News & Current Affairs

March 7, 2010

Bitterness and unease in bankrupt Zimbabwe

Filed under: Latest, Politics News, Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 3:48 pm

Bitterness and unease in bankrupt Zimbabwe

Courtesy BBC

After 30 years in power, Zimbabwe’s veteran leader Robert Mugabe said this week he was ready to stand for another term as president. BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding finds Mr Mugabe’s party in angry mood, and others – the white minority and the former opposition MDC party – full of foreboding.

People on the street in Harare

The law intends to redistribute more wealth to the black population

It has been a grey, drizzly week here.

In the wealthier suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe’s shrinking white population is once again feeling nervous.

Pat, who runs a small hairdressing salon, and whose family has lived here for four generations, is finally planning to leave.

They don’t want us “whiteys” here any more she says. The writing is on the wall.

Pat has been spooked by a new law, introduced this week, which is supposed to correct the enduring economic legacies of colonialism, and give black Zimbabweans a controlling stake in almost all companies.

The main focus is Zimbabwe’s rich mines and its industry.

But the indigenisation law also seeks to prevent white people from owning things like hairdressing and beauty salons.

In a few years, says Pat, we will be like an extinct species. They will come for our houses next.

The reaction may well be extreme.

Many white Zimbabweans have been slow to acknowledge the debt they owe to the black majority here. Economic empowerment is clearly necessary.

But after a decade of economic chaos, horrific violence, and the brutal seizure of white-owned farms, it is easy to understand why so many Zimbabweans – of all colours – are hair-trigger tuned to expect the very worst.

Bitter words

Saviour Kasukuwere, ZANU PF Party member
Our children are dying because of sanctions
Saviour Kasukuwere, Zanu PF

Saviour Kasukuwere does not exactly try to smooth the waters.

“You people,” he almost spat at me, as I sat in his office on the ninth floor of the squat grey building that houses President Mugabe’s Zanu PF Party.

Mr Kasukuwere used to be a member of Mr Mugabe’s notorious state security.

He is a hardliner and a rising star.

“You British, you could learn a lot about democracy from us,” he says with a thin smile.

Mr Kasukuwere, a tall, heavy-set man, was at primary school when his country won full independence from Britain 30 years ago.

Unlike Mr Mugabe’s generation, he did not fight and suffer for freedom. But, full of passionate intensity, he seems to wallow in his bitterness.

In his eyes, and words, everything can still be blamed on what he calls the “genocidal” West.

Zanu PF’s current preoccupation is with what it calls “Western sanctions”.

The state media makes it sound like some overwhelming economic blockade.

“Our children are dying because of sanctions,” says Mr Kasukuwere.

But as diplomats and economists here point out, the reality is less extreme.

The European Union is currently imposing a travel ban on 198 individuals. Thirty-five companies are also frozen out.

“This is about Mrs Mugabe not being able to shop in Paris,” one diplomat put it. “Zimbabwe can’t borrow money, not because of sanctions, but because it owes $6bn, and can’t pay it back because it systematically wrecked its own economy.”

Train smash

Within Zimbabwe’s unity government, sanctions are a poisonous issue – one of many.

The unity government, formed after bitterly disputed elections, has survived a year now – President Mugabe’s Zanu PF sharing, or at least pretending to share power with its enemy, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

“It’s a train smash, warfare every day,” one MDC minister told me.

But the government has survived and on some issues is clearly making progress.

The MDC is hoping now to water down the new indigenisation law in order not to scare away foreign investors and potentially plunge the economy back into chaos.

Posters for President Robert Mugabe are covered with graffiti for  the opposition Movement for Democratic Change June 27, 2008 in Harare,  Zimbabwe

The 2008 elections saw MDC supporters beaten and killed

Both parties are now gearing up for new elections – possibly next year. It is the only way to settle Zimbabwe’s political deadlock once and for all.

The sanctions issue and the indigenisation law, are key campaign themes for Zanu PF.

If the MDC tries to question either of them – it is accused of being a stooge for colonial Western interests.

The MDC can probably handle that sort of criticism. It has got a strong support base, and at least one recent opinion poll showed it would crush Mr Mugabe and his party at the polls.

Any credit for the economic stability achieved here during the past year, seems to have gone to the MDC.

But the party is not nearly as well organised or ruthless as Zanu PF.

We are floundering, one MDC insider told me dejectedly. And of course, past experience in Zimbabwe shows that elections here are won by intimidation, not popularity.

Unless we have foreign peacekeepers to protect us, it will be another bloodbath
Senior MDC official

In 2008, Zanu PF orchestrated a campaign of terror – killing and beating MDC supporters – in order to hold on to power.

Now at the age of 86, after 30 years in office, President Mugabe has announced he is planning to run for yet another term.

Elections could be held next year, he says.

