Tag Archives: robert mugabe

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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Zim: blood diamonds and spineless Morgan

Earlier this month it was announced that Mugabe’s Kimberley Process cronies have decided to give him until June to withdraw the soldiers in the Marange diamond fields. The army runs smuggling operations and use forced labour in mines whose profits benefit Zanu-PF.

Human Rights Watch exposed the horrors of Marange in June. A task team from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme followed soon after and confirmed HRW’s findings. They recommended Zimbabwe be suspended from trading in diamonds.

But the horrors have continued. “As recently as late October 2009, [HRW] uncovered rampant abuses by the military in Marange including forced labour, child labour, killings, beatings, smuggling, and corruption,” says the rights body.

There is a clear case for Zimbabwe to be suspended. The gems from Marange are blood diamonds, extracted through the persecution and oppression of those living in the area. But no: Zimbabwe gets away with it. By letting them off the hook, “this diamond monitoring body has utterly lost credibility,” says Georgette Gagnon, HRW’s Africa director. She is absolutely right.

Having failed to do anything about the rights abuses and military occupation of Marange, over the past few months since abuses have been exposed, it is highly unlikely that Mugabe will implement the Kimberley Process’s recommendations by the agreed deadline. And with friends like South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, DRC and Russia — why should he? Doubtless they’ll rush to his defence in June next year.

So the army will continue its plunder. The diamonds will continue to be smuggled. The people — women, children included — will continue to be oppressed and exploited. And the revenues will continue to fund senior Zanu-PF apparatchiks’ lavish lifestyles. All the while, the country continues its implosion: blackouts roll across the country; people starve; hospitals have no medicine; sewage trickles in the street.

Perhaps we should all boycott purchasing diamonds (of course in these dark times it’s not like there are vast hordes rushing to the jewellery shop anyway). But let’s boycott nonetheless. If there was a significant drop in sales, perhaps the diamond-producing countries that allowed Zimbabwe’s shame to continue, will develop scruples. It’s worth a try.

After all, there’s very little one can do, it seems, except jump up and down — and weep, and pray that sanity may prevail in Zimbabwe. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s re-engagement with Mugabe in the sham “unity” government is a great pity. It means his threats are empty. Mugabe can continue regardless. Do you really think Mugabe’s going to fall in line within thirty days like Tsvangirai’s demanded he do? And what then — another deadline?

The unity government has failed to stop Zanu-PF’s reign of terror: human rights continue to be violated with brutal impunity. And the country continues to fall apart. Tsvangirai is an appeaser. His dalliance with Zanu-PF makes me curious: is he stupid, naïve, or has he been bought by Mugabe’s machine? He reminds me of Neville Chamberlain, and the British prime minister’s desperate attempts to secure “peace in our time” in the months before World War II. Well, as that tragic history showed us, appeasement only led to immense suffering, cataclysmic violence and upheaval.

If Morgan Tsvangirai really cares about his country and the members of his party that continue being persecuted, he must act decisively and abandon the marriage he should never have agreed to. Mugabe needs his foe — and bedfellow — to maintain his legitimacy. If the latter walks away, the promise of aid, investment and all the other lifelines that would prop up the Zanu-PF regime will be pulled away.

I admit, it’s not easy for old Morgan. His job is difficult. And lonely. Shamefully, the SADC (which should stand for Southern African Dictators’ Club thanks to its tireless support for Mugabe’s tyranny) is not interested in true democracy taking root in Zimbabwe. Rather, the regional body craves a continuation of the postcolonial aristocracy in which despotic psychopaths can pillage and persecute freely because they are somehow entitled to. SADC’s logic appears to be that such ghastly behaviour is reward for having liberated their countries from the Europeans.

But the threat of regional alienation is no excuse for Tsvangirai to be co-opted by SADC. It is no excuse for him to become the useful idiot acting out SADC’s wilful contempt for the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people. Zimbabwe has suffered long enough. It is time Tsvangirai stops talking and starts acting.


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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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Zim unity government: Thabo’s toxic legacy

Part of Thabo Mbeki’s toxic legacy could well prove to be the disastrous unity deal he engineered between Zanu-PF and the MDC in Zimbabwe.

Democracy has been defeated in Zimbabwe, and this largely due to Mbeki’s willingness to legitimise Mugabe’s tyrannous regime through his chairing of the power-sharing negotiations. It was a marriage doomed from the start — and it’s not surprising that about four weeks after the deal was signed, there is still a deadlock over Cabinet positions.

On the weekend, Mugabe announced that Zanu-PF will control the state security apparatus as well as the most important ministries: defence, justice, media mines, land and home and foreign affairs.

