Sydney Morning Herald
For the common good, don't wimp out
If Commonwealth leaders set up a group to monitor
Zimbabwe, John Howard
could very quickly find his new role as Commonwealth
The Commonwealth is split on
Zimbabwe. That's why there was no chance of
getting it suspended before next
The big question is whether, if Robert Mugabe holds power
observers find the election - as they must - unfree and
unfair, there will
be a common will in the Commonwealth to do what already
should have been
The group being talked about to look at the
situation would have on it
Howard plus the South African and Nigerian
presidents. If the Africans
remained reluctant to act strongly against
Zimbabwe, that would put Howard
in a very awkward position, both as Prime
Minister of Australia and
It's an irony that the
Commonwealth statement on minimum democratic
standards, which Zimbabwe is so
conspicuously flouting, was crafted at a
CHOGM in that country and is called
the Harare Declaration. Zimbabwe has not
only become a disgrace to itself but
an embarrassment to the African section
of the Commonwealth as a
While many African states disapprove of what's happening there,
reluctant to take the ultimate step of suspension, not just because
regional solidarity but also because of Mugabe. These leaders feel
particular identification with Mugabe, who was once a hero as a
For President Obasanjo, Mugabe is a friend of long
standing. Obasanjo has
been obviously trying to influence him. But the
Nigerian leader, the single
most important African figure on the issue, is
yet to be willing to take the
How it handles Zimbabwe after
next weekend, if there is a Mugabe win, will
be the most important test the
Commonwealth has faced for some years.
At this CHOGM, it's talking about
how to be more relevant for the new
century. If it is not tough with
Zimbabwe, all this talk will be for nought.
It will have wimped out.
Sydney Morning Herald
Fresh Commonwealth bid to suspend
By Michelle Grattan in Coolum
may set up a heads of government group, which would
include the Prime
Minister, John Howard, to consider suspending Zimbabwe
after it holds
elections next weekend.
Others in the group, being discussed at the
Commonweath Heads of Government
Meeting at Coolum today, would be South
Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and
Nigeria's President Olusegun
The leaders would be able to suspend Zimbabwe if the election
was judged not
to be free and fair and not to represent the views of the
However, with two African leaders in the group, it could be
difficult to get
Australia and Britain lost the battle for
immediate suspension before the
leaders assembled. African countries have
resented Zimbabwe even being
discussed. Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa
lashed out yesterday, saying
he hoped the retreat discussion would be
"balanced enough not to influence
the [election] result either way.
am hoping that if we discuss or analyse or pass information it will not
aimed at ... rooting for anyone, any one side, because that would
pre-empting the prerogative for sovereign right of the people of Zimbabwe
make an unfettered choice about their leader and their
Mr Mkapa said the whole discussion was premature. "The scene
is unfolding in
Zimbabwe. It is not unfolding in Coolum."
Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said her country would have
Zimbabwe to have been suspended earlier this year. New Zealand
would now want
"a very swift review of Zimbabwe's status" after the
as leaders met for their first executive session on Saturday, Mr
Zimbabwe referred to the retreat to allow horse trading rather
dealt with at the full session.
Australia has been trying to have a role
retained for the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which has dealt
with Zimbabwe over recent
months. Britain, which is a member of this group,
is strongly in favour of
If the leadership group goes
ahead and is confined to the three members
suggested, Mr Howard could find
himself in a challenging position.
He would be a member of the group
because he will be chairman of the
Commonwealth until next year's CHOGM. Mr
Mbeki is the departing chairman, as
well as being leader of an important
African neighbour of Zimbabwe.
President Obasanjo has been the leading
African player on the Zimbabwe
African leaders disapprove of
the violence and breaching of democracy in
Zimbabwe, but leaders like Mr
Obasanjo have long-time personal links with
The Zimbabwean Minister for Information, Jonathan Moyo, renewed
country's bitter attack on Britain and its Prime Minister, Tony
accusing him of arrogance and interference.
"Mr Blair should
shut up," Professor Moyo said.
"He makes a bad foreign
He said Britain was getting "nervous and desperate" because
Government was certain to win the election. Responding to
violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe, he said: "There are
committed in Britain than Zimbabwe. There is more violence in
He said Mr Howard was now chairman of the
Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth
was "our world - all of us - not his, not
Canada's, not Britain's."
Australia has sent two extra observers to the
monitoring team - the shadow foreign minister, Kevin
Rudd, and Liberal
Senator Alan Ferguson.
Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 12:51 GMT
Zimbabwe attacks UK 'colonialism'
Blair wants Commonwealth action against
Zimbabwe has accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of
disgraceful colonialism for trying to have the country suspended from the
The attack from Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo came after Mr
Blair warned the Commonwealth's reputation could be damaged if it did not take
tough action against President Robert Mugabe.
Conservative shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram is pressing for the
international community, and not just the Commonwealth, to send a clear message
Mr Blair needs to be told that Zimbabwe will never be a
colony again, never
Commonwealth leaders are in private talks in Australia over their policy
towards Zimbabwe ahead of the next weekend's presidential elections.
But they are not expected to decide on immediate action.
Mr Moyo told BBC News it would be voters and not international observers who
would decide the polls.
Mr Moyo was fiercely critical of Mr Blair, who he said was "suffering from a
colonial hangover" and making arrogant statements.
"He needs to be told that Zimbabwe will never be a colony
again, never," said the minister.
Moyo says observers will not decide the
"He can make as much noise as he wants and the more noise he makes, the more
he exposes himself to the international community.
"Some of the statements that have been attributed to him yesterday and today
are disgraceful and shameful."
The European Union has now imposed targeted sanctions against Mr Mugabe and
his allies but Mr Ancram said those should have been enforced much earlier.
Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast With Frost programme, Mr Ancram said the
failure to take firm action last year had given a "green light" to Mr Mugabe.
"I would like to hear a very clear message that if this election is not free
and fair and democratic then the international community, not just us
unilaterally or the Commonwealth, will take action to make sure the situation is
rectified," he continued.
Mr Ancram accused Mr Mugabe of heading a "fascist" regime that had sponsored
Foreign Office Minister Baroness Amos said the UK could take action on its
own against Zimbabwe.
But she said there needed to be "some kind of mechanism that the Commonwealth
would immediately put into action if the Commonwealth observers judge the
election not to be free and fair".
On Saturday, Mr Blair warned that if observers concluded the election, which
has been tainted by reports of violence and intimidation, was unfair then it
would be "essential" for the Commonwealth to act.
Mr Blair said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change could still win
the poll on 9 and 10 March.
He added that if Mr Mugabe refused to accept a victory by his rival Morgan
Tsvangirai, the Commonwealth had to act.
The prime minister said: "There is a disagreement here about tactics, because
some of the African countries feel it is wrong to suspend Zimbabwe at this
"But I do think it's essential for the credibility of the Commonwealth that
if after the election in Zimbabwe the Commonwealth observers report there was
malpractice and intimidation during the election, we take action if Mr Mugabe is
still in power."
