Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Globe Flashback: The Queen of Zimbabwe

"In Zimbabwe, a first lady exerts her power" by Norimitsu Onishi New York Times   January 07, 2017

A victory for women?

MASVINGO, Zimbabwe — The first lady of Zimbabwe’s display of power was unspoken, though clear, during the governing party’s annual congress, as she focused her speech on new party regalia featuring a teacup-shaped image of her country.

“We all drink from the teacup,” Grace Mugabe, the first lady, said, explaining that she had designed the regalia herself.

Not surprisingly, the next morning in Masvingo, the small town in southern Zimbabwe where the congress of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, President Robert Mugabe’s party, was held recently, nearly all officials wore clothes adorned with Grace Mugabe’s teacup design.

Grace Mugabe — known mostly for her lavish overseas shopping trips until she entered politics just two years ago — has emerged as one of the main actors in the fierce maneuvering to succeed Robert Mugabe that has engulfed Zimbabwe in the last year, as the president’s visible decline presages the end of an era.

She is, to many people, the real power behind the throne, vowing to keep her husband in office until his death while she consolidates her support. She told supporters recently that she was “already the president,” planning and doing everything with her husband.

The signs of Grace Mugabe’s growing stature are unmistakable.

Though visibly asleep during most of the congress, Robert Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state and the only leader Zimbabwe has known since its independence in 1980, was selected as his party’s candidate in the 2018 presidential election. He would be 94 by then and, should he win, 99 by the end of his term.

At the congress, Mugabe appeared increasingly dependent on his wife, who is 51. When a waiter carrying bags of potato chips on a silver tray startled the president, the first lady chose a bag, from which her husband then slowly picked out one chip after another.

At a tree-planting ceremony, a seemingly confused president kept tapping a mound of dirt with his shovel until the first lady intervened by grabbing the shovel herself.

Didn't Wilson's wife sort of run the place over here after he had a stroke? 

Little U.S. historical secret over here.

Whether the first lady’s power can survive her husband’s death is unclear. She is reported to head one of the two competing factions inside ZANU-PF, but is she its leader, or just a useful puppet for veteran survivors of Zimbabwean politics?

After her husband dies, will she hop on a plane for Dubai or elsewhere in Asia, where she and her children have established homes? The Mugabes are thought to have more than $1 billion invested outside Zimbabwe, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

Boy, the Jewi$h media whips those out when they need 'em. All I ever saw about Israel was some border post theft.

But if she succeeds in taking power, it would most likely be a continuation of her husband’s government.

Is that what the U.S. wants? 

The relationship with Mugabe over the years has been such that when he does what he is told by USrael he's fine, but if he strays we start seeing stories on how he is a terrible dictator.

Changes critical to reviving Zimbabwe’s crumpled economy, including land reform, are thought politically impossible under Robert Mugabe and would remain so under Grace Mugabe, whose legitimacy derives from her husband’s legacy.


Her elevation could also intensify tensions in Zimbabwe’s small political class by upsetting Robert Mugabe’s lieutenants, many of whom have been waiting decades to take over.

Like over here with, you know (blog editor nods head sideways)....

Confident of their grip on power, the Mugabes flew out of Zimbabwe a few days after the end of the congress in mid-December for their annual extended holiday in Asia, where Robert Mugabe is thought to have received medical care in Singapore and Malaysia, and where the first family owns real estate in Hong Kong.

Grace Mugabe left for her latest holiday even though she was embroiled in a dispute with a Lebanese diamond dealer over a $1.35 million ring.

According to a court document, she ordered the diamond from the dealer; issued the payment from a bank in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital; then canceled her purchase after the diamond had been prepared. She demanded that the dealer refund the money to a bank account in Dubai, according to the court document.

She's a scheming $cammer?

The dealer, Jamal Ahmed, said he had refused to transfer the money to Dubai because it would be considered money laundering, but agreed to reimburse the first lady in installments, according to an affidavit submitted to the High Court of Zimbabwe.

Men associated with Grace Mugabe and her son from a previous marriage subsequently seized and occupied three of the dealer’s properties in Harare.

Wilson Manase, Grace Mugabe’s lawyer, did not return calls and phone messages.

Would you if the NYT called?

The first lady had picked the diamond as her husband’s 20th wedding anniversary present to her.

The president and Grace Mugabe became involved when she worked as a typist in the president’s secretarial pool. The president’s first wife, Sally, was terminally ill at the time and approved of the affair, Robert Mugabe has said in the past. 

Oh, she's a gold digger! Sort of a Newt Gingrich in reverse.


I'm not going to comment on the morality of Mugabe's relationship with his much younger wife. 

Any signs that the queen is threatened?

"In Zimbabwe, frustration grows on both sides; Officials battle increasingly defiant protests" by Farai Mutsaka, Associated Press  |  September 8, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe — For many in Zimbabwe, enough is enough.

