ARTICLE EXTRAIT DE LA PRESSE AFRICAINE, CE QUI S'EST PASSE EN 1999
LA DERIVE AUTORITAIRE (Octobre 99)
Scène de la vie (presque)
quotidienne à Harare: un flot de voitures s'écoule tranquillement
sur Second Street, une des principales artères qui relient le centre-ville
aux quartiers huppés du nord de la capitale zimbabwéenne.
Trois motards surgissent en trombe et ordonnent aux automobilistes de se
ranger sur le côté. Au loin, un peloton de la police montée
en uniforme de parade arrive au pas. Il précède une magnifique
Rolls-Royce noire décapotable. Sur la banquette arrière,
Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 75 ans, costume sombre. À sa droite, sa femme
Grace, 34 ans, tailleur et chapeau bleu électrique. Trois voitures
de police banalisées et deux pick-up remplis de soldats armés
jusqu'aux dents les suivent. Le cortège avance lentement. Le couple
présidentiel salue, sourire aux lèvres. Excepté quelques
passants qui se trouvent là par hasard, les trottoirs sont déserts.
« Regardez-les ! Ils sont comme dans un songe, totalement déconnectés
de la réalité ! Comment voulez-vous qu'ils se rendent compte
de ce qui se passe dans le pays ? » Julius serre les dents. Le ton
posé de sa voix ne suffit pas à dissimuler l'indignation
qui habite son regard. Ce « taximan » décrit la dureté
de la vie quotidienne: en l'espace de quelques mois, le gallon d'essence
est passé de 5 à 12 dollars zimbabwéens ( «
zimdollars », dans le langage courant), soit de 275 F CFA à
600 F CFA environ, et la miche de pain de 75 cents à 14 dollars.
Au sud de la capitale, dans le quartier pauvre de Mbare, les bidonvilles gagnent du terrain. La plupart des habitants sont sans travail. Bartholomey Zambo, lui, en a un. Il fait du triage deux semaines par mois pour une compagnie de tabac, qui le paie 700 zimdollars. Avec ce salaire, il doit faire vivre sa femme, ses cinq enfants et ses deux parents. « Mugabe, on n'en veut plus. Pourquoi ? Regardez autour de vous: où sont les logements ? Les écoles ? Les emplois ? »
Julius et Bartholomey ne sont pas des cas isolés, loin s'en faut. À Harare, à Bulawayo, la deuxième ville du pays, partout s'exprime le même rejet de l'homme qui dirige le pays depuis l'indépendance, en 1980. Bornwell Chakaotsa, rédacteur en chef du Herald, le quotidien progouvernemental, n'est pas d'accord :
« Après dix-neuf ans de pouvoir, la crise économique et les scandales liés à la corruption, Mugabe est moins populaire, c'est normal. Mais il a toujours le soutien de la majorité, contrairement à ce que veut faire croire une certaine élite urbaine. »
Il n'empêche : le Zimbabwe, montré en exemple dans les années quatre-vingt, traverse une crise sans précédent. Économique d'abord: l'inflation, les taux d'intérêt et le taux de chômage dépassent les 50 %, le zimdollar vaut deux fois moins qu'il y a un an et demi (35 pour 1 dollar américain contre 18), la dette extérieure s'est envolée, les réserves de change ont fondu, etc. Crise politique aussi, avec un président de plus en plus contesté et qui réagit de plus en plus en dictateur.
Les choses se précipitent en 1997, quand la presse révèle que des ministres et des hauts fonctionnaires ont détourné de l'argent d'un fonds d'aide aux vétérans de la guerre d'indépendance. Furieux, ceux-ci prennent d'assaut le siège du Zanu-PF (Zirnbabwean African National Union-Patriotic Front), le parti au pouvoir. Pour les calmer, Mugabe accorde à cinquante mille d'entre eux une compensation d'un montant total estimé à 4,2 milliards de zimdollars. Celle-ci n'étant pas budgétisée, la monnaie pique du nez et l'inflation se réveille. Le gouvernement relève les taux d'intérêt, rétablit un contrôle partiel des prix et annonce de nouvelles taxes. Mais, confronté aux protestations syndicales orchestrées par le Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU, Congrès des syndicats zimbabwéens), il doit faire marche arrière. En novembre 1997, nouvelle alerte: Mugabe promet une réforme agraire radicale, créant la panique dans les milieux d'affaires. Le zimdollar rechute et l' inflation décolle. En janvier 1998, des « émeutes de la faim » causent une dizaine de morts à Harare. Les manifestations et les opérations « ville morte » se sont ensuite multipliées, le plus souvent avec succès. Mugabe a interdit les grèves entre décembre 1998 et juillet dernier, en attendant de pouvoir intégrer leur interdiction définitive dans la législation du travail.
À cette agitation sociale
sans précédent s'ajoutent les critiques de plus en plus virulentes
de la presse indépendante. Début janvier, l'hebdomadaire
indépendant The Standard publie un article affirmant que vingt-trois
officiers de haut rang ont été arrêtés pour
avoir incité leurs pairs à organiser un coup d'État.
Quelques jours plus tard, la police militaire arrête le rédacteur
en chef Mark Chavunduka, qui passe une semaine incomunicado au quartier
général de l'armée à Harare. Non contents de
violer la loi qui leur interdit d'arrêter des civils, les militaires
refusent d'obéir à une demande de libération
immédiate exigée par un tribunal, Au bout d'une semaine, Ray Choto, l'auteur de l'article, accepte de se rendre à la police afin d'être présenté avec Chavunduka à lajustice. Libérés trois jours plus tard, non sans avoir été torturés, les deux hommes sont accusés d'avoir « publié de fausses informations ». Trois juges de la Cour suprême demandent alors au président de faire respecter la loi. La réponse vient le 6 février, Dans un discours télévisé destiné à frapper les esprits, Mugabe défend l'action des militaires, attaque la presse et invite les trois juges à démissionner.
