Cracks in the Zimbabwean Mirror

Reading by Paraffin:
Cracks in the Zimbabwean Mirror

The cracks in Zimbabwe have been
blatant for a number of years. After the
Lancaster House Agreement and the landslide
victory of Robert MugabeUs Party (ZANU-PF)
in internationally recognised elections in
1980, the sense of euphoria which followed
was short lived. Strikes spread rapidly
throughout Zimbabwe over the following years
led mainly by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade
Unions (ZCTU) . Although Socialist rhetoric
was infused into Government statements at
this time, the trade union movement, while
initially supporting the Government, became
increasingly impatient with its failure to
implement "socialist" policies and, by the
mid 80s, when it became clear that ZANU-PF
had no intention of ever introducing even a
minimum type of state-socialism the trade
union movement moved into opposition. One
immediate and opportunistic way of curbing
this disillusionment was by MugabeUs party
launching a tribal pogrom in the name of a
Shona majority, whipping up a fever against
the largest minority, the Ndebele with the
awful massacres which followed in
Matabeleland in the 1980s. This is one of
the first of Robert MugabeUs many
opportunistic gestures at work.

Discontent mounted. On the one hand the
inherited system of white domination was
maintained. The Governing Party occupied
some of the Palaces and certain of the
larger estates of those TRhodesiansU who had
left. But the vast majority of the
descendants of Cecil Rhodes who had first
cheated the Shona and Ndebele and then
forcefully occupied their land, setting up
huge estates, remained in control, and the
blacks were confined to lands in the barren
and crowded "reserves" which had been set up
in the 1930s. Some 7 million blacks still
occupy these "reserves", while some 4,500
white farmers occupy some 11 million
hectares with some estates as large as
200,000 hectares. The crops grown are not to
feed ZimbabweUs poor but are rich export
cash crops -tobacco, mange-tout, radicchio
and french beans. While some social
construction of houses was carried out in
the 80s and 90s the majority of workers were
still confined to the "townships" which had
been set up on the outskirts of the major
cities, (Chitungwiza, Dzivarasekwa, etc) to
provide cheap labour. In 1980 Mugabe started
off with ambitious plans to resettle 600,000
families in five years. To date about 65,000
families have been resettled. The majority
of those resettlement projects have not
succeeded, largely because they have not
received adequate follow-up support to
redevelop the plots and because they were
not granted tenure to the land. A recent
national housing list register in Zimbabwe
shows that the national backlog has reached
the one million mark.

The list, which registers households not
individuals, indicates that a third of all
Zimbabweans are lodgers or do not have even
a bare minimum of housing. More than 40,000
live in the high-density Mbare hostels,
where 40 people share a single toilet and up
to 10 live in one room.

According to a survey conducted by Dialogue
on Shelter for the Homeless in Zimbabwe,
more than 50% of families in Mbare are on
the council's housing waiting list and have
been for an average of nine years. Almost
all those on this list first signed up
between the ages of 28 and 33, meaning they
have spent most of their adult years just
waiting. One third of all Zimbabweans are
lodgers or homeless. Despite the grave
housing shortage, the construction industry,
driven to maximise profits, no longer builds
houses for the lowest income groups who make
up the majority of Zimbabwe's working
population. National Housing and Local
Government Minister John Nkomo said he found
it ironic that the Miner's Pension Fund is
investing in the construction of houses and
flats for the middle and higher income
groups while the majority of its members
live in sub-standard houses.

A report financed by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) and produced in
consultation with the government by the
University of Zimbabwe's Institute of
Development Studies and the Poverty
Reduction Forum. gives human development
comparisons between provinces, rural and
urban areas, "in order to provide policy-
makers with an analysis of the situation and
help the government to target the poor in
efforts to end poverty". Some of the
findings of the researchers, most of them
academics at the University of Zimbabwe are;

* 61 percent of Zimbabwean households
are classified as poor ( those living below
the poverty line and dependent on Z$2132 a
person a year )

*45 percent are very poor - those
living below the poverty line and dependent
on Z$1289 a person a year.

*"In addition to the mistargeting and
inefficiency of social spending programmes,
corruption contributes significantly to
poverty and inequality," the report said,
adding that in Zimbabwe poverty was both
real and immediate.

