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June 2008

Monday, 30 June 2008

Mugabe's new master-plan

How the so-called elected president plots to get his own way

Robert Mugabe, newly sworn in yesterday as President of Zimbabwe, will arrive at the African Union (AU) summit in Egypt today waving a giant olive branch. He is expected to tell delegates that he is ready to accept a negotiated settlement with the opposition MDC to solve the crisis in the country. But there are major conditions to his offer.

The AU members will first have to agree publicly that Friday's Presidential re-run poll was credible, and that Mugabe himself is the duly elected President of Zimbabwe. And second, they must also accept Mugabe's terms for establishing any much-vaunted Government of National Unity.

This plan is not likely to cut much ice with several African states, including Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania, who have already condemned the election and called for a new free and fair poll. But other African nations may see Mugabe's apparently benign proposals as a way out of the crisis, at least temporarily.

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Sunday, 29 June 2008

Mugabe to be sworn in today

Protests grow - but will they be enough?

After one of the most shameful elections of modern times, and almost within earshot of the screams of his tortured and murdered victims, Robert Mugabe will today be sworn in for another term as the President of Zimbabwe.

While his goon squads continue to hunt down and terrorise anyone they think might be a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) sympathiser, Mugabe will immediately fly to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh, for an African Union summit, where he will hope to be greeted as Zimbabwe's rightful leader.

He may meet with some disapproval, but probably not enough. Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria have all condemned his programme of violence, and Tanzania and Botswana have even spoken of sending in troops. But other states in the 53-member union are unlikely to agree.

Meanwhile at home the Zanu-PF miltia's programme of organised terror has reportedly delivered Mugabe a landslide vote in the so-called Presidential run-off. But this has not satisfied their bosses, and the persecution will continue today with the launch of Operation Red Finger - a plan to track down those who refused to vote, and therefore are not marked with red dye on their hands.

On the diplomatic front, the dream of real negotations, of perhaps a government of national unity, remains just that - a dream. Despite statements by both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu, South African president Thabo Mbeki, who is believed to be the only man who could bring the regime down, continues to refuse to utter a single word critical of Mugabe.

Any hopes in that direction now lie with the new ANC president Jacob Zuma, who is known to be sympathetic towards the MDC leader and fellow trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai. Zuma is likely to become President of South Africa next April. It's going to be a long wait.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Biti walks free from court

One bright moment in a grim week

Tendai Biti, the secretary-general of Zimbabwe's opposition MDC, was set free by a Harare court yesterday, Thursday, just in time for the world's most pointless election.

It was the one bright moment in an otherwise depressing week as, despite international pressure reaching an unprecedented pitch, Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF junta refused to postpone or call off today's one-man presidential re-run poll.

With Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, refusing to take part in the poll, no-one can forecast how the people will react to what is clearly a farce being enacted before their eyes. But few expect any lessening of the government-inspired violence that has rocked the country in the past weeks.

Biti, who had been facing charges of treason which carry the death penalty, plus other charges relating to making false statements, and one ludicrous charge of insulting the president, was arrested two weeks ago.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The world turns against Mugabe

International pressure on the President reaches unprecedented levels

After years of neglect, misunderstand and inaction, we in Zimbabwe are beginning to realise that our President and his government  are the focus of enormous international pressure. We know from experience that Mugabe is well-practiced in ignoring what is said about him. But the scale of the pressure now makes even the most pessimistic observer feel that soon something has to give.

It is worth listing some of the statements and actions that have taken place across the globe during the past 24 hours.

In the United States, President Bush has declared that any result of the farcical one-man presidential re-run election on Friday will be a sham. The US government has declared that it will not recognise the winner of any such poll.

In London the Queen agreed formally to strip Mugabe of his honorary knighthood. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath back in 1994.

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Why Tsvangirai pulled out of election

MDC candidate cites violence, threats of war and non-access to media in letter to election body

The First Post can today publish the full text of the letter written by Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to the country's Electoral Commission setting out his decision to withdraw from the presidential run-off election on Friday.

In the letter, addressed to the Honourable Justice Chiweshe, chairman of the Commission, Tsvangirai states: "Conditions presently obtaining throughout the country make it virtually impossible for a proper election... to take place."

He points out the Commission is obliged by law to ensure that elections are conducted "efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law."

