- Team to probe Zim land reform
15 May 2003 13:00
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has appointed a team of experts to
undertake a comprehensive review of the country's controversial land
According to state media, the team comprises academics, agriculture
experts, business people and former state employees, and will, among
other things, recommend corrective measures to the reforms.
In March this year, Land Reform Minister Flora Buka admitted the land
reform exercise had some "irregularities".
The committee has been tasked with assessing progress so far in the
reforms which have seen the government seize 11-million hectares of
farmland from whites and redistribute it to blacks.
The land reforms have partly been blamed for Zimbabwe's grave food
International food agencies have estimated that at the peak of the
famine late last year to early this year, nearly two thirds of
Zimbabwe's 11,6-million people faced hunger.
The committee will also examine the impact of the land programme on
former white commercial farmers and their farm labourers.
Thousands of former farm workers have been left destitute after they
lost their jobs following the seizure of their workplaces, according to
Some white farmers have or are in the process of resettling in
neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana.
The government launched its controversial land reform programme three
years ago. So far 320 000 black families have been settled on former
The special committee will also gauge the productive capacity of blacks
who were resettled on the farms and establish the skills they require to
ensure food security in Zimbabwe. - Sapa-AFP
Zimbabwe lawyers challenge phone tapping law
15 May 2003 15:02
Lawyers in Zimbabwe on Thursday challenged regulations that allow
President Robert Mugabe's government to tap into telephone
conversations and e-mail communications.
The Law Society of Zimbabwe says that in addition to violating
constitutional rights to freedom of expression, the country's Postal and
Telecommunications Act could also undermine the "fundamental" right of
Adrian de Bourbon, who is representing the society, told a full bench
of the Supreme Court that "the administration of justice could be
severely affected" if the law did not recognise legal professional
The Law Society wants sections of the act to be set aside and redrafted
De Bourbon said in other countries a court order is needed to tap
"Why is it necessary for the legislature to impose that absolute power
in the president?" he asked.
Under the act, a "severe criminal sanction" is imposed on service
providers that alert clients to the fact that their mobile phones,
e-mail or telephones are being monitored, de Bourbon said.
But state lawyer Yvonne Dondo told the court that the president would
only intercept communications if it was in the interest of national
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said the court would need time to
consider the submissions. Judgement was reserved. - Sapa-AFP
Guardian reporter writes 'bad stories' about Zim
14 May 2003 07:35
The Guardian's Zimbabwe correspondent, Andrew Meldrum, was yesterday
accused of breaking the terms of his residence permit by writing about
the country's political situation.
Officials told Meldrum, who has been covering Zimbabwe for 23 years,
that he was allowed to write only about economics and tourism. They
confiscated his residence permit and passport.
Lawyers for Meldrum, one of the last foreign reporters in the country,
fear the government is attempting to deport him. Last Wednesday,
immigration officers arrived unannounced at his home after dark and said
he was wanted for questioning. He was not there. His lawyer, Beatrice
Mtetwa, said such night-time approaches "invariably led to arrest,
detention and deportation".
The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, said he could only
conclude the authorities were attempting to intimidate Meldrum and
undermine the operation of a free press in Zimbabwe.
Mtetwa wrote to the immigration authorities saying Meldrum was prepared
to be interviewed by officials at their offices in normal working hours.
Yesterday Meldrum, an American citizen, voluntarily went to the
immigration offices in Harare with Mtetwa and a US consular official.
The official was not allowed to sit in on the meeting.
Meldrum said a senior immigration official told him that he had been
writing "bad stories" about Zimbabwe and his residence permit allowed
him to write only about economics and tourism. Meldrum argued that the
permit simply stated that he was allowed to work as a journalist.
Outside the immigration offices Meldrum said he felt "grimly
determined". He said: "I am defending not just my rights in Zimbabwe,
but the rights of all journalists here and of permanent residents."
After the raid at his home, he feared for his own safety and that of
his wife and lawyer. "But that is the way many people live in Zimbabwe
Mtetwa is to deliver a letter to the immigration service today putting
forward Meldrum's position.
The Zimbabwean authorities have been attempting to imprison and deport
Meldrum (51) for more than a year. Last July the high court rejected a
move by the government of President Robert Mugabe to have him deported.
The previous week a magistrates court acquitted Meldrum of charges
brought under a new press law which threatened to punish journalists
International press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières has called on
the government of Zimbabwe to stop its "harassment" of Meldrum. -
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
Malaria deaths soar to 500 in Zimbabwe this year
14 May 2003 08:51
An outbreak of malaria in Zimbabwe has killed at least 500 people
during the first four months this year, compared with the 300 who died
of the disease throughout 2002, a health official said on Tuesday.
