Archive for August, 2011
JOHANNESBURG — Banks enable illegal sales of Zimbabwean “blood diamonds” by allowing payments through local banking partners, charge human rights groups.
JOHANNESBURG — Banks enable illegal sales of Zimbabwean “blood diamonds” by allowing payments through local banking partners, charge human rights groups.
BY NQABA MATSHAZI
A United Kingdom newspaper, the Daily Mail, yesterday claimed that Gaddafi arrived in Zimbabwe last week aboard Mugabe’s private jet.
But President Robert Muga-be’s spokesman George Charamba has dismissed reports that Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi could be in Zimbabwe, implying that the brother leader may not be welcome.
Crop failure has made the need for food aid in Zimbabwe's drought-prone southern provinces increasingly urgent
Tedius Bere, 31, from Chivi district in Zimbabwe's southeastern Masvingo province, recently travelled to the capital, Harare, to ask for his brother's help to buy food for his family, whom he had left in Chivi with only enough maize meal for two days.
"I had no choice but to ask my brother for money… because we are facing real starvation," Bere told IRIN as he laboured to load two 50kg bags of maize meal onto the roof of the bus he would use to return home.
His 3.2 hectare plot of maize was severely affected by a prolonged dry spell that hit the district in late January. "I did not manage to harvest a single cob," he said, adding that most of his neighbours and many families in surrounding communities failed to harvest much this year and were facing a similar predicament.
Bere's brother, who is employed as a driver by an NGO, has a wife and four children of his own to look after, as well as other dependants from the extended family. But he has pledged to make sure his sibling's family has enough to eat until the next harvest, which is still about eight months away.
Those families in Chivi who cannot rely on cash handouts from relatives to get them through the region's perennial dry spells and poor harvests are often forced to sell off their livestock to buy basic commodities.
An informal survey by IRIN revealed that many households from the country's drought-prone southern provinces are in urgent need of food aid following the failure of their crops during the 2010-11 farming season.
Fungai Mabachi, 35, from the populous suburb of Highfield in Harare, recently received a distress call from her mother, who is caring for her two school-going daughters in her home district of Mwenezi, also in Masvingo province.
"My mother sent a relative with a letter saying she will be needing food in the next few weeks because the maize she managed to get from her meagre harvest was running out. I told her that I would do my best, but as a vegetable vendor going through a hard time, I doubt that I will manage," Mabachi told IRIN.
She said she had heard that many areas in the district were facing hunger, adding that only those with irrigation schemes appeared to be safe.
Tariro Mutsvanga, 42, a single mother of two from Shurugwi, about 120km east of Gweru, capital of Midlands province, told IRIN that only a handful of households in her village of more than 800 homesteads had enough food to see them through to the next harvest.
"You can count the number of people who will have enough food on your fingers. These are the people who planted early enough and were therefore not severely affected by the dry spell," she said.
WFP waits for assessment results
The World Food Programme (WFP), which helps food-insecure communities during lean periods through a targeted assistance programme, told IRIN it was awaiting the findings of the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Zimvac) report to determine which areas required food aid.
"At this stage, we do not have the beneficiary numbers since we do not have the Zimvac results," said Robert Makasi, WFP senior programme assistant.
The Zimvac report is usually based on inter-agency assessments by WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), NGOs and government. But this year the government excluded traditional partners on the basis of "national security" and the report, which was expected to be released in July, has yet to be published.
However, other government survey results indicate that Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, Manicaland and pockets of the Midlands and Mashonaland provinces were affected by poor rainfall, and a recent WFP exercise revealed that extensive crop failure in some districts would make food assistance necessary for nine instead of the usual four months. Makasi estimated that WFP would need about $59 million for the programme for the period between November 2011 and March 2012.
The agriculture ministry has estimated a total cereal harvest of 1.6 million tonnes, which represents an increase of 6% from the 2009-10 farming season. However, some NGOs argue that food insecurity is more severe than the government's food and crop assessments suggest.
In early August, international humanitarian agencies launched an appeal for $488m to meet Zimbabwe's immediate needs through the consolidated appeal process, the humanitarian community's most important fundraising instrument. The amount is $73m more than the original request made in December last year, partly because of concerns about food security.
The US-based famine early warning systems network (Fews Net) said in its July 2011 report that most urban and rural households had stable food stocks but warned that food insecurity would affect many areas in the coming months as cereal stocks dwindled.
According to Fews Net, this year's cereal harvest leaves a deficit of 70,000 tonnes which would need to be offset through imports, local purchases and humanitarian aid.
Fews Net warned, however, that the reinstatement of duties on basic commodities such as cooking oil and maize, which had been lifted more than two years ago to encourage imports, might adversely affect the price and availability of food, especially between October and December 2011, when many districts in drought-prone provinces are expected to have exhausted their household cereal stocks.
Fire death of Solomon Mujuru, husband of Robert Mugabe's deputy, exposes Zanu-PF infighting to succeed president
One of the most powerful men in Zimbabwe has been killed in a fire at his home, triggering rumours of a conspiracy in the battle to succeed the president, Robert Mugabe.