Cette affaire est symptomatique de l'habitude qu'a prise le président d'utiliser ses pouvoirs très étendus pour contourner la moindre difficulté. Ainsi a t-il refusé de signer le Public Order and Security Act, une nouvelle loi de maintien de l'ordre votée par les députés et censée remplacer le Law and Order Act, un texte répressif utilisé par le régime de Jan Smith contre les activistes noirs. Cela afin que les deux journalistes du Standard soient jugés sous l'ancienne loi, plus sévère...
Deuxième exemple : l'affaire des trois Américains arrêtés le 7 mars dernier à l'aéroport d'Harare en possession d'armes. Les trois hommes déposent une plainte devant la Cour suprême pour protester contre l'interdiction qui leur est faite de se rencontrer en prison. La Cour leur donne raison. Qu'à cela ne tienne: fin juillet,
.Mugabe utilise ses pouvoirs « temporaires » exceptionnels pour modifier les règles pénitentiaires et donner au directeur national des prisons la possibilité d'isoler les prisonniers.
Cette dérive personnelle du
pouvoir a atteint son comble en août 1998, lorsque Mugabe a décidé,
sans consulter ni Parlement ni gouvernement, d'envoyer des troupes en République
démocratique du Congo (ROC) pour soutenir le régime de Laurent-Désiré
Kabila. Pourquoi engager un contingent de quelque onze mille hommes dans
un pays non frontalier ? « La stabilité de l'Afrique est en
jeu », a-t-il répété. « Les diamants n'ont
pas de prix », lui a répondu en écho une opinion publique
d'autant plus préoccupée qu'on lui cache la vérité
sur le nombre de victimes et de prisonniers.
Comment comprendre autrement une telle décision à un moment où le pays a besoin plus que jamais de faire des économies, et que la guerre coûte, selon une note confidentielle du ministère des Finances qui est arrivée sur les bureaux du Fonds monétaire international (FMI), 27 millions de dollars par mois, soit neuf fois plus que ce que les autorités affirmaient jusqu'ici ?
Iden Wetherell, rédacteur en chef de l'hebdomadaire The Independent, réfute cette thèse: « Mugabe a vécu la rébellion congolaise comme un défi personnel. Il ne faut pas oublier non plus son hostilité viscérale à l'Afrique du Sud. Depuis la fin de l'apartheid, Pretoria, en se mêlant des
affaires régionales, mais aussi en offrant un modèle de transition réellement démocratique, aux antipodes de celui suivi par le Zimbabwe, lui a causé beaucoup de tort. »
Mugabe a également eu recours à la vieille technique du bouc émissaire, accusant la minorité blanche et la presse indépendante d'être à l'origine de tous les maux du pays. Il a par exemple reproché aux patrons blancs d'avoir incité les ouvriers noirs à manifester. Le summum de la paranoïa a été atteint lors de son discours télévisé du 6 février: « Certains Blancs d'origine britannique sont venus ici pour entreprendre des actes de sabotage. [ ...] Ils ont pour but de ruiner l'unité nationale. [ ...] Ils ont poussé notre seuil de tolérance raciale à sa limite. Qu'ils soient
prévenus: s'ils ne mettent pas fin immédiatement à leurs agissements, mon gouvernement se trouvera dans l'obligation de prendre des mesures très sévères contre eux et ceux qui ont choisi d'être leurs marionnettes. »
.Le 21 février, lors de son soixante quinzième anniversaire, il récidive: « Les Blancs de ce pays doivent demander pardon pour leurs péchés passés, et les Zimbabwéens doivent se battre pour la
suprématie de la personnalité africaine. II ne faut pas laisser à certains le sentiment parce qu'ils ont la haute main sur l'économie qu'ils sont nos maîtres. Le combat est clair: c'est Noirs contre Blancs. »
Il a surtout utilisé cette
rhétorique populiste à propos de la réforme agraire,
imputant son échec à la mauvaise volonté des fermiers
blancs pour masquer l'incompétence du gouvernement. Une façon
aussi d'occulter les malversations
qui ont permis l'attribution de terres à des proches du régime. Et, plus généralement, la multiplication des affaires de corruption. L'une des plus symboliques, dans ce pays où les trois quarts des 12,4 millions d'habitants vivent à la campagne, reste le détournement des fonds destinés à creuser des puits pour les paysans, qui ont servi à l'irrigation des fermes et jardins de caciques du ZanuPF... Les hommes d'affaires, pour leur part, se plaignent que tout contrat gouvernemental dépend du bon vouloir de Leo Mugabe, le neveu du président. « Les dirigeants actuels voient le pouvoir comme un butin de guerre et estiment ne pas avoir à rendre de comptes », explique Wetherell, de l' Independent.
Le 20 juillet, Mugabe aborde pour la première fois la question de la corruption au cours
d'un déjeuner organisé à l'occasion de l'ouverture de la session parlementaire: « Je sais que certains d'entre vous acceptent d'énormes pots-devin lors des appels d'offres », lance-t-il à ses ministres.
Immense éclat de rire dans la salle: tous savent que, dans le système actuel, une personne mise en cause n est pas inquiétée; elle est même sou vent promue. Comme « punition », Mugabe a décidé fin août de tripler leur salaire.
