Mugabe thugs hone their torture tactics By a Special
Correspondent in Mashonaland (Filed: 05/03/2002)
loyalists are using tactics refined during the Seventies guerrilla war
against white rule to cripple the opposition in the last days before the
Operating from a network of base camps, 72 of which
have been located by human rights groups, pro-government thugs fan out across
the country, hunting down supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition
leader, for beatings, torture and worse.
Suspected Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) supporters are forced to attend "pungwes" - political
meetings at which they are threatened and browbeaten into voting for Mr
Mugabe. Anyone showing insufficient enthusiasm is severely dealt
These brutally effective tactics are having an effect. With polling
due this weekend, one township resident, who recently attended a pungwe,
said: "It is Mugabe who is going to win. We are too afraid. We have to vote
In this northern stronghold of President Mugabe's rule, there
is little to indicate that the forthcoming poll will be free or
Members of the National Youth Service Force, the latest in
Zimbabwe's burgeoning array of paramilitary outfits, are visible across the
region, lounging on the pavements with machetes easily to hand, clustering
outside the supermarket or strutting along the highway.
In one small
farming town, Mr Mugabe's thugs are the most visible presence. They have
taken over this corner of Zimbabwe and made it a no-go area for the
To impose Mr Mugabe's dominance they have committed three murders
and hundreds of assaults in a single district during the past eight weeks
Ten Minutes to Midnight in
Zimbabwe: International Action Can Still Make a
Harare/Washington/Brussels, 4 March 2002: The International Crisis
Group calls on the friends of Zimbabwe to take a range of steps now, in the last
days before the presidential election, in order to maximise the possibility that
democracy can succeed and the country be spared from a crisis that risks
sparking widespread domestic unrest and regional instability. "At ten minutes to
Zimbabwe's electoral midnight, it is still not too late for the international
community to help achieve a democratic outcome", said Gareth Evans, President of
the International Crisis Group.
Less than a week remains until
Zimbabwe's electorate goes to the polls on 9-10 March to elect the next
president. The signs that the process will be sufficiently free and fair to
reflect the people's will are not good. The campaign, as ICG and many others
have made clear, has been marked by substantial intimidation through deadly
violence and related measures on behalf of the ruling ZANU-PF Party in support
of the reelection of Robert Mugabe. International monitoring and observation
efforts, particularly those of the European Union, whose delegation was forced
to return home, have been substantially frustrated. President Mugabe and other
leading figures have reacted defiantly to the warning sanctions that the EU and
the United States imposed on them personally. The Commonwealth Summit has been
unable to reach a consensus on meaningful action.
"Despite the violence,
intimidation and rigging, there is still a possibility that popular sentiment
can be expressed through the ballot box this weekend", said John Prendergast,
Co-Director of the Africa Program of the International Crisis Group. "The key
will be the size of voter turnout and the degree of influence that can be
exerted to ensure a reasonably accurate count. And both these factors will be
affected by the extent of international action in the remaining days."
number of measures are needed to show ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe and the
country's political elite alike that the world cares and will not accept the
results of a deeply flawed election. They include:
TARGETED PERSONAL SANCTIONS
After months of painful deliberation and
unsuccessful efforts at dialogue, the EU last month imposed a travel ban and
asset freeze on a handful of leading government officials. The U.S. followed
with similar travel restrictions. Since the abuses that called forth these
actions have continued, both the scope of the sanctions and the circle of
powerful individuals targeted should be widened considerably in order to deliver
a message that the international community is serious -- a message intended both
to give hope to individuals trying to make up their minds whether to go to the
polls and to affect calculations within the ruling elite.
The U.S. should match the EU by freezing the assets of those whose travel it
The EU and U.S. should publicly identify additional ZANU-PF officials whose
travel will be restricted and assets frozen, depending upon their actions over
the coming week.
The EU and U.S. should announce that the children of targeted officials who
are studying in EU countries or the U.S. will have their visas revoked and be
required to return home, depending upon how the election is conducted.
The EU and U.S. should state that they will support an investigation into
the role of Zimbabwean and foreign-owned companies directly and culpably
involved in the abuse of the ZANU-PF government's economic power, with the
promise that sanctions against leading shareholders and board members will
rapidly follow if the election is stolen.
Influential global leaders, not only those from Western
countries like President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, but also importantly
Africans such as President Mbeki and President Obasanjo, and UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan should use the air waves to reinforce the message that this
election is critical for Zimbabwe and southern Africa and that the international
community is deeply concerned. Zimbabwe's citizens should be encouraged to cast
secret ballots and the country's authorities left in no doubt that the results
will not be recognised if the election is stolen.
Neither South Africa, nor other member states of the
Southern Africa Development Community, nor influential Nigeria have yet taken
public measures. They should at the very least now speak quietly but forcefully
with President Mugabe and key ZANU-PF officials. They should say that while they
have given them some understanding until now, they will not whitewash a stolen
SUPPORT LOCAL ELECTION MONITORS
international monitors and observers who have managed to obtain permission to
enter and remain in the country, including the limited Commonwealth delegation,
and embassies from EU member countries, the U.S. and elsewhere should provide
all possible assistance to local monitoring and observation efforts. In
particular, they should assist in disseminating local monitors' reports in order
to counter the potential of a whitewash by some of the official observer
delegations favoured by the Zimbabwe government.
With freedom of the press under heavy assault in the country,
sympathetic members of the international community should expand their efforts
during this week to support alternative means of providing information to
Zimbabwe's citizens. An example of the kind of activity that needs such help is
the alternative media project, using audiotapes and short-wave radios to
disseminate information that the Zimbabwean Crisis Coordinating Committee, a
network of local civil society organizations, has created.
Southern African states and the broader
international community must be fully prepared for what the election brings. If
citizens go to the polls and their votes are counted honestly, quick action will
be needed to promote stabilisation of the collapsing economy and support the
rebuilding of governing institutions and reestablishment of the rule of law. If
it becomes clear that the election has been stolen, additional measures to
isolate an illegitimate government and pressure it to reverse course will need
to be implemented immediately. If significant political unrest, mass protest, or
a major upsurge in violence follows the election, as could all too easily
happen, the various components of the international community will need to have
plans ready for active responses.
Regardless of which scenario unfolds,
donor agencies should be ready to increase their assistance to civil society
organizations as a key element in a longer-term democracy promotion strategy.
