- Mugabe rewards loyalty over ability
Zimbabwe's embattled President Robert Mugabe this
week swore in a new
team of ministers who he referred to as an "economic
and political war
Observers have been surprised by how few changes he
Mugabe had been expected to use a reshuffle to get
rid of a number of
controversial and unpopular ministers. He was also
thought likely to give at
least the impression of a rejuvenated government in
the face of economic
problems, famine and diplomatic isolation.
The only notable -- though widely anticipated --
change was the dropping of
his Finance Minister, Simba Makoni, often touted as
successor. Minister of Health Timothy Stamps, the
only white in the
Cabinet, was replaced by his deputy, David
Parirenyatwa. But Stamps had
been ill for some time -- like the country's health
services -- and
Parirenyatwa had been the de facto minister.
Makoni, although respected and free of scandal,
failed to convince Mugabe
to adopt any of his suggestions, which included
Recently, Mugabe referred to those advocating
devaluation of the Zimbabwe
dollar as "saboteurs". This was clearly a dig at
Makoni -- an indication that
his position was becoming untenable.
The sacking of Makoni was accompanied by the
re-engagement of former
minister Witness Mangwende -- as Transport Minister.
Mangwende is known for his taste for the good life
and for being a Mugabe
Yet Zanu-PF has brilliant people to call on. That
Mugabe has not given
these people ministries indicates that, for him,
loyalty is more important
than problem-solving ability.
Mugabe's circle has grown paranoid about who might
be sympathetic to the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change. He has
instituted purges in
his party and the civil service to try to get rid of
them. He wants within his
circle only those willing to say that a Western
Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe's propaganda chief and one of
confidants, is an unlikely ally. He was once one of
critics. When recruited by Mugabe he was dogged by
allegations of financial
impropriety by the Ford Foundation, for which he had
worked in Kenya, and
by the University of the Witwatersrand, where he
also did a stint.
These charges have not been resolved. For as long as
Moyo is a minister in
Mugabe's government he can expect to remain beyond
the reach of his
Mugabe's Cabinet also excludes any individuals with
political power bases
of their own. Legal Affairs Minister Patrick
Chinamasa and Land Minister
Joseph Made, who have rammed through land reforms,
and the equally
unpopular Moyo, are all appointed MPs with no power
base. They owe their
prominence solely to Mugabe.
A new land-tenure pattern -- different from the
colonial one and better
reflecting the country's demographics -- is
supported by all black
Zimbabweans and many whites. A well thought-out and
programme, however, could not have satisfied
Mugabe's need for something
quick and dramatic to save him at the last election.
Mugabe's forcible farm seizures now guarantee
serious economic hardship.
Prospective farmers allocated previously white-owned
land do not have the
resources even to make a start. Government attempts
to provide free tilling
services, seed and other support will make little
Zimbabwe's northern neighbours appear unimpressed by
destruction of his country's economy in the name of
imbalances. Though these countries coyly avoid
suggestions that they are
welcoming white former Zimbabwean farmers, they are
accommodating them. The official stance of some
neighbouring states may
be resistance to Western imperialism and
neo-colonialsm, but they need
Western support more than Mugabe's posturing.
Privately, they are dealing
with the West. Under pressure, they will drop
Mugabe is feeling the chill of isolation, even from
his African brothers, and
recently lamented it.
Many black South Africans support Mugabe's rhetoric
and actions because
of the vicarious satisfaction they derive from it.
But this will not last, as they
realise that blacks cannot catch up with whites
economically simply by
South Africans will also become less enamoured of
Mugabe as the number
of makwerekweres (foreigners) seeking economic
refuge rises. Moreover,
Mbeki's dream of a Western-funded African recovery
will also likely expire
because of events in Zimbabwe and his inadequate
response to them.
In that sense Mugabe's Cabinet reshuffle, though a
accelerate Zimbabwe' s implosion with far-reaching
implications for the
Chido Makunike is a freelance Zimbabwean journalist
'Mugabe's defiance a facade'
"Don't compare me with Mugabe -- I will give
the opportunity to get rid of me," says Zimbabwe
leader Morgan Tsvangirai in conversation in Harare
Where is the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
after the election and how do you move forward?
President Robert Mugabe was spoiling for a fight. If
engaged in mass protests, the democratic movement
have been crushed. We decided to build confidence.
