Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Zimbabwe demolition images shown

Amnesty International has released images showing the destruction caused in Zimbabwe by the government's policy of forceful house demolitions in 2005.

The satellite images show the destruction of one settlement near Harare, which had contained some 850 structures before last May.

The human rights group says the photos are irrefutable evidence how entire communities were obliterated.

The UN says some 700,000 people were directly affected by the demolitions.

These images... are a graphic indictment of the Zimbabwean government's policies
Kolawole Olaniyan
Amnesty International

The Zimbabwean government launched Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order), saying that informal settlements around the capital were not desirable and their residents should return to the rural areas.

'Horrifying transition'

Amnesty commissioned the satellite images to demonstrate the complete destruction of one particular area, Porta Farm, a large informal settlement some 20km (12 miles) west of the capital, Harare.

It also showed detailed video footage showing the forced evictions and destruction in June.

Porta Farm was established 16 years ago and contained about 850 structures, including schools, a children's centre and a mosque.

Amnesty says that last June, in the middle of winter, armed police arrived with bulldozers.

Porta Farm - that had been home to up to 20,000 people - was destroyed and the residents evicted.

Amnesty says that the images - taken last month - show the horrifying transition of an area from a vibrant community to rubble and shrubs in the space of less than a year.

"These satellite images are irrefutable evidence... that the Zimbabwean government has obliterated entire communities, completely erased them from the map, as if they never existed," Amnesty's Africa Programme director Kolawole Olaniyan said.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/05/31 03:13:04 GMT


Original Source

Monday, May 29, 2006

'Big Brother' Bills on agenda

Published in: Legalbrief Africa
Date: Mon 29 May 2006
Category: African Focus
Issue No: 182

South Africa and Zimbabwe are both coming under fire over proposed legislation that will allow the government to monitor private e-mail and telephone communications, writes E-Brief News.

The laws are aimed at fighting crime, say both governments. South Africa's biggest cellphone operator, Vodacom, has been vociferous in its criticism of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Bill which requires cellphone operators to monitor and intercept communications. It warns the Bill is impractical and places an onerous and expensive burden on the industry and clients. The Bill requires cellphone operators Vodacom, MTN and Cell C to put in place systems for the interception of cellphone communications, and to keep detailed information of all their clients, as well as phones and SIM cards, says a report on The Citizen site. Companies could face fines of R100 000 a day for non-compliance. But Vodacom CE Alan Knott-Craig said although Vodacom was willing to bear this cost if the law required it, it was practically impossible to obtain the names, addresses and ID numbers of all prepaid customers and to verify this information. There were about 20 million South Africans using pre-paid cellphones, most of whom worked in the informal sector and lived in far-flung rural areas, said Knott-Craig.
Full report on The Citizen site
The Bill

The outcome might be that 20 million prepaid users are barred from networks, noted Knott-Craig in a Business Day report. "Most of those don't have the luxury of living in homes with addresses that made any sense, or they're employed in the informal sector," he is quoted as saying. "Getting that information is a task that would be difficult for a government, never mind a company," he said.
Full Business Day report

The Bill will impose fines of R100 000 for each day cellphone service providers fail to obtain and keep information on their clients, according to State law adviser Ina Botha. In turn, says a report on the News24 site, customers who sold or gave away their cellphones or SIM cards could be imprisoned for up to 12 months for failing to obtain and relay the recipient's personal information to a service provider. The information obtained in this fashion would be stored on a central electronic database, making it easier for law enforcement agencies to trace all previous owners of a phone or SIM card.
Full report on News24 site

Zimbabwe has also unveiled its proposed law to give it the authority to monitor phone calls and mail – including e-mail – to protect national security and fight crime. Rights groups said the Bill, proposed in a Government Gazette on Saturday, was part of a crackdown to stifle criticism over a severe economic crisis many blame on the policies of President Robert Mugabe. The Interception of Communications Bill would give the Communications Minister authority to monitor the phone calls and mail of anyone suspected of threatening national security or involvement in criminal activities in the country, says a report on the News24 site. The government said the proposed Bill is similar to laws in other countries and will be put in place to fight international crime and terrorism.
Full report on the News24 site

