Ben Freeth’s Column

Executive Director

Before the Covid-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe that began on Monday 30 March 2020, I had a worrying discussion with Pastor Patrick, a brave cleric and friend who has spoken out consistently against the human rights abuses under both former President Robert Mugabe and President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Pastor Patrick has been put in jail many times but refuses to be silenced. I asked him: “What is the main issue in your community right now?”

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.

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Horror of abducted women

The brutalizing and sexual assault of three women youth leaders in Zimbabwe by suspected security agents took place just north of South Africa’s border. Where are the protests that their lives matter, where is the condemnation from women’s leagues and civil society human rights activists in our own country? asks Shannon Ebrahim, the Independent Group Foreign Editor. We say we want an end to femicide, the gross abuse of human rights, and gender-based violence, but when this happens across our border, we are conspicuously silent. Our failure to speak up for these women has meant their nightmare continues….

Govt spends millions on vehicles for military chefs

ZIMBABWE’S cash-strapped government has splurged millions of United States dollars on top-of-the-range vehicles, which include Toyota Hilux and Land Cruisers, for senior military officials at a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is pleading for an economic bailout package from international financial institutions. Military sources this week revealed that lieutenant-colonels, colonels and brigadier-generals were among officers who benefitted from the vehicle acquisition at a time of growing disquiet within the rank and file of the army over the deteriorating economic environment.

Malawian court condemns Zim ConCourt Ruling on the 2018 Presidential Elections

A Malawian court has ruled that the approach that was taken by the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court in the 2018 Presidential election challenge case was not a good one. It notes that the Zimbabwe case of (Nelson) Chamisa v (Emmerson) Mnangagwa and 24 Others (supra) seems to suggest that as a general rule an election will not be annulled if a breach of the law did not affect the election result. “We have doubts that this would be a good approach, particularly where serious breach of the law is involved. What if the numbers themselves are as a result of an inaccurate counting, intimidation, fraud or corruption?”

Hungary contacts Interpol re Mnangagwa family money laundering

Authorities in Hungary have opened a money-laundering investigation after a company that was two weeks old received a huge payment of US$2 million from Zimbabwe’s government. A ZimLive investigation into the payments has led back to Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose government has been paying for Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) and test kits at inflated prices to companies linked to his family. The companies are Drax International, and Namibia-registered Jaji Investments. Documents from Interpol confirm that the transactions are being investigated as a possible “crime”.

How long can Mnangagwa cling to power?

This exceptional article examines the brutal two-and-a-half year rule of President Mnangagwa, noting that Zimbabweans are “economically and socially worse off under the ‘new’ rulers, routinely intimidated, beaten, tortured and killed, their vote still stolen. During President Mugabe’s 37-year rule, he “brooked no opposition, accepted no compromise [and] tolerated no criticism…. He presided over a corrupt system that had destroyed the economy …. But he did not work alone. He was the figurehead of a brutal system overseen by a small group of political and military elites” that included Mnangagwa, his chief implementer.

UNHR: Mnangagwa govt must stop abductions and torture

UN human rights experts have called on Zimbabwe to immediately end the pattern of disappearances and torture apparently aimed at suppressing protests and dissent. The urgent call comes after three young female opposition activists – member of parliament Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova – were stopped at a police checkpoint in Harare and subsequently abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted. The three women were going to participate in a peaceful protest organised on 13 May 2020 by the Alliance Youth Assembly of the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change.

Poverty Datum Line stats for April 2020

Zimbabwean economist John Robertson reports that ZimStat, the Zimbabwe government's Department of Statistics, has issued its April 2020 Poverty Datum Line survey, which shows that the cost of providing basic requirements for a family of five came to an average of Z$7 425,81 compared to Z$924,31 in April 2019. Prices of the range of goods and services measured were therefore eight times their level a year earlier. The cost of living in Bulawayo is slightly higher than in Harare, i.e. Z$7,583,36 for Bulawayo and Z$7,223,03 in Harare. Prices increased 77%, but for Matabeleland North, the increases were almost 100%.