*The study found that Zimbabwe's tax
revenue base had narrowed due to tax
evasion, poor tax administration and
disproportionate exemptions which favoured
the better-off and well-connected. "In some
cases social programmes to alleviate poverty
among the poor collapsed as some well-
connected individuals siphoned out or
diverted the funds to sustain other schemes
that benefited the already wealthy sections
of the society," it said. "Stagnating
economic growth, rapidly rising prices and a
high unemployment rate, which have worsened
in the 1990s, as well as the highly skewed
and inequitable distribution of resources,
are all contributing to increasing poverty
levels with all the attendant social
problems," the report said. The report noted
that poverty was more prevalent in rural
areas, with 75 percent of the households in
the "total poor" category compared with 39
percent in urban areas.

*Out of Zimbabwe's population of about
12 million, 23 percent did not have access
to safe water, 19,6 percent of adults were
illiterate, 16,8 percent died before
reaching 40, 13,3 percent of under-fives
were malnourished and 8,8 percent of the
population lacked access to health care.

A Society Divided

There was a short-lived economic boom
in 80-82 with the lifting of international
sanctions but this was soon followed by a
severe drought (83) and a recession and the
"socialist honeymoon" was over. When in
1984, the Economic Structural Adjustment
Policy (ESAP) was introduced ZANU-PF sought
to govern Zimbabwe on market principles with
a subsequent pocketing of resources and
wide-spread corruption at Government levels.
ZimbabweUs slide towards dictatorship was
inexorable, providing what is almost a
classic case of the corrupting effects of

ZCTU, with other groups in civil society,
became involved in demonstrating against
State corruption, violations of human rights
and the movement towards the One-Party
state. General Secretary of ZCTU, Morgan
Tsvangirai, was detained for six weeks in
October 1989 for supporting the anti-
government demonstrators of the Student
Representative Council. An amended Labour
Relations Act in 1992 was designed to weaken
the growing strength of the Labour Movement
in general, while The Law and Order
Maintenance Act in 1994 was designed to
prevent opposition meetings and
demonstrations, even though the High Court
ruled it unconstitutional. Strikes abounded
throughout the early part of the 90s
(Railway workers in 1992, Postal and
Communication Workers in 92 and 94, Bank
Workers in 1993 and Civil Service workers in
1996.)There are many divisions within the
Zimbabwean society. There are the ex-
colonial white landowners and the rural
land-less poor. There is the divide between
the Ndebele and Shona which still thrives
today, with their different culture and
language. There is the affluence of party
aparachi and the senior army officials
compared to the Urban hostel and township
dwellers. And there is the cultural and
institutionalised powerlessness of women who
have an inferior role sanctioned by the
Constitution. Resentment breeds in the
tremendous economic gap between the grinding
poverty experienced by the average black
Zimbabwean and the comfort and luxury
enjoyed by the majority of the white and
connected population. It is an economic
question rather than one of race. The net is
closing in. The smell of money is everywhere
and nowhere. The future of this beautiful
country and beautiful people depends on how
these contradictions pan out.

 The Land Question

Zimbabwe's 4500 white farmers own about 11m
hectares of prime land, about 30% of the
total land mass, while 7m black Zimbabweans
are crowded into barren communal areas
representing some 41%.  The War of
Independence which was fought mainly by
rural land-less workers was primarily about
reclaiming what the Cecil Rhodes mob had
stolen from them with the help of the Maxim
gun, by Cecil Rhodes and his Jameson gang,
blessed by Whitehall and milked by the likes
of Edgar Whitehead before Ian Smith and his
Cowboy Cabinet came in to secure the fence
with jet fighters and Selous Scouts.

During the Rhodesian era, black families
were stripped of their ancestral land by the
white government. They were paid no
compensation and were herded on to reserves
in arid, less fertile areas. Impoverished
rural blacks supported Mugabe and his
nationalist guerillas in their fight
against Rhodesia because they were promised
they would get their land back.

By 1997 war veterans began demanding money
>from the War Victims Fund which they saw
being looted by Government officials. This
fund which was intended for poor people who
had suffered losses during the War of
Independence but really only went to senior
Government officials and their relatives,
many of them claiming fictitious war
injuries and traumas, MugabeUs brother-in-
law, Robert Marufu, being one of the largest
beneficiaries. When the veterans became
increasingly angrier, Mugabe conceded to
their demands and was forced to pay out Z$3
billion in unbudgeted funds in order to
pacify them.