The international friends of Zimbabwe should be as transparent as possible in
preparing for every contingency as yet another way to demonstrate that they will
stand with the country and its people, not only this week but after the election
MEDIA CONTACTS Katy Cronin (London) +44-20-86 82
93 51 Sascha Pichler (Brussels) +32-2-536 00 70 John Prendergast or
Heather Hurlburt (Washington) +1 202 408 80 12 email: firstname.lastname@example.org All ICG
Zimbabwe and other reports are available on our website www.crisisweb.org
The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a private,
multinational organisation, with 75 staff members on four continents, working
through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and contain
conflict. The ICG Board is chaired by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari,
and its president is former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.
Extortion on farms reaches alarming levels, say
3/5/02 8:58:26 AM (GMT +2)
From Chris Gande in
THE Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) says extortion and evictions
on farms have reached alarming proportions, with more than $12 million being
paid out to war veterans in illegal transactions.
are being targeted irrespective of their legal status in the State-directed
process of compulsory acquisition.
The modus operandi has been to
instruct farmers to immediately lay off their workers and for the workers to
vacate their houses on the farm as soon as they have been paid.
four cases, the farmers have been forced to vacate their farms fearing for
One of them is a successful black commercial farmer who
recently won a court order barring the local MP from disrupting the
operations on his farms.
A CFU spokesperson said in Chivhu district
alone, over 21 farmers have reported incidents of extortion and threats or
actual evictions of workers and farmers.
The mob reportedly causing
havoc in the Chivhu area operates under the command of a war veterans leader
known only as Comrade Padera, with assistance from a CIO officer, Charles
Gumbo, already on remand on a charge of public violence unrelated to his
alleged current activities.
The extortion began a fortnight ago when a
war veteran known as Comrade Madhaka, apparently operating under instructions
from Padera, visited the O’ Neil family.
Madhaka decreed that the farm
abattoir was to close down by Friday 15 February. He ordered that the labour
force and a family resident on their property, Vlakfontein Estate, be
relocated to the home farm, Gelukverwacht. “In a blatant move to
disenfranchise farmers and farm workers ahead of the presidential election,
over 100 farmers countrywide and many hundreds of farm workers have been
forced off commercial farms in the last few weeks,” said the CFU
All incidents have been reported to the police but there
has been a marked reluctance on the part of the police to intervene, the
On 27 February, 22 Zanu PF supporters, armed with
sticks and axes, arrived at 6:45am on Ashton Farm. “They demanded that we
pay our farm labourers gratuities and pensions and that we should leave the
farm, never to return.
“We were forced to drive a delegation to collect
other workers where they had been assigned to herd cattle. “We requested
police assistance, but by the time we returned to Ashton, they had still not
arrived,” the farm owner, K Whitfield, said.
He said he was asked to sign
a written agreement to the demands but declined and was later warned by the
group not to consider reporting the matter to the police as they had “higher
Negotiations ended on a tense note and the group withdrew,
only to return within an hour in a remarkably more militant mood under the
new leadership of two women who apparently report to a Comrade Dhera, a war
veteran from the Mhondoro communal area.
They dismantled the security
fence, surrounded the house and after several attempts, were able to smash
the locks on the front door and gain entry into the house, he
“Since they were armed with axes and sticks and since there was
still no response from the police, I was forced, single-handedly, to defend
my family. I discharged a firearm into the ceiling to frighten them away,”
Although the government
has officially denied it, several members of the police and army have stated
that they have already cast their votes for the ruling Zanu PF party ahead of
next weekend’s presidential poll.
The Minister of Defence, Sydney
Sekeramayi, said yesterday that it was not true that members of the army and
the police had voted. The recent withdrawal of some troops from the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was in no way linked to the presidential
election, he added.
Several members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)
and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) have telephoned this paper over the last
few days, saying they have already cast their votes, raising fears that the
election could be rigged.
At least seven soldiers and policemen stated
that they had cast their ballots in front of their bosses
yesterday. Several soldiers and policemen have telephoned The Daily News
alleging that they were instructed to cast their vote by the postal
A Bulawayo soldier said last week that he was ordered to vote in
front of his superior after being made to sign a form in which he swore
that he would not be in his constituency on 8 and 9 March.
feel this matter should be investigated as it could lead to rigging of the
elections,” said the soldier, who cannot be identified for his own
Another soldier, from Harare, said last week that although he did
not support the ruling party, he had to vote for it because he was commanded
to cast his vote in front of his senior.
Two Harare policemen said
they have already cast their vote in favour of the ruling party even though
they did not support it.
“That’s just disinformation. They haven’t voted.
Right now I am in the bush campaigning,” Sekeramayi said. “The withdrawal
of Zimbabwean troops from the DRC was part of the Lusaka Peace Agreement and
not in any way linked to the presidential election,” Sekeramayi
“We can’t stop withdrawing the soldiers from the DRC because there
is an election.”
The MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai, yesterday said
his party had received many reports that members of the army and police had
already voted in front of their bosses who are war
Tsvangirai said he had it on high authority that the officers
had been intimidated into voting for Mugabe and there was a big possibility
that they will vote again over the weekend.
“They did not vote with
their free conscience and nothing is going to stop them from voting again
over the weekend. We estimate that over 70 000 people have already voted,” he
Tsvangirai said the government’s excuse would be that the officers
have to be deployed to various areas during the two-day polling
“We have got irrefutable evidence that even the soldiers in the
DRC have already voted. The members of the armed forces can obviously not
vote for anyone else other than Mugabe because someone will be witnessing
their vote casting,” he said.
Two police officers in the Midlands
province on Sunday called The Daily News complaining that police officers
were forced to fill application forms for postal ballot papers.
were made to indicate that we will be out of our constituencies during the
voting days this weekend,” one officer said.
Another one said it would be
difficult to freely exercise his freedom of expression to vote for the
presidential candidate of his choice. “We have been advised that we will vote
in the presence of our officer-in-charge. He is a war veteran and it will be
suicidal to vote against Zanu PF. Can you, please, expose this because we
want to exercise our vote secretly without undue influence,” he
The ZNA has between 40 000 and 45 000 soldiers while the ZRP has
between 35 000 and 40 000 full-time members and at least 10 000 part-time
members employed in the constabulary.
The Registrar-General, Tobaiwa
Mudede, and Gatsheni Mbonisi, the army spokesman, could not be reached, while
Wayne Bvudzijena, the ZRP spokesman, predictably refused to comment, as has
long been his habit, when contacted yesterday.
