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Zim Meeting Disappoints: Mugabe Endures March 30, 2007

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The SADC emergency meeting on the Zimbabwe crisis is winding up, and Robert Mugabe is pleased with the results. Although he reportedly received a behind the scenes scalding over his mismanagement of Zimbabwe’s economy and the latest wave of human rights abuses, the dictator came out better than many had hoped and predicted:

Leaders of 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) have called on the West to lift sanctions on the Zimbabwean government and urged negotiations between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Source: zimbabwejournalists.com

Having passed what many thought would be a trial by fire, Mugabe today faces critics back home in a politburo meeting. He goes to the meeting not with the backing of the SADC members, but still with their qualified support and no firmly backed regional time lines for change. But what appears as a mild degree of criticism from SADC is still a slight deviation from the usual compliments and unqualified support that Mugabe has received in the past. Mbeki has tried to intervene in the Zimbabwe crisis before, to little avail. Much depends on his effectiveness now, but it is hard to see what will make this time different, other than the SADC endorsement, the power of which is now strictly rhetorical.

Mugabe is a past master at political survival, and now he has all the time he needs to bring his party into line. His critics in ZANU-PF would do well to be wary. This would not be the first time Mugabe has escaped from a corner.

Tags: urged | Sanctions | opposition | Negotiations | Government | dialogue | CALLS | ZIMBABWEAN | Zimbabwe | ZANU | tsvangirai | tanzania | southern | Sadc | president | Politics | Mugabe | movement | HARARE | Development | DEMOCRATIC | Community | African

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SADC : Tough,Soft, and Smart with Mugabe March 30, 2007

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Discontent with Robert Mugabe’s chaotic rule over Zimbabwe was almost  strong enough to break a wall of traditional silence today at the emergency summit on Zimbabwe today. Regional leaders criticized Mugabe, but he was allowed to edit an important communique.  South Africa’s President Mbeki will mediate talks between ZANU-PF and the opposition .

The leaders strongly condemned Mugabe behind closed doors and Mugabe was uncomfortable with a harsh communique prepared earlier and had it softened after he said it will please the western countries and the leaders bowed to his demands to issue a statement that was favorable to his position as a president.

Source: zimdaily.com

Public criticism is still muted, but change is on the agenda. South Africa will offer Mugabe a negotiated out if at all possible, and will prepare the country for elections.

Tags: Sadc | Western | warn | uncomfortable | strongly | statement | softened | president | prepared | negotiating | Issue | harsh | favorable | Earlier | doors | demands | countries | condemned | communique | Closed | bowed | Zimbabwe | tanzania | Politics | Mugabe | Leaders | Africa

Zim Leader Released: Nine Others Arrested March 29, 2007

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The Zimbabwean police have released high profile opposition leader Morgan Tsavangirai, but have detained at least nine other opposition members in a campaign against “terrorism”.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader was freed from several hours in police custody, but nine others detained in a raid were charged Thursday in what the government alleged was a terror campaign, opposition officials said.

Source: washingtonpost.com

In a report for the Associated Press, Angus Shaw writes from Harare that the government claims to have discovered to have discovered  “explosives, detonators, and two handguns” at the homes of two of the arrested opposition leaders. The Movement for Democratic Change  claims that police planted the weapons in an ongoing smear campaign.

Tags: terror | raid | police | others | opposition | officials | leader | Hours | Government | freed | DETAINED | CUSTODY | charged | campaign | alleged | ZIMBABWEAN | Zimbabwe | thursday | tanzania | Released | Politics | HARARE | Africa

Zim Crisis: Leaders Face Complex Reality March 29, 2007

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Amid reports of a new police crackdown on the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Robert Mugabe flew to Tanzania yesterday to attend a hastily called meeting of the Southern African Development Council(SADC ) a 14 member regional group of nations. The meeting was convened to address the Zimbabwean crisis, a maelstrom of hyperinflation, refugee flight, and political repression that finally attracted world attention this month when Mugabe’s police beat one of the opposition leaders nearly senseless. Yet

African leaders meeting in Tanzania yesterday to discuss Zimbabwe’s political crisis were not expected to bow to pressure to censure President Robert Mugabe’s police crackdown.

Source: businessday.co.za

The group includes South Africa, which despite the doubling of refugee flows across its borders to some 20,000 per month over the past year, has been pursuing a policy of “quiet diplomacy.” Zambia’s president has been less discreet, breaking ranks with colleagues to call for change in Zimbabwe. But most analysts expect little outright condemnation to come out of the two day meeting, despite widespread criticism of Zimbabwe in the press.(BBC Roundup)

Meanwhile, back at home, a critical meeting of Zanu-PF(news), Mugabe’s own usually obsequious political party, has been postponed until the summit is over. Several high ranking party members have been in talks with the MDC, and earlier this year Zanu-PF refused an outright endorsement of Mugabe’s plans to postpone elections for another two years.