'Racial' split on Zimbabwe
March 3, 2002 Posted: 5:02 AM EST (1002 GMT)
|Moyo's comments were
the focus of attention at Coolum on Sunday
COOLUM, Australia (CNN) -- Commonwealth leaders have split along
broadly racial lines over taking action against Zimbawe for reported erosion of
democracy ahead of the nation's general election next week.
Zimbabwe delegate Jonathan Moyo told media Sunday that nations such as
Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand were running a racist agenda at the
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held in the Australian resort
town in Coolum.
Britain and Australia in particular are pushing for the meeting to adopt some
form of sanctions against Zimbabwe -- including possible suspension from the
Commonwealth -- for what they allege is the use of intimidation, vote-rigging
and political suppression in the African nation.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has even gone so far as to
suggest that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe would simply not allow main
Morgan Tsvangirai to take power, even if Tsvangirai won the election.
Commonwealth leaders have been discussing the Zimbabwe issue in a private
retreat Sunday, but are believed to split on what, if any, action to take.
African states in particular are opposed to the Commonwealth taking any
action until after the election is held and election observers have had a chance
to report on the legitimacy of the vote.
Moyo accused Britain and Australia of trying to hijack the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) discussions of Zimbabwe and said the African
nations in the Commonwealth were prepared to "send a clear message to their
former colonial masters'' on the issue.
Moyo said Britain and Australia did not like the Mugabe government's moves on
land-ownership because they "don't want to see social justice in Zimbabwe".
"It is racism … They want to deepen inequality in Zimbabwe," he said.
He accused the British Prime Minister Tony Blair of interfering in Zimbabwe's
affairs, saying Blair's Labor Party was funding Tsvangirai's campaign.
|Blair should 'shut
up', Moyo said
Blair earlier Sunday suggested Mugabe was using intimidation and violence in
the election campaign because he was afraid of losing.
"The violence, the intimidation, why is he doing this if he is so secure in
the support of the people of Zimbabwe?" Blair said on Australian television.
Moyo responded by saying Blair should "shut-up". "He makes a bad foreign
"What we do in Zimbabwe is in accordance with our law and our constitution,"
"The people of Zimbabwe will decide what happens, not outsiders ... We will
accept the verdict of the people of Zimbabwe."
While the Commonwealth leaders have yet to decide a course of action on
Zimbabwe, it is believed that no recommendations will made at this CHOGM, with
delegates preferring to postpone any actions until after the election is
CHOGM spokesman Joel Kibazo told media Sunday that the Canadian Prime
Minister Jean Chretien had submitted a paper to the leaders on Zimbabwe which
set out "conditions and a timetable for some things to happen" with regard to
Kibazo would not reveal any details of what that timetable for action might
entail, saying the leaders were still discussing the paper.
The issue of Zimbabwe is a critical issue for the Commonwealth, which stands
accused of being a "toothless tiger" on such controversial issues because of its
diverse range of nations and its insistence on consensus decision-making.
The United States and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on
Zimbabwe over its actions.
If Mugabe wins, the worst is yet to come
By Graham Boynton
AT this time of year Zimbabwe is at its most
seductive. The intense furnace
of the summer months is past, the rains should
have come and gone, and the
country should be bathed in the glow of clear
blue autumnal skies and cool,
But the rains have not
come and the political landscape has cast a pall of
gloom over the country. I
grew up here and although I left more than 25
years ago I am constantly drawn
back by the awesome beauty of the place and
the kindness and humour of its
Now, with a week to go the election, I find myself apprehensive
wondering whether the country that President Mugabe proclaimed as the
of Africa when he took power in 1980 is about to be plunged into civil
Five words dominate conversation here. They are "When the election
At the moment the country is paralysed; as Duke Lefhoko, the
head of the
election observer group from the Southern African Development
(SADC), said last week, people are "nervous and reserved", and that
"a state of general fear".
Mugabe's thugs are roaming the
countryside beating and torturing anyone
whose allegiance to the 78-year-old
despot is in question.
Despite the presence of foreign observers, Mugabe
is blatantly rigging the
electoral process, using the police, the army, the
judicial system, and the
national press. It is widely accepted here that if
this were truly fair
election he would be lucky to gather 20 per cent of the
If there is a high turnout at the polling stations there is
a slim chance
that his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, will win by enough votes
to make it
impossible to steal. If not, it is hard to see how the incumbent
There are three likely scenarios to consider. The
most optimistic has
Tsvangirai winning so handsomely that Mugabe will be
forced to leave the
country in haste, possibly for Namibia.
the only chance the country has of making any kind of recovery from
economic and social chasm into which it has plunged, and avoid the
famine. With Mugabe gone, the most productive farmers would be
their land immediately, there would be some redistribution of
farms to help
black farmers, and staple crops planted for the next season.
assumes that major international financial and logistical support
forthcoming, a prospect that is unlikely if Mugabe were to
Domestic consumption of maize, Zimbabwe's staple food,
is 1.7 million tons a
year. At the moment the only maize in the country is
being brought in from
South Africa, and until the current crop hits the
market in July, there will
be no local maize.
To put this decline in
perspective, until Mugabe derailed the agricultural
economy with his
so-called land reform programme, Zimbabwe was so productive
that it not only
fed itself, but exported maize to neighbouring countries
and was able to hold
a strategic grain reserve of a million tons.
Ironically, the maize coming
in at the moment is grown by white farmers in
South Africa, a fact that has
not intruded into Mugabe's wild anti-white
rantings over the past few
The second and least decisive scenario has Mugabe winning the
it being declared moderately free and fair. Mugabe would then
he will retire and will name his successor (even though this
unconstitutional) thereby retaining power for his Zanu PF
This presumes he will announce concessions, re-evaluate the land
programme and restore some of the farms to the commercial
Even if the threat of sanctions recedes, economic moderation is
and there is slow economic recovery, power will remain with the
who have aided and abetted him.
The ordinary Zimbabwean's
income has halved in the 22 years Zanu PF has
ruled and with the economy in
such a parlous state, half measures such as a
trickle of aid money and
limited loans will not be enough.
Equally, Mugabe's successor is likely
to come from his party's inner
sanctum, probably one of the 19 people the EU
and the US have named as
targets for sanctions.
The bleakest scenario
is that the election result is inconclusive and is not
accepted either by the
African countries or the international community.
This raises the spectre
of further sanctions from the US, and the EU,
isolation from the SADC
countries, food riots that will lead to military
suppression and the
post-election witch-hunt of Mugabe's opponents that the
president and his
most rabid supporters have been threatening over the past
This grim prognosis means that the estimated £180 million in
aid that is required to stave off famine will not be
forthcoming and that
the only way the government will be able to prevent a
violent uprising will
be by imposing military law.
