- Robert Mugabe's reign of terror
Terry Leonard | Johannesburg
07 July 2004 14:00
Zimbabwe's government continues to step up its crackdown on dissent,
using new repressive laws and state-sponsored violence to create a
pervasive atmosphere of terror, critics said on Wednesday.
Archbishop Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo in
Zimbabwe's western Matabeleland, told a news conference that the new
repressive laws show "Mugabe's regime has made sure they can beat anyone
Ncube, reverend Kumbukani Phiri of the Zimbabwe Pastors Conference,
Jonah Gokova of the Ecumenical Support Services and Jacob Mafume of
Lawyers for Human Rights urged the international community to pressure
Zimbabwe to restore the rule of law.
Inside Zimbabwe, government opponents -- including the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change -- had been too passive and must now step
up pressure on the regime, the four said.
Ncube bitterly accused South African President Thabo Mbeki of making
repression worse in Zimbabwe by backing Mugabe "hook, line and sinker."
South Africa should publicly recognise the injustice in Zimbabwe, the
violations of human rights and insist on lawful conduct by the
Zimbabwean government, Ncube said.
Ncube also blasted the African Union, which is holding a heads of state
summit in Ethiopia, for doing nothing to end the repression in
"All they do is back each other up and drink tea," Ncube said.
The four predicted the violence in repression in Zimbabwe would
escalate as the country moves closer to general elections next March.
"We are dealing here with very deceitful people and there is no way we
are going to have free and fair elections," said Ncube.
The four men pointed out that the government refused to release voters
rolls to the public or opposition parties ahead of the 2002 presidential
election. However, they said they managed to obtain the rolls for four
constituencies, representing 3%of total voters.
They said an analysis of those rolls showed 35% of the names
represented voters who didn't exist. They said there were 840 000 dead
people listed on the four roles, 600 000 duplicate names, more than 700
000 were voters "not known" at the given
addresses and that the official results inflated the number of people
registered by three percent.
Mafume said it would be fruitless for the opposition to contest the
He said the new laws prevent them from campaigning and deny them access
to money and state media.
"The result is a foregone conclusion," he said.
Ncube said the government was moving to close down aid agencies that
have been distributing food in Zimbabwe, indicating they will use food
as a political weapon in the next election.
"They want to starve the people so the people will have to vote for
them [to receive food]," he said. "They want to starve people as a
political tool, the whole thing is viscous."
The government, they said, armed with its new public security laws, has
become bolder about using police and its youth and ruling party militias
to intimidate people and crush dissent throughout the country.
New security laws make it illegal for two or more people to meet to
discuss politics or to organise any protest or demonstration without
prior police approval. Police have used the laws to arrest critics and
even to prevent prayer meetings.
At the same time, pro-government groups and militias carry out acts of
intimidation against the opposition with impunity.
"Youth militias go to villages and say, `If you don't vote for us,' we
will come back and burn your homes," said Ncube.
He also said opponents of the government now estimated that one out
every 50 Zimbabweans is now a government informant. He said they have
infiltrated all kinds of organisations, including churches, to help the
government crush dissent.
"He [Mugabe] has created a pervasive atmosphere of terror that does not
allow democratic discourse," said Mafume.
Ncube said the government, in an attempt to stifle his criticism, even
offered him one of the farms it seized in its controversial land reform
programme. He rejected the offer. - Sapa-AP
Opposition is 'selling out' Zimbabwe
Ryan Truscott | Harare
07 July 2004 14:50
Zimbabwe's information minister blamed the main opposition for a
damning report on human rights abuses in the country that was discussed
ahead of an African Union summit in Ethiopia, state radio reported on
The report, compiled by the African Commission on People's and Human
Rights two years ago but released at the current summit, claimed there
had been serious human rights abuses committed by the government of
President Robert Mugabe.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo accused senior opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) officials of "attempting to smuggle a report
and table it before the ongoing summit".
"We know it was the likes of [MDC spokesperson] Paul Themba Nyathi, the
likes of [MDC Secretary-General] Welshman Ncube" who are also
responsible for the information contained in the report, Moyo was quoted
as saying on state radio.
Political tensions are rising in Zimbabwe between Mugabe's ruling party
and the MDC ahead of parliamentary elections due in March next year.
Earlier this week Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge refused to discuss the
report at the AU summit, which is due to end on Thursday, saying that it
had been introduced in violation of procedures.
