|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Abuja - Commonwealth policy towards Zimbabwe was in
disarray on Monday after
renegade President Robert Mugabe declared he was pulling his country out of
the club of mostly former British colonies in disgust at its continued
Mugabe made the announcement barely a few hours after the 54-nation
Commonwealth ended three days of divisive squabbling and decided to keep
21-month-old sanctions on the crisis-torn southern African state.
Commonwealth officials scrambled to downplay the damage the move inflicts on
the organisation's credibility after it finally managed to eke out a
compromise and agree Zimbabwe had not yet done enough to warrant a return to
the international fold.
"This was not wasted," the organisation's spokesperson Joel Kibazo said of
the three days of talks that pitted members of the so-called "white
Commonwealth" including Britain advocating a tough line on Zimbabwe -
against countries such as South Africa which wanted it to be reinstated
"The aim was not to push Zimbabwe, the aim was to say right, this is the way
forward for you to return into the family of the Commonwealth."
Kibazo said he expected Commonwealth leaders would be tackling the crisis on
the fourth and final day on Monday of their summit in the Nigerian capital
"It's early days, so we'll have to see what the next step is," he added.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March last year after a
presidential election which saw the 79-year-old Mugabe voted back into
office amid widespread vote-rigging, violence and political repression.
Zimbabwe would be only the second country to withdraw from the Commonwealth
after Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid in South Africa, quit
because criticism of his regime.
The Zimbabwe information ministry said Mugabe had announced his decision to
the presidents of Nigeria, South Africa and Jamaica who had telephoned him
to inform him of the decision.
"This is unacceptable. This is it. It (Zimbabwe) quits and quits it will
be," Mugabe was quoted as saying in a statement. His announcement is a sharp
blow to Nigerian President and summit host Olusegun Obasanjo, the former
dictator turned elected leader whose country was only allowed back into the
Commonwealth four years ago after decades of military coups and brutal
Obasanjo had been tasked by the Commonwealth with assessing progress on
democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe and was planning to visit the
southern African nation soon, according to a Commonwealth statement.
Commonwealth leaders had decided Zimbabwe would remain suspended for an
indefinite period, subject to review by Obasanjo and a six-nation committee.
"We will watch the situation in Zimbabwe very carefully. If things are
moving the way I think they are moving I will be talking in terms of months
rather than years," Obasanjo had said.
The ministry said Mugabe had broke the news to the presidents of Nigeria,
South Africa and Jamaica who telephoned him to tell him of the
Commonwealth's decision but that they had failed to persuade him to change
Mugabe, once hailed as the liberator of his country from British rule in
1980, is now accused of human rights abuses, political repression and a
controversial land policy that has helped drive his country to the brink of
Furious at his exclusion from a summit on African soil, Mugabe had launched
fiery tirades against white member states, likening the Commonwealth to the
"Animal Farm" of the George Orwell satire, with some members more equal than
Sunday's move has pushed Zimbabwe further into international isolation,
without a voice in the Commonwealth - a body representing 1,7-billion
people - and threatened with expulsion from the International Monetary Fund.
Mugabe is now in charge of a country in the grip of its worst economic
crisis since independence in 1980. It faces desperate food shortages caused
in part by Mugabe's controversial programme to seize white-owned farms and
distribute the land to blacks.
The arguments over Zimbabwe continued right through a two-day closed door
retreat, delaying the departure of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and
holding up a planned news conference by two hours.
British officials said South African President Thabo Mbeki had long insisted
that Zimbabwe should be readmitted immediately.
Remaining Commonwealth leaders in Abuja had been set on Monday to tackle
other issues on their agenda, including efforts to promote democratic
ideals, forge a common position on global trade and HIV/AIDS.
But it looks as if Mugabe has stolen the spotlight once again. - Sapa-AFP
Zimbabwe Quits Commonwealth
Copyright © 2003, Dow Jones Newswires
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP)--A defiant Zimbabwe
withdrew from the Commonwealth
of Britain and its former colonies on Sunday, hours after the 54-nation bloc
extended its 18-month suspension of the southern African nation for alleged
widespread abuses of civil liberties.
"It's quits, and quits it will be," President Robert Mugabe's
government said in a statement from Zimbabwe.
In a major defeat for Zimbabwe's leader, Commonwealth heads of state
had declared earlier Sunday that Mugabe's outcast status would stand until
he made demanded human rights and democratic reforms.
The Commonwealth accord on Zimbabwe had averted a threatened public
rift between Western and developing nations in the group, whose members
represent nearly one-third of the nation's 6 billion people.
The ban also appeared to maintain Zimbabwe's pariah status, although
Commonwealth leaders insisted they were anxious to reengage the nation to
help bring about change.
In the statement, Mugabe's government insisted it would accept nothing
short of full reinstatement.
"Anything you agree on Zimbabwe which is short of this position, no
matter how sweetly worded, means Zimbabwe is still a subject of the
Commonwealth. This is unacceptable," Zimbabwe said.
In Abuja, site of a four-day Commonwealth summit dominated by
Zimbabwe, Commonwealth officials expressed dismay.