The European Union recently launched an initiative(complete report PDF) to bring food to the country, which if not starving now, will soon be. The International Crisis Group published a comprehensive blueprint(reports on Zimbabwe) for change in Zimbabwe that addresses the role of the U.N., Zanu-PF, and the MDC. The U.S. and Britain have roundly condemned Mugabe, and have expressed hope that the SADC will take action. So why are expectations so uniformly low?

The answer is not simple. Each of the major players in this regime-change game has weaknesses that prevent one nation or political party from acting unilaterally and comprehensively to bring about a constructive change in Zimbabwean politics.

South Africa is Zimbabwe’s major trading partner, and has the most to lose by a continuation of the status quo. SA is preparing itself for the World Cup, and the last thing it needs is a continuing influx of refugees from the North. Yet until recently, SA has been pursuing a policy of self-branded “quiet diplomacy”, and has vowed to block any attempts by Britain to bring the issues to the U.N. Security Council.

This reticence becomes more understandable in view of the fears of many in SA that appearing to collude with Britain and the US , taken to its logical conclusion, couls lead to a Southern African Iraq style occupation of Zimbabwe with South Africa acting as point. Despite South Africa’s military and economic dominance of the region, that is something SA simply cannot afford, and would be the last desperate measure.

Policy statements that appear to endorse British and U.S.(Press release, U.S State Department) condemnations of Zimbabwe must be handled with the very finest of kid gloves, and the safest approach for SA is as close to silence as possible. That’s because Mugabe maintains that the MDC and other opposition are tools of the former colonial powers, particularly of Britain.

South Africa’s experience of British intervention in Southern Africa has not been a happy one, and the Mugabe’s anti-colonial rhetoric (news analysis) finds a sympathetic audience gathered in Tanzania.(news) More practically, Mugabe’s former role as revolutionary leader still has resonance with a wide range of people in the region, and in Zimbabwe itself. Too much enthusiasm for policies of foreign origin could have the paradoxical and unwanted effect of strengthening Mugabe’s hand, particularly in rural Zimbabwe where his support is strong. Nevertheless, SA cannot afford to ignore the crisis.

The U.S. and the U.K. have a limited role to play here. Both countries continue to lose international credibility because of the Iraqi debacle, and Mugabe can turn almost any official statement to his own ends. It is beyond doubt, given Mugabe’s rapacious behavior, that any increase in sanctions(news) would probably affect the ruling elite last, if at all. But the impact on ordinary people in Zimbabwe would be instantaneous and devastating. Worse, it would likely mobilize some public support for Mugabe.

Mugabe’s own political party is unhappy. Some high ranking officials of Zanu-Pf are at least talking to the opposition, but powerful as they are, these politicians are walking on a tightrope made of razor blades. If the SADC meeting fails to condemn Mugabe or to craft an acceptable exit strategy for him, Mugabe could well undertake a purge. Whether he has the power to do this is, at this point, questionable, but if enough of his political cronies feel that Mugabe’s end is the effective end of the party or the beginnings of political reprisals and punishments meted out by the opposition, Mugabe’s colleagues will have two choices: run into exile or fall into line with an attempt to purge the party, maintain Mugabe in office, and continue down the path to economic and social disaster.

Does all this mean that we should expect nothing from the SADC summit and that Mugabe will stay in power past his 90th birthday, as some people fear. Not necessarily. Each of the interested parties in the Zimbabwean crisis has limitations, but the right combination of those apparent weaknesses could be a powerful combination.

The first order of business will be to craft an exit strategy that both Mugabe and his party faithful can live with, and to do that it must be one based on an understanding that the status quo must change. The Movement for Democratic Change would be a less confusing entity were it not divided into two fairly antagonistic factions, but in any case it is important that both keep in close contact with members of Mugabe’s own party.

But with the opposition leaders jailed again as a result of presummit raids, one overly enthusiastic policeman could tip the whole country into a morass of disorganized violence. The country is near an implosion point already. The last thing Zimbabwe needs is a major political killing.

SADC, the opposition parties, and thoughtful members of Mugabe’s own inner circle certainly have their work cut out for them.

Tags: Pressure | police | meeting | Leaders | expected | Crisis | Censure | Zimbabwe | tanzania | Robert | president | Politics | Congo | African

China’s Olympics Creating Organ Shortages March 29, 2007

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Were it not so lamentably factual, this story would have to go under some category like “incredible news.” China is trying to clean up its world image for the upcoming Olympics, which are 500 days away, and part of the effort is to make some progress in human rights. The odd side effect is to decrease the available supplies of organs for South Korean patients awaiting transplants.

