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South Africa Urges Britain to Probe Spy Allegations
Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, speaks to journalists at United Nations headquarters following her country’s election to the Security Council., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
SA urges UK to probe spy allegations
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
CAPE TOWN. â The South African government yesterday urged the British government to investigate allegations that British intelligence agents spied on South African delegates attending the 2009 Group
This followed reports by the Guardian newspaper that documents leaked by former US spy Edward Snowden showed that South African, Russian and Turkish officials, among others, were targeted by British intelligence agents who used state of the art surveillance equipment to acquire retrieved documents, including briefings for South African delegates to G20 and G8 meetings.
The South African government has noted with concern various reports, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said.
âWe do not yet have the full benefit of details reported on, but in principle we would condemn the abuse of privacy and basic human rights particularly if it emanates from those who claim to be democrats,â Monyela said.
âWe have solid, strong and cordial relations with the United Kingdom and would call on their government to investigate this matter fully with a view to take strong and visible action against any perpetrators,â Monyela said.
Politburo to Finalize ZANU-PF Nominations
Current ZANU-PF Party Chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, is the former Zimbabwe Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa. He was featured in an interview with the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail on October 31, 2010 on the current political situation inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Politburo to finalise Zanu-PF nominations
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Takunda Maodza Senior Reporter
THE Zanu-PF National Elections Directorate yesterday scrutinised applications by aspiring candidates seeking to stand on the partyâs ticket in the harmonised elections and is expected to present a reporton its findings to the Politburo today.
The Politburo is expected to approve the final list of candidates who will contest primary elections on Monday next week in preparation for the harmonised elections on July 31.
Zanu-PF national chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo confirmed the development in an interview with The Herald last night.
âWe met for the whole day,â he said. âThe provincial elections directorate led by their respective chairpersons presented applications for nominations from the provinces.
âThe National Elections Directorate deliberated on each provinceâs submission.
âIt was a very robust scrutiny of all the applications presented and in the end the National Elections Directorate concluded the discussions and we are now preparing our report for presentation to Politburo tomorrow (today) afternoon.â
Cde Khaya Moyo said the process went on well.
âWe discussed even those who were disqualified,â he said.
âSome of them were accepted, while some were not accepted as they could not meet all the requirements as stipulated in the rules and regulations governing the conduct of primary elections.
âWe have to present our report to Politburo tomorrow (today) and Politburo will bring finality to the exercise.â
Cde Khaya Moyo said as the Zanu-PF chairman, he was impressed by the applications.
âThe submissions clearly demonstrate that the party is in good stead,â he said.
âThere is thriving democracy in our revolutionary party.
âGiven the sentiments expressed by the submissions from various provinces, it is quite evident that we are heading for a resounding win in the coming harmonised elections.
âWe are poised for a thunderous win.â
Sitting and aspiring Zanu-PF legislators presented their curriculum vitaes and applications over the weekend at various districts across the country.
The applications were scrutinised by respective provinces before they were submitted to the national elections directorate chaired by Cde Khaya Moyo for further vetting.
Approval by Politburo of the aspiring candidates will pave way for the primary elections that would be held in one day on Monday across the country.
Miners Bypass Diamond Cutters in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe diamond resources are some of the largest in the world. Imperialism has attempted to prevent the Southern African state from trading its most lucrative resource on the world market., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Miners bypass diamond cutters
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
A NUMBER of local diamond cutters and polishers have closed shop because they are not getting the gems from miners, a report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Mines and Energy has said.
In terms of the diamond policy adopted by the Government last year, a quota of locally produced diamonds should be made available for beneficiation by local cutters and polishers. The main objective of the arrangement is to encourage a broader local participation in the sector.
But Government had been reluctant to ensure a portion of locally produced gems are reserved for the locals.
âIn a meeting with the association of local cutters and polishers, the committee noted with concern that Government was not very supportive in developing this sector,â the parliamentary report said.