"It is not something the Commonwealth wanted," bloc spokesman Joel
Kibazo told The Associated Press early Monday, calling Zimbabwe's pullout
Although the Commonwealth had extended Zimbabwe's suspension, it
insisted it had also opened the way for its return.
"This was supposed to be seen as a way forward, not a way backward,"
Kibazo said, saying Commonwealth Secretary-general Don McKinnon was
concerned that Zimbabwe "not ... isolate itself further" from the
Zimbabwe's announcement made good on Mugabe's repeated threat to yank
his increasingly troubled southern African nation out of the Commonwealth
unless it lifted its ban.
Commonwealth chiefs insisted their move Sunday was the start of
reengaging with Zimbabwe -as several of the bloc's African and developing
world leaders had urged.
At the same time, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called extension
of the suspension "a strong signal" to Mugabe.
Calling the Zimbabwe debate "a test of our commitment to democracy,"
Blair said, referring to the suspension, "In the end, it was the right
Yet Canadian officials termed it a "compromise" solution and Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo, host of the Commonwealth summit, said he hoped
the decision would get the process of "lifting of Zimbabwe's suspension
Under the Commonwealth's agreement, Obasanjo had been charged with
monitoring Zimbabwe on behalf of the bloc, reporting back to a six-nation
suspension-review panel if and when he saw signs of improvement.
Nigeria's leader had said he planned to visit Zimbabwe himself to meet
government and opposition officials to determine whether real changes were
Obasanjo told reporters Sunday afternoon he foresaw Zimbabwe's
relatively quick reinstatement, saying, "If the things I've heard are
anything to go by, I will be talking in terms of months than in terms of
"The key is reconciliation" in Zimbabwe, Obasanjo said. "If there is
sufficient reconciliation then, oh yes, we are there."
He did not elaborate, but Commonwealth leaders had demanded that
Mugabe -accused of silencing Zimbabwe's opposition and media -reach out to
critics at home as a first step.
Paul Nyathi, a Zimbabwean opposition parliament member, said Sunday he
was "pleasantly surprised" at the Commonwealth holding the line on
"I am satisfied with the process. It strikes a blow for democracy,"
Nyathi told The Associated Press.
Still, he added, before changes occur Mugabe should commit to stepping
down, repealing "repressive legislation" and instituting other reforms.
"As long as he continues this kind of bluster and bravado, the
solution is not going to come soon," the Zimbabwe opposition figure said.
Banned from the bloc and its summit, Mugabe had accused Western
leaders of creating an "unholy alliance" to oppose him.
He repeatedly threatened to yank Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth if
its summit ended Monday without his nation's reinstatement.
His call had threatened to widen a rift in the bloc over Zimbabwe's
suspension. Several southern African member nations in particular had
campaigned for the suspension's lifting, saying dialogue -not isolation -was
the way to bring change.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 07, 2003 20:18 ET (01:18 GMT)
Zimbabwe: Street kids task force formed
HARARE, 8 December 2003
A task force has been established to assist the rapidly increasing number of
street children in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.
HARARE: Ron Pouwels, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) project officer for child
protection, told IRIN on Friday that an assessment of street children would
be conducted next week.
Among the organisations involved in the task force are UNICEF, the Harare
city council, the department of social services, Zimbabwe Republic Police,
and various NGOs.
Pouwels explained that while task forces had already been set up in other
parts of the country, such as Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, the
increasing number of street children in Harare necessitated a more
Previous attempts to set up the task force had failed for one reason or
another, but the initiative was revived in the latter half of the year by
the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children, with the
financial support of UNICEF.
Street kids crisis fuelled by food shortages, poverty and HIV/AIDS
Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis - fuelled by a combination of food shortages,
rapid economic decline and the impact of HIV/AIDS - had contributed to the
increase in street children.
"We know that children are dropping out of school because of the food
shortages, and it is definitely one reason why they end up on the street;
another is the collapse of community structures and the orphan crisis [as a
result of HIV/AIDS]. Communities are overstretched already because of
poverty - with food insecurity and the impact of HIV/AIDS they are less and
less able to cope with the increasing number of orphans, and Harare is a
magnet for these children," Pouwels said.
He added that while HIV/AIDS, food shortages and rising poverty had
contributed to the crisis, "there is also an increase in child abuse, which
is also one of the reasons why children choose to leave home. Their parents
are unable to cope, they have high stress levels and take it out on
children, who then feel it's enough and they leave," Pouwels explained.
The main aim of the task force "is to bring together partners, so as to
better coordinate the work that they are doing for street children", Pouwels
said. "We've seen the numbers [of street children] increasing and, while
there have been responses, these have not really been coordinated".
An assessment of street children in Harare was crucial, as it would guide
the response to the crisis.
"There's a lot of pressure from government in terms of rounding up these
children. Their numbers are increasing and government wants to take action,
but our opinion is that just to round [them] up will not solve the problem.
In two weeks' time they will be back on the streets. [State] institutions
are full, and just sending them home does not solve the problem," Pouwels
The assessment aims to identify where the children are coming from, why they
are on the street and whether they are permanently on the street, or just
there during the day and going home at night.
