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Zimbabwe:

The countdown to Chaos - 2001

Jaco Strauss
15 August 2002 E-Mail this page to a friend


For a number of years, the rapid decline of Zimbabwe was there for all to see.

However, very little was done and most of the time, too little, too late. The biggest culprit (other than Mad Bob himself) in this diplomatic disaster must be South Africa's Thabo Mbeki who did........ nothing (other than giving his nutcase neighbour tacit support!)

I'm afraid the damage done to Zimbabwe is now unfortunately irreversible. This is how it happened as reported by Daily Telegraph, IOL, Zimbabwean News (ZWNews) and Amnesty International....

Timeline 2000

Timeline 2002

2001

January

Peter Hain, veteran anti-Apartheid politician and the British Foreign Office minister with responsibility for Africa, questions South Africa's stance towards Zimbabwe.
"I wonder whether the leadership of southern Africa understands the gravity of the situation. Constructive engagement seems to have failed."
South Africa responded angrily. The foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, wrote a strongly worded letter to London saying Mr Hain's comments had been "deeply offensive". The tone of the letter reflected a frustration in South Africa that its policy was misunderstood overseas.

Mr Hain was relieved of his duties by Mr Blair within days.

22    ZIMBABWE'S Chief Justice has made a formal appeal for the government to protect judges from militant supporters of Mugabe. Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay wrote to Vice-President Simon Muzenda after the Liberation War Veterans' Association, which has spearheaded the violent occupation of white-owned farms, gave the five Supreme Court justices 14 days to resign or face unspecified consequences.

The government ignored his plea and launched a new attack on white judges.

24    Militant supporters of Robert Mugabe's government marched on the offices of The Daily News to show their anger at its coverage. One reporter was assaulted.

25    Police arrest and question three senior journalists from The Daily News. Chenjerai 'Hitler' Hunzvi, the self-styled leader of the country's "war veterans", said his pro-Mugabe followers would ban the newspaper. He appears to have been infuriated by its description of his followers as a "rent-a-crowd".

26    Jonathan Moyo, the so-called "Information" Minister, condemns The Daily News for its "cynical" attitude to "anything and everything that is nationalistic, Zimbabwean or African". He said:

"It is now only a matter of time before Zimbabweans put a final stop to this madness in defence of their cultural interest and national security."
28   In a carefully planned operation, a large bomb wrecks the Zimbabwean independent Daily News printing press. The Daily News has published allegations of corruption and mismanagement against President Robert Mugabe's government. Trevor Ncube, editor-in-chief of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, said
the blast was the logical consequence of incitement by Mr Mugabe and his ministers. He said: "You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see who did this. This has cowardice and desperation written all over it."
Davison Maruziva, deputy editor of The Daily News, said the government and its supporters had become increasingly critical of the newspaper's independent stance and officials had threatened to shut it down. He said: "We have a culture here where if you don't support the government you are against it.".

The government, who blames the MDC for the bomb blast, proposes to register journalists, penalise newspapers that are the subject of persistent public complaints and strengthen the law of criminal libel.

February

9    THE campaign by Mugabe against Zimbabwe's judiciary intensifies with a demand for the resignation of two Supreme Court judges. Barely a week after Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay bowed to months of pressure and vilification by announcing his early retirement, Patrick Chinamasa, the Justice Minister, held meetings with Justices Nicholas McNally and Ahmed Ebrahim. Justice McNally, the one remaining white on the Supreme Court, said after his meeting with Mr Chinamasa:
"We were told very nicely and very politely that we should go, take our leave and go, otherwise anything can happen. It was said very frankly that they didn't want us to come to any harm."

11    ZIMBABWE'S government has apparently panicked in the face of a rapidly growing economic crisis by announcing and then rescinding a decree seizing hard currency earnings from exporters. The move came as the country was hit by a fuel shortage. The streets of Harare were choked with queues of hundreds of vehicles at the few petrol stations which had supplies. An announcement from the central bank carried in the official press would have forced companies to sell all of their American dollar earnings to the government.