Pour ne rien arranger, Grace Mugabe, la deuxième épouse -et ancienne secrétaire du président, fait l'unanimité contre elle. Son goût pour le luxe ostentatoire lui a valu le surnom de « Disgrace ». L'an dernier, elle a été contrainte de mettre en vente une immense villa (trente-trois pièces, un terrain de golf) baptisée ironiquement « Graceland », du nom de la demeure paradisiaque d'Elvis Presley. Les dollars qui ont servi a sa construction proviendraient d'un fonds de retraite du ministère des Travaux publics.
Ce triste inventaire amène
à se poser une question : Mugabe est-il devenu dictateur après
quelque vingt ans de présence ininterrompue à la tête
de l'Etat (Premier ministre de 1980 à 1987, il est président
depuis cette date, et théoriquement jusqu'en 2002) ou l'a-t-il toujours
été ? « Un autocrate, un affamé de pouvoir,
un intolérant depuis toujours !, tranche John Makumbe, professeur
de sciences politiques à l'université du Zimbabwe. Il a été
très habile pour le camoufler, aidé par les circonstances
(croissance économique et opposition à l'apartheid dans les
années quatre-vingt), mais il apparaît aujourd'hui sous son
vrai jour. »
Bien entendu, son prédécesseur Jan Smith voit en lui un « dictateur communiste pur et dur depuis le début ». Les tenants de cette thèse ne manquent pas de rappeler que les massacres de 1983 contre les Ndebele, dans la région méridionale du Matabeleland, laissaient augurer la suite. Ou qu'en 1987, alors Premier ministre, il avait réussi à modifier la Constitution en attribuant l'essentiel du pouvoir exécutif au président, poste auquel il sera élu dans la foulée.
D'autres pensent au contraire que Mugabe a mal évolué. « Pendant dix ans, il a été un bâtisseur, investissant dans la santé, l'école et les infrastructures », rappelle Wetherell. Beaucoup de Zimbabwéens s'en souviennent et se demandent comment « comrade Bob » a pu devenir « Magaba », « l'homme cruel », en shona.
La mort, le 2 juillet, du vice-président Joshua Nkomo, leader historique des Ndebele et héros de l'indépendance, fragilise un des piliers du système: l'accord de décembre 1987 qui a mis fin à la guerre civile dans le Matabeleland entre les branches années de leurs partis respectifs. Car la colère gronde dans la région, qui estime que le pouvoir est trop favorable aux Shonas, l'ethnie majoritaire à laquelle appartient le président. Par ailleurs, la société civile s'est mobilisée pour réclamer une révision de la Constitution de 1979 qu'il a fait amender quinze fois en s'attribuant des pouvoirs de plus en plus monarchiques. Enfin, les vétérans se sont de nouveau frottés aux forces de l'ordre mi-juillet afin d'obtenir une aide supplémentaire de 500000 zimdollars chacun. Preuve de la crainte qu'ils inspirent au gouvernement: ce dernier a décidé de créer une... armée de réserve avec cinquante mille d'entre eux.
Il est de plus en plus évident
que le président s'attache à ménager l'année.
La guerre en ROC a permis à certains haut gradés de réaliser
de juteuses affaires. Les salaires des militaires ont été
doublés en janvier et plusieurs officiers nommés ces derniers
mois à la sécurité d'Etat. « S'il se sent menacé,
il pourrait imposer une solution militaire, estime John Makumbe. Il a peur
d'être chassé du pouvoir, et le commandement est prêt
à le défendre. »
Le prochain test sera le scrutin législatif prévu en mars 2000. Il verra sans doute une nouvelle victoire du Zanu-PF, mais avec une majorité nettement moins écrasante qu'aujourd'hui (147 sièges sur 150), et donc avec une vraie opposition au Parlement. La clé sera l'attitude des 9,5 millions de paysans. La plupart ne connaissent qu'un seul parti, le Zanu-PF, et ne reçoivent
que les médias progouvernementaux. En fait, la participation électorale est l'un des principaux soucis de l'opposition. En 1996, seuls 31 % des inscrits avaient voté.
Thoko Matshe, présidente de l' association des femmes zimbabwéennes, est pessimiste: « Je ne pense pas que la contestation atteigne les villageois. La bonne gouvernance, la démocratie, la Constitution sont loin de leurs préoccupations quotidiennes. Le Zanu-PF dispose de solides structures et distribue de temps en temps de la nourriture... Cela suffit a conserver les votes. »
Morgan Tsvangirai, le secrétaire général du tout puissant syndicat ZCTU et leader du Movement for Democratic Change , réfute cette vision: « C' est un mythe de croire que les zones rurales sont un marché captif pour le Zanu-PF ! Le niveau de pauvreté est beaucoup plus important qu'en ville. Les gens en ont marre. »
Mugabe tolérera-t-il une vraie opposition ? « Avoir un tiers de députés d'opposition serait une insulte pour lui », estime l'économiste John Robertson. Petite précision : la Constitution lui donne le pouvoir d'invalider les résultats des élections...
Même si tous les ingrédients
d'une explosion sociale sont réunis, Mugabe dispose de plusieurs
atouts: le soutien de l'armée, l'inertie des masses rurales, l'absence
de dauphin désigné dans son parti et d'alternative crédible
du côté de l'opposition.
S'il parvient au terme de son mandat, sera-t-il de nouveau candidat en 2002 ? Bornwell Chakaotsa, du Herald, en doute: « Il sera âgé de 78 ans, et je crois qu'il préférera passer la main. » Beaucoup redoutent qu'il se soit convaincu lui-même qu'il n'y a pas de vie ailleurs qu'au pouvoir. Le 12 mal, Il a affirmé, énigmatique: « Je sais par quelle porte je suis entré en politique, je sais quelle porte je devrai utiliser pour en sortir. » De plus en plus de Zimbabwéens espèrent qu'il n'a pas perdu la clé en route... .