In 1996 the government forcibly purchased
270 farms, covering one million acres, for
redistribution to poor blacks. The majority
of state-owned commercial farms leased out
under Zimbabwe's land resettlement programme
in the last three years have been given to
well-connected individuals, most of whom are
absentee landlords with no farming
experience, according to a list obtained by
the South African Mail &Guardian. Many of
the new owners have been given leases for 98
years at advantageous prices, while others
have yet to have their lease rates assessed.

 The list was obtained in a parliamentary
written answer in January by the opposition
MP, Margaret Dongo, but it has received
scant attention in the Zimbabwean press. It
also includes land rented out under the
tenant farm scheme since 1990. Only a
handful of these, which range from very
large farms to smallholdings, have been
given to genuine farmers.

 Dongo, the president of the Zimbabwe Union
of Democrats and a founder member of the War
Veterans' Association, has been trying to
give the list of commercial farmers a wider
circulation with a message accusing the
ruling ZANU-PF of "corruption and

She added: "I appeal to my fellow war
veterans not to let your suffering be used
by selfish and greedy politicians who caused
your suffering. This will not benefit you at
the end of the day. Comrades, you should
stand up and be a watchdog of the
government. If you do not, you will have
fought for nothing."

The farms had been distributed to 416 high-
ranking members of ZANU-PF, including
Ministers, provincial governors and army
officers. The government's own survey,
obtained by The Observer newspaper (London),
shows that very few of those who received
the farms have farming experience. Many are
not paying rent.

In 1998 the government announced that it
would be seizing 841 commercial farms and
preliminary notice was served on 1,471
farmers. This was promised in particular to
those "war veterans" who had fought the War
of Independence to gain land. The nine
commercial farms, totalling about 500,000
acres, were voluntarily offered for sale by
their owners in 1998 and divided into 253
separate units. Among the leaseholders and
tenants are a cabinet minister, two
provincial governors, numerous civil
servants, two judges, four members of the
president's office and employees of large
private and state corporations.  The
Battlefields farm, for example, in the
cotton-farming area of Kadoma south of
Harare, has been divided into 27 parcels,
some as large as 4 800 acres. Not one is
occupied by its owner. Twenty four of the
absentee lessees have no agricultural
experience. Although they were given out at
the beginning of last year, no lease rates
have been assessed. Of the 50 parcels from
the Coburn farm, only nine are occupied by
farmers; 22 lessees have no farming
experience.  One provincial governor is
paying under #1,000 a year for 2 800 acres.

 Another governor whose five-year tenancy on
2,400 acres expired last September has still
to have his rental assessed. The defence
permanent secretary rented 780 acres during
the 1990s for just over #1 a year.. While
Mugabe was using this issue to whip up
support amongst the rural poor (where he
himself had come from) there is little doubt
that the same corrupting influences would be
at work and it would be the same party
officials in the name of the rural poor who
would benefit.

This month nearly 60,000 squatters have
occupied more than 1,000 farms scattered
across the country. The Government complains
it can do little with only 20,000 police.
Zimbabwe's minister of land and agriculture,
Kumbirai Kangai, almost fell victim to the
invasions after a large group attempted to
occupy his farm in Nyabira. They were
eventually driven off by security guards.
Kangai described the potential squatters as

Sensing that his rural support is flagging,
Mugabe has seized on the land issue once
again. In the past two years, he has given a
series of inflammatory speeches on the
subject. Avoiding any responsibility for the
stalled land reform, he blamed his
inactivity on the British government and on
the white farmers themselves.

While there is no doubt about the validity
of  the land question what is questionable
is whether MugabeUs Party is capable of
leading land reform in any honest or moral
way. The 60,000 squatters are sincere in
their demands. They still however have to
make a coherent criticism of the former land
acquisitions and stand alone as squatters
independent of the ZANU-PF.

4.  Race or Class Issues

The Harare Club's teak-panelled walls speak
of years of tradition, privilege and
exclusivity, dating back to its founding in
1896. The Salisbury Club, as it was known
then, was the social centre for the white
men who lived well as they imposed their
rule over the country's black majority.
Today, the main staircase is lined with
portraits of the club's past chairmen all of
them white. An ex Rhodesian asks me if I
have been to the "Irish Club", up near the
Catholic Church on 4th Street.  I noted it
but I never got there.

