- Report: Zimbabwe Backtracks on Land Plan
By ANGUS SHAW
The Associated Press
Sunday, June 20, 2004; 11:16 PM
HARARE, Zimbabwe - President Robert Mugabe's government said it would honor ownership rights to land bought on the property market, backtracking on previous announcements it would nationalize all farmland, according to a state newspaper report.
Citing a letter by Foreign Ministry official Joe Bimha to Zimbabwe embassies abroad, the Sunday Mail reported that the government would be nationalizing only the land it had seized under its land reform program.
"The correct position is that all land acquired under the current phase of the land reform program now reposes to the state," Bimha was quoted as saying.
The report clarifies a June 8 statement by Land Reform Minister John Nkomo that title deeds to all productive land were being abolished and replaced with 99-year state-issued leases.
Nkomo's statement raised fears of massive new seizures of farms, industrial holdings, private properties and even homes.
"In the end, there shall be no such thing as private land," Nkomo had said.
But Bimha said only land seized by the state, including more than 5,000 farms confiscated from former white owners for redistribution to new black farmers, was being nationalized.
"With respect to land falling outside this category, the applicable constitutional provisions (of ownership) remain valid," he was quoted as saying.
The often violent land seizures, combined with erratic rains, have crippled the country's agriculture-based economy and sparked political clashes.
Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, now suffers acute shortages of food, hard currency and gasoline. United Nations crop forecasters predict the country will produce only half its food needs this year.
Mugabe argues redistribution is needed to redress British colonial injustices, when much of the best farmland was settled by whites.
About 200,000 black families have been allocated land under the government program, most for small-scale farming. Scores of others have bought commercial farms.
Critics of the redistribution program say much of the best farmland has been allocated to Mugabe's supporters and is currently underutilized or lying fallow.
Production on many other farms has dropped sharply as new owners lack financial resources, seed, fertilizer, fuel and farm machinery.
Mugabe is spooked by the letter Z
20 June 2004 07:33
A clever and daring underground movement has sprung up in Zimbabwe that is stoking public opinion against Robert Mugabe's government.
Zvakwana -- which means 'enough' in the Shona language -- has launched a bold campaign expressed through graffiti, e-mails and condoms to encourage the Zimbabwean people to rise up.
The clandestine campaign is building up steam just as the progress of Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, has stalled under the burden of torture of its leaders and state violence against its supporters.
A black Z on a bright yellow handprint is appearing mysteriously on the walls of bus stations, on busy streets and over billboards across Harare and other cities. Thousands of 'revolutionary condoms' have been distributed, emblazoned with the letter Z and the double-entendre message 'Get up! Stand Up!'.
Matchboxes stuffed with resistance messages are left in public places to be picked up by unsuspecting citizens. Thousands of Zimbabweans are led to the Zvakwana website.
Zvakwana has compiled a CD of resistance songs featuring Bob Marley, Hugh Masekela, Thomas Mapfumo and many Zimbabwean musicians, which it has managed to distribute across Zimbabwe. The messages are often humorous, but the Mugabe government is taking Zvakwana seriously. Now a team of senior investigators from the Law and Order section, notorious for torturing scores of opposition politicians and civic leaders, has been assigned to track down the activists. The unit has in the past few weeks raided the offices of the MDC and other civic groups and has arrested and interrogated opposition politicians, civic leaders, journalists and musicians.
'We are not linked to Zvakwana,' said MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi. 'But to the extent that the group fights for political change, democracy and human rights, we share the same values and we support its efforts. Police have raided our offices hunting for Zvakwana because they believe any group that advocates change and democracy is linked to the MDC.'
A police spokesperson said: 'These people have been spreading material and literature aimed at inciting members of the public to lawlessness.' Zimbabweans report irate police making house-to-house searches for tell-tale yellow paint or piles of matchboxes. 'They kept asking me, "Who is Zvakwana? Who is Zvakwana?"' said one Harare resident who was arrested and later released.
