Monday, December 5, 2011

Mugabe regime cracks down on press

Four journalists arrested as autocratic Mugabe prepares for elections.

Zimbabwean journalists are taking the heat again, as President Robert Mugabe clamps down on the press ahead of watershed elections next year.
Human rights lawyers and media freedom groups warn that the crackdown on the press is serious.
Police are increasingly using criminal defamation laws to arrest journalists from privately-owned newspapers for reporting on the business dealings of Mugabe's allies.
Will Robert Mugabe exit like Gaddafi?
On Dec. 2, plainclothes detectives swooped on Xolisani Ncube, a reporter with the Daily News and his editor Stanley Gama after the newspaper published a story claiming that Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo bragged about his wealth to a delegation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The delegation was meeting the minister to discuss housing projects for the poor.
The two journalists were detained and questioned for more than eight hours before being released “while investigations continue.” Ncube, a young reporter fresh from college, was arrested in front of his visiting mother.
Two weeks earlier, police detained overnight two journalists from The Standard, a privately-owned weekly, for a story on the collapse of a medical insurance firm owned by Munyaradzi Kereke, a special advisor to central bank governor Gideon Gono.
All four journalists are being charged under criminal defamation laws that journalists' unions and lawyers say are being used to muzzle the media.
Alec Muchadehama, the lawyer representing the Daily News journalists, described the arrest as an abuse of the law to punish journalists who poke their noses into the affairs of Mugabe allies. He said that despite the coalition government with long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai that was formed in February 2009, Mugabe remains in control of the security sector, including the police, which he is using against the press.

“It is a disturbing trend we are witnessing,” said Muchadehama, who is also a campaigner for media freedom. “Criminal defamation is becoming the new front in our war against media repression. Why lock up journalists in police cells on issues that are best solved using civil lawsuits?”
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Long tim opposition leader and now Mugabe coalition government partner, Morgan Tsvangirai and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party at the weekend said it “is worried by the continued arrests of journalists from the independent media with investigative journalism now being turned into a criminalized profession.”
Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka defended the arrests. “It is just the law taking its course,” he said.
Police have arrested close to a dozen journalists in the past five months, mainly for covering stories deemed offensive to the Mugabe government.
Journalists from newspapers critical of Mugabe’s three-decade rule have been prey for state agents and pro-Mugabe militia since the year 2000 when a newly formed MDC posed a potent threat to Mugabe’s continued hold on power.
The Daily News has just started operations after having been banned in 2003, a time Mugabe and his allies publicly branded the paper an enemy. Its printing press had also just been bombed. Police have not yet arrested anyone for the bombing.
In its first months after it was formed in February 2009, the shaky coalition government brought a relative relaxation of Mugabe's control of the press that resulted in the licensing of several privately-owned newspapers to compete in a media market dominated by the state.
Mugabe, however, remains in direct control of broadcasting airwaves and sparked a row with Tsvangirai two weeks ago after the only independent radio licenses to be awarded since independence from Britain 1980 were given to Mugabe's backers.
Tensions are rising again in Zimbabwe as Mugabe pushes for elections in 2012 to break out of a coalition described by both partners as unworkable.
Tsvangirai says he will boycott elections if they are held before the implementation of democratic reforms to ensure a free and fair vote.
Ban lifted on Zimbabwe diamond exports
Heightened talk of elections has left journalists fearing for the worst.
“It all has to do with elections. Mugabe and his loyal police are finding more ways of silencing the media. Journalists in this country are at their most vulnerable when politicians begin talking of elections,” said Njabulo Ncube, chairman of the Zimbabwe chapter of the media freedom watchdog, the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
Mugabe, having just won a fresh endorsement to lead his party into the next elections, is holding Zanu-PF's annual conference this week to map out election strategies.
“It seems their strategy on the media is pretty clear. Journalists will have to be vigilant,” said Foster Dongozi, secretary-general of main journalists’ body, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
International organizations such as the United States-based Freedom House say conditions for journalists have remained treacherous despite promises of reform at the inception of the coalition government.
The organization’s Freedom of the Press index for 2011 notes that the media landscape in Zimbabwe remains repressive, with "near-total government control of the broadcast sector, foot dragging on attempts to open new broadcast outlets, and continued legal and physical harassment of independent journalists.”

