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Zimbabwean Authorities Crack Down on Opposition Leaders

Aired March 24, 2007 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Femi Oke, and this is INSIDE AFRICA, your weekly look at life and news on the continent, coming to you from Johannesburg.
Now, this week, our focus is on Zimbabwe, where a brutal crackdown on opposition leaders is causing growing concern around the world. Scores of activists are reported to have been beaten and detained after police broke up a prayer meeting on March the 11th. And four senior officials in the Movement for Democratic Change were prevented from leaving the country.

Since Western correspondents are banned from Zimbabwe, CNN's Jeff Koinange is currently on the South African/Zimbabwe border.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm standing on the South African side of the country's border with Zimbabwe. What you're looking at behind me is the border post, a place commonly referred to as the economic lifeline of Zimbabwe, because the country is landlocked and depends almost entirely on everything, from food to fuel, on its neighbors, especially Africa's powerhouse, South Africa.

Now, experts estimate that in the last few weeks alone, more than 100,000 Zimbabweans have been streaming through the border every single week. A lot of them aren't doing it legally, because they don't have the right paperwork. That's why you don't see too many people streaming across right here. What they do is that because the two countries share about 225 kilometers, or 150 miles of porous borderline, that's where a lot of Zimbabweans are making it into South Africa, cutting through wires if they have to, cutting through farms and making their way into the country.

The United Nations estimates there are more than 3 million Zimbabwe exiles in South Africa alone, and as the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, as President Robert Mugabe continues to clamp down on the opposition despite international outrage, it seems inevitable that more and more Zimbabweans will be leaving their country and coming into South Africa.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, on the South African/Zimbabwe border.


OKE: So, how did Zimbabwe get into its current situation, with soaring inflation, poverty and political unrest? CNN's Jonathan Mann takes a closer look at Zimbabwe's leader.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zimbabwe did not have to be an impoverished pariah state. But under 83-year old Robert Mugabe, that is what it's become.

Mugabe emerged as a leader in the guerrilla war against white minority rule 40 years ago, in what was then Rhodesia. In 1980, he became the prime minister of newly renamed Zimbabwe. He's been reelected ever since, most recently in 2002 in a violent vote widely considered unfair.

DESMOND TUTU, FMR. SOUTH AFRICAN ARCHBISHOP: I have always admired President Mugabe until recently. He was -- he was our star turn (ph). We use to boast, pointing out to him, pointing at him as a wonderful representative for our continent. Something very grievous has happened to him.

MANN: Grievous things have happened to his country. Most of Zimbabwe's 13 million people live on the land, though much of it and the best of it was in the hands of the country's white minority. Even after decades of land reform, whites maintained the most profitable farms, raising enough food to feed the country and export as well.

In 2000, Mugabe launched a new redistribution scheme, and allowed veterans of the guerrilla war and his own party loyalists to seize farms by force, often with violence.

ROBERT MUGABE, ZIMBABWEAN PRESIDENT: White farmers have no right to that land in the first place.

MANN: But most blacks remained landless, and many of the new landholders failed on the farms they've taken. There were food riots on the streets of the capital as prices rose. Since then, prices have gone up incomparably more. The inflation rate now estimated at around 2,000 percent, the highest in the world. Zimbabwe has only grown hungrier.

TOM CASEY, U.S. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: If a political leadership had set out on a course to basically undermine what had been one of Africa's more successful economies, they couldn't have done a better job than the policies that have been implemented over the past few years.

MANN: It's not just food that's harder to find. It's also shelter. In 2005, the Mugabe government launched what it called a slum clearance scheme, that bulldozed major shantytowns, brutally displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says the urban poor are its voters, and it says the government was trying to scatter its support. Now, the regime has gone after the opposition in a different way, with direct physical attacks by police on its leaders. And when foreign diplomats protested, Mugabe told them to be careful.

MUGABE: Or else we kick them out of our country. We'll kick them out of the country!

MANN: Zimbabwe has only known one leader, and decades after he began his fight for power, Robert Mugabe is still fighting.

Jonathan Mann, CNN.