A further wave of
migration - a problem South Africa is already facing and
which it simply
cannot afford - will inevitably follow.
This scenario will also
exacerbate the chaos that Mugabe's reign has visited
on the very people he
claims to have liberated from the colonial yoke. Human
allege that communities are so damaged by years of
torture, abductions and
beatings that it will take decades to restore
rights worker, whom I cannot name, told me that his organisation
per cent of Zimbabweans had been exposed to state-organised
Zanu PF's rule.
This to me is one of the greatest tragedies of the Mugabe
years and the most
compelling reason to wish for the convincing defeat of the
Zimbabweans are noted throughout the region for their kindness,
and gentle nature.
In the old days it was with some relief
that one crossed the Limpopo River
border from harsh, hard-hearted apartheid
South Africa into this country.
Mugabe has turned families against one
another, encouraged friends to betray
friends, and excluded the bulk of the
populace from the dignity and
prosperity that was supposed to have come with
The Age, Melbourne
Undercurrent of African resentment to white
March 4 2002
African leaders are voicing
open frustration at the Commonwealth summit in
Queensland over the damaging
impact of the political crisis in Zimbabwe on
their efforts to rehabilitate
the continent's image in the eyes of
skirmishing at the Coolum summit is obviously not helping.
there is an undercurrent of resentment towards the governments
Australia and Canada, seen as riding roughshod over Third World
in their campaign to isolate Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.
the extravagant and acerbic rhetoric of his President,
Minister, Jonathan Moyo, went way over the top,
accusing them directly of
Other African leaders were more circumspect - but they certainly
Western media in their sights. Entrenched prejudices and
stereotyping, some asserted, were becoming as much a part of the
the violence and intimidation for which Mr Mugabe stands
Negative portrayals in the Western media of Africa as a
continent cursed by
corrupt and power-crazed tyrants were undermining the
best chance in a
generation to create the conditions for an economic and
Sadly, for Mugabe's neighbours, the focus on
Zimbabwe is cruelling their
pitch. As leaders went into their informal
retreat, tensions were simmering.
The sense of despair produced heated
words from the President of Uganda,
Yoweri Museveni, during the launch
yesterday of a new fund aimed at boosting
the flow of private investment into
the African economy. Scolding Western
journalists, he said: "The images you
keep highlighting will discourage some
people ... it's your job to help solve
this problem so we can all make
A joint project of the
Commonwealth and the World Bank, the fund, to be
known as Pan African
Commonwealth Partners, seeks to attract $300 million of
private equity to
spawn development across a range of industries.
But the first issue
raised by the assembled media was Zimbabwe. Wasn't
President Mugabe's conduct
likely to deter investors, and poison the climate
for the rest of
The President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, said he hoped markets
a distinction between Zimbabwe and its neighbours to avoid
Mr Museveni was more agitated, delivering a
lecture on the injustices if
Africa continued to be sidelined as a ghetto
economy. "Pretty soon we will
have a population of one billion people, and
those people at the moment are
under-consuming. Incomes are too
"The normal human being should consume 200 litres of milk a year.
Africans are consuming 30 litres of milk a year. Beef is the same. And
you will have these one billion people starved of jobs and incomes, you
the advanced economies) are over-consuming. There has to be a limit.
much more beef can you eat?"
Bristling over criticism that African
leaders were subverting Commonwealth
principles to prevent sanctions being
imposed on Mugabe regime, he accused
the Western media of reporting Zimbabwe
in "a very partial way" while
ignoring the gaping income divide that kept
Africans among the world's
Colonial past still haunts debate on
Disagreements on action against the Mugabe regime lay bare divisions
black and white nations
By Kathy Marks in Coolum, Queensland
Rallies in Harare townships start final week
Seated on yellow sofas in the drawing-room of a luxury resort
Queensland's Sunshine Coast, Commonwealth leaders wearing
grappled with the thorny problem of Zimbabwe between sips
of tea yesterday.
Voices rarely rose above a genteel murmur as delegates
spent the afternoon
in private talks, closeted away from their officials and
the media. Outside,
though, bitter divisions between the Commonwealth's black
and white nations
were laid bare with painful clarity.
Australia and New Zealand forcibly restated their wish to see
suspended after the intimidation and violence that have marked
for next weekend's presidential election, African countries
frustration at being railroaded into immediate action.
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, escalated their war of words, with Tony
President Robert Mugabe of attempting to rig the election and
Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, castigating Mr Blair for
meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state.
The dilemma concerning the
Commonwealth's most recalcitrant member has
preoccupied the grouping of
Britain and its former colonies for months.
There were hopes that this
four-day summit would end the prevarication and
send a clear signal of the
civilised world's abhorrence of Mr Mugabe's
repression of the media and
Few of the presidents and prime ministers cloistered
in the heavily guarded
Hyatt Regency complex in Coolum would dispute that
Zimbabwe has flouted
Commonwealth principles of respect for democracy, human
rights and the rule
of law. But they remain split on whether to resort to the
The timing of the biennial
Commonwealth heads of government meeting –
originally scheduled for October,
but postponed because of the 11 September
atrocities – has strengthened the
hand of those leaders inclined to be
forgiving of Mr Mugabe. With polling
just a week away, and Commonwealth
observers deployed in the country, they
argue that it would be foolhardy to
punish Zimbabwe now. Even before they
arrived in Coolum, Mr Blair and other
vocal critics, such as New Zealand's
Prime Minister, Helen Clark, were
resigned to the prospect of action being
The issue threatens to undermine the Commonwealth's credibility
illustrates the obstacles that prevent it from acting decisively. The
of disparate African, Asian, Pacific and Caribbean nations insists
decision-making by consensus and speaking with one voice. So the outcome
the Zimbabwe discussions is likely to be a classic Commonwealth fudge:
strongly worded statement and – following a compromise proposal tabled
Canada yesterday – a timetable for Harare's status to be reviewed within
weeks if election observers give critical feedback.
problem is the uneasy, quasi-paternalistic relationship between
developed countries and other member states.
The Tanzanian President,
Benjamin Mkapa, articulated the anger of many
African leaders yesterday,
saying: "The scene is unfolding in Zimbabwe, not
in Coolum. Unless we are
going to make unintelligent, irrational decisions,
we should let the scene
play out before we make a judgement." There was an
assumption, he said, that
a Mugabe victory meant a rigged election. "That is
ridiculous," he said.
"Let's wait and see."