Stanley Midzi, director of the Disease and Control programme in the
health ministry told the Chronicle daily that at least another 290 000
cases of the deadly disease had been recorded and treated in the
southern African country.
Midzi said many of the victims were illicit gold-panners in the
economically-depressed country, who work and sleep in the open bush,
without any protection from mosquitoes who spread the disease.
Weather patterns this year also appear to have contributed to the high
The World Health Organisation in April warned that Zimbabwe and
neighbouring Mozambique risked possible malaria outbreaks this year
after cyclones in February and March created favourable
Some 1,9-million malaria cases are reported in southern Africa each
year, resulting in 200 000-300 000 deaths.
Report lifts lid on 'state sponsored homophobia'
14 May 2003 12:53
Many southern African leaders had singled out lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people as scapegoats for their countries' problems, the
Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights
Commission (IGLHRC) said in a report released on Wednesday.
The book-length report documenting pervasive harassment and violence
against sexual minorities in southern Africa was released in Cape Town.
The report titled "More Than a Name: State-sponsored Homophobia and its
Consequences in Southern Africa", documents verbal attacks, police
harassment, official crackdowns, and community violence aimed at
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
It claims victims had been assaulted, imprisoned, expelled from
schools, fired from jobs, denied access to medical care, evicted from
their homes, and driven into exile or, in some cases, to suicide.
The organisations said that when political leaders such as Zimbabwe's
President Robert Mugabe made speeches that gays and lesbians were "worse
than dogs and pigs", it should come as no surprise that violent attacks
The report examined conditions in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa,
Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The report said that while South Africa prohibited discrimination based
on sexual orientation in its constitution, it concluded that the
equality guaranteed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was
fragile, and even endangered by the "silence and foot-dragging of
political leaders in South Africa".
The two organisations will call on the governments of all five
countries to refrain from promoting intolerance and from inciting
discrimination and abuse.
The report recommended that laws be repealed, including "sodomy laws"
which violated human rights including rights to privacy and freedom of
It further recommended that:
# positive protections against discrimination be enacted;
# awareness of rights protections and how to use them be promoted and
# mechanisms be created to address discrimination and abuse of lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Deputy-director for the programme at Human Rights Watch Widney Brown
said they had worked closely with many non-governmental organisations to
identify and interview lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender
people as well as other victims of abuse or discrimination based on
their sexual conduct.
The identities of many people interviewed were protected. Among those
interviewed for the report were human rights activists, women's rights
activists, lawyers, HIV/Aids peer educators and organisers, academics,
journalists and government officials.
Brown said she was hoping to meet with government officials on Thursday
or Friday to discuss the report. - Sapa
Zimbabwe bird 'flies' home
A unique piece of Zimbabwe's cultural heritage has been returned after
being looted almost 100 years ago.
A fragment of Zimbabwe's soapstone carved bird sculpture taken from the
Great Zimbabwe ruins was handed back to President Robert Mugabe on
Wednesday by a German museum, AFP news agency reports.
The stone-carved Zimbabwe Bird is an emblem of the country, appearing
on the national flag and on bank notes and coins.
The famous elegant bird carvings stood on walls and monoliths of the
ancient city built it is believed sometime between the 12th and 15th
century by ancestors of the Shona.
The ruins, which gave their name to modern Zimbabwe, cover some 1,800
acres and are the largest ancient stone construction south of the
However, in what President Mugabe described as "ruthless cultural
plunder", the British coloniser of Zimbabwe, Cecil Rhodes, took several
birds from Great Zimbabwe to South Africa in about 1906.
"The fraction of the bird that we are officially welcoming back today
has had a very eventful if not troubled existence during its almost 100
years in exile," President Mugabe was quoted by AFP as saying.
Four were returned to Zimbabwe by South Africa after independence in
1981, but a pedestal of one ended up in the hands of a German missionary
who sold it to the Ethnological Museum in Berlin in 1907.
When Russian forces occupied Germany at the end of the Second World
War, the bird was taken from Berlin to Leningrad, where it remained
until after the Cold War, when it was returned to Germany.
Another collection of the bird's remains is at Cecil Rhodes's former
home in Cape Town. President Mugabe has promised to talk to President
Thabo Mbeki to try to get it returned.
- Zim police raid churches, round up displaced
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.