Zimbabweans to vote with their
stomachs Reuters March 05 2002 at 06:12AM Harare - Zimbabwe's crumbling
economy will be the key issue for voters in this week's crucial presidential
"I will vote for the guy who can assure me of plenty of mealie
meal, cooking oil and sugar in my house," said Tongai Musanhu of
Analysts say that despite President Robert Mugabe's attempts to
cast his land reforms at the centre of the election stage, the real issue is
an economy on the brink of collapse.
"The authorities have taken aim
at the heart of the intricate commercial farming machine and deliberately
thrown their heaviest spanners into the works," independent analyst John
Robertson says of the land seizure programme.
Tony Hawkins, an
economics professor at the University of Zimbabwe, adds: "In any democratic
society you'd expect that the economy is of major concern during such
"In Zimbabwe's case the situation has been exacerbated by a
food crisis, very high inflation and high unemployment."
in its fourth year of recession, with official estimates predicting the
economy will shrink by 5.3 percent this year after a 7.3 percent contraction
Economists say the economy may deteriorate further this year
if the socio-political environment worsens after the election. Some foresee a
10 percent contraction.
"The economy can only be moved back on to a
stable growth path if sound and credible macro-economic policies are
undertaken," one of Zimbabwe's largest commercial banks, Financial Holdings,
said in its latest monthly bulletin.
As if out of the blue, Zimbabwe
has suddenly and unexpectedly promised to halt illegal land seizures, after
more than 18 months of violent land-grabbing
Ashley Davies Friday September 7, 2001
what has Zimbabwe promised? Following months of condoning so-called war
veterans' attempts to take over white-owned farms, President Mugabe has
signed an agreement saying there will be no more land seizures. He agreed to
take "firm action against violence and intimidation". In other words, he
appears to be bowing to international pressure to prevent the already
volatile situation in Zimbabwe worsening. He has resisted this for some
time. Why has he suddenly changed his mind? In return for Mugabe enforcing
law and order, Britain has agreed to pay £36m towards a programme to
compensate white farmers who transfer land back to poor black settlers.
Britain also agreed to try encourage other countries to give financial help.
Economic and political turmoil has crushed Zimbabwe's agricultural output,
and the country now desperately needs money to buy food from
Tough opposition from abroad may also have been an important
factor. Members of the international community have been threatening to
impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, freeze Mugabe's personal assets and suspend the
country's membership from the Commonwealth.
On top of this, Mugabe
values support from neighbouring countries, many of which have condemned the
recent land seizures and his unwillingness to prevent violence from
But Mugabe has an uneasy relationship with Britain, seeing it
as an untrustworthy former colonial power. Does he not fear this deal will
make him look like he's kow-towing to his former coloniser? This has been
skilfully avoided. The joint statement between Britain and Zimbabwe puts the
onus for reform on the UN development programme, which is respected in
How did this seemingly miraculous deal come about? Foreign
secretary Jack Straw has been in Nigeria as part of a
Commonwealth delegation. He spent 10 hours thrashing through a deal with his
Zimbabwean counterpart, Stan Mudenge, who spoke regularly on the phone to
Mugabe throughout. Nigerian president Olusegun Obasango played an important
part in getting the two sides together.
It all sounds a bit too good
to be true. What are the chances of Mugabe keeping to his end of the bargain?
Sadly, his record on these matters is not good, and he has frequently
backtracked on agreements made by his ministers. The opposition party, the
Movement for Democratic Change, is sceptical. But if Mugabe reneges on his
promises, the chances of sanctions will increase massively.
happens to people illegally occupying land now? The Zimbabwe government will
force them to give it up until other, legally acquired, land is found for
How many farms have been taken over so far? More than 1,700
white-owned farms have been occupied since March last year. The government's
target was to have 4,600 farms taken over
Two members of the
opposition MDC are in a critical condition in hospitals in Harare after
attacks by Zanu PF supporters.
Sylvester Kuveya was severely
beaten and burnt with firewood and plastic near the Chegutu beerhall around
8pm last week on Tuesday.
Staff at a hospital in Harare at the weekend
said he was in the intensive care unit.
A source in Chegutu, who
requested anonymity, said: “Kuveya sometimes sells The Daily News here and
supports the MDC. They beat him up and took him across to a vendor who sells
roast maize and burnt him with firewood and plastic.”
Mutendadzamera, the Member of Parliament for Mabvuku, said a group of Zanu PF
supporters beat up and stabbed Tunga Mozalani, last Monday.
He said: “He
was left unconscious and sustained several wounds, including a deep cut in
the neck. He was rushed to Parirenyatwa Hospital where he is still in a
In Banket, farm workers were being forced to attend
Zanu PF rallies.
One worker was reportedly severely whipped, while Gerald
Banda was beaten for “drinking tea with the white man”.
a foreman, was beaten with bicycle chains. Biggie Chigonero, the MDC
vice-chairman for Mashonaland Central Province, said more than 1 000 Zanu PF
supporters stoned his garage in Mvurwi on Thursday, when President Mugabe
held his rally in the town.
Chigonero said Zanu PF supporters uprooted
about five acres of cotton belonging to Andrew Mureya while $37 000 in cash
was stolen from Kennedy Musheka. Musheka’s house and maize crop were also
burnt in another attack.
In Tafara, Harare, suspected Zanu PF supporters
attacked the home of Sami Nyamukuhwa, 72, at around 2am on
In Murehwa at Gosha village, Abel Gogodo, 22, was severely
beaten and suffered serious facial and body injuries
Zanu PF supporters burn down Chiweshe woman’s
3/5/02 8:57:35 AM (GMT +2)
supporters on Saturday burnt down two houses belonging to Rose Chinyemba, 52,
the Mashonaland Central MDC chairperson in Chiweshe.
worth about $259 000 was destroyed in the fire. Chinyemba said 500 Zanu PF
supporters descended on her house at around 8pm and burned two thatched
kitchen huts while they were asleep.
She said the Zanu PF supporters have
been coming to her homestead nearly every day singing songs which condemned
her for supporting the MDC.
“Simba Chikasha, Daisy Mutengwa, Tafadzwa
Masimbiti, Innocent Nyanyiwa, Fortunate Mutengwa and Remember Manomano are
some of the Zanu PF supporters who were part of the group which burned my
huts,” Chinyemba said.
The distressed Chinyemba said her motor vehicle
which was parked at the homestead was punctured by the Zanu PF supporters who
accused her of carrying people to attend MDC rallies.
She accused the
police of not taking action after she had reported the case to
“I gave them the names of the people who have been terrorising me,
but the police are taking their time,” Chinyemba said.