Pouwels explained that each group of street children required different
For those who are permanently on the streets, or have been there for some
time, integrating them back into their home communities may not be an
option, Pouwels said. It was perhaps better to "teach them life skills and
vocational skills, so they can survive on their own".
The assessment would allow the task force to "immediately target" children
who had recently left home. "If the separation with community or family is
recent, and the ties are still strong, it is easier to try and get them back
to their family and community in general," Pouwels noted.
The Mugabe problem
Monday December 8, 2003
The case for lifting the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth was
not persuasive, and yesterday's decision to continue the ban should be
supported. If President Robert Mugabe now carries through on his threat to
quit the organisation, that will be deeply regrettable but hardly
It seems certain that when he leaves office, as eventually he must (and the
sooner the better), wiser heads in Zimbabwe will want to rejoin - and will
be encouraged to do so. What would have been truly disastrous, however,
would have been to allow the Zimbabwe issue to split the Commonwealth along
artificial black-white, north-south lines. That was Mr Mugabe's aim. That
outcome has been avoided, although at the cost of not a few political
Following last year's stolen presidential election and the rigged
parliamentary polls of 2000, Mr Mugabe has done nothing to earn a lifting of
the suspension - or of EU and US sanctions that have targeted him and his
cronies. Unofficial contacts notwithstanding, he has ignored calls by his
neighbours, including his main protector, South Africa, for a national
dialogue. He has continued the persecution of his main political rival,
Morgan Tsvangirai, and his Movement for Democratic Change.
On the eve of the Abuja summit, Mr Mugabe rebuffed its host, Nigeria's
President Olusegun Obasanjo, who went to Harare to mediate. He preferred
instead to invoke the era of anti-colonialist, anti-racist struggle to
defend, as Tony Blair says, the indefensible. The Commonwealth has shown
that for the most part, Africans and imperialism's heirs have moved on.
Sadly, Mr Mugabe has not.
It is true that many other members of the 54-country group have a far from
perfect democratic record - and not just the African members. The
continuation of Pakistan's suspension is justified in this context, given
General Pervez Musharraf's retention of sweeping powers. Zimbabwe's dismal
human rights record is also far from unique. As Kate Allen, the director of
Amnesty International UK, argued in the Guardian last week, a lot of other
Commonwealth countries could do a lot better in this regard, too.
The media attention paid to the plight of white Zimbabwean farmers, brutally
dispossessed of their land by the licensed thuggery of Mr Mugabe's "war
veterans", has intensified the international spotlight on Zimbabwe to an
unusual degree. Far more prosperous and fortunate members such as Britain
and India have also infringed human rights of late, in the name of
It is certainly true, as the non-governmental Commonwealth Human Rights
Initiative maintains, that the organisation needs to work harder to
"mainstream human rights in all its work". Yet it is also true that Mr
Mugabe's regime stands out over its relentless, systematic undermining of
the independence of the judiciary and other institutions, its gross economic
irresponsibility, and its attacks on individual liberties and the free
The regime tried to victimise the Commonwealth this weekend - and failed.
But its chief victims remain Zimbabwe's impoverished, oppressed and
neglected people. Their woes still go unaddressed. If Mr Mugabe ignores
proffered incentives to reform and quits the organisation, they will be more
alone than ever.
Despite his physical absence, Mr Mugabe's extraordinary capacity for
division and destruction found a wider field of action at this summit. The
Mugabe problem diverted time and attention away from crucial issues for
Africa like poverty reduction, fair trade and HIV-Aids. When they go home,
leaders like Mr Blair can to some extent leave such problems behind.
Africans cannot. They live them every day. To the extent that Abuja was a
missed opportunity, Mr Mugabe and his apologists were to blame. All Africans
should draw the obvious conclusion.
Humiliation led Mugabe to quit the club
Continued suspension from the Commonwealth made Harare a pariah among its
Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor and Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Monday December 8, 2003
Zimbabwe last night joined a long list of countries that have moved in and
out of the Commonwealth over its 72-year history. Countries that have had
sanctions imposed, withdrawn, been suspended, and, usually, invited to
The biggest surprise, perhaps, is that anyone would care whether they were
in the Commonwealth at all, given that the common connection for almost all
is that they were once British colonies.
Robert Mugabe will not mind about leaving on economic grounds, even though
his country is suffering food and fuel shortages, a currency crisis and
runaway annual inflation of above 500%. The Commonwealth's funds are
extremely limited and its aid packages tend to be modest.
Ultimately, he cared more about the humiliation of being suspended from a
club with relatively few rules apart from its main watchword - a respect for
democracy. It matters because most of his neighbouring countries are
members, and his exclusion gives pariah status to Zimbabwe.
It also matters on the domestic scene. In Harare, his leading critics said
they were not surprised by his action. They said he was furious about the
continued suspension and did not want to submit to any Commonwealth
investigation or to pressure.
"A rogue state like Zimbabwe needs to be isolated," said Iden Wetherell,
editor of the Zimbabwe Independent. He said that even though Mr Mugabe had
quit the Commonwealth, there was no doubt that he still wanted to be in the
"Despite all the rhetoric, few doubt that Mugabe wants to be readmitted. He
wants to strut upon the world stage. The suspension has been a huge
humiliation for him.