Read the rest of the article and see the letter at The First Post

Monday, 23 June 2008

The War of the Words

Suddenly everyone has something to say about Zimbabwe

Rightly or wrongly, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, (MDC) lurks behind the gates of the Dutch Embassy here in Harare. He has not requested asylum, say his Dutch hosts, but he does fear for his own personal safety.

Latest intelligence says that. while he has announced his withdrawal from the Presidential run-off election on Friday, he has yet to write to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to say so. This has led to rumours that he might even change his mind on Wednesday, and run after all.

As for Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF junta - they call Tsvangirai a coward, and count their blessings. On the surface, the way seems open for another five years of their iron-fisted rule.

But the prospect for the next few days remains frighteningly confused and uncertain - a factor which seems to have been a signal for world leaders of every persuasion to weigh in with their own comments on our poor country.

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Sunday, 22 June 2008

The end of the road

Why Morgan has said "no" to the run-off

Violence, intimidation and murder have won the day in Zimbabwe. Yesterday Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, bowed to the inevitable and withdrew from next Friday's presidential run-off.

At a press conference at his home in Strathven, in Harare's central suburbs, a subdued Tsvangirai said what we all knew to be true - that the electoral process was a shame, and that any prospect of a free and fair vote had disappeared.

He said that state-sponsored violence, which has spread throughout the country in the past few weeks, had been a ploy to keep Mugabe in power, and in the light of the continued intimidation and murder of MDC people he had no option but to withdraw.

On the same day, and symbolic of what has been happening since the first election for president back in March, a planned MDC rally was wrecked by both Zanu-PF thugs and the police, in an orgy of attacks, beatings, and stoning of cars.

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Thursday, 19 June 2008

Three farmers meet a terrible fate

Another appalling event shatters the lives of the innocent

This is the story of three farmers, living peacefully in the Kezi rural district, some 70km south west of Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo. All three were supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change. All three are now dead.

Their names were Edward Thsuma, 26, Mchasisi Moyo, 30, and Gift Sibanda, 37. Mr. Moyo and Mr. Sibanda were abducted from their homes, forced into a white Toyota Hilux, and taken into the hills. Their bodies were later found in shallow graves.

Mr. Thsuma was herding his cows with relative, who needs to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. This man survived, with a broken arm and widespread bruising, and is able to describe what happened.

"They found us herding cattle, and said they had spent the past week looking for us. They accused us of selling out the country by voting MDC but living on Zanu-PF land. They attacked us with clubs. I was knocked unconscious. When I woke, they told me that Edward was dead."

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Zanu-PF's grim new weapon

How Mugabe's men use poison to torture and kill their victims

The terror campaign being waged by government militia in Zimbabwe has taken on a new dimension - the deliberate application of highly toxic chemicals to the wounds suffered by opposition MDC supporters.

I have evidence that at least seven people, who first suffered severe beatings, had their open wounds sprayed with the dipping chemical Tactik Cattle Spray and the herbicide Paraquat. A nine-year-old girl had Paraquat applied to slashes on her buttocks. The process radically increases pain, and can lead to death.

Yesterday, Tuesday, I saw four victims of this treatment in a private health care centre in Harare run by missionary doctors. All come from Manicaland, where Zanu-PF terror squads are known to be operating. One victim, Tonde Mondiwa, 24, is not expected to survive.

Tonde's arms and legs are covered in blisters, and the skin is peeling off. He told me: "I was beaten up first by the Green Bombers (a Zanu-PF youth militia). Then they poured water mixed with Paraquat on me."

One of the doctors told me: "The cell death in Tonde's skin tissue is rapid, his chance of recovery is now nil." She explained that the chemicals eat through flesh, leaving bones exposed. "This is nothing less than chemical warfare being waged against civilians," she said.

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Monday, 16 June 2008

Troops and police snatch children's food

Zimbabwe militia loot aid on its way to starving children

One of the few food aid trucks still running in Zimbabwe, following Mugabe's ban on humanitarian work by independent aid agencies, has been hijacked by Zimbabwe police and soldiers. As a result, hundreds of children have gone hungry.

The truck, sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was carrying 20 tonnes of food, destined for schoolchildren in the eastern Manicaland province.

USAID administrator Henrietta Ford has described how Manicaland provincial government Tinaye Chigudu directed the military and police to stop the truck, and send the load instead to a rally of the ruling Zanu-PF party, in Mutare District.

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