âThis was evidenced by the vague policy by Government in terms of the quota and the quality of gems to be supplied to the local cutters and polishers. At the same time, some (diamond) local cutters and polishers lost their money to Government after paying licence fees without a corresponding duty of accessing the diamonds.
âThe committee would like to implore Government to seriously consider the development of local cutters and polishers as this has the potential to create more wealth and employment for the economy. The countryâs diamonds are being exported in raw form, creating more jobs and wealth for other countries. This is indeed a travesty of justice.â
Diamond cutters and polishers pay a licence fee of US$50 000, that is renewed every year. This was also impeding the growth of the sector. The committee also noted with concern some of the diamond producers have plans to actively participate in the cutting and polishing industry.
âThis creates a conflict of interest and has the potential to stifle the growth of local cutters and polishers,â said the report.
âThe growth of the local cutters and polishers was also being impeded by exorbitant licence fees . . . and yet there was no guarantee of receiving a parcel or reimbursement if the parcel is not delivered.
As a result a number of local cutters and polishers had to fold their operations and yet they had invested heavily through the acquisition of machinery and training of personnel.â
Zimbabweâs diamond production from Marange rose 8,7 million carats in 2011 to 12 million carats last year. This year, production is expected to further increase to 17 million carats, according to the report.
Globally, the industry is robust and has fully recovered from the 2008 recession. Indiaâs cutting industry is currently the largest, with one million cutters, while Chinaâs industry has grown from nil cutters 20 years ago to 60 000 cutters today and Botswanaâs cutters increased over the past years from 300 to 3 000, according to the World Federation of Diamond Bourses.
South Africa, though fairly mature, is in distress as cutters and polishers have dropped from 4 500 to less than 600.
The report has recommended that the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe should be encouraged to carry out a study on ways of developing the growth of the local cutting and polishing industry.
Government should also encourage local entrepreneurs to get involved and should deliberately put in place favourable conditions. Similarly, investment policies and fiscal regimes must be put in place to encourage foreign investments in joint ventures with local entrepreneurs in the cutting and polishing industry.
Ban appoints Irish major general to head up UN’s oldest peacekeeping mission
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment today of Major General Michel Finn, of Ireland, as head of Mission and Chief of Staff of the Jerusalem-based UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the first such operation the world body set up almost 60 years ago.
Gaddafi’s Son Accuses Libyan Rebels of Blatant Disregard for Law
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son and heir apparent to martyred Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, appeared in a rebel court on January 17, 2013. His sham trial has been postponed., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Gaddafi son accuses Libya of blatant disregard for law over trial attempt
Lawyer condemns attempt to overturn international criminal court ruling that Tripoli would deny Saif al-Islam Gaddafi a fair trial
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 18 June 2013 15.02 EDT
A lawyer for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has accused the authorities in his country of showing a “blatant disregard” for the international criminal court (ICC) by announcing they will put him on trial in August.
In an urgent submission to the Hague-based court, the British lawyer John Jones asked appeal judges to reject Libya’s request to suspend an order that Tripoli surrender Gaddafi to the court.
Libyan officials are appealing against the international court’s right to try Muammar’s Gadaffi’s erstwhile heir apparent, saying he should face justice at home, but the international court says Tripoli cannot give him a fair trial.
Jones says Gadaffi could be executed in Libya before the appeal is completed if he is not handed over to the court.
“The possible implementation of the death penalty in domestic proceedings would also create a grievous and irremediable consequence for Mr Gaddafi, and completely undermine the ability of the appeals chamber to render a determination on the appeal,” Jones wrote.
Libyan prosecutors said on Monday that Gadaffi, along with the dictatorship-era spy chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi â who also is wanted by the ICC â the former premier al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi and the ex-spokesman Milad Daman, would be tried in August for crimes committed during Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule and the eight-month civil war that deposed him.
Jones said the announcement “could only be construed as blatant disregard” for Libya’s obligations to the court.
Gaddafi is being held by a militia in the Libyan town of Zintan.
With no national army or police in place since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, successive governments have been too weak either to secure his son’s imprisonment in the capital, Tripoli, or put pressure on his captors to hand him over to the government. Gaddafi is also being tried on separate charges of harming state security.
