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African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

An astonishing statement
September 17, 2010, 10:55 am



Scanning the various Zimbabwean news sources this week I was surprised to see so little reaction to Morgan Tsvangirai’s astonishing statement last weekend at the MDC’s eleventh anniversary celebrations. Speaking to 5000 supporters gathered in Gokwe to commemorate the occasion Morgan Tsvangirai told the crowd that “he and Mugabe had agreed that whoever loses would make way for the winner.”  ‘Prevailing peace’ in the country was the reason agreed by Mugabe and Tsvangirai for this being the appropriate time to hold an election. Just exactly what ‘prevailing peace’ Morgan Tsvangirai is talking about is not clear when it is his MDC supporters who are being harassed and arrested around the country. Is it possible that the MDC leader has become so divorced from his own grass roots that he is unaware that the Zanu PF machine is already gearing up for the election in the only way they understand: through violence and intimidation?

The breathtaking naivety of Tsvangirai’s words in virtually surrendering his party’s right to challenge election results – all based on a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between himself and Mugabe – is beyond reason. What possible grounds can Tsvangirai have to trust a man who has repeatedly rigged elections and used every lying trick in the book to remain in power? Surely this demonstrates a serious lack of judgement on the MDC leader’s part?  Compare Tsvangirai’s words with those of  Biggie Chitoro who led the violent farm invasions in his area. In an interview with the Daily News this week Chitoro said, “We know the old man (Mugabe) can’t share power with anybody. That’s why you see this unity government facing so many problems. He is good at using other people especially uneducated ones in order to stay in power.” Biggie Chitoro has since publicly apologised for his past crimes and has openly stated that the war vets were ‘used’ by Mugabe. How is it that Chitoro can see the reality so clearly while Morgan Tsvangirai appears blinded by Mugabe’s charisma - or is it the ‘power’ and status he now enjoys as Prime Minister? 

The 30 days allowed by SADC for full implementation of the GPA expired on Tuesday with no progress towards solving the outstanding issues. You have to wonder how the 5000 people present reacted when Tsvangirai made his extraordinary statement to thousands of grass roots members, many of whom still bear the scars of Zanu PF violence from past elections.

If the MDC leader seriously believes that Mugabe is to be trusted then he must have been disillusioned by the advertisement launched by Mugabe’s party on Wednesday.

‘Zanu PF, the Unstoppable Machine’ arrogantly declared  the advertisement carried in the state-controlled press. In the face of all this very obvious electioneering by Zanu PF with its threatening and intimidatory tone, does Morgan Tsvangirai seriously believe that he can trust the word of Robert Mugabe to honour an agreement which has absolutely no legal validity when Mugabe and his party cannot not even abide by the GPA?

What is so confusing, even to his own supporters, is the way Tsvangirai appears to change his stance when addressing different audiences. Speaking this week to an investment conference in Johannesburg he said, “We (MDC and Zanu PF) do not share a common vision of the future. The failed policies of the past continue to haunt us. Disdain for the rule of law and property rights continue to undermine our image as a safe investment. There is tangible progress,” Tsvangirai added, “but madness still persists” That madness was very evident in the words of Didymus Mutasa, Minister for Presidential Affairs and an old dinosaur if ever there was one, who said on Thursday, “We will never hand over power to Morgan Tsvangirai even if he wins the election.”

There you have it; Prime Minister Tsvangirai says he and Mugabe have agreed that whoever wins will not contest the result and Mugabe’s Minister for Presidential Affairs says his party will never hand over power even if Tsvangirai wins the election. “Making way for the winner’ means just one thing: Mugabe will never surrender power.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH


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Mugabe’s supposed ill-health
September 10, 2010, 9:59 am

Friday September 10th 2010

It was inevitable I suppose, given the endless stories in the media of Mugabe’s supposed ill-health, that the Dear Leader should go public to reassure Zimbabweans that he was still, in his words, “fit enough to fight the sanctions and knock out my opponents.” In an interview with Reuters News Agency, the 86 year old conceded that “My time will come but for now ‘no’ ” and of course he could not resist the opportunity to remind us that “Bush is out, Blair is out” adding dismissively if rather vaguely, “and the others are persons of no consequence.” The implication being that after thirty years in power and despite his octogenarian status, he, Robert Mugabe was still there in office and had no intention of leaving State House any time soon – if at all.

Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising civil rights activist, I was fortunate enough to get hold of the following breakdown of African leaders’ages and it reveals a very interesting contrast between Africa and the west. At 86 Mugabe is the oldest , followed by Senegal’s Abulai Wade at 83 and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak at 82.  The remaining listed African leaders are all in their seventies: Malawi’s Bingu Wa Mtalika is 76, Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba 74, Zambia’s Rupiah Banda 73, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki is 71 and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia is 75. Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Gadaffi of Libya are the youngest, both 68 years old. The average age of African leaders  listed here is 76 years.