The Exchange bar in Bulawayo which is a
mixed bar (white, black and even an
occassional woman-black or white) tells the
story of these frontiersmen who are lauded
in European history books defending their
empires and making quick raids into “enemy”
territory, just like the cowboys of old
whether in the "Birth of Nations" movie or
the  "Indian fighter". The American frontier
was won by successive waves of immigration
and revolution in Europe. Only the tourists
are now going to Africa. Whether or not
those who have been there a long time will
be allowed to stay is another question.

Compared to South Africa, race relations
are, on the surface, good. Black and white
Zimbabweans, as well as other ethnic groups
such as Asians and those of mixed race, get
along easily on city streets, in shops and
in other public places. The country is
remarkably free of palpable racial tensions
and animosities.

 Pockets of white racism still exist,
although they are increasingly covert, and
there is a not-so-hidden block of black
anger. But between those two poles, there is
a growing area where Zimbabweans of all
shades find common interests.

 The country's white population reached its
peak in the late 1960s at about 275000. As
the Rhodesian war ground on, a stream of
whites left the country, so that when
Zimbabwe finally reached majority rule in
1980, there were about 120 000 whites.
Today, the white population is estimated at
70 000 less than 1% of the country's 12-
million people.

At independence in 1980, Mugabe dramatically
announced a policy of racial reconciliation,
and Zimbabwe became the shining alternative
to South Africa's apartheid system. The
country's citizens began living side by
side, with equal rights Q although the white
minority still retained the property and
wealth amassed during the Rhodesian era.

 Mugabe enjoyed a reputation as a statesman
of international stature for urging that
differences be put aside to allow the
building of a new country. But today, it is
Mugabe himself who is seen as the main
threat to racial harmony. Dramatic economic
decline has made his government decidedly
unpopular with urban blacks. The Commercial
FarmersU Union, understandably donUt trust
him either. The regime has become openly
repressive, banning strikes and

To distract attention from these problems,
Mugabe has resorted to blatantly anti-white
rhetoric calculated to stir up old
resentments and bitterness. "Some white
people of British extraction have been
planted in our midst to undertake acts of
sabotage aimed at affecting the loyalty of
not just our people in general, but also
that of the vital arms of government, like
the army, so these can turn against the
legitimate government of this country," said
Mugabe, in a recent speech.

 "They are bent on ruining the national
unity and loyalty of our people and their
institutions. But we will ensure that they
do not ever succeed in their evil
machinations. Let me state this
emphatically: they have pushed our sense of
racial tolerance to the limit. Let them be
warned that unless their insidious acts of
sabotage immediately cease, my government
will be compelled to take very stern
measures against them and those who have
elected to be their puppets."  More recently
he has put it more bluntly "Whites are the
enemies of the State".

In Rhodesia, Prince Edward School was the
premier government school for whites. I
used  to pass it every day on my way to work
in Clayton Road, in the Milton Park district
of Harare. Shortly after independence, it
went virtually all black, but now the school
has an enrolment of about 80% black and 20%
white, Asian and mixed race. At Prince
Edward, now, boys of all races wear
colonial-era blazers, ties and straw
boaters. They attend classes together, in
addition to playing cricket, rugby, football
and many other sports. It is not a racially
divided institution but a class institution
where those with power and money can send
their kids. The headmaster, Clive Barnes,
has succeeded in keeping white graduates
>from the Rhodesian era interested in the
school's welfare. To mark the school's
centenary last year, a wealthy alumnus
donated a multimillion-dollar computer

The growing dissatisfaction with the Mugabe
regime is a common cause, with many groups
now joining forces to push for a more
accountable government which transcends
race. The trade unions, church groups,
women's groups, lawyers associations, human
rights groups and gay rights groups are
increasingly working together. Recently,
anti-war demonstrators of all races tightly
held each other's arms so as not to be taken
away by riot police. At a human rights
march, blacks and whites carried banners

 Perhaps the most potent argument against a
racial divide rather than a class divide in
Zimbabwe today is the makeup of the
coalition of blacks and whites who have
gathered to form the National Constitutional
Assembly, a group calling for a
democratically drafted Constitution. Since
1980, most of Zimbabwe's whites have stayed
out of politics, but now a band of dedicated
human rights activists, both black and
white, are spearheading the movement to get
the Zimbabwean public involved in creating a
new Constitution.

