** Zimbabwe-Starving to Death **
Posted 29 October 2003 - 10:32 AM
(The following is an IPI Watch List Protest to the Government of Zimbabwe and is being published by STAR Chairman Max Soliven who chairs the IPI National Committee.)
His Excellency President Robert Mugabe
Office of the President
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, condemns in the strongest possible terms the assault on a prominent media lawyer.
According to information provided to IPI, Beatrice Mtetwa suffered severe bruising and cuts to her body after being beaten by a policeman. The incident occurred on October 12 when police were called to assist the Mtetwa after thieves attacked her car. However, when police arrived they promptly accused her of driving while under the influence of alcohol.
During the three hours that Mtetwa was held in custody she was beaten by a policeman both in the car on the way to the Borrowdale police station and while at the police station.
Posted 06 November 2003 - 11:34 AM
Zim Replay: Namibians
To Seize White-Owned Farms
Namibian Workers 'To Seize' Land From White Farmers
By Basildon Peta
Southern Africa Correspondent
The Independent - UK
"...the National Society for Human Rights, a coalition of civic groups, yesterday strongly condemned the proposed land occupation, saying it would do to Namibia what it had done to Zimbabwe."
Civic groups in Namibia are opposing planned seizures of white-owned farms by poor blacks, saying the move would plunge the southern African country into the same chaos that has ruined nearby Zimbabwe.
The Namibia Farmworkers Union, which has support from landless blacks, farm labourers and the Namibian government, has announced that its members will start forcibly taking over 15 farms next week.
The union said its aim was to ensure livelihoods for landless blacks, including the farm labourers it alleges have been mistreated and evicted from white-owned commercial farms.
But the National Society for Human Rights, a coalition of civic groups, yesterday strongly condemned the proposed land occupation, saying it would do to Namibia what it had done to Zimbabwe.
Alarmed white farmers represented by the Namibia Agricultural Union called on the authorities to protect privately owned land and warned that the action may have devastating economic consequences.
The human rights coalition said it "does not support any unconstitutional and unlawful takeover of any commercial or communal farms, regardless of the colour and or political affiliation of the farm owners. If allowed to stand, the proposed invasion could become a most serious setback for the relative peace and tranquillity which this country has enjoyed since independence in 1990."
It urged Namibian President Sam Nujoma, a close ally of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, to condemn the planned invasions. But Mr Nujoma had not done so by yesterday. Junior members of the Namibian government have condemned the plans but are powerless to stop them if approved by their authoritarian leader.
Mr Nujoma has said African land must go back to its rightful owners - black people. He has warned white Namibian farmers that they risk facing the same fate as their Zimbabwean counterparts unless they give up their land.
Mr Nujoma and Mr Mugabe ambushed Tony Blair at the United Nations Earth Summit in Johannesburg last year where the Namibian leader launched a broadside against Mr Blair accusing him of protecting a few white "imperialists and colonisers" in Zimbabwe at the expense of the country's 14 million people who did not control their land. Mr Mugabe also delivered a scathing attack in which he told Mr Blair to "keep your little England and I will keep my Zimbabwe" to massive applause.
If Mr Nujoma's silence is tacit approval of the planned seizures, then his country will become only the second in Africa to emulate Mr Mugabe's policies that have ruined a once prosperous nation.
Posted 08 November 2003 - 09:43 AM
Dear Family and Friends,
A Canadian friend and passionate believer in democracy recently gave me a subscription to the Guardian Weekly and what a delight it is to be able to read "real news" from the "real world" every week. Recently there was a report on how the lives of subsistence farmers in Kenya are being dramatically improved thanks to research into how chemical signals from different grasses attract parasitic wasps.The wasps then eat maize borer moths and the result is a dramatic increase in crop yields. The added bonus comes from the grasses which started the process as they then provide lush grazing for dairy cows which produce more and better milk. Reports such as this one shouldn't bring tears to my eyes but they do because with every passing day Zimbabwe is not only being left behind but is also racing back to the dark ages.
