Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 30 APRIL 2002
KEANE OBE AND
40. Hence the response of the military.
(Mr Keane) As somebody put to me, the Zimbabwean military
voting for change is turkeys voting for Christmas. It is not going
41. May I draw you back to a very interesting
series of remarks you made concerning the discussions you had
had with close friends in South Africa who were black Africans.
I should just like to get a comment from you, if I can. It is
quite a difficult area to discuss. Where do the reactions you
have received in a widespread way fall between the three descriptions
of being biased, being bigoted or being racist?
(Mr Keane) None of those three. There is a very understandable
degree of anger on the part of many black South Africans. I know
this takes us slightly outside the remit of what we are discussing
today but it does feed into the generalised atmosphere about South
Africa. There is a sense that there is a lack of humility on the
part of whites particularly, that there is an unwillingness to
share the bounty of the country and in terms of one's day-to-day
discussions with white friends, they are aware of that, but not
quite sure how it is going to be changed. There is a build up
of anger. For the first time I came back from South Africaand
I go at least once a year, usually twicethis time feeling
depressed and not quite sure why I felt depressed. It was because
I had been dishonest with myself on the previous visits and suddenly
had to face up to something, people were angry, people were disillusioned
with the process of transition. The rainbow nation which we had
all so enthusiastically and properly embraced at its birth in
1994 was not materialising.
42. And this has a direct implication for the
relationship with Zimbabwe.
(Mr Keane) Indeed.
43. You have mentioned some of the pressures
impacting on President Mbeki. Would you like to say what are the
levers available to him if he chose to exercise them in respect
(Mr Keane) ". . . if he chose to exercise them"
. . . He can impose economic pressures, as Mr Vorster did against
Ian Smith. He could bring Zimbabwe to its knees very quickly,
but that would be a catastrophic decision for the people with
whom we are all concerned and that is the average Zimbabwean.
On those terms he cannot.
44. The energy supply. If he were to do that
the refugee flows from Zimbabwe would increase into South Africa
and he would be harming himself.
(Mr Keane) He would face the potential of hundreds
of thousands of people at least coming across the border.
45. What are the realistic levers?
(Mr Dowden) It has been suggested to me that the best
thing Mr Tsvangarai could do is to go and talk to his former trade
union colleagues in South Africa. You do not need a blockade to
remind Zimbabwe that it is totally dependent on South Africa.
You just need to flick the switch for half an hour every evening
or to slow down traffic on the South Africa to Zimbabwe road and
things like that, which could be done unilaterally by the trade
union movement and the government could not do much about it.
Those sorts of things, a subtle pressure like that, and a general
feeling that they are not welcome, if they are coming to a medical
treatment in South Africa, that sort of thing. Those are the sorts
of levers which would target the leadership and let them know
that they are disapproved of because of what they have done.
(Mr Keane) In all of this let us remember one fundamental:
change in Zimbabwe, the change of government in Zimbabwe, will
be brought about by Zimbabweans. When you accept that fact it
is a question of how best does our bilateral aid, how best is
our political leverage used to help not political parties but
the thing which I am passionate about in Africa which is helping
civil society, helping small human rights groups, independent
newspapers. They are the things which make a difference, which
help people to have confidence in going out to vote.
46. Is there a network of civil society there?
(Mr Keane) There is. Somebody will care if you vanish
on the way to the polling station, someone will care if you are
47. You know South Africa. One of the great
joys of South Africa was the extensive civil society even during
the worst days of apartheid. Is there such a network of civil
society in Zimbabwe as a sign of hope?
(Mr Dowden) No-one dies in Zimbabwe without a name.
You find the list; the human rights group in Zimbabwe lists every
single death, every single arrest. There is a network and it is
pretty effective in terms of gathering the information.
48. You mentioned the Americans were brutal
over NEPAD, but surely NEPAD is itself a compact between the outside
world offering assistance and the Africans offering good governance
in reply. Would not the whole Zimbabwe experience undermine that
(Mr Keane) Not everybody is as unreasonable as Robert
Mugabe. Thabo Mbeki certainly is not. Mr Chissano in Mozambique
is not as unreasonable. I do not think that the particular experience
with Mugabe invalidates the concept which underpins NEPAD.
Sir John Stanley
49. Going back to the need to inject a greater
sense of urgency about Zimbabwe post the election, I suspect that
there was no prospect of getting that sense of urgency unless
the people worldwide are able to be informed about what is going
on through the vehicle of the media. I should like to ask you
both, following the ruthless targeting of the media in Zimbabwe
by Mugabe and notwithstanding the, in my view, immense bravery
of a large number of individuals in the media in Zimbabwe, do
you both consider that there is a sufficient weight and technical
ability of independent media in Zimbabwe to ensure that the people
round the world are actually going to be fully informed as to
what is going on in that country?
(Mr Keane) No. Again and again with Africaand
this is a lesson of the continentwe act when the television
cameras roll in, while the disaster is either unfolding or just
after it. We are mesmerised by horror and only seem capable of
urgency when confronted with horror. That is my fear about Zimbabwe,
that the small horrors are going on at the moment and they accumulate
and they accumulate into a state of tyranny and then there is
a major catastrophe, the cameras are in and all of a sudden there
is a statement from the Prime Minister. We should not, should
not, should not have to get to that stage.