She said the
same group broke into her shop at Nyaturu township but did not manage to
steal anything because there were lots of people at the township who fought
running battles with the Zanu PF supporters.
ABOUT 60 Zanu PF supporters on Sunday
looted goods worth more than $150 000 at a supermarket belonging to Falls
Nhari, the MDC candidate for Mabvuku’s ward 20 in the forthcoming Harare
municipal election to be held concurrently with the presidential and mayoral
polls at the weekend.
Nhari said the unruly youths pounced on his
supermarket at around 11am demanding to see him.
Upon noticing that
the youths wanted to harm him, he made an escape and went to call the
The police at Mabvuku said they could not come because they had
He then proceeded to Chikurubi where the police
When the police eventually arrived, the hooligans
had already disappeared.
However, a group of the local Zanu PF leaders
came and started shouting abusive words in the presence of the police who did
not do anything to restrain them.
The Zanu PF supporters threatened to
kill the businessman.
Nhari said it was surprising that the attack had
occurred just a day after he took the initiative to call for a meeting of
both MDC and Zanu PF leaders, where he condemned violence and urged all
youths to stop engaging in violence.
Nhari said: “Our people are now
living in fear of Zanu PF thugs and I am now afraid of opening my
“We can’t even campaign peacefully and this cannot be called a free
and fair election.”
Political climate hinders distribution of food
3/5/02 9:01:38 AM (GMT +2)
current political environment prevailing in the country ahead of
this weekend’s presidential election is hampering the smooth distribution
of relief aid, a representative of the World Food Programme (WFP) said
Pedro Figueredo, head of WFP logistics and planning
in Zimbabwe, was speaking after receiving a US$89 208 (Z$4,9 million) grant
from the Japanese Embassy.
“There are a lot of political activities
taking place in the rural areas as the election draws nearer,” Figueredo
said. “We are planning an increased and fully-fledged food distribution to be
there by the end of March. We believe that then there will be enough security
and the local authorities will concentrate on food distribution.” WFP
needs at least US$60 million (Z$3,3 billion) to import 5 200 metric tonnes of
maize and other foodstuffs to feed more than half a million starving
Figueredo said the WFP had so far managed to raise more than
25 percent of the required money.
At least two people have died so far
as starvation takes its toll in drought-prone areas such as Matabeleland
South and North provinces.
THE MDC has dismissed as false a story in The Sunday Mail
alleging that its top officials were thinking of leaving the party while
others intended to join Zanu PF because their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was
going to lose this weekend’s election.
Learnmore Jongwe, the
MDC’s spokesperson, described the story by Munyaradzi Huni, the paper’s
political editor, as “baseless and mischievous”.
The paper, quoting
unnamed sources in the MDC, claimed Professor Welshman Ncube, the party’s
secretary-general, wanted to quit politics after the election because there
was no hope of winning.
Others said to be contemplating quitting politics
are Members of Parliament Thokozani Khupe for Makokoba, Hilda Mafudze
(Mhondoro), Esaph Mdlongwa (Pumula-Luveve), Fletcher Dulini-Ncube
(Lobengula-Magwegwe) and George Ndlovu (Insiza).
MPs Job Sikhala for
St Mary’s, Tafadzwa Musekiwa for Zengeza, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga
(Glen Norah) and Tapiwa Mashakada (Hatfield) were purported to be
contemplating joining Zanu PF.
None of these parliamentarians was given
an opportunity to respond.
Jongwe said: “The Sunday Mail’s story is a
figment of Huni’s imagination. This is not the first time Huni has been
playing such silly games.
“The public recalls that Huni recently wrote
dozens of stories in which he said the MDC was going to split over the
presidential candidate and, as is now clear, this was false.”
said the State-controlled paper also wrote other stories saying that Gibson
Sibanda, the MDC vice-president, and Tsvangirai were fighting for
the presidency “and sometimes in Huni’s fiction it was Tsvangirai and Ncube
who were fighting for the party’s presidency. This was all false and
cheap government-driven propaganda”.
Jongwe said the MDC remains
“solid, intact and no storm will ever wither it away because it has its roots
in the people. The party has mayors, councillors and MPs throughout the
nation and will soon install Zimbabwe’s next President. To suggest that
Tsvangirai will lose is mere fantasy and the MDC has no time to discuss
“We are heading for a landslide victory,” Jongwe
He said the people of Zimbabwe will vote for Tsvangirai because he
is a candidate with clear plans to revive the economy and, “most importantly,
to immediately import huge quantities of maize and food to feed
THREE Catholic priests and three other
church members from St Anthony’s Mission in Zaka district were last week
tortured by suspected Zanu PF supporters.
The incident happened after
they met two officials from the United States Embassy in Harare.
priest-in-charge at the mission, Father Joseph Odermatt, Father Joseph Wyss,
Father Peter Chimombe, Philip Wuersch, Theresa Gweto and Afra
Mukandwa sustained injuries following the attacks by the youths.
Masvingo diocese of the Catholic Church yesterday described the incident as
unfortunate as political violence continues to haunt the province ahead of
the presidential poll over the weekend.
According to Reverend MacDonald
Masvosva, the Vicar-General of Masvingo Diocese, the attack took place after
the departure of the two officials from the US Embassy.
had visited St Anthony’s Mission and hospital to inquire about the
performance of the hospital and the general situation at
After a tour of the mission, they met
They inquired about the situation in the area and the plight of
people in Zaka who have been plagued by hunger and politically motivated
Odermatt told the two visitors there were still clashes between
Zanu PF and MDC supporters, resulting in the suffering of innocent
Following the meeting, Zanu PF supporters besieged the mission
demanding to know who the visitors were.
The angry youths started
slapping the priests on the cheeks without listening to their
Musvosva said: “It was so dramatic an event that it
happened in a very short period of time. Just after their departure, the
group of youths gathered and started interrogating the priest-in-charge.
Hardly did they accord him time to explain.”
The youths then beat them
The six were forced into a truck packed with Zanu PF youths. The
beatings continued even in the car. They were taken to a Zanu PF base at
Jerera growth point where they were severely tortured and later taken to
The six were questioned by the police for two hours before
Police in Zaka on Sunday confirmed the incident, but said
investigations were still in progress.
