Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: SADC to Hold Emergency Talks in Mbabane; UN Blocks British, US Attempts to Halt Run-off; ZANU-PF Promotes Empowerment

African leaders to hold emergency talks

Jun 25, 2008 6:24 AM

Southern African leaders will hold an emergency meeting in Swaziland's capital Mbabane to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe, officials said.

Earlier, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the United Nations to isolate President Robert Mugabe and said a peacekeeping force was needed in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe has shrugged off Monday's unprecedented and unanimous decision by the UN Security Council to condemn violence against the opposition and declare that a free and fair presidential election on Friday was impossible.

The Mbabane meeting has been called by the leading regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), amid mounting international pressure on Mugabe to resolve his country's political turmoil and economic meltdown.

The leaders of Tanzania, Angola and Swaziland would attend the meeting in their capacity as the SADC's troika organ on politics, defence and security, the Tanzanian government said in a statement.

"Others who have been invited to attend the meeting are the current SADC chairman, (President) Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, and the SADC mediator for Zimbabwe, (President) Thabo Mbeki of South Africa," said the statement.

"The meeting will discuss how the SADC and its troika organ on politics, defence and security can help Zimbabwe to get out of its current state of conflict."

Tsvangirai, who has withdrawn from the election and taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare since Sunday, said Zimbabwe would "break" if the world did not come to its aid.

"We ask for the UN to go further than its recent resolution, condemning the violence in Zimbabwe, to encompass an active isolation of the dictator Mugabe," Tsvangirai wrote in an article in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"For this we need a force to protect the people. We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force," said Tsvangirai.

"Such a force would be in the role of peacekeepers, not trouble-makers. They would separate the people from their oppressors and cast the protective shield around the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns."

Increased pressure

Pressure has increased on Mugabe from both inside and outside Africa over Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis, blamed by the West and the opposition on the 84-year-old president who has held power for 28 years.

The United States has urged SADC to declare both the election and Mugabe's government illegitimate.

Angola's state-run ANGOP news agency quoted SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao as saying foreign ministers agreed at a meeting on Monday that a "climate of extreme violence" existed in Zimbabwe and that the government must protect the people.

Friday's vote was meant to be a run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. The opposition leader won a first round in March but official figures did not give him an outright victory.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change won a parallel parliamentary election in March, sending Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to its first defeat since independence from Britain in 1980.

Both Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and the leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress said Friday's election must be postponed after Tsvangirai's withdrawal.

Zuma, who rivals Mbeki as South Africa's most powerful man, called for urgent intervention by the United Nations and SADC, saying the situation in Zimbabwe was out of control.

South Africa under Mbeki has been an advocate of "quiet diplomacy" with Mugabe and has resisted calls to use its powerful economic leverage over landlocked Zimbabwe.

But Zuma, who toppled Mbeki as ANC leader last December, has become increasingly outspoken over Mugabe.

On Tuesday, Mugabe dismissed the pressure and told a rally in western Zimbabwe that Friday's election would go ahead.

"The West can scream all it wants. Elections will go on. Those who want to recognise our legitimacy can do so, those who don't want, should not," said Mugabe.

Mugabe has presided over a slide into economic chaos, including 80% unemployment and the world's highest inflation rate of at least 165,000%.

He blames Western sanctions for his country's economic woes.

UN blocks British, US attempts to halt run-off

Herald Reporters

THE United Nations yesterday blocked attempts by Britain, the United States and France to declare MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the President of Zimbabwe on the basis of the results of the March 29 harmonised elections.

This came as South Africa’s ruling ANC party rejected foreign intervention in Zimbabwe, especially from erstwhile colonisers.

Britain, the current president of the Security Council, tried to use Belgium to halt Friday’s presidential run-off election and illegally install Tsvangirai as president, but South Africa’s Ambassador to the UN, Mr Dumisani Khumalo, blocked these attempts.

Associated Press reported that the US and France also tried to include in the Security Council statement language asserting that Tsvangirai should be considered the legitimate president of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s permanent representative to the UN Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku said submissions by South Africa and Zimbabwe convinced the 15-member Security Council that it would be legally improper to halt the run-off and install Tsvangirai.

The original draft compiled by the British had claimed that the elections would not be free and fair, but the Security Council eventually issued a watered down non-binding statement condemning political violence.

"We would like to pay tribute to Ambassador Khumalo for the sterling work he did. It is a big victory for us.

"Britain, through Belgium, which is not a member of the Security Council, tried to get the UN to impose Tsvangirai as president in contravention of the country’s Constitution and electoral laws.

"But South Africa made it clear that this would not be acceptable and we also made submissions indicating that it would be improper to subvert the law like that," Ambassador Chidyausiku said.

