That was on Thursday and according to some observers, there were as many as 3,000 marchers in the streets. Studio 7 is on the story.
That was on Thursday and according to some observers, there were as many as 3,000 marchers in the streets. Studio 7 is on the story.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), began a began a work slowdown on Thursday day following the expiry of a 14 day notification period and no response by the government to its demands for improved working conditions for Zimbabwe's teachers. PTUZ members will begin a strike on Monday should the government continue to be non-responsive.
As reliable as clockwork, the regime's security forces raided PTUZ General Secretary Raymond Majongwe's house in the early hours of Thursday morning. Mr. Majongwe was not at home at the time. A Studio 7 story on the PTUZ's threatened industrial action includes an interview with Mr. Majongwe and can be found here.
According to today's issue of the ZImbabwe Independent, the Mugabe regime has pressured the largest bookstore chain in the country, Kingston's, to take Edgar Tekere's books off its shelves.
"IN a desperate bid to thwart the distribution of liberation war veteran and former ruling party secretary- general, Edgar Tekere’s popular autobiography entitled A Lifetime of Struggle released three weeks ago, government has reportedly ordered Kingstons Books to place the book on embargo, Independent Xtra has gathered."
Still in the Zimbabwe Independent, a report that the editor of its sister publication, the Standard, received a threatening letter, containing a bullet and the warning that he "watch his step", on Thursday.
"He said the threat was being taken 'very seriously indeed given previous threats to our newspapers and the failure of the state to apprehend those responsible'. Wetherell referred to the abduction and torture of former Standard editor Mark Chavunduka and chief reporter Ray Choto in 1999. He also cited the bombing of premises belonging to another independent paper, the Daily News, where there were also no arrests.
Wetherell said the newspaper group "awaited with interest" to see how police investigations would proceed following a report made at the Harare Central police station on the matter on Wednesday evening. 'We want to see those responsible brought to book and threats against the private media dealt with,' Wetherell said. "We have seen a pattern of impunity insofar as those who have been threatening the independent press are concerned."
The findings of a court-ordered investigation into the abduction of Chavunduka and Choto have not been made known, he said."
The whole article is here.
Writing in the Guardian Blogs, Mark Tran has a story about Chirac's dilemma: to invite or not to invite Mugabe to the 23rd Franco-African summit next month:
"But Mr Mugabe's presence would be an embarrassment, as it was in 2003. Then, Mr Chirac tried to have it both ways by warning his guests that leaders who abused their citizens could end up in the new international criminal court. Some leaders, however, found the lecture offensive, accusing Mr Chirac of sounding like an old colonialist. The French president would make like much easier for himself, and make an important statement, by simply not sending that invitation to Mr Mugabe."
Read the whole piece here.
Full disclosure: We noticed an uptick in the "hits" on this blog yesterday and discovered that Mark Tran had linked to "ZOOT" in this article. Thanks, Mark!
That is the title of an article in the Guardian that exposes the despicable role that several British banks, including Barclays and Standard Charter, are playing in support of the Mugabe dictatorship:
"Barclays bank is helping to bankroll President Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, providing millions of pounds of support for his vilified land reforms, The Observer can reveal. Mugabe's opponents describe the bank's activities as a 'disgrace' and an 'insult' to the millions who have suffered human rights abuses.
Barclays is the most high-profile of three British-based financial institutions, which, in total, have provided more than $1bn in direct and indirect funding to Mugabe's administration. The other two companies are Standard Chartered Bank and the insurance firm Old Mutual. According to influential newsletter Africa Confidential, that first disclosed the Barclays' loans, the British organisations provide an economic lifeline keeping Mugabe's regime afloat...
Britain backs targeted international sanctions against the regime - although there are no economic sanctions - which prevent Mugabe or his political associates travelling to Europe or the US. It is estimated that Barclays, Standard Chartered Bank and Old Mutual have lent the Mugabe regime about £100m by purchasing treasury bills and government bonds."
Writing in his personal blog, the Vice Chairperson for MDC Northamptonshire (U.K.) has a lengthy but interesting post on the importance of controlling information and the media for a dictatorship like Mugabe's. In this article, Izzy Mutanhaurwa quotes from a speech by the Tanzanian Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, in which he discusses the importance of the media and free flow of information:
"The country should ensure the public is well-informed through dissemination of correct information. Media in our country have a noble role of setting the agenda on national issues and encourage political competition among political parties, government and other stakeholders from time to time. A dictator strives to ensure that he puts tighter leashes on free flow of information so that he retains power and rules forever.”
Check out Izzy's blog, Cry Beloved Zimbabwe, and read his post on the subject of media and information.
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe has a story on the role that several U.K. banks, including Barclays, are playing in providing succor and sustenance to the Harare dictatorship. The story includes an interview with human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga. According to Africa Confidential magazine, the source of the story:
British and South African banks have provided a more than US$400 million financial lifeline to President Robert Mugabe's government over the last two years, much of it targeted at financing Harare's controversial land resettlement programme. This funding flies in the face of President Mugabe's routine attacks on British 'neo-colonial sabotage' and claims that his government receives most of its vital funding from its radical allies in Asia and Latin America. It also shows that Britain has become complicit in propping up the regime, according to opposition MPs at Westminster."
Pro-Democracy protesters led by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) held a demonstration last Thursday in Bulawayo that attracted from 700 to 3000 persons (according to different reports) and which caught the olice off-guard. Marchers called for Mugabe's resignation and banners invoked the name of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai, widely believed to have been the rightful winner of the 2002 presidential elections.