As Syria crisis roils Middle East, Ban says Israeli-Palestinian peace remains urgent priority
With spiralling violence in Syria stoking tension in the Middle East, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said “we must not lose sight of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” whose resolution was no less urgent.
Zimbabwe Government Files Poll Extension Bid
Republic of Zimbabwe Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa. Zimbabwe has recently declined funding for the upcoming elections from the United Nations., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Govt files poll extension bid
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has filed an application to extend the July 31 deadline for holding harmonised elections in the wake of an appeal by the Sadc extraordinary summit in Maputo, Mozambique, last weekend.
Summit urged the inclusive-Government to approach the court to ask for time beyond July 31.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa yesterday filed the application on behalf of the inclusive Government.
He said President Mugabe has much respect for the Constitutional Court of Zimbabweâs judgment and had already complied with it by fixing the election date for July 31.
Minister Chinamasa said pressure from MDC formations and other political parties in Zimbabwe culminated in Sadc urging Government to seek an extension of the poll date.
Mr Jealousy Mawarire of the Centre for Elections and Democracy (who obtained the order for the July 31 deadline), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube and the Attorney-General were cited as respondents in the application.
Minister Chinamasa said he was specifically directed by the Sadc summit to make an urgent application for the extension of the election date.
âDuring the proceedings at the said summit, I, in particular, was directed to make an urgent application before this Honourable Court (Constitutional Court) to seek a postponement of the date for the harmonised general election from July 31 2013 to August 14 2013,â he said.
âIn view of the above and in my capacity as the minister responsible for the administration of the Electoral Act, I pray for an order for the extension of the elections to the 14th of August 2013.â
The relevant part of the communiquÃ© directing Zimbabwe to seek extension of the election date reads: âSummit acknowledged the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on the election date and agreed on the need for the Government of Zimbabwe to engage the Constitutional Court to seek more time beyond the July 31, 2013 deadline for holding the election.â
Minister Chinamasa emphasised that the application was filed despite the fact that President Mugabe had complied with the court order.
âI reiterate that His Excellency, the President, Cde RG Mugabe, is respectful of the ruling by this Honourable Court that the rule of law should be restored as regards the electoral process and thus has fully complied with the order of this court in terms of the law without any legal difficulties or impediments,â he said.
âIt is only the development referred to above, initiated by the second and fourth respondents (PM Tsvangirai and Prof Ncube) precipitating a directive of the extraordinary summit of Sadc held in Maputo on June 15 2013.
âIn compliance with the order of this Honourable Court, His Excellency the President promulgated the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures Amendment of Electoral Act) Regulations 2013, which align the Electoral Act with the new Constitution. The regulations were published in the Gazette on the 12th of June 2013 . . .â
The President fixed July 31 as the elections date, with the Nomination Court sitting on June 28 in a proclamation issued on June 13 in terms of Statutory Instrument 86/2013.
Minister Chinamasa said PM Tsvangirai and Prof Ncube had some misgivings about the order of the Constitutional Court and lobbied Sadc, inviting the regional body to intervene and set aside the court order.
âUnilaterally, second respondent (PM Tsvangirai) sought an extension to the 31st of October 2013, while fourth respondent (Prof Ncube) suggested an extension to the 9th of September 2013,â said Minister Chinamasa. They both latter changed their positions with the second respondent suggesting the 12th of August and the fourth respondent suggesting the 14th of August 2013.
That, according to Minister Chinamasa, invited Sadc intervention and Government got a directive to seek extension of the Constitutional Courtâs deadline of July 31.
Sadc, however, acknowledged that it was up to the Constitutional Court to extend or throw out the application and whatever decision the Court made was to bind all the parties.
African Union 10-member Observer Team Arrives in Zimbabwe
Joyce Kazembe is the acting chair of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The country will hold a referendum on a new constitution on March 16, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
AU 10-member observer team arrives
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Michael Chideme Senior Reporter
A 10-member African Union (AU) pre-observer team arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday to assess the political situation ahead of harmonised elections set for July 31.
