- Zim on high alert ahead of treason-trial verdict
14 October 2004 15:08
Zimbabwean security forces are on high alert ahead of Friday's expected
verdict in the treason trial of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai,
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said, warning that outbreaks of
violence will not be tolerated.
Police would be deployed countrywide to quell any unrest when the
Harare High Court hands down its judgement on Friday on Tsvangirai, who
has been on trial for charges of plotting to kill President Robert
Mugabe and stage a coup, Mohadi said on Thursday.
If convicted, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) could face the death penalty.
Mohadi said he has received intelligence reports that "some malcontents
and mischief-makers, whatever the decision of the court, are determined
to ensure that there is lawlessness within the vicinity of the High
Court and in other parts of the country.
"Those with an inclination towards disorder are strongly warned against
such behaviour ... any breakdown in law and order will not be
The MDC on Thursday started putting up posters around Harare and
distributed pamphlets inviting people to come to the High Court to
"witness the verdict".
"On trial for our country" was the caption on the posters bearing
"I don't think the courtroom is a stadium where people are going to be
addressing rallies," said Mohadi.
"Whoever is ... inviting people to come to witness that [verdict], we
are not going to allow it as a police force, because we are here to see
to it that there is law and order in this country."
He said police will control the number of people who enter the
"The courtroom can only sit a specified number of people and this
number will not be exceeded for any reason whatsoever," he said.
He said police will not allow large numbers of people to gather outside
the courtroom, because "we are not assured of what will actually
Security forces are on alert around the Southern African country, not
just in the capital, where the verdict is to be announced.
"We will be on standby countrywide," he said.
Tsvangirai allegedly sought help from Canadian-based political
consultant Ari Ben-Menashe to organise Mugabe's "elimination" and a
military coup ahead of the 2002 presidential polls, which returned
Mugabe to power.
The MDC leader has denied the charges.
Zim police evict 'new peasant farmers'
13 October 2004 11:01
advertisementHundreds of families made homeless by a police raid in
which their huts were burnt down on a farm in Zimbabwe's Mashonaland
West province have accused President Robert Mugabe's sister Sabina of
In recent weeks police have begun evicting "new peasant farmers" from
farms in a move the settlers say is designed to clear land for senior
members of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
The evicted farmers say the ruling party ordered them onto the farms in
"The Zimbabwe Landless Farmers Association (ZLFA) is urging the
minister of state for land reform, John Nkomo, to stop the processing of
99 year leases with immediate effect because the leases were being given
to undeserving people who came through the back door," read a statement
from the newly-formed ZLFA's chairperson Moses Mazhande.
"Our organisation is calling for the immediate disbanding of the
eviction board headed by deputy police commissioner Godwin Matanga which
has embarked on a violent and disorderly eviction of the poor and
landless people of Zimbabwe to accommodate the rich and politically
powerful," Mazhande added, saying the ZLFA would "lead a fresh wave of
farm invasions if the corruption and disorderly distribution of land is
The landless farmers say that farm invasions to evict white farmers
were ordered by President Robert Mugabe and then Cabinet secretary
Charles Utete in February 2000.
Soon after the eviction of white farmers began, Zimbabwe's
state-controlled press published the names of thousands of peasant
farmers who had been allocated land under the country's "land reform
"In our view the ministry of lands and agriculture used our names to
mislead the people into believing the programme was transparent," said
Meanwhile, former residents of a farm acquired by senior Zanu-PF
officials are living in makeshift shelters on the side of the road. Many
say their food stores were destroyed during their evictions. - Sapa
Zim opposition claims voters' roll cut
13 October 2004 10:32
advertisementZimbabwe's main opposition party on Tuesday told
Parliament that authorities have reduced the number of registered voters
in urban centres, the party's traditional stronghold, ahead of next
year's parliamentary polls.
David Coltart, the secretary for legal affairs for the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), told Parliament his party believes the number
of voters in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo has been cut by 15%
since elections in 2002.
"In urban areas there has been a reduction of registered voters,
compared to 2002," Coltart said.
The MDC claims it lost parliamentary polls in 2000 and presidential
polls two years later because of intimidation and electoral fraud.
The party has threatened to boycott polls scheduled for next March if
President Robert Mugabe does not implement electoral reforms.
"On our analysis, for example in Bulawayo province there is a 15%
reduction of voters on the voters' roll compared to the voters' roll we
had in 2002," Coltart said.
After being cautioned by the Speaker of Parliament not to make
allegations against government officials who were not present to defend
themselves, the legislator said his claims were based on a "preliminary
analysis" of the voters' roll and were not "an assertion of absolute
Most ruling-party members were not present in Parliament and debate was
adjourned until Wednesday. -- 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.