Ghana's President, John Agyekum Kufuor, said the
idea of suspending Zimbabwe
was "too radical to think of right
Yesterday Mr Blair challenged Mr Mugabe, who is not attending the
ensure that the election result reflected the will of the people.
should do if he is confident of his support amongst the people of
is let them have free and fair elections," he said in an interview
A few hours later, Jonathan Moyo, marched
into the media tent at Coolum and
unleashed a stream of invective against
Britain. "This is gross interference
in our independence and sovereignty by a
prime minister of a former colonial
power who has exhibited unbelievable
arrogance," the Information Minister
Referring to Britain's
alleged support for Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the
main opposition party,
the Movement of Democratic Change, Mr Moyo added: "He
[Mr Blair] says that
unless his candidate wins, the election will not be
free and fair. That is
insulting, not only to Zimbabwe but also to African
nations and the Third
Zimbabwe has overshadowed all other issues at the summit, to the
of small countries who regard the Commonwealth as their only
Yesterday Koloa Talake, Prime Minister of tiny Tuvalu,
struggled to make his
voice heard as he appealed for help to prevent his
low-lying South Pacific
island nation from being engulfed by rising sea
levels as a result of global
And little fanfare – perhaps
fortunately – attended remarks made by the
Ugandan President, Yoweri
Museveni, as he accepted an award for his
government's campaign against Aids.
Mr Museveni declared that the HIV virus
was spread mainly by heterosexuals in
his country, since "we don't have
homosexuals in Uganda".
The Age Melbourne
Violence toll rises to 31 in Zimbabwe ahead of
HARARE, March 3 AFP|Published: Monday March 4, 9:15
Political violence ahead of Zimbabwe's presidential election
had claimed the
lives of 31 people since the start of the year, a local human
said in a report released today.
Zimrights' last toll, in
a report issued February 18, had stood at 25.
The toll includes 18 people
identified as supporters of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) and two as supporters of the ruling
Zimbabwe African National Union -
Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, the
The other 11 had no
known political affiliations.
The report came as longtime ruler Robert
Mugabe and his challenger Morgan
Tsvangirai of the MDC were rounding off
their campaigns with rallies in the
capital Harare today.
is under personal sanctions imposed by the European Union and
States over the climate of violence and intimidation in the
run-up to the
election next weekend, in which he faces an unprecedented
The Zimrights report voiced concern over "militias active in
and said that so-called training camps for ZANU-PF youths -
sympathisers were allegedly tortured - would be used as polling
during the vote next weekend.
ZANU-PF has been accused of
recruiting youth militias responsible for much
of the violence ahead of the
The Zimrights report said that between February 25 and 28,
supporters had carried out 11 beatings and two MDC officials
remained in a
It cited one case of police torture and three
cases in ZANU-PF camps, of
which two allegedly were carried out in the nearby
farming town of Marondera
involving carving the initials MDC in the victims'
Zimrights groups several human rights organisations, including the
branches of Transparency International and Amnesty
Political violence in the run-up to legislative elections
in 2000 - which
saw the invasions of hundreds of white-owned farms by Mugabe
claimed some 32 lives.
The newly-formed MDC made a strong
showing in that election, taking nearly
half the contested seats.
The Age, Melbourne
Zimbabwe labels Australia as racist
March 3 AAP|Published: Sunday March 3, 6:55 PM
accused Australia of joining in a racist campaign to
undermine its upcoming
Zimbabwe information minister Professor Jonathan Moyo told
reporters at the
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) today he
Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain were basing their
Zimbabwe's elections on racism.
"It's racism, is it not?"
Professor Moyo said.
"It is so obvious they are doing this because they
are unhappy about the
redistribution of land in Zimbabwe.
want to see social justice in Zimbabwe.
"They want to deepen inequalities
"It is obvious to anyone who has been following this problem
that there is
racism involved in this matter."
Professor Moyo said he
had no criticism of Prime Minister John Howard's
chairmanship of CHOGM, which
is expected to consider the issue of Zimbabwe's
"Mr Howard is chairman of the Commonwealth and we expect he
the chairmanship in the tradition we are all accustomed to,"
Prof Moyo said.
"What I'm aware of is now he is the chairman of the
Commonwealth and the
Commonwealth is our world, our total experience - not
his, not Australia's,
not Britain's, not Canada's, not New Zealand's - all of
Prof Moyo said Zimbabweans would not cast their votes at the March 9
poll based on what the Commonwealth had to say.
"The people of
Zimbabwe will decide as Zimbabweans - they will not decide as
members of the
Commonwealth or in terms of sentiments coming from the
"We are our own liberators."
By Paul Osborne
'Top Six' turns Chinhoyi upside down
Chinhoyi-Notorious gangs of Zanu PF youths code named Top
intensified their terror campaign in Chinhoyi town and other parts
Mashonaland West province ahead of the crucial presidential elections to
held this weekend.
Top Six, which has been accused of turning
Chinhoyi into a terror zone,
comprises Zanu PF supporters bussed into the
town from Kariba, Hurungwe,
Gokwe, Makonde, Zvimba and Chegutu at the
beginning of this month.
Residents said Top Six had set up bases at Zanu PF
offices, halls and
disused beer-halls in Chinhoyi's Gold Stream, Hunyani,
Chikono-hono high-density suburbs where it has been launching a
The marauding gangs have unleashed a reign of terror
against members of the
opposition MDC party in the town and other parts of
There have been reports of residents being
beaten up, tortured, kidnapped
and forced to attend Zanu PF meetings in the
dead of night. Drivers of
commuter omnibuses and long-distance buses are also
being forced to display
Zanu PF posters on their vehicles.
brutal attacks on MDC supporters and the demanding of Zanu PF
cards, Top Six has also been mounting illegal roadblocks in the
PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman, Philip Chiyangwa said Top Six
the party's special group formed to promote a peaceful campaign in
"Top Six is for a peaceful campaign. If it turns violent it will
retaliation to attacks by MDC supporters who want to tarnish our image
their stage-managed political violence," said Chiyangwa.
But on Sunday
night last week, Zanu PF supporters went on the rampage in
up people and attacking houses belonging to MDC supporters.
At least five
houses of MDC supporters and a Zanu PF supporter were attacked
The attacks came after a well-attended campaign rally by MDC leader
Tsvangirai at Chinhoyi Stadium.
Earlier on, rowdy Zanu PF youths
had made a futile attempt to disrupt the
rally which was attended by over 10
000 MDC supporters.
Zanu PF supporters also attacked a convoy of Sadc
who had attended the MDC rally that day. Three
observers were injured in the
At about 9pm the same day, about
50 Zanu PF youths from Top Six, descended
on Chikonda Chaguta's house in
Hunyani 2 and shattered window panes and the
Chaguta, who is a Zanu
PF supporter, said he was accused of harbouring MDC
youths at his house. He
was away when the incident happened.
The assailants, who identified
themselves as the Top Six gang, demanded to
see MDC youths, Trinos Nyamasoka
and Cuthbert Mazorodze, whom they had seen
attending the rally.
the mob was told that Trinos and Cuthbert had not yet returned
proceeded to stone the seven-roomed house. The two had already fled
night after sensing danger.
