Tag Archives: mdc

Malema kicks out “bastard” BBC journo with a “white tendency”

The BBC’s Jonah Fisher was booted out of an ANC Youth League press conference by the movement’s president, Julius Malema. Reporting back from his trip to Zimbabwe, Malema criticised the Zimbabwean opposition MDC for making statements from its “air-conditioned” Sandton offices in Johannesburg.

From further back in the room, Fisher pointed out that Malema also lived in Sandton. And so, a torrent of abuse was unleashed in which Malema called security, labelled the journalist a “bastard” and “bloody agent” and accused him of displaying a “white tendency”.

Watch Malema’s mesmerising performance, filmed by the Sowetan, here.

Read Sapa’s report on the incident on Politicsweb.

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Is Tsvangirai an anti-gay bigot like Mugabe?

The BBC recently reported that Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s prime minister and head of the opposition MDC, had declared support for Robert Mugabe’s refusal to protect gay rights in Zimbabwe’s new constitution. If his comments are accurate, they represent yet another step backwards in the long walk towards tolerance and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe.

According to The Zambia Post, Tsvangirai said, “The President has spoken about gay rights, about some men who want to breathe into other men’s ears. I don’t agree with that. Why would you look for men when our women make up 52% of our population? Men are much fewer than women.” The two leaders were sharing the platform at an International Women’s Day celebration. Mugabe had declared that protecting gay rights in the constitution “is not debatable, it’s not up for discussion”.

As in many African countries, homosexual activity is still illegal in Zimbabwe and gay and lesbian Zimbabweans have faced decades of repression, persecution, blackmail and assault. Mugabe has had a long history of homophobia, describing gays as “worse than pigs and dogs” in 1995. His recent pronouncements on the constitution, while inexcusable, are therefore unsurprising.

Tsvangirai’s endorsement of Mugabe’s view, however, is bitterly disappointing. He is, after all, the leader of an organisation supposedly fighting for constitutional democracy and a respect for human rights.  Showing contempt for sexual minorities and the suffering they face in Zimbabwe on a daily basis, his comments undermine the credibility of his stated commitment to human rights, and reinforce an already bleak climate of discrimination and intolerance.

Tsvagirai’s remarks also contradict his very own party’s stance on sexual orientation rights. According to the Post:

Under the Bill of Rights section, the MDC position paper states that: “In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination, given our history of discrimination and intolerance, must be broad to include the protection of personal preferences, that is gays and lesbians should be protected by the constitution.”

I’m curious about the man’s motives. Did he think a spot of gay-bashing was an easy way to reach common ground with his [not so] erstwhile foe? Or does he really believe that gays are fair game, and that depriving them of their rights is the best way to ensure they conform to prevailing cultural “norms”. Perhaps he believes by letting persecution flourish – a good beating, the occasional raid, and some punitive fines – they will be “cured” of what he apparently sees as an “abnormality”.

One would have expected more empathy from a man in charge of a movement whose members face ongoing harassment – including arbitrary torture, kidnappings and arrests.

Tsvangirai has let the Zimbabwean people, and not merely its gays and lesbians, down. This is because, a country cannot be truly free unless the rights of all those who live in it are respected and protected. The first step towards that, albeit by no means the only one, is to have those rights enshrined in a constitution. He should be ashamed.

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Zimbabwe heading towards a Rwandan genocide

Once upon a time there was an African country that after several years of instability seemed to be moving shakily towards reform and democracy. Its ageing despotic president had signed a power-sharing deal with the opposition that created a unity government that would precipitate a new constitution and elections.

Sounds rather like Zimbabwe, doesn’t it? But I was actually describing Rwanda in early 1994 – only months before a genocide that would claim almost a million lives. While the Arusha Accords were being haphazardly implemented (but more often than not being ignored), fanatics in the countryside were setting up militia training bases. Arms and military advisers were being flown in to train and equip these ragtag groupings. President Habyarimana’s assassination in April 1994 was the catalyst for a hundred days of massacres, rape and torture.

Zimbabwe is in an eerily similar situation to the one that Rwanda was experiencing before its genocide.  After a decade of brutality and economic devastation, it is tempting to hope that Zanu PF’s “partnership” with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) shows that Zimbabwe is irreversibly on the road to recovery.

Sadly, however, what we see in Zimbabwe is nothing but a false dawn: a Potemkin peace designed to lure us into the same indifferent complacency with which the world viewed Rwanda in 1994.

The violent repression that has characterised Zanu PF’s rule continues, flouting the provisions of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the power-sharing agreement signed with the opposition in September. Zanu PF considers the unity deal after its defeat at the March 29 polls last year as a mere speed bump in its path of continued authoritarian rule – a speed bump which creates the illusion that it is prepared to accept reform and genuine democracy.