Mugabe's dictatorship must be confronted by the
until they are motivated by a clear goal, we will
anything. The regime is unsustainable because of
poverty and starvation in rural areas, companies
closing, no forex, basic
commodities almost exhausted.
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and President
Thabo Mbeki tried to
intervene to legitimise Mugabe, without confronting
his [il]legitimacy in the
elections. They chose diplomacy rather than
democracy and gave him
space to consolidate. The whole attempt was destined
to fail from the
There is only one way out. Mugabe and his cronies
are trapped nationally
and internationally. We must find a back door for
[More than] 80% of Zimbabweans want change. But we
have to choose
between violent and non-violent paths, the challenge
being a young
generation who believe it is time to think about
armed struggle. We must be
conscious that beyond this chaos, we'll have to pick
up the pieces.
Do you think in Zanu-PF there's mounting
Oh yes. It has dawned that Mugabe is more a
liability than an asset.
Does he realise the extent of the opposition?
To some extent. He is accusing everyone of sabotage,
ministers. The gulf between reformers and
hard-liners who think only about
power is widening.
Africa mobilised against apartheid, but not against
Until apartheid was defeated, the anti-colonial
struggle was not finished in
Africa. There was guilt on the part of the West.
Now it's more of a national issue, it does not raise
international emotions. It
is a dictatorship and so what? One more dictator is
not going to make a
difference in Africa. The opinion is: Zimbabwe is
independent. If they mess
up, that's their problem.
Why do you think South Africa has not openly...
The African National Congress is divided, but I
think Thabo Mbeki's position
is that Mugabe is a stabilising force. He has the
instruments of power. If
there is a change of government, there may be
conflict. His preference is for
a reformed Zanu-PF government.
That's like asking for a reformed National Party
Exactly. In all nationalist movements, a small
ruling elite acquires power
and wealth, while the nation is neglected. Zanu-PF
justifies its existence by
saying, "We fought for liberation and no one should
That's what's going to happen in South Africa down
the line. In another five
years or so the racial divide will be used as a
scapegoat for Mbeki's failure,
for the ANC's failure in government.
Mbeki is in a predicament. [Minister of Finance]
Trevor Manuel will privatise.
It's exactly the same ideological contradictions
that are going to confront
him. Already they are there. Cosatu [The Congress of
South African Trade
Unions] is complaining about privatisation. The
government say it's the only
Here we had to implement a structural adjustment
programme. There was
no alternative to it and yet we knew that the causes
of structural adjustment
were nothing but corruption and maladministration,
otherwise we wouldn't
have needed it.
Then down the line the government tries to say there
is no alternative, but
down the line when people complain about the effects
of that programme --
the government starts using the racial divide. It's
a very good scapegoat. I
have no doubt in my mind that in South Africa it
will emerge, but give it
another five years or so, and the racial divide will
be used as a political
scapegoat for Mbeki's failure, for the ANC's failure
Have you met Mbeki?
Unfortunately not. I have met most of his senior
Have you requested a meeting with him?
At one point yes, I did request a meeting. I was
told that I would have to see
the minister of security first before I could meet
him. It never took place. I
don't know whether there is anything personal -- the
first time we met person
to person was when he was with the ambassador so it
was not a person to
person meeting at all.
Have you met Nelson Mandela?
Oh yes. I have a very high regard for him. Within
three hours of asking him
for a meeting, I met him.
When Mugabe said, "Our former colonial masters are
our affairs again", did he touch a nerve in Africa?
That's what he wanted to touch. In Africa there is
solidarity of leaders, not
solidarity with the people. The attack on Mugabe is
one every African leader
fears most: democratic participation.
But Mugabe is not only to blame, we have a land
question here. It's not as if
Britain is fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe; it
has its own national interest
in the land question. The robust British
participation has not been good for
us. There are many African crises, why this special
interest in Zimbabwe?
Those who distinguish between the forest and the
trees are labelled puppets
of whites and the British.
So other African countries would not condemn Mugabe
would see them being collaborators with the former
That's what has stopped Mbeki in his tracks. There
were stories in The
Herald saying, "Mbeki's supporting the West." That's
why dictators are
attacking Nepad [the New Partnership for Africa's
Development] and why the
[African Union's] agenda is blurred.
The reformers [in Africa] are saying: "We've had 30
years' experience of
nationhood, it's time we owned up to our mistakes."