Demonstrators ridiculed the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono, who admitted his failure and impotence to right the sinking ship that is the Zimbabwe economy in a speech on Wednesday, while stating that the only solution to the economic collapse is a political one.
Below I append a statement by the MDC information officer and Member of Parliament, Nelson Chamisa, on the MDC's plans for an ongoing "Campaign of Defiance":
MDC rallies the nation in a defiance campaign
February 6, 2007
The MDC leadership at the weekend heightened its nationwide campaign to rally the nation in demanding a people-driven Constitution and rejecting plans by the Zanu PF regime to extend its tyranny .
In Harare, the national chairman, Isaac Matongo, addressed huge crowds in Mufakose and Mabvuku at the weekend, where he told the people to resist plans by the regime to extend the people's suffering to 2010. He said the regime had rigged the parliamentary and presidential elections and had no claim to legitimacy. He said extending Mugabe's rule was tantamount to extending illegitimacy. It was tantamount to extending the people's suffering and misery. Any more day with Mugabe at the helm was not in the best interest of the people of Zimbabwe, the national chairman said.
Matongo said the MDC was preparing for elections in March 2008 but under a new, people-driven Constitution. He said the party had come up with a comprehensive rural campaign strategy ahead of next year's Presidential election. The national chairman told the people that they had a right to express themselves against tyranny and oppression. He said 2007 was the year in which the people should reassert and reclaim their power.
Next week, the national chairman and other senior party leaders will address another rally in Epworth in Harare South as the defiance campaign gathers momentum. The MDC believes that Mugabe should not be allowed to succeed himself.
In Manicaland, President Morgan Tsvangirai addressed two rallies at Zhawari and Gwirindindi business centres in Mutare West. The President congratulated the people in the two wards for voting for MDC councillors in the rural district council elections held last August. He said all party structures must prepare for a Presidential election next year as the party had no plans to partake in Zanu PF's treacherous wish to postpone the Presidential poll to 2010.
The President urged all people, especially the youth, to register as voters to enable them to vote in next year's poll. He said the people had a right to shape and determine their destiny, saying next year's election provides Zimbabweans with a perfect opportunity to start afresh. He said the starvation that has ravaged all corners of the country and the rising cost of basic goods and services were the clearest indications that Zanu PF had failed the people. The MDC, the President said, understood that the people of Zimbabwe deserved a better deal from their leaders. He said the people should not allow Mugabe to buy himself any more day than his controversial term allows him.
In Chiredzi South, members of the Liberation team led by national organising secretary Engineer Elias Mudzuri addressed several rallies over the weekend. Apart from the rallies, the team met with local opinion leaders to drum up support for Emmaculate Makondo, who is the party's candidate in the by-election scheduled for 17 February. The various opinion leaders said they were ready to support the party and its candidate. They accused Zanu PF government of militarising the area ahead of the by-election. They complained of the heavy presence of soldiers and military vehicles which were being used to ferry food handouts to bribe voters ahead of the poll.
Throughout the provinces and across the length and breadth of the country, the MDC has various teams that are interacting with people at grassroots level. Their mandate is to explain the party's position that the people must unite in rejecting Mugabe's plan to run away from a Presidential election by abusing a controversial technical majority in Parliament.
Across the country, the people's concerns are significant. They continue to complain about the severe hardships they are facing and the regime's politicisation of food aid. Suspected MDC members are continously being denied food by some village heads and chiefs, who have now been forced to become extensions of the Zanu PF structures.
There is national consensus that Zanu PF's time up. The regime has failed the nation and the visible signs of collapse are evident in the decay in the country's health and education delivery systems. Prices of basic commodities and transport fares have become unaffordable while the regime continues to bury its head in the sand.
The MDC shall continue to espouse the people's collective spirit and their desire for change. Our vision is a new Zimbabwe.We shall continue to mobilise the people to express themselves against tyranny and misrule. We shall not waver in our fight against the dictatorship until we realise the people's vision of a new Zimbabwe. We owe it to ourselves and to posterity.
Nelson Chamisa, MP
Secretary for Information and Publicity
Michael Wines authors a lead story in today's New York Times on Zimbabwe's economic and political implosion. Wines astutely notes that Mugabe has begun to lose support from parts of his own ZANU-PF party:
"For close to seven years, Zimbabwe's economy and quality of life have been in slow, uninterrupted decline. They are still declining this year, people there say, with one notable difference: the pace is no longer so slow. Indeed, Zimbabwe’s economic descent has picked up so much speed that President Robert G. Mugabe, the nation’s leader for 27 years, is starting to lose support from parts of his own party." (Italics mine)
The article also correctly describes the significance of the outcome of the ruling party's annual conference held at a place called Goromonzi in December--the refusal, for the first time of party faithful to rubber stamp a Mugabe proposal brought before it. This year, the key proposal, of course, was Mugabe's move to stay in office an extra 2 years after his 2008 expiry date:
"Mr. Mugabe’s fortunes appear to have dimmed as well. In December, the ruling party that has traditionally bowed to his will, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, balked at supporting a constitutional amendment that would have extended his term of office by two years, to 2010. The rebuff exposed a fissure in the party, known as ZANU-PF, between Mr. Mugabe’s hard-line backers and others who fear he has brought their nation to the brink of collapse."
The fact that the New York Times, this time, got the story right is not insignificant since, in a story published just after the Goromonzi meeting in December, and that this blog analyzed, the Times had exactly the wrong spin on the outcome of the conference.
It is encouraging to note evidence that Zimbabwe's democratic forces--both political parties and civil society--seem increasingly to be converging in the messages they are sending with regard to strategies for opposing the Mugabe regime. They appear in addition and in general to be spending more time attacking the regime and less time sniping at eachother--also a positive development.