"The thugs, armed with sticks, knobkerries,
slashers, stones and hard liquor
would not listen when we told them that
Trinos and Cuthbert were not at
home. They started chanting Zanu PF slogans,
sharpening knives and stoning
the house. There were some people, including
children, sleeping inside but
the Top Six went ahead with its attack," said
Andrew Kataraumbe, Trinos'
brother who was also in the house when the gang
Kataraumbe said the gang, led by Paul Pindani, Zanu PF secretary
administration in Hunyani's Ward 4, wanted Trinos and Cuthbert
questioning at a nearby Matikwiri base, a disused beerhall.
PF supporters said they wanted to teach Trinos and Cuthbert a
mobilising people to attend the MDC rally at Chinhoyi stadium
Zimbabwe Independent - Comment
An angry and bitter
Throughout his campaign meetings in the last two weeks, President
put up a brave face and adopted a defiant attitude, spending a
amount of time telling his various audiences how unconcerned he
is about the
smart sanctions imposed on him by the European Union and the
His has repeatedly told his audiences which, stripped of
have averaged half of those addressed by main rival
Morgan Tsvangirai, that
he would not lose sleep over being unable to
gallivant in London, Paris, New
York, or Brussels, as he used to do.
week it was at Nkayi Growth Point where he told his audience:"What is
What will I be wanting in Europe?" This week it was in Rushinga
declared: "I have never set a day to say I want to visit Britain.
I was invitied to attend meetings or I was just
Breezing through Harrods, Marks and Spencer, and
Harvey Nicholls for two,
three days, what kind of "passing through" is that?
How long does it take to
pass through London, especially when you have a
chartered plane on the
ground? Spending days on lush estates as a guest of
the likes of Tony
O'Reilly, what meeting was he coming from? Few Zimbabweans
can remember any
year before 1999 when the Mugabe family did not make its
annual trek to
London and other European and American destinations for their
shopping, or simply to take a holiday.
Mr Mugabe is
evidently very bitter that he is no longer free to come and go
as he pleases.
And so must be his wife, whose baby wear shops quickly became
talk of the town for its range of imported children's wear,
brought in duty
free by the tonne-load.
Of course it is not lost upon us that the issue
on which Mr Mugabe is
spending so much time and effort on is not really meant
for the people of
Nkayi or Rushinga, but to spite western leaders, and to
buttress his image
among the ordinary people as a true African leader who is
for championing his people's quest for land. But what
spends 80% of his campaign time attacking his opponent and
countries, instead of explaining to potential voters what he has to
for them, how he intends to avert the starvation that he himself
through short-sighted and populist decisions. The people of
Mufakose do not want to hear Mugabe's opinion of Britain and
want to know how the industries they were retrenched from are
going to be
re-opened; where they are going to obtain bread, mealie-mealie,
and milk to feed their families; what plans the government has to
medical centres with even the most basic drugs; when again they can
to sleep safely in their homes without war veterans and ZanuPF
knocking on their doors and windows, and shaking their gates at all
hours. But no, none of this. All they get is "Blair this, Blair
that" as if
Tony Blair lives in Warren Park. By way of comparison, Morgan
been very clear and focussed on what the MDC stands for and
hopes to achieve
in a new government, and has spent very little time on
trivial issues such
as attacking Mugabe.
This day next week will be
the final one of voting in what is undoubtedly
Zimbabwe's most historic
election, one in which Zimbabweans go into knowing
full well that the playing
field is not at all level. But for all its
devious ways and means, for all
the rigging mechanisms that have been put
into place by ZanuPF, we hope that
Zimbabweans will vote so overwhelming as
to overcome whatever fraudulent
measures have been put into place to steal
CID detectives in trouble
THE purge on police officers suspected of being sympathetic to
opposition MDC continues, with reports that 20 detectives from
Police Station have been arbitrarily transferred to remote parts of
One of the officers from the Criminal Investigation
Department (CID), who
was affected by the latest purge, told The Standard
they were victimised for
investigating incidents of political violence which
were being perpetrated
by Zanu PF supporters.
Last week, war veterans
and Zanu PF youths held a meeting with Marondera
police chief Assistant
Commissioner Chipembere and presented a list of
'unfriendly officers', who
they suspected of being MDC members and demanded
that they be
"The problem started last month when a vehicle belonging to
the MDC was
burnt by war veterans. They also attacked Didymus Munhenzva, who
was the MDC
candidate in parliamentary elections. We were assigned to
case and picked up bullet cartridges to present as evidence,"
"As soon as we were making headway in the case, a
new team was assigned to
take over. I have been arresting war veterans and I
was ordered to release
them, yet these are the people we have identified
burning people's property
and intimidating opposition
Another officer said that he was now being transferred to
Karoi after he was
accused of being an MDC member.
"When the Chegutu
mayoral election results were announced, I was seen
talking excitedly on the
phone and my seniors suspected that I was
celebrating the MDC victory. The
next day I was informed that I was to be
"We are being
victimised purely on political grounds because we have been
professionally without taking any sides as police officers. We had
clamp down on lawlessness in Marondera," said the detective.
falls under Mashonaland East province which has recorded many
political violence, with Zanu PF supporters apparently having a
free reign in
their terror campaign.
On Friday an MDC star rally which was to be
addressed by the party's
president, Morgan Tsvangirai, had to be cancelled
following the discovery of
a plot to attack his convoy. Efforts to seek
escort from police were turned
down as the officer commanding the province,
Assistant Commissioner Mary
Masango, insisted that there were enough officers
on the ground to ensure
Unofficial state of emergency in Bulawayo
BULAWAYO-The government has intensified a crackdown on all
suspected to be anti Zanu PF, raising fears that the City of Kings
under a de facto state of emergency.
Residents here say this
move could be designed to shut out the opposition
Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) from the city where it enjoys massive
In the 2000
June parliamentary elections, the then nascent political party
swept all the
seats at stake in Bulawayo, ending Zanu PF's stranglehold on
second largest city.
MDC went on to beat Zanu PF in the same battlefield last
year in August when
its candidate, Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, dismissed a token
challenge from Zanu
PF's George Mlilo in the mayoral elections.
indications that more and more people are turning to MDC in
repression has become the order of the day as authorities
frantically seek to
stem the tide of the opposition party sweeping
Residents told The Standard it was becoming
increasingly difficult for
people hold meetings in the city. Local police,
armed with the draconian
Public Order and Security Act (Posa), seem to be on
the lookout for any
meetings considered harmful to Zanu PF that is
responsible for impoverishing
the country, once a breadbasket of southern
In the last two weeks alone, they have cancelled several meetings,
flimsy reasons, that analysts say can never be justifiable in a
One such meeting which was organised by Zimbabwe
Election Support Network
(ZESN) was recently banned by the police at the last
An official of ZESN told The Standard that police informed them they
not go ahead with their meeting, whose venue was a inner room of a
hotel, because of the volatile political situation in
Several MDC meetings have also been cancelled by police who claim
out to maintain law and order. Even clerics have not been spared of
antics of the force, headed by an open Zanu PF supporter, Augustine
A prominent Bulawayo Methodist Church cleric, Reverend Graham Shaw
was arrested for organising a 'Pray and Walk' procession which had
to do with politics in Hillside suburbs two weeks ago.
who is among the clergymen accused by the state-owned Chronicle
turning their sermons into MDC rallies, had defied police who
intended procession citing the "volatile political climate
prevailing in the
When fellow clerics, who included Reverend Noel Scott of the
and Father O'Doherty Patrick of the Roman Catholic Church,
joined hands and
started praying for the release of Reverend Francis, police
them saying their action hindered police vehicles which were
use the same portion of the pavement.