Mr Mugabe controls the police and the army, and under the current constitution, most of the electoral infrastructure.

Will he play fair this time?

We are heading towards another big fight, a senior MDC official told me anxiously.

Unless we have foreign peacekeepers to protect us, it will be another bloodbath.

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September 17, 2008

Hopes ride high on Zimbabwe deal

Hopes ride high on Zimbabwe deal

Woman carries shopping in Harare

Morgan Tsvangirai may have persuaded Robert Mugabe to sign over some of his executive powers but Zimbabwe’s prime minister-designate now has a very short honeymoon period to prove himself.

The BBC is still operating under restrictions in Zimbabwe, but what reactions we have been able to gather show that large numbers of people believe Mr Tsvangarai can deliver and start the process of re-building a shattered economy.

It stands in stark contrast to the more sceptical assessment of many in the diplomatic community.

We want to see people no longer afraid to walk down the street with an MDC T-shirt – no longer afraid to look a policeman in the eye
James McGee
US ambassador to Zimbabwe

They want this deal to work, but the “vintage Mugabe” who blamed his country’s ills on former colonial powers during his post-deal speech, suggests a man locked in the past and unwilling to face up to the future.

As one diplomat said, the challenge will be to “turn what could be a trap for Morgan into an ambush for Mugabe” – a sentiment revealing deep concerns about just how committed the man who has run Zimbabwe for nearly three decades is to power-sharing.

‘We have to believe’

In a squatter camp on the edge of Harare, a man in his 20s who lost his job as a gardener when the money to pay him ran out, said they had no other choice but to have faith in this new beginning.

Hospital in Harare

Zimbabwe’s hospitals are suffering because of the economic crisis

He is pinning his hopes on the new unity government delivering food, and a stable economic environment which would improve his chances of getting a job and restoring his dignity.

And young professionals, who spoke in secret locations away from the prying eyes of intelligence operatives, said they believed Mr Tsvangirai had the capacity to hold his ground against his former political foe.

Articulate and measured, young men from Zimbabwe’s Christian Student Association said Zimbabweans need the watchful eyes of the international community to monitor events in the coming months.

One implored potential donors to “believe in a deal which we have to believe in” if there is to be any hope of rehabilitating this once prosperous nation.

Culture of intimidation

We’ve only gleaned a partial picture.

With the security situation still precarious, it has been hard to gauge reaction in rural areas where Mr Mugabe has drawn much of his support.

MDC supporters in Harare

MDC supporters believe their leader can deliver a stable economy

But there are without doubt people who are smarting. People who were in the pay of the party, whose lifestyle of political patronage is now under threat.

Intelligence and security chiefs were absent from Monday’s historic signing in ceremony.

Whether their boycott signals plans to undermine the deal is impossible to know at this early stage, but diplomats are monitoring the environment carefully.

Tangible signs that the culture of intimidation is being reversed will be one of the benchmarks they will use to determine if, and when, to deliver billions of dollars of life-saving aid.

As James McGee, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, put it: “When we talk about respect for human rights we want to see people no longer afraid to walk down the street with an MDC T-shirt – no longer afraid to look a policeman in the eye… those are the little things that show there has been a change in attitude.”

Expectations high

Driving around the streets of Harare gives the impression of a benign capital, a place where the streets are paved and the buildings stand tall. But it is a facade.

Inside the hospitals there are shortages of medicine – many people have died from cholera recently, deprived of drugs.

Zimbabwe's capital Harare

Behind the facade of modern Harare there are acute shortages

And the banks are stuffed with worthless cash. It is not unusual to see plastic bags stuffed with notes that have no value, discarded on the street.

Expectations that this deal will begin to reverse some of this economic chaos are riding high.

Mr Tsvangirai’s first test will be his ability to secure key cabinet posts.

In particular in the finance portfolio, giving the MDC greater leverage over the economy, allowing the government to shape policies that restore property rights and market mechanisms back to Zimbabwe.

The next test will be getting food out to the desperate people who need it and clearing the red tape that prevents humanitarian agencies from distributing aid.

Food has been used by Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party as a political cattle-prod – they’ve ensured it reaches friends, but withheld it from foes.

If the new prime minister can make real headway in distributing food to a country facing the threat of starvation, then he could reap a huge moral dividend which the international community may be willing to reward.

Like the power sharing deal in Kenya, this is a huge political experiment dependent on the personalities of the key players and the political will to change.

There is the potential for the whole thing to combust, a scenario which would see the end of Morgan Tsvangirai’s political career.

But optimists believe that Zimbabwe’s landmark pact, will be the catalyst that breathes new life into a broken country.

September 13, 2008

Details of Zimbabwe deal emerge

Details of Zimbabwe deal emerge

Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, file images

Both Mr Tsvangirai (l) and Mr Mugabe claim to have won this year’s elections

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is to retain control of the army and chair cabinet meetings, according to leaks of Thursday’s power-sharing deal.