AU political officer Mr Idrissa Kamara is leading the team that includes Ms Joyce Pitso, Ms Chirambo Kondwani, Mr Gilbert Khadiagala, all of South Africa; Mr Job Akuni, Mr Crispy Praise Kaheru and Ms Hope-Mary Nsagi of Uganda; Mrs Maraetile Polaki of Lesotho; Mr Emmanuel Abegunde of Nigeria and South Sudanese national Mr Remember Miamingi.
Ms Chirambo is co-ordinating the team.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission deputy chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said nine members of the team would remain in the country to observe the whole electoral process, while one would return to the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Mrs Kazembe said the electoral body would accredit the AU team tomorrow.
The AU announced the deployment through a letter to Government earlier this month.
âThe Commission of African Union presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and has the honour to inform the latter that the chairperson of the African Union Commission has decided to deploy nine long-term observers to Zimbabwe to monitor the upcoming general elections tentatively scheduled for 31st July 2013,â reads part of the letter.
The arrival of the observers was further testimony of the AUâs endorsement of the date for the harmonised polls coming as it did just a day after the continental bloc stressed that only Zimbabweans can resolve any contestation over their election date as it was not proper for anyone else to second-guess the countryâs courts.
Addressing a Press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, African Union Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the only question should be whether the polls are free and fair.
âThe courts have said the elections must take place. And so do we listen to the courts? Or do we not listen to the courts?
âI thought a lot of you have always been talking to us about the rule of law and respect for the Judiciary,â Reuters quoted Dr Dlamini-Zuma as saying.
âSo I donât know. The Zimbabweans must sort it out, whether they listen to the Judiciary and go with what the Judiciary has said, or whether they ignore it.â
The Constitutional Court ruled, with a crushing majority of seven judges assenting to two dissenting, that harmonised elections be held by July 31 in the wake of an application by Mr Jealousy Mawarire of the Centre for Elections and Democracy who wanted the court to compel President Mugabe to proclaim the election date before the expiry of the life of the Seventh Parliament.
Detroit Battle Looms Between Bondholders and Retirees
Detroit Moratorium NOW! Coalition protest outside the Wayne State University Law School on June 10, 2013. The demonstrations called for the end of emergency management and a moratorium on debt service. , a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
June 17, 2013
In Embattled Detroit, No Talk of Sharing Pain
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH and STEVEN YACCINO
New York Times
When New York City threatened to declare bankruptcy in 1975, the idea so terrified everyone that it forced the city, its workers and its recalcitrant bankers to sit down and find ways to share the pain.
Now another large city, Detroit, appears to be on the brink of filing for bankruptcy, but there is little talk of sharing the pain. Instead, the fiscal crisis in Michigan is setting up as a gigantic clash between bondholders and city retirees.
The cityâs proposals, which could give some bondholders as little as 10 cents on the dollar, are making some creditors think they would be better off in bankruptcy. They see the specter of a federal judge imposing involuntary losses as less ominous than it was for New York.
âThe haircut is so severe,â said Matt Fabian, a managing director of Municipal Market Advisors, âI think itâs scaring them into bankruptcy, rather than away from bankruptcy.â
But city retirees, facing the prospect of sharply reduced benefits whether in bankruptcy or under Detroitâs restructuring proposal, think they stand squarely on the moral high ground because despite the poverty of many current and retired members, they have already offered big concessions.
âItâs not the employees that are costing the city money,â said Edward L. McNeil, an official with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who is leading a coalition of 33 unions that will be affected by any restructuring of Detroitâs debts, which total roughly $17 billion. Just last year, he said, those unions offered concessions that could have saved the city hundreds of millions of dollars a year. But Detroit âbotched the implementation,â he said.