Arthur Mutambara, President of what has come to be know as the "Pro-Senate" MDC faction held a news conference and released a statement yesterday echoing the Save Zimbabwe Campaign's call for elections under a new constitution in 2008 and a rejection of the postponement of elections proposed by Mugabe. His call for a campaign of defiance also melds nicely with Nelson Chamisa's similar call for defiance.
That is the title of an article posted yesterday on zimbabwejournalists.com that described a press conference held by Mutambara yesterday:
"Addressing a news conference in Harare today, Mutambara, who leads a smaller faction of the MDC demanded that presidential elections should go ahead next year, but under a new Constitution. 'It’s defiance or death for us. We are saying it’s an all out war in Zimbabwe to stop Mugabe’s plans. The price of freedom is death. If as Zimbabweans we are not prepared to sacrifice our lives then we don’t deserve democracy. We are ready to die in order to stop Mugabe from extending his term of office,' said a fired up Mutambara. Journalists were taken through an unusual hour-long press conference that included song, dance, and drama to animate Zimbabwe’s deepening economic and political crisis."
Listen to an interview with firebrand Zimbabwean teacher's union leader (and singer/musician), Raymond Majongwe, on Studio 7 for Zimbabwe by clicking here.
This statement from ZINASU on yesterday's cabinet shuffle, just released:
Cabinet reshuffle, the reshuffler now needs reshuffling
ZINASU notes with dismay the recent cabinet reshuffle, which has not brought and will not bring any meaningful change and measurable value to the lives of the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. We are deeply concerned by the sparing of Dr. Stanslus Gorerazvo Mudenge, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education and Dr. Annias Chigwedere, the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, both of whom have failed to address the fundamental concerns of the students. We here remind the Government of our 13 February 2007 ultimatum to address the fees and welfare concerns of the students, and add that it still stands and drawing closer. The students assert that cabinet reshuffle will not address the root causes of the Zimbabwean crisis, unless genuine socio-economic and political reforms are implemented.
The biggest impediments to socio-economic and political transformation are ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe - the cabinet reshuffler who now needs reshuffling.
Defending Academic Freedoms in Zimbabwe (DAFiZ)
Promise Mkwananzi President -- Zimbabwe National Students Union 21 Wembly Road, Eastlea, Harare, Zimbabwe, 0026391301231/ 002634788135 email@example.com
This statement was just sent out by the MDC MP and Information Officer, Nelson Chamisa:
Zimbabwe Is in Transition: Biti tells Business sector
POLITICAL transition has already begun in Zimbabwe now that there was consensus among all stakeholders, including senior officials in Zanu PF, that Mugabe's government has dismally failed and the collapse of the regime is inevitable, MDC secretary-general Hon Tendai Biti said on Thursday Addressing a packed room of businesspersons at a luncheon in Harare, the MDC secretary-general chronicled the Zimbabwean economic and political crisis, adding that the vicious civil war to succeed Mugabe and the consensus among all democratic forces that the government should be confronted meant that the collapse of the status quo was inevitable. At 83, Mugabe is clearly old and the political atmosphere is already that of a country in transition, Biti said. He told the delegates that the transition to a new Zimbabwe had already begun and the MDC had started to polish up its economic recovery document and other policies for ready implementation when the party forms the next government following free and fair elections under a new, people-driven Constitution. Hon Biti told the businesspeople that while Gono was right in arguing that he could not address the country's economic crisis without holistic measures to address the economic fundamentals affecting the economy, he was wrong in presenting himself to hard-pressed Zimbabweans time and again pretending to offer solutions that had dismally failed The MDC secretary-general said while Gono had pointed out the distortions in the economy and blamed several parastatals and unnamed individuals for the same, he had deliberately chosen not to name the RBZ as another vehicle for Zanu PF looting where senior government officials accessed foreign currency at concessionary rates and traded it on the black market. He said the value of the Zimbabwe dollar, which the governor refused to devalue, was another distortion which he had the power to address. The MDC secretary-general said since his maiden monetary policy statement of December 2003, the governor had repeatedly failed to meet targets. He added that the social contract proposed by the governor would not work because there was deep mistrust between the partners, adding that workers would not agree to a wage freeze when they lived their lives in a parallel economy where price controls do not work. Zimbabwe, Hon Biti, had become a privatised, militarised state run by securocrats and ruling party thugs whose sole aim was personal aggrandisement.
Hon Biti said it would be an onerous task to put Zimbabwe's economic on the rails. He revealed shocking statistics of decline: a negative economic growth rate, 6 percent of the 10 percent of the workers in formal employment earn far below the breadline salary, 4 000 people dying every week of HIV/Aids, bringing a cumulative annual death rate of more than those who perished during the war of liberation, a life expectancy of 34 years, down from 70 years in 1980 and an industrial capacity of between 15 and 30 percent. He said the MDC's roadmap, which included national consensus on a new Constitution, free and fair elections under international supervision and reconstruction and stabilisation in a post-transitional era, was the only way to bring Zimbabwe's economy back on the rails.
Zimbabwe, Hon Biti said, had a worse economy than that of Somalia which has had no leader since 1991. Biti had his audience in stitches when he said there was more electricity available in war-torn Mogadishu than in Harare where an acute foreign currency crunch has made sure everything has virtually collapsed. Twenty years ago, Zimbabwe was the jewel of the region but now had an economy which accounted for less than 3 percent of the regional GDP.