But the planning isn’t just taking place on the streets of Beijing. The government is also trying to clean up some of its more blatant human rights violations — like the export of kidneys from death penalty victims and organs harvested from minors. And it’s creating organ shortages in South Korea.

Source: spiegel.de

Tags: violations | victims | trying | taking | streets | shortage | Rights | Planning | PENALTY | MINORS | kidney | harvested | Government | export | EXECUTIONS | days | blatant | South Korea | Politics | Olympic | leads | China | Beijing

Zimbabwe Arrests Opposition Leaders Again March 28, 2007

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While  embattled president Robert Mugabe attends a regional meeting convened in Tanzania to address the Zimbabwe crisis, police have arrested key opposition figures and shut down the headquarters of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change

HARARE, Zimbabwe (CP) – Police stormed the main opposition party headquarters Wednesday and arrested its leader shortly before President Robert Mugabe left for an emergency meeting of southern African leaders about the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Morgan Tsvangirai and other Mugabe opponents were taken into custody hours before the opposition leader planned to talk to reporters about a wave of political violence that left him briefly hospitalized.

Police sealed off approaches to the Movement for Democratic Change headquarters and fired tear gas to drive away onlookers before taking Tsvangirai and the others away in a bus, said Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, an aide to Tsvangirai.

“We don’t know their whereabouts. We don’t know if they have been charged,” he said.

Source: news1130.com

The last detentions resulted in serious beatings and a death on March 11.

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Zimbabwe Journalist Arrested March 26, 2007

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Apparently, this trainee asked the wrong question and was detained. There is no word on whether the intern is still in detention. This is one of those arrests that it would be easy to forget, given the media prominence of the official Zimbabwean opposition and the chaos in the country. I would appreciate any help on follow up and verification.

A trainee journalist with state media was arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly asking why police did not feel guilty for killing an opposition activist, it was claimed Sunday.

The privately-owned Standard claimed 23-year-old Tapiwa Chininga was arrested last Saturday, a week after police shot and killed a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist in Highfield township after an aborted prayer rally.

Source: jurnalo.com

Tags: Tapiwa | Chininga | TRAINEE | township | shot | report | rally | Questions | Privately-Owned | prayer | police | opposition | Media | KILLED | journalist | guilty | claimed | asks | arrested | allegedly | Activist | aborted | Zimbabwe | Standard | Saturday | Politics | movement | Highfield | DEMOCRATIC

Bread and Circuses May Bring Mugabe Down March 24, 2007

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The most recent storm of political repression has passed through Zimbabwe, leaving in its wake a literally beaten but politically stronger opposition and seemingly impotent diplomatic outrage over the brutal treatment of Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders. The question remains: What will bring Mugabe down?

Based on a report by Martin Plant for the BBC, the answer may well be one historically familiar to those with imperial ambitions: a combination of bread, circuses, and palace plotters. Turns out that some of Mugabe’s former inner circle have been meeting with opposition leaders over the past ten days.

Emmerson Mnangagwa and Solomon Mujuru, both stalwarts of the ruling party, have been meeting with Tsvangirai. Joyce Mujuru,the vice President of Zimbabwe, has been meeting with her South African counterpart and has probably gotten an earful about the potential scandal that millions more Zimbabwean refugees might cause South Africa as it hosts the upcoming World Cup.

There are already two to three million Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa, and millions more are expected to arrive from Zimbabwe. With the price of bread “doubling every day” in Mugabe’s empire the relative prosperity of anywhere else looks good. Mass exodus appears inevitable. It is a question of “when”, not “if”.

Even before Mugabe’s latest round of brutality, his usually sycophantic party had shown a brief spark of rebellion. As Plant writes:

The first indications that President Mugabe’s iron grip on his party was slipping came at the Zanu-PF congress in December last year.

He asked the party to endorse his proposal to extend his presidency until 2010. The party, for the first time, turned him down.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

Daily life in Zimbabwe is a fresh version of hell. Consider this from a young man fortunate enough to have a job:

We would like to go to South Africa and are definitely planning to go. I am waiting for my work permit and then we’ll see what happens over that side.

I want to be able to make plans for the future. Here one cannot.

Your money erodes before you. Say that today you have 10 million Zimbabwean dollars ($177 as per the current black market exchange rate) in the bank, tomorrow it will be eight million and at the end of week it will be nothing.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

How long will he wait for a permit? How many others will flee, not having the ghost of a South African work permit, employment, or a week long supply of what passes for money?

