Tag Archives: zimbabwean elections

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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Mbeki’s Zim negotiations were self-serving

This piece was written (and published on Thought Leader) before the announcement that a deal had been brokered between Zanu PF and the MDC. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not this will truly result in Zimbabwean’s people democratic will being respected. The details that have thus far been outlined about the unity deal show it to be fragile and clumsy. Has Tsvangirai sold out? Who holds the power? Zanu PF is claiming they do, but we will only know for certain in the days and weeks to come.

President Thabo Mbeki’s latest attempt to get Zimbabwe negotiations back on track smacks of self-serving desperation — an attempt to salvage a bloodstained legacy and ensure an easy exit for the murderous tyrant he seems quite happy to consider a friend.

Mbeki as a mediator has no credibility anyway. His antipathy towards the MDC and its leader is well known — as is his implicit support of Mugabe and the brutal suppression of democratic will and political dissent that has accompanied the dictator’s systematic destruction of a once-prosperous nation.

As the suffering of the Zimbabwean people continues, with starvation salaries for those lucky enough to be employed and chronic shortages of food and medicines, it is only too clear that Mbeki has never had the best interests of the ordinary people at heart. He has nailed his unwavering support for a “liberation” elite to the mast, with devastating consequences.

It was inevitable that these farcical negotiations between Zanu-PF and the MDC would flop — because the former has been (and continues to be) extremely reluctant to relinquish its iron-fisted grip on the Zimbabwean people and, of course, all the perks that comes from the wanton pillaging of the state.

Had the South African government even a shred of integrity — or held the belief that human rights and a sustainable democracy are sacrosanct — it would have condemned the behaviour of our neighbour’s government a long time ago.

But its willingness to support an illegitimate regime financially and politically and give the thumbs-up to the sham elections of the past eight years has meant that South Africa and its president are complicit in the Zimbabwean catastrophe.

It is not too late for Mbeki to redeem himself (a little). He could do this if he were to stand up and denounce Mugabe, and do everything in his power — such as imposing smart sanctions — to ensure that the results of the March 29 elections are respected and acted upon. The Zimbabwean people deserve nothing less. But of course that will never happen, and their unnecessary suffering will continue until the inevitable collapse of Mugabe’s crumbling regime.

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Zim: Thabo tries again

According to the Business Day, Thabo Mbeki has gone to Harare to try and resucitate the collapsed talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Read about this pointless attempt here.

Smart sanctions, anyone?

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Mugabe’s friends: China, Russia (and SA)

“Smart” sanctions targeting Mugabe and 13 of his fascist associates have been vetoed by China and Russia in the Security Council. True to its pro-Zanu inclinations, the South African government also voted against the measure (as did Vietnam and Libya — no surprises there).

Click here to read the Telegraph’s report and here for the BBC’s.

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Zimbabwe: sign the Avaaz petition

Human rights advocacy group Avaaz.org is petitioning Southern African leaders to call a summit that will broker a solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis that respects the democractic will of the Zimbabwean people. The advert below will be placed by the organisation in major Southern African newspapers. To add your voice to the message, sign the Avaaz petition by clicking here.

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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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