"The announcement that he is quitting is just a case of bad sour grapes. The
Commonwealth continues, by dangling the carrot of good governance before
him, to hold out a real prospect of securing his readmission, and it should
Tony Blair gives the impression he regards the Commonwealth as largely
irrelevant, and that he would rather have remained at home. But other
members view it more positively. Mozambique paid the organisation the
ultimate accolade of asking to join - and being admitted - even though it
had been a Portuguese rather than a British colony.
The advantage of the Commonwealth is that it provides a useful forum for the
leaders of 54 countries - 53 as of last night - to meet informally for talks
in a way that is not possible at the more structured UN general assembly.
A Foreign Office spokesman said last night that Mr Mugabe had threatened to
leave before. He said Zimbabwe could rejoin "when it returns to the values
of democracy and tolerance on which the Commonwealth was founded."
There have been endless rows since the organisation was formed in 1931 -
with South Africa and its apartheid policies being the most divisive. That
country rejected the criticism of fellow members and withdrew in 1961, only
to return in 1994 after the end of apartheid.
Others too have fallen foul, including the host of the summit, Nigeria. It
was suspended in 1995 when its military government executed the writer Ken
Saro-Wiwa, and was only readmitted four years ago after a return to civilian
Fiji was suspended in 1987 and readmitted in 1997, only to be suspended
again in 2000 after a short-lived military take-over. Pakistan too was
suspended from membership of key Commonwealth committees after its military
coup in 1999.
Zimbabwe was suspended at last year's summit in Australia after Mr Mugabe
was accused of rigging his re-election and intimidating political opponents.
The Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, made it clear Mr Mugabe would not be
welcome at this year's summit in Abuja.
Members of the Zimbabwean opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) welcomed Zimbabwe's continued suspension.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi, in Abuja on the sidelines of the summit,
said that Mr Mugabe's abrupt withdrawal should not change the Commonwealth
Mugabe: The controversial statesman
Monday 08 December 2003, 4:33 Makka Time, 1:33 GMT
President Robert Mugabe is a
veteran of the African political scene and one
of the most controversial figures in world politics.
Born in 1924, Robert Gabriel Mugabe
was educated in missionary schools and
hold's seven degrees. He returned to Rhodesia in 1960, joined Zimbabwe's
African People's Union (Zapu) but left three years later to form the rival
Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu).
Mugabe became engrossed in Marxist ideology and philosophy during the war
against the Rhodesian Front government of Ian Smith. He was jailed without
trial for 10 years for his involvement in politics.
After his release from prison Mugabe left Rhodesia for neighboring
Mozambique in 1974 and led the largest guerrilla army fighting a long and
bloody war against the Smith government.
Five years later Mugabe returned home to Zimbabwe after months of
negotiations to seal a peace deal in Rhodesia. Mugabe was welcomed back as a
hero and enjoyed the support of large sections of the black population.
Coalition with Nkomo
Mugabe went about working to build a coalition government with Zapu Forces
leader Nkomo, who had also fought the Smith government. However any
opportunity that both men may have had to build a political relationship
came to a premature end when a large cache of arms were found by police at
the Zapu owned houses of Nkomo. He was promptly dismissed from the
A newspaper office is attacked by
pro-Mugabe supporters in Harare
What followed was a brutal crackdown
on Zapu supporters, evoking comparisons
of Mugabe's political leadership to that of white rule.
The collapse of the political alliance with Zapu allowed Mugabe to dominate
the political scene and push on with his own political ideas, isolating him
from large sections of the population and the wider political scene.
In recent years Mugabe has become a outspoken nationalist and had distanced
himself from the international community, insisting that he alone has the
right to decide the future of the country.
He has accused the countries 75,000 white Zimbabweans of being responsible
for the unstable economy. The growing discontent over the country's failing
economy with inflation and unemployment soaring to record levels are
starting to threaten his authority.
In the past Mugabe had always been able to put down political opponents
through violence and intimidation. His Zanu-PF party still dominates what is
virtually a one party state occupying 147 out of the country's 150
Mugabe has only recently faced any serious challenge to his presidency, in
the form of mass protests and significant gains for the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC has refused to recognise Mugabe as head
His policies towards homosexuals, harassment of white farmers and
journalists has created tension and fear inside Zimbabwe and has won him
very few friends outside the country.
Mugabe's long stated aim of handing over farm land from whites to blacks
looks no nearer to being resolved. The issue, which was a major cause of the
war for independence in the 1970s, and looks likely to continue to dominate
Disappointment over Zimbabwe pullout
AFP - The
Commonwealth said it was disappointed at Zimbabwe's announcement This is a transcript from The World Today. The program is
broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
it was pulling out of the group of mostly former British colonies and said
the body wanted the southern African country to return.
"It is disappointing," Commonwealth spokesman Joel Kibazo told AFP. "What we
want is the return of Zimbabwe into the Commonwealth."
"What we care about is the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and that is
what we will continue to do," Kibazo added.