Former military chief Solomon Mujuru, 62, was "burnt beyond recognition" in the blaze at his farm about 35 miles south-west of Harare in the early hours of Tuesday morning, police said.
Under his nom de guerre, Rex Nhongo, Mujuru was a leader of the guerrilla war that swept Mugabe to power and became Zimbabwe's first black military commander after independence. The general was married to Joice Mujuru, vice-president of Zimbabwe and leader of a moderate faction in Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
Analysts said his death will shake Zimbabwe's political kaleidoscope and rock Zanu-PF, where Joice Mujuru and other rivals are jostling for position as 87-year-old Mugabe's heir apparent. This in turn could destabilise the party's power-sharing agreement with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
In a country with a history of politically suspicious deaths, there was speculation over the cause of the fire at the 3,500-acre farm that had been seized from a white farmer in 2001, although there was no immediate evidence that it was anything other than an accident.
Rugare Gumbo, spokesman for Zanu-PF, said: "What we know is he died in a fire accident at his home this morning. The police are looking into the cause and they will inform us. Personally, I rule out all speculation but of course you can never be certain."
Mugabe's relations with Mujuru had cooled in recent years, but Gumbo added: "Obviously the president must be troubled by the death of someone he worked with for a long time. They were very close."
State radio said Mujuru's wife visited the farm where its reporter saw the main building razed to the ground. Family members and friends said an electrical fault may have ignited the blaze. Police said a worker at the house told them Mujuru went to bed and neighbours were woken later as fire swept through the house, state radio reported. Mujuru had evidently tried to escape but was overwhelmed by flames and smoke.
General Constantine Chiwenga, the current military chief, also visited the farm and told state radio: "The way he has gone is difficult to comprehend. He was such a fine fighter."
Mujuru had been the most senior member of the military to sit on Zanu-PF's politburo. His wife is seen as leading a reformist faction open to working with the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the MDC. She is opposed by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the hardline defence minister dubbed "the Crocodile" who is also vying to take over, should the ailing Mugabe retire or die.
It was claimed the circumstances of Mujuru's death could fuel Zanu-PF infighting. Eddie Cross, policy co-ordinator general of the MDC, said: "It's a huge shock. The suspicion of a power play is everywhere. Everybody's talking about it. If that was involved, it's a huge event and could spark violence between factions of Zanu-PF.
"We've been saying for a long time that if there's a civil war in Zimbabwe, it won't be between Zanu-PF and the MDC, it will be between factions of Zanu-PF."
Cross added: "I think Robert Mugabe will take it badly. He will read into it rivalries in his own party. Our information is that Mugabe is now looking for a quiet retirement, so this is the last thing he needs."
John Makumbe, professor of political science at Zimbabwe University, said: "There is so much fighting in Zanu-PF now that, if it's foul play, it's anybody's guess who might have done this.
"I think we are going to see a severely fractured party because there is going to be finger pointing and allegations from one side against another. The two factions, Mujuru and Mnangagwa, have been fighting for crumbs from the rich man's table. Mugabe will not find it easy to handle. It will make him age a little faster again."
Mugabe has acknowledged deep divisions in his party and has said he cannot leave office until he has resolved them and unified the party ahead of elections, which could take place next year.
The latest turn of events is likely to strengthen Mnangagwa's hand, according to the Zimbabwean media entrepreneur Trevor Ncube. "It certainly weakens Mrs Mujuru's chances of succeeding Robert Mugabe," he said. "All their supporters will have to regroup and consolidate. It strengthens Emmerson Mnangagwa's chances in a big way. I suspect there may be celebrations in that camp."
Others felt it was too soon to judge. Piers Pigou, project director for Southern Africa at the International Crisis Group, said: "This throws up a lot of dust that will cloud vision for a bit. We'll have to see how the dust settles."
Accusations of foul play are never far from Zimbabwe's political discourse. Questions were raised over the death of Brigadier-General Armstrong Paul Gunda, who had been linked with a coup plot against Mugabe, when his car collided with a train in 2007. Tsvangirai's wife Susan was killed in a car crash in 2009, though the prime minister himself said it was an accident.
Mugabe is scheduled to attend a summit of regional presidents this week in Angola, at which the Zimbabwe political crisis is high on the agenda. Regional leaders have recently taken a firmer stance against violence and other obstacles to democratic reforms blamed on Mugabe and his party leaders.
Sanctions, when portrayed by Zanu-PF as imperialism, provide a convenient excuse for the mismanagement of Zimbabwe
Two years on from the signing of a power-sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe and his main political opponents, Zimbabwe faces a crunch meeting at a summit in Angola this week.
The leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have demanded a "road map" for the implementation of the agreement, including timetabled commitments for human rights and rule of law reforms and the adoption of a new constitution. This should pave the way for elections next year which could mark the country's return to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule and economic disarray.