Just three years and ten months ago, before our political madness began, Zimbabwe was also involved in amazing research which was going to change the face of agriculture and dramatically improve lives. Companion growing and intercropping was becoming a widespread practice. Massive field trials were being conducted into minimum or zero tillage to improve yields and boost soil quality. Farmers were growing huge fields of flowers for their essential, healing and aromatic oils. Others were growing crops like castor beans whose oil is used in the chemical and plastics industries and others a bushy shrub whose oil was set to replace diesel as a fuel source for motor vehicles. All of this has now gone. The farmers are forbidden from the lands on which the crops were grown and the specialists, scientists, engineers and technicians have left or are leaving the country as the entire economic structure of Zimbabwe falls apart. Decades of painstaking research and huge advances in agricultural diversity have now been completely destroyed and largely replaced by primitive scratch farming which is now almost the only thing to see on Zimbabwe's looted and seized farms.
Agriculture is not the only thing going backwards in Zimbabwe and lately the march into the past seems to have accelerated into almost every aspect of day to day living. We now have a huge crisis with water in some of our towns and cities. This morning our one and only propaganda radio station read out a list of suburbs in the capital city which are going to be subjected to regular 24 hour periods without water because there isn't enough clean water to meet the demands. In Marondera our water in the last fortnight has alternated between clear, milky and dark brown and there is no one in authority able to offer an explanation or solution. Night after night our town is being hit by men who go street by street disconnecting and stealing water meters. On the night mine was stolen, 12 others in surrounding streets also went. The roads were awash from broken pipes and over a month later our town council have still done nothing whatsoever to even effect temporary repairs. Our mains water pipes are still joined together by desperate householders with bits of garden hosepipe and rubber strapping.
The veneer of normalcy hanging over Zimbabwe is rapidly disintegrating. We now have money which has an expiry date! Ours must be the only country in the world which runs a jingle every thirty minutes advertising its own money! You cannot get an ambulance or hearse unless you provide the petrol! There are no public telephone boxes any more because none of our coins are of a high enough value to make a phone call ! One day a loaf of bread is 1400 dollars, the next it is 2200 dollars and the next it is 2400 dollars. The only medicine you can usually get at a government clinic is Paracetemeol which is used to treat everything from diarrhoea to malaria. This week doctors were on strike demanding 30 million dollars a month, university lectures were still on strike and nurses were again threatening to strike. The telephone company is on a go slow and it takes 20 attempts to send one single email and 40 minutes to download that most infuriating of things - an unwanted email with an unasked for attachment.
And throughout this daily mayhem our President this week announced that all schools should have computers because we are being left behind in the IT world. How schools which are having to raise their fees every 6 weeks just to cope with inflation are going to afford computers is a complete mystery. President Mugabe also announced this week that one million houses are to be built to address the massive housing backlog in the country. Cement is usually only available on the black market, trucks only move with black market fuel and building is now the preserve of multi millionaires. Meanwhile the Minister of Information lashed out at the UK, Australia, America and New Zealand accusing them of being the ones that are stealing our foreign and local currency and trying to "unseat" the government ! Oh dear, another scapegoat !
Until next week, with love,
Copied from the Library here:
Also posted here:
Posted 09 November 2003 - 07:51 AM
Thousands Flee Zimbabwe
By Tim Butcher
The Telegraph - UK
The effects of Robert Mugabe's regime are forcing thousands of people to seek sanctuary in neighbouring countries - a situation that is threatening to destabalise the whole region.
GABRONE, Botswana -- Less than a mile from the mirror-panelled banks and high-rise offices of Botswana's richest firms, penniless Zimbabweans gather on dusty street corners begging for work.
Unregistered, unkempt and unlawful in a foreign land, the desperate men whisper "Piece work, piece work" sotto voce, meaning "odd job" to any passer-by.
If you are brave enough to stop your car at what appears to be an empty junction, a mini-stampede erupts as Zimbabweans surge towards the vehicle, hands flapping for car door handles in an unseemly scrum to be first in line.
Malnourished and haggard, the men try anything to convince would-be employers. Some brandish O-level certificates as proof that they passed through Zimbabwe's once respected but now barely functioning education system.
Others show references from employers back in Zimbabwe long closed down or even character references from the country's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to indicate that they are not tainted by association with President Robert Mugabe's regime.