Taux de croissance économique
du pays : 1.6% (98)
PNB : 8.6 milliards de dollars (97)
PNB/habitant : 750 dollars (97)
Inflation : 68.8% (août 99)
CE QUI S'EST PASSE EN 1999
Hundreds of people have staged a demonstration in Harare to demand a new constitution to limit the powers of Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe.
Asimilar protest in October was broken up by riot police but this one passed off peacefully.
The protest -- which was led by opposition political parties and trade unions -- heard calls for a new constitution to be in place before parliamentary elections in just over a year's time.
The opposition argues that the current constitution -- adopted immediately after the end of white minority rule in 1980 -- favours Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF party.
ZIMBABWE’S slide towards dictatorship
has been inexorable, providing what is almost a classic case of the corrupting
effects of power.
It was power seized by a largely tribal majority, which quickly turned it against the largest minority with the awful massacres in Matabeleland. It then entrenched itself by forcing one-party rule on the country, tolerating little in the way of opposition.
The country’s leader, isolated by his own hubris from the population he was meant to govern, became increasingly eccentric in his assumption of infallibility. Gradually his pretensions of democratic rule are abandoned as realisation begins to dawn that he is the main enemy of the state he is sworn to protect. The trend is seemingly inexorable and all that is left to discover is whether popular anger or old age get him first. It is a depressing morality tale, particularly when played out against the backdrop of Africa.
But there is another side to the tale of post-independence Zimbabwe which offers some hope to the continent and needs to be recognised as such — the spirit of defiance which burns ever more brightly in that small country. It is evident in trade union demonstrations, the courage shown by the independent press, the ultimate refusal of the courts to be cowed and even the spirit shown by the local stock exchange, in shutting itself down last week rather than coughing up a transactions levy unilaterally imposed by the government.
Robert Mugabe is teetering on a point of no return where the last pretences to democratic rule are concerned. Two journalists, including an editor, were released on Thursday after being severely tortured by the army — and only after the court issued four orders for the government to produce them.
The reluctance to obey the judiciary can only mean that the rule of law is being abandoned in favour of martial diktat and a full-blown Mugabe dictatorship is on the way. If this is the case, we would urge South Africans to do all they can to support the dissidents who are already so deserving of our admiration. -- January 22, 1999.
THE Catholic Commission for Justice
and Peace (CCJP), shocked by the torture of journalists, this week made
public a 13-year-old report which chronicles the torture tactics of Zimbabwe's
security agents and horrific stories told by victims of torture.
The report confirms the fact that a culture of systematic torture has been ingrained in Zimbabwe's security agents for long periods despite a lull in the number of reported cases since the lifting of the Emergency Powers Act.
However, the events of the past two weeks when two journalists were tortured by military police and the CIO have evoked chilling memories of the dark period when illegal detention and torture were routine.
Last week the Zimbabwe Independent disclosed that the editor of the Standard newspaper, Mark Chavunduka, and chief reporter Ray Choto were tortured by security agents who were bent on forcing the journalists to reveal the sources of a story the paper had published on an alleged coup plot.
Defence minister Moven Mahachi denied that Chavunduka and Choto had been assaulted saying they scratched themselves. However, a specialist's report this week confirmed the assault and torture of the two journalists.
The horror stories recorded by victims during the days of the infamous State of Emergency mirror the gruesome experiences of Chavunduka and Choto.
The report, compiled by the CCJP at the request of the Minister of Home Affairs in 1986, is a record of accounts by 10 victims, none of whom were ever charged with the crimes they were being coerced to confess by the security agents.
The torture tactics recorded by the CCJP include electric shocks to the whole body including genitals, water treatment and severe beating to the body and under the feet with sticks, pick handles and rubber truncheons.
Vehicle tyres were also forced over the body of victims to entrap arms and legs so that victims were immobilised before being beaten.
In most instances victims were stripped naked before being tortured and were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs. Leg irons were also applied to limit the victim's movement during torture.
In one blood-chilling account in Kadoma, a victim was blindfolded and beaten under the feet before he passed out. A senior officer present during the interrogation then ordered the use of electrical shock on the victim. He said electrical wires were tied to his genitals and then connected to a battery operated by a hand generator.
"On winding (the generator) the shocks run through the body and I was screaming," said the victim.
"The shocks threw me down but I could not remove the wires because I was handcuffed. While I was screaming, they would dip a large towel in water and then tie it around my face covering the nose so that I was breathing in water through my nose and mouth," he said.
The victim fainted and when he regained consciousness he could not stand because his feet were swollen and he could not pass urine because his genitals were also swollen.
Another victim told the CCJP how his tormentors tied his hands to a tree and his legs to a car. The car was then driven away slowly until the body was stretched. The victim was then kicked in the chest with booted feet. This happened for two days and he still refused to "confess".
The security agents then dug a hole and put him in it before covering the hole with soil until only his head was showing. He was then beaten on the head with sticks.
Some of the torture was not only painful but was also meant to dehumanise the victims. In one such case a victim was ordered to lie on his stomach and was ordered to pretend he was making love to his girlfriend.
"He ordered me to show how fast I am when I am on a woman I love," he said. "While I was doing that he was beating me on my buttocks saying that I was slow."
Another victim was shot four times in the knees before being dumped at a clinic with no facilities to treat him.
* MEANWHILE the United States government this week called on the Zimbabwean government to investigate the torture of the two local journalists by military authorities.