OKE: The Zimbabwean government says blame for the recent violence lies with the opposition. The government has repeatedly accused the Movement for Democratic Change of using brutal tactics to try and overthrow Robert Mugabe. And amidst the international criticism, the Zimbabwean president and other government officials remain defiant.


MUGABE: Here are a group of persons who went out of their way to effect a campaign of violence, and there we hear no criticism at all of those actions of violence. None. None. No, none of these -- the missions here has said a word in regard to that campaign of violence. And now when they criticize government which is trying to prevent that violence or to punish the perpetrators of that violence, then, of course, we take the position that they can go have (ph).

MACHIVENYIKA MAPURANGA, ZIMBABWEAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, the deeds have been committed. I think you're aware that buses have been burned, the police stations have been burned down by MDC thugs, and we would want to establish a clear connection between these deeds and the Western diplomats.

SIKHANYISO NDLOVU, INFORMATION MINISTER OF ZIMBABWE: The Zimbabwean government has not condoned any violence in the country. We are too concerned (ph) with that. But the people you say were beaten -- you're giving a close eye to them who started the violence. They went about beating up the police, and injured police. Police were put in hospital because they were beaten by the opposition. We have a law now here against, you know, terrorism, and these guys are terrorists. Sponsored, paid for by the same colonial imperialist powers.

BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU, ZIMBABWEAN AMB. TO U.N.: We're seeing political difficulties I saw in Denmark, rioters being beaten by the police. I've seen that, pictures on the CNN, where the police are beating protesters. I don't know why Zimbabwe is such a special case.


OKE: Coming up on INSIDE AFRICA, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair calls for more sanctions against Robert Mugabe's regime. But how effective are the measures that are currently in place? When INSIDE AFRICA returns, we'll take a closer look at these so-called "smart sanctions." Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Search engine giant Google is joining up with two East African nations to supply software to students and government workers. Google is partnering up with the Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure and the Kenya Education Network. The agreement allows students and government workers access the free communications tools.

Africa's largest food retailer is gearing up to open its first Shoprite supermarket in Ghana. The new store is set to open at the end of May. The company plans to buy many foods locally to help stimulate demand and development in the country.

Virgin Atlantic Airways is introducing daily flights from London to Nairobi. Kenya's president hopes the airline will help lead to an increase in revenues from British tourists. The new flights are set to begin on June 1st.


OKE: Hello again from Johannesburg. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA.

Western powers have promised to keep up the pressure against Zimbabwe's government. And Britain, a former colonial ruler of Zimbabwe, has called for tougher European Union sanctions. ITN's Andy Davies takes a closer look at the sanctions and who they impact.


ANDY DAVIES, ITN: Until now, the U.S., together with Australia and New Zealand, have for the most part followed the lead of the European Union. That means imposing so-called smart sanctions on Zimbabwe -- smart because they're supposed to target the country's political hierarchy, not the general population.

So, for the last five years, the E.U. has compiled a list of leading political figures in Zimbabwe. 125 people are on the latest list. All are banned from traveling to the E.U. and any assets they have in member countries are supposed to be frozen.

Each member country is also prohibited from selling arms to Zimbabwe.

How effective have these measures been? This is the analysis of one political biographer of Robert Mugabe.

PROFESSOR STEPHEN CHAN, SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL & AFRICAN STUDIES: Both Europe and the United States, the West in general have followed the same basic package of measures since the farm invasions began. And what's happened just recently has been merely an intensification of exactly those measures.

They are as much symbolic measures as anything else, but precisely because they're largely symbolic, the government of Zimbabwe is not paying any attention to them.

DAVIES: Robert Mugabe has certainly enjoyed it to find his travel ban reveling at specter at the feast status at the U.N. conference in Rome two years ago.

MUGABE: The voice of Mr. Blair can't decide who shall rule in Zimbabwe, who shall rule in Africa, who shall rule in Asia, who shall rule in Venezuela, who shall rule in Iran, who shall rule in Iraq, what world are we building.

DAVIES: He's also been to Paris at the invitation of President Chirac, and outside the E.U. and America, he's, of course still fated in countries like China.