One of my fellow workers, a white Irish
physiotherapist expressed this well to me
when I was working in the ChildrenUsU
Hospital in Harare." The colour of your skin
is important here. My best friend is African
but she is very middle class. She is
horrified that I ride in the commuter vans
with everyone else. She says she would find
riding in the vans degrading. She doesnUt
think I should do it and she doesnUt do it.
SheUd prefer to walk. I tell her to feck off
and not be worrying about such things. She
would worry that her friends would see her.
You see, it is not a racial difference it is
a class difference."

Compared with South Africa relations between
the races has been much more open . In
Johannesburg, the atmosphere is full of
tension. It seems there is still a taboo on
interactions beyond a certain line. In
Zimbabwe, things are so much more open.

It is the palatable feeling of corruption in
high places which is the topic of every
conversation and the class frustration is

There are divisions, even within the
indiginous Zimbabweam community. The divide
between the Ndebele and Shona is still alive
today. When I visited a game reserve near
Bulawayo I asked the guide what meat they
fed to the lions and the joke was that it
was "Shona". But while the biggest divide is
that obviously  between the "white" farmers
and the landless poor, other issues are
still at play. It is in these divisions and
their mismanagement where Mugabe has the
upper hand, it is his ace in the hole and
makes it difficult to see how a coherent
opposition can emerge.

Although the now deceased ex-Vice-President
Joshua Nkomo, Zvobgo scored a major plus for
himself when he publicly apologised for the
massacres of the people in Matebeleland
during the 1980s civil strife. The massacres
have been a major bone of contention
especially with the people of Matebeleland
who more than 10 years after the unity
accord of 1987 do not see any tangible
benefits apart from the peace itself. The
victims were not compensated and some are
still trying to get death certificates, and
therefore benefits, of their spouses or
parents who disappeared.

The scandals in high places are endless.
While rich ex-cronies are allowed to leave
the country, there is a crack-down on
working class crime. Banana, the ex
President, accused of raping a younger
officer was let go while another high Zanu-
PF official who was convicted of
embezzlement of funds was allowed back into
the country after being away for a few years
without being rearrested. Its definitely one
law for the poor and a very different one
for the rich.

When fuel prices were hiked by some 67% in
1998 amidst allegations of embezzlement by
senior government offices running the oil
companies. Construction costs for the
mayoral mansion in Harare have risen to
almost Z$50 million in a country where a
vast majority have no public lighting and
poor sanitation conditions. In one of the
country's biggest financial scandals
businessman Sampson Paweni defrauded the
government of Z$5 million. At the time the
Zimbabwe dollar was stronger than the US
dollar which means at today's rates this
could be equivalent to Z$90 million. Kangai
was implicated but he survived the scandal.
Paweni was jailed and died soon after his
release from prison. He has also survived
the land scandal, taking the blame to
weather off the storm. Kangai has the
dubious position of heading Manicaland yet
after the death of former ZANU chairman,
Herbert Chitepo, in Zambia in 1975 he was
arrested as a Karanga together with former
ZANLA chief Josiah Tongogara.

The farce at Town House, seat of the Harare
City Council, is something out of a Mexican
soap opera but the government is reluctant
to fire executive Mayor Solomon Tawengwa.
While the city is tottering on the brink of
collapse, all fingers point to one man.
Recently, half the city went without water
for three weeks and a quarter was without
power. The city's workforce was not paid in
October because no bank is prepared to grant
its administration an overdraft. Meanwhile,
work continues on the Z$50-million mansion.

A government commission of inquiry has
revealed gross irregularities in the
financial management of ratepayers' money.
Mayor Tawengwa searches for scapegoats and
cries sabotage when it is plain that the
buck stops at his desk. He suspended the
director of works, the city treasurer and
the town clerk. They have since been
reinstated by the minister responsible for
local government.

The UNDP 117 page report cited above states
that "Corruption is of increasing concern in
Zimbabwe. Numerous cases have gone before
the courts of law, the government set up
commissions to investigate some of the cases
while some have received extensive media

Zimbabwe, is believed to have pocketed more
than (Usnot Zim)$2 billion from the UN when
it sent its troops to Angola and Somalia,
Other allegations of corruption and bribery
related to the War in the Congo, where some
11,000 Zimbabwean troops are deployed
alongside smaller contingents from Namibia
and Angola, ostensibly to support Laurent
Kabila against Rwandan and Ugandan troops
but widely seen as a way for senior army
officers to take over the rich mineral
rights of the Congo. Senior army officers
have investments in these rights but it is
the Zimbabwean economy which must pay the
cost of Z$1 million daily for the war
alongside with figures of over 100
Zimbabwean fatalities. Demonstrations
against the war have been confined to Harare
and are never reported on the two State
owned TV stations or in the Government
newspaper, The Herald.

