them," said Trymore's uncle.

      "They may force us to buy ruling party cards
      but when we go to vote, we know who we will
      vote for."
    • Christine Chumbler
      Zim police raid churches, round up displaced Harare, Zimbabwe 21 July 2005 04:25 Police raided church halls in Zimbabwe s second city of Bulawayo, rounding up
      Message 83 of 83 , Jul 22, 2005
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        Zim police raid churches, round up displaced

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        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.
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