He said last week, Belgium— apparently acting on orders from Britain — had asked for a Security Council brief on what was going on in Zimbabwe.

The strategy was to use this as an excuse to criticise the electoral process, negate the need for a run-off and then recognise Tsvangirai as president on the basis of the March 29 poll results.

"The draft that we saw on Friday was mild. It was something that we could have UN blocks British, US attempts to halt run-off lived with. But over the weekend Tsvangirai said he didn’t want to participate in the run-off anymore and this gave Britain, through Belgium, ammunition to attack Zimbabwe," Ambassador Chidyausiku said.

On Monday morning, he said the draft was suddenly harder and bent on preventing a run-off as if they were aware Tsvangirai would lose the election.

"They were happy to go with the results of the March 29 poll when the law is clear that there should be a run-off.

"We, too, respect the results of the harmonised elections and that is why we agree that there should be a run-off. For anyone to prevent a run-off is to prevent the free expression of the will of the people as provided for by the law," he said.

Ambassador Chidyausiku said Britain and its allies tried to argue that a cancellation of the run-off would be necessitated by the prevalence of State-contrived violence.

However, Zimbabwe’s mission to the UN presented the Security Council with statistics indicating that the opposition was mostly behind the political violence in the country.

"The figures we have show that 400 MDC-T supporters have been arrested for political violence compared to 160 Zanu-PF supporters.

"We also demonstrated that there have been numerous cases of MDC-T supporters going around dressed in Zanu-PF regalia and beating up people.

"This is an outdated strategy used by the Selous Scouts during the liberation struggle and with the predominance of Selous Scouts in the MDC-T it is obvious what is going on.

"We managed to get them to recognise these realities and they failed in their bid to install Tsvangirai."

He said the people of Zimbabwe would determine the future of Zimbabwe.

Ambassador Chidyausiku also said that it was imperative for Sadc to remain united under the Lusaka Summit resolution to respect South African President Thabo Mbeki’s mediation role.

"Sadc gave President Mbeki the mandate to mediate in Zimbabwe and that should be respected. That is a mandate that came out of a summit and no pronunciations by any individual outside of a summit should nullify this reality.

"Lusaka stands," he said.

The ANC, South Africa’s ruling party, rejected any outside diplomatic intervention in the Zimbabwean matter yesterday arguing that "any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen" the problems in Zimbabwe.

Although it said it was concerned with the situation in Zimbabwe, the ANC evoked Zimbabwe’s colonial history and insisted that outsiders had no role to play in ending its current problems.

"It has always been and continues to be the view of our movement that the challenges facing Zimbabwe can only be solved by the Zimbabweans themselves," the statement said. "Nothing that has happened in the recent months has persuaded us to revise that view."

In what seemed a clear rebuke to the efforts of Western nations to take an aggressive stance against the Zimbabwean Government, the ANC included a lengthy criticism of the "arbitrary, capricious power" exerted by Africa’s former colonial masters and cited the subsequent struggle by African nations to grant new-found freedoms and rights.

"No colonial power in Africa, least of all Britain in its colony of ‘Rhodesia’ ever demonstrated any respect for these principles," the ANC said, referring to Zimbabwe before its independence.

‘Tsvangirai can’t pull out’

Herald Reporters

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai cannot pull out of Friday’s presidential election run-off, legal experts said yesterday.

Opposition-aligned constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said Tsvangirai’s decision had no legal force.

Madhuku, chairman of the anti-Government National Constitutional Assembly, told SW Radio Africa: "The strict legal position is that candidature for the run-off or the second election is not a voluntary exercise, you give your consent when you contest the first election."

Tsvangirai yesterday formally wrote to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to withdraw from the run-off, taking a cue from the British government-sponsored statement expressing concern to the United Nations over violence in the run-up to the poll.

ZEC chairperson Justice George Chiweshe acknowledged receipt of the letter from Tsvangirai, but said he was not at liberty to disclose the contents, until the commission meets today.

"We have received a letter from MDC-T, but I cannot disclose the contents because the commission has to meet first. We will be meeting tomorrow (today) and then issue a statement," he said.

MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa initially confirmed that his party had delivered the letter to ZEC before becoming evasive.

"The letter has since gone," he said.

Madhuku said while a 21-day withdrawal period was provided for in the first round of voting, the law was silent on withdrawing from a run-off which is an "irreversible process".

Participating in the run-off, he said, therefore becomes automatic once one is nominated to take part in the first round election.

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, said according to the law, it was not possible for Tsvangirai to pull out of the run-off.

"My understanding of the law is he could have withdrawn
his candidature 21 days before the first round of voting on March 29. After that, there is no choice and a candidate must see through the electoral process that will have been set in motion.

"That is why after March 29 we did not have any fresh nominations because participation at that stage is no longer voluntary and the law coerces you to see through the process. And there are very good reasons for our law being like that.