Biti said real savings were now less than two percent of Gross Domestic product while pensioners were struggling to survive. He said the tragedy of the Zimbabwean crisis was that it had mutated from a stage where there were criminals in the State to stage where the State itself had become criminal. The State, Hon Biti said, was the biggest player on the parallel market while the governor had prinited over $400 million and expended it without Parliamentary approval as required by law. He said it was frightening for the nation than the State, which had the responsibility of making sure that justice prevails in the nation, was itself the star player in extra-legal activities.
Department of Information and Publicity
There are the makings of a perfect storm in Zimbabwe. Could it have the potential of sweeping Robert Mugabe out of power?
That article ended with the observation of one anonymous analyst who said that: "for the government, 'the big problem about Zimbabwe is that the one thing you can’t rig is the economy...when it fails, it fails. And that can have unpredictable effects.'"
Indeed it can and the effect may be to contribute to a perfect storm.
The latest word is that MDC Pro-Senate faction Deputy Secretary General, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga is resting comfortably in a Harare hospital. She was initially reported to have been complaining of chestpains. She may have suffered broken ribs in the road accident, which took place on Saturday in Chiredzi. The car that the opposition officials were driving reportedly flipped and turned over several times. There were initial reports that Secretary General Welshman Ncube was also on board, but there has since been no confirmation. There also has been no reliable information on the condition of MDC Pro-Senate faction President Arthur Mutambara. More information as it becomes available. The Sunday edition of the Standard has a brief article on the accident HERE.
That is the title of a story broadcast yesterday on VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe. Noted economist Eric Block and Tapiwa Mashakada are interviewed for the story.
Bloggers and economists Daniel Drezner and Greg Mankiw (Professors at Chicago and Harvard, respectively) trained their sights last week on ZImbabawe, and, in particular on the recent New York Times article on the political and economic implosion here. This blog also posted on that New York Times article last week.
In Drezner's post, entitled "Things Fall Apart in Zimbabwe", he ridicules the latest "strategy" for turning around the economic collapse:
"In it's darkest hour, however, Mugabe's government has come up with a brilliant plan to deal with the situation:
The central bank’s latest response to these problems, announced this week, was to declare inflation illegal. From March 1 to June 30, anyone who raises prices or wages will be arrested and punished. Only a “firm social contract” to end corruption and restructure the economy will bring an end to the crisis, said the reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono. (emphasis added)"
Mankiw wonders why the Times article did not discuss money supply issues much at all:
"Surprisingly, the Times makes little mention of the money supply, but another article points out the obvious link:
"The urgency of the need to reduce inflation impels that 2007 be the year for unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy restraint," Gono said in a monetary policy statement. "To this end, the Reserve Bank will reduce broad money supply growth from the current levels of over 1,000 percent to between 415 and 500 percent by December 2007."
We said last week that there was "something rotten in France and with Jacques Chirac" when it looked like the "mostly" lame duck French President (with elections looming, he has has not made a definitive statement that he will call it quits, but the smart money is that he will) would repeat his 2003 invitation to Robert Mugabe to attend the "Franco-African Summit" on the French Riviera. We were wrong or at least Chirac has had a change of heart.
Mr Chirac has now decided that the Zimbabwean dictator is not welcome at the summit, even though some African Presidents threatened to boycott the meeting if Mugabe were excluded. The Times of London has the story in today's edition.
Thank you , President Chirac for standing up against the Zimbabwean dictator this time!
"African Union humiliates Sudan, but doesn't stop rapes and murders in Darfur". That is the subtitle of Nat Hentoff's latest article in the Village Voice on China's complicty in the Darfur genocide. It should be said that China is also complicit in the slow-motion genocide in Zimbabwe as a result of its staunch economic and political support for the Mugabe regime. Hentoff's article includes the following photo of Chinese President Hu Jintao and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in a warm embrace:
Hentoff noted that the African Union saved itself from total disgrace by opting not to name Sudanese Butcher/President Omar Hassan al-Bashir the head of the 53 nation organization but that it has, shamefully, done nothing to stop the genocide in Sudan. China has provided over $10 billion to Sudan over the past ten years and has steadfastly refused to exert pressure on Khartoum. It has threated to use it veto to sideline any tough UN Security Council resolutions on Sudan.
China's support for Zimbabwe, apparently has its limits, however. The Chinese President skipped Harare during his recent Africa tour but stoppped in to see 4 of Zimbabwe's neighbors: South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana.
Read Nat Hentoff's entire story on the China-Sudan axis of evil by clicking here.
As Adam Lebor has argued in his recent book "Complicity with Evil", on the U.N.'s various failures to prevent genocide, as well as in an article in the Sunday Times, "With Sudan a Member, the U.N. is Pointless." Unfortunately, with China a friend of Sudan (and Zimbabwe) and wielding its veto power, eliciting real pressure from the international body on these 2 rogue regimes is unlikely to happen soon.
Reports are just coming in that more that 1,000 WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise!) demonstrators hit the streets of Harare and then dispersed. Another 123 were reportedly detained in Bulawayo. More information as it becomes available.
Another ruthless dictator, on the other side of the continent, Guinea's "diabetic, chain-smoking" General Lassana Conté has declared martial law in response to the popular union and civil society-led uprising against his despotic rule. The Washington Post has the story today:
"Guinea's military enforced draconian martial law measures across the West African state on Tuesday, quashing protests and arresting curfew-breakers to halt a widening revolt against President Lansana Conté's rule. Conté, who has resisted opposition calls to step down, declared an 11-day state of siege late on Monday, handing sweeping law and order powers to the armed forces which have faithfully supported him since he seized power 23 years ago."
A modest recommendation to our opposition party (MDC) and organized labor (ZCTU) friends in Zimbabwe: How about releasing a statement of support and solidarity for our Guinean brothers and sisters who are also standing up to dictatorship?