And Michael VanOverbeke, interim general counsel for the general workersâ retirement plan, said bondholders were investors hoping for returns, who should expect âa certain amount of risk.â
âPlanning for retirement and working for employers was not an investment into the market,â he added. âThese are people who are on a fixed income at this point in their life. They canât go back to work and start all over again.â He said it was unthinkable to cut retireesâ pensions outside of bankruptcy.
A bankruptcy in Detroit would have no precedent, despite an unusual flurry of municipal bankruptcies after the financial crisis. Rhode Island hurriedly passed a law giving municipal bondhholders priority over other creditors, including retirees, just before the small city of Central Falls filed for bankruptcy. That helped Central Falls resolve its bankruptcy quickly, but no one thinks Michigan could pass such a law. In Jefferson County, Ala., a large majority of the financial trouble grew out of debt issued to rebuild a sewer system, not pensions or other employee benefits. The rights of public workers and bondholders are in conflict in the bankruptcy of Stockton, Calif., but that case is not yet far enough along to be of any guidance to Detroit.
With talks on labor issues scheduled for Thursday, municipal bond market participants say one of their main concerns is that the cityâs proposal would flatten the traditional hierarchy of creditors, putting say, a retired librarian on par with an investor holding a general obligation bond. That does not square with the laws and conventions of the municipal bond market, where for decades small investors have been told that such bonds are among the safest investments and that for âgeneral obligationâ bonds cities could even be compelled to raise taxes, if thatâs what it took to make good. The âfull faith and creditâ pledge was supposed to make such bonds stronger than the other main type of muni â revenue bonds, which promised to pay investors out of project revenue.
Public finance experts have warned that broad societal problems could follow a loss of faith in municipalitiesâ commitments to honor their pledges. In a major report on the state of the muni market last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission warned that communities would find it increasingly costly to raise money, throwing into question the time-honored practices of building and financing public works at the local level.
Detroitâs proposal shows how much things have changed since the days when the municipal bond market consisted of two types of debt and little else. The emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, issued a complicated list of debts with a wide range of gradations, with general obligation bonds now inferior to revenue bonds.
Mr. Orr classified Detroitâs general obligation bonds into two groups â secured and unsecured â with the secured ones backed by outside sources of money, like state aid or federal block grants. The unsecured bonds are those that rely only on Detroitâs âfull faith and creditâ pledge. As a practical matter, much of Detroitâs bond debt is insured, so bondholders will feel no immediate pain as the city moves forward with its planned defaults. But the bond insurers have the right to do battle in the bondholdersâ place, and other market interests are likely to join them.
Mr. Fabian said bondholders knew perfectly well that Detroit was broke and could not raise taxes and fees enough to cover all its bonds, but were still shocked by the proposed treatment.
âItâs not that people just want to get more money out of Detroit,â he said. âItâs the violence thatâs being done to the cityâs capital structure. It creates a new paradigm for investing in Michigan bonds.â
In the past, he said, the ratings agencies included the various debt structures in their evaluations of municipal bonds. An âunlimited-tax general obligation bond,â for instance, might be rated one or two notches higher than a âlimited taxâ version of the same bond. Investors would look at the rating, know what they were getting and pay more for the safer debt.
âMichigan is saying all that will go out the window,â Mr. Fabian said. âIn effect, theyâre saying that structure only matters when you donât need itâ â when everything is normal and the debt is being repaid.
âAnd when you need to rely on those legal differences, then they donât matter,â he added. âItâs distressing.â
Municipal market participants are also rattled by a big, sudden increase in Mr. Orrâs measurement of Detroitâs pension shortfall, which he is also classifying as unsecured, leaving workers and bondholders to compete for whatever pool of money is left over. As of June 30, 2011, the cityâs most recent actuarial snapshot showed that its two big pension funds were in pretty good shape â short by just $644 million, because the city had issued securities called âcertificates of participationâ in 2005 and 2006, and put the proceeds into the pension funds.
But Mr. Orrâs report said that estimated shortfall had been âsubstantially understatedâ through aggressive assumptions and other distortions. After correcting those, the two fundsâ shortfall was closer to $3.5 billion.
