Ben Freeth’s Column

Executive Director

In Ben Freeth’s column, after attending a thought-provoking speech day, he reports on the remarkable Falcon College experience, with its focus on strong morals and integrity, which has shaped so many exceptional leaders over the years. “I have often wondered if there is such a thing as a soul in a place, or a name, or an institution. Having had our boys studying at Falcon College, out among the rocky Matabeleland hills and thorn trees in Zimbabwe over the last 8 years, I have become convinced that such a thing is very real. The soul of Falcon is something incredibly motivating and powerful.” READ MORE

THE SADC TRIBUNAL CAMPBELL CASE

Mike Campbell (Pvt) Ltd et al. v. Republic of Zimbabwe is a landmark test case decided by the SADC Tribunal. It held that the government violated the SADC treaty by denying court access and engaging in racial discrimination in the confiscation of land.

SADC

TRIBUNAL

TIMELINE 

The SADC Tribunal was set up as a regional court to hear disputes between SADC member states and between individuals and states. The Tribunal was a court of last resort for those who had been denied access to justice in their own countries.

COURT CASE: 

COMPENSATION CLAIM 

The Mike Campbell Foundation has initiated a court case which involves a group of dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers taking former South African President Zuma and the SA government to court for participating in the closure of the SADC Tribunal regional court.

COURT CASES JUSTICE & LEGAL ACCOUNTABILITY

The MCF took the courageous decision to use the law to focus on justice and legal accountability and to establish a workable legal foundation for property rights in Zimbabwe in the future. This has included a number of ground-breaking court cases

CONSERVATION  AGRICULTURE TRAINING

We provide practical conservation agriculture training to an average of 144 destitute farm workers and others in their communities each year, teaching them how to feed their families on just 1/16th of a hectare using our free open-pollinated seed.

CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE FIELD DAY

The objective of our latest, well-attended conservation agriculture field day was to showcase our conservation agriculture activities and achievements – despite the ongoing drought conditions - in Harare and the Chegutu district of Zimbabwe. 

OPEN-POLLINATED SEED PROJECT

Our open-pollinated seed project provides free high quality seed that can be replanted each year to destitute farm workers and other needy people in Zimbabwe. In 2017, we distributed more than 4,500 seed packs followed by 8,000 in 2018.

SCHOOL FEES PROJECT

In 2018, we paid school fees for 262 children of destitute farm workers and pastors, as well as tertiary fees for two students. For the first two terms of 2019, we paid school fees for 256 children and two tertiary students.

FOOD CRISIS SOLUTION

Faced with yet another food crisis and economic collapse due to the demise of agriculture, the solution is simple – and this is what the MCF is working towards: Title deeds must be allocated for all agricultural land and title to the commercial farmland must be restored.

Profits from the sale of my book

Outskirts of His Glory

will go towards The MCF’s Zimbabwe School Fees project

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Two years for Zimdollar to stablise

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube says it will take at least two years for the Zim dollar – which was demonitised in 2009 before being re-introduced in June – to operate as a stable currency. The local unit has been losing value against the US dollar and other currencies. The US dollar traded at 1:15 against the local currency on the interbank market during the first week of Nov. The solid economic fundamentals required to shore up the Zimdollar include: low and stable inflation, high levels of productive capacity, increased exports, foreign currency reserves, political and economic stability and a GDP growth rate of at least 7%.

Human rights crisis raised at African Commission

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) delivered an oral statement on Zimbabwe to the Africa Commission on Human and People’s Rights at its 65th Ordinary Session. The SALC noted that during the period January to September 2019, authorities have continued to suppress freedom of association and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to demonstrate and petition. They have also used lethal and excessive force against protesters to quell demonstrations. Victims of abduction have been tortured by their abductors – unknown armed men wearing masks. A vendor who was seriously beaten in police custody died

SA’s NHI bill worries the Diaspora

The latest version of South Africa’s controversial National Health Insurance Bill proposes limited access to healthcare services for population groups such as asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, i.e. only emergency medical care and services for notifiable medical conditions. This is viewed by the Zimbabwean Diaspora as totally unacceptable, especially as the SA government has continued to support both the Mugabe and Mnangagwa regimes, despite their appalling human rights track record and the economic mismanagement that have caused the large-scale migration.