Compare that to western leaders - who are democratically elected - and you see a remarkable contrast. The President of the United States is 48, David Cameron of the UK is 43, the Russian President, Dimitri Medvedev is 45, Canada is represented by a 51 year old, Australia by a 49 year old. Nicolas Sakozy of France is 55, Spain’s Luis Zapatero is 49 and Portugal’ Jose Socrates is 53 while Angela Merkel of Germany is 56 and at 62 Herman Van Rompuy is the oldest western leader. The average age of these leaders is 51years, a staggering 25 years older than Africa’s leaders.         

Quite apart from the decline in physical strength which is an unavoidable consequence of the ageing process, it is generally accepted that older people tend to get very set in their ways and are often resistant to fresh ideas – and opposition of any kind! African culture respects old age we know but wisdom and age do not necessarily go together.

Ironically, this week a man was sentenced to one year in gaol for referring to Mugabe as “a wrinkled old man”. This remark was deemed by the magistrate to be disrespectful of the President but the one year sentence was commuted to eight months on condition that the offender made no more disparaging remarks about the president’s age for the next five years! By which time Mugabe will be 91 and wrinkles will surely be evident for all to see, botox or no botox!

Underlying these apparently trivial stories about Mugabe’s advancing years is the question of who will succeed him when he finally moves on. An incident occurred this week which illustrates the turmoil within Zanu PF as the battle for succession escalates. On Thursday morning the Council Offices in Chitungwiza were invaded, quite literally, by men waving AK 47s who proceeded to beat up the municipal guards, accusing them of being supporters of Emmerson Mnangagwa. The gun-toting thugs were apparently supporters of Solomon Mujuru – himself a War Veteran of note and another 70 or 80 year old if I am not mistaken. He and Mnangagwa are both contenders for the top job when the Old Man dies and the two factions are daggers drawn. The police were called in to quell the violent disturbance at Chitungwiza Council offices and they too were overpowered by the well-trained Mujuru followers. The most worrying aspect of this incident was the fact that Mujuru’s people were actively supported by soldiers from the ZNA based at Cranborne barracks. Interestingly, the Herald reported the incident but said nothing about it being a direct result of faction fighting inside Zanu PF over the succession issue. Age may be just a number but in Zimbabwe Mugabe’s age – and health – are crucial issues which could propel us into civil war.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH


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Tony Blair’s memoir titled ‘A Journey’
September 3, 2010, 10:58 am

 

 

Tony Blair’s memoir titled ‘A Journey’ stormed into the best-seller lists this week selling hundreds of thousands of copies within minutes of going onto the shelves. Critiques and commentaries of the book have dominated the news media in the UK all week. ‘A Journey’ was published on the eve of the Labour Party’s leadership vote and has raised quite a storm. Tony Blair UK Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007 came in on a wave of euphoria; this was to be a brave new beginning for the UK. Ten years later, Blair left office with the bitter legacy of Iraq and countless other foreign interventions. Two million people took to the streets to demonstrate their opposition to the Iraq war but still Blair and Bush went ahead and invaded anyway. In his memoir Blair claims, once again, that he ‘did what he thought was right’. He makes no apology for the countless dead Iraqis or the human misery that followed the invasion. The US and UK with the help of other western powers mounted the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was a wicked dictator who deserved to be overthrown. Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora wondered why Mugabe was being let off the hook since he so clearly qualified as another ‘wicked dictator’.        

Perhaps Zimbabweans might one day read a politician’s memoir which exposes the inside story of what went on in the country over the last twenty years of Mugabe’s dictatorial rule. Censorship laws in Zimbabwe being what they are, that’s not very likely. If Owen Maseko’s example is anything to go by this paranoid government will not even allow images of the Gukurukundi atrocities back in the eighties to see the light of day. The news that Owen Maseko is to face trial after the Censorship Board banned his work does not suggest that the Inclusive Government cares any more for artistic and media freedom than the former ruling party.  Maseko has revealed that in addition to the original charge of ‘obscenity and ethnic bias’ he now faces the criminal charge of ‘communicating falsehoods in order to incite violence’ – a charge which carries a twenty year prison sentence.  SW Radio is itself being jammed presumably with the knowledge of the Inclusive Government. ‘Pirate radio stations’ and sanctions continue to be Zanu PF’s excuse for their failure to implement the GPA that could bring an end to Mugabe’s ‘oppressive and dictatorial rule’

It is just such a rule, Tony Blair claims in his memoir that justifies foreign intervention. “People often used to say to me: If you got rid of gangsters in Sierra Leone; Slobodan Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam, why can’t you get rid of Mugabe?”   