Speaking to The Observer through the anonymity of the internet, Zvakwana responded: 'It is no surprise that they are hunting for us. This is because we are living under a dictatorship. If we were living under a democracy, then the government in power would allow voices of dissent. It is clear that Zanu-PF wants to suffocate any glimmer of hope or resistance. Hope is considered most dangerous by tyrannies.'
There is plenty to protest about. Inflation has hovered at 600% for most of the year; unemployment is at 70%. Last week, the government closed the Tribune newspaper, the third to be shut down in less than a year. The Zvakwana spokesperson said: 'The current situation in Zimbabwe is bringing up the right conditions for revolution.'
Zvakwana carried out one of its trademark 'non-violent civic actions' in Harare just before Zimbabwe's Independence Day events on 18 April. Activists spray-painted lampposts and the large pipes next to the main Tongogara Avenue, used by Mugabe's 27-vehicle motorcade when he travels to the National Sports Stadium, and 'Get UP Stand UP' appeared on stadium turnstiles and walls. 'There was so much graffiti,' crows the group, 'the regime couldn't repaint it before Mugabe's trip, so he had to take a different route.'
The group also claims to distribute videotapes of a BBC documentary exposing the government's militia camps, where youths are trained in torture techniques to be used against Mugabe's opponents.
Zvakwana's main methods of communication have been the internet and e-mail. It sends out regular newsletters about events in Zimbabwe. In addition to encouraging anti-government slogans, its website offers 'activist tips', such as: 'Organise yourself in pairs. Keep an eye out for your partner at all times. Make sure that you know their personal details and who to contact in the event that they are hurt or arrested.' It also advises on how to cope with tear gas: 'Stay calm and focused ... When your body heats up (from running or panicking, for example), irritation may increase.'
Its success in using the anonymity of the internet to spread its message has made its website one of the most popular in Zimbabwe. The government's frustration with Zvakwana has resulted in draconian action to force all internet service providers to censor all email correspondence.
'We are encouraging Zimbabweans to make that shift from lives drenched in fear to a future where we can all live more positively and with dignity,' said the group. 'Zvakwana is asking Zimbabweans to stop waiting, and to Get Up!' - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
Zimbabwe police arrest 78 women at rally
21 June 2004 14:49
Police arrested 78 women over the weekend when they tried to hold a protest to mark World Refugee Day and draw attention to the plight of Zimbabweans who they say are living like refugees, their lawyer said on Monday.
The women, some of them bystanders, were arrested in the second city of Bulawayo on Saturday where activists from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) were attempting to stage a demonstration, said their lawyer Lucas Nkomo.
"It appears there was an indiscriminate arrest of women and there was a huge number who were not participating in the demonstration," he said.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena could not confirm the number of arrests but said the women would soon appear in court "for holding an illegal gathering".
The Woza group, which lobbies for the rights of women and also holds regular street protests against President Robert Mugabe's government, had said it was staging Saturday's demonstration because "life for many Zimbabweans is the life of refugees".
Nkomo said some of the women were released late on Saturday, but 43 were still in custody on Monday and were being questioned by police.
Zimbabwe, which has been led by Mugabe since independence from Britain in 1980, has been beset for years by a massive economic and political crisis, blamed partly on his controversial policy of land redistribution that has helped transform what was once Africa's breadbasket into a land of recurring food shortages.
Meanwhile, in other news in Zimbabwe, fuel stations have started selling air to motorists at exorbitant prices, the state news agency reported on Sunday.
Ziana interviewed a motorist who had been asked to pay Z$2 000 (37 US cents) per tyre. Other stations are charging up to Z$2 500, it added.
Police are investigating the claims, the agency said.
Zimbabwe's long-standing fuel crisis has eased in recent months after the government allowed fuel companies to set their own prices, but supplies have remained erratic. - Sapa-AFP
- 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.