Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: SA Envoy Resist West's Efforts at United Nations

Envoys resist West’s attempts to put Zim on UN agenda

Herald Reporters

BRITAIN and the United States were yesterday frantically trying to get Zimbabwe on the agenda of today’s United Nations Security Council meeting, but Zimbabwean and South African ambassadors to the UN said the efforts were futile because Zimbabwe’s elections were not an issue for the world body.

Western media reports yesterday said the US and Britain would raise Zimbabwe’s electoral issue at today’s Security Council meeting, but the Zimbabwean and South African diplomats said the elections were best handled by Sadc.

The move is calculated for the UN Security Council to pass a resolution and provide a basis for the US and Britain to use military intervention to topple President Mugabe.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku, said Harare would not be on the Security Council agenda but it was aware Britain might try to smuggle it on the agenda.

In an interview with ZBC-News last night, Ambassador Chidyausiku said although the country would not be on the agenda, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown might want to use the just-ended Sadc summit to include it for discussion.

"Zimbabwe is not on the Security Council agenda that is starting tomorrow because it has not been invited, so it would not be on the agenda," said Ambassador Chidyausiku.

He said Zimbabwe was aware that Mr Brown would try to use the just-ended Sadc summit to include Zimbabwe on the agenda.

"They are trying to fly a kite, which we will not fly. What they are trying to do is Brown is coming and instead of focusing on the agenda, he is likely going to digress and ask about the presidential election results. He will forget that there is a due process in Zimbabwe and that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is a constitutional body which is independent. They will use the premises of the Sadc summit to say Sadc has asked you to do A, B, C, what have you done? Brown has no reason to argue about Zimbabwe," said Ambassador Chidyausiku.

"Zimbabwe became independent in 1980 and is no longer a colony of Britain and will never become one."

He said issues on the agenda include funding of peacekeeping missions being carried out in African countries like Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, among others.

He said the missions were being under-funded and it was the obligation of the UN to fund the operations.

"Since we are doing peacekeeping missions on behalf of the UN, it should fund them," he said.

South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, Mr Dumisani Kumalo, also rejected that Zimbabwe be discussed at the meeting, arguing that it was not on the agenda.

He said the Zimbabwean electoral matter was best handled by Sadc instead of the UN.

South Africa chairs the 15-member council this month and the meeting is meant to discuss security co-operation between the UN and the African Union.

Mr Benjamin Chang of the US mission to the UN told AFP that his country would highlight the Zimbabwean issue, mainly the delay in releasing presidential election results.

"We intend to highlight our concern for Zimbabwe. We will be raising Zimbabwe, among other issues," he was quoted as saying.

Diplomats also revealed that Mr Brown, whose government backs the MDC-T, was likely to bring up the Zimbabwean issue in his remarks to the council as well as in bilateral meetings with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

On Sunday, reports said Mr Brown was working on a behind-the-scenes plan to oust President Mugabe through the UN Security Council which he hopes to use to intervene in Zimbabwe militarily or through the deployment of peacekeeping troops.

Mr Brown said the world was running out of patience with Zimbabwe due to the delayed announcement of presidential election results, but President Mugabe scoffed at the British prime minister’s comments, describing him as "a tiny dot" in the world.

"If Brown is the world, sure the world is losing patience, but I know Brown to be a little tiny dot on this world," President Mugabe told reporters over the weekend in Harare soon after meeting Mr Mbeki.

Yesterday US President George W. Bush and UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon discussed Zimbabwe’s elections on the phone while British Foreign Secretary Mr David Miliband said the international community should play a role on Zimbabwe’s political scene ahead of the Security Council meeting.

The British have come out in the open that they were working closely with MDC-T to bring about regime change in Zimbabwe.

Stung by Mr Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe, the Western media and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai launched a scathing attack on the South African president, saying the policy was unpopular.

The Washington Post yesterday attacked Mr Mbeki for aligning with the Zimbabwean Government and distancing himself from Western influence.

Last week South Africa rejected Western calls to pressure President Mugabe to quit.

South Africa said Zimbabwe was a sovereign country and not a province of South Africa.

Over the weekend, Mr Mbeki told journalists in Harare that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe since the electoral process was being done in terms of the provisions of the Constitution.

In an interview with the private e-tv channel of South Africa, Tsvangirai claimed Mr Mbeki’s pronouncements were a "misrepresentation" of the situation in Zimbabwe.