That is the title of another front page article by Michael Wines in the New York Times in today's edition. (Apologies for the one week plus lapse in our posting on this blog--we will be more regular starting today).
Mugabe's charmed life seems to be vanishing like a gambler's lucky streak as the opposition, civil society, and ordinary Zimbabweans say that enough is enough and continue their defiance of the regime (more on the weekend opposition demonstrations and clashes with police later).
Wines writes about the increasing desparation of the Zimbabwe people (as bread, a staple of the population, especially the poor disappeared yesterday from store shelves) and of the regime (as they imposed a quasi state of emergency, banning all rallies and demonstrations for the next 3 months):
"Zimbabwe’s economy is so dire that bread vanished from store shelves across the country on Wednesday after bakeries shut down, saying government price controls were requiring them to sell loaves at a loss. The price controls are supposed to shield consumers from the nation’s rampant inflation, which now averages nearly 1,600 percent annually. In Harare, the capital, the police banned demonstrations and political gatherings in the city’s sprawling townships on Wednesday, citing the threat of looting and vandalism. Slum dwellers clashed with policemen on Sunday after the police blocked a court-approved rally by political opponents of Mr. Mugabe."
This blog wrote, last week, about the signs that a "Perfect Storm" may be in preparation in Zimbabwe that may have the potential of sweeping the dictator out of power. Eddie Cross draws a similar analogy today (not up on his website yet and so I append his piece below) in a piece entitled "Storm Clouds Gather". He also comments on the force 4 cyclone that is working its way up the Mozambique coast and that is expected to batter eastern Zimbabwe with heavy rains and winds and draws the political parallel to the political storm brewing here in Zimbabwe. A must read, as always. Storm Clouds Gather As I sit at my desk and write, a force 4 cyclone is on its way up the Mozambique coast and I hear that the Eastern Highlands are being blown around by the winds associated with it. I am told that such a cyclone is quite a fierce animal with 200 kilometers per hour winds and heavy rain. The UN issued a warning yesterday that it was standing by for emergency assistance to Mozambique. If you are watching television you will have seen the pictures of the Zambezi River spilling over its banks and the 150 000 or so refugees now housed in tents courtesy of the Mozambique emergency services. Kariba is still far from full – about 7 metres to go and rising slowly, so these floods on the lower Zambezi have nothing to do with the Congo or Angolan wet season. Here in the south of Zimbabwe we are on severe water rationing and do not have enough water in our dams for the rest of the year – so we are desperate for this particular cyclone and what it might bring. So much so that we have all been following it via satellite for two days. There are two other storm systems developing out at sea and over Madagascar and we might see another cyclone shortly. Some welcome such an event, others dread it and think that it will just make life even more miserable than it is at present. Our politics is a bit like that – last night it was clear skies, brilliant stars, I have seldom seen Venus in the evening sky showing such brilliance. There was also a thin sliver of moon just appearing. For those of you who live in wetter climes, the evening sky here is something to behold – especially on a dark night after rain when the air is washed clean of dust and smoke. The Milky Way just blazes across the sky. I put my three-year-old grandson to bed the other night (the girls were at a piano concert) and he demanded to go outside and lie on the ground looking up at the wonder of the night sky. Kids know what is important. Right now the edge of the cyclone system is just beginning to wash over us – it is quite different to our normal sky and you can feel the change in the atmosphere. You might also have been watching Zimbabwe on the news this week. The street activity has been slowly gathering momentum and on Friday and then Sunday there was some serious street rioting in Harare. The crowd demonstrating or just trying to attend a rally responded fiercely when the Police waded in using excessive and unwarranted force. Cars were smashed and burnt, Herald House had a few windows broken and a number of Police were injured. But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to political agitation here at present and I think everyone senses that a storm is coming. Like our cyclone, some dread its arrival and others pray for it to come quickly and then wash the land with its aftermath. Zanu PF has broken into several pieces that simply can no longer be reconciled. Mugabe wants to extend his tern by two years and then run again for another 6 years. But his Party – long just a rubber stamp for his slightest whim, is saying no. Both the Central Committee and the Politburo have been unable to reach consensus and the matter is now back in the Provinces where the debate rages. It seems to me that Mugabe may lose this one – only his second major political defeat in 27 years. So the debate is on whether to hold both Parliamentary and Presidential polls next year in March or to simply go to the Presidential poll as required by the Constitution. Either option is possible at this stage. This particular storm is gathering strength from its environment – just like a cyclone. On the one hand the melt down in the economy is still gathering momentum. Inflation at 50 per cent a month (8 000 per cent per annum) and shortages of just about everything that is essential to life. Bread, cooking oil, flour, sugar, fuel and maize meal are all difficult to come by and only at a price. Then there is the diplomatic sea we operate in – France at long last said enough is enough and sent a polite invitation to attend the annual Franco/African summit in Paris, but on condition that Mugabe stayed at home! So no one went and the government issued a sour note saying that it was time that developed States stopped inviting African Heads of State to attend meetings in their capitals as if they were all lackeys – I agree with that sentiment. But when Mugabe was invited, with all other African leaders to China recently – he went and dutifully stood in line to shake hands with the Chinese President before being wined and dined in aristocratic splendor. When the Chinese leadership toured Africa in recent weeks, the third such tour in a year, they studiously ignored Zimbabwe and visited nearly all our neighbors – all except those who do not have assets to plunder like Malawi. As all who have worked in the diplomatic sphere know – this was a massive slight to Mugabe and Zanu PF. Today there is speculation that Namibia is about to offer Mr. Mugabe – guess what? Refugee status after he has retired because of the understanding that he simply will not be allowed to remain in Zimbabwe without the threat of some sort of legal action after he retires in March 2008! Apparently his old friend Sam has a home in a National Park, and Mugabe is invited to join him there. Now there would be a tourist attraction if ever there was one! Add that all together and you might even feel a bit sorry for the old man of Zimbabwe politics. After all the adulation and respect garnered over a lifetime of struggle, to end his days in disgrace (with Grace) and isolation. Not even able to control the debate in his own Party. As Wilf Mbanga said today – there is time to redeem yourself, but to do so you have to do the unthinkable – apologize to your own people for what you have done and then step down with as much dignity as possible. With this particular storm on its way and building up its strength, time is not on his side anymore. For the rest of us – batten down the hatches and get your brollies and gumboots out. When we come out of our bunkers, the sun will be shining, our rivers running and our country clean. I cannot wait. Eddie Cross Bulawayo, 22 February 2007
This blog wrote, last week, about the signs that a "Perfect Storm" may be in preparation in Zimbabwe that may have the potential of sweeping the dictator out of power.
