Online edition of Shunpiking



‘The future of Zimbabwe lies with the people of Zimbabwe’

The Commonwealth Committee on Zimbabwe issued a statement from London on March 19 announcing the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth for one year.

This suspension followed on the heels of the British-led accusation that President Robert Mugabe had "stolen" the March 9-11 presidential election in Zimbabwe and that the election was not "free and fair."

Both Canadian and U.S. governments made similar comments.

Many African countries and their teams of election observers said the election should be considered legitimate.

Britain, which played a leading role in creating political instability in Zimbabwe in anticipation of the election, had previously made other efforts to suspend it from the Commonwealth.

At a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Australia, the British government’s plans received a setback when other counties, especially those in Africa, refused to be bullied into adopting Britain’s position.

The CHOGM established a "troika" of the heads of government of South Africa, Nigeria and Australia to consider and determine appropriate action in regard to Zimbabwe if the presidential election was found to be not "free and fair."

Its Committee – consisting of these three heads of government – found that, based on the report of the Commonwealth Observer’s Group, the election in Zimbabwe was "marred by a high level of politically motivated violence" and that "the conditions in Zimbabwe did not adequately allow for a free expression of will by the electors."

It also announced that the presidents of South Africa and Nigeria would continue with their efforts to promote "the process of reconciliation" in Zimbabwe, a reference to attempts already made to establish a "unity government" to tackle the country’s economic and political problems.

However, the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangarai, rejected talks with Mugabe and demanded a fresh election. According to Radio Havana, Tsvangarai, who is the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, is pushing for a pro-western agenda favouring a new type of colonialism in Zimbabwe.

The Committee also reaffirmed that it considered that "land is at the core of the crisis in Zimbabwe and cannot be separated from other issues of concern."

This view is at odds with the position of the British government that denies the centrality of the land issue, a legacy of British colonial rule in the former Rhodesia, and refuses to fulfil its obligations to assist financially with land redistribution as set out in the Lancaster House Agreement of 1980.

Zimbabwe said it would appeal against the decision of the three-nation Commonwealth group. Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said the leaders of Australia, Nigeria and South Africa based their suspension decision on a flawed report by the Commonwealth team of election observers.

"The government of Zimbabwe rejects the conclusions of the troika," the minister said, charging that "the conclusions used to suspend Zimbabwe for 12 months are fundamentally flawed and undermine the credibility of the Commonwealth."

He said there was no consensus among Commonwealth election observers, headed by former Nigerian military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar, on the conduct of the polls, hence the report they produced could not be used to make a weighty decision as suspending a member country from the 54-nation organization.

Mudenge said Zimbabwe would appeal to the membership of the Commonwealth to reject the country’s suspension.

He accused the secretary-general Don McKinnon of creating the problem by overwhelmingly appointing election observers holding "known anti-Zimbabwe positions."

He said the Commonwealth’s adverse report on the election was in sharp contrast to the positive assessments of poll observers from, among other countries and organizations, the Organization of African Unity, the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa, Namibia, Zambia, China, Russia and even Nigeria and South Africa.

Mudenge said that Commonwealth election observers deliberately chose to ignore the interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, particularly the election, by former colonial power Britain and its allies in the European Union and the United States in the run-up to the poll.

"What was the impact of all this [interference] to the people of Zimbabwe?" he asked.

The European Union and the United States both imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe weeks before the election, on allegations that the government was abusing human rights, and said they would not recognize the poll as free and fair.

On March 14, Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced "limited sanctions" against Zimbabwe, saying that there would be "no further relationship, economic or political."

Mudenge said these stands were blatant interference in the country’s internal affairs, and the election process in particular, which Commonwealth election observers should have listed among the alleged flaws of the poll.

Along with materials published in the print edition of our 2002 Black History Supplement, Shunpiking is posting an interview conducted with George Charumba by "Wake Up" with CFRO Co-Op Radio (102.7FM) in Vancouver on 20 March 2002 – the day after the suspension was announced.

In the interview Charumba said, "the future of this country lies not with Britain, not with Canada, Australia, nor New Zealand, not even with America. The future of this country lies with its own people. We are a people that has gone through a liberation struggle, we know what self-reliance means, we know what forces can actually try and brutalize you, and we also know how to fight them. We will overcome them. We will thrive."

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