The fuel hikes in Nov 1998 which led to mass
scale rioting and the ZCTU general strikes
(called stay-aways) of Nov 11th and 18th
were just about total. Harare and all around
it came to a complete standstill. The
Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) ,
now the MDU is accredited with the
leadership of these stay-aways.

5  Electoral Politics

While on paper, there are more than 20
political parties, and 10 contested the 1995
elections, there is virtually no opposition
party one can talk about. The parties all
seem to sink into oblivion soon after the
elections and are only likely to resurface
in the year 2000 when the next elections are
due. Besides, the more popular opposition
parties like the Zimbabwe Unity Movement,
the United Parties and ZANU-Ndonga are led
by the same "old geriatrics" who cannot
seriously challenge Mugabe. Edgar Tekere of
ZUM is 61. Abel Muzorewa is 73 and
Ndabaningi Sithole is 78.

Although on paper there are more than 20
opposition parties in the country, only one
has two seats in Parliament. MugabeUs
lieutenants, though not willing to go down
with him, are scared of the fact that there
is no future outside ZANU-PF unless they
walk out en-masse. It is thus up to the
Labour Movement, the newly constituted MDC
which was formed out of the ZCTU to forge
the strongest force at the moment.
Tsvangirai is an eloquent speaker, just like
Mugabe was during his hey-days. He has youth
on his side. He is only 46. And he has the
workers behind him, which is a powerful
tool, especially given that most of urban
middle class have been reduced to poverty as
well and are flocking to the unions for
protection. Still in a country where 80% of
the people are rural poor this alliance (the
alliance of historical revolutions) might
not be enough. Of late Tsvangirai has been
attracting huge crowds at workers' rallies,
attended by nurses and civil servants, the
kind of crowds Mugabe enjoyed in the early
1980s. Tsvangirai has become such a powerful
political force that though he may not be
presidential material at the moment, he is
definitely a kingmaker. Anyone aspiring for
the country's top post has to bring him to
his side

What with many constituencies gerrymandered
and a constitutional provision allowing
Mugabe to hand-pick 20% of all MPs, there
would have to be a massive swing to the
opposition for it to be able to take control
of parliament. With only three seats out of
150 belonging to the "opposition", President
Mugabe is virtually assured that nothing of
the sort will happen. Besides, over the
years he has craftily manipulated the
composition of the House to ensure that
alliances would be difficult to forge except
in his favour. In 1980 for example, out of
the 80 seats for blacks, Masvingo and
Midlands had 23, Mashonaland 31 and the two
power brokers, Matebeleland and Manicaland
15 and 11, respectively. By 1995, out of the
120 elected seats, Masvingo and Midlands had
only increased to 29, Matebeleland because
of Bulawayo had jumped to 23, Manicaland was
still at 14 while Mashonaland had
skyrocketed to 54 with 20 of the seats in
the capital Harare.

With the 30 reserved seats filled by Mugabe
by appointment, he therefore can safely tuck
in 84 seats, a majority in the 150-member
house, only through the support from
Mashonaland. Besides, he has also weeded out
all educated people from the armed forces
who could have engineered a coup, leaving
loyalists who are beholden to him. Defence
forces commander, Vitalis Zvinavashe, though
a Karanga has no soldiers of his own since
there is army commander Constantine Chiwenga
and air force commander Perrence Shiri.
President Mugabe has survived up to now
because there is no opposition to talk

6   Democracy  (1)

Of course electoral representative democracy
is unlikely to solve the class issues no
more than it would solve all the other
inequalities in Zimbabwean society. Real
Democracy is finally more about the equality
of everyday life, lived experience, than in
merely electing representatives. Democracy
is also about the freedom of choice,
economic or otherwise vut it is also about
gender and sexual orientation and neither
have a good place in MugabeUs closet. A case
where a former wife, a Ms Magaya, was
overlooked in terms of inheritance and the
land was left to the eldest son brought
women onto the streets of Harare. Rita
Makarau, a lawyer and MP, appealed on behalf
of Magaya to the Supreme Court and lost. The
court ruled that, under customary law, that
only men can inherit and all family members
are subordinate to the male head of the
family; and that the Legal Age of Majority
Act, drafted in 1982 to ensure equality,
does not apply to customary law; and that
Section 23 of the Zimbabwe Constitution
allows discrimination against women as "the
nature of African society".