Don’t be fooled. Activists, lawyers and MDC supporters continue to be unlawfully harassed and detained. Senior opposition leaders face death threats. Opposition members of parliament are being targeted with ridiculous criminal charges by a brazenly partisan police and judiciary. Five have already been convicted (MPs have to resign if they serve a jail-term longer than six months).

The Zanu PF militias that unleashed a wave of brutality on suspected MDC supporters as punishment for the 2008 election result, have been accused by teachers of setting up “terror bases” at schools.

Even more frightening (and chillingly reminiscent of the prelude to Rwanda’s genocide when French weapons were despatched en-masse to Kigali) is the build-up of weapons in Zimbabwe.

Last month the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) revealed that in April 2008, Chinese arms (including several million rounds of ammunition as well as RPC7 rockets and mortars) destined for Zimbabwe reached to Luanda, Angola. It has been confirmed that the arms have subsequently reached Harare. Later, in August, an additional 53 tons of ammunition were flown to Harare from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in August 2008.

There’s more. David Maynier, the Democratic Alliance’s defence spokesperson, has revealed that South Africa is seeking authorisation from its National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) to export ammunition to its neighbour. Maynier has been subsequently vilified by the ANC ruling party which seems more obsessed by how the opposition MP found out about the application than about what the arms will be used for should they be authorised for export.

President Mugabe has unleashed his military on innocent civilians before – in 1982 he used North Korean-trained troops to torture and massacre thousands in Matabeleland for their alleged support for Zapu, a rival anti-colonialist movement that he eventually forced to merge with his own party.

His army’s abysmal rights record continues, with Human Rights Watch recently exposing the army’s invasion of the Marange diamond fields in November 2008 where it has subsequently subjected locals to forced labour, torture and murder.

Two South African MPs, Wilmot James and Kenneth Mubu, who returned earlier this month from Zimbabwe on a fact-finding mission reported, “There are reports from credible sources of increasing paramilitary activity in the countryside…”

They explained, “Under his [Mugabe’s] personal control he has a paramilitary machine consisting of soldiers, thugs, the so-called war veterans and ZANU political commissars. There are the hit squads. The police also collaborate…” They also have reason to believe that in addition to the arms exports uncovered by IPIS, “Mugabe is talking to Venezuela, Cuba and Korea to fund a war-chest in preparation for the referendum and election following on the implementation of the GPA.”

While Rwanda’s genocide was powered by ethnic hatred, this was merely a pretext: the tragedy was deliberately orchestrated by a shadowy ruling clique which knew its power was in jeopardy, and which refused to sacrifice it at all cost.  So while ethnic tensions in Zimbabwe are no where near the levels of those in Rwanda in 1994, a similar intensity of hatred exists, as does the same desperate willingness for its rulers to do whatever it takes to remain in power.

The arms flooding in and the paramilitary training in the countryside are deliberate preparations for war – a war to be inflicted by homegrown postcolonial imperialists on an innocent and undeserving citizenry so that Zanu PF’s rapacious supremacy can continue.

We cannot ignore the warning signs. We know what happened in Rwanda in 1994. The world looked away while almost a million people were slaughtered. Will we let this happen in Zimbabwe?

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Was Tsvangirai crash an assasination attempt?

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s prime minister and leader of the opposition MDC, has been in a car accident with his wife, who tragically lost her life in the incident.

Radio SW Africa reports:

Susan was seated behind the driver of their car when a haulage truck encroached onto their lane. Their driver swerved and the truck crushed the right hand side of the vehicle, behind the driver. Their landcruiser veered off the road and rolled three times.

Reports we have received say Susan survived the intial impact and when she was pulled out of the vehicle she was talking, but clearly in great pain. But a close family friend told us she lost consciousness on the way to Harare’s Avenues Clinic, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Initial reports suggest she might have broken her back and suffered multiple leg fractures.

This is Zimbabwe, the indispensable blog maintained by human rights NGO Sokwanele, suspects that there may have been foul play:

Foul play is suspected. We’re now hearing that the tyre blew out, that the axel was faulty. It’s very unclear at the moment, but foul play is supected.

This wouldn’t be altogether surprising, especially when Zanu PF has been known to have used car “accidents” to dispose of political opponents before.

And, according to This is Zimbabwe, when Deon Theron, vice-president of the Commercial Farmers’ Union, tried to take pictures of the accident his camera was confiscated and he was arrested.

It all looks very, very suspicious.

Our hearts go out to Morgan Tsvangirai and his family.

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Unity govt a farce as MDC’s Bennett imprisoned

Roy Bennett, a former farmer, and the opposition MDC’s firebrand treasurer was meant to be sworn in as deputy minister for agriculture in Zimbabwe’s new, election result-defying unity government. Instead, on landing at Charles Prince Airport, he was arrested and taken to the police station in Mutare, a town in the north-east of Zimbabwe.

