SA is at risk of retracing Zimbabwe’s bloody path
November 16 2010 at 11:45am
By Donwald Pressly, Business Report
One doesn’t know if one is living in a democracy until an election is held, the governing party changes peacefully and one goes to work the following day seamlessly.
Would a President Julius Malema tolerate losing power in 10 years time, once he had clawed his way into office?
Our ruling elite dance with the Zanu-PF regime. They share with it a liberation struggle mentality. Tolerance of a new party coming to power, especially emerging from the union movement like the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe, simply is not on the agenda.
Peter Godwin, author of The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe and also of When the Crocodile Eats the Sun, said this week that he found it inexplicable that the coverage of the carnage and the political intimidation and electoral manipulation on our doorstep was so poorly documented in the South African media.
South African journalists are the most likely to enter Zimbabwe and carry out their work unharmed – unlike other foreign media – yet for some reason, the horror has been largely ignored, apart from the attacks on white farmers.
Perhaps it is because that country’s parallels with South Africa make us all uncomfortable, but be warned: Zimbabwe is ahead of this country.
Its tragic journey into tyranny, leaving most of the population poor, unemployed or in exile, has flagged the route to political and economic failure. We can learn valuable lessons.
Former president Thabo Mbeki was in Zimbabwe after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of the 2008 presidential election. Mbeki ignored the fact that voting districts that backed the MDC were transformed into torture camps by the Zanu-PF youth.
Ordinary people, especially MDC lower-level office bearers, were beaten within an inch of their lives.
They were then sent back into the communities as “human billboards”, as Godwin put it. It struck fear in the hearts of millions of ordinary – overwhelmingly black – Zimbabweans.
The political elite had, by then, raped the economy simultaneously.
The Great Betrayal: The Memoirs of Ian Douglas Smith; By Ian Douglas Smith
The elites could exchange 59 Zimbabwean dollars for one US dollar while the people had to pay billions. It meant ultimately that all savings, equities and any wealth, including pension funds, of Zimbabweans, were wiped out.
The people hoped that by the time the economy reached rock-bottom, with nothing left to plunder, Zanu-PF would throw in the towel.
The people were left with nothing except, if they were lucky, their house and car. But the discovery of immensely rich diamond fields and the support of China has emboldened our doorstep tyranny. With an election coming up, the MDC faces the predicament of staying out of the poll or facing another stolen election.
Can all these horrible things happen here as well? We face similar threats.
The ANC Youth League is intent on getting its greasy fingers on the country’s natural resources. The courts are being described as racist institutions by the new deputy minister of police.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe warns that criticism from Cosatu is tantamount to an MDC-like flirtation.
Our Department of Home Affairs wants to send our population of exiled Zimbabweans home to starve.
Before it’s too late, let us cast beady eyes on our own crocodiles.
» » » » [Business Report]
[A Zimbabwean Crocodile] Profile: Chenjerai Hunzvi
Alex Duval Smith
Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi, soldier and activist: born 1950; twice married (two sons, two daughters); died Harare 4 June 2001.
Chenjerai Hunzvi came to prominence last year as the leader of black Zimbabweans intent on taking over white-owned land.
At first, it was Hunzvi's middle name, Hitler, that grabbed the world headlines. Later, it became clear that the war veterans' leader and his henchmen not only held the country's commercial farmers to ransom but also its president, Robert Mugabe, and other top leaders in the country's struggle for liberation.
Hunzvi seemed to derive demonic pleasure from his power. He enjoyed being referred to as Hitler, which he insisted had been his middle name from birth rather than a nom de guerre or nickname. "Hitler is my name. We are similar. Like him, I am tall," he told me in an interview last year.
Implicated in the misuse of public funds, including stealing money destined for heroes of the struggle to end white rule in Rhodesia, Hunzvi, the chairman of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans' Association, went to his grave with the secret of how and why he had been allowed to attain prominence. By the time he died, Hunzvi was, effectively, Mugabe's chief warrior the architect of nearly 2,000 occupations of white-owned farms and the instigator of violence which claimed up to 50 lives in the run-up to parliamentary elections at the end of June 2000.
When he wanted higher pensions for the members of the War Veterans' Association whom he claimed numbered 11,000 he seemed to be able to extract it from the President. In 1997, he led veterans in a series of demonstrations for higher pensions. Many economists claim that the pay hike they won was a powerful factor in the first major devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar and the beginning of the economy's descent into freefall.