The words are spelled out in antigovernment graffiti in the capital, Harare, one of several new declarations of defiance that authorities have trouble scrubbing away.

Over the weekend, President Robert Mugabe also declared ‘‘enough is enough’’ of the growing protests that reflect nationwide anger over a plummeting economy and alleged state corruption. Protesters have clashed with police wielding tear gas, water cannons, and batons. Hundreds have been arrested.

I think I have my answer about the U.S. wanting her or not.

Both sides of the political divide are increasingly fed up, an ominous sign in this country whose 92-year-old leader is showing signs of advanced age but makes no move of wanting to quit. Mugabe has been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980, meaning any political transition will be a leap into the unknown for most people in a nation with a record of disputed and sometimes violent elections. 

Forget him, what about his wife?

Many in Zimbabwe are waiting to see whether the fragmented opposition that recently joined forces can find enough momentum to force real change. The opposition has faltered in the past because of government crackdowns, internal divisions, and other problems.

Sounds like an AmeriKan campaign. They are all the same!

‘‘Forming a coalition would present the opposition with the best chance to unseat Mugabe,’’ said Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe. But he said the opposition likely would struggle with ‘‘state-sponsored election violence, intimidation, and the involvement of the military in elections.’’

Opposition leaders, including former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and a former vice president, Joice Mujuru, have mentioned the possibility of contesting the next elections in 2018 as a single front.

Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, has vowed to run for office again.

But the shrewd operator has struggled to curb divisions within his own party. He continues to say the growing unrest is manipulated by adversaries in the West like the United States.

That I can believe. They wanted Tsvangirai last time, and now they want their own man -- or woman -- after all these years.

‘‘We cannot sit idly while our country is being torn apart by unruly foreign-sponsored agents,’’ Ignatius Chombo, the home affairs minister, said last month.

Many demonstrations are now organized through social media, prompting the government to announce plans for a law that would tighten social media controls and target what it calls ‘‘cyberterrorists.’’

Does he have a U.S. playbook or what?

Mugabe has criticized the courts for overruling an earlier police ban on demonstrations, saying the decision had endangered stability. Human Rights Watch has accused the president of interfering in the judiciary’s independence.

Yeah, when they get on you....

On Wednesday, a court overturned a two-week protest ban that police had imposed in Harare’s business district, with the judge saying it had been imposed without following correct procedure and that it infringed on the rights of citizens.

Amid the uncertainty, many people in this country of 13 million people focus on daily survival, selling medicine, car parts, or basic food staples on the street.

Don't we all.

They stand in long lines at banks because of shortages of the US dollar, which replaced the local currency years ago because of hyperinflation.

Oh, once again the $anctions and bad pre$$ are for the bankers.

The government has failed to pay its more than 500,000 employees, including the military, on time since June.

That could be a problem.

Some Zimbabweans are joining Pentecostal churches that have been mushrooming across the country in hopes of a miracle. The churches are often led by couples calling themselves ‘‘prophet and prophetess’’ who sell things like rubber bracelets and ‘‘anointed’’ water to followers, promising miraculous riches.

Zimbabwe is a rich country, too. Diamonds, arable land.

In Harare, the antigovernment graffiti on downtown buildings takes aim at the man in charge.

‘‘You are now a ghost,’’ one says. Another says: ‘‘Old Mugabe must go now.’’

He's as good man dead.


"Zimbabwe threatens to seize farms of party defectors" by Norimitsu Onishi New York Times   August 27, 2016

BINDURA, Zimbabwe — Dozens of angry young men jumped off a truck in front of Agrippah Mutambara’s gate, shouting obscenities and threatening to seize his 530-acre farm in the name of Zimbabwe’s president. They tried to scale the fence, scattering only when he raised and cocked his gun.

Zimbabwe made international headlines when it started seizing white-owned farms in 2000. But Mutambara is not a white farmer. Far from it, he is a hero of this country’s war of liberation who served as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to three nations over two decades.

But when he defected from President Robert Mugabe’s party to join the opposition a few months ago, he immediately put his farm at risk.

“When it was happening to the whites, we thought we were redressing colonial wrongs,” said Mutambara, 64, who got his farm after it had been seized from a white farmer. “But now we realize it’s also coming back to us. It’s also haunting us.”

Zimbabwe is suffering one of its worst economic crises in years. Banks have run out of cash. The government is struggling to pay its workers.

Oh, it's being $queezed!

Public protests, including one in July that shut down the capital and a united show of force by the nation’s biggest opposition figures on Friday, have rattled Mugabe’s government.

Yeah, looks like the CIA might even be involved here. 

Don't get me wrong, that is not an endorsement of Mugabe.

Desperately seeking loans, Zimbabwean officials have visited Washington and European capitals in recent months, swallowing years of resentment toward the West to promise economic and political reforms, including ending the history of farm seizures.