Strawberry moon over Lake Kariba by Stuart Young

This beautiful photo of the Strawberry full moon on Friday 5 June, 2020, was captured on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe by Stuart Young. June’s full Moon—typically the last full moon of spring or the first of summer in the northern hemisphere, is traditionally called the Strawberry Moon. The name originated with Algonquin tribes in eastern North America who knew it as a signal to gather the ripening fruit of wild strawberries. Alternative European names for this moon include the Honey Moon and the Mead Moon. It has also been called the Rose Moon, given that many roses come to life during this part of the year.

SADC Lawyers Association statement on arrest and detention of Advocate Thabani Mpofu

The Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association has issued a statement condemning the arrest and detention of Zimbabwean Advocate Thabani Mpofu, who is a legal representative for the opposition MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa. SADC-LA  also condemned “the acute escalation of the harassment and intimidation of lawyers in the SADC region….There remains a sustained trajectory of attacks on the independence of the legal profession in the region,” the Association said. Mpofu is being represented by award-winning lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa. Attacks on the judiciary are common in Zimbabwe.

Drax International Covid-19 procurement scam

The controversy in Zimbabwe surrounding the recent awarding of a US$1 million Covid-19 procurement contract for coronavirus equipment and test kits without going to tender to Drax International, whose beneficial owner allegedly has close ties with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son Collins, is indicative of rampant corruption which is pervasive in government circles being fuelled by the political elite, reports the Zimbabwe Independent. Drax, whose beneficial owner is Delish Nguwaya, has no proven track record in the procurement of essential medical goods. Collins Mnangagwa has denied any links with Drax.

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono threatened by ZANU PF

Award-winning Zimbabwean  investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono said on 4 June 2020 that he fears for his life after being singled out during a press briefing for criticism by ZANU PF’s Patrick Chinamasa for exposing ruling party corruption. Chin’ono graduated from City University, London, and worked with the BBC World Service as a freelance radio producer. He has won numerous awards in print, broadcast journalism and documentary film-making. He was the ITV News Africa Field Producer and The New York Times ZIMBABWE foreign correspondent and is a Hopewell is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Lockdown restrictions threaten informal sector

The USAID’s food security arm, FEWS NET, says government’s extending of lockdown restrictions indefinitely was further threatening informal sector incomes at a time many households depend on this source. On May 16, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced an indefinite extension of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, albeit, with a partial opening of the economy. However, the informal sector remains banned when an estimated 70% of the economy relies on this sector. In 2018, the IMF said that Zimbabwe had the second largest informal economy as a percentage of its total economy in the world, after Bolivia.

“It’s time to reset”

Deliberating further on the impact of Covid-19, Zimbabwean economist Eddie Cross writes: “Did you ever think that it would be a tiny, invisible virus that would bring the world to its knees? Not a third World War, not a nuclear missile strike, not a global famine or a meteor strike that knocked our planet off its axis. All that it did was to threaten our health, always a fragile part of our lives, in so doing it acted as an accelerator – accelerating the impact of bad management, poor leadership and global distortions due to our greed and careless policies. We have been living beyond our means for decades…. It is time to reset….”

Zim’s economic prospects and challenges

“Zimbabwe’s economy was already in difficulties before the economy of the entire globe was suddenly brought to its knees by the threatened casualty rate of Covid-19,” writes veteran economist John Robertson. “At the core of this problem is the dependence on imports of food and many of the consumer goods that the country used to produce. The amount … spent on importing hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of food every year for the past 23 years would have been more than enough to settle all outstanding debts and would have positioned the country well for assistance during this pandemic crisis…”

Zim torturers must be prosecuted

Torture in Zimbabwe continues to be used to instill fear by the security forces. Following the brutal torture during May of a young MP and two activists, all women, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre  (SALC) has again raised the issue of SA’s groundbreaking 2014 Constitutional Court decision in National Police Commissioner of the South African Police Service v the SALC (The Torture Docket case) where the court held that the South African authorities — the South African Police Service (SAPS) and National Prosecution Authority (NPA) — have a duty to investigate and prosecute international crimes allegedly committed in Zimbabwe.