MDC-T stayaway flops

By Zvamaida Murwira, Takunda Maodza, Peter Matambanadzo, Freeman Razemba and Bureaux

THE MDC-T stayaway flopped yesterday after people ignored the strike, triggering acts of violence by frustrated opposition youths but these were quickly suppressed by the police.

Police arrested 36 opposition youths countrywide who were by last night still assisting them with investigations.

A bus belonging to Nyamweda Bus Company was yesterday morning burnt and reduced to a shell by MDC-T youths as the stayaway called by the opposition turned violent.

MDC-T called for the stayaway to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release results of the presidential election but Zimbabweans ignored the call, leaving the opposition to vent its anger on innocent people and their property.

The call for the stayaway follows the dismissal of the party’s urgent application seeking an order to compel ZEC to release the results by High Court judge Justice Tendayi Uchena on Monday.

In a bid to force workers to stay home and to scare people from going about their normal business, MDC-T thugs blocked roads with rocks and burnt old motor vehicle tyres along some roads in Harare.

The Nyamweda bus was carrying 68 passengers, mostly cross-border traders, and their wares from Botswana.

Two of the passengers — Simangaliso Vumbu (28) and Hassani Africa Muzozi of Malawi — were injured.

Vumbu was taken to Harare Central Hospital while Muzozi was treated by an ambulance crew and allowed to proceed with the final leg of his journey to Malawi.

Imported electrical gadgets, including DVD players, pots and plates belonging to the traders were burnt.

Chief police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said the job action had turned violent contrary to the MDC-T’s claims that it was going to be peaceful.

"A Nyamweda bus was burnt early this morning (0340hrs) at Warren Park roundabout. The bus was carrying mainly informal traders from Plumtree. At Warren Park roundabout the driver observed a fire on the roadside and as he tried to reverse, the bus was attacked from behind with stones," he said.

"One of the attackers brought a piece of a burning tyre and torched the bus. As the passengers scurried from the bus, one person dislocated an ankle and another was burnt on the arm while trying to retrieve his property from the burning bus," he said.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said in a separate incident, a Zupco bus was stoned and five windowpanes smashed early in the morning in Kambuzuma. No one was injured.

He said vehicles belonging to poultry company Irvine’s and bakery firm Lobels were also stoned in Budiriro 5 where one passenger sustained minor injuries.

"In St Mary’s, Mbare, Kuwadzana and Westgate, reports of random illegal roadblocks were

reported. The police quickly removed the barriers while in St Mary’s MDC-T supporters threatened those who wanted to collect their vehicles from car parks. The police quickly responded and the situation was brought under control," said Asst Comm Bvudzijena.

A Zimpost truck was overturned in Kuwadzana 3 while a gang of MDC-T youths numbering between 25 and 30 smashed a Delta Beverages truck at Gazaland in Highfield.

The youths stoned several cars at Chitubu Shopping Centre in Glen Norah and Mbare, where they also smashed the windowpanes of a Gwangwava bus and a commuter omnibus.

The 33 youths were arrested in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Marondera for barricading roads, stoning cars and buses, behaving in a threatening manner and preventing people from going to work.

Yesterday evening the youths stoned 10 cars, including a Herald truck, in Glen View.

At the University of Zimbabwe, some rowdy students went on the rampage and attacked a commercial bank at the campus, destroying property worth billions of dollars.

The assailants, suspected to be members of the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union, approached CBZ Bank located at the campus in the afternoon and threw missiles, breaking some windowpanes.

They also threw around fliers in which they made several demands, some of which the institution of higher learning had no control over.

By the time police moved in, the rowdy students had already dispersed.

Ironically, there is an armed security guard manning the bank.

When The Herald arrived at the scene, police were keeping vigil after shocked bank staff had closed the doors.

Stones could be seen strewn on the front end of the bank and front windowpanes broken.

UZ Vice-Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura said he doubted if people behind the attack were students from the institution, suggesting that they could be people with a hidden political agenda.

"These are either people from outside with an external agenda or expelled students because preliminary indications I have are that no student from this institution would do such a thing. The people have just targeted the UZ because it is an easy target and would quickly draw attention," said Prof Nyagura.

He said some of the complaints about high tuition fees were without merit since all State universities had been directed to charge $3 billion this semester.

"So why target UZ alone when all State universities are charging the same amounts? It’s because it is easy to draw attention since it is in Harare. The amount of $3 billion is very little to attract this attack," he said.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said police were aware that the so-called democratic resistance committees recently activated by the MDC-T orchestrated the violent activities.

"The National Reaction Force will remain deployed on the ground to ensure everyone’s safety and security."