In 1998, he threatened to launch attacks in Harare's wealthy northern suburbs after accusing white industrialists of collaborating with trade unionists to destabilise the economy. "We shall campaign everywhere, including in buses and in bars, to keep President Mugabe and Zanu-PF [the ruling party] in power," he said at the time.
He seemed, mostly, off-the-wall. A number of respected elders of the war against Ian Smith's rule considered Hunzvi an impostor who had never fought at the front. Hunzvi claimed to have joined the liberation struggle at the age of 16. He said he had been interned at Gonakudzingwa and Wha Wha prisons in the period between 1967 and 1970 and had undergone guerrilla training in Zambia in 1974.
He claimed he was held with Joshua Nkomo and Josiah Chinamano prominent leaders of the struggle who have since died. He claimed that, after his imprisonment, he became "external affairs officer", based in Botswana, for the Zimbabwe African Popular Union (Zapu) Nkomo's liberation group. He claimed later to have been director of administration for the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) and chief representative of Zapu in Poland. Recently, a retired lieutenant-colonel, Thomas Ngwenya, a former member of Zipra's leadership, went public to state that Hunzvi never had been, as he had claimed, a member of the organisation's high command.
It is known that Hunzvi travelled to Poland and represented Zapu there during his medical studies in the late 1970s. He married a Polish woman but the union ended after two children were born, Andrew, now 17, and Ngoni, four. In White Slave, a book published in 1994, Hunzvi's Polish wife claimed he had mistreated her and that she was finally forced to flee Zimbabwe in 1992. Magda Tunzvi (a pseudonym) claimed in the book that her husband had been an "unfaithful, vain sadist" who beat her regularly. She said they met at Warsaw University in the 1970s and that he was a freedom fighter "who never held a gun". She also said he boasted of having a white wife but became jealous and violent with the years.
Hunzvi said he qualified as a doctor in 1990 and returned home to work at Harare Central Hospital. Later, he opened a surgery at Budiriro, Harare, denounced last year by Amnesty International as a "torture chamber". He married again, and had another son, Munyaradzi, now aged three.
Believed to have suffered from "heart and pulmonary complications", he is the third of President Mugabe's closest allies to have died in a month. Border Ghezi, the chief strategist in Mugabe's campaign to remain in power after the 2002 presidential elections, was killed in a road accident a month ago. His defence minister, Moven Mahachi, died in another car accident last week. There is no evidence that the deaths are connected. But without Mahachi, Ghezi and Hunzvi the campaign by Mugabe to stay in power has become a much lonelier one.
» » » » [The Independent.UK]
[Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi's Torture Chambers] A Ticket To Hell
That's what powerful reporting can mean for Africa's embattled journalists, who face harsh reprisals from government and rebel factions in many of the continent's countries.
American Journalism Review
IN ZIMBABWE, ROY CHATO wrote the kinds of stories about political upheaval that in the United States might have made him a contender for an Investigative Reporters & Editors award. Instead, his hard-hitting exposés for a Sunday weekly won him a trip early this year to a torture chamber, where he was stripped and beaten, his head held underwater until he was on the brink of death.
In a nearby room, his editor, Mark Chavunduka, lay naked in a blood-spattered cell, writhing in pain as electrical wires were attached to his genitals. Their "crime" was twofold: publication of a story about a failed military coup, which the government denied, and a refusal to name their sources.
In Africa, doing serious journalism can be a ticket to hell.
Mark Chavunduka was having his morning bath when the phone rang around 7:15 on Tuesday, January 12. The caller, polite and conciliatory, wondered if the editor might stop by military headquarters on his way to the newsroom to discuss a lead story in Zimbabwe's Standard headlined: "Senior Army Officers Arrested--Attempted Coup Foiled."
On the way, Chavunduka, 34, dialed the newspaper's managing director to brief him on the meeting. His boss was leery of his going alone. The two agreed to stay in touch by cell phone. Soon after arriving, Chavunduka was ushered into the office of the director of military intelligence. The issue was so serious, he was told, that the state needed to know the identity of the paper's sources in the military.
Mbokodo: Inside MK: Mwezi Twala - A Soldier's Story, by Ed Bernard and Mwezi Twala [*Amazon*]
By 9:30 a.m., the editor had been escorted to a military barracks outside the Zimbabwean capital of Harare and found himself surrounded by army officers, demanding to know who had talked to his reporter. When Chavunduka refused to provide names, a Defense Ministry official ordered him detained until he decided to cooperate. That night, he covered himself with newspapers as he slept on a barren floor.