Blair’s answer to the question is that “it just wasn’t practical” in Mugabe’s case because Africa would have opposed any such action strenuously.  Whether that was the real reason for the UK’s failure to intervene we will probably never know for sure though there is evidence that New Labour under Tony Blair was initially quite prepared to do business with Robert Mugabe in return for certain trade considerations.

What is clear is that despite the formation of an Inclusive Government, Mugabe has continued virtually unimpeded to go his own way. Speaking at Reward Marefu’s funeral last Sunday, he declared that he will defy the SADC Tribunal or any other International Court’s rulings on the matter of farm ownership. It is hardly surprising that law and order have collapsed in Zimbabwe when the country’s president states publicly that he has no intention of abiding by court rulings. The Police Commissioner’s term of office expired this week and it will be interesting to see who replaces Augustine Chihuri or whether Mugabe will extend the Zanu PF loyalist’s term in office for a third or is it a fourth term.

Ironically the UK also has a coalition government now but as yet we have had no clear indication as to what their attitude will be to Zimbabwe. Mugabe has said he thinks he can do business with a Tory led government but it is unlikely that David Cameron will be any more popular than Tony Blair unless he gives Robert Mugabe uncritical support and public acclaim.     

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.


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Operation Murambatsvina continues...
August 29, 2010, 12:41 am



In Zimbabwe, as events this week graphically demonstrated, everything changes but nothing changes.

Some time around midnight on Tuesday August 24th 2010 police from Harare Central assisted by members from Highland Police Station, some of them armed with AK 47s and accompanied by police dogs, descended on a squatter camp at Borrowdale Race Track. Sleeping residents were ordered out of their shacks into the cold night air. They were not allowed to collect their few possessions and within minutes 100 shacks were torched by the cops and the people were either taken to the police cells or told to “Go home to their rural areas and build houses there.” It was that instruction to these former victims of Operation Murambatsvina which served to remind Zimbabweans that history was repeating itself.

Five years ago, on May 19th, 2005, the then Chairperson of the Harare City Council announced the launching of an Operation designed to clean up the urban areas of the city on the grounds that they had been overrun by criminals and illegal squatters. Her announcement marked the beginning of a nation-wide exercise designated Operation Murambatsvina – ‘Clean out the filth’ - which would be carried out in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Republic Police. On that day, May 19th, the state-controlled Herald in its editorial urged “All urbanites to go back to their rural homes and earn an honest living from the soil our government has repossessed under the land reform programme.” 

Three weeks later, on June 10th, when the Operation was in full swing and thousands of people had already been made homeless and jobless, Robert Mugabe opened parliament with all the pomp and ceremony reminiscent of the former colonial regime. In his speech Mugabe referred to Murambatsvina as, “A vigorous clean-up campaign to restore order in urban areas where small businesses operated outside the regulatory framework and in undesignated and crime-ridden areas that could not be countenanced much longer.” Interestingly enough, the MDC boycotted the 2005 Opening of Parliament on the grounds that Robert Mugabe was not the legitimate president of Zimbabwe. Now that same MDC is part of the government but as Senator Mishek Marave bravely commented this week, it makes no difference to the ZRP. Senator Marave was one of a group of MDC MPs in Masvingo arrested on police allegations of public violence. The Senator’s words deserve quoting: “Since we joined the Inclusive Government, not a single day has gone by without the police harassing, intimidating and persecuting MDC officials and supporters…The same police force treat us with contempt, disrespect and scorn while showing favouritism and granting special privileges to Zanu PF and its supporters.., they (Zanu PF) have a free pass to do as they please and are never held accountable…they are simply untouchable.” The truth of the Senator’s words was borne out this week in Robert Mugabe’s refusal to confer ‘Hero’ status on the late Gibson Sibanda, one of the founders of the opposition party and a gallant trade unionist who died on Tuesday. While Mugabe’s sister Sabina was declared a national hero within twenty-four hours of her death, Gibson Sibanda was denied that ‘honour’. The fact is that only Zanu PF supporters will be granted that accolade. However bloody their history, only those who have remained loyal to Robert Mugabe deserve the glory of being laid to rest in Heroes Acre alongside men like Doctor Death, Chengerai Hunzvi, one of whose torture chambers was just metres away from my house in Murehwa, or the founder of the notorious Green Bombers, Border Gezi, and so many others whose blind allegiance to the former ruling party is their only qualification to that dubious honour. The fact that Zimbabwe has still not signed up the UN Convention Against Torture is a very clear signal that for Mugabe and his followers, human rights are simply not an issue. Their over-riding concern is getting rid of Sanctions which they claim are causing untold suffering for the masses of Zimbabwean people. In an extraordinarily bad-tempered exchange between the Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Mumbengegwi and the German Ambassador this week, the latter reminded Mumbengegwi that the very countries being lambasted by Zanu PF for EU sanctions were themselves donors of massive aid to the impoverished country. With the arrogance that characterises Zanu PF the German Ambassador was told in no uncertain terms that Zimbabwe – as a sovereign nation - didn’t need foreign aid. “We are the victims of sanctions” Mumbengegwi ranted. Tell that to the 100 families burnt out of their shelters by the police in Harare or the 40 families evicted this week from the Chiadzwa diamond fields and dumped in empty tobacco barns on
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Robert Mugabe's honey tongue
August 15, 2010, 6:55 am