Eddie Cross draws a similar analogy today (not up on his website yet and so I append his piece below) in a piece entitled "Storm Clouds Gather". He also comments on the force 4 cyclone that is working its way up the Mozambique coast and that is expected to batter eastern Zimbabwe with heavy rains and winds and draws the political parallel to the political storm brewing here in Zimbabwe. A must read, as always.
Storm Clouds Gather
As I sit at my desk and write, a force 4 cyclone is on its way up the Mozambique coast and I hear that the Eastern Highlands are being blown around by the winds associated with it. I am told that such a cyclone is quite a fierce animal with 200 kilometers per hour winds and heavy rain. The UN issued a warning yesterday that it was standing by for emergency assistance to Mozambique.
If you are watching television you will have seen the pictures of the Zambezi River spilling over its banks and the 150 000 or so refugees now housed in tents courtesy of the Mozambique emergency services. Kariba is still far from full – about 7 metres to go and rising slowly, so these floods on the lower Zambezi have nothing to do with the Congo or Angolan wet season. Here in the south of Zimbabwe we are on severe water rationing and do not have enough water in our dams for the rest of the year – so we are desperate for this particular cyclone and what it might bring. So much so that we have all been following it via satellite for two days.
There are two other storm systems developing out at sea and over Madagascar and we might see another cyclone shortly. Some welcome such an event, others dread it and think that it will just make life even more miserable than it is at present.
Our politics is a bit like that – last night it was clear skies, brilliant stars, I have seldom seen Venus in the evening sky showing such brilliance. There was also a thin sliver of moon just appearing. For those of you who live in wetter climes, the evening sky here is something to behold – especially on a dark night after rain when the air is washed clean of dust and smoke. The Milky Way just blazes across the sky. I put my three-year-old grandson to bed the other night (the girls were at a piano concert) and he demanded to go outside and lie on the ground looking up at the wonder of the night sky. Kids know what is important.
Right now the edge of the cyclone system is just beginning to wash over us – it is quite different to our normal sky and you can feel the change in the atmosphere.
You might also have been watching Zimbabwe on the news this week. The street activity has been slowly gathering momentum and on Friday and then Sunday there was some serious street rioting in Harare. The crowd demonstrating or just trying to attend a rally responded fiercely when the Police waded in using excessive and unwarranted force. Cars were smashed and burnt, Herald House had a few windows broken and a number of Police were injured.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to political agitation here at present and I think everyone senses that a storm is coming. Like our cyclone, some dread its arrival and others pray for it to come quickly and then wash the land with its aftermath.
Zanu PF has broken into several pieces that simply can no longer be reconciled. Mugabe wants to extend his tern by two years and then run again for another 6 years. But his Party – long just a rubber stamp for his slightest whim, is saying no. Both the Central Committee and the Politburo have been unable to reach consensus and the matter is now back in the Provinces where the debate rages. It seems to me that Mugabe may lose this one – only his second major political defeat in 27 years.
So the debate is on whether to hold both Parliamentary and Presidential polls next year in March or to simply go to the Presidential poll as required by the Constitution. Either option is possible at this stage.
This particular storm is gathering strength from its environment – just like a cyclone. On the one hand the melt down in the economy is still gathering momentum. Inflation at 50 per cent a month (8 000 per cent per annum) and shortages of just about everything that is essential to life. Bread, cooking oil, flour, sugar, fuel and maize meal are all difficult to come by and only at a price.
Then there is the diplomatic sea we operate in – France at long last said enough is enough and sent a polite invitation to attend the annual Franco/African summit in Paris, but on condition that Mugabe stayed at home! So no one went and the government issued a sour note saying that it was time that developed States stopped inviting African Heads of State to attend meetings in their capitals as if they were all lackeys – I agree with that sentiment. But when Mugabe was invited, with all other African leaders to China recently – he went and dutifully stood in line to shake hands with the Chinese President before being wined and dined in aristocratic splendor.
When the Chinese leadership toured Africa in recent weeks, the third such tour in a year, they studiously ignored Zimbabwe and visited nearly all our neighbors – all except those who do not have assets to plunder like Malawi. As all who have worked in the diplomatic sphere know – this was a massive slight to Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Today there is speculation that Namibia is about to offer Mr. Mugabe – guess what? Refugee status after he has retired because of the understanding that he simply will not be allowed to remain in Zimbabwe without the threat of some sort of legal action after he retires in March 2008! Apparently his old friend Sam has a home in a National Park, and Mugabe is invited to join him there. Now there would be a tourist attraction if ever there was one!