Global Witness Quits Kimberley Process Over Zimbabwe Diamonds

5th December 2011
Read a message from Global Witness Founding Director, Charmian Gooch
Lire le communiqué de presse en français
Global Witness today announced that it has left the Kimberley Process, the international certification scheme established to stop the trade in blood diamonds.
The Kimberley Process’s refusal to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny has rendered it increasingly outdated, said the group. Despite intensive efforts over many years by a coalition of NGOs, the scheme’s main flaws and loopholes have   not been fixed and most of the governments that run the scheme continue to show no interest in reform.
“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes” said Charmian Gooch, a Founding Director of Global Witness. “The scheme has failed three tests: it failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, was unwilling to take serious action in the face of blatant breaches of the rules over a number of years by Venezuela and has proved unwilling to stop diamonds fuelling corruption and violence in Zimbabwe. It has become an accomplice to diamond laundering – whereby dirty diamonds are mixed in with clean gems.”
In a shocking move, the Kimberley Process recently authorised exports from two companies operating in the controversial Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean army seized control of the area in 2008, killing around 200 miners. Mining concessions were then granted in legally questionable circumstances to several companies, some of them associated with senior figures in Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. Newspapers have reported that the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation, the state security service aligned with Mugabe whose members are accused of committing acts of violence against opposition supporters, directly benefits from off-budget diamond revenues.
“Over the last decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been associated with the brutal intimidation of voters. Orchestrating this kind of violence costs a lot of money. As the country approaches another election there is a very high risk of Zanu PF hardliners employing these tactics once more and using Marange diamonds to foot the bill. The Kimberley Process’s refusal to confront this reality is an outrage,” Gooch continued.
“Consumers should not buy Marange diamonds, and industry should not supply them,” said Gooch. “All existing contracts in the Marange fields should be cancelled and retendered with terms of reference which reflect international best practice on revenue sharing, transparency, oversight by and protection of the affected communities.”
The diamond industry should be required to demonstrate that the diamonds it sells are not fuelling abuses – by complying with international standards on minerals supply chain controls, including independent third party audits and regular public disclosure. Governments must show leadership by putting these standards into law.
“Consumers have a right to know what they’re buying, and what was done to obtain it,” added Gooch. “The diamond industry must finally take responsibility for its supply chains and prove that the stones it sells are clean.”
Annie Dunnebacke: +44 7912 517 127;
Andrea Pattison: +44 7970 103 083;

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The struggle for power in Zimbabwe

Eddie Cross
30 November 2011

Eddie Cross says if Zanu-PF stick with Mugabe they'll become the laughing stock of the country