Zimbabwe’s discontented politicos will gain powerful allies to the south as the World Cup approaches. At the moment, Mnangagwa and Co. would very much like to maintain their party’s grip on power, and merely talking to the opposition does not constitute a viable anti-Mugabe coalition. But the dictator’s political control over his own party shows definite signs of weakening.

Bread is too expensive. The circus promoters-including South Africa’s President Mbeki– grumble. And the captial city buzzes with rumor and intrigue. Can the end of this regime be far away?

Yes- still too distant for the millions of suffering Zimbabweans.

But the end of Mugabe is not as remote as it was yesterday, and will draw yet closer on every tomorrow.

Tags: Talks | slipping | leader | indications | grip | ERA | Congress | Zimbabwe | ZANU-PF | president | Politics | Mujuru | Mugabe | Johannesburg | December

Zambia, S.A. Split Over Sinking Zimbabwe March 22, 2007

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South Africa’s response to the Zimbabwe crisis has been tepid at best, despite expectations that Zimbabwe’s nearest and most powerful neighbor might be instrumental in bringing pressure to bear on the roundly condemned Mugabe government. Wyndham Hartley reports from Cape Town today that South Africa’s preference for “quiet diplomacy” continues, despite the complete lack of effect of that approach on the Zimbabwean policy:

in perhaps its strongest statement on Zimbabwe since the crisis escalated recently, chief government spokesman Themba Maseko said the beatings of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders were “unacceptable” but indicated that there would be no change in government’s approach.

Source: allafrica.com

Meanwhile, Zambian President Mwanawasa, on a five day visit to Nambia acknowledges that the quiet diplomacy approach is not working. Zimbabwe is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), an organization devoted to trade and regional prosperity in Southern Africa. Mwanawasa believes the organizaton

had failed to make progress in talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. ..failed to help solve the political chaos and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe,” Mwanawasa said during a five-day state visit to Namibia.

Source: allafrica.com

Without mentioning Zimbabwe by name, Mwanawasa compared Zimbabwe to the doomed Titanic:

As I speak
right now, one SADC country has sunk into such economic difficulties
that it may be likened to a sinking Titanic whose passengers are
jumping off in a bid to save their lives.”

Source: allafrica.com

SADC is expected to issue formal statements on Zimbabwe within the next week, and in South Africa, the government’s hands-off approach has drawn criticism from nearly every major political party as well as from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

Tags: unacceptable | strongest | statement | spokesman | Leaders | indicated | Government | escalated | Crisis | BEATINGS | Zimbabwe | Themba | Sa | Politics | movement | Maseko | holds | DEMOCRATIC

Security Council Briefing on Zimbabwe March 17, 2007

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Evelyn Leopard reports that Britain has asked the UN to brief the Security Council on the economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe. On Friday, March 17th

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said he asked for “a humanitarian briefing” because of the attacks on Tsvangirai, the economic crisis and the general political situation.

Jones Parry said he was not asking at this stage for specific action. Instead, he said he wanted to focus attention on the events of the last week and the economic and political situation, which had caused Zimbabweans to flee to other countries in southern Africa.

Source: alertnet.org

According to the Leopard story, South Africa immediately entered the fray:

But Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, said that while he and other council members had no objections to the briefing, the turmoil in Zimbabwe did not affect international peace and security — the council’s mandate.

“We do not believe that the issue of Zimbabwe belongs in the Security Council,” Kumalo said. “So to bring it to the council is surprising.”

Source: alertnet.org

What is even more surprising is how Kumalo glosses over the Zimbabwean refugee problem, one that clearly affects international peace and security-in his own country. Out of a population of 14 million, an estimated 3-5 million refugees have fled Zimbabwe for South Africa. The South African government, says James Kirchick

actually deports thousands of Zimbabweans back to their country, where many are later imprisoned and tortured.

Source: nysun.com

Kirchik argues that the Zimbabwean refugee problem dwarfs the much more publicized and better funded Palestinian one, but we need not accept Kirchik’s whole argument to understand that by any reasonable definition, a government that compels 20-35% of its citizens to flee to another country with already overburdened social services is a threat for international peace and security. Does half the population need to leave before the world community deals with Mugabe? Three-quarters?

Whether the Security Council is an appropriate forum for concerted action on Zimbabwe is open for debate, but the existence of an international problem is no longer contestable. Zimbabweans have voted on that with their feet, and they will no doubt continue to do so until their is a change of government their homeland.

Tags: Turmoil | situation | humanitarian | Crisis | brief | attacks | Asked | action | Zimbabwe | UN | tsvangirai | Politics | PARRY | Jones | Emyr | Council | Britain | AMBASSADOR | Africa