"The United States government deplores the January 12-19th detention of Chavunduka by Zimbabwe military police and the subsequent torture of Chavunduka and Choto," said James Rubin, US State Department spokesman, in a statement.
The US administration called on Harare to quickly investigate circumstances surrounding the detention and torture of the two journalists and bring to justice those responsible.
"Zimbabwe has institutions to safeguard the rule of law, including civilian control of the military and freedom of the press," said the US government. "Accordingly, we urge the government of Zimbabwe to ensure the safety of Clive Wilson and that of his associates," the statement said.
Asked by the Zimbabwe Independent this week what it would do if the alleged perpetrators of criminal violence go unpunished, the US embassy said "we continue to monitor the situation closely".
Meanwhile, the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Legal Resources Foundation, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Harare Legal Practitioners, National Constitutional Assembly, and Zimbabwe Women Lawyers this week held a meeting with the Attorney-General (AG), Patrick Chinamasa, and his deputy, Andrew Chigovera, to express their concern about the unlawful treatment of the two journalists.
"The AG and his deputy assured us that they take the allegations, particularly those relating to contempt of court seriously. They were not, for ethical reasons, able to give us details of the advice the AG's office had given to various departments of the state involved," the organisations said in a joint statement.
The AG's office made it clear, the statement added, that it did not condone unlawful activities irrespective of who the perpetrator may be. Whenever allegations of the commission of any offence are presented, the AG, acting in accordance with provisions of the constitution, directs the commissioner of police to investigate the allegations, it said. -- Zimbabwe Independent/Misa, January 29, 1999.
AMPANT high-level corruption in the
government has become a major contributor to poverty and inequality in
Zimbabwe, says a state-sanctioned study on human development due to be
made public in Harare on Thursday.
The Zimbabwe Human Development Report 1998, a copy of which is with the Financial Gazette, says corruption within the structures of the government has become a matter for national concern.
"Corruption is of increasing concern in Zimbabwe. Numerous cases have gone before the courts of law, the government set up commissions to investigate some of the cases while some have received extensive media coverage," says the 117-page report, the first of its kind since independence in 1980.
The report was financed by the United Nations Development Programme and produced in consultation with the government by the University of Zimbabwe's Institute of Development Studies and the Poverty Reduction Forum.
The report, which gives human development comparisons between provinces, rural and urban areas, will provide policy-makers with an analysis of the situation and help the government to target the poor in efforts to end poverty.
According to the findings of the researchers, most of them academics at the University of Zimbabwe:
61 percent of Zimbabwean households
are classified as poor
those living below the poverty line and dependent on $2132 a person a year
while 45 percent are very poor - those living below the poverty line and dependent on $1 289 a person a year.
"In addition to the mis-targeting and inefficiency of social spending programmes, corruption contributes significantly to poverty and inequality," the report said, adding that in Zimbabwe poverty was both real and immediate.
The study found that Zimbabwe's tax revenue base had narrowed due to tax evasion, poor tax administration and disproportionate exemptions which favoured the better-off and well-connected.
In some cases social programmes to alleviate poverty among the poor collapsed as some well-connected individuals siphoned out or diverted the funds to sustain other schemes that benefited the already wealthy sections of the society, it said.
"Stagnating economic growth, rapidly rising prices and a high unemployment rate, which have worsened in the 1990s, as well as the highly skewed and inequitable distribution of resources, are all contributing to increasing poverty levels with all the attendant social problems," the report said.
The report noted that poverty was more prevalent in rural areas, with 75 percent of the households in the "total poor" category compared with 39 percent in urban areas.
Out of Zimbabwe's population of about 12 million, 23 percent did not have access to safe water, 19,6 percent of adults wore illiterate, 16,8 percent died before reaching 40, 13,3 percent of under-fives were malnourished and 8,8 percent of the population lacked access to health care.
The report said the key to reducing high poverty lay in agricultural and food production policies, strategies and programmes that were based on consultation and collaboration with stakeholders, together with a growth of jobs in both formal and informal sectors.
The highest incidence of poverty was found to be in the communal areas, followed by resettlement areas and small-scale commercial farms, large-scale commercial farms and urban areas.
The worst affected households were those headed by women, largely because the majority of them had limited access to and control of resources such as land, education, health, skills, employment opportunities and many other crucial resource bases.
Binga district of Matabeleland North province had the highest percentage of households in the total poor category (92 percent), according to the report, which provided an analysis indicating gender disparities in the distribution of poverty.
Most Zimbabwean women were employed in the rural sector and rural females accounted for the highest number of economically active females in Zimbabwe.
The study said that most financial credit given to women had gone to those in the formal sector, although most women operated in the informal sector, where they constituted about 67 percent of the small-scale enterprises.
Turning to the land, it said a "highly inequitable pattern of land ownership is a major source of poverty and inequality". Some 4 660 large-scale commercial farms owned mostly by whites occupied 11,2 million hectares, with 34 percent of this land in fertile and rainfall areas, while six million blacks shared 16,4 million ha, the bulk of it in poor and low rainfall areas.
Zimbabwe's human development ranking, the study shows, had deteriorated from number 111 out of 160 countries in 1991 to 130 out of 174 nations last year.
The study said poverty eradication would not be achieved in the short or medium term because of demands by some aid donors that the government cuts down on its state spending to qualify for aid.
The report said some major challenges for the government in efforts to eliminate poverty in the next millennium would be the promotion of good governance, transparency and accountability and the purging of corruption, reduction of unproductive spending and the efficient re-allocation of public funds.
"The Zimbabwean state finds itself weakened by a combination of weak macroeconomic management, the state's incapacity to respond to pressure for more transparency in governance and the growing impact of globalisation on state control of economic policy-making," the report said.