They had to be humiliated and come begging the bankers.

Even Mugabe, now 92 years old and increasingly frail, has pledged to compensate white farmers.

But despite the promises, prized farms are at the center of heated political infighting in Zimbabwe. As the battle to succeed Mugabe intensifies, dozens of political figures who have fallen out of favor, like Mutambara, are facing the seizure of their farms.

With the economy in peril and the governing party split in a scramble for power, land is being used as a vital tool in the struggle for control.

That last phrase there is the cause of most wars!

Temba Mliswa, 44, who was chairman of the governing party’s chapter in Mashonaland West province before his expulsion from the party in 2014, said, “They use the land to control you.”

Zimbabwe’s political uncertainty has weakened the economy, already hit hard by a severe drought and a fall in global commodity prices.

First I've seen.

People have been hoarding cash — Zimbabwe adopted the American dollar in 2009 — and taking it out of the country, leaving bank ATMs empty.

Mugabe’s “Look East” campaign, which focused on attracting China as a counterweight to Western influence, has suffered from China’s economic slowdown and recent disagreements over economic policy, though billboards still laud China as Zimbabwe’s “all-weather friend.”


With few other options left, Mugabe’s government has turned to the International Monetary Fund, an organization he vilified in the past as an instrument of colonial domination.

Bad move!

In talks with the fund, the government has agreed to reforms in the hope that it will qualify for loans for the first time since 1999.

More austerity on the way for Zimbabwe!

The fund has sent positive signals about government steps in areas like curbing the size of the public workforce and cleaning up the banking sector.

But significant hurdles remain. The Zimbabwean government must clear $1.8 billion it owes to the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. It must also convince the IMF, where a skeptical United States holds the most votes, that it is committed to change.

Resolving the land issue is central to reviving the country’s economy and reestablishing ties with Western governments.

Under a program financed by the European Union and the United Nations, the government has begun mapping the more than 6,000 commercial farms that have been seized.

For the first time, the government recently held a workshop on the compensation of white farmers. But compensation is another matter, and some analysts doubt that will happen while Mugabe is alive.

That is where the print stopped.

Beyond pride, settling land ownership could strip Mugabe of an important tool he has wielded over the political class.

Dozens are believed to be facing threats of losing their farms, according to former governing party members and the local news media.

Many were expelled from the governing party, ZANU-PF, in the past year because they were considered close to Joice Mujuru, a former vice president who was once regarded as Mugabe’s likely successor but was purged by Zimbabwe’s powerful first lady, Grace Mugabe. 

There she is!

And for all the talk of compensating white farmers, politically connected Zimbabweans are continuing to grab white-owned farms.

This year, a white Zimbabwean couple were expelled by police officers from their 2,000-acre tobacco farm. The new owner was a Zimbabwean medical doctor living in England; the media uncovered photographs showing the doctor and his wife with Grace Mugabe.

In 2000, two decades after Zimbabwe’s independence, the country’s best farmland remained in the hands of descendants of white settlers. Mugabe’s government forcibly removed white Zimbabweans from their farms, which were supposed to be distributed equitably to black Zimbabweans.

Thousands of poor black farmers suddenly got access to land, often small plots, bringing them into the economy and spreading the profits from crops like tobacco to a much broader share of Zimbabwe’s population. 

Oh, no, no, no! 

I $ee where he went wrong!

But high-ranking officials in the governing party received the best farms. Or, like Mutambara, the former ambassador, they were given the best tracts of a large farm, usually with the main farmhouse and farming equipment.

“Contrary to what we had expected, some people because of their position in government have gone on to acquire multiple farms, huge farms,” Mutambara said. 

Yeah, funny how that works out in nearly any country's government you name.

Chinamasa, the finance minister, denied that some members of the political elite were violating the government’s policy by owning more than a single farm. He said members of one family could each own a farm, creating the impression that they owned multiple farms.

“We have a policy that it was one person, one piece of land,” Chinamasa said. “The policy is clear. It’s not a problem.”

But if Mugabe’s government can reward loyalists with prime land, it can also easily take it back, especially with the lack of deeds or long-term leases.

Mliswa said he received his farm when his uncle headed the lands ministry. Once considered Mugabe’s right-hand man, the uncle was also expelled from the governing party in 2014 and now risks losing his farm, too, Mliswa said.

“There was blood spilt on my farm, there was violence, which I really, really, really, really regret,” he said of the seizure of his farm from its white owner in 2005. “I apologize profusely, but it was because of the system I was involved in. I belonged to a party whose culture is violence.”

From A(meriKa) to Z(imbabwe).


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Not getting as much as they used to for them.

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It's a divisive issue, but China wants the ivory.

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And about those floods (bottom right photo appeared in my 6 March 2017 Globe)....