Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe before the elections (14)

Column 14

Concern over escalating violence is the flavor of the week.

This was triggered off by the death of a young victim on February 23. In Headlands, the constituency held by Zanu-PF strongman Didymus Mutasa, Christpower Matisiri, the twelve-year old son of MDC activist Shepherd Maisiri, died in a thatched hut, in which he was sleeping with three siblings. Arsonists were alleged to have set the house ablaze in an attempt to "eliminate" Shepherd Maisiri, who intends to challenge the incumbent Zanu-PF MP in the forthcoming election. Maisiri's home has been set on fire nine times since 2000. The state media omitted to report the boy's tragic death. Zanu-PF's spokesman Rugare Gumbo denied his party's involvement in the affair, claiming that no one was likely to go against President Robert Mugabe's plea for a peaceful election campaign. The President repeated his call on hearing of the incident, according to New Zimbabwe. Gumbo accused MDC of relying on "violence as a campaign strategy".

Four Zanu-PF members close to Mutasa were suspected as the alleged arsonists, but no arrests were made. Four CIO men in a car without number plates had called on Maisiri, who refused to talk to them, saying it was a case for the police not the CIO. The police - who took 7 hours to get to the fire - have ruled out arson.(1)

The incident sparked off a heated debate within the cabinet meeting on 26th February. Though proceedings are not usually reported, sources informed SW Radio Africa that MDC Finance Minister Tendai Biti openly challenged Mutasa, demanding to know why it was, that so many politically motivated violent incidents happened to take place in his region. Information Minister Webster Shamu blamed outsiders, who wanted to portray Zanu-PF in a bad light.(2) Tsvangirai's MDC called a press conference to say he intended to confront President Mugabe over increasing violence, culminating in the child's death in Headlands.(3) He also reiterated the demand that reforms must be in place, before free and fair elections can be held.(4)

MDC has asked SADC for an extraordinary meeting to look into the rising tide of political violence. According to Tendai Biti, who spoke of 120 politically motivated incidents since the start of the year, the party has despatched a dossier compiled over the past few months, recording the killing, intimidation, assault of party activists and cases where party supporters were prevented from registering as voters.(5) The MDC's claim of a plot to assassinate the MDC leadership, was scoffed at by Zanu-PF.(6)

Tsvangirai summonsed two Ministers, with co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone, responsible for the police, and Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Mpariwa, to discuss police action against human rights defenders and the increasing rise of arbitrary arrests.(7)

Last week Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara had agreed on a Code of Conduct to end endemic violence in line with Article 13.2 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) (8) It is hard to see the effectiveness of this code of conduct. Police clampdown on civil society is likely to intensify, given Deputy Police Commissioner's Innocent Matibhiri's accusation that western powers were using NGO's for subversive purposes and his insistence, that donated radios were intended for espionage. He told the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee that police would continue to confiscate short-wave radios and advised the hearing that he would crush "Studio 7" of the Voice of America, which he considered "illegal".(9) The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHU) plan to challenge the police in court for banning radios not linked to the State radio station. (10 )

Ten NGOs in particular are being targeted by the police.(11) At a Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security hearing, Matibhiri claimed that failure to arrest suspects of political violence was due to lack of evidence to link anyone to the crimes. He also sought to justify police action under the Public Order Security Act (POSA) to disrupt political meetings.(12)

Some 200 victims of the violent election 2008 campaign, who recently met in Zaka, had demanded the presence of international observers to prevent similar occurrences this time round.(13) However Vice-President Joice Mujuru stated that only African observers would be allowed.(14)

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) reported "general instability and political tension" due to intolerance and lack of freedom of association and expression.(15) Public meetings organized by the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee ahead of the referendum were reported to proceed well, following a slow start.(16) A gathering organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition CZCC) sparked off heated debate between various civic society groups and coalition government, with the former claiming the new constitution scarcely differs from the current one.(17) A similar meeting of the Media Centre in Harare was banned by the police, who said that no further NGO organised gathering would be permitted. Speakers from political parties and the National Constitutional Assembly were to have been present.(18) Gwanda residents queuing for food aid were told to produce Zanu- - PF cards.(19) The South African think tank Institute for Democracy in Southern Africa (IDASA) said Zimbabwe lacked space for opposition politics and was not ready to hold fair and free elections. It accused SADC of failing to dismantle Zanu-PF dominance and the structures responsible for the bloody 2008 campaign.(20)

Teachers were banned from acting as referendum poll officers - to their annoyance, as they had wanted the cash - as education Minister Coltart was against a break in children's education.(21)

Have they - have they not managed to raise funds for the referendum locally? Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said they did, then refuted it, only to revert to his original statement during a foreign trip, saying Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa would release the funds to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) during his absence. If so, funds are thought to be coming from diamond companies.(22) The police have demanded US$183m in order to police the forthcoming election, which is only US$22m less than the Finance Ministry estimated for the entire exercise.(23) All political parties are also seeking finance in and outside the country, although foreign donations are not allowed.(24) A UN team will arrive in Zimbabwe early March to assess the country's request of financial assistance for ts planned elections.(25)