"As a basis for political renewal, an effective national response to global order, the state will need to provide more political space for democratic debate and popular empowerment and participation," it added. -- Misa/Financial Gazette, January 28, 1999.
The Zimbabwean Government has run into further problems over its plans to acquire land to resettle poor black families.
An article in the official newspaper
has said it failed to comply with laws over the compulsory acquisition
of more than 300 farms.
Last week a court ruled that a legal deadline for acquiring farms could not be extended, forcing the government to relinquish claims to half the farms it wanted.
Now it has emerged that the law allowing the government to seize the rest has also not been respected.
So only farms whose owners have agreed to sell them to the state will be available for resettling poor black families as the government wants.
President Robert Robert Mugabe is
now left with just 120 farms as compared to the 1,500 which he has said
would be acquired.
The owners of these farms have not objected to them being used by the government and at a donor conference last year it was agreed that they would form the basis of an inception period of land reform.
Blessing in disguise
After making repeated promises over the last 20 years to redistribute land to the black majority, Mr Mugabe tried to expand the scale of this first phase but the courts have ordered that the law must be upheld.
The government has not complied with the rather complicated legal process of acquiring land and is now left with a much smaller programme than it had envisaged.
Ironically this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Zimbabwe. One western diplomat said that a more realistic scale of land reform would be more likely to be funded by donors provided it was carried out in a transparent manner.
But land reform must be seen to be proceeding for Mr Mugabe to maintain his support in rural areas and he is unlikely to be deterred by this setback.
The official media suggests that
the whole process will be started again with a new list of farms for acquisition.
Given the difficulties the government has experienced in following the current law and Mr Mugabe's enormous majority in parliament, he may try and pass new legislation first.
The President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, says he is in favour of giving military support to the government of Angola in its war against the rebel movement UNITA.
Mr Mugabe who's troops are fighting alongside Angolan forces against rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the southern African regional grouping should send military forces to Angola.
Mr Mugabe's intervention in the Democratic republic of Congo has been criticized at home and the BBC correspondent in Harare says Zimbabwe does not have enough spare military capacity to engage in another war.
Our correspondent says,however, that Mr Mugabe's attitude is significant and could signal that Southern African leaders are ready to help Angola.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has vowed to forge ahead with his controversial programme of land reform.
He wants to seize 1,500 farms from
their current white owners and redistribute them to blacks.
As a result of colonial policies most of Zimbabwe's best farmland is still in the hands of a few thousand whites while millions of blacks struggle to survive on just a few acres of land per family.
Land reform is crucial to President Mugabe's political future and he has told his governing party, Zanu PF, that he will press ahead no matter what the international community or the country's courts say.
In February, a court ruled that the correct legal procedure had not been followed on more than half the farms the government wanted to acquire.
Informed sources have told the BBC that, in fact, the law has only been respected on a 120 farms whose owners have agreed to sell them to the state.
But Mr Mugabe has now said that the whole process will start again from scratch and that this time acquisitions will be done according to the letter of the law.
This means more time consuming bureaucracy before increasingly impatient poor blacks can be resettled.
It also implies that Mr Mugabe has decided not to change the law to make it easier to acquire land.
With an overwhelming majority in parliament, this was one option, following the legal setbacks, which would have alarmed both white farmers and the international community.
However, the current legislation is clear that full compensation must be paid to farmers and the government does not have enough money to buy all the land it wants.
Until Mr Mugabe can convince sceptical foreign donors that land reform will be transparent and economically viable, it can only proceed on the small scale Zimbabwe itself can afford.
THE Zimbabwe government's relationship with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has never been an easy one. This week's confusion over press reports that government had cut ties with the two Bretton Woods institutions will not help matters either.
A front-page report in the Sunday Mail quoting Nathan Shamuyarira made it clear government was breaking ties with the IMF and the World Bank. Before the markets could fully digest the implications of this ill-advised statement, Shamuyarira was telling the nation he was misquoted. He went further to say the issue was not even discussed at all by the politburo.
It now transpires that not only was it discussed, but members gave their support to remarks from Information minister Chen Chimutengwende that government may have to review its ties with the IMF if the relationship between them became untenable.
He was speaking in the context of the bad publicity Zimbabwe was getting abroad.
This is all very instructive. There are elements within the ruling party that would want to plunge this country into political and economic chaos by resorting to populist choices for reasons of short-term political expediency.
It is this same clique that wants to introduce price controls and embark on a destructive land acquisition exercise where the law, productivity and foreign confidence are of no account. And their over-riding concern is a childish desire to please President Mugabe. They conveniently forget that the national economy is in the mess that it's in today thanks to similar ill-advised policies over the past 19 years.
Although the swift u-turn and Finance minister Herbert Murerwa's intervention has helped minimise the mayhem that we expected on the markets at the opening of trade on Monday, the lingering concern over government's exact position on the donor institutions and links with the outside world generally have had a negative effect on the markets.
The stock market retreated the whole of this week while severe foreign currency shortages brought trading almost to a halt.
The markets are sending a very clear message to the government and the party which we ignore at our peril. Put simply, the markets do not approve of government cutting ties with the IMF and the World Bank because they understandably doubt whether Zimbabwe has the capacity to go it alone. Just as importantly the private sector is acutely aware of the magnitude of the international fallout should the government decide to ditch the twin institutions whose financial support underpins the whole reform process and provides a signal to other donors and investors.