When it comes to the freezing of assets -- again, it's a policy more draconian in theory than in practice. A quick call to the Foreign Office this morning reveals that the Zimbabwean assets hauled in the U.K. over the last five years total just 172,000 pounds, in only 42 bank accounts.

JAMES DUDDRIDGE, MP CONSERVATIVE INST. DEVELOPMENT ONE: Well, clearly, those type of numbers say that the government are not taking this issue seriously. Before being in the House of Commons, I was a banker in Africa. Those numbers are just ridiculously low, both in terms of the amounts of money -- you know, we should be looking for millions, not hundreds of thousands, and not 42 people, but hundreds of people's assets should be frozen here in the United Kingdom and around the world.

DAVIES: Crucial to Robert Mugabe's retention of power in Harare, is, of course, the continued support of his opposite number in Pretoria. For as long as South Africa provides an economic crutch to its ailing neighbor, Robert Mugabe will continue to have little but contempt for any Western talk of tighter, smarter sanctions.


OKE: The government of Zimbabwe refuses to let CNN and other major Western networks into the country. Our Michael Holmes talked about this media ban with Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United States.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you not allow Western news organizations to report from your country? For example, CNN. We're not allowed to report from Zimbabwe. Why not? Will you allow us to do so?

MACHIVENYIKA MAPURANGA, ZIMBABWEAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: No, we will not allow you to do that, because the CNN and the BBC, they champion the imperialist interests of the British and the Americans. So, they're totally biased, and ...

HOLMES: How so? How so? Why don't you allow us to come in there and report on the ground? It's ...

MAPURANGA: No, because ...

HOLMES: ... very difficult to report from outside the country, isn't it?

MAPURANGA: Oh, because you will be misleading the world. So, we do not allow enemy agencies like the CNN and the BBC to report on Zimbabwe.

HOLMES: So, CNN is an enemy agency.

MAPURANGA: As far as they espouse the regime change agenda of the United States government.

HOLMES: Reporting the comments of other governments is not acting on their behalf, it's reporting.

MAPURANGA: We have been monitoring CNN reports on Zimbabwe, BBC reports on Zimbabwe, and they're clearly hostile.

HOLMES: So you're saying no, if I wanted to come down and do some feature stories from Zimbabwe, the answer is no.

MAPURANGA: Yes, the answer is no.

HOLMES: Until when?

MAPURANGA: Until the opposition in Zimbabwe has renounced violence, and until ...

HOLMES: What's that has got to do with CNN?

MAPURANGA: And until the -- the British and the Americans abandon their policy of regime change.

HOLMES: But what has that got to do with media organizations?

MAPURANGA: Oh, because the media organizations support these two governments. You may -- you may say that is not the case, but we know that is the case.

HOLMES: But how -- how can you accuse media organizations such as CNN -- and the BBC for that matter -- of this bias, when you're on our air right now saying whatever it is you want to say?

MAPURANGA: Oh, right now I think you -- it is -- you have no choice but to -- to -- to try and hear what the government is saying. But when we allow you to go into Zimbabwe, we know that your agenda is not a noble one.


OKE: We stand by our reporting at CNN, and we will continue to offer Zimbabwean government to allow us access to the country.

Now, most of the media outlets in Zimbabwe are run by the government. But there are a few independent newspapers. Trevor Ncube publishes two of them. This week, we discussed how his journalists are covering the Zimbabwe story compared to the international media.


TREVOR NCUBE, ZIMBABWE NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER: There are a lot of people who ask me, are we getting the truth from the international media? Are we getting the whole story from the international press? And my response is, I don't think you're getting half the story of what is taking place in Zimbabwe.

And what do I mean? I mean, the -- both the local press and the international press are not highlighting the difficulties of simply trying to survive in Zimbabwe, of getting up every day and finding that you have no water to bath and go to work and go to school. You have no electricity to make a cup of tea. So there is a big story that is being left out. There is the human interest story that is being left out. The 48,000 women who die trying to give birth because the doctors are not there, there is no medication, the ambulances break down -- for me it's that story that is not being told, that doesn't give the foreigner out there a real picture of what is taking place in Zimbabwe.