But others hide behind
the colonial past. The colonial agenda is
manipulated, not for the good of the
African people, but for the good of leaders.
Zanu-PF took the land reform agenda from the MDC and
made it their own,
but to raise emotions, bring back the liberation
struggle. Whites had to be
put off the land, invasions and violence had to take
What have the beatings to do with land reform? The
people realise it is not
just about land. They are not convinced that for 22
years Zanu-PF had no
capacity to implement land reform, but that six
months before elections, it
became necessary to implement it.
What can Mbeki and Obasanjo do to legitimise the AU
approach -- Africans taking responsibility for
resolving conflicts and
guaranteeing democratic governance?
They say: "Zimbabwe is so crucial we don't want to
push it so that it
becomes a conflict area." We have so many conflict
areas; it's difficult to
establish African credibility. So let's solve the
others: Angola, [Democratic
Republic of Congo], Sudan, Sierra Leone.
Eventually they will have to come back to the
Zimbabwean crisis. Their
agenda will be: the only solution is a government of
national unity. We've
gone through this before, with Joshua Nkomo [the
nationalist leader]. The people won't hear of it
because they [have] got a
government of leaders, not of the people.
Have you seen a change in Mugabe? One can see him
now as a
He is a megalomaniac. He's totally irrational, even
for his own interest. The
defiance is a fa?ade; deep down he's afraid of
change that will hold him
accountable. He's done so much harm to people. A
animal is more dangerous -- hence the need for a
back door. But that can
only be guaranteed by [those] outside. He can't
believe people inside
[Zimbabwe] will forgive him.
We hoped South Africa would guarantee his exit, but
I don't think that is
What effort is the government making to manage
HIV/Aids programmes were more of a private
initiative, rather than one of
government leadership. We still have denial: "He
didn't die of Aids, he died
of malaria." There has been no national focus and
the pandemic has been
devastating. [More than] 25% of adults are
HIV-positive. What is important
is political leadership, no ambiguity.
Where is Aids among the MDC's priorities?
Number three, after poverty and law and order.
Does the Mugabe government allow anti-retrovirals?
There isn't the debate that we saw in South Africa.
allowed, but it's a question of availability and
How do you compare the government's position here on
the government's position in South Africa?
Mbeki made it a personal issue, making arguments on
academic lines. He's
not a scientist, so has no authority. It does not
solve the problem. South
Africa was at an initial stage of infection and he
could have done much to
prevent the disease.
When the first Aids case was detected here
[Zimbabwe], there was
bombast by the health minister that there is no Aids
in Zimbabwe. Total
denial for the next three, four years.
What compels governments to deny the existence of
Dictatorial governments prescribe what is good for
the people rather than
allowing the people to define what is good for them.
You have a population that appears ... fairly
apathetic about the
lengths they will go to ensure change.
I don't think Zimbabweans are that docile -- why did
they fight for liberation?
A dictatorship has instilled fear on a massive scale
and would do everything
to retain power, including killing people. We are
almost in a [Augusto]
Our biggest challenge is when change comes, let's
not make it a change of
power, but involve the people in a new political
culture. Restore confidence
slowly, bring people on board to feel that national
institutions, the police,
your army, the [Central Intelligence Organisation],
whoever, are there to
Are there two components in the MDC, held together
because you all
want to get rid of Mugabe?
I don't think we are united by our hate of Mugabe.
The social democratic
platform has been good for uniting people. You need
to recognise the
elements of production and redistribution.
I told the Cosatu executive, who are still crazy
"The biggest lesson we have learned in Zimbabwe is
cut the rhetoric."
Our experience has been rhetoric about socialism;
for 10 years we were on
a campaign of redistribution without considering
happened? We had nothing to distribute and a
The ANC said pre-1994: "We must bring the people on
The public protector's last report to Parliament
said service delivery
has not improved since 1996; that there's increasing
between the government and the people...
Judge me as an individual; don't judge me with
Mugabe. I tell Zimbabweans:
at least I will give you the opportunity to get rid
Padraig O'Malley is a senior fellow at the John W
MCCormack Institute at
the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He has
monitored the transition in
South Africa since 1989. His work is now being
archived by the Robben
Zambia refuses GM
Zambia's president has refused to overturn his
ban on genetically modified (GM) food aid
despite the food crisis which is threatening up
to 2.4 million people.
