If only UK politicians were as brave as Rowan Williams about Zimbabwe

October 11, 2011 1:16 pm 0 comments
By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Published: October 10, 2011

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Brave Rowan Williams did not pull any punches during his visit to Zimbabwe this week, condemning the “greed and violence” of a renegade bishop and by extension, the whole corrupt, perennially vicious Mugabe regime. It’s unfortunate British Foreign Office ministers are not similarly forthright in their public statements. All the signs indicate Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF gang are gearing up to steal another election. It’s important they be stopped.

The archbishop’s concerns about an Anglican community in Zimbabwe that is “tortured by uncertainty and risk of attack”, has endured “mindless and godless assaults”, and whose property has been arbitrarily expropriated might apply equally to MPs of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) prosecuted on trumped-up charges, harassed opposition activists and human rights champions, and, indeed, anybody at all who dares to stand up to Mugabe’s 32-year-old, army-junta-backed autocracy. Williams was due to meet Mugabe later on Monday.

Intimidation levels rose earlier this year amid speculation that national elections due in 2013 may be brought forward. As the Irish Times columnist Patrick Smyth noted: “30 of the 109 opposition MPs, several of them members of the notionally power-sharing cabinet, have been arrested and jailed since their election in 2008. Human rights observers [report] a systematic campaign by Mugabe supporters in the police and prosecuting services … to intimidate the MDC.”

Observers fear a repeat of events preceding the last election when the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was arrested and beaten, 200 of his supporters were killed, opposition rallies were banned, and voters were terrorised by pro-government youth militia. Tsvangirai subsequently became prime minister in a power-sharing government, following the signing of the externally-mediated “global political agreement” (GPA). The suggestion now is that Mugabe plans to subvert the agreement’s provisions for democratic and security reforms and reassert his absolute overall control.

“Elections in Zimbabwe are synonymous with violent beatings, intimidation and vote-rigging. Rumours abound that Mugabe [aged 87] is very ill with advanced prostate cancer and that he is keen to bring forward elections … He wants to secure enough votes for Zanu-PF to rule without the MDC, and without agreeing to a new constitution that was promised in the 2008 political agreement,” said the analyst Roland Rudd of RLM Finsbury in a recent commentary. South Africa‘s president, Jacob Zuma, had a crucial role to play in ensuring Mugabe did not renege on the GPA, he added.

Far from heeding the sort of criticism dished out by Williams, Mugabe is sticking to his outmoded ideological guns, buoyed by an economy rescued from the brink by Tendai Biti, the MDC finance minister, and underpinned by tried-and-tested rough-house tactics. His latest wheeze: a law forcing the transfer of foreign-owned firms to local ownership – a sort of business equivalent of the forcible takeover of Zimbabwe’s majority white-owned farms.

Tsvangirai has warned the new law is economically damaging. “The warped indigenisation policy has eroded investor confidence and created a sceptical international business community that has developed a wait-and-see attitude,” he said. Others suggest Zanu-PF will use the new measure to bankroll its election campaign.

Mugabe also appears bent on maintaining his self-styled role as the enfant terrible of international affairs. He has fiercely criticised the western intervention in Libya and continues to insist that the National Transitional Council in Tripoli negotiate a peace deal with Muammar Gaddafi, his old crony and a generous aid donor. Speaking at the UN last month, he said African Union (AU) leaders should resist western meddling. “It is a terrible period and it is selling out of the principles of the founding fathers, and Zimbabwe cannot stand for that,” he said.

In point of fact, many modern-day African leaders appear to view Mugabe as a throwback and an embarrassment. He certainly does not speak for the AU on Libya, which has recognised the post-Gaddafi government. South Africa’s Zuma, the Zimbabwe regional mediator for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reportedly told Mugabe earlier this year to stop his intimidation of Tsvangirai and abide by the GPA’s terms. Zambia’s former president, Rupiah Banda, said Mugabe should study the Arab spring uprisings since they showed what could happen when leaders did not listen to their people.

Foreign Office ministers from William Hague downwards, apparently keen to avoid a repeat of Peter Hain’s bruising verbal jousts with Mugabe, have been disappointingly circumspect so far about Zimbabwe’s looming descent into renewed political crisis.

Speaking in June, the Africa minister Henry Bellingham referred glowingly to Zimbabwe’s “massive unlocked potential for trade”. He continued: “It goes without saying that the key to unlocking this potential is achieving the political stability that can only follow free and fair elections. We fully support the efforts of SADC, as guarantors of the GPA, as they work with the Zimbabwean political parties to agree a path by which this will be realised.”

All worthy sentiments – but not exactly leading from the front.

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Article source: http://www.zimtelegraph.com/?p=68

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