State seeks to recover US$32m from former police boss Chihuri

President Mnangagwa’s government has instituted processes to recover over US$32 million and several properties from former Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri. The former top cop, who is now believed to be in self-exile in Malawi, is reported to have created a “criminal syndicated mafia” that siphoned funds for his personal, family and cronies’ benefit. Chihuri was in charge of the police force for 25 years before he was removed from the post soon after the November 2017 military-backed coup. Chihuri was accused as being a member of the Mujuru faction when the battle to succeed Mugabe intensified.

Beatrice Mtetwa’s letter to ED re torture of women

Zimbabwe’s award-winning human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, has written to President Mnangagwa about the shocking abduction, torture and sexual abuse of three young women opposition party members. Mtetwa writes: “I … address you, your Excellency, not only as someone who lives in Zimbabwe, but as a woman, a mother to Zimbabwean children who include a daughter who could easily have been any one of the three young women so despicably abused by agents of your appointees…. The nation awaits your signal on how we should respond to one of the most despicable acts of the new dispensation….”

Lessons for Zim: SA security forces lose brutal beatings case

In a major victory for human rights in South Africa, the family of the late Collins Khosa has won a court application for orders against the South African security forces and their bosses for the brutal beating of  Mr Khosa that resulted in his death during the Covid-19 lockdown. The assaults on Mr Khosa and his family followed the discovery, by the security forces, of a half-drunk beer next to a chair in Mr Khosa’s yard and a single beer in his fridge. In Zimbabwe, there has also been extensive brutality by the security forces during the lockdown. The report notes that the Khosa family will no doubt be awarded significant damages.

Zim-Russia platinum mining joint venture

The Great Dyke Investment (GDI) platinum project is poised to become the second biggest platinum venture in Zimbabwe. The State-owned Sunday Mail newspaper reports that close to US$100 million has been injected so far into the Zimbabwe-Russia joint venture. The US$300 million funding for the GDI was unlocked by President Mnangagwa after meeting Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow in 2019. Zimbabwe has the world’s second largest platinum reserves after South Africa, with Russia coming in a close third. 

Brutal attack on young female MDC MP

The abduction, torture and sexual assault of Zimbabwe’s youngest MP and two opposition party workers has raised fears of a new wave of terror by security thugs loyal to the ruling party. The ordeal inflicted on Joanah Mamombe, 27, and two female youth leaders is being cited by critics of President Mnangagwa as further evidence that his administration is more brazen and savage than Robert Mugabe’s. The women said that they were initially taken to Harare central police station from where they were driven for an hour, with bags on their heads, to a forest where they were thrown into a pit, terrorized and tortured.

Abduction and horrendous abuse

Zimbabwe’s youngest opposition MP and two party workers were found dumped, battered and “with horrendous tales of torture and abuse” in Zimbabwe two days after being arrested for protesting over food shortages. The ordeal of the trio – apparently at the hands of the state’s thuggish security agents - drew international condemnation but little local surprise. Joana Mamombe, 27, and two youth leaders were found “traumatised” and partially clothed after being sexually assaulted, Luke Lamborinyoka, a spokesman for their Movement for Democratic Change Allicance, said.

War vet claims Kasukuwere’s stolen farm

In an ironic farm twist, Mazowe district war veterans chairman Ephanos Mudzimunyi has defied a High Court order barring him from interfering with operations at Cornucopia farm which former Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere grabbed from Interfresh in March 2006. Despite the court order, Mudzimunyi has continued harvesting oranges at Lot 2, the best portion of the farm adjacent to the Mazowe River, which he claims he was allocated by Agriculture and Lands minister Perrance Shiri late last year. Kasukuwere said the defiance of a court order showed lack of respect for the rule of law.

Zim ranked 10th on Fragile States Index

Zimbabwe has been ranked 10th on the Fragile States Index (FSI) 2020 Rankings. The other top 10 countries include Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, DRC, the Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan and Afghanistan.  The report notes that: “Zimbabwe is facing its worst humanitarian emergency in more than a decade. Food shortages are affecting 7.7 million people – more than half the population – as a result of successive poor harvests and hyperinflation. Cereal production last year was less than half the national requirement, and the 2020 harvest is expected to be even worse.