All the documents have to be retrieved from a carefully secreted position - tucked in a sock or hidden behind a belt. To be found with such paperwork by the police is grounds for the bearer to be kicked out of Botswana as an illegal.
"I have been coming across the border regularly for two years now," said 24-year-old Mqondisi from Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.
"We get a few days' permission to be here, but we all stay to look for work because a little bit of money here in Botswana is more than we can hope for in Zimbabwe. The police catch us and stick us in the trucks that take us back over the border, but after a few days we come back."
The problems caused to southern Africa by the Mugabe regime's systematic destruction of the economy and the democratic system are causing worsening trouble.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans are seeking sanctuary in neighbouring South Africa, while 400,000 have gone to Mozambique. Anything from 10 to 20 per cent of the Zimbabwean population have left their homes to seek job security and wages in neighbouring lands.
Trains, buses and lorries have been used by the South African authorities to deport 498,321 since the crisis began in 2000, according to official figures, although it is believed that only one in six illegal immigrants is caught.
Even desperately poor Mozambique is now attracting Zimbabweans. Thousands have streamed over the mountainous eastern border into Manica province, hoping to be paid in any currency other than the Zimbabwean dollar.
Ironically, many black Zimbabweans are leaving for Mozambique to work on farms being run by the same white farmers kicked off their land by Mr Mugabe.
Zimbabwe may hate the white farmer, but scores have been welcomed into Mozambique by the authorities keen to lure agricultural specialists, especially in the tobacco sector.
Botswana, too, has also been inundated. A rare African economic success story, it is now under threat from hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. It is dramatic proof of the regional chaos caused by Mr Mugabe's chaotic rule.
With a tiny population of only 1.7 million, Botswana faces being overwhelmed by those fleeing the economic chaos, political violence and spiralling lawlessness of Zimbabwe, which has a population more than eight times greater.
The flood has led inexorably to tension, with Botswanans blaming the arrivals for a surge in petty crime and for stealing jobs. Local police have been accused of beating the arrivals and other human rights abuses.
Spencer Mogapi, editor of the independent Botswana Gazette, said: "If we had 10,000 illegal Zimbabweans here we would not be able to cope because we are so small.
"But our government says officially that there are 60,000 here already and most people believe the real number to be much more than that."
The suburb of White City in the Botswanan capital, Gaborone, offers clear proof of the scale of the problem. As the crisis in Zimbabwe has worsened, the illegal immigrant situation in Botswana has become steadily worse, although the secretive government of President Festus Mogae rarely speaks publicly about the problem.
He is understood to be concerned about the influx, which threatens the economic and social stability of his small country, and as a result he is believed to be one of Mr Mugabe's fiercest regional critics.
A new detention centre for illegal immigrants has recently been built near Botswana's border with Zimbabwe, and Botswana is erecting an electrified fence along the border to stop illegal immigrants and diseased cattle.
There was no response from the president's spokesman after an approach by The Telegraph, and a western television crew was asked to leave the country recently after attempting to film a report on the issue.
Don McKinnon, secretary general of the Commonwealth, discussed the regional fall-out from Mr Mugabe's economic mismanagement recently and let slip that Botswana might have as many as 200,000 illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe.
Alfred Dube, Botswana's ambassador at the United Nations, hinted at the threat of vigilantism against illegal Zimbabwean immigrants who are blamed for everything from petty crime to spreading Aids.
"We are concerned about what is going on," said the ambassador. "It is very unfortunate that we have our houses being burgled every day and our children being harassed. We understand why our people are saying Zimbabweans must go."
Back in Gaborone, Mr Mogapi said death provided the starkest proof of the scale of the problem. "There are so many of them that when they die they are filling up our mortuaries for days as their families do not have the means to come to collect them," he said.
"The authorities here have to bury them in unmarked graves. It is a very sad situation."
Posted 29 November 2003 - 03:57 AM
I have often wondered if, as a white and an ex farmer, my writing about the situation in Zimbabwe has done more harm than good for this country that I love so much. In the last three and a half years I have written two books, almost 200 weekly letters and about 150 newspaper and magazine articles on events here as they have happened. Looking back on some of my writings over the last 46 months and having written so many millions of words on Zimbabwe's chaos I think today's letter and its topic is probably long overdue. Hopefully it will help people understand a little better just exactly why I do what I do and why I stay in Zimbabwe.