Levy Mwanawasa said he would not allow
Zambians to eat "poison".
Up to 13 million people face
famine across southern
Africa, aid agencies have
But much of the food aid
delivered so far has
been GM maize from the
Zimbabwe has also banned GM aid in case it
contaminates local crops.
A deal was done with Zimbabwe, whereby GM
food was milled before being distributed, so
that it could not be planted.
Similar arrangements have placated fears over
GM food aid in Malawi and Mozambique.
"Simply because my people are hungry, that is
no justification to give them poison, to give
them food that is intrinsically dangerous to
their health," Mr Mwanawasa told journalists at
the World Summit on Sustainable Development
Just last weekend,
stormed a chief's
palace in rural Zambia
and made off with
2,000 bags of maize.
They complained that
they were dying of
starvation while food
was lying idle.
The World Food
Programme has warned
Zambia to accept GM
food aid due to the food crisis.
United States aid officials deny that the food
is unsafe, pointing out that Americans eat GM
maize every day.
The World Health Organisation has certified the
grain for human consumption and says it does
not constitute a danger to people's health.
But there are fears that southern African
nations could lose lucrative export markets in
Europe if they cannot certify that their crops
- 'Voting doesn't fill the belly'
12 December 2004 23:59
Mozambique's ruling party, Frelimo, surged ahead last week in unofficial results from the country's recent election, puzzling analysts who had expected a neck-and-neck finish with the opposition Renamo. At the same time, evidence of ballot-stuffing in some remote districts cast a shadow over the clean bill of health that international observers gave the elections.
Projections suggest that Frelimo's presidential candidate, Armando Guebuza, will get 60% of the vote, as compared with 35% for Renamo's Afonso Dhlakama, who in 1999 collected nearly 48% of the vote. These projections are based on results posted by individual polling stations and collected by Radio Mozambique correspondents around the country.
The sharp drop in Renamo support was accompanied by an equally dramatic fall in voter turnout, with numbers expected to be between three million and 3,5-million: less than half of the eligible voters. Turnout in the 1994 and 1999 general elections was 5,4-million and 4,9-million respectively.
Analysts agreed that abstention had been highest among Renamo's traditional supporters in the largely agricultural centre and north of the country, who felt that the government had let them down, and the opposition had failed to provide a viable alternative.
"People chose to stay in the fields -- voting doesn't fill the belly," said independent journalist Marcelo Mosse.
"In the cities, the absence might have been a criticism not only of [outgoing president Joaquim] Chissano, but also of Guebuza -- he is not someone who inspires support."
The political weekly Savana described the low turnout as "a red card to the political class", which it accused of being out of touch with voters' interests.
Reports of irregularities were concentrated in Tete province in western Mozambique.
"In Tete there was clearly fraud, though not enough to affect the final result," said Luís de Brito of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (Eisa).
He said two voting stations in the province's Changara district had reported turnout of close to 100%, with most of these votes going to Frelimo. De Brito said the high turnout for the province as a whole gave reason for suspicion.
"In Tete, we have an average of 400 voters turning out at each voting table, compared with fewer than 300 per table in all the other provinces."
De Brito said Renamo activists had been forced to leave certain areas of Tete province early in the election campaign, which had prevented them from sending monitors to polling in those areas. Elsewhere in the country, the presence of party representatives during voting and counting was hailed as Mozambique's best safeguards against fraud.
The Mozambican Political Process Bulletin -- an independent newsletter with a wide network of correspondents -- also cited evidence of ballot-stuffing in Tsangano district of Tete province, as well as in Chicono in northern Niassa province. In the latter, 996 out of 1 000 voters registered at one station appeared to have voted, with Guebuza gaining more than 900 of the votes.
Such reports contradicted the positive assessment of international observation teams, who praised Mozambique's strong legal framework for elections, the professionalism of polling station staff, and balanced coverage both in state and private media. Asked why the international teams had not picked up the incidents of fraud cited by Eisa, De Brito said these incidents had occurred mostly at remote and inaccessible polling stations.
The international teams, including Southern African Development Community parliamentarians and representatives of the Commonwealth, the Carter Center and the European Union, were however concerned at the low electoral turnout. Several of the observer teams also mentioned the mistrust that had been created by the party-political structure of the National Electoral Commission, where Frelimo is able to force through decisions by majority vote.