 Women's groups were up in arms, complaining
that although women constitute the larger
part of the country's population — about
51% of Zimbabwe's estimated 12,4-million
people — they only have a 22%
representation on the 395-member commission.

 The total number of female commissioners is
less than 100, with 52 of them having been
appointed by the president while the rest
are there by virtue of being

 This limited representation has raised
fears that the constitution will remain
biased against women, who are likely to find
themselves battling against a gender
insensitive document as they have been doing
for the past 19 years under the current

 Women, she says, are concerned about two
major issues, among others: these are
section 23, which touches on customary law,
and section 111b, which deals with
international conventions.

 Under these two sections, women's rights
are limited under customary law while the
conventions signed by the Government do not
necessarily become law under section 111b,
thereby making them futile.

Mugabe, a rabid anti-gay campaigner, is well
known for his erratic behaviour . He accused
the British government of being made up of
homosexuals, as though this was the worst
thing about it. It is with the blessing of
Mugabe that Jerry Falwell, the anti-gay
bible TV preacher goes on air every Sunday
evening on Zimbabwean TV.

Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and
President Mugabe has repeatedly condemned
the practice and has described gays and
lesbians as being “lower than pigs and

The issue of sexual orientation remains a
contentious one as a Church Congress invited
"Gay and Lesbians Church" to attend their
Conference last year knowing that Mugabe
would address it. Members were split on
whether to allow them into the Conference.
One delegate said that gays and lesbian
Christians, were free to come to the church
as it is a “place for sinners ” raising
objections as to what constitutes a sin.
Gays and Lesbians were not however
officially recognised as participants at the
assembly and attended only as individual
members of the public.

7 Democracy (2)

While the present constitution gives Mugabe
almost unlimited powers, he sought to change
it earlier this year to grant ZANU-PF
absolute power, hoping to abolish annoying
details like the powers of the Judiciary,
the Media, and the influence of civic
organisations and church leaders in the
Constitutional Assembly. He gambled and lost
the recent Constitutional referendum. The
campaign against the proposed changes was
led mainly by the ZCTU. Mugabe is supposed
to hold elections sometime this summer. He
is obviously afraid that he might loose this
election too.

Mugabe is playing these divisions like a
lost soul in a poker game. He thinks he
knows his people and he banks on a 1960s
consciousness to win, a consciousness which
was based on rural poverty and a peasant
uprising. Mugabe could have resigned like
Nelson Mandela and gone into the history
books as a great African leader. Instead he
has gambled and lost. But if Mugabe has
belatedly remembered his rural past and
tries to fit the square peg into a round
hole the general consensus in Zimbabwe is
that he has lost the way. On the other hand
can Tsvangirai and the MDU be able to
distinguish between the genuine wish to
replace Mugabe through democratic elections,
and the wish of his white supporters to use
him and his struggle to frustrate the
attempt of the black people of Zimbabwe to
take back their lands and their dignity and
their fundamental rights  Mugabe has not
declared "emergency powers" yet but he is
building up to it. He will accept no

In 1999 the crackdown on the media started
when four journalists from the weekly
Zimbabwe Mirror were arrested. Editor Ibbo
Mandaza and reporter Grace Kwinjeh appeared
in court on charges of spreading alarm and
despondency under the Law and Order
(Maintenance) Act. They were released on
bail. The two other journalists were
released unconditionally. This follows a
spate of stories carried by the newspaper on
the armyUs role in Congo., Mugabe's
mismanagement of the economy, and Zimbabwe's
involvement in the war as reasons for their
intended action. This was reported by the
semi-independent The Standard and both the
editor and journalist responsible had to go
into hiding after being severely beaten in
army headquarters. The apprehended soldiers
are still held at the Chikurubi maximum
prison, pending court martial.

Mugabe warned of "stern measures" against
the media and said that newspapers
publishing stories he deemed to be untrue
forfeited their right to the protection of
the law.

The Zimbabwe Mirror had past carried stories
on Cabinet opposition to the Congo war and
the return from the battlefront of a
soldierUs body without a head. The report
infuriated the Ministry of Defence, which
exhumed the soldierUs remains in a bid to
prove the story false, and led to the
charges. Soldiers in the Zimbabwe National
Army who refuse to fight in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), have been
arrested as army authorities fear they may
influence other troops to defy military

 These mitineers, believed to number about
20, defied military orders when President
Robert Mugabe personally ordered the
immediate deployment of Zimbabwean troops to
the embattled central African country. The
arrested soldiers are being held in the
Chikurubi and Brady barracks where they are
guarded in grounds patrolled by dogs.