Payment would have been at the official exchange rate, well below what is offered by the burgeoning "parallel" market.

Diplomats at Zimbabwe's embassies abroad have not been paid for months and their plight is believed to have triggered the decision. Observers believe that £13.5 million is needed to clear the embassies' debts.

14    ZIMBABWE'S state electricity company announced national blackouts yesterday amid a deepening economic crisis. The price of bread also increased for the second month running and petrol stations were running dry. With no hard currency to buy imports, Zimbabwe's economy is facing paralysis. Most factories are working a three-day week, investment has all but disappeared, and the unemployment rate is around 60 per cent.

16    ZIMBABWE'S opposition leader faces the prospect of abandoning his challenge to Mugabe and spending up to 14 years in jail after he is charged with "incitement to violence". A ferocious crackdown has been launched against all opponents of Mr Mugabe, real or imagined, and the appearance of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, in a Harare magistrate's court marked the most serious escalation of this campaign. In a five minute hearing, Mr Tsvangirai was charged under the notorious Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, which was passed by the British colonial government to jail black nationalists, including Mr Mugabe, and gives the authorities sweeping powers to act against any dissidents.

18    SOUTH AFRICA is to confiscate a white farmer, Willem Pretorius' land in the first Zimbabwe-style property "redistribution" amid fears that the country is starting down dictator Robert Mugabe's road to lawlessness.

A BBC correspondent is taking refuge in the British high commission in Harare after a gang of men attacked his home. Joseph Winter, 29, the correspondent for the BBC's Africa Service, was woken at 1.40am yesterday when four intruders hammered on his door and shouted for him and his family to come out. The attack came shortly after Mr Winter and a correspondent for a South African newspaper were ordered to leave Zimbabwe on Saturday in an expected crackdown on foreign correspondents before an election.

PRETORIA should end its subsidy of Mugabe's regime in protest at the threatened expulsion of foreign journalists, according to Tony Leon. Leon also criticised the deal to provide electricity to Zimbabwe at a 25 per cent discount and on credit and said it should be stopped. He accused Mr Mugabe of "megalomania" and called on leaders of the Southern African Development Community, the regional grouping, to strip him of the current chairmanship of its defence group.

Mr Leon's calls received no immediate reaction from the South African government of President Thabo Mbeki which has stuck doggedly to its controversial policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards Harare. While Britain was swift to condemn Zimbabwe yesterday, Pretoria made no statement. This was entirely consistent with Mr Mbeki's policy of avoiding outright condemnation of Zimbabwe over the last 18 months in spite of the steady erosion there of the rule of law.

Criticism of Mr Mbeki's policy has been building up. George Soros, the financier who is a friend of Mr Mbeki and member of a regional investment committee set up by him, said investor confidence in the region was being badly damaged by a policy that tolerated Mr Mugabe.

"Mugabe has poisoned the neighbourhood. This is one point where I am actually critical of the policy followed by President Mbeki. It is doing damage to South Africa. Yet South Africa continues to help Mugabe stay in power."

21    BRITAIN urge the Commonwealth to take action to halt Zimbabwe's slide towards despotism. Robin Cook:

'Britain's concern at the situation in Zimbabwe will be widely shared in the Commonwealth'
The Foreign Office said the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, had "agreed on the importance" of sending a fact-finding mission. But the Commonwealth could not confirm yesterday whether such a team would be sent before next month's meeting in London of the ministerial Commonwealth Action Group. Diplomatic sources said Harare was "not keen" on the visit.

24    Mugabe used an address to party faithful celebrating his 77th birthday to deliver an uncompromising defence of his controversial land reform policy. Before a rapturous gathering of the 21st February Movement, a North Korean-style personality cult, he made a thinly-veiled attack on British criticism of the farm seizure policy when he denounced "evil forces in the world who seek to perpetuate their colonial hold".