The first physical assault occurred on January 14. In an article for BBC Focus on Africa, Chavunduka wrote: "I was forced to look directly into a powerful beam of light placed 10 cm from my eyes, in a dark room, while answering their questions. When I could no longer stand the pain and moved my head, I was beaten with clenched fists and booted feet. This went on for several hours until midnight."
On January 16, handcuffed and blindfolded, he was driven to a building 45 minutes away and led down two flights of stairs into what he describes as a "cold storage room." As his eyes adjusted to the light, he recoiled in horror.
"There were blood stains on the wall. I was told to undress, and then asked what I could see on the walls," he recalls. "When I said I could see blood stains, I was told that those people had died, and that my blood was no more special than that on the walls.... They said the president already signed my death warrant."
Then the real torture began.
Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO, by Paul Trewhela [*Amazon*]
His head repeatedly was thrust deep into a canvas bag full of water until he was near suffocation. His legs were chained to his hands and electric charges were applied, sending jolts through his body. There were times, he recalls, when he implored his tormentors to kill him.
Afterward, he was taken to the barracks, led to a room and ordered to open the door. "I did, and I saw Ray [Choto, who wrote the piece] sitting naked, bruised and swollen. They had been using the light beam on his eyes, beating him when he moved his head," Chavunduka says.
The next day, the two were driven, separately, to the torture chamber with the blood on the walls for what was to be their worst of it.
As described by Chavunduka: "The electrocution, to all parts of the naked body, was terribly severe, and the water suffocation reached unimaginable levels of horror." Soon after that session, the two appeared in court and were released on bail.
In the storm of publicity that followed, the military was widely criticized by the Zimbabwean courts for seizing the journalists. The minister of defense and his officials faced contempt charges for defying three orders to free them.
In March, with the aid of Amnesty International, the two journalists flew to London for treatment at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. "At first, we were scared that the people who tortured us would detain us again. Being away from home erased that initial fear," Choto, 37, told AJR. "But we can't override the fact that the state has its own mission, and they can do whatever they want with us."
How does he cope with that reality? "If you are a true journalist, you have to continue soldiering on," Choto says. "You can't be scared off by threats from the state and things like that."
Chavunduka, who will be a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University this fall, calls the danger an occupational hazard. "Our view," he says, "is that there is a job, and it has to be done." Upon his release after the nine-day detention, he issued the following statement: "The situation is a difficult one, but we are determined to continue to seek out the truth, expose corruption, and stand up to power-drunk dictators."
Neither journalist cracked under pressure. The sources for the coup story remain secret.
» » » » [American Journalism Review]
Zimbabwe 2000 Scoop: The Sinister Confidential Memo That Inspired Mugabe
March 17, 2008
Reporter Regrets (Excerpts)
The South African author of a confidential strategy document prepared more than one year ago for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party says he recommended the land issue be the driving force in the campaign for Zimbabwe's coming parliamentary elections. As I reported in May 2000, the disclosure further buttressed charges that there was nothing spontaneous about the farm occupations and land-related violence that began in Zimbabwe that year.
President Robert Mugabe said recently he was surprised by the occupations of more than one-thousand white-owned farms begun earlier this year by veterans of Zimbabwe's independence struggle.
But a confidential document I saw in Harare and dated March 22nd of last year (1999)shows that a pre-election strategy worked out for Mr. Mugabe's ZANU PF party proposed the use of what were termed "unorthodox methods" and "unconventional elements" to sway voters.
It also said circumstances leading up to Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections required a break with what were termed "standard formulas and expected tactics."
It recommended what was termed "a powerful frontal assault on all the electorate's senses, logic and emotion."
No details are contained in the document. Its author, Johannesburg-based public relations consultant Dieter Nerf, declines comment on whether he specifically recommended the occupation of farms, the use of war veterans, or a confrontation with former colonial power Britain as campaign tools to bolster ZANU PF's electoral prospects.
But Mr. Nerf told me (and a fellow journalist from “Newsday” newspaper) he advised the ruling party that land would be the only issue it could use -- despite opposition complaints about corruption and mismanagement in past land reform programs.
He compliments Mr. Mugabe for successfully shifting blame away from himself for previous failures. The consultant also says Mr. Mugabe, in his words, has obviously used the land issue to create civil instability in a way that plays into his hands politically.
Asked for comment on the document, a spokesman for ZANU PF, Jonathan Moyo, says he knows nothing about it. Mr. Moyo, widely regarded as a leading ruling party strategist, also says, quoting now, “It sounds like fiction to me.”
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has accused President Mugabe and the ruling party of orchestrating a brutal countrywide campaign of intimidation and violence against those perceived to be opposed to ZANU PF. It says the violence has little to do with land -- even though it says land is a legitimate issue.