Abduction and assault of MDC officials

Cathy Buckle writes from Zimbabwe that the promised financial assistance of Z$200 – subsequently theoretically increased to Z$300 for vulnerable families affected by the Coronavirus lockdown, pledged by government on March 30 2020, has still not materialised. Consequently, a small protest was held in Harare by three MDC opposition party officials, all women. Afterwards, they were allegedly abducted and were only found on 15 May. Their heads had been covered with hoods, then they had been driven in a car into the bush, dumped in a pit and brutally assaulted. They are currently receiving medical attention.

Mnangagwa, Russia and fighter jets

Russia’s murky business relationships with Mnangagwa et al are in the news again. In January 2020, Zimbabwe replaced its single-engine J-7 fighter jets procured from China with Russian-made $500 million MiG-29 and MiG-35 aircraft. In return, Zimbabwe mortgaged part of its vast mineral wealth to Moscow, including the Darwendale platinum reserve. The arms deal between the countries is part of their already existing $3 billion joint platinum project in collaboration with Rostec from 2014. The deal is one of many agreements signed during a trip to Zimbabwe by Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, on March 8, 2018.

EU unveils US$75m package for Covid-19

THE European Union (EU) has unveiled a US$75 million package to fight Covid-19 in Zimbabwe. Of this, US$40 million was released through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s Health Development Fund, while US$35 million was pledged by EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen. Ambassador Olkkonen said the EU is supporting 25 000 local farmers in all the country’s 10 provinces in partnership with the Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP) to boost productivity.

US announces additional US230m HIV package

THE United States government has approved financial aid of $230 million to support Zimbabwe’s fight against HIV, US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian A. Nichols has announced. He said the fund would achieve HIV epidemic control through a comprehensive package of prevention, treatment, and support services. Currently 1.1 million Zimbabweans are on anti-retroviral therapy. The new financial package represents a significant increase from the 2019 budget of US$163 million. Since 1980, the US has provided more than US$1 billion in health assistance to strengthen Zimbabwe’s health system.

Supreme court strips Nelson Chamisa of MDC leadership

The ISS writes that Zimbabwe’s recent Supreme Court ruling that effectively stripped opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of his claim over the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is bringing the party closer to the brink of implosion. The decision has grave implications for the opposition and for potential political dialogue. In a country where national institutions – including the judiciary – are perceived to be conflated with ruling party interests, many in the opposition’s rank and file see Zanu-PF as being behind this ruling, which pulls the rug out from beneath Chamisa’s feet and supports Thokozani Khupe. 

The crocodile does not give free lifts

Once again there is turmoil in Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  In March 2018, the party split and the MDC, then under Nelson Chamisa, merged with a grouping of opposition factions to form the MDC-Alliance while Tokozani Khupe led a smaller MDC faction and managed to retain the MDC-T label. There are allegations that Khupe is being sponsored by Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU PF party to destabilise the opposition. Alex Magaisa, a former advisor to the late Morgan Tsvangirai, warns that any party which makes ZANU PF comfortable is unlikely to be good for ordinary Zimbabweans.

Zim needs US&84.9m for Covid-19 response

The UN and partners launched an updated Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) in New York on 7 May 2020 requesting US$6.7 billion to protect millions of lives and stem the spread of coronavirus in fragile countries. The revised GHRP includes nine additional vulnerable countries: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe, and programmes to respond to the growth in food insecurity. In the GHRP, the United Nations and humanitarian partners in Zimbabwe have appealed for US$84.9m to respond to both the immediate public health crisis and Covid-19.

Chinese help in Covid-19 fight raises suspicions

China is publicly handing out money and equipment to help fight the spread of coronavirus in Zimbabwe. But Beijing's generosity has made some very wary. China’s aid and investment strategy is usually tied to infrastructure development. The partnership announced this week between the China Gezhouba Group and a Zimbabwean company to build a new coal-fired power station worth three billion US dollars fits much better into the business mould. Critics call the new trend, replicated in several African countries, of shipping medical supplies and offering financial support for primary health care China's “coronavirus diplomacy”.