US threatens Zimbabwe sanctions

Harare | Saturday

ZIMBABWE may declare a state of emergency if a bill is passed in Washington that threatens sanctions against the country, Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said on Friday.

He told state television in an interview that Zimbabwe would campaign against the bill, but if it failed to stop its passage into law, a declaration of a state of emergency in Zimbabwe could not be ruled out.

“When a country is under siege, all options will be looked at, including declaring a state of emergency,” said Mudenge.

Earlier this month, the US Senate passed the “Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act” which directs President George W. Bush’s administration to support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to bring about democratic change and restore the rule of law in the country.

It also asks the president to consult with other nations on ways to implement visa restrictions and other targeted sanctions against those responsible for political violence in Zimbabwe.

The bill must still be passed by the US Congress and signed by Bush before becoming law.

Mudenge charged the proposed legislation is an interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

“Opposing is important but if (the bill) passes through then we go to option two,” he said.

“We will campaign against it, but if the intention is to stop us from continuing with the land reform programme, it is an exercise in futility because we will complete the land reform programme with or without the American bill, with or without organised looting,” he said.

Under a state of emergency, a number of constitutional rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and movement may cease to have effect, according to legal experts. Meanwhile, dozens of whites in northern Zimbabwe shaved their heads in solidarity with 21 white farmers languishing in jail waiting for a bail application to be held, a farmer said.

The imprisoned farmers—accused of inciting public violence after they clashed with black land occupiers in Chinhoyi, northwestern Zimbabwe—have had their heads shaved in prison and been forced to wear prison uniforms.

“It’s basically a statement,” said Francois de Chalain, a farmer in the Chinhoyi area, 100 kilometres northwest of Harare who had his hair shaved off on Friday.

“It really perked up the guys inside,” he added.

He said a number of farmers from Chinhoyi, Banket and Karoi—all farming towns in Mashonaland West province—also shaved their heads Friday in solidarity with their jailed counterparts.

In an urgent bail application made to the High Court this week, the farmers’ defence lawyers said their clients had been treated as convicted prisoners before being proven guilty.

De Chalain said those being held in Chinhoyi prison were “very frustrated” because “nothing seems to be happening”. The farmers’ application for bail was Friday deferred for a second time, until Monday.

The 21 deny the charge of attacking the black land occupiers. They say they were attempting to rescue a colleague who had been barricaded inside his house by angry settlers. - AFP

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