"After all, Tsvangirai’s purported withdrawal is coming after the postal vote has been cast, ballot papers have been printed, equipment has been deployed across the country and polling officers have been recruited, some have been deployed and some are in the process of being deployed. To call off an election at such a stage is unthinkable.

"And I would like to emphasise that the conditions obtaining on the ground are conducive for the holding of free and fair elections."

Cde Chinamasa said MDC-T was still carrying out campaigns despite claiming that it had pulled out of the race.

Furthermore, Tsvangirai was yesterday spotted moving freely in and out of the Dutch Embassy in Harare where he fled to on Monday alleging security concerns, Cde Chinamasa said.

He said they had been reliably informed that Tsvangirai was carrying out his campaign work and reiterated that the election would go ahead as planned.

MDC-T youths were yesterday seen distributing flyers in the capital urging the electorate to vote for Tsvangirai.

Cde Chinamasa said Tsvangirai’s decision to relocate to the Dutch Embassy was a "stage-managed affair meant to coincide with a United Nations Security Council meeting".

"Seeking refuge at the Dutch Embassy was a stage-managed affair instigated by American and Dutch officials who visited him over the weekend at his house. They urged him to go to the Dutch Embassy as this would help in stampeding the UN Security Council into a resolution on the run-off.

"We also understand that he has been moving freely in and out of the embassy to campaign and to meet his officials and all this contradicts the allegations he made about his safety fears," Cde Chinamasa said.

Further evidence that the opposition was preparing for Friday’s vote, Cde Chinamasa said, was that MDC-T was training polling officers.

"There are some 400 people who are being trained as polling officers. When MDC-T headquarters were raided earlier this week these people were not there and they had gone out for training. There is this lie going around that there are people living at Harvest House because they were displaced by political violence. It’s a myth. And the American and British embassies are right now preparing to build on that myth.

"They want to erect tents and other temporary shelters at their official premises and residencies to build on the myth that they are trying to help victims of State violence and consequently get justification for intervening in our domestic affairs."

Meanwhile, Cde Chinamasa, who also chairs Zanu-PF's media and publicity sub-committee, urged the electorate to go out in their numbers and vote for President Mugabe and put the final nail in the coffin of Western attempts to reverse the Land Reform Programme through their proxy MDC-T.

He said: "My assessment of the mood prevailing in the country is that it is at an advanced pregnancy to deliver a decisive victory for Cde Mugabe. Further, the outcome will be a rejection of foreign interference in our internal affairs and will make a statement that ensures there is no reversal of the gains of the revolution, in particular the land redistribution programme."

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, said yesterday Zimbabwe was "extremely peaceful" and rejected the opposition leader’s claims that violence had made a fair presidential run-off vote impossible.

"The situation in Zimbabwe is extremely peaceful despite reports from certain Western media saying that Zimbabwe is tumultuous," said Cde Mumbengegwi, cited by Angola’s Angop news agency. "This is not true."

His comments followed a meeting with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. He also handed a letter to President dos Santos from Zimbabwe President Mugabe, though its contents were not made public, the news agency said.

"The political campaign is following its own course, so it makes no sense what some voices are saying that there are no conditions for going ahead with the run-off," said Cde Mumbengegwi.

He said violence that had occurred was confined to certain areas and the opposition was responsible for it.

The minister said Tsvangirai had opted out of the race because he knew he would lose. "Nobody pulls out of elections if he thinks he can win," said Cde Mumbengegwi.

"He is trying to outmanoeuvre after seeing on the ground that he will not win. These elections will take place and we will have a smashing victory."

The foreign minister said he held talks with President dos Santos since the Angolan president is the current chair of policy and security organ for the 14-nation Southern African Development Community.

Tsvangirai on Monday "sought refuge" at the Dutch Embassy in Harare, a move police described as a dirty political antic to stir international anger and further damage the image of the country.

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri has said the move was also meant to further tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and in particular the Zimbabwe Republic Police on the international arena.

"We wonder whom Mr Morgan Tsvangirai is running away or hiding from. We do not have any complaints from him or his party of any threats of violence or attempts on his life that would cause him to fear for his safety and seek sanctuary in a foreign embassy," he told journalists on Monday.

Tsvangirai sought "refuge" at the Netherlands embassy on Sunday, soon after announcing his withdrawal from the run-off and just before the UN Security Council met to discuss Zimbabwe.

Political analysts have described this as a ploy to increase pressure on the Security Council rather than a genuine security concern, noting that opposition demonstrations and street protests have in past coincided with summits of the European Union or G8.