South African President Thabo Mbeki said Mr Mugabe had agreed to share power with Morgan Tsvangirai but said details would be released on Monday.

Mr Tsvangirai will control the police force and chair a new council of ministers, the sources say.

The deal followed seven weeks of talks and this year’s election violence.

Mr Mugabe has yet to comment on the agreement, brokered by South Africa’s leader.

Fair division?

BBC News is banned in Zimbabwe, but a correspondent inside the country says MDC supporters are not rejoicing on the streets, nor are Zanu-PF backers protesting.

Instead a silent optimism prevails – and after so many false dawns, Zimbabwe is holding its breath, our correspondent says.

REPORTED DEAL
Robert Mugabe:
President
Heads armed forces
Chairs cabinet
Zanu-PF has 15 ministers
Morgan Tsvangirai:
Prime minister
Chairs council of ministers
Controls police force
MDC has 16 ministers – 3 from smaller faction

International donors have said they would resume financial aid for Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy if Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is given a genuine share of power.

The EU said it would “evaluate the situation” at a foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday.

The agreement appears to give Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai roughly equal shares of power.

In cabinet, Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC and another MDC faction will together have 16 seats, while Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF will have the remaining 15.

Mr Mugabe will control the armed forces, while Mr Tsvangirai will be in charge of the police.

Our correspondent says the devil will lie in the detail and in the ability of the two men and the power blocks under them to wield genuine authority.

Mbeki hails deal

Work on finalizing the agreement will continue over the weekend. Some opposition MDC voices have already called the deal a climb-down, although others have said it is the best available.

MDC chairman and Zimbabwe’s parliamentary speaker Lovemore Moyo told that although his party was pleased with the deal, it had been a compromise.

“We wanted a titular head of state with an executive prime minister but that did not happen,” he said.

“So what we got at the end of the day perhaps was probably nearly a sister-sister power-sharing, so I’m saying it’s not exactly initially what we wanted.”

Negotiations started at the end of July, but stalled over the allocation of executive power between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai – bitter rivals for a decade.

The breakthrough came after the last four days of talks in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

Mr Tsvangirai was first to announce the breakthrough, telling reporters on Thursday simply: “We’ve got a deal.”

Later, Mr Mbeki told a news conference the two sides had agreed to form an inclusive government.

He said: “I am absolutely certain that the leadership of Zimbabwe is committed to implementing these agreements.”

The deal would be signed at a ceremony in Harare attended by African leaders, he said.

British concern

Zimbabwe’s envoy to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku, told the BBC that the deal was a “triumph for African diplomacy”.

The UN special representative on Zimbabwe, Haile Menkerios, said the announcement marked a way forward that all sides could live with.

HAVE YOUR SAY

This deal will work if outsiders stop prescribing to Zimbabweans what is good or not good for them

Dzvinyangoma, Zimbabwe

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was following the situation closely, adding that “our concern is the welfare of the Zimbabwean people”.

Zimbabwe has the fastest shrinking economy in the world with annual inflation of more than 11,000,000%.

Mr Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, won a controversial presidential run-off election in June.

He ran unopposed after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew, claiming the MDC was the target of state-sponsored violence.

In the first round of the presidential election in March, Mr Tsvangirai gained more votes than Mr Mugabe, but official results say he did not pass the 50% threshold for outright victory.

September 12, 2008

Zimbabwe rivals agree unity deal

Zimbabwe rivals agree unity deal

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe have reached a deal to share power.

After mediating four days of talks in Harare, South African President Thabo Mbeki said the agreement would be signed and made public on Monday.

Mr Tsvangirai has confirmed the deal, but Mr Mugabe has yet to comment.

The government and the opposition MDC had already agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would be prime minister with Mr Mugabe staying on as president.

Negotiations have been on-off since the end of July, but have stalled over the allocation of executive power between Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, bitter rivals for a decade.

‘Parallel governments’

Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was first to announce the breakthrough, telling reporters simply: “We’ve got a deal.”

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai speaks during a press conference in Harare on 11 September 2008

Later, Mr Mbeki told a news conference the two sides had agreed unanimously to form an inclusive government.

He said: “I am absolutely certain that the leadership of Zimbabwe is committed to implementing these agreements.”

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told : “Both political parties are committed, it’s our wish that the deal will be successful.”

Zimbabwe’s envoy to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku told that the deal was a “triumph for African diplomacy”.

The UN special representative on Zimbabwe, Haile Menkerios, said the announcement marked a way forward that all sides could live with.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was following the situation closely, adding that “our concern is the welfare of the Zimbabwean people”.

The discussions are thought to have been deadlocked over how many ministries each party should have in a unity government, and how much power Mr Mugabe should retain.

