Tag Archives: zanu pf

Mugabe’s cronies: the new colonialists

According to an investigation conducted by ZimOnline, 40% of commercial farmland seized as part of Robert Mugabe’s so-called “land reform” programme is in the possession of the Zanu PF elite — a group of approximately 2200 people.

This is a powerful indictment on the land grabs that have ruined Zimbabwe. It shows that expropriation had little to do with tackling the inequities created by Zimbabwe’s colonial past, and everything to do with buttressing Zanu PF rule and stealing resources for the benefit of a few.

The amassing of land, diamonds and other resources by this corrupt and greedy ruling cabal represents a new, horrifying colonialism in Zimbabwe: a system of oppression which denies ordinary Zimbabweans basic political and economic freedoms, and condemns the poorest of the poor to the enslavement of poverty and persecution.

Read more about the investigation’s findings at the M&G.


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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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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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Massacres, forced labour haunt Zimbabwe diamond fields

Military control over diamond mining in Zimbabwe’s eastern Marange district has resulted in a brutal mix of massacres, forced labour, beatings and rape.

This is according to a comprehensive report released last week by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the New York-based rights NGO, which interviewed over 100 people in the region in February 2009.

Mining in Marange began in 2006. Initially the government allowed anybody to prospect in the area. Then it started clamping down. Recognizing the mines as an important revenue opportunity, the Zanu PF-controlled army invaded the mines in October 2008, massacring over 200 miners in the process.

Helicopters swooped down over illegal miners, shooting live ammunition and teargas. 800 soldiers were sent in to secure the area. Illegal miners were forced to dig mass graves for their murdered comrades. The report says:

A local headman told Human Rights Watch that in the three weeks of the military operation, Chiadzwa resembled “a war zone in which soldiers killed people like flies.” Another headman was forced to bury five bodies of miners; all five bodies had what appeared to be bullet wounds. None of the bodies were identifiable.

With the army in control of the area, the violence has continued and illegal mining – which the police and military were ostensibly supposed to shut down – has continued to flourish, this time in the hands of soldiers.

The army is forcing at least 300 children to work without pay in the mines. A woman forced to work on the mines told an HRW researcher: ‘We worked together with about 30 children of ages between 10 and 17 years. The children worked the same 11 hours each day as adults did. The soldiers had a duty roster for all villagers in Chiadzwa to take turns to work in the fields, irrespective of age.’ The woman explained how men did the digging, while children and women carried the ore, then sieved it before sorting the diamonds. The women and children were forced to work without breaks, with soldiers not even providing food and water, and beating those working too slowly.

Soldiers have also been plundering impoverished villages, stealing items like cellphones, maize and blankets. In addition to this, the report reveals that:

Several witnesses and victims told Human Rights Watch that soldiers continue to assault, harass, and subject the local community to torture…

Two such incidences occurred in February 2009 when:

[F]ive soldiers beat three Muchena villagers for over five hours using a rubber hose without stating any reasons for the assault. The same night, eight soldiers assaulted a family in Muedzengwa village using open palms, clenched fists, rifle butts, and booted feet. The soldiers then allegedly stole several items of personal property. During the beatings, the soldiers demanded information on local miners, which the villagers did not have.

Zanu PF party apparatchiks have also threatened to forcibly remove those who live in the area, estimated by HRW to be about 7000 families. The reign of terror and military oppression continues, with the illicit profits from smuggling (diamonds are sent illegally to Mozambique and Johannesburg, South Africa) benefiting soldiers and senior Zanu PF officials.

HRW has called on Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government to intervene and place police control over the area, ensuring ‘that the police abide by internationally recognized standards of law enforcement and use of lethal force.’ It also calls for the government to launch an investigation into the rampant human rights abuses in the area.

Unfortunately, the unity government is unlikely to do anything. While Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is eager to claim that Zimbabwe has made great strides in governance reform, and that his nemesis President Robert Mugabe is accepting this process, nothing could be further from the truth.

As I have discussed in the past, Zanu PF is doing its utmost to stall reforms proposed in the unity agreement. Furthermore, human rights activists, lawyers and opposition MDC politicos continue to be unlawfully harassed and detained. Hundreds of prisoners die of starvation in jail. And land grabs and persecution of farmers occur with impunity.

Zanu PF’s undemocratic participation in government is only further aiding Zimbabwe’s disintegration and prolonging the suffering of our ordinary Zimbabweans. The world cannot look away from the horrifying abuses and continuing tyranny in the Marange diamond fields and elsewhere. It is no use pretending that Zanu PF is prepared to surrender its illegitimate and strangulating hold on power. Zimbabwe will continue its agonizing implosion if the West decides to prop up this sham unity government.

Regional powerhouse South Africa as well as Europe, Britain and the US need to act in the best interests of all Zimbabweans and force Zanu PF to accept the rule of law and ensure that the obligations in the unity agreement are adhered to. The suffering citizens of Marange, and of Zimbabwe as a whole, deserve nothing less.

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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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