Zimbabwe: Crisis has regional impact

JOHANNESBURG, 25 September (IRIN) - Developments in Zimbabwe have been identified as a threat to democracy and the rule of law and as a key reason for the flight of capital from the regional economy.
In a hard-hitting statement, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Dat'o Param Cumaraswamy, expressed "outrage over the further deterioration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe".

While Reuters reported that South African Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni, stressed the link between the seizure of land owned by white farmers in Zimbabwe and the impact on foreign direct investment in the regional economic powerhouse.

"Part of the rand's weakness is a political economy problem. It's not an economic-technical problem, it's a political economic problem arising in part from regional perceptions about Zimbabwe," Mboweni said.

"The City of London is a very important financial centre in the world. So you then touch the farmers in Zimbabwe in a manner that obviously is not right - the land reform problem is correct, the demand for land reform is correct, but the manner in which it is happening, I don't think is correct.

"So then the whole thing explodes because they [investors] look and say: So that happened in Zimbabwe, it took 20 years, it might happen in South Africa [for example].

"So what happens? Some of them take their money and go," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Cumaraswamy said in his statement that "the latest arrest, detention and charges laid against retired High Court Judge [Fergus] Blackie for alleged corruption and obstruction of justice ... [was] yet another clear systematic attack on the basic fabric of democracy - i.e. the rule of law in Zimbabwe".

There was reasonable cause to believe that the actions against Justice Blackie were "an act of vendetta by the government" over the earlier conviction for contempt of court and a sentence to jail time and a fine imposed on the Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa, by Justice Blackie in July.

The conviction and sentence were subsequently set aside by a Supreme Court judge.

Cumaraswamy once again called on the international community "to continue its pressures and double its efforts to get the government of Zimbabwe to comply with its obligations under the constitution and international law. The prevailing lawlessness in the government is not only a menace to the people of Zimbabwe but if allowed unabated could threaten peace, democracy and the rule of law in the African region", Cumaraswamy said.

He noted further that on no less than five previous occasions he had publicly expressed his grave concerns over the deterioration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. "The government obviously is impervious to international concerns and outrage," he added.

Meanwhile, in its latest report, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum said it had received testimonies of political violence against teachers in eight of the country's 10 provinces. The authorities have often accused teachers of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Bulawayo and Harare provinces had no reports of violence against teachers. However, the incidents recorded in the report did not in any way reflect the actual violence perpetrated against teachers as information collected was by no means exhaustive, the Human Rights Forum noted.

"The period under study saw the reported closure of 30 schools throughout the country. Most of the reported closures were due to teachers fleeing violence perpetrated against them and their subsequent refusal to go back until their safety was guaranteed.

"Apart from school closures, teachers were also chased away from their places of employment by either 'war veterans' or [ruling party] ZANU-PF supporters. The perpetrators would either go to the school where the individual taught and then physically remove them from their places of employment, or just order the transfer of teachers that they suspected to be MDC supporters," the report said.

Teachers were also threatened with either job loss or personal injury if it was established that they supported the MDC. This had occurred "at the highest level ... by the minister of foreign affairs, Stan Mudenge, but it was also done by 'war veterans' in Chimanimani, Bikita West, Masvingo Central, Mberengwa West and Zaka East".

The report also highlights two cases of pregnant teachers who were assaulted for being connected to the opposition MDC.

"One of the teachers lost her baby shortly after giving birth. The victim claims that her medical records show that the death of her child was due to the repeated assaults she suffered at the hands of war veterans and state agents," the Human Rights Forum said.


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