And as for those certificates of participation, issued to produce money for pensions, they turn out to be among Detroitâs shakiest debts. The city already skipped a payment due last Friday, and Mr. Orr said the city had found âcertain issues related to the validity and/or enforceabilityâ of the debt. His report did not specify what the issues were, but said further investigation might be warranted.
The report said that to some extent, the trustees who sit on Detroitâs pension boards had worsened the pension trouble by promising workers âad hoc sweetenersâ and diverting investment income to other uses. As state-appointed emergency manager, Mr. Orr has authority to remove pension trustees.
But Mr. VanOverbeke said the trustees were not going anywhere. In fact, they have already set aside $5 million for a legal challenge in case Mr. Orr puts them âin a position that they would not have the resources necessaryâ to protect the pensioners, Mr. VanOverbeke said.
âIt wasnât put aside to do battle,â he said. âThey were set aside so that as fiduciaries they can make the appropriate decisions and take the necessary actions as it is deemed appropriate.â
The Zimbabwe Revolution Examined, Part II
Republic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe speaks with students from the University. He urged the youth to maintain the revolutionary principles of the national liberation struggle., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Zim: The revolution examined
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
As I sit down to write the second part of my series on Zimbabwe, I am struck by the difficulty of the task before me. In the first article, Zimbabwe: The Revolution Continues, I attempted to illustrate the political and economic policies that
have made President Mugabe and Zanu-PF the hated enemies of Washington and London. In so doing, I attempted to position myself as a steadfast supporter of the revolution and unabashed enemy of the neo-liberal capitalist counter-revolution personified by Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T.
The juxtaposition between these two opposing forces is critical in determining who is on the side of true independence, and who is on the side of the exploiters with their myriad, multi-coloured masks.
However, it is important to note that I am an observer and partisan, analyst and revolutionary. As such, I write from that perspective. I make no pretence, as many so-called journalists seem to be fond of doing, to objectivity: itself a fabrication of self-serving sycophants who aim to justify their corporate-imperialist propaganda by calling it âobjectiveâ.
In stating this at the outset, it is my desire to speak to those who, like me, support the decades-long revolutionary struggle and who understand that liberation is more than a cosmetic change of government. It is to these fellow revolutionaries and to the people of Zimbabwe that I write these words, hopefully outlining how I can be at once supporter and critic, advocate and counterpoint.
How does one position oneself as a critical supporter without alienating precisely those courageous revolutionaries who continue the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe and throughout the Diaspora? How does one address the inequities and mistakes while simultaneously countering the Western propaganda? These are questions that I cannot sufficiently answer. Rather, I defer to one of the greatest minds of modern civilisation to answer for me: â Karl Marx, 1843.
Mugabe and the Charge of Genocide
One of the most common attacks on Mugabe and Zanu-PF is the charge of mass killing and genocide. However, in order to examine these charges, they must first be placed into a political context. In doing so, one can begin to formulate a constructive critique rather than resorting to the usual Western propaganda: ââMugabe is Hitler in African nationalistâs clothing.ââ
The most often cited example of what is termed âgenocideâ at the hands of Mugabe is what is known as the Gukurahundi â an operation by Mugabeâs 5th Brigade, which sought to put an end to the domestic insurgency led by supporters of Mugabeâs rival Joshua Nkomo. Mugabeâs detractors, especially those in support of Western puppet Morgan Tsvangirai, are fond of referring to the violence which took place during this period (mid to late 1980s) as genocide and the repression of domestic opposition.
There can be no doubt that there was political motivation in carrying out the operation, however, it is dishonest to pretend as if the entire operation were solely an effort by Mugabe to consolidate power. Rather, it must be understood that the offensive by Mugabeâs forces was part of a broader campaign to pacify a region that had been used both as a centre for destabilisation by the apartheid government of South Africa and as a base of operations of, what we might call today, and domestic terrorists.
