|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|Opposition welcomes Commonwealth suspension of Zimbabwe|
Zimbabwe's main opposition party is welcoming the Commonwealth's decision to suspended Harare from the organisation's councils for one year.
The decision means no Zimbabwean government representative may take part in any meeting of the 54-nation grouping of Britain and its former colonies over the coming year.
"We accept the findings of the Commonwealth observer group," which found the elections were seriously flawed, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.
Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, whose leader Morgan Tsvangirai was defeated by President Robert Mugabe in the March 9-11 presidential election, welcomed the suspension.
"The question of suspension was long overdue. We are still run by an illegitimate government that has stolen an election," said Tendai Biti, the party's foreign affairs spokesman.
"For once we are not alone in the realisation of the true nature of the Zimbabwean crisis," he said, and praised the move as "a blow struck against misgovernance."
Mr Mugabe's Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the government was waiting to see the full report before making comment, Zimbabwe's state-run radio reported.
The country had more pressing issues to deal with, such as revitalising the economy, Mr Moyo was quoted as saying.
Suspension from the councils of the Commonwealth falls short of a full suspension from the organisation, although technically the difference is marginal. Under suspension from the councils, there is a cessation of any new technical assistance programmes other than those aimed toward the restoration of political stability and the rule of law. Under full suspension, all current programmes cease too. Full suspension would also have barred Zimbabwe from competing in this year's Commonwealth Games to be held in Manchester.
Story filed: 21:49 Tuesday 19th March 2002
The decision was taken by the Commonwealth "troika" which was mandated to review the presidential elections in Zimbabwe.
Leaders of Australia, Nigeria and South Africa agreed with Commonwealth observers that the campaign had been marred by violence and intimidation.
The poll was also criticized by the USA, the European Union and the UK.
Was the Commonwealth right to suspend Zimbabwe? What difference will this decision make?
Now Mugabe is under no obligation to play by the West's rules
George Dash, Montreal, Canada
Whether or not the action will work is another matter. It was right for the
Commonwealth to suspend us because Mugabe who has become very powerful is
flushing democracy down the drain. If the Zimbabwe wasn't suspended it would
have meant that the Commonwealth would have legitimised his rule. That's why
Tsvangirai should not be talking to the government until law and order is
restored. If he engages in talks without certain conditions being met by the
government we have, it will legitimise Mr. Mugabe. It will hurt us
internationally, but it had to be done. Until we restore democracy, by having
law and order and people being allowed to vote again. The suspension sends a
signal and confirms the principles for which the C/Wealth stands for.
Dave Canyon, Zimbabwe
I believe preventive measures should have been taken by the Commonwealth to avoid such a human rights crisis
Volford Peter, Hungary
The Commonwealth is right to suspend Mugabe's government. They are finally
standing behind and supporting the people of Zimbabwe who have been robbed of
their human right to choose who should lead them. Now the Commonwealth, SADC and
the UN must help the Zimbabweans have a free and fair election so that their
choice is made real and Zimbabwe can live again. Thank you, Mr Mbeki, Mr
Obasanjo and Mr Howard.
Barbara, in exile, Nowhere
Well it was not a very good idea to suspend Zimbabwe just because of one
person.The organisation should have tried other plans than to suspend it cause
right now they are going to face more economic problems .At least if they had
put more sanctions on him and the ruling party
Britain is absolutely right to suspend Zimbabwe
Nick, UK (living in USA)
More must be done to force Mugabe to realise that Zimbabwe is not a vacuum.
Britain and its allies should start celebrating, though Mugabe is not a
saint, but who is?
Mourfy Karl, USA
The commonwealth suspension is useless if Mugabe and his ministers still have
access to their money and other assets in all these commonwealth and EU
I believe that for the Commonwealth to be respected now and in the in future,
it had all the reasons to suspend Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government brought
this to its own people, and they are to blame. It's sad to read comments from
individuals like Lisa (above) putting the blame on Britain. The blame should be
directed to the Zimbabwean government for failing to provide fair and free
elections. Look at the findings from the Commonwealth and tell me if the
elections were fair and free to all parties involved. The whole process favoured
the Ruling Party. If the elections were free and fair MDC would be in power
today. Let us all pray for God to help the people of Zimbabwe and to give common
sense to Mr. Mugabe to resign, by doing so, helping Zimbabwe as a nation.
I like to think that the Commonwealth represents Britian's desire to try and
make up for past colonial wrongs. As such, we owe it to the people of Zimbabwe
to help where we can and apply gentle pressure where we see the need. I don't
think Zimbabwe should have been suspended - something else needs to be done and
Zimbabwe's African neighbours should lead the way.
