Scant unity, less change in Harare

Zimbabweans see little progress one year after Mugabe-Tsvangirai unity government deal.


    Many say the year-old unity government has failed to significantly improve living conditions [EPA]

    It is now one year since the Global Political Agreement, the official name for Zimbabwe's power sharing deal, was signed.

    While some things have changed on the ground for the better - shops have food, hospitals and schools are slowly beginning to function again - outstanding political issues could destabilise the fragile coalition between Robert Mugabe, president and Zanu PF leader and Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister and head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

    The outstanding issues include the appointment of the central bank governor and the attorney general, farm invasions and continued human rights violations.

    The MDC alleges its supporters are still being intimidated by Zanu PF supporters.

    Eighty km outside the capital Harare, in the small town of Chegutu, residents there say they are still being intimidated.

    Visiting one formerly prosperous Chegutu farm, we come across a poster with Robert Mugabe's face strapped to an iron gate.

    It is clear who is in charge. This is Zanu PF territory.

    The gate and farm used to belong to farmer Ben Freeth. He says he has lost everything to supporters of President Mugabe.

    Police 'afraid'

    Freeth returned to salvage a few belongings but found only the charred shell of his home.

    The new occupiers, young men dressed in Zanu PF t-shirts carrying AK 47 rifles charge at him. They do not want him around.

    The farmer tries to reason with them, and pleads with them to take his things. But they refuse to listen.

    "Where is the rule of law in this country? The police are too afraid... we have a unity government but things are much worse now than before on the farms"

    Ben Freeth, farmer

    Freeth leaves what used to be his home empty handed – not sure if he will ever get to farm on the land again.

    "Everything I had was inside that house," he says, "Now I have nothing. My wife and three children were inside when it was set alight. Luckily no one was hurt. Where is the rule of law in this country?

    "The police are too afraid to do anything to these people. We have a unity government – but things are much worse now than before on the farms."

    Those who worked on the farms have also lost everything. The farm compound has been burned to cinders. Some are trying to rebuild their destroyed homes. They say they did not see who started the fire.

    Thirty-five year old Sophia Moya has lived here for five years. Now that the farm has gone, so has her monthly salary of US $30. One year after the power sharing deal was signed – she says she is still afraid for her life.

    "It's terrifying out here," she says, "Anytime anyone can come and intimidate us and attack us. We feel so alone. We are scared."


    Local police say they are investigating but have made no arrests so far. Meanwhile, farming communities are increasingly frustrated with the unity government.

    "The MDC signed an agreement where they didn't have any power whatsoever. Why they signed it, goodness only knows," says Freeth. "They don't have the army, they don't have the police, they don't have the ministry of justice, they don't have the attorney general and they don't have supreme court judges who are appointed by the president.

    Carlsson (L) insists targeted sanctions are not hurting ordinary Zimbabweans [AFP]
    "The whole machinery of justice, of enforcing the law, is still in the same hands as it's always been, so for them to go into any kind of agreement on that basis was very foolhardy in my view."

    But Morgan Tsvangirai is talking tough. On Sunday this week, at a party rally in Zimbabwe's second largest city Bulawayo, he appeared to have changed tactics on how to handle rival President Mugabe.

    "I am not going to stand by while Zanu PF continues to violate the law, persecute our members of parliament, spread the language of hate, invade productive farms, ignore our international treaties and continue to loot our natural resources," he told thousands of supporters, "I am not going to stand by and watch this happen."

    A European Union delegation has just concluded a visit to Zimbabwe – the first in seven years. The EU slapped sanctions on President Mugabe and his close allies in 2002 for alleged human rights violations.

    Reform call

    Those sanctions are still in place and the delegation says they will not be removed until further political reforms are made on the ground. EU officials insist the targeted sanctions are not hurting ordinary Zimbabweans.

    "Really they are not affecting the economy in the way they are described," said Gunilla Carlsson, an EU official.

    "We have come here not to negotiate the restrictive measures or discuss further aid programmes, we have come here to assess how the dialogue is going between the three signatories but also how to encourage political dialogue between Zimbabwe and the EU."

    On Monday, a close ally of Mugabe accused the EU delegation of trying to undermine its power-sharing government.

    Patrick Chinamasa, the Zimbabwean justice minister, felt the EU delegation was siding with Tsvangirai's MDC party.

    "They seem to want to undermine the inclusive government. They speak as much as the MDC. They just swallow, hook, line and sinker what the MDC says," Chinamasa was quoted as saying.

    The country needs US $10bn to rebuild its bankrupt economy. But Western nations are reluctant to give more money to the unity government until more reforms have been made on the ground.

    One year on, as their politicians bicker, many Zimbabweans are still waiting for significant change.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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