Finger-pointing in Zimbabwe

SUN JOURNAL

Africa: The Zimbabwean government blames the nation's troubles on the `bully' Britain, its `apartheid counterparts' in South Africa and `racists' in the United States.

January 16, 2002

His critics accuse President Robert G. Mugabe, who has run Zimbabwe since the African nation became independent from Britain 21 years ago, of destroying democracy and ruining the country.

Mugabe blames Zimbabwe's troubles on others, including the former colonial power, Britain, and the news media. He says outsiders, especially whites, dislike a legitimate campaign of land reform that is distributing farms to deserving, and landless, blacks.

The country has its troubles:

Militants, sanctioned by the government, have been steadily driving whites off their farms, allowing squatters to move in. During a wave of assaults last week, 23 farms were looted and the landowners were forced to flee. This week, another white farmer was beaten and seriously injured, according to his neighbors.

Tensions are rising as the presidential election, scheduled for March, draws near. The military has decided it will accept only the 77-year-old Mugabe as president, no matter how the vote turns out.

Over the weekend, an opposition party office was burned down, and several party activists were critically injured when they were beaten by ruling party militants, opposition officials say.

Two bills pushed through parliament last week give the police sweeping powers of arrest and seizure and limit independent monitoring of the election.

Today, the parliament is expected to vote on a Mugabe-backed bill that would control all news media within the country and bar foreign reporters from Zimbabwe. The bill would establish a commission to accredit journalists and give it the power to fine, suspend or jail them if their coverage was deemed harmful to the country.

The commission would have similar authority to punish media companies, whose equipment could be seized by the state if they violated commission rules.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in the United States, calls the bill a "blatant effort to make all Zimbabwean media subservient" to the Mugabe government. Human rights groups say Mugabe is sanctioning violent land seizures to win votes.

Here is how Zimbabwe explains events, through the government Web site (www.zim.com) and the official newspaper, The Herald, which is published in Harare:

Government statement

What is Britain's Problem?

The land reform program in Zimbabwe has seen the resettlement of more than 200,000 new peasant farmers coupled with the emergence of some 50,000 new indigenous commercial farmers. Why has bully Britain intensified its use of the apartheid media, including illegal short wave broadcasts from London to Zimbabwe via the BBC?

Late last year the British High Commissioner in Harare claimed that the majority of British legislators in the House of Commons were getting impatient with what the legislators alleged was the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe and the alleged inaction of the British government. Asked to explain how the majority of legislators in the House of Commons had reached such a conclusion about Zimbabwe when most of them have never been to Zimbabwe and hardly know what is happening there, the High Commissioner gleefully responded by saying that the legislators know what is happening in Zimbabwe because they read about it every day in the British press!

This response was revealing as it explained quite clearly why the British press and its apartheid counterparts in South Africa has been so obsessed with demonizing Zimbabwe and its leadership.

It is now self-evident to anyone who cares to examine the real reasons behind the gross misrepresentations, distortions, exaggerations and insults in the British and South African media. The operative strategy is to influence policymakers, legislators, businesspeople and investors against Zimbabwe.

Indeed, the strategy is to use total fabrications and personal insults against President Mugabe, government ministers and officials, members and leaders of the ruling ZANU PF to mobilize popular opinion, particularly in Britain and South Africa, to demonize Zimbabwe.

The British and apartheid press has been doing this to agitate for a spineless government of malleable sellouts who are ready to take the [British] pound or [South African] rand to enable the British and former Rhodesians, many who reside in South Africa, to influence and direct Zimbabwe's political economy.

The reason? To try and derail and reverse Zimbabwe's land reform policy program.

The program has seen the resettlement of more than 200,000 new peasant farmers coupled with the emergence of some 50,000 new indigenous commercial farmers. These new farmers are ready to replace the 4,500 white commercial farmers, most of them with British origins and Rhodesian links, who previously unjustly controlled more than 70% of the best farmland - that was illegally acquired - when they accounted for less than one percent of the population.

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