And this is the point that the government
seems to completely miss. The world, particularly the IMF and the World
Bank, do not owe us a living but we desperately need their support. The
sooner we all come to terms with this reality the better. There is a real
world out there and whether Zanu PF likes it or not Zimbabwe is part of
It bears repeating: The importance of the IMF support to Zimbabwe goes well beyond the relatively paltry US$53 million stand-by facility that we have been waiting for for such a long time. Without the IMF support other multilateral and bilateral players in our economy will stand on the sidelines. The IMF nod is critical for giving confidence to other donors that Zimbabwe is deserving of support and a safe place to invest in. That is a message currently woefully absent from the public discourse.
What the IMF is demanding is not as outrageous as the spurious revolutionaries in our midst suggest. The majority of Zimbabweans share the concerns raised by our international partners about accountability and transparency.
These are not bourgeois concerns. We have seen what happens when government doesn't have to account for what it does with public funds.
We now have to win back the confidence of foreign investors and donors by pursuing open market-based economic policies that work, not those that demonstrably don't.
Land reform, which contrary to the rhetoric emanating from Zanu PF has never been in dispute, must be carried out in accordance with the law of the land and with a view to underpinning long-term agricultural production.
Sound economic policies such as the recently unveiled industrial and trade policy should in the medium to long term see a stable macro-economic environment which will in turn bring down inflation and interest rates.
This should render unnecessary retrogressive policies such as controls on the prices of basic commodities and on the foreign exchange markets. Privatisation of state assets must be transparent and go to the highest bidder who will add value to these assets.
We are indeed a sovereign nation
with tremendous potential which will remain untapped for as long as our
economy is under-performing due to misdirected agendas designed to ensconce
a particular group of politicians in power. We can only reclaim our lost
pride through collectively putting our shoulders to the wheel and following
policies that have succeeded elsewhere. The sooner the politburo understands
this elementary fact of life the better.
Zimbabwe Independent/Misa, April 19, 1999.
The authorities in Zimbabwe have announced that fuel prices are going up by up to thirty-two per cent.
The last big increase in fuel costs -- a rise of about two-thirds in October -- sparked a wave of violent protests across Zimbabwe.
The government, which has warned of a fuel shortage in recent days, said the latest price increase had been forced by the depreciation of the national currency and by the rising cost of imported fuel.
Reports from Harare say tens of thousands of government workers, including schoolteachers and nurses at state hospitals, have gone on strike.
The president of the Public Services Association, Givemore Masorongere, was quoted as saying his members were demanding a twenty-five per-cent pay increase, and had given the government of President Robert Mugabe until Friday to address their demands.
Yesterday the cabinet awarded state workers a five-per-cent pay rise following lengthy negotiations.
The main milling firms in Zimbabwe have stopped producing maize meal after disagreements with the government over prices.
The Zimbabwe Millers Association says it cannot produce the maize meal for the price the government has set.
The association had asked for a sixty two percent price increase, but the government allowed only twenty percent.
Now millers say they cannot get loans
from banks to further subsidise production.
They also say the price of unprocessed maize has risen by eighty eight percent since last year .
The government abandoned price controls last year, but reintroduced them when an increase in the cost of maize meal led to violent protests.
LOWLY but steadily, the new party
Zapu 2000 is spreading the word in Matabeleland: vote in local elections
if you want change.
Two weeks ago, hundreds turned out at a rally in Hwange. Speakers urged them to register and vote for Zapu 2000, the revival of the old Zimbabwe African People's Union of Deputy President Joshua Nkomo, absorbed in 1987 by the ruling Zanu-PF.
In August, Zapu 2000 will field candidates
for the 11 councillors' posts in Victoria Falls municipality, Zimbabwe's
top tourist resort.
One candidate is travel agent Silas Khuphe. His angle is that local residents benefit little from the more than half a million tourists that visit each year. Tax revenue and the tourist levy are siphoned off by the central government. Discrimination against Ndebele people, says Khuphe, does the rest.
Of the 10 biggest hotels in Victoria Falls, none has an Ndebele manager. "Each manager brings workers from his area," says Khuphe.
To overcome the lack of education and jobs for his people, Khuphe started a tourism training college in Chinotimba, Victoria Falls' crowded and poor township. His aim is eventually to build a hotel where locals will get work experience.
"We need to pass bylaws to protect locals in employment and to establish a database of skills and unemployment for employers," he says.
But first comes the fight against voter apathy. Turn-out has been extremely low at past elections. Some officials were elected with less than five percent of eligible votes.
"Matabeleland needs encouragement and education to bring change through the ballot box, not the bullet," says Khuphe.
It will not be easy. Zapu 2000 is up against the formidable machinery of ruling party Zanu-PF, well oiled with millions of dollars provided by the state to established political parties.
The state-owned media does not cover
the opposition. The black-out can be petty at times. Two months ago, Bokithimba
Sibindi, president of Imbovane, a local pressure group, took an advertisement
for a meeting in Victoria Falls in the Bulawayo-based, state-owned Chronicle
A clerk objected to the topic "Freedom of choice vs. partisan culture" for being too political. Sibindi reworded it blandly. The clerk objected to the Ndebele word indaba (meeting). Sibindi wanted the advertisement to run so he changed it. Yet advertisements for President Mugabe's birthday say congratulations, makorototo [in Shona] and amhlope [in Ndebele].
"At the end of the day, you realise you are a second-class citizen with no rights," says Sibindi.
Fear works against political participation. The memory of the massacres of the 1980s across Matabeleland is still fresh. People are afraid to speak out, even to attend our rallies, says Bhekinkosi Khumalo, a Zapu 2000 supporter.
Apathy does the rest. With 70% of Zimbabweans living in poverty, according to recently released government statistics, many lack the energy and the time for politics.