I am white and was born here long before Zimbabwe's independence. I did not approve of the repressive rule of Ian Smith and his Rhodesian Front and I do not approve of the repressive rule of Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF. I was appalled at the human rights abuses, torture and detentions of Rhodesia's government when they struggled to hold on to power in the late 1970's and am equally appalIed at the violence, brutality and human rights abuses of Zimbabwe's government as it tries to hang on to power 30 years later.
In 1990 when we legally bought a farm with government approval in Marondera it was because we wanted to live in the countryside and try and make a living from farming. People who have read African Tears will know that those 10 years on the farm were incredibly hard in every sense - financially, physically and mentally. Having the farm seized by drunken government supporters in 2000 and living side by side for 7 months with what became a war veterans headquarters and later a torture camp, was any mother's worst nightmare. Seeing our employees being abused, intimidated and forced to attend political rallies; witnessing politicians paying the war veterans to stay on our farm and watching a so carefully tended and much loved piece of land being turned into nothing more than a political beerhall finally gave me the courage to speak out. In those 7 months I saw at first hand what was going on. There was not a shadow of doubt in my mind then that our land had been squatted not because we were white but because a political party were desperate to stay in power and that we were merely scapegoats. I also knew that if I did nothing and told no one about what was happening on our farm and in the country then I did not deserve to live here and be called a Zimbabwean.
I wrote African Tears not because I was a disgruntled white farmer who wanted her land back but because I wanted the world to know what was happening. A year later I wrote Beyond Tears because I wanted people to read for themselves what the Zimbabwean government were doing to their own people - black, white and brown. There were only a handful of people who were prepared to let me tell their stories for that book because, regardless of skin colour, we are a nation afraid of our leaders. I continue to write about the Zimbabwean situation for only one reason and that is to expose the truth. I have tried to speak out for all victims regardless of their colour, professions or financial standing but it is not an easy path that I have chosen, it is lonely, exhausting, frightening and often dangerous - perhaps doing the right thing is always like this?
In the last 46 months many other white Zimbabweans have chosen to walk this path and each one of us has lost everything in the process but we do it because we love not "the" country but our country. We do it, not because we want to go back to "the good old days" but because Zimbabwe is our home too and we want to be a part of the future. We are tired of being labelled and stereo typed as white racists. We are tired of repressive rule and we are tired of racists and bigots be they black or white and we just want to stand together and build a democracy that our children, and Africa, will be proud of. Our mission lies in the future and not the past. It is a vision which cannot be achieved by brushing things under the carpet yet again but by demanding accountability from the people who lead us.
My reason for writing on this topic today is because all Zimbabweans, regardless of their sex or colour, are again preparing to try and make our government hear our desperate calls. A weekend of national prayer and fasting is in progress as I write and on Tuesday the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, supported by civic society, have called for a national protest against horrific levels of taxation, inflation and violations of human and trade union rights.
Black skin or white, brown or beige, we are proud and determined Zimbabweans looking to the future and ask particularly for your prayers and support in the days and weeks ahead.
Until next week, with love,
Posted 01 December 2003 - 06:15 AM
Dear Family and Friends,
This week, for the first time in many months, I actually managed to find a petrol queue in which I felt confident of reaching the front before stocks ran out. At the pumphead there was a little piece of white paper stuck next to the cost per litre indicator. On the paper was written: X 100. In other words the price I paid last time I had queued here in May 2003 had to be multiplied by 100 and on the rare occasions when petrol stations have fuel it now costs one hundred and sixty eight thousand dollars to fill a standard sixty litre tank.
In the 2 hours it took for me to get to the front of the petrol queue there was not much to do except think about what is happening to our country. A young black woman came to my car window carrying a large enamel basin filled with wild mahobohobo fruits which she was trying to sell in order to earn a few dollars with which to buy a meal that night. The woman smiled at me. "Aren't you Catherine?" she asked. I said I was and apologised for forgetting her name, something I seem to spend my life saying to people these days! "I am Chipo's sister" she said and at the words my heart went into my mouth because it had been two years since I had lost all contact with Chipo's family and had not even been able to offer my condolences properly. "Chipo died," she said. I nodded and said how sorry I was. I asked about Chipo's baby son and who was now caring for the child. The last time I had seen the boy he had been a fat, gorgeous baby who smiled and dribbled in my arms and his mother had clapped with cupped hands when I gave her all my own son's baby clothes. "No," the woman said quietly, " I am sorry, Chipo's baby also died."