Roads in Budiriro 3, Glen View 8, Highfield and at Zengeza 2 Shopping Centre were barricaded with stones and burning tyres early in the morning although the perpetrators were nowhere to be seen.

In Mufakose, the situation was calm with OK Supermarket and a Zimpost banking hall opening late to allow management to assess the situation.

Commuters who woke up early in Glen View, Budiriro, Glen Norah and Highfield to go to work were stranded after commuter omnibuses were stoned in the morning, resulting in transport operators withdrawing their vehicles.

Although some workers managed to report for duty later, they were turned away or locked out.

"We turned up for work, but we were surprised to see our offices locked up. We cannot stay at home and tomorrow have our salaries cut because of this so-called mass protest," said an angry worker who refused to be identified.

Another equally enraged worker said it was not fair for companies to hold employees to ransom because of their political agendas.

"Companies are in business, not politics. Why should they use us to settle their scores?" he said.

Banks, supermarkets and other service providers, including shops close to MDC-T’s headquarters at Harvest House along Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare, were open.

It was business as usual for some companies in Willowvale, Lochnivar and Southerton industrial areas where workers could be seen going about their daily duties.

Home industries in Glen View and Highfield’s Gazaland area were also operating normally.

An entrepreneur who preferred to be identified as Baba George said the strike was misguided.

"The stayaway is misguided and fruitless as there is no point staying at home and watch your family starve," he said.

Martha Sibanda, who runs a second-hand clothes store in Bulawayo, told AFP:

"I voted and want to know the result, but if I stay away indefinitely then what is my family going to eat?"

Police were on high alert maintaining law and order and were visible at shopping centres and bus terminuses in most suburbs to ensure peace prevailed.

Police also mounted roadblocks along all major roads from different suburbs to the city centre.

Previous calls for mass strikes have largely flopped because a large number of Zimbabweans are now self-employed and cannot afford a day off from work.

In Glen View 1, some rowdy youths stoned commuter omnibuses at around 5.30am in an attempt to force people to join their illegal stayaway.

Most of commuter bus operators were willing to ferry people to the city centre so that they could conduct their usual business.

At around 9.30am when the situation was calm, some commuter omnibus operators took advantage to overcharge commuters demanding amounts ranging between $60 million and $100 million per trip.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri said police reacted swiftly at Machipisa Shopping Centre after opposition youths driving around in cars attempted to stop people from going about their usual business.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the situation in Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Mashonaland Central, Matabeleland North and South was calm with no major incidents reported.

In Bulawayo, MDC-T youths stoned Samuel Sipepa Nkomo’s shop at the corner of George Silundika Street and 9th Avenue in protest over his decision to open his supermarket despite the call for a stayaway.

Nkomo is the MDC-T Member of the House of Assembly-elect for Lobengula.

All major shops, retail outlets, banks and other business were operating at full throttle while it was also business as usual in industrial sites such as Donnington, Belmont and Kelvin North.

But there were isolated reports of employers turning away staff who had reported for work.

In the Midlands, the stayaway was a flop as almost all business premises were opened although a number opened late to gauge the mood.

In Gweru, only a few shops that included Truworth’s and Topics were closed.

The Minister of Information and Publicity, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said the call for a stayaway by the MDC-T was a sign that the party’s leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his lieutenants were immature and were behaving like trade unionists.

"The call for the strike shows that Tsvangirai and his colleagues are irresponsible. His (Tsvangirai) behaviour does not reflect a person who wants the country’s highest office because he is still behaving like a trade unionist," said Dr Ndlovu.

"It’s surprising because they want to fight at the courts and on the street at the same time. It shows that the party has no respect for the courts and is only interested in cowboy politics."

Dr Ndlovu said the fact that Zimbabweans ignored the stayaway showed that they were mature and responsible as a stayaway would only serve to worsen the economic challenges the country was facing.

He said Zimbabweans had shown their maturity by being peaceful before, during and after the elections.

In Chinhoyi, it was business as usual as workers ignored the strike.

"I am surprised that there is such a call for workers to stay at home, but I am equally ignorant of the reasons for the stayaway," said a shop attendant who preferred anonymity.

A survey in the town showed people were doing their normal shopping while most small-scale traders and businesses continued with their operations.

The situation was the same in Mashonaland Central where people ignored the stayaway call by MDC-T.

Most shops in Bindura, including TM, OK and Daleen, opened their doors to the public the whole day and people were shopping freely.

Farmers were collecting their inputs for winter cropping at the Grain Marketing Board depot.

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