OKE: For our international audience who might not be familiar with the two papers you publish in Zim, can you tell us a little bit about both of those papers? What's their style?

NCUBE: I publish two newspapers. The flagship is the "Zimbabwe Independent," which is a business -- a business newspaper. It's a weekly. The second one is "The Standard," which is a Sunday newspaper.

OKE: So, take me back over the last two weeks. What's been the tone of coverage?

NCUBE: The tone of coverage has been feverish around the political crisis that is unraveling in Zimbabwe, around the violence, the state- sponsored violence against opposition activists in Zimbabwe. It's been about the beatings of Morgan Tsvangirai, the beatings on Nelson Chamisa.

OKE: Are your papers on a mission? Are they trying to show up Robert Mugabe's government?

NCUBE: I think the papers are on a mission to tell the truth. They're on a mission to provide a balanced story to Zimbabweans in terms of what is taking place. We think that we're winning in a way, in terms of making the information available, vital, critical information available to Zimbabweans, to help them make informed decisions and judgments regarding where the country is at this particular moment.


OKE: And that was a Zimbabwean newspaper publisher, Trevor Ncube.

There is more to come on INSIDE AFRICA just ahead.


MICHAEL MAJURU, FORMER ZIMBABWEAN JUDGE: I didn't believe that I did anything wrong, and if I were -- if the same situation were to arise, I'd do precisely the same thing I did.

OKE: He wasn't afraid to speak up, but afterwards, he feared for his life. The former judge who took his family and fled Zimbabwe coming up after the break.


OKE: Hello again, you're watching INSIDE AFRICA. As President Robert Mugabe's government cracks down on the opposition, many people who are able to leave the country are doing so. Around 3.5 million people live here in South Africa, and one of the exiles living away from home is a former judge who dared to question the Zimbabwean authorities.


OKE: This is the judge who stood up for the legal system in Zimbabwe and lost his case. Fearing for his family and his safety, he now lives in exile in South Africa. The story of Justice Michael Majuru's clash with the Zimbabwe government starts in 2003.

MAJURU: The "Daily News" was forcibly called closed on the 13th of September, 2003 by -- by government, and they (inaudible) taken by a government agents.

OKE: Before it was closed down, the popular newspaper had ignored new legislation to apply for license, and went to court to challenge it.

MAJURU: Then we had the appeal, and then during the appeal, they won, and they allowed them to resume operations. And the minister was very angry with me. Once it had happened, he started accusing me of -- of collusion with British imperialists.

OKE: The angry minister was Zimbawe's minister of justice, Patrick Chinamasa.

MAJURU: I said, Minister, you know, this is nonsense. I know what you want. What you want is for me to remove myself from the case. Is that so? He said, yes.

OKE: In November 2003, Justice Majuru resigned from the case, but that's when he said his problems really began.

MAJURU: I was placed under surveillance by members of the central intelligence organization. They were beginning to follow me around, trail me to and from work, wherever I went, and I was beginning to feel very, very insecure.

OKE: Majuru says when he heard about the plan to arrest him, he fled with his family to South Africa. He wasn't able to get a passport for his teenage son, so he left him behind. He's still there.

(on camera): You've lost your home?


OKE: You are living in exile.


OKE: You have no career.


OKE: Was it worth it?

MAJURU: I didn't believe that I did anything wrong. And if I were -- if the same situation were to arise, I'd do precisely the same thing I did. I believe it was (inaudible). I think it was worth it.

OKE: To begin with, Zimbabwe's justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, did not reply to our request for a comment about the judge's allegations. And then we received a text from his mobile phone. Quote, "By the way, and with the greatest respect, which imperialist is sending you to kick to life a dead story allegation, and what do you hope to achieve by kicking a dead horse?"

The minister didn't comment specifically on Justice Majuru's case.

Michael Majuru now lives in Pretoria, South Africa, where he's studying for a master's degree in human rights law.


OKE: And that's our look INSIDE AFRICA for this week. I'm Femi Oke. Until the next time, take care.



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