Poverty is worse in drought-prone Matabeleland, where three out of four rainy seasons fail. "We've been shouting about chronic drought for the last 15 years, but not one major dam was built here since independence in 1980," says Bulawayo councillor Colin Lumsden.
Although Zimbabwe was flooded with abundant rains this year, Bulawayo's five dams are only 20% full. In eight months, the city of one million could run out of water. Rationing has begun.
"Without water assurances, investors
will not come," says Gibson Sibanda, president of the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions.
Without investment, Matabeleland will keep producing border-jumpers, like the 18 youths who suffocated to death in a container in Botswana on their way to South Africa late last year. And peasants will keep flocking to Victoria Falls hoping for jobs.
One is Kilif Ndlovu, a cleaner at a posh lodge, who left his barren homestead in Lupane two years ago. Home in Chinotimba township is a shack made of plastic sheets and mealie meal bags, crowded with another dozen shacks into the backyard of a council home, with one outside toilet and shower for all. There are at least 6 000 shack-dwellers in this town of 35 000.
On top of poverty, Ndebele people complain of systematic discrimination. "Our children are less able to get into good schools, locals do not have a fair share of civil service jobs and it is hard to get a bank loan," says Sibanda, who is Ndebele. "You could easily compile a whole catalogue of examples."
"Most of the ivory recently auctioned in Harare came from Hwange national park, but we see nothing but crumbs of the proceeds and crop damage from our elephants," says Zapu 2000 leader Paul Siwela. He refers to the paltry Z$24 -million (US$630 000) allocated to 13 rural districts from the undisclosed amount made from the sale of 20 tons of ivory to Japan.
"All foreign tourists visit Vic Falls but the town sees little of their money," adds Khumalo. The town lacks sidewalks, a high school up to A levels and a public library, and its sanitation can't cope with the influx of migrants.
At rural primary schools, Shona teachers impart essential concepts in Shona, not in English, to Ndebele children. "They are doubly disadvantaged because they can't understand properly in Shona and they are not learning English," says Khumalo.
Even a Zanu-PF stalwart like municipality chairman Douglas Dube agrees: "Hotel managers are from Harare and employ their tribe. Local people are disadvantaged on their own soil."
Zapu 2000 taps into this latent anger at poverty and discrimination. Its supporters want to turn it into a force for change. "Our objective is to avert an explosion of ethnic hate like in Kosovo or Rwanda," says Siwela.
-- AIA, June 24, 1999.
ZIMBABWEANS are at each others' throats
over the ground rules for a poll next year that could decide the future
of President Robert Mugabe's 19-year grip on power.
At the centre of the controversy is a constitutional review process launched by the government in May in response to growing demands for reform to a framework designed to entrench the ruling Zanu-PF party.
The government has amended the Constitution 15 times since 1980, ostensibly to dump colonial anomalies but in reality to remove checks on its exercise of power.
Mugabe has centralised authority in his own hands by managing the electoral process, appointing 30 members of Parliament, and ensuring the only voice heard on radio and television is his own.
The 400-member constitutional review commission chaired by Judge President Godfrey Chidyausiku contains all 150 MPs, ruling party officials, mayors, and Zanu-PF allies.
The presence of a handful of academics, church leaders, and representatives of the business and agricultural sectors has enabled the government to argue that the commission is fully inclusive of society.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a civic body chaired by trade union leader Morgan Tsvangirai which comprises opposition parties and a wide range of NGOs, rejects the commission's claims to independence, dismissing it as hand-picked and unrepresentative.
"The government-led constitutional
reform process is defective: it is not transparent and does not involve
the people from the beginning," Tsvangirai contends.
He has played hardball with the commission, refusing to participate in a process he says is open to presidential manipulation.
Mugabe recently described the current Constitution as "serving our needs well". He has denounced members of his party calling for a limit to presidential terms as "witches".
But a growing demand for reform at all levels of society has persuaded Mugabe to shift his position. It is suspected, however, — not just by the NCA — that he intends to retain control of the reform process through a largely compliant commission.
Eddison Zvobgo, the powerful Masvingo regional boss who heads Zanu-PF's reform initiative, selected the commission's members. Now he will be proposing what kind of reforms his party wants to see adopted. The government has promised a referendum on the outcome.
Jonathan Moyo, visiting professor in the political studies department at the University of the Witwatersrand and an outspoken critic of Mugabe's regime, says the NCA is irrelevant. "They have been left behind, frozen in arguments about how to do something that is already being done," he says.
Moyo is confident Mugabe will not interfere in the commission's work.
"To argue that it is better for people to wait until they find out whether Mugabe will interfere or not," the NCA's Professor Welshman Ncube argues, "is like saying there is no reason to brake a runaway car until you are sure it is heading down the edge of a cliff."
The NCA is planning protests against the commission and has advised the public to boycott its sessions while it draws up its own constitutional blueprint.
Many agree it is too early to trust a president with a record of skilful manipulation.
"Remember, when dealing with Mugabe you are dealing with someone with over 40 years of political experience," cautions opposition activist Kempton Makamure.
Mugabe warned last weekend he would not allow anybody to interfere with the work of the commission.
As the country faces food and fuel shortages, the political temperature is rising. Moyo is quoted in last week's edition of the Zanu-PF newspaper, the People's Voice, as calling Tsvangirai a "hooligan and stone thrower" who is acting like an adolescent. He denies saying it.
Gay lobbyists have criticised both the NCA and the commission for the exclusion of homosexual delegates.
In an extraordinary turnaround for the government, Zvobgo said last week he would be happy to consider an application from advocacy group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe.
-- The Mail & Guardian, July 2, 1999.
Jeune Afrique Economie