Friday August 13. 2010

It was a honey-tongued Robert Mugabe who addressed the crowds gathered at Heroes Acre in Harare to commemorate Heroes Day. Gone were the threats and promises of blood and violence against his perceived enemies; instead, all was sweetness and light.

“For the sake of our children and posterity I want to urge all of you to note that the process of reconciliation is national. It does not seek to ferret out supposed criminals for punishment but rather calls on all of us to avoid the deadly snare of political conflict.”

It was all very noble-sounding, all in keeping with the spirit of national healing and reconciliation. Or was it? Justice surely requires more than a blanket amnesty to enable the victims of violence to come to terms with what has happened to them and to be able to move on with their lives. But, rather than instruct the police to do their job without fear or favour and arrest all perpetrators of violence, regardless of their political persuasion, Mugabe has, in effect, declared an amnesty for his thugs and bully-boys who are still terrorising the rural population. “No one is going to be arrested for politically motivated violence.” he declared. No doubt he felt completely confident in making that statement since he can be absolutely sure that none of his blatantly partisan police force will be ‘ferreting’ out ‘supposed criminals’ even when there is overwhelming evidence of criminal behaviour. It is not the first time Robert Mugabe has used his presidential powers to declare an amnesty for criminals, just in time to ensure he wins another election. Who was it said that no man is above the law?  

A day or so after Mugabe made this speech in the presence of the Prime Minister, other top MDC officials and many ordinary MDC supporters in the crowd who have personally experienced politically motivated violence, the War Veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda was on record threatening that he could squash Morgan Tsvangirai ‘like a fly’, “Just because a fly sits on the driver’s seat,” he said, “that doesn’t prove the fly is driving the bus.” Sibanda is in the middle of a ‘tour of terror’ in Masvingo Province intended to put the fear of God into any poor innocent villager who was thinking of expressing a contrary view during the Constitutional Outreach programme. Where else would Sibanda get away with such an overt threat, secure in the knowledge that no policeman would dare charge him with what was clearly criminal intent against no less a personage than the Prime Minister of the country?  

Heroes Day is always followed by Defence Forces Day and it is Mugabe’s chance to address ‘his’ army. He is the Commander in Chief and his address this year urged the troops “to jealously guard its independence, sovereignty and natural resources.” By those ‘natural resources’ he was of course referring to the diamonds which the army is allegedly ‘guarding’ not against the hated foreigners Mugabe warned them about but against desperately poor Zimbabweans who have yet to benefit from the fabulous wealth on their land. The first ‘legal’ sale of diamonds took place this week in the presence of the Prime Minister. As always, on delicate occasions, Mugabe was strategically out of the country- this time on a trip to China - leaving Morgan Tsvangirai to officiate at the sale. Only a small portion of Zimbabwe’s huge diamond reserves was up for sale but we are told that buyers from all over the world were there. 71 million dollars was raised from the sale of 900.00 carats of diamonds and, said Morgan Tsvangirai, “We are working out the modalities of how the money is to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.”

Meanwhile the Constitutional Outreach Programme has been deferred because, so we are told, there is no money for fuel to enable the teams to reach the more remote places. The whole process of consulting the people on a new constitution has been utterly chaotic from the start but that was exactly what Zanu PF wanted it to be. Genuine consultation with the people was never on their agenda in the run-up to the next election, whenever that is to be. Despite the evidence on the ground to the contrary, South Africa’s President Zuma will apparently tell the SADC Summit next week that Zimbabwe is on the correct path. Note that Zuma doesn’t stipulate exactly where that path is leading but Zimbabweans have a pretty shrewd idea that it’s more of the same. South Africa, of course backed the diamond sales and a Foreign Ministry official is quoted as saying at a news conference held in Pretoria, “This is a legitimate process and Zimbabwe is beginning to use its natural resources to improve the lives of its people.” Anyone who was hoping for some tough t
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