|18 March 2002
Mugabe sworn in among repression against MDC supporters
After being sworn in yesterday as president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe
boasted that the Zimbabwean people had triumphed over British neo-colonialism
and he declared: "The land reform programme must proceed with greater speed and
strength... We have dealt a stunning blow to imperialism," he added, saying
that by exercising their sovereign right to determine their destiny, the
Zimbabwean people had said "loudly to those in Europe, no, no, never, never
again shall Zimbabwe be a colony".
The inauguration, which in the past had been held at Harare's national
stadium, proved to be a low-key affair at State House, with hundreds of chairs
empty as fighter aircraft flew by and a 21-gun salute boomed out. Britain and
its European partners, along with USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, who
were among the many critics to denounce the election as unacceptably flawed,
declined invitations to be present at the swearing-in ceremony. Though the
presidents of several African countries - Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi
and the Democratic Republic of Congo - attended, President Olesugun Obasanjo of
Nigeria and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa stayed away.
They will be in Harare today to discuss with Mr Mugabe the scathing
report on the election by the Commonwealth observer mission. The pair are
members of a "troika" appointed at the Commonwealth summit earlier this month,
along with John Howard, the Australian prime minister, who will meet in London
tomorrow to decide whether the 54-member body should sanction Zimbabwe or expel
it from the Commonwealth.
Mr Mbeki will make a last-ditch attempt to persuade Mr Mugabe to accept
a government of national unity in Zimbabwe or "step down with dignity". He will
also tell the Zimbabwean leader that unless he moves swiftly to reconcile his
deeply divided country, his disputed election victory will reduce to ashes
Africa's international credibility. Mr Mbeki has been under intense
international pressure during the weekend to abandon his "quiet diplomacy"
approach to the Mugabe regime. Diplomats said US, Britain and other European
leaders had told Mr Mbeki that it was time to get tough with Mr Mugabe.
Both Mr Blair and President Bush are reported to have emphasised in
personal telephone calls to Mr Mbeki that economic aid and foreign investment
in Africa have been put under threat by the continent's apparent acceptance of
a patently flawed presidential election in Zimbabwe.
Mr Mugabe's militant supporters clearly anticipated his pledge yesterday
to speed up land seizures by driving away Ian Kay, an MDC supporter, and his
wife Kerry along with 80 workers from their farm 45 miles south-east of Harare,
on Saturday. The Kays, unlike many white farmers, continued publicly to support
the MDC after land invasions began in February 2000. Witnesses say the Zanu PF
flag was raised above their looted home.
The Commercial Farmers' Union said yesterday that another 44 white
farmers would be charged today in connection with assistance given to the MDC
during the election. These farmers, from the Raffingora area, north of Harare
have been in hiding since police let it be known they were wanted and would be
arrested. Some 56 farmers, including their wives, are now facing charges since
the start of voting on March 9. More than 150 white farmers have been charged
with offences in the last two years. So far not one has been brought to trial.
Roy Bennett, an MDC MP in the eastern Manicaland Province, said yesterday that
the purge against MDC election support staff and supporters was reaching
"grotesque" levels. "People are being attacked, one man was killed in my area,
many are beaten, and many houses have been burned down. This is not going to
stop." (ZMNews / Daily Telegraph, UK)