27    Mugabe's attempt to bring Zimbabwe's judiciary under his control receives a setback when the Chief Justice refuse to accept his dismissal from office. Instead Anthony Gubbay said he was now "reconsidering" his previous agreement to retire early. After months of pressure and vilification, Chief Justice Gubbay had agreed to go on leave from March 1 and formally retire on June 30. He is officially due to step down in April next year.

He first learned that he was now to be dismissed from yesterday's edition of The Herald, the government newspaper. Under the headline "Gubbay to leave office tomorrow", were extracts from a letter written to him by Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister. Mr Gubbay had never received such a letter.

March

1    ZIMBABWE'S Chief Justice arrive for work, despite government moves to sack him and vitriolic criticism from supporters of Mugabe. Anthony Gubbay, 68, drew up outside the Supreme Court in Harare at 8.15am at the wheel of his official Mercedes. The government had announced his dismissal with effect from Wednesday and Patrick Chinamasa, the Justice Minister, said Judge President Godfrey Chidyausiku, a former minister in Mr Mugabe's cabinet, would be his successor.

Under the constitution, a chief justice can be removed only after an independent tribunal has been convened to investigate charges of misconduct. Presided over by Chief Justice Gubbay, the Supreme Court has infuriated the government by striking down Mr Mugabe's "fast track" land seizures. Lawyers believe that the judge has fallen victim to a political vendetta being pursued regardless of the law.

Prof Jonathan Moyo, the so-called Information Minister, had warned Chief Justice Gubbay that police would prevent him from entering his office because it would be "like someone sitting in the middle of the street".

3    LAWYERS were mourning the "death" of the independent judiciary in Zimbabwe yesterday after Mugabe succeeded in his campaign to force out Anthony Gubbay, the Chief Justice.

4    Another white farmer, the elderly mother of Martin Olds who was murdered April 2000, is ambushed and murdered on her farm.

April

6   In a three-hour meeting Thabo Mbeki privately admits to a Prof Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the MDC, that his conciliatory approach to President Robert Mugabe has failed and that his country is re-assessing its policy towards its troublesome neighbour. In the talks, his first contact with the MDC, Mr Mbeki disclosed that Zimbabwe had broken promises given to him "at the highest level". He spoke of his fears that the accelerating economic collapse of his northern neighbour could bring millions of refugees streaming into South Africa.

8   Batanayi Madzidzi, a 20-year-old science student of the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, is beaten to death by riot police during anti-government riots. Another 30 students were treated for injuries after the protest.

May

26    Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, delivered a tough message in Pretoria after meeting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the South African Foreign Minister. It was seen as a signal that America expected Mr Mugabe's most powerful neighbour to take a firmer stand against his excesses. Mr Powell gave warning of the danger posed to the entire southern African region by political turmoil in Zimbabwe.
"We not only discussed the economic crisis. I concentrated on the political crisis caused to a large extent by the actions of President Mugabe."

"The two things together are leading to a crisis that will spill over the borders and affect South Africa itself. Action has to be taken to stabilise the situation and persuade Mr Mugabe to act in a more democratic fashion."

Mugabe has ignored all the US and European calls for restraint. But South Africa supplies Zimbabwe with fuel, electricity and other essentials and is the one country that he cannot afford to ignore. Mr Mbeki has however chosen not to use the immense leverage South Africa has over Mr Mugabe. Yet Zimbabwe's economic collapse has deterred foreign investors from approaching South Africa and contributed to the Rand's slide on the foreign exchange markets.

Mrs Zuma indicated that South Africa shared many of America's concerns. She said:

"We view the situation in Zimbabwe as very critical and we are very worried both as neighbours and as people who do a lot of trade with Zimbabwe."

June

2   Tens of thousands are fleeing Zimbabwe. While Mr Mugabe has singled out the white community for vilification, the overwhelming majority of those fleeing are the blacks whose interests he claims to serve. Every flight out of the new international airport in Harare carries several hundred more on the journey to escape the fastest shrinking economy in Africa, in which Mr Mugabe presides over an all but worthless currency, mass unemployment and an inflation rate of 57 per cent that wipes out earnings and savings.