Add that all together and you might even feel a bit sorry for the old man of Zimbabwe politics. After all the adulation and respect garnered over a lifetime of struggle, to end his days in disgrace (with Grace) and isolation. Not even able to control the debate in his own Party. As Wilf Mbanga said today – there is time to redeem yourself, but to do so you have to do the unthinkable – apologize to your own people for what you have done and then step down with as much dignity as possible.
With this particular storm on its way and building up its strength, time is not on his side anymore. For the rest of us – batten down the hatches and get your brollies and gumboots out. When we come out of our bunkers, the sun will be shining, our rivers running and our country clean. I cannot wait.
Bulawayo, 22 February 2007
U.Z. (University of Zimbabwe) political science Professor Eldred Masunungure points out the truism that "harmonization" (the word Mugabe and his cronies have been using to mask their scheme to keep him in power 2 years beyond his 2008 expiry date) is neither an apt nor honest description of what the regime is attempting to shove down the collective throats of Zimbabweans:
THE dictionary definition of harmonising is "to bring into harmony, accord, or agreement". The word sits rather awkwardly as a description of what is being intended because you normally harmonise relations between two or more people. You do not normally harmonise things to do with inanimate matter and processes like elections. Ideally, and in respect of elections, we should rather talk about sychronisation or rationalisation or even consolidation. To synchronise is "to occur at the same time or coincide or agree in time". I note, with considerable satisfaction, that the "harmonisation" crusade is a public admission of the irrationality of the original decision to "disharmonise" the elections. It is an admission that political parties, like human beings, err. Correcting an error is salutary. It suggests that Zanu PF is now open to admitting some of its past errors, and I think that is something positive. Assuming that "harmonisation" is the appropriate descriptive term of what is intended, I also note with irony that the intended harmonisation has immediately disharmonised society and especially the sponsoring organisation itself, the ruling Zanu PF party. The harmonisation project appears to have wreaked more havoc in this party than any other single issue since the divisive one-party state project that had to be abruptly abandoned in mid-1990s. In short, Zanu PF wants to harmonise elections before it has harmonised itself."
Should he ratchet up the repression or open the Pandora's box of piecemeal reform? That is the dilemma that Mugabe is now facing, according to noted Zimbabwean academic and intellectual, Brian Raftopolous (now the head of the Africa programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa), as the economy collapses, the democratic political opposition and civic society ratchet up their own pressure on the regime, and as support from his own ZANU-PF party appears to be begining to crumble:
"All the indications are that 2007 will be a crucial year marking the Zimbabwean crisis. If Mugabe continues to deploy authoritarian strategies in response to the political opposition, both the economic and the political conditions will deteriorate further, and the international isolation of the regime is likely to continue. On the other hand if Mugabe attempts a controlled reform process, the new political spaces opened are likely to provide additional momentum for the political and civic opposition, and the internal threat to Zanu PF will intensify. Caught between an unproductive confrontational strategy that he would prefer and a reform strategy whose consequences he is unlikely to be able to control, Mugabe is faced with a very difficult political dilemma."
This statement has just been released by NCA by email in response to the Mugabe regime's ban on public gatherings, demonstrations, rallies, etc:
Press Release:Police ban on rallies and demonstrations must be ignored
National Constitutional Assembly is condemning in strongest terms the statement made by the police when they publicly announced that political meetings and demonstrations are banned for 3 months.
Officer Commanding Mbare district, Chief Superintendent Tsitsi Sadzamari and Chief Superintendent Thomsen Jangara, Officer Commanding Harare South, came out in two separate press statements banning rallies and demonstrations on Wednesday February 22, 2007.
The NCA position in regard to the partisan nature of the police is thus vindicated. The police unashamedly blocked an MDC rally at Zimbabwe grounds, which had been sanctioned by the High Court after they had initially denied them permission to hold their rally.
The reason given by police for the refusal is that they did not have enough manpower to provide security. Surprisingly, there was enough security to block MDC supporters from attending the rally. All this happened despite the fact that the MDC was granted a court order by the high court to continue with their rally.
If the police can defy court orders then who will be the custodians of our laws in the country? As NCA we are surprised by such blatant double standards by the police force. After successfully disturbing the MDC rally the police are now saying that they have banned political gatherings and demonstrations.
As NCA we know that we have never been allowed by the police to demonstrate and we have always done our demonstrations in defiance. We have always demonstrated for a people-driven constitution that does not allow police to restrict people right to freedom of expression. Police intention to refuse people to demonstrate is reminiscent of the Smith era where political gatherings and demonstrations were banned.
The difference between Smith’s era and Mugabe is that the present police have perfected the art of oppression. We want to make it clear to the police that as NCA we will not listen to partisan orders that are meant to protect a failed regime that is desperately clinging to power. The police should come out clear and declare their allegiance to Zanu-PF as it is wrong to put on two hats at the same time, attempting to confuse the whole nation.
Police are still beating up innocent and suffering people in high-density suburbs and this is all done under the disguise of maintaining order and peace. As NCA we deplore such unwarranted provocation of peace and stability by the same people who are supposed to safeguard it. We note with great sadness that the police are amongst the least paid civil servants yet they spend their energy on victimizing fellow citizens who are demanding a humane life.
The police must know that they are responsible for the chaos that is prevailing in Harare following their heavy handedness in dealing with a clearly sanctioned event. It must also be known that if the people decide to defend themselves from the violent police force the blame should be surely rest in the hands of the state.
As NCA we also want to inform the public that its not a crime to defend oneself from an unlawful attack and if need be they should protect themselves from a partisan violent police force that aim at perpetuating dictatorship and increasing the suffering of the ordinary masses.