I visited Zimbabwe last month, as part of a delegation from the International Bar Association, and we met a range of civil society activists, senior lawyers and government ministers, including the prime minister and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai.
It was clear to us that the transition towards a fully democratic state continues to be piecemeal and painfully slow. Virtually everyone we met from civil society and the MDC had been arrested, some quite recently, and many of these had been badly tortured.
Yet the mood we encountered was cautiously optimistic. Mugabe is now 87 years old and visibly weakening. Even members of his own Zanu-PF talked openly about the future when he steps down from power, with some acknowledging that he should not lead the country into the elections next year. There is a strong desire to avoid a return to the violence that has accompanied previous elections – in which hundreds of people have been killed – and a real hope that the international community could help to ensure a peaceful transition.
Zimbabwe has clawed itself back from almost total economic collapse over the past two years under its power-sharing government. There have been some tangible advances, such as an increase in media freedom, although police harassment remains routine. The MDC government ministers we met are working hard to try to turn some state institutions around, getting children back to school and encouraging donors and foreign investors to re-engage with the country.
Unfortunately the current policy of western governments, such as Britain, the United States and the EU, means they cannot reciprocally engage.
An end to western sanctions has become one of the last rallying calls of hardliners within Zanu-PF. They are determined to cling to power, not least because they fear prosecution for their many crimes of violence and corruption in their years of misrule.
The sanctions referred to are a series of measures implemented by the US and EU. The most direct of these are visa restrictions against a group of named Zanu-PF leaders and their wives, and a freezing of their foreign bank accounts. They also include the ending of all grants and loans to Zimbabwe's government on a bilateral or multilateral basis.
Although western donors assured us these measures were not intended to hurt the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, they admitted this was how they had been presented. They provide a convenient excuse for Zanu-PF's disastrous mishandling of the economy over the past two decades and allow Mugabe to continue to portray himself as a victim of "western imperialism". Significantly, both SADC and the African Union have repeatedly called for all sanctions to be ended.
The discovery of a large field of diamonds in Zimbabwe in 2008 has actually reduced the practical significance of these measures still further. As China continues to expand its economic influence into Africa, the leverage of western donors is growing correspondingly weaker.
However, SADC has an opportunity to show real leadership to improve the human rights record of its member states – where developments in Malawi, Angola and Swaziland should also be cause for concern. Western governments should focus their efforts on engaging with the new diplomacy that is emerging on the continent.
Gaddafi official calls for Cameron to leave after 'uprising' as Syria and Zimbabwe dub UK foreign policy hypocritical
Some of the world's most notorious dictatorships have been quick to turn the smash-and-grab turmoil in England's cities to their own political advantage.
In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi's deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaaim said: "Cameron and his government must leave after the popular uprising against them and the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations by police.
"Cameron and his government have lost all legitimacy. These demonstrations show that the British people reject this government, which is trying to impose itself through force."
And Libyan state television said Cameron was using "Irish and Scottish mercenaries" to tame riots in England.
"The rebels of Britain approach Liverpool in hit-and-run battles with Cameron's brigades and mercenaries from Ireland and Scotland. God is Greatest," said a breaking news caption on its morning program.
Syria suggested David Cameron's problems in recent days had been nothing compared to what had faced the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. "It's very informative to hear the prime minister of England describing the riots and the rioters in England by using the term gangs," its ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja'afari told reporters. "They don't allow us to use the same term for the armed groups and the terrorist groups in my country. This is hypocrisy. This is arrogance.
"London, Birmingham, Bristol is only 1% of what happened in some restive areas of my country."
Britain's deputy ambassador Philip Parham's response to the "absurd comparison" was withering. While his government was handling the riots with "measured, proportionate, legal, transparent steps to restore the rule of law", in Syria, "you have a situation where thousands of unarmed civilians are being attacked and killed … Some 2,000 civilians have now been killed, the vast majority of them unarmed."
And hot on the heels of Iran's request for the United Nations security council to investigate the "violent suppression" of those angry at cuts, Zimbabawe's president Robert Mugabe weighed in, saying Britain should sort out its own problems rather than interfering in other countries.
"Let them attend to their problems now that they are experiencing problems, which have dogged other countries before and they have in those circumstances accused those countries of lacking freedom.
"Let them tell us what is happening whether there is lack of freedom or it's something else. Britain now is on fire, London especially and we hope that they will extinguish their fire. They should pay attention to their internal problems and to that fire, which is blazing all over and leave us alone because we do not have any fire here. We don't want them to continue creating unnecessary problems in our country. We want peace … the people of Zimbabwe want peace ."
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, home of student Ashraf Haziq, victim of one of the most shocking attacks during the London unrest, a police chief has used the experience of British police officers in recent days recent days to justify crackdowns on street protest. Deputy national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the rioting and looting were "nightmares that we are fighting hard to avoid and prevent".
Protests "should always be avoided as we will never know what it can turn into," Khalid said in a statement on Wednesday. "Praise to God, we are able to avoid these scary and tragic scenes from erupting here in our beloved country."