All the 11 have since
appeared in court facing charges of contravening
sections of the discredited
Posa. They were remanded to March 4 on $1 000
general manager Peter Botwright was also arrested in
connection with the
'Pray and Walk' procession.
Although there is no official curfew in Bulawayo,
the Zanu PF militia,
camped at communal halls dotted around the city, is
being accused of beating
people going about their business at night in the
high density suburbs.
"We are now afraid to walk at night in groups lest we
are suspected to be
MDC supporters," a resident in Mpopoma.
resident from Entumbane noted that the situation prevailing in some
density suburbs at night was not very different from that of the early
when the vicious crack army unit, Fifth Brigade, under an operation
named Gukurahundi, was deployed in Matabeleland.
"During the time we
could hardly go out at night fearing the soldiers who
were out to beat or
even kill people," he said.
Reports also abound of the militia going door to
door in the high density
suburbs demanding Zanu PF party cards whose demand
has risen sharply in the
past few months.
There are also reports that the
militia's favourite hunting grounds these
days are the long and winding for
mealie meal queues in the city.
"Initially their job was to ensure that
retailers did not overcharge the
staple food, but they have broadened their
horizons, eavesdropping on
people's conversations while in the queues," said
Khulani Moyo, a resident.
Early this week a man who was 'talkative' was
assaulted by some youths
suspected to be the militia after he tried to
politicise the people to vote
the Zanu PF government out while at the
Bulawayo City Council says it is powerless to remove the youths from
community halls where they are camped.
Zimbabwe's downward spiral
Published March 2,
Zimbabwe's immovable president, Robert Mugabe, seems willing to
country rather than face the prospect of surrendering power. With
presidential election scheduled for next weekend, Mugabe has stepped up
well-honed use of violence and intimidation to scare off the opposition
Mugabe is hated by many of his own people.
Increasingly, he's a threat to
the region, too. The latest outrage in
Mugabe's tormented nation is an
attempt to discredit his main opponent in the
race for president. Morgan
Tsvangirai and two top associates have been
charged with treason for
allegedly hatching a plot to assassinate the
Tsvangirai, a labor leader who heads the Movement for
(MDC), denied the ludicrous charge leveled against him and
was released from
The charge, which carries a
possible death sentence, has been dismissed by
the U.S., Britain and others
as not credible. Indeed, coming so close before
the election, it sounds
But Mugabe isn't concerned about the world's scorn. He's
political survival. The damage he's doing to his own
attacks by blacks on white farmers, confiscating their
lands, and unleashing
paramilitary thugs to attack his political
opponents--threatens to cause
economic harm and political uncertainty in the
rest of southern Africa. It's
drying up investment, undermining the rule of
law, slowing democratic reform
and inciting Africans to
Mugabe's government is doing its best to isolate itself from
the rest of the
world. It expelled the head of the European election observer
month. That dashed hopes that elections would be free and fair
the U.S. and Europe to slap travel bans on Mugabe and 19 of his
The Europeans also froze the foreign assets of the president and
of his thugocracy.
Two weeks ago, Zimbabwe revoked the
visa of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)
after agreeing to let the senator,
who is chairman of the Africa
subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, visit during the
buildup to elections. The government's reasoning
was odd: that the elections
were a busy time for officials and thus, "would
not be ideal for your
Feingold was understandably baffled,
calling the revocation suspicious and
unprecedented. "The regime in Harare
has shown that it is willing to destroy
the Zimbabwean economy, to violently
repress the Zimbabwean people, to
harass the press, and to undermine the rule
of law," he observed, "all in
the name of clinging to power."
foreign investment stays away, the economy is unraveling. The nation
suffering with 60-percent unemployment and an annual inflation rate
100 percent. Some 500,000 Zimbabweans in rural areas are now believed
at risk of starvation.
Tsvangirai once represented an
opportunity for Zimbabwe to free itself, at
last, of its tyrannical leader.
Now it's clear Mugabe will take no risks
with his own future.
wonder the EU threw up its hands last week and withdrew its observer
from the election. Mugabe is planning to steal it, and with it
Copyright © 2002, Chicago
Swiss to hold chefs' $23b
PRESIDENT Mugabe and his top lieutenants stand to lose over œ55
($4,56 billion, or $22,8 billion at the parallel market rate),
Swiss bank accounts if Zanu PF cheats its way to victory in next
A senior Swiss government official told
The Standard on Friday that his
country had decided to join the 14-member
European Union and the United
States in taking decisive action against the
Mugabe regime for crimes
The official said
Switzerland's decision to punish Mugabe was taken last
week by the country's
"The cabinet agreed it would be appropriate to impose sanctions
polls as a way of dealing with Mugabe and Zanu PF who are sure to
elections and cling on to power. The meeting resolved that the
the elections will determine their decision on Zimbabwe," the
"Our government has for a long time been looking at the
Zimbabwe and this has not been pleasant. What our cabinet
resolved was to
wait and see the outcome of the election and then we would
Daniela Stoffel-Fatzer, the Swiss foreign
ministry spokeswoman, confirmed to
The Standard that her government was
poised to swoop on accounts held by
Mugabe and his officials, and that last
week's decision would have to be
ratified by parliament. "The decision on
whether to block bank accounts,
impose trade restrictions and ban travel by
Zimbabwean officials would have
to be taken by the federal cabinet," she told
The Standard from Switzerland.
She added that her government was expected
to convey its decision to the
Zimbabwean ambassador in Bern.
action will see the freezing of secret bank accounts that Mugabe and
cabinet officials are reported to have in Switzerland. The European
has historically been a favourite destination for the world's
see it as a safe haven for stashing ill-gotten wealth because
secretive banking policy.
However, since the controversy
surrounding the millions of US dollars which
the late Phillipine president,
Ferdinand Marcos, had stored in Swiss banks,
the country has since reviewed
its ultra-secret policy and now allows looted
funds to be recovered.
spokesperson for the Swiss embassy told The Standard that, like the rest
the international community, their government was worried with the
situation in the country which was pointing to a flawed
Revelations of the billions that Zanu PF
leaders have stored in Switzerland
come at a time when the country is facing
an acute food shortage, with the
government barely able to import enough
grain to feed the nation. It also
comes against an acute shortage of foreign
currency which has seen national
reserves run dry.