As NCA we will continue to demonstrate for a new democratic and people driven constitution .We will not be threatened by the police as we are aware that they are fighting a Zanu-PF agenda that does not have anything to do with their duties. We will continue to fight for a democratic constitution and a new governance system with a non-partisan police that respect the rule of law and protect the citizen’s rights. For as long as the police continue with their arrogant stance to ban demonstrations and political gatherings they will not get respect from citizens. NCA will not recognize the authority of a partisan police force and we urge all citizens to ignore such dubious orders from misguided elements of the brutal police force.
23 February, 2007
National Constitutional Assembly
For more information, contact: Madock chivasa on +263 11 608 692 or +263 91 286 804
National Constitutional Assembly
348 Herbert Chitepo Avenue
Tel: +263 4 736338
Fax: +263 4 721146
South Africa Office
12th Floor West Wing, Auckland House
185 Smit Street, Braamfontein 2017
The International Herald Tribune keeps up its excellent recent reporting on Zimbabwe with an article in yesterday's edition that describes the growing signs that the end game for Robert Mugabe is begining to play itself out in Zimbabwe.
This blog has written during the past month of the increasing activism and pressure on the regime being exerted by pro democracy political and civil society forces and of the signs that this increased assertiveness and bravery of the Zimbabwe people, combined with the effects of the economic collapse and divisions within the ruling party may be contributing to a "perfect storm" that may sweep Mugabe from power.
Eddie Cross, in his weekly essay yesterday, also employs a meteorological metaphor (as a real cyclone swept across Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe), saying that storm clouds are gathering in Zimbabwe as ordinary Zimbabweans, suffocating under the economic and political stranglehold imposed by Mugabe, demand political change.
The IHT piece states that years of abuse are resulting in an "untenable crisis" that even the master escape artist who is Mugabe will be unable to evade:
"Signs are mounting that Zimbabwe is finally reaching the end game, witnessing the last, desperate throes of a regime that has destroyed one of Africa's few successful economies, forced a third of its people into the diaspora and the rest into poverty that is killing hundreds of thousands"
International focus on the Zimbabwean tragedy appears to be increasing as the New York Times and IHT devote regular attention to the story. Read the IHT article in full here.
The Executive Director of the Namibian "National Society for Human Rights", P. ya Nangoloh, has written the following open letter to Namibian President Lucas Hifikepunye Pohamba, to register the outrage of Namibian civil society at the "unacceptable human rights, political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe", on the occasion of the official visit of Robert Mugabe today to Windhoek.
Read the whole letter below:
February 25 2007
H.E. President Lucas Hifikepunye Pohamba
President of the Republic of Namibia
Office of the President
Fax: 221 780/221 770/245 989
SUBJ: STATE VISIT BY PRESIDENT MUGABE
May this please your Excellency!
I am writing on my own behalf and indeed that of all my human rights colleagues as well as many voiceless Namibians and Zimbabweans both in this country and in Zimbabwe.
Mr. President, the reason for this letter is both to formally and directly inform you and thereby obtain your understanding of our intention to register next Wednesday our outrage about the unacceptable human rights, humanitarian and political situation prevailing in the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Hence, the rationale behind this Open Letter is not to embarrass your Excellency and or your Administration.
Mr. President, I am also writing to let you know about our solidarity with the oppressed people of Zimbabwe. Their oppressor is the Government of Zimbabwe under the leadership of President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who, we are aware, is arriving in Namibia late next Tuesday afternoon on a three-day State visit.
Needless to say, the situation in Zimbabwe is outrageous and unacceptable inter alia because human rights groups and labor unions are under siege, the independent print and electronic media have been banned, peaceful political activity, if any at all, have been severely restricted, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary have been undermined and or are virtually non-existent. An 80 percent unemployment rate and an inflation rate of nearly 1 600 percent have exacerbated hunger, poverty, homelessness and disease, which are on the increase in Zimbabwe.
Mr. President, due to the above state of affairs, for which President Mugabe’s Government is held directly responsible, more than 5 million Zimbabwean have fled their country since the year 2000 alone. Following President Mugabe’s 2005 Operation ‘Murambatsvina’, more than 700 000 Zimbabwean were left homeless. Yet this situation did not yesterday deter President Mugabe from marking his 83rd birthday with lavish and luxurious and therefore insensitive celebrations.
As we know your Excellency, you personally also do not agree with nor do you accept the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe. But we also understand that, as Namibian Head of State, you have the duty and, hence, you are compelled to receive Mr. Mugabe. Hence, we are appealing to you, Mr. President, in your personal discussions, to impress upon Mr. Mugabe that the situation in Zimbabwe is totally unacceptable and embarrassing and, as such, should be brought soonest to normalcy.
On our part, together with other civil society colleagues, we will be holding next Wednesday a peaceful demonstration in front of the Zimbabwean embassy in Windhoek to register our strongest disapproval of the human rights, humanitarian and political situation in Zimbabwe and to express our solidarity with the oppressed Zimbabwean people.
Thanking you in advance, Mr. President, for your consideration I remain,
P. ya Nangoloh
National Society for Human Rights
That is the title of an article that appeared yestrerday in zimbabwejournalists.com, written by Trevor Grundy, an author, broadcaster and journalist specialising in religious affairs and Zimbabwean issues. He lived and worked in Zimbabwe and other central African countries from 1966 to 1996 and is currently collaborating with Susan Woodhouse in writing the official biography of Sir Garfield Todd, the liberal prime minister of Rhodesia between 1953 and 1958 before he was ousted by white hardliners.