Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Whatever happened to Didymus Mutasa?

....Between 1980 and 1990, Mutasa maintained his reputation as a fair man, full of charm and integrity as parliamentary speaker.

A major transformation was apparent by 2000 when Mugabe, furious that white commercial farmers had funded the opposition MDC, incited his supporters to invade farms and drive off their owners, triggering a catastrophic and continuing economic collapse.

In that same year, Mutasa was appointed anti-corruption minister. He stayed in the job for three years watching and doing little as a wave of alleged corruption swept higher and higher through government and the top reaches of the judiciary, defence forces, police and civil service.

Once profitable commercial farms confiscated from whites were among the main prizes taken by the new elite. Mutasa appropriated one of these farms in eastern Zimbabwe for himself and independent newspapers documented extensively how he and other ministers looted other farms of billions of Zimbabwe dollars worth of expensive equipment for resale or use on their own properties.....

... and less than a year later he became the second most powerful man in the land when Mugabe appointed him minister of national security and land affairs, positions that made him chief of the much feared Central Intelligence Organisation, CIO, and gave him responsibility for the country's controversial, chaotic and violent land reform programme.

In May 2005, in one of the earliest exercises of his new powers, Mutasa launched Operation Murambatsvina [Operation Drive Out the Filth], in which soldiers, police and government militias used extreme violence to destroy the homes of hundreds of thousands of poor people on the outer edges of the country's towns and cities. Mutasa presented Murambatsvina as a regeneration and renewal scheme to "clean up" urban areas. But most people who lost their homes were opposition supporters, and nearly a year-and-a-half later virtually nothing has been done to provide new homes for the estimated 700,000 to a million people who watched their houses being bulldozed, sledgehammered and set ablaze.

Anna Tibaijuka, the special envoy of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, lambasted Mutasa's operation as inhuman and a breach of national and international human rights laws.

Emboldened by the "success" of Murambatsvina, Mutasa, with the power of the much-feared and ubiquitous CIO as his weapon, began threatening to "physically eliminate" government opponents. To this end, he was accused by the remaining independent press in Zimbabwe of slapping a police officer in his home constituency of Rusape and of assaulting a man who dared to challenge his nomination as the ZANU candidate for Rusape.

When Walter Marwizi, a reporter for the independent weekly Zimbabwe Standard, investigated alleged corruption in the national security minister's home province, Manicaland, Mutasa threatened the journalist, "I will deal with you ruthlessly if you don't tell me your source [of the corruption story]. Make no mistake. I am sending my operatives and they will do a clean job."

Quietly, in recent weeks, Mutasa has relaunched Operation Murambatsvina, with yet more humble homes being torn down in urban suburbs by powerful organs of state.

Mutasa, who had once worked with Clutton-Brock, the Haddons and other devout white liberal Christians, to carve out an island of tolerance in a sea of bigotry and small-mindedness, regularly describes the handful of remaining white farmers as "filth" and recently vowed, "I will rid the country of remaining whites."

But when venting his ire he does not discriminate racially. Nobel Peace Prize winner and South African national icon, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, accused the Zimbabwe government of "making a mockery of African democracy." The CIO chief spat back, "Tutu is a puppet of the West, a vassal of imperialism and a lost soul."

Mutasa dismissed as another lost soul the Zimbabwean most widely tipped to succeed Tutu as a Nobel Peace Prize winner - Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, who has said the greatest service Mugabe can perform for his country is to let "the Lord take him away".

When Archbishop Ncube protested against the government for neglecting families who were starving to death in and around Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, Mutasa replied, "A heathen man who lies through his teeth …The cleric has a psychological disease and needs to have his head examined because he is a liar."

Mutasa's most recent exploit was to launch his CIO and other security services against the country's trade union leaders as they prepared to demonstrate on the streets in September this year for living wages and proper anti-retroviral drug support for the millions of Zimbabweans facing death from AIDS. National trades union chief Wellington Chibebe and his top lieutenants sustained broken limbs when they were assaulted, without being charged, in a notorious police station and torture centre on the outskirts of Harare....

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