Zimbabwe's veteran president, Robert Mugabe, said he was making good on a
threat to quit the 54-nation body, describing a decision by Commonwealth
leaders to extend their suspension of his renegade state as "unacceptable".
Mugabe adamant Zimbabwe out for good
The World Today - Monday, 8 December , 2003 12:16:23
Reporter: Julia Limb
Spokesman for the President, George Charamba, today said there was no reason for Zimbabwe to remain part of the organisation and that the decision to leave only served to strengthen ties with other African nations.
Reporter Julia Limb began by asking Mr Mugabe's spokesman why Zimbabwe had chosen to leave the Commonwealth.
GEORGE CHARAMBA: It's so obvious. Zimbabwe pulls out precisely because the Commonwealth is racist. The Commonwealth is, at least as dominated by Britain, New Zealand and Australia, is taking the path of racism. It is taking the path that does not respect Zimbabwe's sovereignty, and with no business.
JULIA LIMB: And George Charamba, won't it be damaging to Zimbabwe to quit the Commonwealth?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: How does Zimbabwe get damaged by quitting the Commonwealth? It was not born in the Commonwealth, was it?
JULIA LIMB: What about Australia's role in continuing to seek suspension of Zimbabwe? Has that had a big impact?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: Cry for your beloved country. Cry for your beloved country to actually shame that Australia, which has such a despicable record in terms of its own treatment of Indigenous people of that country, can dare stand up and tell Zimbabwe about lessons in democracy. What lessons do we get from Australia?
In the first place, why do you have a situation where the Commonwealth countries like Australia, who are supposed to have equal status with all other Commonwealth countries, have individual power against the organisation, against all committees, against a full member country?
JULIA LIMB: And what will it mean to Zimbabwe being out of the Commonwealth?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: It doesn't mean anything at all. Remember, that Zimbabwe joined the Commonwealth to club alongside people who respect it, alongside countries that respect it.
And if clubbing means undermining its own sovereignty, means losing its own land, means losing its sovereignty, then (inaudible) clubbing and it does the right thing to get out and this is what exactly we have done.
JULIA LIMB: So, George Charamba, does that mean that there's no chance that Zimbabwe would rejoin with the Commonwealth?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: Why should, why should, unless, unless again Australia wants to use its individual power to get us back into the Commonwealth. In which case we will then ask which country this is. We are out and we are out for good.
JULIA LIMB: And you don't think that there will be any disadvantages to Zimbabwe?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: But what were the advantages to Zimbabwe in the first place, apart from the actions of camaraderie?
JULIA LIMB: There's no Commonwealth aid or that sort of thing that might be helpful?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: They tell us that that aid is much more meaningful to us than out sovereignty, than our land. Can they? What would be Australia's position if she was told that we are abandoning our sovereignty for the sake of being a member of that particular club? Would you take that route?
JULIA LIMB: So, really, that's the end of the Commonwealth for you?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: That's the end of the Commonwealth. I hope that there's something left once we have left.
JULIA LIMB: Have you have any response from any of the Commonwealth leaders about this decision?
GEORGE CHARAMBA: Ah, well, I don't know what response we expect. We don't expect any response at all. It's a sovereign decision and I'm sorry, we will stand by it.
TANYA NOLAN: George Charamba, Spokesman for Zimbabwe's, President Robert Mugabe. He was speaking from Harare to Julia Limb.
This is a transcript from The World Today. The program is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
Former diplomat discusses Zimbabwe move
The World Today - Monday, 8 December , 2003 12:20:54
Reporter: Mark Tamhane
TANYA NOLAN: Well a man who knows Zimbabwean politics well is Hugh Craft, a former senior Australian diplomat, and the former head of the political division of the Commonwealth Secretariat. He also was a member of the Commonwealth team which monitored Zimbabwe's first post-independence elections in 1980, which of course, saw Robert Mugabe come to power.
Mark Tamhane asked Hugh Craft does it really matter if Zimbabwe has left the Commonwealth?
HUGH CRAFT: Well yes it does. I mean, the Commonwealth is a voluntary association and Zimbabwe independence and Commonwealth support for Zimbabwe independence in 1980 represented a high point in Commonwealth endeavour and Commonwealth achievement.
Also, the principles on which, curiously enough, the principles on which Harare, Zimbabwe now finds itself excluded from the Commonwealth are based on the declaration adopted by heads of government in Harare.
Yes it is. It's a sad day for the Commonwealth and it does matter.
MARK TAMHANE: But does it matter in a largely symbolic way? I mean, in practical terms, it's not really going to make one iota of difference to the pretty grim daily reality of life in Zimbabwe at the moment though, is it?
HUGH CRAFT: Well, there are two things here. The first is that it matters in terms of the Commonwealth's own stand and its own standards.
I mean, the Commonwealth alone has stood firm amongst international organisations on drawing a line in the sand and saying that certain behaviour of countries is unacceptable in terms of the Commonwealth association, and we've had a succession of countries – Nigeria, Pakistan, Fiji and now Zimbabwe – being excluded from the councils of the Commonwealth because they haven't measured up to that standard.