The High Court dismissed the National Constitutional Assembly's case for the postponement of the March 16 referendum on the grounds that the President cannot be challenged.(26) Two visiting US Deputy Secretaries of State have promised an end to sanctions, if Zimbabwe met all the stipulations of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in order that "credible and non-violent" elections are held.(27)

Zanu-PF fears the pending release of the 2002 Election Report by South African judges, which may reveal malpractices by its officials, such as complicity in violence, manipulation as well as confidential information of Mugabe's handling of party affairs. The Mail and Guardian has fought for four years for the courts to force the SA government to hand it the report.(28). Furthermore, South African courts may investigate rape used in Zimbabwe as a political weapon during the 2008 campaign. This is the result of the efforts of Canadian activist Stephen Lewis and his AIDS-Free World organisation, which stated that thousands of women were gang raped by Zanu-PF rapists.(29)

MDC has received numerous applications for candidates in the forthcoming election, but most are short of the right qualifications. Moreover there is a lack of correct gender and age qualifications, so that the party may have to select individuals outside its structures.(30)

Political office seems to hold out material rewards which accounts for the scramble by candidates to enter primary selection by various parties.

MPs demanded payment to educate masses on the constitution.(31) Outgoing local government officers are also demanding golden handshakes, with Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo awarding Masvingo Councillors stands.(32). Judges have complained of poor working conditions including low salaries.(33)

A mysterious Airbus has been identified by international NGOs as ferrying Zimbabwe diamonds out of the country. The equally mysterious Chinese businessman Xu Jinghua aka Sam Pa, believed also to supply weapons to the CIO, is a frequent passenger on the jet.(34) Some US$1bn diamonds are unaccounted for, according to a Zimbabwe Development Corporation (ZMDC) witness in a court case against Core Mining, which had been booted out of the diamond fields for their capacity to perform the work.(35) Mbada Diamonds under the chairmanship of Robert Mhlangu has been granted additional premises at Harare Airport for its secretive diamond transactions.(36) Following the discovery of diamonds, food security in the Chiadzwa area became precarious, with villagers requiring food supplies. The Chiadzwa Comminity Development Fund disclosed that Zanu-PF officials pilfered fertilizer and maize-meal donated to the villagers. (37)

The cash-strained Grain Marketing Board's business of maize-milling, flour products and bakeries hopes to conclude a foreign cash facility of US61m to alleviate its precarious position.(38) The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) has again pointed out that agriculture suffers due to lack of a land market and thus investment in agriculture, which is seen as high risk. What is needed is clear proof of ownership to facilitate land mortgages and land sales. (39)

Despite their resistance to indigenise, banks have submitted plans to do so. These are said to be based on less than 51% ownership with an employment share scheme, pension fund with empowerment credits.(40)

150 A2 (smallscale) sugar cane farmers have received land offers in Hippo Valley and Triangle, following arrangements with the giant sugar producer Tongaat Hulett , bringing the number of sugar cane farmers to 1 000.(41)

  1. Telegraph, UK 25.2, SW Radio Africa 25.2, 26.2, Zimbabwe Mail 25.2, New Zimbabwe 26.2, SW Radio Africa 28.2, Nehanda Radio 27.2, 28.2, Daily News 27.2
  2. SW Radio Africa 26.2
  3. Daily News 26.2
  4. MDC statement 25.2
  5. SW Radio Africa 26.2
  6. Daily News 25.2
  7. Daily News 26.2
  8. Daily News 26.2, AP 26.2
  9. SAPA 25.2, VOA Zimbabwe 26.2
  10. The Zimbabwean UK 22.2
  11. Daily News 25.2
  12. The Zimbabwean UK 25.2
  13. Standard 24.2
  14. AP 24.2
  15. AP 26.2
  16. SW Radio Africa 27.2
  17. Daily News 27.2
  18. SW Radio 27.2
  19. SW Radio Africa 28.2
  20. News 24 28.2
  21. Herald 28.2, New Zimbabwe 28.2
  22. SW Radio Africa 25.2, 26.2, 28.2, AP 25.2, Standard 24.2
  23. Standard 24.2
  24. Zim. Independent 25.2
  25. VOA Zimbabwe 22.2
  26. SW Radio Africa 22.2, 28.2, author Sokwanele 26.2
  27. SW Radio Africa 22.2
  28. Mail and Guardian 22.2
  29. Globe and Mail 25.2
  30. Zim. Independent 22.2
  31. SW Radio Africa 25.2
  32. VOA Zimbabwe 25.2
  33. Radio VOP 18.2
  34. SW Radio Africa 22.2, http://www.diamonds.net 25.2
  35. The Zimbabwean UK, 22.2
  36. SW Radio Africa 22.2
  37. The Zimbabwean UK, 20.2
  38. Zim. Independent 22.2
  39. Zim. Independent 22.2
  40. Zim.Independent 22.2
  41. Herald 28.2

Letzte Änderung: Thursday, 07-Mar-2013 11:18:22 CET
Vorherige Meldung:
1.3.2013 Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe vor der Wahl (14)