US-Zim rift widens

Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo’s threat to expel United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols following a row over sanctions has put the country’s efforts to re-engage Washington in jeopardy, analysts have warned. Moyo last week accused Nichols of behaving like a member of the opposition and disrespecting President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government after the US envoy said corruption, lack of rule of law and poor governance were behind Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, not sanctions. The fallout came after Mnangagwa on October 25 led an anti-sanctions march in Harare. 

It’s not sanctions, it’s corruption says US ambassador

What is holding Zimbabwe back? “ It’s not sanctions,” says US Ambassador Brian Nichols.  “There are only 141 Zimbabwean people and companies on the U.S. sanctions’ list …  just 141, in a country of 16 million.  They are on the list for good reason.  These are people who have engaged in corruption, committed human rights abuses, and undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic process.  Blaming sanctions is a convenient scapegoat to distract the public from the real reasons behind Zimbabwe’s economic challenges – corruption, economic mismanagement, and failure to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.”

Zim govt raids Chinese funds debacle

Investor confidence in Zimbabwe is at a all-time after the government diverted US$10 million from an escrow account for the Robert Mugabe International Airport expansion project, which saw Chinese financial institutions indefinitely suspending funding for three big infrastructural projects totaling US$1,324 billion. The fact that funds belonging to China – considered a strategic partner and all-weather friend – can be raided, sends shockwaves to would-be investors from the Asian country and across the world. This is a serious indictment on the government’s commitment to attracting foreign investment. Read More

Inspiration of Mr Mandela

Zelda la Grange, Nelson Mandela’s long-term personal assistant, wrote this remarkable letter to the late president on the eve of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, South Africa vs England. Zimbabweans can draw strength from it: “I greet your ancestors and acknowledge them. We need all the strength…. Summer is here and we are broke…. Billions of rand are being mismanaged …25 years later…. We are struggling to keep the flame of hope burning but you taught us that even in the most dire of situations, there is always a glimpse of hope… your life reminds us that a turnaround always seems impossible until it is done…”

Hyperinflation makes food unaffordable

Hyperinflation is changing prices so quickly in Zimbabwe that what you see displayed on a supermarket shelf might change by the time you reach the checkout. "It is a nightmare," said one shopper, "I can't plan."  He ended up buying chicken skin for his family's supper. "I cannot afford the actual chicken," he said. It is the closest his family gets to eating meat. Zimbabwe now has the world's second highest inflation after Venezuela, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures.

SADC and targeted sanctions on Zim

By supporting Zimbabwe's oppressive government and its calls for targeted sanctions to be dropped, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) risks setting a very low bar for democracy in southern Africa, writes South African commentator Tafi Mhaka. He notes that SADC has consistently failed to censure Harare for violently stifling dissent and ignoring Zimbabweans' core constitutional rights. He also points out that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has proved to be a far more brutal leader even than the late President Robert Mugabe.

Zim Peace Project’s Sept 2019 report

The death of former President Mugabe, the abduction of Dr Peter Magombeyi, doctors’ and students’ strikes, turning away of children from school, food aid deprivation, the sharp decline of the Zimbabwe dollar are some of the key issues in the Zimbabwe Peace Project’s September Monthly Monitoring Report. Dr Magombeyi’s abduction by alleged state agents on 14 September brought to mind the poisonous socio-political environment that is proliferating in Zimbabwe. Magombeyi’s abduction came at a time when the country was still reeling from August’s widespread abductions and torture.

Zim not open for business

Three official documents published in recent weeks paint a different, but fundamentally depressing pictures of Zimbabwe’s economy, writes retired Professor Tony Hawkins. All pose more questions than answers, leaving readers to ponder the meaning as well as the motivations underlying these assessments. The second was the Treasury’s pre-budget strategy and the third was the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for the year which ranks Zimbabwe 127 out of 141 economies.  This effectively flies in the face of government’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.

Zim is facing economic Armageddon

For the past fourteen months, since election 2018, we’ve been paralyzed, helplessly witnessing the government converting our US dollars into useless Zim dollars, watching the loss of our savings, erosion of our incomes, soaring inflation and a new frenzy of looting and corruption.  Hunger is knocking on the door this October [which government blames entirely on the drought, but as] US Ambassador Nichols has pointed out:  “In the 1990s, there was a deep drought in the region and all Southern African nations were fed by Zimbabwe, but now this country requires food aid to feed half of its rural population.” 

MCF September 2019 Newsletter

I write from a troubled country after the death of our former President of 37 years.  I was numb when I heard the news of Mugabe's death early on the morning of 6 September: his death was irrelevant to where we now are as a country.  His mantle was already handed on in the jubilant and heady days of the coup in November 2017.  We celebrated then.  The release was tremendous.