Aids is ravaging Zimbabwe and I am no expert on the topic but you don't have to be here because the disease and its effects are all around us all the time. Official estimates are that 3000 people are dying from Aids here every week, I think the number is probably far, far higher than that. 7 out of 10 people are unemployed in Zimbabwe and there are hundreds of thousands of people who are HIV positive but cannot afford the anti retrovirals, let alone one decent meal a day. Everywhere you look you see Aids staring you in the face. The obituary notices in the newspapers and the dates on headstones in the cemeteries are filled with people who have died in their twenties and thirties. In almost every shop and street you see young men and women as thin as skeletons, with sunken eyes, grey hair, swollen feet and sores on their faces and necks. On hospital cards you read the doctors' reports of the sudden onset of epilepsy and arthritis or prolonged diarrhoea. The recommendations are always: "improve nutrition, needs milk, eat fruit and vegetables, take vitamin supplements." To anyone living in a country with 525% inflation these words are a joke. Milk, fruit, eggs and vegetables have become unaffordable to the vast majority of people and so, young women like Chipo and her beautiful son, just fade away and die.
Since October 2000 when government supporters chased my family off our farm, three of our seven employees have died of Aids. Two others are HIV positive. The daily assistance I used to be able to give to those employees with milk, fruit and vegetables from the farm, stopped in 2000. The free condoms I used to give out every month stopped too. The nearest farm clinic was long since closed down by government supporters grabbing land for their political masters.
As I drafted this letter President Mugabe was threatening to pull Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth saying that we were still members of the UN and proud of our association with that body. On the 1st of December it is World Aids Day and I as listened to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's words, I could not help thinking about the men and women who had lived and worked on our farm. Mr Annan said he "tries to speak for the poor and the voiceless." His voice and that of the UN have been deafening in their silence when it comes to the plight of millions of desperate Zimbabweans, dying of Aids, hunger and the simplest of diseases. Our government nurses and doctors are still on strike here. Sick people depending on vitamins or drugs coming by post from relations outside the country are also lost now as postal workers continue with their strike which has now been going on for 14 days.
This letter is dedicated to the lives, loves and in memory of the men and women who worked on our farm and have now died of Aids: Emmanuel, Josephine and Wilfred and also to a friend, Chipo, and her baby son.
Until next week,
with love, cathy.
Also documented in our Library:
Posted 02 December 2003 - 03:54 AM
Louis Badenhorst (82), his 63-year-old wife Henrietta and their daughter Mihanna had arrived at a guesthouse in Clarens on Friday for a holiday.
The three were returning from a nearby shop on Saturday when a man who worked at the guesthouse allegedly shot them.
The killer was apparently assisted by another man to help put the three corpses into the family's car before driving to a township about 3km away, where the victims' vehicle was doused with petrol and set alight.
The bodies burnt inside the car, Free State police said.
The motive for the killing was not known.
The suspect and two alleged accomplices were arrested yesterday, the police said. - Sapa
Posted 12 December 2003 - 03:03 AM
The festive season is generally a time of bliss, especially for children as they receive gifts of all sorts from parents, teachers and even their own peers.
But sadly, this year's Christmas season has a dark gloomy cloud hanging over it in view of what some children have had to put up with.
Of all woes, defilement has reigned king in Zambia this year as its rate shoots to astronomical heights.
Its cold hand has had no mercy on many a Zambian child, robbing them of their innocence, peace of mind and ultimately, their very lives.
Those who have survived the horrific ordeal are still struggling to recoil from its torment while the blood of those who have died cries for justice from the grave.
On November 30, 10-year-old Elizabeth Sampa Malunga of Lusaka's Nyumba Yanga was defiled by three men and subsequently died on December 4 at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH).
Before she died, Elizabeth managed to mention the names of the culprits and according to police spokesperson Brenda Muntemba, police were catching up on their heels.