An opposition review of violence this year says at least 19 people have been killed, including 15 MDC supporters. More than one-thousand have been injured and more than 400 homes destroyed. It says the violence is state-sponsored and aimed at destroying the first genuine political threat to ZANU PF's dominance in the 20 years since Zimbabwe gained its independence.
Mr. Nerf says he was never paid for his strategic plan, which outlined a more than 13-million US dollar campaign program. He says he calls ZANU PF officials on a regular basis but has received no commitments.
Mr. Nerf says there should never be bloodshed when it comes to politics although he acknowledges it does happen. He also says he does not believe the ruling party is misusing his ideas or his document, which he describes as “fairly inoffensive.”
“I think they're doing their own thing,” is the way he puts it.
His document, however, is marked “strictly confidential.” It says no copies should be made or distributed without the approval of Zimbabwe's Minister of State Security.
The section on “unorthodox tactics” says ideas proposed under this heading “are for discussion and need not be committed to paper.”
Mr. Nerf rejects suggestions that this is sinister-sounding, describing it as standard practice with certain types of promotional activity. The document says the proposed program is aimed at creating a position where, in the document's words, “you can determine your own future rather than having other forces determine it for you.”
It also states that “the superiority of the President's political instinct is without question.”
Analysts and diplomats have said they have no doubt that the 76-year-old Mr. Mugabe will do anything necessary to maintain his grip on power. One diplomat in Harare told me the authorities have a variety of tools at their disposal -- including the military -- to carry out such operations as the farm seizures. This envoy says he thinks Mr. Mugabe and his supporters “are using whatever they need to fulfill their goals.”
Most observers link the land seizures and related violence to the sagging political popularity of President Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party. Earlier this year, they suffered their first ever political defeat when voters nationwide rejected a draft constitution put forward by the government. A subsequent opinion poll showed the vast majority of voters favored a change in leadership.
» » » » [Excerpts: Reporter Regrets: An African Journal]
Zimbabwe 2000: Playing the Race and Land Cards For Political Advantage
March 11, 2008
Reporter Regrets: An African Journal
The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe, By Peter Godwin [*Amazon*]
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe denied eight years ago that he was trying to drive whites out of the country through his support of the recent invasions of white-owned farms by war veterans and other poor, landless blacks. But he also said whites were free to leave the country and his government was even prepared to help show them the way out. Most analysts and diplomats then viewed the farm occupations as a political ploy to shore up the sagging popularity of Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party ahead of planned parliamentary elections. But ploy or not, as I reported in May 2000, white farmers were deeply concerned about the real threats they said they faced.
Paul Handly is a third-generation Zimbabwean with a 540-hectare farm outside Chegutu, a town about 100 kilometers southwest of Harare. His wife Peta is British and has lived in Zimbabwe for the past 10 years. They say they have always intended to make Zimbabwe their home for life. Now, concerned about the safety of their three young children, she says she is no longer so sure.
“Personally, I'm close to wanting to leave because I can't put my children into an environment which is threatening.”
There have been threats to the safety of the Handlys. They were so concerned that Mrs. Handly and the children left the farm for several weeks, eventually joined by Paul Handly.
Speaking in Harare at a tobacco auction, he says they are now preparing to return home. But he too says he is unsure about their future.
“I have a lot to lose by leaving this country. I have my whole life here and my history is here. It will be a very sad day if it comes to that but that decision we will have to make at some stage in the future. If we have political change and we can turn things around in this country and start living in a democracy and white and black can start living side by side, working together, and these racial issues are not used to divide us, then I think we have a great future here. But a lot depends on what happens in this country in the next few months.”
But he says as painful as it will be, he will leave Zimbabwe if he feels they have to.
“I'm not prepared to risk my life or the life of my wife and my children to stay in a country that I love. I would prefer to stay in a country that I hate in order to have my wife and children beside me.”
Mr. Handly says the threats to white farmers have been very real. He recounts his own experiences.
“We've been threatened since the middle of February. Things got a little serious about 10 days ago. We were actually out of the country on holiday and were on our way back when we got a message saying ‘don't return to the farm.’ Things were quiet but there was concern that our return to the area would precipitate a problem.”
He says the 140 black workers on his farm -- and their families who live with them -- are also extremely concerned about their futures. He says they specifically fear the loss of their jobs if his farm is seized by the government for redistribution to Zimbabwe's landless poor.
The Mugabe government argues that it is not fair for about 45-hundred white commercial farmers to control much of the country's most fertile farmlands. It is poised to seize one-half of the 12 million hectares now under white control -- without paying compensation for the land which it says was stolen by the country's original white settlers.