Zimbabwe would have to prove it had overhauled its electoral system before it could be reinstated to the Commonwealth, Secretary-General Don McKinnon said today.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth for a year today after a committee of leaders headed by Prime Minister John Howard ruled the country's presidential election earlier this month was not free and fair.
But no sanctions have been imposed on the southern African nation in the short-term.
The decision, taken by Mr Howard and presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, followed a report by Commonwealth observers on the conduct of the poll.
Mr McKinnon said the decision was based on the assumption there would be some reconciliation with political parties on the ground in Zimbabwe.
"That suspension can only be lifted if there is real progress on the ground across a wide range of activities," he told ABC radio.
"The whole electoral structure and the whole electoral process has to be changed, there are very firm recommendations about that, and we would hope that they would take that very seriously."
Mr McKinnon said all Commonwealth countries had delegated their responsibility to the three-member panel.
"We all knew that what we wanted out of this was not to make life in Zimbabwe a lot worse but, at the same time, be able to indicate the strong displeasure of Commonwealth leaders over the conduct of the elections," he said.
The Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday that he would only meet President Robert Mugabe to discuss one thing: a transitional government to organise a re-run of the presidential election under international supervision.
But for that meeting to happen, Mr Mugabe must first stop his crackdown against opposition supporters, halt the demonisation of the opposition by state media and end the general lawlessness in Zimbabwe, Mr Tsvangirai told The Independent.
He said the Commonwealth decision to suspend Zimbabwe for one year would not change that strategy, which was approved at a meeting of the Movement for Democratic Change's national executive council yesterday.
Mr Tsvangirai said the Commonwealth decision would help in keeping the pressure on Mr Mugabe. It had also saved the credibility of the Commonwealth, he added. The MDC leader had unsuccessfully tried to push for the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth at its Brisbane summit earlier this month.
He did not say what action his party would take if Mr Mugabe refused to meet the opposition demands.
But a three-day national strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is due to start today in protest at violence against workers and the deepening economic crisis. Mr Tsvangirai said he fully supported the action, which was declared illegal yesterday.
"He [Mugabe] will destroy himself," he said. "If he thinks he is omnipotent, he is invincible, then just leave him ... Let's wait and see."
Mr Tsvangirai was earlier quoted on BBC radio as saying he was prepared to meet Mr Mugabe for discussions. But after meeting the executive council yesterday afternoon, he toughened his position and rejected any talks unless conditions were met.
He said: "The council was in a very uncompromising mood. It doubts Mugabe's sincerity for any talks with the opposition. This is why he must create the necessary conditions for these talks to prove his seriousness."
He ruled out any negotiations for a government of national unity, as proposed by South Africa, with the backing of the US and Britain.
"The unity government issue is not an option for us. We don't even want it on the agenda of any meeting with Mugabe. I will be writing to Mbeki and Obasanjo to make our position clear." He said the world should understand that the most important thing for Zimbabwe now was to restore the legitimacy of government through a fresh ballot.
"The people of Zimbabwe are entitled to a legitimately elected government," said Mr Tsvangirai.
Mr Mugabe has not publicly spoken out against forming some kind of government with the opposition, which is seen as a sign that he has not rejected the proposals by the South African President Thabo Mbeki and the Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo.
But a respected political scientist, Professor Masipula Sithole, said: "Any unity government between Mugabe and the MDC is completely unworkable. Their policies and approaches are completely different. Mugabe is more amenable to a unity government because he is in a desperate position after stealing the election. But it would be wrong for the MDC to be part of any such deal."
Police said yesterday they had arrested four men and seized firearms linked to the murder on Monday of a white farmer, Terry Ford.
It was a day of high drama, in which aid for South Africa and the credibility of the Commonwealth were laid on the line to obtain Zimbabwe's suspension.
As ever, in diplomatic negotiations, it produced a compromise the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, can tell President Mugabe that he has spared Zimbabwe the threat of sanctions, which would have hurt Zimbabwe worse than the one-year suspension from Commonwealth meetings.
And the developed countries in the Commonwealth can draw satisfaction from having overcome, to an extent, the group's racial divisions to produce a unanimous decision that delivers a strong message to Robert Mugabe that rigging elections will not go unpunished.
"This is a pie in the face of those who sought to use old labels to define the Commonwealth," said John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, who was the troika's designated spokesman yesterday.
Mr Mbeki and the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, had flown from Harare, where they met President Mugabe on Monday. They cited the beginning of negotiations on the political crisis as a reason to defer the proposed suspension of Zimbabwe. But the swift rejection by Mr Mugabe and by the defeated opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai of their ideas for a government of unity undermined this argument.