According to the Zimbabwean human rights blog This is Zimbabwe, he was deprived food during the night. Supporters gathered to protest and police responded by firing live bullets. The supporters have been watching closely, the blog says, to ensure that Bennett was not surreptitiously removed and taken to a torture camp.

According to an MDC press release on This is Zimbabwe, it is believed that the intelligence services (which Zanu PF has retained control of in the new administration) is behind the detention:

It is understood that the abduction, arrest and charging of MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett is being planned, directed and operationalised by the Zimbabwe Military Intelligence Directorate (MID), led by one Mzilikazi, and the Special Agency SAS, the torture unit of the army, led by one Manene . General Constantine Chiwenga is also party to it. These people are known for their declared passionate and fanatical hatred of Roy Bennett.

With the arrest and imprisonment of Bennett, the unity government has been shown for what it is: a sinister attempt by Mugabe and a cabal of Southern African leaders to coerce the opposition MDC — and winners of the March 29 election — into legitimising a dying and destructive dictatorship .

Prime Minister Tsvangarai should never have entered this hellish marriage. The sooner it falls apart, and fresh, free and fair elections are held, the better. Zimabweans deserve freedom, not oppression with a “respectable” facade.

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Why Africa’s leaders can’t solve Zimbabwe crisis

Robert Mugabe, the embattled Zimabwean despot, has no intention of relinquishing power. He’s even said as much. And this is merely confirmed by the ongoing abduction, incarceration and torture of opposition activists and a bloody-minded refusal to share key ministries in the proposed unity government.

The SADC (Southern African Development Community) is only too aware of the Zanu PF agenda – and this makes its efforts to force the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) into a government in which it will be no more than a junior partner all the more chilling. The SADC is using the unity government as a legitimising mechanism to keep Zanu PF in power. It knows that it needs the  MDC to provide Zanu PF with a veneer of democratic respectability. But this is not what Zimbabwe’s long-suffering people chose at the ballot almost a year ago.

Yet again the SADC has refused to acknowledge the manifestation of the Zimbabwean people’s democratic will – but this is hardly surprising when SADC observer missions sunnily declared successive Zimbabwean elections “free and fair” – despite overwhelming displays of Zanu PF-sponsored intimidation and rigging.

Indeed, the SADC’s track record has shown that African leaders are incapable of resolving the Zimbabwe crisis. Not because they aren’t able to – but because they do not want to. Why? Simply because our region’s leaders are not democrats. Most share the belief that liberation movements have a divine right to rule, plunder and pillage their respective fiefdoms. Lip-service is paid to democracy and transparency provided such concepts do not challenge postcolonial ruling elites.

When Zimbabwe’s groundswell of democratic opposition to Zanu PF was met with brutal repression, Southern African leaders (with one or two pitiful exceptions) either spoke in support of Mugabe or remained shamefully silent. As Zimbabwe descended into a maelstrom of economic devastation and oppression, both quiet diplomacy and Mbeki’s mediation proved spectacularly successful in propping up Mugabe’s contemptible regime. South Africa has even adopted a proactive approach, working tirelessly to prevent the Zimbabwean tragedy from being discussed in the UN Security Council.

Tsvangarai and his party should treat the SADC – and its brazenly partisan mediation efforts – with the contempt it deserves.

As I have suggested before, an interim government must be installed by the United Nations. This government, staffed by non-political technocrats, can handle humanitarian operations to ensure the rollout food supplies and healthcare countrywide as well as the operation of essential services many of which are at a standstill.

The UN must demobilise the security and army, and provide a “peacekeeper” contingent of soldiers and police to ensure safety and security.

And then, some time next year, proper elections must be held – free and fair elections implemented and monitored by the international community.

Zimbabwe deserves nothing less.

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BREAKING NEWS: Two-year-old released after 3 month imprisonment

According to today’s main story posted on The Zimbabwe Times, the two-year-old toddler incarcerated and tortured at the notorious Chikurubi Prison was released yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. He has spent three months imprisoned; his mother continues to remain behind bars.

Nigel Mutemagau released Tuesday after three months in detention. - pic courtesty The Zimbabwe Times

"Nigel Mutemagau released Tuesday after three months in detention." - pic courtesy The Zimbabwe Times

According to the article:

“Medical reports show that during his abduction and continued detention for charges of banditry and terrorism, two year-old Nigel was assaulted and denied food and medical attention by his captors,” Chamisa [MDC spokesman] said in a statement.

“He was later referred to Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare where he was detained for almost two weeks.”

The release of Nigel follows last month’s order by High Court Judge Justice Yunus Omerjee ordering the release of the child, as well as various MDC members and human rights activists who were abducted from various locations over the past three months.

Relatives of Nigel are being looked for so that the child can be taken care of.

Read more about the abduction and unlawful imprisonment of Zimbabwean activists here.

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