Cooking in a Three Legged Pot
I often say to people who have an interest and concern for what is going on in Zimbabwe that if they are not confused; then they have not been here long enough. The confusion arises from deliberate misleading information in the public sphere, and often just because events move fast behind the scenes and the various players are trying to outmanoeuvre each other.
Since 2000, three centres of power in Zimbabwe have emerged and are engaged in a savage struggle for supremacy. Each of these power centres have subgroups and divisions of their own - but remain today as coherent centres of power. These are:
- The JOC, a military structure inherited by Mugabe in 1980 from the Rhodesian war which has evolved into a form of a military Junta in the past decade. It is dominated by the military but has a number of senior hardliners from Zanu PF in its ranks;
- Zanu PF under the leadership of Robert Mugabe, a clever, if reclusive and aging leader who has maintained an iron grip on the Party and the State through a mixture of intelligence, hard discipline sometimes involving targeted assassinations and patronage on a massive scale;
- and the MDC under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai, a genuine democrat who has long association with Zanu PF but who split with the Party in 1997 after concluding that Zanu PF had to be removed from power if Zimbabwe was to make progress.
The emergence of this third leg in the power structure gave rise to a massive reaction from both the JOC and Zanu PF which essentially destroyed the economy and eventually drew in the region in an effort to halt the carnage and limit collateral damage on Zimbabwe's neighbours.
While these three centres of power struggled for ascendancy over the past decade, the intervention of the region gradually metamorphosed into the form it has today and this is critical to understanding the present situation and assessing any possible outcome.
In 2000, South Africa, the regional super power, concluded that a MDC victory in the struggle in Zimbabwe would not be in its interests and over the following three years they used their diplomatic and regional power to back Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe, the JOC occupied a supportive role and MDC was totally outgunned - its only power source being its growing cohesion and popular support.
In 2004 and 2005, South Africa decided first that Mugabe had become a liability and sought, with the help of senior Zanu PF leaders and the JOC, to have him replaced as leader of Zanu PF. In 2005 South Africa concluded that both Mugabe and Tsvangirai were a hindrance to securing a workable solution and worked clandestinely to have both men removed from the legs of the power pot that they represented.
In 2006/7 the South Africans decided that their strategies in Zimbabwe were not working and they moved to support a process of negotiated change in Zimbabwe which would bring into being a workable government that would be able to attract international support and enable recovery in the economic sphere and stabilize the political situation. This gave rise to the GPA process and eventually created the present Transitional Government in which Zanu PF and the MDC share power.
The main problem was that the new nature of the new government was a recipe for deadlock and did nothing to resolve the underlying power struggle. It did however give the MDC real power for the first time, for many this was a burden, not a new opportunity, and spurred efforts to co-opt the MDC and blur its image as a real agent of change. MDC meetings have become associated with rows of luxury vehicles where in the past only mini busses and broken down jalopies attended MDC meetings - all the result of its new links to the power and patronage structures of government created by Zanu PF over the past 30 years.
But the new arrangement has halted the decline in the economy and started a recovery. This has been retarded by deliberate subversion of the economy by Zanu PF because the recovery is seen as being a sole MDC construct. It has also complicated the nature of the political struggle. Images of Mugabe and Tsvangirai working together have muddied the water in which the struggle is being waged.
The other major change has been in the nature of South African engagement. This has been driven by ancillary developments in the region - the change in leadership in South Africa, changes within the ANC and then changes in the nature and character of SADC support and intervention.
While this situation has metamorphosed into what faces us today, the situation within the three pillars of power in Zimbabwe has changed. In Zanu PF the major development has been the decline in the health of its leader, Mugabe. It is now clear to all associated with our crisis that a leadership change in Zanu PF is only a question of time. How it will happen depends on the leadership of Zanu PF itself and the continued ability of Mugabe to maintain his grip on power within the Party and in Government.
In the MDC leg to the Pot, power has consolidated around Tsvangirai who is clearly the man of the future. The other factions of the MDC that are products of the 2005 machinations of South African meddling have faded into irrelevancy.
The JOC remains intact but has been severely damaged by pre-emptive strikes from South Africa. Denied any possibility of an independent attempt at grasping power using its military and political power, the leadership is contemplating how they can grasp control of the leadership in Zanu PF, now their only hope of remaining relevant. The belief that they can take control and assume the leadership of Zanu PF and thereby the Presidency, is astonishing and is characterized by supreme unjustified arrogance.
For Zanu PF the Rubicon is approaching in the form of their National Conference next week. If they stick to Mugabe as their President and candidate for any coming election they will be the laughing stock of the country. Mugabe is clearly no longer able to campaign or manage the State effectively.
Last week we understand the South African Cabinet agreed to a new strategy for resolving the never ending crisis in Zimbabwe. As the case in the past this will be pivotal in determining what happens here in the next few weeks and months. For me, the way is clear; South Africa will force the parties to the crisis in Zimbabwe to negotiate a compromise. This will bring Tsvangirai to power as President under a revised constitution and create a reformed National Unity Government that will dissolve the JOC, normalize the environment for eventual elections and allow the full recovery on international relations and the economy.
Eddie Cross is MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website