HARARE, March 5 — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe defies
his 78 years on Tuesday by hitting the election campaign trail hard after
boasting he could punch his much younger challenger to the ground with one
After 22 years in office, Mugabe takes on opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai in two days of voting at the weekend which the opposition
says will not be free and fair. ''This fist is 78 years old and has
78 horsepower that could send Mr Tsvangirai to the ground if we were to get
into the ring,'' Mugabe told a rally of his ruling ZANU-PF on
Monday. Speaking in the town of Gokwe, Mugabe said ZANU-PF's
complacency had allowed Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to
make big gains in the 2000 parliamentary polls. ''But now we are
wide awake. We won't let MDC win in the presidential election,'' he said in a
speech quoted by the state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday.
Mugabe uses an executive helicopter to shuttle around the southern African
country and was scheduled to address at least three provincial rallies on
Tuesday. The March 9-10 polls are expected to be the closest
since independence from Britain in 1980. They are also set to be
the bitterest. The MDC said on Monday that 34 of its supporters had been
killed in state-sponsored violence since January 1. The alleged
death toll is almost impossible to verify independently but the United States
and Britain have led international protests against violence and
intimidation, blaming ZANU-PF supporters in and out of government.
The United States' annual Human Rights Report released in Washington on
Monday blasted the Zimbabwe government for what it said were a string
of abuses leading up to the 2000 parliamentary elections, interim
by-elections and this year's presidential poll. ''The government's
very poor human rights record continued to worsen during the year and it
committed numerous, serious abuses. ''The political process remained
heavily tilted in favour of the ruling party,'' the report said.
Last month, the United States and the European Union slapped
personal sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle.
BRISBANE But Mugabe's camp claimed a major diplomatic victory on
Monday when the 54-member Commonwealth decided not to slap sanctions against
him. African states blocked pressure from Britain, Australia and New Zealand
to do so. Tuesday's Herald headlined one story ''Why UK lost Battle
of Brisbane.'' But New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark
criticised the Commonwealth compromise to look at the sanctions and
suspension issue again after the elections. ''I think the
Commonwealth has to get its act together for the future. It has failed to
wrestle effectively with Zimbabwe,'' she said on the last day of the summit
in Australia. ZANU-PF is campaigning on the platform that the MDC and
Tsvangirai are mere stooges of Britain and Zimbabwe's tiny white minority of
around 70,000 in a population of 13 million. ''We are not fighting
Mr Tsvangirai but Britain's Tony Blair,'' Mugabe told a rally on
Monday. Meanwhile Tsvangirai's campaign faces a host of
problems. On Monday, police halted a meeting with 30 foreign diplomats
that he was addressing in a five-star Harare hotel. He also faces
treason charges linked to a video purporting to show him discussing Mugabe's
assassination with security consultants in Canada. He denies the
charges. The few pre-election polls show that he has a real chance
of unseating Mugabe, although researchers are hampered by small samples and
the reluctance of most voters to declare their intentions. Many
analysts predict that Mugabe has done enough -- in every sense -- to extend
his long rule. ''If Mugabe wins -- you can stand there as much as you
like and say it was not free and fair -- he is going to remain in
government,'' Jesmond B lumenfeld of Britain's Royal Institute for
International Affairs told Reuters on Monday.
correctly point out how difficult it will be for our team of
election observers to maintain a rational perspective on events as they
unfold in Zimbabwe. But your columnist seems to have difficulty maintaining a
rational perspective on the Democratic Alliance (Insight, February
The DA is deeply concerned about reports that the minimum criteria
for free and fair elections have already been grossly violated, but it is not
true to suggest that we have prejudged the outcome of the election and
cannot conceive of an outcome which reflects Zimbabweans' will.
fact, prior to the departure of the observer team, Tony Leon said DA members
of the observer teams would go to Zimbabwe with open minds and
firm democratic principles. In addition, they would measure events in
Zimbabwe against the following universally accepted criteria for free and
For the election to be considered free, before polling
day, there must be:
Freedom of movement;
Freedom of speech for
political parties and the media;
Freedom of assembly; and
from fear in connection with the election campaign.
For the election to
be considered fair, there must be:
An impartial electoral
Impartial treatment of candidates by the police, army and
Impartial voter education programmes; and
Equal access to
the public broadcaster and state-owned media.
By participating in the
Southern African Development Community observer mission and SA parliamentary
mission, the DA will do everything in its power to assist the people of
Zimbabwe to express their free will.
David MaynierOffice of the Leader of
Mar 05 2002 12:00:00:000AM Business Day 1st
THE European Union (EU) has always been a good friend
of Zimbabwe since independence.
EU aid accounts for about two-thirds
of aid going to Zimbabwe and the EU imports over 750 million euros (Z$38
billion) of Zimbabwean goods each year.
It has been a friendship based on
shared values and faith in democracy and determination to fight against
But the events of the last couple of weeks have left me sad: sad
for the people of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is gearing up for a crucial
Like voters everywhere, Zimbabweans have a right to hear all
the arguments and make up their minds on polling day.
They have a
right to a free Press, and to a campaign waged through words, not
This is what democracy means the world over. And I still hope
that the people of Zimbabwe will have their say in this election, free
Some people have said that the EU has no business
to take a view of elections in Zimbabwe.
That it has not right to
impose its views on another country. However, electoral observation is not
about imposing views.
Rather, it aims at strengthening a democratic
process, through confidence building, conflict prevention measures and
When the EU, Zimbabwe and the other African, Caribbean
and Pacific countries signed the Cotonou Agreement in 2000, we all said in
Article 9 that respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule
of law should underpin all our policies.
We were reaffirming shared
beliefs that are the basis of our friendship. And we took these shared
That’s why we all also said in Article 96 that any
party that did not respect these shared beliefs could face sanctions. But
this was no imposition.
This was an agreement between friends, a free
covenant between sovereign states reaffirming the basis of our
Furthermore, the standards by which the election in Zimbabwe
would have been assessed and which we were using in our own election
observation mission are not European rules, but universal norms also
adopted by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
wanted to provide election observers because it wanted to give Zimbabwe the
chance to show that it took its democratic obligations under the Cotonou
Political violence had been escalating. New laws to
curb civil rights and Press freedom were deeply worrying.
with the government of Zimbabwe, but heard nothing to put our minds at rest.
Election observation was, and still is, Zimbabwe’s chance to reassure the EU
and the world that democracy in this wonderful country is still in good
We have the greatest respect for those who now remain to observe
the election and indeed, we will continue to support both the Sadc mission,
and the local observers.
So why did our observers leave?
last straw was the expulsion of our chief observer, Pierre Schori. But the
government of Zimbabwe had also tried to exclude over a third of
the countries in the EU from the observation mission.