An official said in Addis Ababa on Wednesday that because of this the
report was not likely to be tabled during the current session.
"The African Commission on People's and Human Rights was expected to
submit the report to all concerned parties. This has not happened.
Regulations were not adhered to," he said.
On Tuesday, the MDC had welcomed the report's exposure of alleged human
rights violations by the government.
"We call upon the AU to take concrete steps to ensure that the
Zimbabwean government corrects its appalling record on civil liberties,
freedom of speech and human rights," the party said in a statement.
But the information minister rejected the report, telling the state
broadcaster that it had been clandestinely introduced by the opposition,
whom he accused of working in concert with British Prime Minister Tony
"What you get here is a very telling example of the extent to which,
unfortunately, some people who call themselves Zimbabweans... have gone
[to] selling their country out, and doing this at the behest of Tony
Blair," said Moyo.
The archbishop of Buluwayo, Pius Ncube, separately slammed the AU's
apparent decision to back away from tackling the report during the
"I heard yesterday [Tuesday] that the AU has failed to endorse the
report because Zimbabwe said they have not seen it but they've had it
for two years," he said at a breakfast meeting in Johannesburg.
"That's the sad thing about African leaders, they go there [to the
summit] just to support each other. I'm terribly disappointed, my heart
is really down.
"African leaders keep saying it is for the people of Zimbabwe to work
it out. This is just an excuse for them. They fear facing the facts but
they know very well there are so many injustices in Zimbabwe," Ncube
Mugabe's government accuses Britain of working with the five-year old
opposition to topple his government, which has been in power since 1980.
The MDC deny the charges.
A forum of human rights organisations in Harare has claimed the
government was in fact given a copy of the report by the African
Commission on People's and Human Rights in February this year.
According to a statement released on Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Human
Rights NGO Forum said "the requirement by the African Commission to
present the report to the [Zimbabwe] government... was adequately
satisfied." - Sapa-AFP
Zimbabwe govt shrugs off damning report
07 July 2004 07:54
A coalition of independent human rights groups accused President Robert
Mugabe's government on Tuesday of trying to suppress an African Union
report on human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
The report, resulting from a fact-finding mission by the 53-nation
body, presents damning allegations of a clampdown on civil liberties
surrounding Zimbabwe's 2002 presidential elections, including arrests
and torture of government opponents, lawyers and pro-democracy
The report was tabled on Saturday at a ministerial meeting of the
African Union, with African leaders attending the group's summit in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Zimbabwe officials demanded it be set aside,
however, saying they did not receive the report in time to respond
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum said the government in Harare received
the report on February 5, after it was delivered to the Justice
No government comment was immediately available in Harare, with Mugabe
and senior officials at the summit in Ethiopia.
But the state Herald newspaper on Tuesday quoted Foreign Minister Stan
Mudenge saying the government had not been given the right to reply,
since the report was not "properly presented" to the Foreign Ministry.
Therefore, it should not be published until its compilers received
Zimbabwe's official response, he was quoted as saying.
This report followed a fact-finding mission by the union's African
Commission on Human and People's Rights soon after the disputed 2002
presidential elections, which gave Mugabe a further six years in
"By its statements and political rhetoric, and by its failure at
critical moments to uphold the rule of law, the government failed to
chart a path that signaled a commitment to the rule of law," the report
Independent journalists were arrested, it said, as the government moved
to stifle free expression.
The report said that, "at the very least," human rights violations and
arbitrary arrests had occurred.
During the often-violent seizure of thousands of white owned farms,
land activists broke laws in the expectation that neither the government
nor police would act against them.
"Government did not act soon enough and firmly enough against those
guilty of gross criminal acts," the report said.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change on Tuesday urged African
leaders at the AU summit to release the report and take steps to make
Zimbabwe's government correct its "appalling record on civil liberties,
freedom of speech and human rights" ahead of crucial parliamentary
elections in March.
"Should they fail to do so, they risk undermining their own structure
and turning it into an ineffectual talk shop. We must not forget the
situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated sharply since the report was
compiled in 2002," opposition spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi said.
Zimbabwe is facing its worst political and economic crisis since
independence from Britain in 1980, with soaring inflation and acute
shortages of food, medicine, gasoline and essential goods. - Sapa-AP
- 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.