This grim tale is just a drop in the ocean of a whole sea of defilement cases reported by the media.
It is this scenario that has stirred a series of debates within and outside Parliament on what should be the lasting solution to the scourge.
First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa has consistently added her voice to the call for stiffer penalties for child defilers to protect children's rights.
At the peak of her indignation, Mrs Mwanawasa has advocated for the castration of child defilers to thwart the escalation of the practice.
Tagging along with the First Lady's lamentation have been likes of musician Sista D who has churned out uncompromising lyrics lashing out against child defilement on the song Vitendeni, meaning "chop them off."
On the contrary, individuals like Dr Robert Mtonga of Lusaka feel that castration is not the solution since what society was dealing with essentially was bad traditional practices.
"Defilement is an evil which should be condemned by all but castration won't solve the problem.
"The truth is that you cannot legislate human behaviour just like you cannot uproot deeply entrenched traditional beliefs," he said.
Dr Mtonga explained that the belief that having sex with a minor was deeply rooted in some traditions which suggested that coming into contact with pure blood could cure infections.
He said there was need to revisit old customs which upheld good traditional values where acts such defilement were taboo.
In the midst of these views from a cross-section of society, it is cardinal to realise that the fight against the violation of children's rights cannot be waged in isolation.
It is the global picture that must be projected to evaluate just how much is being done to protect our children.
In this vein, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has been working around the clock to implement the dictates of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Where the aspect of sexual exploitation of children is concerned, the following plans of action have been put in place.
-To take concerted national and international actions as a matter of urgency to end sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
-Raise awareness of the illegality and harmful consequences of sexual exploitation and abuse, including through the Internet.
-Enlist the support of the private sector including the tourism industry and media for a campaign against sexual exploitation of children.
-Identify and address the underlying causes and the root factors, including external factors, leading to sexual exploitation of children and to implement preventive strategies.
-Ensure the safety, protection and security of victims of sexual abuse and provide assistance and services to facilitate their recovery and social re-integration.
-Take the necessary action at all levels, as appropriate, to criminalise and penalise effectively, in conformity with all relevant and applicable instruments, all forms of sexual exploitation of children including within the family or for commercial purposes.
With Unicef having opened the gates with the above measures to slay and bury the monster of child defilement and abuse, it is about time individual countries consolidated their efforts as well.
As Unicef country director in Zambia Stella Goings recently observed, the future of our children has come under increasing threat.
For Zambians, the challenge is first of all to accept that there is a scourge on our hands that demands prompt reaction by way of open discussion and then taking affirmative action.
Even as the curtains close on the year 2003, the child defilement plague is one we should seriously ponder - even at the hilt of festivity.
This is the result from Negroes in-charge. No justice at all.
I continue defending and supporting my own tribe (the Whites) and will never join the colaborators having joined the southerners, ready to kill all of my People.
Posted 12 December 2003 - 04:45 AM
Veteran President Robert Mugabe severed ties with the club of former British colonies on Sunday after Commonwealth leaders voted at a summit in Nigeria to extend Zimbabwe's suspension indefinitely, knowing full well what the reaction would be.
"I think it's entirely in character sadly with President Mugabe. I think it's a decision which he and particularly the Zimbabwean people will come to regret," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.
Britain and other members of the "white Commonwealth" advocated a tough line at the stormy summit negotiations in Abuja, saying Mugabe had done nothing to soften his autocratic rule since Zimbabwe was suspended from the body over an election in March 2002 marred by vote-rigging and violent political repression.
Zimbabwe's supporters, led by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, had opposed the continuing suspension, arguing that Mugabe should be encouraged to reform by being reinstated.
Mbeki has not reacted publicly to the developments, saying only that members of the 14-member Southern Africa Development Community would issue a statement later Monday.
Sunday's move has turned Zimbabwe into a pariah state, now without a voice in the Commonwealth -- a body representing some 1.6 billion people -- and threatened with expulsion from the International Monetary Fund.
Once hailed as a hero who liberated his people from British rule, Mugabe now presides over a state gripped by its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980 and desperate food shortages.
According to a report released Monday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, some 5.5 million people, or half of the country's population, are in need of emergency food assistance.
But Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano, who is also the current head of the African Union, warned that isolation would not help Zimbabwe's woes and accused the Commonwealth of adopting tactics of "pressure and punishment."
"The organisation did not reach this decision by consensus," he said, adding that the older Commonwealth members could not understand the situation of those trying to build democracy in states only recently emerging from the rule of "abject racialist powers".
"That is why I feel it is unfair. The process of isolation does not bring resolution."
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had struggled to prevent the Zimbabwe crisis from overshadowing his summit, said the door to Zimbabwe remained open and denied the summit had been a waste of time.
"The measures that we've put in place to facilitate the quick return to the Commonwealth remain as relevant as if they had not decided to quit," he said.
Zimbabwe is only the second country to withdraw from the Commonwealth after Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, pulled South Africa out in 1961 because of criticism of his regime.
Obasanjo, as current Commonwealth chair, had been tasked by the summit to monitor progress in Zimbabwe along with a six-nation panel comprising the leaders of Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica and South Africa.
In Harare, Zimbabwe's embattled opposition party accused Mugabe of acting illegally and called on the world to help bring democracy.
"Mugabe still wants to play politics at the expense of the people," said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Secretary General Welshman Ncube.
Australia defended the Commonwealth decision, saying Zimbabwe was still not abiding by the principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights enshrined in the group that emerged from the vestiges of the British empire.
"I think it is always dreadful when a country decides to go but the decision the Commonwealth took yesterday was the only decision consistent with Commonwealth standards," Prime Minister John Howard said.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark also placed the blame at Mugabe's door, saying: "Zimbabwe's government seems determined to thumb its nose at international opinion.
"The Zimbabwe government's decision to withdraw is not a disaster for the Commonwealth. It is an indictment of Zimbabwe's government that it has chosen this path," she added.
Posted 19 December 2003 - 04:14 AM
Dear Family and Friends,
It has been a diabolical week for Zimbabwe. The Abuja decision to renew our suspension from the Commonwealth caused a tidal wave of recriminatory statements, propaganda and threats. First President Mugabe pulled Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth altogether and then he, his wife and two dozen officials went to a UN Information Summit in Geneva. President Mugabe used this world forum to publicly slate his critics saying that the email and internet were being used to destroy Zimbabwe and recolonise the Third World. Meanwhile back at home Zanu PF turned up the temperature. First they pushed through Parliament a ratification of the decision to leave the Commonwealth. Then a Zanu PF caucus meeting resolved to expel the foreign diplomats of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand from Zimbabwe. Finally, having used the fear factor to the limits, Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge announced that the diplomats would not be expelled "at this time."
Sitting on the edges of our seats and praying for sanity, wisdom or just plain common sense, these are extremely worrying days for Zimbabwe. The consequences of statements and decisions made in anger and to try and soothe hurt pride, are almost too awful to contemplate and describe. And, through it all, the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, just plummet ever downwards.
One night this week the usually pitch black view from my window was disturbed by a brilliant but un-natural spotlight. The light came from the direction of a nearby cemetery and I didn't stay to inspect it, rapidly closing the curtains and praying that the light was in fact coming from further away. Goose bumps covered my arms as I thought about the latest horror story in Zimbabwe. At night grave robbers are descending on cemeteries and digging up newly filled graves. They are removing the corpses and taking the empty coffins for resale. I don't know if this appalling practice is being conducted by money making entrepreneurs or just by desperate people trying to get enough money to stay alive.
With unemployment now at well over 70% in Zimbabwe, people are resorting to desperate means in order to feed themselves and their families and stay alive. Zimbabwe has now entered the fourth growing season in a row without any sort of decent agriculture being practiced. Every half hour, 72 times a day, our state radio churns out the latest propaganda jingle telling us that "Our Land is our prosperity". The government have seized 11 million hectares of prime agricultural land and yet, for the fourth year in a row, half of our population needs world food aid and people are starving and digging up coffins for re-sale. The majority of the seized farms have not been ploughed, the resettled people have no seed, no chemicals, no fertilizer and no money with which to buy the inputs they need to grow food.