*Original source

Sunday, May 28, 2006

SA running out of options over Zimbabwe crisis

Carole Landry | Johannesburg, South Africa
28 May 2006 08:04

South Africa is running out of ideas on how to pull Zimbabwe out of its crisis, turning to the United Nations to take the lead after a series of failures in tackling its biggest foreign policy headache.

President Thabo Mbeki is now pinning his hopes on outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to resolve the Zimbabwean imbroglio, although Harare has rejected UN intervention.

"This reflects the growing frustration of President Mbeki in trying to address the crisis in Zimbabwe," said analyst Chris Maroleng of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

"It is a very opportune time for President Mbeki to try to hand over the reins to somebody else, given that there has been little progress with South African-led initiatives."

Mbeki seized upon his visit last week to London to disclose in a Financial Times interview that Annan would be visiting Harare in July or August to inject new impetus into efforts to help Zimbabwe.

"We all await the outcome of the intervention of the secretary general of the UN with regard to Zimbabwe," Mbeki said.

But President Robert Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba flatly declared that "Zimbabwe is not a UN issue" and that an invitation to Annan to visit following last year's slum demolitions campaign was no longer valid.

A similar attempt last year by the African Union to enlist former Mozambican leader Joaquim Chissano as an outside mediator was also rejected out-of-hand by Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain 26 years ago.

South African attempts to mediate talks between Mugabe and the opposition have broken down, partly due to squabbling within the Movement for Democratic Change party which split into two factions earlier this year.

Mbeki's government late last year offered a $500-million loan to Zimbabwe on condition that Mugabe take steps to ensure economic recovery and political stability.

Harare refused to take the money and Mugabe instead announced plans to take a majority ownership stake in mines, including platinum ones partly owned by South African giant Implats, the world's second-largest producer.

Overall, South Africa has watched helplessly as Zimbabwe has descended into political and economic disarray.

Three elections since 2000 have been deemed undemocratic by Western governments which have slapped a travel ban on Mugabe and his inner circle and branded the regime as a pariah.

A seven-year economic recession has sent living standards in a freefall, with about 70% of Zimbabweans unemployed as inflation crossed the 1 000% threshold earlier this month.

About two million Zimbabweans, according to unofficial estimates, have crossed the border into South Africa in search of means to survive.

South Africa's failure to halt Zimbabwe's descent into hardship should serve as a message to Zimbabweans that they must seek their own home-grown solutions to the country's problems, said Sehlare Makgetlaneng, of the Africa Institute of South Africa.

"The resolution of Zimbabwe's problems is the task of the people of Zimbabwe. The opposition and civil society should not expect much from outside players," said Makgetlaneng.

The opposition has called for mass protests in June or July, blaming Mugabe for the country's economic meltdown that has resulted in severe shortages of basic goods such as maize, sugar and fuel.

Pretoria-based analysts see mounting pressure within the ruling Zanu-PF party for a leadership change that would pave the way for Zimbabwe to break out of isolation.

"There is a need for Mugabe to be replaced. There is no doubt about this," said Makgetlaneng.

"There is no quick fix," said Maroleng about prospects for a solution.

"This is going to be a long drawn-out process that will go into the next term of the South African presidency." - Sapa-AFP

Original source

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sky news on Farm murders

You might have noticed a bit of a hiatus in our blogging activities. That's because we have been monitoring recent developments and are awaiting further developments before we deliver our comments on those. Meanwhile, a bit of good news for our regular readers:

Sky news recently reported on the Farm Murders ("Plaasmoorde") in South Africa. It seems that the world media are at long last opening their eyes to what is already "old news" to readers of this blog. A video-clip can be found here.