Mr Tsvangirai has consistently demanded that he should become executive prime minister, thereby taking over some of the powers that Mr Mugabe has exercised for more than 28 years.

Mr Tsvangirai may now chair a new council of ministers and control the day-to-day running of the country, but Mr Mugabe will head the cabinet, our correspondent says.

However, how two – in effect – parallel governments will work is unclear, he adds.

Aid hopes

The agreement opens the way for international donors to help to revive Zimbabwe’s economy.

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe arrives for the talks in Harare on 10 September 2008

It is now the fastest shrinking in the world with inflation galloping to more than 11m%.

Mr Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, won a controversial June presidential run-off election unopposed after Mr Tsvangirai withdrew, claiming the MDC was the target of state-sponsored violence.

In the first presidential election in March, Mr Tsvangirai gained more votes than Mr Mugabe, but official results say he did not pass the 50% threshold for outright victory.

Earlier on Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said any power-sharing deal in Zimbabwe would be judged by how much it reflected legitimate election results.


Are you in Zimbabwe or do you have family or friends there? What is your reaction to the news of a power-sharing deal? Send us your comments

September 8, 2008

Mbeki bids to save Zimbabwe talks

Mbeki bids to save Zimbabwe talks

Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai said no deal was better than a bad one

South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki is due in Harare to revive Zimbabwe’s deadlocked power-sharing talks.

Both Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claim to have won this year’s elections.

Since South Africa-brokered crisis talks broke down last month, both sides have hardened their positions.

Mr Mugabe has said he is ready to form a government alone, while Mr Tsvangirai over the weekend said there should be new elections if a deal is not reached.

South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said Mr Mbeki would meet both men, as well as Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a smaller opposition faction.

‘Surrender powers’

Before talks broke down the two rivals had agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would be named prime minister while Mr Mugabe remained president, but they could not agree on how to share powers.

The MDC wanted Mr Mugabe to become a ceremonial president, while the ruling Zanu-PF party insisted he retain control of the security forces and the powers to appoint and dismiss ministers.

Robert Mugabe

Mr Mugabe has threatened to form a government without the MDC

“The issue that we are facing here is that Mugabe must accept to surrender some of his powers for the power-sharing arrangement to work,” Mr Tsvangirai told a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rally in Gweru, in central Zimbabwe on Sunday.

“We would rather have no deal than a bad deal,” Mr Tsvangirai said.

He also said he would not bow to pressure from Mr Mbeki, who has been acting as a mediator in the crisis.

The MDC leader gained more votes than Mr Mugabe in March elections but official results show he did not pass the 50% threshold for outright victory.

Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of the June run-off, saying some 200 of his supporters had been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes in a campaign of violence led by the army and supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF.

Zanu-PF has denied the claims and accused the MDC of both exaggerating the scale of the violence and being responsible for it.

Mr Mugabe said on Thursday that the opposition MDC had one week to agree a power-sharing deal, or he would form his own government.

September 7, 2008

MDC challenges Mugabe to new vote

MDC challenges Mugabe to new vote

Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai said no deal was better than a bad one

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has challenged President Robert Mugabe to hold a new election if he is not prepared to share his powers.

Mr Tsvangirai said he would withdraw from power-sharing talks if a satisfactory deal could not be reached.

Mr Mugabe has said he will form a government without the MDC if they do not agree to a power-sharing deal being mediated by South Africa’s president.

Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai both say they won elections earlier this year.

“The issue that we are facing here is that Mugabe must accept to surrender some of his powers for the power-sharing arrangement to work,” Mr Tsvangirai told a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rally in Gweru, in central Zimbabwe.

Talks deadlocked

At talks mediated by South Africa, the two rivals have agreed that Mr Tsvangirai would be named prime minister while Mr Mugabe remained president, but they cannot agree on how to share powers.

The MDC wants Mr Mugabe to become a ceremonial president, while the ruling Zanu-PF party insists he retain control of the security forces and the powers to appoint and dismiss ministers.

“We would rather have no deal than a bad deal,” Mr Tsvangirai said.

Robert Mugabe

Mr Mugabe has threatened to form a government without the MDC

He also said he would not bow to pressure from South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been acting as a mediator in the crisis.

Mr Mbeki is due to return to Zimbabwe’s capital Harare on Monday to continue the search for a solution to the political impasse.

The MDC leader gained more votes than Mr Mugabe in March elections but official results show he did not pass the 50% threshold for outright victory.

Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of the June run-off, saying 200 of his supporters had been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes in a campaign of violence led by the army and supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF.

Zanu-PF has denied the claims and accused the MDC of both exaggerating the scale of the violence and being responsible for it.

Mr Mugabe said on Thursday that the opposition MDC had one week to agree a power-sharing deal, or he will form his own government.

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