Although few figures are available, there is clear evidence of the scale of the exodus. According to the Ministry of Health, 16,000 Zimbabwean nurses left to work in British hospitals last year. More than 45,000 people were caught by the authorities last year as they made illegal attempts to reach South Africa by fording the Limpopo river. Perhaps five succeed for every one whose attempt is foiled.

Packing companies have recorded an enormous surge in business. In 1999, Prime Forwarders, a leading freight company, helped two families to leave for Britain. It now makes this arrangement at least 10 times a week. Bernard Chimedza, the company's director, said: "It's mainly the black Africans who are leaving." According to figures supplied by removal companies, about 300,000 of Zimbabwe's 12 million residents have fled the country. Most have gone to South Africa. Britain appears to be the second most popular destination, while Australia and New Zealand have also taken large numbers.

4   CHENJERAI "HITLER" HUNZVI, dies of AIDS. He rose to inglorious prominence as head of Zimbabwe's War Veterans' Association; his mixture of inflammatory rhetoric and street-brawling thuggishness brought the country's political temperature to boiling point.

He masterminded the invasion of nearly 1,700 white-owned farms last year and personally led numerous occupations, rousing followers with vitriolic attacks on whites, typically delivered with a clenched fist and accompanied by blood curdling songs from the independence war. He also played a key role in delivering a narrow victory for Mugabe's Zanu-PF party in parliamentary elections last June. Hunzvi implemented a brutal onslaught on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change that claimed 37 lives and forced more than 10,000 people to flee their homes. A master of inflammatory rhetoric, he damned MDC leaders as "traitors", "dogs" and "puppets of the whites".

7   Philemon Matibe became THE first black commercial farmer to become a target of dictator Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe when he had his farm illegally seized and his livelihood destroyed after he stood as an opposition candidate in parliamentary elections. He was ordered off his farm, where he grew 1,600 acres of tobacco, wheat and soya beans, by an 80-strong mob, led by the district administrator and four policemen. Mr Matibe unsuccessfully contested the seat of Chegutu for the MDC in elections last June.

July

Finance Minister Simba Makoni publicly acknowledges economic crisis, saying Zimbabwe's foreign reserves have run out and warning the country faces serious food shortages. Most western donors, including the World Bank and the IMF, have cut aid because of Mugabe's land seizure programme.

August

25    A pastoral letter published by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches launch a blistering attack on Mugabe, accusing his regime of inciting the "monster" of violence and allowing a breakdown of the rule of law.
"Many people have fallen victim to this monster," said the letter. "We are witnessing murders, rapes, beatings and abductions."
Last month alone, human rights groups recorded 11 political murders, 61 disappearances and 288 instances of torture.

26    Mr Mugabe denies that his supporters have been responsible for any violence. In an interview with a Nigerian newspaper, the Guardian, he says: "We are the victims. The offenders are the whites and the opposition, who are banded together to weaken Zimbabwe."

September

The Government of Zimbabwe now owns 27 604 000 ha (70.6%), private individuals or companies using land for commercial purposes owned 11 275 000 ha (28.9%) and urban land consisted of 200 000 ha (0.5%), giving a total area of 39 079 000 ha which is all of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe pledge to the Commonwealth in Abuja, Nigeria, that it would restore the rule of law in its country. These promises are soon broken. Indeed, Zimbabwe appeared to increase the state-sponsored violence after the Abuja agreement, including through the deployment of further military-trained militias under the guise of a Youth Service.

2   At the UN Conference of Racists in Durban, there is a hero’s welcome for Robert Mugabe, taking time out of his hectic schedule of terrorising white farmers to deliver a stirring attack on the evils of racism.

7   Amnesty International cautiously welcomes the agreement reached by the Commonwealth delegation and the Zimbabwean government in Abuja, Nigeria, in which the Zimbabwean authorities pledged commitment to the 1991 Harare Commonwealth Declaration. The Declaration calls on Commonwealth countries to work for "the protection and promotion of the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth," including the rule of law and all fundamental human rights.