A recent overseas visitor to my home walked around my small garden and said it felt like looking at something from World War Two. In every flower bed, between daisies and lilies, there are vegetables: onions, carrots, cabbages, beetrots and spinach. Along one wall, standing tall and about to blossom are sunflowers which I am growing in order to supplement the feed I give to my half a dozen chickens. In flower pots are chillies, strawberries and climbing beans. Up and down my driveway my six laying hens patrol and scratch, crop the lawn, dig out worms and beetles, feast on flying ants and eat weeds. From my kitchen pelmets hang great heavy strings of home grown onions cropped from one small bed in the corner of the garden. In my pantry cupboard are two dozen jars of home-made marmalade, jelly, jam and chutney made from the jealously guarded single naartjie and paw paw trees in my back garden. In the fridge is home-made butter and in the deep freeze home grown chickens. You have to be extremely hard working in order to survive in Zimbabwe these days but mostly, you have to have access to a small piece of land and learn to become very inventive. This is the ironical tragedy of Zimbabwe's so called agricultural revolution.
With so much land having apparently been given to the people, why the hell are we all starving? Why are people digging coffins out of newly filled graves? Why are young boys sitting in filthy rags on pavements, starving and begging? Why are people living in cardboard boxes in shop doorways? Why are families of four or six living in one room with neither toilet or kitchen and without even a window in which to put a flower pot and grow one strawberry or tomato plant ? The biggest tragedy of all is that we are wasting the fourth growing season in a row. In Marondera we have already had 8 inches of rain this season and yet it is irrigating nothing. It is tragically clear for anyone who cares to see, that this supposed agricultural revolution has turned Zimbabwe into a nation of beggars, thieves, racketeers and grave robbers. These are the realities of our daily lives here and as we struggle to cope with them it is hard to look at the bigger picture and to concentrate on caucus meetings, diplomatic decisions and UN Summits.
Until next week,
with love, cathy.
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Posted 21 December 2003 - 12:45 PM
Dear Family and Friends,
In the first month to Christmas, the government gave to me:
Police torturing lawyers, judges grabbing farms, long sugar queues and inflation of 175 percent. Our leader left for Indonesia but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity."
In the second month to Christmas, the government gave to me:
priests in prison, long petrol queues and 8 million needing world food aid. Our leader left for Ethiopia, France, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity".
In the third month to Christmas, the government gave to me:
World Cup cricket, black armbands, scores of arrests, women being beaten and men having their toenails torn out. Our leader left for Sudan but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity".
In the fourth month to Christmas, the government gave to me:
women raped by guns, soldiers beating people and petrol prices up by 320 percent. Our leader left for South Africa but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity".
In the fifth month to Christmas, the government gave to me:
no fuel for aeroplanes, long electricity cuts, postal workers fired and inflation of 269 percent. Our leader left for South Africa and Nigeria but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity".
In the sixth month to Christmas the government gave to me:
hundreds of arrests, water cannons, riot police and helicopter gunships. Our leader left for Libya and Egypt but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity".
In the seventh month to Christmas the government gave to me:
tripled bread prices, banks that were broke and more of Mbeki's quiet diplomacy. Our leader left for Mocambique and Nigeria but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity."
In the eighth month to Christmas the government gave to me:
fires on farms, filthy water and police taking my own money from me. Our leader left for Swaziland, Malaysia and Tanzania but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity."
In the ninth month to Christmas the government gave to me:
banning of the Daily News, journalists in gaol and money with expiry dates. Our leader left for Cuba and America but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity."
In the tenth month to Christmas the government gave to me:
no tractors to plough, no seeds to plant, war vets barricading the SA High commissioner and yet more of Mbeki's quiet diplomacy. Our leader left for Namibia but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is our Prosperity."
In the eleventh month to Christmas the government gave to me:
a billion dollars for a football game, striking nurses and doctors, police seizing foreign money and inflation of 526 percent. Our leader stayed at home this month but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity."
In the last month to Christmas, the government gave to me:
permanent exit from the Commonwealth, Presidential decrees to grab tractors, 619 percent inflation and 1000 percent increases in rates, rents and school fees. Our leader left for Switzerland, Egypt and Ethiopia but the TV said to me, no worries, "Our Land is Our Prosperity."
Happy Christmas from a previously prosperous Zimbabwe.
Until next week,
with love, cathy
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