The EU doesn’t
work like that. We are a single entity, not something to be cut up and
divided. Saying that some EU countries could not come would be like saying
that players from Kwazulu-Natal could not play in the South African soccer
The attempt to pick and choose between our members was another sign
that the government of Zimbabwe was not acting in good faith.
Zimbabwean government has said that Pierre Schori entered Zimbabwe
under false pretences, claiming a tourist visa rather than presenting himself
as an election observer.
That was the pretext for expelling him. This
is completely untrue. The Zimbabwean Embassy in the US issued Schori a
six-month, multiple entry visa. The European Commission clearly told the
Zimbabwean government in writing in advance of his arrival that Schori would
be the EU’s chief observer.
Schori presented himself as a member of the
EU observation mission to the Immigration Department at Harare International
Schori’s visitor visa was no different from the visas issued to
all the other observers that later received accreditation. But
these misunderstandings are symptoms of a bigger problem.
The EU has
decided to impose sanctions not because of these unhappy details, but because
of what these events showed about the government’s approach to the shared
values that underpin our Cotonou partnership.
Over several months, the EU
has been asking the government of Zimbabwe to prove us wrong: to show us that
it is willing to abide by the principles of democracy and human rights that
it signed up to in Cotonou.
Unfortunately, it has chosen not to do so and
this is clearly evidenced by the continued degradation of the political and
Those who continue to suggest that we have acted
in this matter as though we considered ourselves in some way superior, as
though we wished to push Zimbabwe around, are missing a crucial
We enter into agreements with our partners as equals. The rules of
Cotonou apply to us as much as to any of the African signatories. If they
have concerns about our conduct, they can use the same procedures to voice
Many people from Africa have been invited to observe elections in
Europe including in Sweden, where Schori comes from. All sides have to keep
The sanctions that will now come into force have been
specifically designed to avoid hurting the people of Zimbabwe whom we will
continue to directly support where possible.
specifically impose travel restrictions and freeze the assets of those
persons considered to be mainly responsible for the present government
They have also been accompanied by a ban on the sale of any
kind of weapons or equipment from Europe, that could be used to suppress
dissent in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile we will be doing everything we can to
make sure that EU aid continues to reach the ordinary Zimbabweans who are
facing ever-increasing social challenges.
What matters today is how
the election takes place and how the country will be led in the future for
the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe.
Patten is the European
Commissioner for External Relations
Bindura police arrest eight MDC activists over
3/5/02 9:00:22 AM (GMT +2)
TAPERA Macheka, the MDC chairman for Mashonaland Central
province, said yesterday the police in Bindura arrested eight MDC supporters
on Saturday on allegations of taking part in voter education campaigns and
putting up MDC campaign posters without their
Macheka said of the eight, six were released on Sunday
while Peter Sofa Tapfumaneyi and Wonder Makaza, the vice-chairman and
organising secretary for Bindura district respectively, were still in police
A policeman at Bindura Police Station yesterday
confirmed Tapfumaneyi and Makaza were arrested but refused to say when they
would appear in court.
Macheka said Tapfumaneyi was arrested for
possessing spray paint used by MDC supporters to write party symbols in
public places for the election campaign.
He said six of his supporters
were arrested for carrying out voter education campaigns, including teaching
their polling agents what to do during the weekend presidential
Macheka reported that Gerald Mayor, an MDC supporter in Mvurwi,
was assaulted by alleged Zanu PF supporters for refusing to defect to
“We are worried by these arrests. We suspect that the
police want to arrest all MDC leaders in the province so we cannot organise
our polling agents,” he said.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the MP for Glen Norah, said yesterday two people, one
claiming to be an army colonel, and another an officer from the Law and Order
Section at Harare Central Police Station, wanted to search her constituency
office on Saturday.
“The two threatened to kill the office workers. But
when some of our party youths called the police, they left,” she
Misihairabwi-Mushonga called on all security agents to produce
lawful search warrants if they intend to search MDC properties.
said: “The MDC is a lawful political organisation. It respects the laws of
this country and should be treated in a lawful manner. We uphold all
the principles of a constitutional democracy and we should not be treated
COMPOSED of far-flung nations with disparate forms of
government, the Commonwealth has long had problems in dealing with political
The end of the Cold War, during which East and West had
supported unsavoury Third World regimes as part of their ideological
struggle, led to the establishment of new norms of acceptable behaviour.
Meeting in Harare in 1991, Commonwealth leaders declared their commitment to
"democracy . . . the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just
and honest government" and to "equal rights and opportunities for all
citizens, regardless of race, colour, creed or political
Application of those criteria led to the readmittance of South
Africa in 1994 and the suspension of Pakistan in 1999. Yet in meeting the
latest challenge to its authority, Robert Mugabe's gross misrule in Zimbabwe,
the organisation has shown itself as weak-kneed as ever.
their meeting in Coolum, Queensland, heads of government decided not to
suspend Zimbabwe until after the presidential elections on March 9 and 10.
Instead, a troika of leaders, from Australia, Nigeria and South Africa, will
decide what to do after they have received a report from Commonwealth
Despite a two-year reign of terror, Mr Mugabe has been given
another chance. This failure to confront his tyranny makes a mockery of the
declaration signed in his capital 11 years ago. Once again, a Commonwealth
summit stands exposed as a talking-shop.
Tony Blair tried to
dissociate himself from the consensus by saying he would have preferred the
instant suspension of Zimbabwe from Commonwealth councils. Yet the Government
has been notoriously reluctant to punish Mr Mugabe, preferring instead to
punt the problem into the amorphous fora of the European Union and the
Commonwealth. It was only last month that the former imposed sanctions
targeting the president and his henchmen.
Talking tough, Mr Blair said:
"There can be no question of Mugabe being allowed to stay in power with a
rigged election. If Africa wants a decisive future, this is the type of
behaviour that has to stop."
But what is he going to do to remove the
Zimbabwean president? And if, as we suspect, nothing, what will become of the
African renaissance that he and his friend, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa,
proclaim? In the confrontation with Mr Mugabe, the Prime Minister has blinked
first, and no amount of bluster can disguise the fact.