It is clearer than ever that Zanu-PF has no intention of relinquishing power, and only acceded to the unity deal as a survival strategy. Mbeki was either too callous or delusional to realise this. However, that is beside the point; more importantly, Zimbabwe’s people are needlessly suffering thanks to our erstwhile president’s self-interested meddling.

The results of the March 29 elections have not been respected. Had they been, and had the MDC been allowed to form a government, aid and investment would be flowing into the country and reconstructing the decimated nation would begin.

Zimbabwe remains without a functioning government, its economy in freefall with inflation skyrocketing to an incomprehensible 231-million percent. Inter-account transfers have been banned by the Reserve Bank and queues for ATMs are hundreds of metres long. People are desperate, starving and unable to afford even the most basic goods needed to survive.

There are severe shortages of seed and fertiliser, so the country will be unable to feed itself. All in all, the outlook is spectacularly bleak.

President Kgalema Motlanthe has a responsibility to resolve the situation exacerbated by the machinations of his predecessor. The unity deal should be canned. He should step in to ensure that Zanu-PF surrenders its illegitimate power. He can do this by freezing bank accounts, implementing smart sanctions and slapping travel bans on the Zanu-PF elite.

On March 29, the Zimbabwean people voted for change. It is about time their decision, and democratic right, was respected.

This was first published on Alex’s Thought Leader column.

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UK to kick desperate Zim asylum-seekers out

The UK’s Home Office is forcing thousands of Zimbabwean asylum seekers home according to this article in the Mail & Guardian.

This stinks of hypocrisy — and doesn’t make sense in the light of the UK’s foreign policy which clearly acknowledges the despotic brutality of the Zanu PF dictatorship. Being prepared to send desperate asylum seekers (many of whom have suffered torture and persecution) to almost certain death is a callous, disgusting, two-faced disgrace. The British government can hardly plead ingorance in this case.

Clearly the sincerity of Britain’s criticism of Mugabe and his thuggish cohorts is in doubt.

Shame on you!

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Morgan pulls out

MDC presidential contender Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of Friday’s election, citing the wave of violence and intimidation of opposition supporters at the hands of Zanu PF-affiliated thugs. It’s disappointing, in one respect, but wholly understandable – especially considering that Mugabe has made it quite clear that whatever the result of the vote, he will not be relinquishing power.

The big question is what will happen now? At least the international community and media – after what seems like years of virtually ignoring Zimbabwe – are focusing their attentions on the beleaguered nation. Finally the human rights abuses are receiving widespread coverage and condemnation. Zimbabwe can be swept under the carpet no longer, in part due to the courageous role ordinary citizens are playing in recording abuses, and disseminating the information into the blogosphere and mainstream media.

Let’s hope a solution can be found before any more innocent lives are lost.

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The Zanu-PF Fan Club (also known as the ANC)

Robert Mugabe is one lucky dictator, being in the enviable position of having outsourced his foreign diplomacy efforts to the South African government. By preventing a discussion in the United Nations Security Council on Zimbabwe’s political situation, South Africa is doing its utmost to ensure that the international community does nothing about the tyrannous regime’s evermore-brutal attempts to cling to power.

In post-election Zimbabwe, Mugabe has launched Operation Mavoterapapi [Where Did You Vote] which involves the systematic persecution of MDC supporters. Torture camps are being used, and roving gangs of Zanu PF youth militia round up suspects, beating them, and in some cases murdering them.

This is well documented, and clearly should be dealt with by the Security Council as a matter of urgency. The reason South Africa has blocked discussion about Zimbabwe is ostensibly because it believes that Zimbabwe’s implosion does not pose a threat to international peace and security — the requirement for something to be discussed in the Security Council. But this does not make sense. Firstly what is of greater importance: the lives and rights of millions, or UN protocol? Secondly, one could easily argue that Zimbabwe is indeed posing a threat to international peace and security: The flood of refugees (an estimated three million) into South Africa and the violent xenophobic backlash that has subsequently occurred is proof of this.

Thus the only plausible explanation behind blocking discussion of the crisis is that the South African government continues to be an unquestioning and unwavering supporter of Mugabe’s regime. Running contrary to the values enshrined in our constitution, its shameful behaviour at the UN means that it effectively condones the fascist subjugation of the Zimbabwean people and the assault on their fundamental human rights and democratic will.

In a betrayal of its guiding principles, the ANC has placed not only its commitment to democracy but also its credibility as a liberation movement in jeopardy. Since our ruling party is prepared to turn a blind eye to the flagrant oppression across the border, does this mean that when its political hegemony is effectively challenged, that it will resort to the same vicious measures to stay in power?


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