As Andrew Meldrum of the New York Times reported back in 1987, âOlive Tree and neighbouring New Adam Farm, where eight other white Pentecostal missionaries or children died, were the scenes of massacres early Thursday by insurgents opposed to the Zimbabwe Government . . . The anti-government rebels have operated in the Matabeleland countryside surrounding this city since 1982, generally with violent protests against what they assert is Mugabeâs unfair treatment of the opposition leader Joshua Nkomoâs Zimbabwe African Peopleâs Union and the Ndebele ethnic group supporting it.ââ
This excerpt is telling because, contrary to the popular mythology constructed around this period, it shows that the killings that took place at the hands of the 5th Brigade were part of a larger political and military conflict that had its roots in the struggle for power in Zimbabwe after liberation. Rather than being clear evidence of genocide, reports from the ground at the time indicate that a complex political struggle was taking place, with various interested parties, including the apartheid government of South Africa, becoming involved.
In fact, the same New York Times article notes that, âWestern diplomats in the region say the dissidents are believed to be receiving supplies and training from neighbouring South Africa. Some weapons have been traced to South Africa, and Radio Truth, a station that supports the dissidents, is beamed into Zimbabwe from South Africa.â
Essentially, the Matabeleland region had been made into ground zero of a regional destabilisation campaign using political dissidents as proxies. This is, of course, the usual strategy of white imperialists in Africa who have long since used ethnic and tribal divisions to execute their political, economic and military agendas.
Perhaps the most often cited study into what happened in the Gukurahundi is known as âBreaking the Silence, Building True Peaceâ conducted by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ). In this study, the authors meticulously document many of the atrocities committed during the conflict.
However, it mustnât be forgotten that the studyâs very first paragraph establishes the most important fact of all, âZimbabwe was a seriously divided country at Independence in 1980. Ten years of war had not only served to liberate Zimbabwe but had created divisions within it. South Africa was also a hostile neighbour who wanted to weaken Zimbabwe.
There were problems between Zipra and Zanla, and outbreaks of violence (that) spilled over, such as at Entumbane in 1981.
By early 1982 there were groups of bandits in Matabeleland. Armed men were killing, robbing, and damaging property. The Government responded by launching a double attack in Matabeleland. The first attack was on the dissidents . . . The second attack was on Zapu, mainly in rural areas and at times in the cities . . .â
Many who have written about this period conveniently leave out the political and geopolitical context for the brutal violence in Matabeleland. This is of course because it is much easier, and more beneficial to Western propagandists who seek the destruction of Mugabe and Zanu-PF, to lay all the blame at the feet of Zimbabweâs government.
However, a more nuanced understanding is needed. It should be noted that, given the chaotic nature of the conflict on the ground, undoubtedly atrocities were committed by both sides.
Universally recognised war crimes such as collective punishment â a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention â were committed and those responsible should be held to account. However, to equate the fact that war crimes may have occurred with the idea that only one side was engaged in these crimes, is a gross distortion of the historical record.
As we critically examine these crimes, we should keep in the forefront of our thinking, US-Nato imperialist war against Libya, a war waged under the cover of humanitarian intervention. Left liberals were sold the war narrative under the illusion that, were they not to support war, great atrocities and genocide would follow. Naturally, genocide did follow, but it was at the hands of the âfreedom fightersâ US-Nato supported and equipped. The same narrative is now being sold vis-Ã -vis Syria where weâre told Assad is Hitler and the opposition are merely âfreedom fightersâ.
How will these stories be told 25 years from now and will the divide between reality and the narrative be as great as that in Zimbabwe? Mugabe, because of his land redistribution, indigenisation and self-sufficiency policies, has become the quintessential villain in the West, representing everything from brutal dictator to genocidal madman. As the demonisation continues, one must begin asking the most important question: Do they hate Mugabe because of his crimes, or do they hate Mugabe because he didnât commit the right crimes?
Zimbabwe and the Plunder of the Congo
Another often cited criticism of Mugabe and Zanu-PF is their participation in the looting and plunder of the mineral resources of the DRC. This is a charge that must be understood in its larger, geopolitical context.