SA mobilises troops along border
BULAWAYO-South Africa is reported to be mobilising troops along its
River border with Zimbabwe, in anticipation of security threats ahead
country's crucial presidential polls which take place on Saturday
Travellers from South Africa told The Standard that South
Forces troops were setting up makeshift camps at the border
town of Messina
and in other areas in the vicinity.
"Army tents are
being pitched all along the way and there is an abnormally
large presence of
military personnel in Messina and outlying areas."
Returning residents said
that the troops were moving equipment closer to the
Zimbabwean border town of
An official from the South African high commission would not
comment on the
reports when approached on Friday. "We don't have any
information on that at
the moment," said the official from the political
However, reports from South Africa on Friday quoted the officer
Messina's Soutpansberg military base, Colonel Tol Synman, as
presence of the troops at the border.
reporters that apart from the forces already in place at the
was a contingent on standby ready to be mobilised in 24 hours
and in 48
"We have troops in place at the border post and apart from the
in place, there is another group that could be mobilised within
24 hours, as
well as another group that could respond within 48 hours,"
Synman was quoted
Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 06:44 GMT
Commonwealth rift over Zimbabwe
Britain is accused of railroading other
Commonwealth leaders meeting in Australia look to be on a
collision course over whether to take action against Zimbabwe.
After deep differences emerged between the nations on Saturday, the subject
was postponed for a private session on Sunday.
But some African
and Asian nations are closing ranks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's
government and Namibia has said it will walk out of the summit if the issue
leads the debate.
How does the Commonwealth handle Zimbabwe? Why should it
Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa
As the election campaign continues in Zimbabwe, two rival political rallies
in Bulawayo passed off peacefully.
In another development, a BBC investigation has uncovered evidence of mass
graves at an army base in Zimbabwe.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Coolum,
Queensland, Britain and Australia have acknowledged that their call for
immediate sanctions in protest at political violence in Zimbabwe has failed to
Even a joint call by Canada and New Zealand to threaten sanctions if
elections on 9-10 March are deemed to be unfair has failed to win support.
Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa bridled at the idea of interfering in
"How does it (the Commonwealth) handle Zimbabwe? Why should it handle
Zimbabwe?" he said. "Let the scene unfold."
He said quiet diplomacy would be more effective and suggested that debating
Zimbabwe's problems at the meeting was "ridiculous".
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was more optimistic. He
told the BBC: "There are differences of opinion but we shall harmonise them.
That is what the meeting is for."
Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa says Zimbabwe
should not be
The 54-nation Commonwealth is one of the few organisations to have observers
in Zimbabwe for the elections.
Many say the poll has been marred by intimidation and violence towards the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
But Namibian President Sam Nujoma told the BBC: "How can we judge the outcome
of the elections before we know what has happened?"
On Saturday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair Saturday condemned the
escalating violence as an "outrage against democracy".
He called for "a tough statement making clear our total abhorrence and
condemnation of what is happening in Zimbabwe".
Commentators say that some African leaders believe Britain is trying to
railroad them into taking a hardline stand against their neighbour.
An investigation by the BBC's special correspondent, John
Sweeney, has found evidence of mass graves at a Zimbabwean army camp south of
Queen Elizabeth opened the
The camp was used by the North Korean-trained 5th brigade, which was
notorious for human rights abuses in the 1980s when Mr Mugabe cracked down on
Local people say torture and mass killing were routine at the camp and the
digging of graves was a daily chore
One man said he saw at least 300 bodies.
Mr Tsvangirai has told the BBC that if he wins next week's elections, his
government will set up a commission of inquiry into the alleged political
Tanzania Urges Commonwealth to Stay Out of
By Gemma Daley
Coolum, Australia, March 3
(Bloomberg) -- Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa
today told Britain to stay
out of Zimbabwe politics until after next
Mkapa is the first African leader at a meeting of 51
Commonwealth nations in
Australia to publicly challenge British Prime
Minister Tony Blair's efforts
to convince member nations to banish or
sanction Zimbabwe because of
violence and human rights abuses by the
government of 78-year-old President
Robert Mugabe in the lead-up to the
``The Commonwealth should not handle Zimbabwe -- we are thousands
away and we should wait to see what is played out there,'' Mkapa
reporters in the coastal resort of Coolum. ``The scene is unfolding
Zimbabwe, not in Coolum. To act now would be premature.''
appears other leaders are listening to Mkapa. The U.K and Australia
night acknowledged they had failed in their bid to have Zimbabwe ousted
the Commonwealth of nations.
Blair, in Australia for the
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,
denounced political violence in
Zimbabwe, though admitted he couldn't get
consensus from mainly African
nations to suspend or sanction the country.
And it's not only African
nations that appear to be withdrawing support for
Blair's bid to act before
Canada Backs Off
Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister
Jean Chretien said the Commonwealth should
wait until after the poll.
Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong also
appeared to distance himself from
Blair when he told reporters today African
nations ``better understand what
is happening on the ground.''
Commonwealth leaders deferred a decision
yesterday on what action to take
against Zimbabwe, agreeing to discuss the
issue at a retreat away from their
delegations and the media
``Many of the African countries totally accept that what is
Zimbabwe is wrong,'' Blair said during a BBC interview. ``The
is the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth the right
way to deal
with it? We think it is, they don't.''
One of the group's
smallest members, Belize, with a population of 247,000,
Commonwealth's integrity was on the line because of
Zimbabwe. ``To some
extent, yes, but I think spineless is a strong word,''
said Belize Prime
Minister Said Musa.
Assassination Plot Alleged
has ruled for 22 years and has ignored calls for him to
retire. Human rights
groups decry his government's record, which was further
tarnished last month
when it charged opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
with allegedly plotting
Mugabe's assassination, a charge that could bring
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer told
Channel 10 that
even still, Tsvangirai could win the upcoming
The European Union and the U.S. imposed sanctions against
Mugabe and 19 of
his associates after Zimbabwe last month expelled the head
of an EU team
monitoring the election.
Leaders and representatives
from 51 of the Commonwealth's 54 nations are
meeting at Coolum, a coastal
resort 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of
Brisbane. Three Commonwealth
nations, Pakistan, Antigua and Barbuda, and
Grenada aren't at the meeting.
Thirty percent of the world's population live
in Commonwealth countries and
the group accounts fo fralmost a quarter of
the world's trade.
The Age, Melbourne
Rudd criticises Howard govt for inaction against
SYDNEY, March 4 AAP|Published: Monday March 4, 10:27
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd today
Australian government for not imposing sanctions against
President Robert Mugabe's regime.