The second issue is that association with the Commonwealth does deliver certain benefits in terms of the delivery of assistance in raising social and economic living standards, and I'm sure that the Commonwealth as a whole will be distressed to know that Zimbabwe has removed itself now from the possibility of that development assistance which will help in the daily lives of its people.
MARK TAMHANE: Is this really a critical time in the future of the Commonwealth? I mean, if Zimbabwe can pick up its bat and ball and go home if it doesn't like the umpire's decision, are other countries more likely to follow, particularly in Africa?
HUGH CRAFT: It is a critical time in the sense that having drawn the line in the sand the Commonwealth has both served its purposes very well in keeping those standards high, but it also does raise the possibility of other nations re-examining where they stand in terms of the values and the notions that the Commonwealth stand for and I think it does reinforce the Commonwealth association rather than weaken it.
MARK TAMHANE: But do you think it gives ammunition to critics that say look, CHOGM is really nothing more than a talk-fest? I mean, John Howard at the last CHOGM was keen to reinvigorate the Commonwealth as a forum to push forward things like the world trade agenda, and instead he gets bogged down arguing about Zimbabwe?
HUGH CRAFT: Well, I mean there were a number of things talked about at that CHOGM summit.
No, I think it actually demonstrates that the Commonwealth does have a value beyond what people generally regard as it being simply consultative.
I mean, Zimbabwe has now turned its back on the Commonwealth because it's been unable to meet the requirements of the other 53 Commonwealth leaders and in a sense that demonstrates that the Commonwealth stands for something. In fact it stands for very much more than other international organisations, who've not been prepared to say that military dictatorships or unrepresentative governments are not welcome in their councils. It does actually lift the Commonwealth in terms of its international stature.
TANYA NOLAN: Former head of the political division of the Commonwealth secretariat, Hugh Craft, speaking there to Mark Tamhane.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, once hailed for leading a peaceful and
prosperous nation, is now the target of sanctions for his autocratic style
and his violent crackdown on dissent.
The 79-year-old leader swept to power in a 1980 election as the liberator of
his country. In March 2002, he won a fifth six-year term of office, after a
violent ballot that international observers said was tainted by fraud.
In his election campaign, the former guerrilla leader has returned to the
rhetoric of the 1970s liberation war, calling his bid for re-election the
"third chimurenga" or uprising against white rule.
His militant supporters reinforced the war mentality with a brutal campaign
of repression targeting supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic
In recent years, Mugabe's political strategy has focused on a program to
hand over 10 million hectares of white-owned farmland to blacks - some to
poor farmers but others to businessmen, politicians and others seeking to
own a commercial farm.
The land reform scheme and his crackdowns on opposition members, judges and
journalists have triggered an uproar and "smart sanctions" against Mugabe
and his inner circle by the European Union and the United States.
Mugabe has attacked his opponents as traitors, polarising opinion among his
countrymen as never before.
The land reforms, which aim to address colonial-era injustices, have been
marred by violent invasions of white farms by pro-government militants,
openly supported by the president.
In campaign speeches before the March 2002 election, Mugabe said he had
ordered police not to interfere with the militants.
More than 100 people have died in the violence since it began in early 2000,
at least 42,000 have been displaced and thousands more have been tortured or
intimidated, according to rights groups.
An intellectual who initially embraced Marxism, Mugabe was praised when he
won the election which ended white-minority rule in 1980, a few weeks after
Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain.
Born on February 21, 1924, at Kutama Mission north-west of the capital
Harare, he qualified as a teacher at the age of 17.
He took his first steps in politics when he enrolled at Fort Hare University
in South Africa, where he met many of southern Africa's future black
He then resumed teaching, moving to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Ghana
before returning home to what was then Southern Rhodesia in 1960.
As a member of various nationalist parties which were banned by the
white-minority government, he was detained with other nationalist leaders in
1964 and spent the next 10 years in prison camps or jail.
He used those years to consolidate his position in the Zimbabwe African
National Union and emerged from prison in November 1974 as ZANU leader. He
then left for Mozambique, from where his banned party was launching
guerrilla attacks on Rhodesia.
Economic sanctions and war forced Rhodesian leader Ian Smith to negotiate.
Mugabe's renamed ZANU-Patriotic Front, which drew most of its support from
the ethnic Shona majority, swept to power in the 1980 election.
The former guerrilla leader announced a policy of reconciliation with the
country's white minority. But most left and now only about 40,000 whites -
less than one per cent of the population - remain.
Mugabe crushed dissent among the minority Ndebele people with his North
Korean-trained Fifth Brigade, which massacred an estimated 20,000 suspected
In his early years, Mugabe was widely credited with improving health and
education for the black majority. But social services later declined and the
AIDS epidemic shattered gains in health care.
In 1990 he tried to establish a one-party state along Chinese lines but was
opposed by a majority of his own party and backed down.
In October 2001 Mugabe declared an end to market reforms and a return to
The price controls he imposed on basic goods created shortages, while
inflation continued soaring to over 117 per cent and 80 per cent of the
population sank into poverty.