Tragically, in the darkening days of September 2019, nearly 2 years on, there is no such feeling of release.  In fact I have yet to meet anyone living here under the dark oppressive atmosphere of his successor, who is either jubilant or in mourning.  

Mugabe avoids local hospitals, dies in Singapore

“Zimbabwe stopped talking about the State Funeral, the incessant arguments about where Mr Mugabe would be buried [and] the huge expense of his four month long stay in a Singapore hospital…. Instead our eyes turned to our own health sector where they should have been … had Mr Mugabe chosen to spend the last four months of his life in his own country … in a Zimbabwean hospital...” writes Cathy Buckle. Furthermore, in response to the doctors’ strike, Cathy reports that the President of the Zimbabwe Doctors’ Association, Dr Peter Magombeyi, has been abducted
 

Mugabe’s legacy is complex and contested

“Mugabe's legacy is complex and contested. He wasn't only the tyrant and the despot, nor only the freedom fighter and the educator. But he wanted power and all costs, and the legacy he leaves behind must be defeated,” writes Doug Coltart. “Retention of power was perhaps his greatest skill. For decades, he played the game and remained on top. But Zimbabweans learnt the hard way that he was simply part of a system. When he became a liability to that system he was dispensed with to protect the system. Today, Mugabe — the frail old man — is gone. But Mugabe — the system — remains entrenched.”

Zim again in freefall

If Robert Mugabe’s death earlier this month has achieved one thing, it has brought the plight of his desperate nation back to the fore, reports Jane Flanagan for The Times (UK). Zimbabwe’s economy is once more in freefall after the ruinous Mugabe era and the inability of his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to stem the turmoil. The reintroduced Zimbabwean dollar, hypothetically worth one US dollar a year ago, is today trading at just 6 per cent of that. Bread that cost Z$1 in January is now priced at Z$9. The banks are almost empty of cash.

The loner who became a dictator

To speak the name of Zimbabwe’s former President, Robert Mugabe, is to invoke highly polarised political debates characterised by a raft of tensions including, hope and despair, demonization and adulation, contempt and fealty, dissent and loyalty, sometimes interchangeable and overlapping, while at other moments forming more lasting binaries.  A hero of African liberation from colonial rule or a power-obsessed autocrat? Opinions of Robert Mugabe were split on Friday 6 September 2019 as the former President of Zimbabwe died in Singapore, writes Brian Raftopoulos, Director of Research and Advocacy at the Solidarity Peace Trust.

Mugabe campaigns: Electing to Rape

A legacy of former President Mugabe: Politically-motivated sexual violence against women was prevalent under Mugabe’s oppressive regime.  Used as a tool to silence and intimidate dissenting voices and repress political opposition, women were frequent victims of brutality at the hands of police and other security forces, subjected to torture, beatings, rape, disappearances, and displacement. During the 2008 elections, notably the brutal run-off election, women of all ages, targeted for their political affiliations, were abducted from their workplaces and homes, raped, tortured, and beaten in secret torture centres. It is estimated that from May to July, state-sanctioned groups raped over 2,000 women and girls.

Mugabe obituary: A tragedy in three acts

Almost as long as there has been an independent Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has presided over it. Thirty-seven years in charge. It wasn’t all bad. But it was mostly bad, and the history books that he loved to read will judge him harshly. He was, from the very beginning, an enigma: a jumble of contradictions that somehow fuelled rather than felled him. He was the Anglophile who hated Britain; the freedom fighter who denied basic rights to his people; the pan-African visionary turned archetypal African dictator; the teacher who refused to learn from his mistakes. He was charming, and he was cruel. He was loved, and then he was hated…. Robert Mugabe’s death is no tragedy; his life, ultimately, was.

Rampant corruption is hurting Zim

CORRUPTION is robbing Zimbabwe of its ability to sustain itself and its resources that will allow it to develop social safety nets strong enough to rid the country of the international food relief packages. This is the view of European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen. He said there is need for Zimbabwe to expend its energy in the fight against corruption because it has negatively impacted on the country. “Corruption has had a huge effect; you have people talking about hundreds of millions, even billions, in terms of the Auditor-General’s report. Basically, just a part of what is assumed to have been stolen could have covered the humanitarian needs... I think the effect of corruption has been devastating.”

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"What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Micah 6 v 8

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