"For the Abuja agreement to be successful, the Zimbabwe government should provide an atmosphere in which all people, including opposition candidates and supporters, are free to express their political beliefs, peacefully assemble and campaign without the fear of violence", Amnesty International said.

The human rights climate in the next by-election, due on 22 and 23 September in the Chikomba constituency in the Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe will be the first true test of the willingness of the government to abide by Thursday's agreement to end political violence.

17-18    Amnesty International welcomes the initiative by SADC when it held an extraordinary two- day summit in Harare to help facilitate dialogue to ease the Zimbabwean political crisis. The Summit's opening statement, and the subsequent action by the regional heads of state, constituted a positive initiative to reverse the drift towards the indiscriminate political assaults that has emerged there.

October

Visiting Commonwealth ministers say the government has done little to honour commitments to end the crisis over the seizure of white-owned land.

30   Ministers of lands from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have said equitable land reform is the platform on which southern Africa can resuscitate its economies, as this should bring peace and political stability in the region. (See Aug 2000) In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the ministers said land reform programs should benefit blacks because white farmers had unfairly acquired most of the region's best land under European colonial rule.

The ministers reiterated the need to develop a race and gender sensitive system of land tenure that provides security to all landholdings and creates opportunities for development.

Sam Nujoma said there was urgent need to address the land problems in order to maintain regional peace, stability and foster social and economic development. He said that in Namibia white farmers owned more than 30,4 million hectares of commercial farm land and only 2,2 million hectares were in the hands of blacks.

November

Zimbabwe's finance minister, Simba Makoni, warns parliament that the country faced "unprecedented hunger". While avoiding any reference to the government-backed farm invasions that have brought about Zimbabwe's food crisis, he called for huge international aid. According to him Zimbabwe has 75 per cent of its people living below the poverty line and the per capita income has dropped to $381 a year [£260]. "This, with a chronic shortage of food, means that we have to appeal to the international community for assistance."

More than 1.4 million people in Matabeleland and Masvingo, where the poorest are grubbing in the bush for edible tree roots, have registered with the government for food aid. Dr Makoni has issued a warning, however, that government stocks have been depleted and that there is no money to import more.

The Southern African Development Community's famine early warning system network (Fewsnet) says Zimbabwe must import 200,000 tons of food immediately if it is to avoid famine. Altogether, it adds, Zimbabwe needs to import 846,000 ton of food by the middle of next year to see it through to the next harvest. Dictator Mugabe's controversial fast-track resettlement programme has seen about 80 per cent of the country's commercial farms earmarked for state acquisition. As a result of the violent land invasions, the commercial maize crop has dropped by more than two thirds in the past two years, with many other crops suffering a similar fate. The Zimbabwean economy, which has already shrunk by 7.3 per cent in 2001, is expected to decline further. The finance minister predicts that it will shrink by at least another five per cent next year. Already Zimbabwe's supermarket shelves are emptying as food shortages and unworkable price controls take effect.

Traditionally the country has been an exporter of food, able to feed itself and most of its southern African neighbours, but officials from the World Food Programme say they are considering moving 40,000 ton of maize from neighbouring Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries, to stave off imminent disaster in Zimbabwe.

13   The Zimbabwean government has accelerated its "land resettlement programme" and at the same time issued a decree, amending the country's Land Acquisition Act. White farmers now can be forced off their land with immediate effect and the takeover is legitimised faster.

17   ZIMBABWE'S commissioner of police Augustine Chihuri and his wife arrive at Woodlands Farm, Shamva, 60 miles north-west of Harare, in one of the richest agricultural areas in the country, and introduced himself to Mike Butler, the farm owner. Chihuri, who supports the ruling Zanu-PF party, told Mr Butler that he and his wife would be arriving soon to take up residence in the homestead and the farm.

