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Zimbabwe: the men behind the balaclava.

On 17 November, it was reported that a new armed group calling itself the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement (ZFM) "has been formed to topple Mr Mugabe". A search for the backers of this shadowy group has thrown up some interesting revelations. Osei Boateng reports.

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The only source for the story about the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement (ZFM) was Peter Tatchell, the self-publicised British gay rights activist who has twice unsuccessfully staged a "citizen's arrest" of President Mugabe in London and Brussels, on each occasion with BBC cameras at the ready to capture "the arrest" on film.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Tatchell is a prominent member of the gay community in the UK. Over the last several years, he has singled out Mugabe for his anti-gay stance--a position common among African and other world leaders (including some conservative politicians in the West), although for Tatchell this only appears to become a salient issue when the leader also happens to be on the British government's hit-list for "regime change".

Tatchell released a video tape on 17 November in London in which masked men in balaclava claiming to be Zimbabweans were seen reading a communique that called for the armed overthrow of Mugabe's government.

Interestingly, behind them was a new version of the Zimbabwean flag, with the red-star that is customarily displayed behind the golden Zimbabwe bird removed. This little detail tells a lot about the ideological predispositions of this new "movement".

According to the communique, which was later posted at the ZFM's website (www.zfm.cc), the "movement", which claims to be "non-political", consists primarily of "serving members of the Zimbabwe Security/Defence Forces but also with a strong following from the civilian sector". Like most Western-backed proxy forces in Africa these days, the ZFM lays sole blame on Mugabe for Zimbabwe's economic and other troubles and calls for the armed overthrow of his government.

"There is no one else to blame for the broad range of problems affecting our country than Robert Mugabe, his ZANU-PF party, his ministers and the top command structures of the various arms of the security forces," the communique said, adding:

"There is no conspiracy among Western world powers such as the UK or USA to recolonise Zimbabwe. There is no conspiracy among white Zimbabweans, including those who do not particularly like black people, to re-take control of our country. Our true enemy is within."

The communique continued: "The position of the African leaders, including those of neighbouring states, is totally unacceptable, and it is mainly as a result of their weakness that the ZFM has felt that the time has come to take a stand. Since we have not achieved democracy by peaceful means, despite the best efforts of the only viable opposition party in Zimbabwe, it is necessary to place the president and government of Zimbabwe on notice that they are about to be removed by the judicious use of appropriate force."

The group, therefore, demanded that President Mugabe should step down immediately along with his government and be replaced by an interim government to be formed by "reasonable persons from ZANU-PF, MDC and other independent candidates or candidates from small opposition parties."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

According to the communique:: "The first role of the interim government is to work with experts, both local and abroad, to ensure that the people of this country are presented with an acceptable new constitution which they can accept or reject at a referendum organised by the interim government with the supervision and control of independent experts/observers from countries with a known democratic track record."

In addition to this, the ZFM wants Mugabe "and his ilk" to be tried for "the various crimes they have been accused of ... While it is accepted practice to give a deadline by which the ZFM expects compliance with the above," the communique said, "it is our unanimous decision not to give a deadline as we reserve the right to take action at any time of our convenience and in any manner that will assure the greatest results for the minimum amount of collateral damage."

The group claimed that its members were well equipped and trained to deal with the situation. "Their will is of steel, their drive is that of striving for true freedom. In honour of our true heroes of the Chimurenga, this last action for the people of Zimbabwe will be known as Chimurenga 4."

The communique was jointly signed by a Charles Black Mamba, who claimed to be the national commander of the group, and his two "deputy national commanders", Ntuthuko Fezela and Daniel Ingwe.

Not surprisingly, the ZFM was silent on the Western-imposed credit-freeze and other sanctions on Zimbabwe for the past five years that have starved the country of much-needed foreign exchange, leading to the implosion of the economy and hardships for the people. (See NA, Dec 2003). It is also curious that the group only wants "presidential elections" to be held, and not parliamentary. Is it because it wants to protect the seats of the 57 opposition MPs in parliament?

In fact, even the MDC, Zimbabwe's largest opposition party that stands to benefit hugely from a Mugabe overthrow, immediately repudiated the ZFM claims, saying "they are not helpful".

Paul Themba Nyathi, the MDC spokesman, told the BBC that he was "not aware" of any attempt to use force against Mugabe's government. "I don't think a military coup would be helpful. We are staging a struggle through lawful means, even in a restrictive environment," Nyathi added.

But Peter Tatchell insisted (according to the BBC) that the ZFM had been formed "because all opportunities and possibilities for peaceful democratic change [in Zimbabwe] have been closed down". But who appointed Tatchell, a Briton, as spokesman for Zimbabwean opposition forces?

"It later emerged," according to the BBC, "that the group has made contact with the British High Commission in Harare, looking for support. A Foreign Office minister [in London] told journalists he believed one or more members of the group had made what he described as an informal approach, but had been told--very firmly--that the British government could have nothing to do with any attempt to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe by force."

Further research by New African, however, has revealed that the ZFM, like some of the major opposition groups in Zimbabwe which claim to have local roots, is driven by outside forces linked to the Western efforts to overthrow Mugabe for daring to take land from his white citizens for redistribution to his black citizens.

For example, the ZFM website (www.zfm.cc) is registered in the UK and not Cocos Islands as the top-level domain name designator ".cc" suggests. Background research on the website on 17 November threw up the following information:

inetnum: 212.67.202.0-212.67.202.255

netname: WEBFUSION

descr: Webfusion Internet Solutions Limited

descr: Nottingham

country: GB

status: ASSIGNED PA

phone: +44 115 917 0000

fax: +44 115 917 0442

This means that the website is actually hosted in the UK. More interestingly, it was initially registered to: "Zimbabwe Freedom Movement, Studio 5, Islington House, 313 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 2XQ, UK. Domain name: ZFM.CC (212.67.202.241)."

But, by the evening of 17 November, the ZFM had already become more sophisticated in its web-based strategy and had changed the registrant address to: "Zimbabwe Freedom Movement, Union Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe ZA1 1AZ."

Further research revealed that the "administrative contact" for the website was one Ross Jackson, a long-time ally of Peter Tatchell. In effect, the website's domain name is actually registered to Ross Jackson who lives in London.

The source code of the website is also hosted on http://www.bluechilli.net/zfm/ which is also based at Studio 5, Islington House--the same address as Jackson's.

To sum it up, the video tape made public by Peter Tatchell and the ZFM website have both been produced by British citizens based in London! So much for a genuine "indigenous" or "African" resistance movement.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Feature
Author:Boateng, Osei
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6ZIMB
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:1327
Previous Article:South Africa: Hamilton Naki, the unsung hero.
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