The on-going war and consequent genocide in the DRC, which have been more or less on-going since 1996, divided Africa along clear geopolitical lines. The major players involved in the plunder of the natural resources (especially mineral wealth) of DRC were Rwanda and Uganda (led by Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni), both clients of the United States.
They, along with their junior partner in Burundi, using smaller proxy forces inside Congo, instigated a bloodbath that continues to this day. It is against this backdrop of US puppets exercising regional hegemony with the American bully on the block supporting them that Zimbabwe entered into the conflict.
Intervening initially on the side of current DRC President Joseph Kabila and against former president Mobutu Sese Seko, Mugabeâs Zimbabwean forces essentially formed part of the core group of military advisors and officers aiding the Congolese in their fight against Rwandan and Ugandan proxy forces. Seen in this way, the involvement of Harare should be understood as neither purely humanitarian nor entirely self-interested. Mugabe genuinely wanted to aid Kabila and prevent the imperialist exploitation of his northern neighbour by the puppets of Western finance capital.
As noted in the United Nations âReport of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congoâ, âZimbabwe has financed its involvement in the conflict in two different ways: (a) by using the defence budget â the bulk of Zimbabweâs military expenses seem to be covered by the regular budget; (b) by indirect financing of the war through direct payment by some Congolese entities, mainly companies . . . the Panel has noted a practice (known as) âincentives for assistanceâ (in which) the former Government of the DRC used the potential of its vast resources in the Katanga and Kasai regions to secure assistance from its allies . . . Zimbabwean companies and some decision-makers have benefitted most from this scheme.â
The involvement of Zimbabwe in the conflict in DRC is not as straight-forward as some would believe, at a basic level, it was a defensive posture. Harare understood from the very beginning that the advances made by Rwandan and Ugandan proxies could represent an existential threat to Zimbabwe as they would be little more than US client regimes. Moreover, there is undoubtedly an element of real-politik â Mugabe saw collaboration with capitalist financier elements as a necessary evil in order to leverage these relations to the ultimate benefit of Zimbabwe.
One must be careful not to fall into the trap of Western propagandists who make the case that Mugabe was intimately involved in the actual genocide in DRC. My critique of that line of thinking would simply be that one must make a distinction between the real perpetrators of the genocide (Rwanda, Uganda, the US, European corporations, et al) and the minor actors such as Zimbabwe which was involved to a much lesser degree and had a real, strategic interest in maintaining stability on its border.
Domestic Repression & the Politics of Intolerance
Perhaps the most common criticism of Mugabe and Zanu-PF is that they have engaged in systematic repression of political opposition dating back to the early 1980s and the struggle for power between Mugabeâs Zanu and Nkomoâs Zapu factions. Leaving aside the conflicts surrounding the fast-track land redistribution programme, which are far too often cited as examples of Mugabeâs âcrimesâ, there are other examples that bear close scrutiny.
A recent example of a programme widely regarded by Western media and their so-called âexpertsâ on Zimbabwe as domestic repression, is the programme known as Operation Murambatsvina which, as Michael Bratton and Eldred Masunungure note, was âA massive âurban clean-upâ campaign that was justified as a strategy to eradicate illegal dwellings and eliminate informal trade . . . Analysts and observers inside and outside the country commented that the crackdown was performed in an indiscriminate manner and with excessive force.â Such a programme is not one that should be justified or apologised for.
However, it must be understood in its proper context. When compared to the repression of the landless poor in South Africa, who have had their shacks and other dwellings demolished repeatedly by South Africaâs ruling ANC government, Operation Murambatsvina seems similar by comparison.
While the ANC has managed to maintain a squeaky clean image in the Western media despite the deadly violence visited upon the peaceful strikers at Marikana, Mugabe and Zanu-PF continue to be vilified for actions that, in many ways, pale in comparison. This is not to equate every situation in the two countries, as they are vastly different.
This article is the second in a three-part series of articles examining the political and economic landscape of Zimbabwe as elections approach. Eric Draitser is the founder of StopImperialism.com. He is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City. This article is reproduced from Counterpunch.