Mr Rudd and Liberal
Senator Alan Ferguson will form part of a team of 40
who will report on Zimbabwe's elections at the
Mugabe's government has been criticised for cracking down on media
and opposition parties during the election campaign.
Speaking at Sydney
Airport before his departure, Mr Rudd said it was time
the Howard government
took tough action against Zimbabwe.
"The time for high sounding phrases
is over on Zimbabwe - the time for
concrete, real action is now," he told
"Australia should take the lead and it should have taken the
fortnight ago in initiating targeted sanctions against the (Mugabe)
March 1, 2002
Helping Mugabe mug Zimbabwe
Canada, which once led the campaign to isolate the former apartheid regime in
South Africa, now has the shameful distinction of attempting to impede
international efforts to bring another racist dictatorship, that of Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe, to heel.
In his desperate attempt to steal the country's March 9-10 presidential
election, Mr. Mugabe has introduced draconian laws curbing civil liberties and
waged a campaign of terror against his opponents. The Movement for Democratic
Change, Zimbabwe's main opposition party, says more than 90 of its supporters
have been killed by goons acting at Mr. Mugabe's behest. Morgan Tsvangirai, its
leader, has been threatened with treason charges. Police in Harare raided MDC
offices on Thursday and arrested 31 officials. Nine people were beaten during
As if there were any doubt, the leader of the group of campaign observers
from Southern African countries declared that Zimbabwe's elections are "not
free." The official also described the country as existing in a "general state
of fear." The European Union pulled out its monitors for that reason, and
imposed travel bans and targeted sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and his cronies.
The U.S. government has since imposed its own sanctions. Tony Blair, the British
Prime Minister, has served notice that he intends to push for strong action at
this weekend's Commonwealth summit, including the suspension of Zimbabwe's
membership in the organization and the introduction of Commonwealth-wide
This would seem a no-brainer for the soft power enthusiasts in Ottawa as much
as for more hard headed members of the foreign policy establishment. The
Commonwealth has taken similar action in recent years with less obvious
justification, such as against Pakistan after President Pervez Musharraf seized
power in a bloodless coup in October, 1999. Fiji was also suspended from the
Commonwealth following a coup.
As he readied to depart for Australia and the summit, Jean Chrétien said: "I
sense that the situation in Zimbabwe is
deteriorating day by day ahead of the election. ... I think (this) will be the
main topic of discussion at the Commonwealth summit." But discussion appears to
be all the Prime Minister is interested in. He is resisting calls to take
immediate action. He prefers that any move to suspend
Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth and levy sanctions await the election
outcome. Canada's posture appears designed to use the threat of sanctions to
deter a crime, but the crime has already been committed.
Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, justified Canada's unwillingness
to act on the basis of concern that unilateral declarations on the eve of the
election could serve to alienate African members of the Commonwealth. "There are
going to be some African voices saying, 'Let's give the election process a
chance,' " he said yesterday. Too late: the election is now merely cover for a
tyrant ensuring he stays in power by any foul means necessary. The theme of this
year's summit, "The Commonwealth in the 21st Century: Continuity and Renewal,"
reflects proposed reforms to ensure the organization remains modern and
relevant. By its willingness to play along with Mr. Mugabe's charade, Canada is
instead contributing to the perception that the Commonwealth has outlived its
Canada takes Africa's side over Mugabe
Chrétien prevents black/white split over Zimbabwe, but
supports suspension if elections prove rigged Commonwealth summit
National Post, with files from news services
Andrew Vaughan, The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien greets Australian Prime
Minister John Howard, left, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon,
centre, as he arrives at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting in Coolum, Australia,
COOLUM, Australia - Canada will support Zimbabwe's suspension from the
54-nation Commonwealth if it is proven that Robert Mugabe, the President of the
southern African nation, rigged next week's elections, Jean Chrétien said
As the Commonwealth summit opened today, Canada joined with many African
nations in rejecting calls to impose immediate sanctions on Zimbabwe for pre-election violence and intimidation
by Mr. Mugabe's backers.
The decision of Canada's Prime Minister to side with African nations
virtually guarantees the Commonwealth will simply issue a strongly worded
statement to Mr. Mugabe, warning that the election must be free and fair or Zimbabwe could face the consequences.
Britain and Australia have pressed for immediate sanctions against Zimbabwe,
like those set by the European Union and the United States. Tony Blair, the
British Prime Minister, has branded Mr. Mugabe a dictator and even called for
Zimbabwe's immediate suspension from the Commonwealth.
Mr. Chrétien said Canada will only support Zimbabwe's suspension after the
election is over and if there is evidence Mr. Mugabe fixed the results. "If the
[election] observers tell me it is not an fair election -- that Mugabe stole the
election -- suspension is clear in my mind," he said.
Mr. Chrétien, who had been courting African leaders in advance of the G-8
summit in Alberta where he hopes to make Africa the key focus, does not want to
take any punitive action against Zimbabwe until
after the election when Commonwealth observers report back.
"We are at a meeting where all the countries of the Commonwealth have a voice
and they want to discuss that. The election will be in seven or eight days from
now. We still have observers and as long as a there is an election and we have
observers, the object is to wait to see what the observers tell us," he said.
"If the reports are that there are no real elections, we should say that
suspension will come."
However, even the Prime Minister's own officials acknowledge the situation
in Zimbabwe has deteriorated. The United States
said on Thursday it did not believe the March 9-10 presidential election would
Despite the Commonwealth split, however, officials portrayed Mr. Chrétien as
a consensus builder who feared a black/white nation split that could harm the
Commonwealth. Officials said the Prime Minister was trying to prevent some
African leaders from leaving the summit if sanctions were immediately
"We don't want to see people leave. Canada is always there, trying to bring
people together," a senior official said.
Foreign ministers from eight nations, including Canada, met yesterday to
prepare a report for the leaders today, but Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth
Secretary-General, suggested no punitive measures would be taken until after the
Mr. Mugabe, who skipped the summit, yesterday angrily lashed out at Britain
for trying to convince Canada and other Commonwealth nations to take action
against Zimbabwe, a former British colony.
"It's not the right or responsibility of the British to decide on our
elections.... Why should they poke their pink noses in our business?" Mr. Mugabe
was quoted by the official Herald newspaper in Harare.
Mr. Mugabe faces his strongest challenge yet to his 22 years of rule from
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In a
series of intimidation tactics, the Mugabe government has charged Mr. Tsvangirai
and other MDC politicians with treason for allegedly planning to plot his
Widespread reports of violence, political intimidation and curbs on media
freedom and independence have led the European Union to withdraw its team of
Mr. McKinnon told reporters about 40 Commonwealth observers were monitoring
the election in Zimbabwe and would report back,
but he admitted the elections are suspect. "The situation is deteriorating."
Canada's reluctance to take action runs counter to the recommendations of the
House of Commons sub-committee on Human Rights, which on Thursday in Ottawa
unanimously adopted a motion supporting targeted sanctions against