Farmers like Mr. Handly do not dispute the need for equitable land reform. But they argue it should be done in an open, organized and orderly fashion.
Critics blame the Mugabe government for mismanaging past land reform efforts, which they say were marred by corruption. Many previously white-owned farms ended up in the hands of senior government officials and others allied with the ruling ZANU PF party.
Opposition political activists as well as foreign diplomats maintain the latest land occupations and threats to white farmers are not about land reform at all. Instead they accuse Mr. Mugabe of using the land and race issues as a way to win votes at a time when he faces his most serious opposition political challenge in the 20 years he has ruled Zimbabwe.
» » » » [Reporter Regrets: An African Journal] [Reporter Regrets: Zim 2000: Fighting for the Rural Vote] [Reporter Regrets: The Farm Invasions --- Helping Poor Zimbabweans Or Enriching Mugabe’s Cronies?] [Reporter Regrets: I Interview Hunzvi And See Why His Nickname is Hitler]
I spent years of terror as wife of squatters' leader
By Chris Leski in Warsaw
16 June 2000
THE man who has led Zimbabwe's campaign of violence against white farmers, Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, who has always denied claims of racism, brutally terrorised his white ex- wife. Hunzvi's former wife detailed his vain and sometimes brutal behaviour in a book entitled White Slave, written after she fled Zimbabwe to her native Poland. The leader of the Zimbabwean "war veterans", who have organised the farm invasions and killed white farmers and black farm workers, argues that, since he had a white wife, he "cannot be a racist".
But Magda Tunzvi, the pseudonym used by Mrs Hunzvi in the book, was so terrorised by him that she fled Zimbabwe in 1992 after enduring years of beatings and torture at the hands of a husband whom she characterises as an unfaithful, vain sadist.
Magda met Hunzvi in the Seventies in Warsaw, where he was representing ZIPRA, the guerrilla army led by Joshua Nkomo that was fighting to topple the white Rhodesian regime. In her book, published in Poland in 1994, Magda described him as "a freedom fighter" but added that he "had never held a gun". The couple married in the late Seventies while Hunzvi was studying medicine at Warsaw University.
Magda wrote: "He would often boast that he had a white wife." Soon he became jealous and violent. When Magda danced with another man at a party on the anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence her husband marshalled thugs armed with knuckledusters to attack her partner.
Her ordeal worsened when Hunzvi took her to Zimbabwe in 1991. She wrote: "I could not go out alone. He had a special whip and would often threaten me ". Hunzvi began having affairs and a woman telephoned Magda claiming to be his real wife. By this time, the couple had two sons and she tried to win him back by preparing a special meal. "Apparently this made him angry, for his face changed and his nostrils trembled like those of a horse. 'I am the master here,' he said. 'You can feed the pigs with this food.' Suddenly he hit me in the face, so hard that I lost balance and grasped a chair. Then he said, 'This was my thank you for the supper'. He left, slamming the door."
Hunzvi stopped giving his wife money and she was reduced to begging from his father to buy milk for the children. This provoked a frenzy of violence from Hunzvi. "He stormed through the house, looking for something. Eventually he asked, 'Where is the whip?' Then he took his belt and shouted, 'On your knees'. I tried to escape but he caught me and shouted, 'Undress, kneel'. "I managed to grasp his hand and bite it. He shouted and I felt a horrible pain and saw stars in my eyes. He hit my buttock with the belt buckle. I fell on the floor. He hit again. The telephone rang. He hit me again. The telephone kept ringing. He kicked me and then I managed to escape while he answered the phone."
Hunzvi's violent tantrums became more frequent and he took to beating Magda at night, although the neighbours heard her screams. He even attacked her in front of one of his cousins. "He told him not to interfere and to look after the boys, who were both crying... I was slapped on the lip, then hit in the face. "I fell to the floor and my husband began kicking me with his shiny shoes. When he saw my nose bleeding, he brought a towel and tightened it around my neck. He wanted to strangle me. This torture lasted for several hours."
Soon afterwards she took the children and fled with the help of a Polish diplomat.
» » » » [Telegraph.UK, via Zimbabwe Situation & Zim Crisis & Die Burger] [PBS Newshour: Jim Lehrer: 00-06-01: Crisis in Zimbabwe] [BBC: Profile: Hitler Hunzvi] [BBC: Zimbabweans mourn 'national hero'] [News Zimbabwe Situation: 03-12-14: Whites Brace for New Attack from Mugabe]