The Commonwealth has
refused to suspend Zimbabwe over a campaign of political violence ahead of
presidential elections. Sunder Katwala and Mark Oliver explain
March 4, 2002
What is the latest? After a meeting of Commonwealth
heads of government in Australia highlighted splits in attitudes to Zimbabwe,
the organisation has decided to put off making a decision on the country
until after the March 9-10 presidential vote. The leaders of Australia, South
Africa and Nigeria will then await a report from election observers before
taking any action. If the vote is not ruled to be free and fair, Zimbabwe
could be suspended from the Commonwealth. Why is the Commonwealth
involved? The Commonwealth, an organisation of 54 countries which arose out
of the gradual dissolution of the British empire, prides itself on being one
of very few international organisations which is prepared to throw members
out for violating democratic norms. Ironically, the Commonwealth's values
are contained in the Harare Declaration, agreed in the Zimbabwean capital
in 1991, which sets out democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of
law as the basis of membership.
What can the Commonwealth do? It
has little practical or financial leverage over Zimbabwe. Suspension,
or expulsion, would be a largely symbolic move, showing
increasing international pressure on the Harare regime and sending a message
that the Zimbabwean government's actions were viewed as
This would make it more difficult for international
institutions, such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, to
deal with the country as normal. The move would hamper Zimbabwe's efforts to
raise funds on the international money markets.
could also add to momentum for increased pressure from the European union and
the South African development community, and from individual
Do the Commonwealth often suspend members? To date, the
Commonwealth has only suspended military regimes (such as Pakistan) but CMAG
- an eight-strong committee of Commonwealth foreign ministers set up to
police the Harare declaration - has proposed that it should be given terms of
reference which enable it to act earlier on major violations of democratic
values, such as the freedom of the media. If Zimbabwe's position does not
change - and, as expected, it does not allow free and fair elections - then
it is difficult to see how the Commonwealth could retain any credibility
without suspending Zimbabwe.
How has the crisis developed? Earlier
this year, Britain proposed active sanctions against Zimbabwe for the first
time, which were taken on by the EU. Critics believe that the new laws being
pushed through the parliament by the government - which allow full control of
the media and make all criticism of the state or president a public order
offence - make a mockery of the democratic process.
Mugabe's strategy throughout the two-year crisis has been to blame the
country's collapsing economy on a sinister alliance of Britain, white farmers
and assorted "traitors" who are conspiring to reverse the country's
independence and prevent his tackling the historic injustices of Zimbabwe's
highly unequal land distribution.
This strategy has had limited success,
escalating Zimbabwe's economic crisis while failing to silence an
increasingly vocal opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, which
denies the claims of conspiracy and blames the country's plight on the
mismanagement and corruption of the Mugabe government.
Would Mr Mugabe
care about being suspended from the Commonwealth? The Commonwealth's views
are not Mr Mugabe's highest priority, and he will seek to use Commonwealth
pressure as part of his strategy of presenting opposition to his regime as a
British-organised conspiracy against Zimbabwean independence, claiming that
all internal opposition is being paid for and organised by the former
That is why the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has
stressed the importance of Britain being part of an international coalition
pressuring Zimbabwe, even though the UK has been the main proponent of
sanctions and Commonwealth suspension. Britain and the EU are hoping that
other African governments will help to lead pressure on Zimbabwe to
legitimise international action and undercut Mr Mugabe's charges of a "new
African Commonwealth members - especially South Africa and
Nigeria, who were instrumental in winning assurances of good behaviour from
Zimbabwe last autumn - also have more political and economic leverage over
Zimbabwe. Its neighbours are deeply concerned about both the knock-on
economic effects of the Zimbabwe crisis, both by directly damaging trade and
by decreasing investors' confidence in the region.
Mbeki's increasing criticism of Zimbabwe has led to Zimbabwe's state-run
newspapers calling the South African president "a traitor" who is "in bed
with the architects of apartheid", suggesting that Mr Mugabe is prepared to
risk a clash with South Africa despite the potential economic costs to
* Sunder Katwala is the editor of observer.co.uk and author of
Reinventing the Commonwealth (The Foreign Policy Centre)
COOLUM, Australia (AP) - Commonwealth leaders on Tuesday
wrapped up a summit overshadowed by deep divisions over election violence in
Some said a compromise deal to delay taking action against
Zimbabwe - where President Robert Mugabe is trying to maintain power - failed
to heal rifts within the group, made up of Britain and its former colonies.
Others insisted the debate strengthened the group, whose 54 member states
hold one-third of the world's population.
Benjamin Mkapa said the Commonwealth had withstood a ``bombardment for an
alliance against Mugabe, allegedly on racial grounds.'' He said the
organization ``emerged really as a united Commonwealth not divided on the
basis of race.''
A defiant bloc of African nations, Malaysia and some
Caribbean states on Monday resisted concerted efforts by Britain, Australia
and New Zealand to have Zimbabwe immediately suspended from the
``The Commonwealth has to get its act together. It has
failed to wrestle effectively with Zimbabwe,'' New Zealand Prime Minister
Helen Clark said. ``I think there is some frustration among the smaller
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that at such large
meetings ``there is a tendency for the lowest common denominator to
Leaders agreed to await a report by 64 Commonwealth election
monitors on whether the coming weekend's presidential election is free and
fair. The group also boosted the power of its secretary-general to negotiate
with countries that violate democratic principles.
would cut it off from Commonwealth aid.
``This has been an important and
challenging meeting. The issue of Zimbabwe was not easy,'' Australian Prime
Minister John Howard said. ``I do believe that we have provided a mechanism,
a framework for dealing with that issue that represents the consensus within
At a rally in Zimbabwe, Mugabe said the decision was
a victory for his country.
``African countries are telling Britain to
stop behaving like a colonial master,'' he said.
The Commonwealth also
agreed to continue Pakistan's suspension until after elections scheduled for
later this year. Pakistan was suspended following the 1999 coup that ended
A seven-page closing communique also committed the group
to tackle terrorism and understand its root causes.
More than 4,000
police attended the four-day summit, which included a visit by Britain's
Queen Elizabeth II.
Blair furious over compromise on Harare sanctions From
David Charter, Chief Political Correspondent in Coolum,
TONY BLAIR said that the credibility of the
Commonwealth was on the line yesterday after angrily accusing its leaders of
reaching “the lowest common denominator” in a compromise over Zimbabwe. Mr
Blair broke with convention to distance himself from the
customary end-of-summit consensus and said that the 54-nation organisation
had made the wrong move by postponing a decision on sanctions.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Queensland agreed to set
up a council of three leaders, from South Africa, Australia and Nigeria, to
decide how to deal with Zimbabwe after observing the conduct of voting there
during the presidential election over the weekend.