Leaders reach deal on Zimbabwe suspension
By Jean Eaglesham, Michael Peel and David White in Abuja
Published: December 8 2003 4:00 | Last Updated: December 8 2003 4:00
A prolonged battle in the Commonwealth over Zimbabwe ended last night
with a deal maintaining the country's suspension but putting its status
under continuous review.
The hard-won compromise leaves open the
possibility of a return to the
Commonwealth as early as next year.
Tony Blair, British prime minister, who argued strongly against any
concessions towards Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, was "very
satisfied" with the outcome, a UK spokesman said.
In a carefully calibrated statement, heads of government mandated
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Commonwealth's current chairman,
to hold exploratory talks with Zimbabwean politicians and others, assisted
by Don McKinnon, the organisation's secretary general.
Zimbabwe's eventual re-admission would be subject to consultation with
a panel of six Commonwealth leaders and with heads of government once Mr
Obasanjo decided that sufficient progress had been made towards
reconciliation between government and opposition.
A Commonwealth official said it was important to make clear Zimbabwe
would be welcomed back when it addressed concerns about democracy and human
rights. Zimbabwe was suspended from Commonwealth ministers' meetings in
March last year after its government was accused of electoral fraud and
In a comment designed to placate countries sympathetic towards
Zimbabwe, notably South Africa, Mr Obasanjo said there had some signs of
"movement" that had not been made public, and expected to be "talking in
terms of months rather than in terms of years". He accepted, however, that
in a compromise deal "you cannot please everybody".
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change last night
welcomed the deal, saying it "struck a blow for democracy".
Three days of wrangling over Zimbabwe virtually monopolised attention
at the Commonwealth summit in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. South Africa took
other members by surprise with a hardening of its campaign to have Zimbabwe
re-admitted immediately. Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party called for the
country to pull out completely from the Commonwealth after Mr Mugabe accused
the organisation of interfering with the country's sovereignty.
Mr Blair was forced to delay his return to London by several hours to
ensure that Zimbabwe remained suspended from the 54-member organisation.
He failed to settle the issue on Saturday in bilateral talks with
Thabo Mbeki, the South African president. Mr Mbeki held out in favour of
renewed engagement with Zimbabwe, pressing his case as a member of the
six-nation group mandated to come up with a formula for dealing with the
issue. The group, also including Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica and
Mozambique, is to maintain a consultative role.
The protracted argument dwarfed other high-profile issues on the
summit agenda including world trade, terrorism and the HIV/Aids epidemic.
Zimbabwean opposition dismisses Mugabe's threat
By Habib Yakoob
ABUJA— ZIMBABWEAN Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
yesterday dismissed as unrealistic threats by president Robert Mugabe to
pull out of the Commonwealth, saying the country was not his "private
Spokesman for the party, Mr. Paul Thamba Nyathi told journalists in
Abuja that Mugabe would have shot himself in the foot should he decide to
quit the commonwealth.
"Zimbabwe is not his (Mugabe) private property, and so he could have
been threatening to leave, but even if he does we shall keep on the struggle
(to oust him).
He accused President Mugabe of attempting to muzzle the opposition and
committing human rights abuses, to perpetrate himself in power, calling on
the Commonwealth to ensure a change in the country. Nyathi said the problem
in Zimbabwe was not the issue of land reform as argued by Mugabe, but the
issue "of a man interested in holding on to power," stressing how local
militia was being used against the people.
"Mugabe’s is highly a corrupt government and even most of the war
veterans have pulled out of his government that is why he resorted to the
use of young militia who were trained to kill and torture any opposition to
his bad leadership", he stated.
Though the party’s spokesman would not call for sanctions against the
government, as its effect would be born by the whole Zimbabweans but
advocated for a subtle move to get Mugabe out of the way.
UN resolution will sober up Mugabe
BY MDUDUZI MATHUTHU
THE decision by President Robert Mugabe to drag Zimbabwe out of the
Commonwealth is a perilous, self-serving adventure for which he should be
held to account.
By dragging Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth, Mugabe knows his animalistic
tendencies of torture, murder and running down the economy will go
unmonitored, now that his regime is – for those who thought it couldn’t get
worse - officially a rogue state.
Mugabe has tried many times over the past week to convince anyone who cared
to listen that there was no point for the Commonwealth. But his fervent
attempts to get an invitation betrayed him, and his bitterness in rejection
exposes just how much he values the Commonwealth.
Even Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo saw it: “Sometimes when you are
pushed against the wall, you pretend something doesn’t matter, although deep
down you know it does.”
What emerges from this sordid saga is the frightening reality that Robert
Mugabe now thinks he can make ANY decision without consulting the nation,
let alone consulting his cheering numbskulls that gathered in Masvingo for
the party conference at the weekend.
In the United Kingdom, Tony Blair is struggling to get enough support to
embrace the European Constitution. Other European countries like Ireland and
Norway have taken a vote whether or not to join the European Union.
But in Zimbabwe, a murderous tyrant called Robert Mugabe - who licensed the
killing 20 000 minority Ndebeles in the south western Zimbabwean provinces
of Matabeleland South and North - makes the decision to pull the country out
of the Commonwealth over breakfast with his wife.
Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and other
Commonwealth countries will now find it difficult to access lines of credit
from banks – a facility open to citizens of Commonwealth countries. It would
be impossible for them to change their drivers’ licence in other
Commonwealth countries, register as voters and there would be a change of
immigration procedures – all because of an arbitrary decision of a murderous
There can only be one conclusion – Mugabe now thinks Zimbabwe is his
personal fiefdom. He thinks he can do anything on behalf on the majority,
without consulting the people or parliament.
Here is a ruthless dictator using the name of Zimbabwe to fight his personal
battles, at whatever cost to the nation which has to bear his excesses at
the end of the day.
Predictably, Mugabe will now vent his anger on the opposition at home. He
warned at the weekend that he would unleash “legal violence” – whatever that
means - on them, which probably points to the extortion of over a billion
dollars from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change through legal
costs for false arrests.
It would seem to us that Mugabe has reached a point of no return. Trying to
close the gap between him and democracy is sure to result in spectacular
What is needed now is a United Nations resolution.
Zimbabweans have endured enough of misrule and economic mismanagement.
Inflation reaches 700 percent by the government’s own admission next
January. Food shortages are the order of the day, political violence is an
acceptable method of campaign and rigging elections passes for good politics
In the past year, the government has crafted two pieces of legislation which
perhaps summarise the true nature of this evil regime. The Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) with the Public Order and
Security Act (Posa) are two classic examples of why the problem in Zimbabwe
is not that of racist intrusion by Britain, Australia or New Zealand – but
that of good governance.
Posa has the same outlook as Communist Russia’s legislation. The clause
which bans public demonstrations, or which grants the police the express
right to tear-gas or beat the hell out of any assembled group of six people
just shows how Mugabe, for all the anti-European mantra, is a ruthless
dictator who cries ‘racism’, while at the same time brutalising his own
We agree with Malawi President Bakili Muluzi when he said before the
Commonwealth summit: “My brother, comrade Mugabe, and his Zanu-PF must
realise the world is changing in the direction of democracy. Laws that don't
benefit the people should be scrapped.”
The fact that the committee which took the decision to extend Zimbabwe’s ban
from the Commonwealth comprised mostly African countries shows that no-one
is buying Mugabe’s racist rhetoric. Not anymore!
The decision to elect Don McKinnon for another term as Commonwealth
secretary general by 40 to 11 votes is a proxy vote by the Commonwealth
against Mugabe which shows the group is a united force - a quality that the
Zimbabwean dictator sought to undermine with little success.
Now is the time for fellow African leaders to tell Mugabe that they will not
stand or support his tyranny. The world, as Muluzi said, is moving towards a
democracy – as can be seen in the case of Pakistan.
Progressive nations should now form a coalition of the willing and carry the
same unity displayed at this summit to the United Nations. A clear signal
should be sent to Mugabe in the form of a resolution that the world has had
enough of his misrule.
As in the case of Iraq, if Mugabe then decides to stick his head in the sand
like an ostrich, he should be suspended, or other severe alternatives should
be pursued as long as they will secure Zimbabwe and return it to the people.
ABUJA, Nigeria (Reuters) -- Following is a text of the statement issued by
the Commonwealth on Sunday:
Commonwealth Heads of Government discussed the situation in Zimbabwe. They
agreed to establish a committee consisting of the Heads of Government of
Australia, Canada, India, Jamaica, Mozambique and South Africa to examine
the way forward. It was agreed that the Prime Minister of Jamaica would be
the chairman of the committee.
In discussing the issue the committee was guided by the following
• The commitment of all Commonwealth countries to adhere to the principles
embodied in the Harare Declaration and the need to address the issues raised
in the Marlborough House statement of 19 March 2002
• The earnest desire to facilitate the early return of Zimbabwe to the
Councils of the Commonwealth
• The determination to promote national reconciliation in Zimbabwe
• Deep concern for the people of Zimbabwe and the desire to assist towards a
return to normalcy and economic prosperity.
The committee also welcomed the tireless efforts of (Nigerian) President
(Olusegun) Obasanjo, (South African) President (Thabo) Mbeki, (Mozambican)
President (Joaquim) Chissano and others to encourage and assist the process
of national reconciliation and urged them not to relent.
It reaffirmed the importance of supporting and consolidating democracy,
ensuring peace and harmony, and promoting development and growth in
Heads of Government endorsed the committee's recommendations and decided as
• Heads of Government affirmed the Commonwealth's commitment to encourage
and assist the process of national reconciliation
• Heads of Government mandated the Chairperson-in-Office (Obasanjo),
assisted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, to engage with the parties
concerned to encourage and facilitate continued progress and the return of
Zimbabwe to the Councils of the Commonwealth and, in this regard, express
support for the intention of the Chairperson-in-Office to visit Zimbabwe at
an early opportunity.
• At an appropriate time when the Chairperson-in-Office believed sufficient
progress had been made, he would consult the committee.
• Provided there were consensus in the committee that sufficient progress
had been made on the issues of concern, the Chairperson-in-Office would
consult with Commonwealth leaders on the return of Zimbabwe to the Councils
of the Commonwealth.