Elderly pay the price for raising Aids orphans
14 December 2004 08:21
Until a week ago, elderly Hannah Dube and her five grandchildren living in the dusty village of Kezi in soutwestern Zimbabwe had been surviving on small portions of dried white melon.
Then Zimbabwe's social services stepped in, handing the 75-year-old Dube emergency aid of the staple corn grain to feed her family, caught in the grip of an HIV/Aids pandemic and a crippling drought.
Her face worn by grief and stress, the aging grandmother's plight in this remote and rural corner of Zimbabwe tells the story of the burden of many other pensioners in this southern African country where HIV/Aids has turned a million children into orphans.
The UN children's organisation Unicef estimates that more than one in five children will be orphaned in Zimbabwe by 2010, with more than 80% of those orphaned by HIV/Aids, which kills about 3 000 people per week on average.
Nine of her grandchildren are orphaned -- she is looking after five children between the ages of five and 13.
Three successive years of drought in this naturally dry region some 600km southwest of the capital, characterised by unproductive soils, and a political and economic crisis have exacerbated food shortages.
"We only eat one meal a day," said Dube, who lives in a hut next to a dusty road, where her cooking fire has long since gone out.
"We are used to it now and there is nothing unusual about it," she said.
While food is available in the shops, people like Dube and her family, who have no source of income whatsoever, cannot even dream of buying any.
Driving up to Dube's home along a narrow dust road, hundreds of people, dangling empty sacks, were seen walking back home, looking tired, hungry and dejected.
They are coming from the local business centre where they had gone to register their names for food aid to be handed out three days later.
"We were told [by an international aid organisation] to come and register our names for food coming next week. But now they say only those on the old list will be given food," Dube said.
The Zimbabwean government this year turned away foreign food aid, saying the country produced enough to feed its people.
But Harare has recently allowed the United Nations World Food Programme to undertake a one-off free food distribution to get rid of its stock left over from April when the government stopped general food aid.
Volunteer workers confirm the hunger in the area.
"It is depressing to go out there visiting the sick, handing out a few bars of soap, diapers, some antiseptic solutions -- but seeing that what is urgently needed is food," said volunteer Georgina Tshabalala.
Dube is not only struggling to provide food for her orphaned grandchildren, but also shelter.
She cleans up grass that fell while she was thatching the roof of her new mud and pole hut in this remote rural area of Zimbabwe.
With nobody to help her build or maintain their home, Dube has to risk climbing onto the roof to patch it up before the rains bring it down.
Inside, the fire has gone out.
Dube said besides the fact that their one meal has already been cooked, she could not afford to keep the fire going because she does not have the energy to regularly go to the bush to cut down firewood.
The elderly woman -- old and weak enough to be a dependent herself -- said she had no choice but to look after her some of her grandchildren.
Those who are not under her wing are probably involved in illegal gold mining, rife in the area.
"I don't really know how they are surviving, but no one helps me with anything. The chickens and the goats you see outside I sell to send these children to school," she said.
Despite the difficult living conditions and lack of food, one of her grandchildren, Dan, (7), passed his year-end school examinations with A grades. - Sapa-AFP
Improved Zim inflation still world's highest
14 December 2004 15:15
Zimbabwe's official inflation rate dropped to 149,3% last month, down from 209% in October, the state Central Statistical Office said on Tuesday. The new rate still leaves Zimbabwe with the highest inflation in the world.
The troubled Southern African country is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, with inflation peaking at more than 600% last year.
With the local currency plummeting, sending a Christmas card to Europe by air mail now costs Z$40 000 (about R41) -- twice as much as a one-bedroom apartment did shortly after independence.
A dollar was equivalent to Z$2 at the time, compared with the current official rate of Z$5 600, or Z$8 000 on the black market.
The Reserve Bank attributes the recent drop to tighter fiscal policies aimed at reining in rampant profiteering and a lucrative black market in scarce commodities and hard currency.
However, the official inflation rate excludes prices on a wide range of services and imports that have continued to soar throughout the year.
The cost of medicines, vehicle repairs and health, agriculture and mining equipment has risen by more than 600%. The state telephone and postal companies have increased their fees by 1 000%.
The agriculture-based economy has collapsed in the four years since the government began seizing thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.
The country routinely faces acute shortages of food, gasoline, hard currency and other imports. -- Sapa-AP