The group was chosen
because the countries were past, present and future hosts of CHOGMs. There
were, however, concerns that the council was unbalanced after the meeting was
dogged by claims from Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister, that
African countries were banding together to protect President
Mr Blair did not conceal his dismay that Britain’s call for
immediate sanctions against the Mugabe regime, backed by New Zealand and
Australia, was rejected by African leaders. Instead, he had to settle for a
bland Commonwealth statement, after four days of wrangling, which concluded
that should there be an “adverse” report from its 45 election observers,
possible action “ranges from collective disapproval to
The official statement expressed “deep concern about
incidents of violence and intimidation surrounding the election campaign
(and) called on all parties to refrain from such violence”. It did not seek
to identify the perpetrators of the violence.
Mr Blair said: “We
should have provided a far stronger statement and backed it up with action.
We have postponed the day of judgment on Zimbabwe and I think that is the
wrong thing to do.
“The statement is not the statement I would have
drafted. There is no point in using diplomatic language about this. The
statement that has appeared is in effect the lowest common
He said he thought that the Commonwealth would eventually
“do the right thing” and censure Mr Mugabe. “If it does not, its credibility
is at issue; if it does not act in circumstances where it is plain that a
member country has held an election which has not been fair.”
Zealand, which also wanted immediate sanctions, rejected the terms of the
compromise. Helen Clark, the Prime Minister, said: “The communiqué reads a
little like everyone is responsible for the violence and intimidation. That
is not the case.”
John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, said he
thought the compromise was bona fide and effective. He denied the suggestion
that the two African leaders who will join him in judging Zimbabwe —
President Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Mbeki of South Africa — would be
biased in favour of Mr Mugabe.
Asked if he could pass judgment on
Zimbabwe without prejudice, having campaigned against immediate sanctions, Mr
Obasanjo said: “We all agree it would be wrong to be pre-judgmental.” He
added: “Until you get the actual voting, you cannot announce an election is
free and fair or not free and fair. I am a fair man and I believe that
anybody who believed that Zimbabwe should be suspended before the election is
Canada’s Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, said the agreement was
the best that could be reached given the deep divisions with the ranks of the
“We have observers there and it was quite
premature to conclude before the elections and that position prevailed
eventually,” he said.
“Being a realist, I thought it (sanctions) would be
impractical before the elections." F. P. Sekai Holland, foreign affairs
secretary of the Movement for Democratic Change, the Zimbabwean opposition,
said she felt let down by the entire Commonwealth. She said: “It is too slow,
as with all things of the Commonwealth. It will come too late with too little
and be really irrelevant.”
She added: “The mechanisms of violence are
in place in Zimbabwe. There is a militia of 10,000 youths that have been put
in place . . . the Zimbabwean Army is supervising this militia and these are
the people who are killing, maiming, beating up the Opposition. We have been
let down by everybody.
“If Mugabe is defeated and steals the election,
there will be a bloodbath. According to the Commonwealth Secretary-General,
there are going to be nine days (after voting) before anything can be done,
if you calculate it. It is this crucial nine days when Zimbabwe could descend
into a catastrophe.”
However, Mr Obasanjo said: “If the election is
reasonably fair and free, whoever loses will accept his loss and whoever wins
will win with magnanimity. I do not see a bloodbath.”
Asked whether he
had been speaking to Mr Mugabe about the Zimbabwean leader standing down
after the elections, Mr Obasanjo replied: “I was in Zimbabwe and I met
President Mugabe and Morgan (Tsvangirai, the MDC leader) and both sides were
raising issues. But I did not discuss how anyone was going to go into a
Blair dismayed by Zimbabwe compromise
Commonwealth credibility sinks
after African members block tough action against Mugabe regime
MacAskill in Coolum Tuesday March 5, 2002 The Guardian
minister, Tony Blair, expressed disappointment yesterday after
the Commonwealth summit fudged the issue of whether to suspend Zimbabwe
for abuses of the democratic process.
A compromise statement,
unanimously adopted by the summit, means that a decision on suspension is to
be delayed until after Zimbabwe holds its presidential election this
The president, Robert Mugabe, is fighting for his political
survival against Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic
Change. Mr Mugabe's supporters have been involved in acts of violence and
intimidation during the election campaign.
Mr Blair, backed by
Australia, Canada and New Zealand, pushed for immediate suspension at the
summit in Australia but was opposed by a bloc of
The prime minister, who flies home today, said: "We
should have provided a far stronger statement and backed it up with action.
We have postponed the day of judgment of Zimbabwe. I think that is the wrong
thing to do."
He added: "The statement is not the statement I would have
drafted. There is no point in using diplomatic language about this. The
statement that appears is, in effect, the lowest common
The statement said a three-man team would be established to
decide on suspension, consisting of the Australian prime minister, John
Howard, who sided with Britain in pushing for immediate suspension; the
Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who opposed immediate suspension; and
the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, who was also opposed.
statement said they were to base their decision on a report by the 60-odd
Commonwealth observers monitoring the election.
The team will "determine
appropriate Commonwealth action on Zimbabwe in the event the report is
adverse": the action "ranges from collective disapproval to
Mr Blair said he hoped that when the trio came to make their
decision, they would opt for suspension. He warned: "I think the Commonwealth
will do the right thing here but if it does not, well, its credibility is at
The MDC also criticised the delay, warning that it could lead to
a bloodbath in the days after the poll closes. Sekai Holland, an MDC
spokeswoman, told reporters at the summit the statement was an insult. "We
are not happy because it is more talk and no action."
justified their refusal to support immediate suspension on the grounds that
it would be unfair to Mr Mugabe to prejudge the conduct of the election. Ms
Holland expressed concern about the inclusion of Mr Mbeki and Mr Obasanjo on
the team, given their reluctance to move against Mr Mugabe in the
Mr Obasanjo was adamant he would take the necessary steps:
"Whatever has to be done will be done. There is no question of that." The
Nigerian leader played a positive role last September in getting Britain and
Zimbabwe to sit down together, even though the deal they thrashed out
The team was chosen on the basis that
Australia holds the chair of the Commonwealth at present, South Africa was
the last holder and Nigeria will be the next.
The observers' report
will be handed to the three leaders about four days after the polls
The Commonwealth's unwillingness over the last year to act against
Zimbabwe has resulted in its reputation dropping to levels last seen almost a
decade ago when it dithered over suspending Nigeria after a series of human
rights abuses. It suspended Nigeria in 1995 only when the writer Ken
Saro-Wiwa was executed.
The Commonwealth secretary-general, Don
McKinnon, defending the summit's decision, argued that if Zimbabwe had been
suspended two years ago, there would be no Commonwealth observers now