December

6   Opposition members are attacked in the town of Trojan Mine near Bindura. MDC activist Laban Chiweta later dies of his wounds. The attack took place in the presence of police officers who neither intervened nor arrested the assailants.

10-12   SADC ministerial task force visits Zimbabwe. In the final communique it states that:

SADC "welcomed the improved atmosphere of calm and stability" and expressed their gratification to learn that "violence on the farms had reduced significantly, and that the few reported incidents were being dealt with under the criminal justice system, in accordance with the rule of law, irrespective of the political affiliation of the alleged perpetrators".

19   With the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) teleconference set for 20 December, Amnesty International reiterates its call for all possible international influence to focus on persuading the Zimbabwean government to reverse its policy of political violence and intimidation.

"The situation in Zimbabwe is getting worse day by day as the Presidential elections draw nearer. The government of Robert Mugabe is determined to remain in power by any means, including harassment, arbitrary arrests, assaults and killings of anyone who stand in their way," the organisation said. "This is not about land reform but about rampant torture by the state and its proxies to bludgeon dissent."
An Amnesty International delegation recently ended a visit to the country where it met with victims of torture and beatings, human rights activists, farmers and farm workers, as well as members of the ruling ZANU-PF party, the opposition MDC and the Zimbabwe Police Force and army.
Amnesty International concludes that the government of Zimbabwe is using informal, but state-sponsored militia -- comprising land occupiers, so-called 'war veterans' and supporters of ZANU-PF -- as proxy forces to brutalize and displace farm workers and to assault real or perceived members of the opposition.
20    Milton Chambati, 45, is stabbed to death and his head was hacked off by a group of about 50 suspected members of the Zanu PF Youth Brigade who had besieged Magunje town in northwest Zimbabwe, and started beating up opposition party members. Police have not arrested anyone in connection with the killing, and failed or refused to investigate the matter.

COMMONWEALTH ministers deliver an ultimatum to dictator Mugabe to halt the political repression of opponents in Zimbabwe within a month or risk suspension from the organisation.

21    ZANU-PF youth in Karoi stabs Titus Nheya, 56, a veteran politician and trade unionist to death. He had contested the Zvimba South parliamentary seat for the opposition. The group was reportedly led by a well known war veteran. When the MDC reported the incident to the police, the war veteran was arrested but later released without charge. The case appeared to have been closed.

23    Mugabe has failed to abide by the terms of the accord reached in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. In the latest diplomatic initiative, European representatives said that they had had a "difficult" time with Mugabe in a 90-minute meeting. Louis Michel, Belgium's deputy prime minister; Chris Patten, the European Union commissioner for external relations, and Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, left empty-handed and sombre after their meeting.

23    Opposition political member Rambisai Nyika is killed in Gokwe, in western Zimbabwe, allegedly by militant supporters of ZANU-PF. To Amnesty International's knowledge, no investigation into the killings has been carried out.

26    Opposition activist Laban Chiweta, dies in hospital from burns and head injuries. National Youth Service members allegedly attacked him in the town of Trojan Mine near Bindura on 6 December. Opposition officials said the attack on Chiweta and others took place in the presence of police officers who neither intervened nor arrested the assailants.

31    Trymore Midzi, 24, dies at the Avenues Clinic in Harare after being stabbed on 29 December in Bindura by ZANU-PF supporters and young trainees from the Border Gezi Youth Training Centre.



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Previous Visitor Comments

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Louisebirgit.eriksen_at_nordjyske.dkFZukwajdjIgfQGPs
I was struck by the honesty of your psoitng

Kayleeoffice_at_mvro.skXHqysmyUTZCrR
This information is off the hoizol!

Jaco Straussfeedback_at_strauss.za.comNew functionality
I’ve now added the functionality to rate this page, please do so.

Thanks

Jaco

shockedanonymousTiran
This Mugabe character appears to be a worst despot than Saddam Hussein! How can the UN tolerate this terrorist to be in charge of a country?

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