Zanu-PF publishes empowerment magazine

Herald Reporter

ZANU-PF has published a magazine with 100 reasons detailing why Zimbabweans should vote for President Mugabe in Friday’s presidential run-off election on June 27, as it intensifies its campaign.

The book titled "If you believe and I believe, then all Good Things Are Possible" and is being handed out to people countrywide.

Zanu-PF media sub-committee member and Minister of Policy Implementation Cde Webster Shamu said the magazine defines the meaning of the presidential run off, the clear meaning of the 100 percent empowerment theme, Zimbabwe today — the hard facts, President Mugabe’s candidacy, what the ruling party has done and what it would do and what the people should do.

"The fact that Zimbabweans will be going to the polls on June 27, 2008 to vote for the country’s president, fundamentally means that the current Government has demonstrated beyond doubt its commitment to and respect for the Constitution of the country and therefore the rule of law given the will of the people as expressed in the harmonised elections on March 29, 2008," reads reason number one.

Judging by the misplaced pronouncements of media pundits and political detractors who have been competing to dispirit Zimbabweans through negative propaganda since the March 29 harmonised elections, according to the second reason, some people would be misled into believing that Zanu-PF has become unpopular and President Mugabe unelectable while Morgan Tsvangirai and his "foreign funded and foreign driven MDC have become so popular as to be unbeatable".

"If these misleading pronouncements of media pundits and political detractors were true, there would have been no need for a presidential run-off on June 27, 2008 because everything would have been wrapped up by the MDC on March 29.

"The fact that a presidential election run-off will be held on June 27 means that there is absolutely no truth to the claims of the pundits and detractors about the alleged popularity of Tsvangirai and his anti-Zimbabwean MDC."

The magazine further says that the majority of Zimbabweans have genuine concerns about the current political polarisation and divisions in the country and they want to see these resolved along with the economic hardships facing almost everyone.

It says that Tsvangirai and his MDC-T do not "by any stretch" of imagination enjoy the support of a majority of the electorate.

Cde Shamu said that was why the MDC-T, with 99 seats, won a simple majority in the Parliamentary elections on March 29 and why they would not be able to run Parliament alone under any circumstances.

"The simple fact is that there was no MDC landslide victory on March 29. Tsvangirai did not get the majority of the total valid votes cast. That is why there is a run-off on June 27.

"Indeed, even his MDC did not win a majority of the 210 seats in the National Assembly.

"For the same reason, there will be no Tsvangirai landslide or majority on June 27 not least because every patriotic Zimbabwean in and outside Zanu-PF is now much wiser and much more aware of the tragedy that would be visited upon Zimbabwe should the unthinkable happen to result in a Tsvangirai victory on June 27, 2008."

The ruling party said the truth of the matter was that there was no single Zimbabwean eligible to vote in the presidential run-off on June 27 who does not know that Tsvangirai "is not a leader who can be trusted".

It further says that when he led the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, he succeeded to steep it in corruption and divisions that are still plaguing that organisation.

After the March 29 harmonised elections, Tsvangirai deserted his party and went into self-imposed exile feigning that his "life was in danger" and even deserted the liberation struggle before he even crossed the border in the 1970s.

Zimbabweans are urged to stand up and be counted by overwhelmingly voting for President Mugabe, so that the country would never be a colony again.

"When through Zanu-PF and President Mugabe the majority of Zimbabweans invoke the call for 100 percent empowerment and total independence, they are not engaging in the simple arithmetic of some game of numbers but they are asserting the revolutionary spirit that we are, as Zimbabweans, our own liberators in every conceivable sense captured by the basic meaning of 100 percent.

"The basic truth to which Zanu-PF and President Mugabe are committed is that the essence of governance in Zimbabwe, which indeed was the essence of the liberation struggle, is the creation and every Zimbabwean in political, economic, social, cultural and religious terms."

The ruling party said it was aware of the hardships being faced and was working tirelessly to address them in the national interest for the common good of all Zimbabweans.

"Also, Zanu-PF and President Mugabe are aware that the education sector, primary and secondary schools as well as tertiary institutions have been hit very hard by shortages of staff and educational materials and deterioration of infrastructure. This is a matter whose solution is a priority to President Mugabe."

The presidential run-off was an opportunity for all nationalists, progressive and democratic Zimbabweans to right the wrong of March 29 in their large numbers, the ruling party added.

It said that it became evident after the March 29 elections, that the former colonial masters prematurely celebrated a false MDC victory and that never was in a manner that did not hide their sinister agenda against ordinary Zimbabweans who were now resettled on farms legally acquired by the Government during the land reform programme.

"It would be too much, and downright irresponsible, for anyone to expect President Mugabe to handover such a situation to a successor and even worse to handover to Tsvangirai and his MDC which is controlled and manipulated by the very same hostile interests that are behind the current suffering of the majority of Zimbabweans."

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