But the soldiers are believed to have
questioned the interpretation of clause five
since Zimbabwe's involvement in the DRC was
not a universal decision. Normally, when a
United Nations resolution on conflict is
implemented, member states within the UN are
asked to send troops to protect the
legitimate government from being overthrown
militarily. In the case of the DRC, there
were no resolutions made by the UN, or the
Southern Africa Development Community. Only
a few leaders with personal and not national
interests, agreed to intervene. Our soldiers
have a right to refuse to go there," said
senior members of the ZNA, adding that those
who are dying in the DRC were dying for

The Zimbabwe MirrorUs lawyer said he would
appeal to the Supreme Court to test whether
the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, due for
repeal this year, was consistent with the
right to freedom of expression enshrined in
the Constitution.

Reflecting the new hard line, Minister of
Information Chen Chimutengwende last year
said newspapers benefiting from donor
support or foreign investment would not be
allowed to establish themselves in future.

In an address, Mugabe fuelled a growing
constitutional crisis by blasting the
judiciary which had asked him for assurances
that he would uphold the rule of law
following his governmentUs rejection of high
court orders for the release of The
StandardUs journalists. Describing the calls
>from four judges, three from the Supreme
Court for a public statement as "an
outrageous and deliberate act of judicial
impudence", he told them to resign if they
wanted to take on political issues.

The NCA, a civil society forum geared to
reform the countryUs autocratic Constitution
said, faced with growing resistance, Mugabe
was increasingly resorting to coercion as a
means of containing his critics. In August,
a revamped Zapu 2000 will field candidates
for the 11 councillors' posts in Victoria
Falls municipalityand will likely do well
amongst the Ndebele people,

One candidate is travel agent Silas Khuphe.
His angle, cited in the South African Mail &
Guardian is that local residents benefit
little from the more than half a million
tourists that visit each year. "Tax revenue
and the tourist levy are siphoned off by the
central government. Discrimination against
Ndebele people", says Khuphe, "does the
rest." On top of poverty, Ndebele people
complain of systematic discrimination. "Our
children are less able to get into good
schools, locals do not have a fair share of
civil service jobs and it is hard to get a
bank loan," says Sibanda, who is Ndebele.
"You could easily compile a whole catalogue
of examples."

Of the 10 biggest hotels in Victoria Falls,
none has an Ndebele manager. "Each manager
brings workers from his area," says Khuphe.

8  Conclusion

So what is the future of Zimbabwe?  Mugabe
is certainly not an Ide Amin figure like
certain British media noted. Nor is he a
Saddam Hussain because he doesnUt have the
power. There exists a strong working class
union which prohibits him from becoming like
Saddam. In many respects he is more like a
Milosovich figure who tries to use the rural
poor to bolster his wealth and influence.
While land resdistribution is definitely on
the cards (and Europe and the US have
already accepted this in principle) both the
Commercial Farmers Union and Mugabe have
joined hands in forgetting their own
histories, where only a quarter of a century
ago while at war, Rodesia was banning
demonstrations and hanging the father's
generation as terrorists, or forcibly
rounding them up into village concentration
camps under the Law and Order Maintenance
Act. Not to recognise this is to forfeit any
respect of history.

But perhaps President Mugabe's biggest
challenge at the moment is the economy. It
is increasingly becoming apparent that there
is no way he can turn it around. With
inflation running over 100%, the country has
been on a downslide over the past two years
and all efforts to turn it around have
failed. He is unpredictable and could go to
shocking lengths to maintain his position of
power. Lengths which might declare a state
of emergency in Zimbabwe and the total
clamp-down on any criticism. Meanwhile the
ordinary Zimbabweans are the ones that
suffer. Paraffin for lighting has become too
expensive for a good section of the
population. Inflation is probably over 100%
and things like toilet rolls become a
luxury. Given ZimbabweUs role of No. 1 in
the HIV/AIDS figures, (some 26% of the
population testing positive) it is just
another hardship that poor people must bear.
In the present situation MugabeUs cynicism
is not a friend of the Zimbabwean poor.

Zimbabwe | "States of Unrest" | IMF/ WB Struggles | PGA