In the end, it was the report of the Commonwealth electoral observers that clinched the argument, as it left no doubt that the presidential elections in Zimbabwe were a travesty of democracy.
Where the Commonwealth summit had fudged its decision on suspending Zimbabwe days before the election, this time the findings were not challenged. Mr Howard would not comment on the fact that the South African observer mission had declared the poll legitimate.
Mr Mbeki had come under pressure from the United States and from Britain, who made clear to the South African leader that it was not only the Commonwealth's reputation for "good governance" that was on the line, but South Africa's, and his own and that this would affect the West's willingness to supply aid.
According to sources close to the talks, both Mr Obasanjo and Mr Mbeki pleaded with Mr Mugabe as late as yesterday afternoon to signal a willingness to make some concession, but he refused. Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo then dropped their objection to suspension. The decision not to impose sanctions was part of the bargain.
Pakistan: Banned in 1999 after a military coup led by Pervez Musharraf. The ban was maintained earlier this month despite General Musharraf's support for the US-led war on terrorism.
Fiji: Banned in 1987 after a coup. Reinstated in 1997 after adopting a multiracial constitution, but suspended again after another coup in May 2000. Readmitted in December 2001.
Nigeria: Suspended in 1995 for human rights abuses under a military regime. Rejoined in 1999 after a return to civilian rule.
South Africa: Declared a republic in 1961 and left the Commonwealth. Rejoined in 1994 after apartheid ended.
After months of dithering and division along racial lines, the Commonwealth decided yesterday to suspend Zimbabwe's membership for a year.
The organisation declared the country's presidential elections was an inadequate reflection of the will of the people and was marred by politically motivated violence.
The surprise decision was taken by a "troika" three Commonwealth leaders who were nominated by the Commonwealth heads of state and government, when they met in Australia earlier this month.
The three the prime minister of Australia, John Howard, the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, met at Commonwealth headquarters in London yesterday to consider the Commonwealth observers' report on the Zimbabwe election.
The three had been mandated to pronounce on the conduct of the election and to formulate the Commonwealth's response. In their statement, they said the observer group had "concluded the presidential election was marred by a high level of politically motivated violence" and "the conditions in Zimbabwe did not adequately allow for a free expression of will by the electors."
As a result, they said, "they deemed these conclusions, together with other aspects of the report of the observer group, to be an adverse reflection on the electoral process, requiring an appropriate Commonwealth response". In what appeared to be a careful compromise, the troika officially known as the "chairpersons' committee" decided against imposing sanctions and the Commonwealth - in the shape of the troika and the Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon, has undertaken to try to foster reconciliation between the re-elected president, Robert Mugabe, and the opposition.
That was a surprise because most observers had thought the Commonwealth would continue to "fudge" the issues for fear of deepening the black-white split that was so evident at the Australia summit.
The decision was welcomed by the Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who led calls for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth before the election. He said: "The Commonwealth has today spoken with one voice. The message could not be clearer."
Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, welcomed it as a "credible decision" that should prove to President Robert Mugabe his "wayward" behaviour was unacceptable in the eyes of the world.
Mr Tsvangirai said he was surprised by the decision because when he met South African President Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian leader Olusegen Obasanjo in Harare yesterday, the two leaders had not shown any willingness to take tougher action against Zimbabwe.
He said: "They appeared to prefer a situation whereby Mugabe would be given more time to discuss unity with us while suspension from the Commonwealth was deferred."
But trouble and unrest still looms in Zimbabwe. Police detained a trade union leader yesterday ahead of today's national strike that the government has declared illegal.
The youth wing of Zimbabwe's opposition meanwhile plans to foment a Yugoslav-style popular revolt to topple President Mugabe unless he agrees to a transitional government to organise new elections.
MDC national youth chairman, Nelson Chamisa, told The Independent the party's youths think it is a waste of time to engage Mugabe because he is a "crook with a proven record."
He said: "The youths who can't get jobs and are suffering are even calling for unorthodox means to remove Mugabe but, as a party, we have said we can't do that. We will only use constitutional means to remove him." He said these constitutional means would inevitably involve demonstrations and street protests.
Speaking for the troika, Mr Howard said efforts to bring about reconciliation, initiated by Nigeria and South Africa, would continue and yesterday's statement said the Commonwealth considered "reconciliation essential to address the issues of food shortages, economic recovery, the restoration of political stability, the rule of law and the conduct of future elections."
The three Commonwealth leaders issued a call to the international community "to respond to the desperate situation currently in Zimbabwe, especially the shortages of food.". Mr Howard said that Australia was making additional funds available to Zimbabwe in humanitarian aid
Switzerland announced yesterday it was freezing the financial assets of Zimbabwean government officials.