50. Mr Dowden, what is your view as to the strength
left of an independent media inside Zimbabwe?
(Mr Dowden) I do not think that people die namelessly
in Zimbabwe. We may get to that, but at the moment things are
recorded, they are posted in the newspapers and it still retains
some of that open society. My reading is that it is worse now
than it was, not in the immediate run-up to the election, but
as it has ever been. There is no sign of a let-up. The militias
are still attacking people, still beating them up. The farms are
being expropriated and you feel this can only go one way: it is
going to hit the buffers pretty hard. It is just a matter of when.
The more intervention in terms of publicity at this time and action,
the less likely we are to have the catastrophe when the television
cameras rush in. It is what is happening now which is building
51. Are you effectively both saying to us that
there is now no significant body of independent journalists and
members of the media which are now left in Zimbabwe?
(Mr Keane) Of the international media. There are very
brave correspondents for BBC Radio who operate from Zimbabwe.
The critical difficulty we face as international television correspondents
is the very blatant threat from the Zimbabwean Government to lock
us up if we come in. They do not want us and they will put us
in jail. I was willing to take that risk in the run-up to the
election and I believe others in future may see fit to take that
risk, but it is a substantial risk.
52. Independent radio is able to function.
(Mr Keane) Yes.
53. What about the written word? Is that able
to get out adequately? Are journalists able to travel inside the
(Mr Keane) Journalists are able to travel, but there
is a problem about the agenda. The agenda moves on. We become
transfixed by other things. We cannot in good conscience walk
away from this story and wait for the catastrophe. It has happened
too often in the history of Africa.
(Mr Dowden) I would agree with that. It is not easy
for outside journalists to get in there, but there are so many
good Zimbabwean journalists who are covering this and will cover
it for outside bodies. The news will get out, is what we are saying.
54. Can the Zimbabwean journalists get their
material away, can they?
(Mr Keane) Yes. It is the prominence the news is given
when it gets out. The difficulty is less about getting it out
but where it fits in the agenda. In an agenda dominated increasingly
and understandably by events in the Middle East and events in
Afghanistan and elsewhere, it is very, very difficult not so much
to argue the case but to be heard.
55. I should like to draw together some of the
threads of the economic and humanitarian effects of the crisis.
We have touched on it, but if I could just try to draw it together.
One of the most worrying aspects is that the land resettlement
programme has had a severe impact on the agricultural output of
Zimbabwe and the World Food Programme is now talking about large-scale
relief foor operation after concluding that half a million people
in the rural areas are now faced with acute food shortages. Against
that background may I ask how you believe the UK Government should
react to the threat of famine in Zimbabwe? Would it for example
give the impression that the provision of aid through official
channels could be seen or portrayed in Zimbabwe as some kind of
endorsement of President Mugabe's regime? What should we do?
(Mr Dowden) Wherever food aid is givenand I
think Britain is continuing to give humanitarian assistance of
that natureit should not be channelled through the government,
which is more than likely to use it for political ends. One of
the problems is the actual transport system in southern Africa.
The South Africans cannot handle the quantities which are needed
and some of it is coming through Mozambique at the moment. I do
not know the detail on this, but I understand there are quite
severe logistical problems.
(Mr Keane) Might it not be imaginative to suggest
that our partners in South Africa should be asked, with their
marvellous military infrastructure, to distribute the aid. Could
Mr Mugabe reasonably object to that?
56. So you take a slight different view.
(Mr Keane) I just think it is a possibility.
57. It now is apparent that there are severe
food shortages in Zimbabwe. Could you comment on what you believe
the impact of food shortages and price rises for staple food products
now will be on political stability? Is President Mugabe vulnerable
to popular unrest on the issues of food shortages or is he sufficiently
in control and strong enough to survive any protests or food riots
or whatever? This is quite separate from the reaction to the election.
I am now talking about the reaction to food shortages of staple
(Mr Keane) I have to say it was my impression and
it does in some sense go back to what I talked about in terms
of reaction to the election, of a population exhausted; absolutely
58. What about when they are starving?
(Mr Keane) If you go back to the Ethiopian famine,
that government was ripe for overthrowing at the time, you would
have thought, because of the scale of starvation. It does not
automatically follow that people will take to the streets. It
very often happens. The first threat to Kaunda's regime in Zambia
occurred because of food shortages. It does not automatically
(Mr Dowden) My experience has been that they occur
when there is a reasonably comfortable urban population with rising
expectations suddenly hit by a severe price rise. When the hunger
sets in the population are so busy looking for the next meal that
they do not have the time or the energy to organise and go out
on the streets.
59. We have touched on this already to a degree
in terms of the effect on South Africa of some sort of dramatic
collapse in Zimbabwe. Is there a danger here that if the situation
in the region as a whole continues to deteriorate, famine and
economic decline might affect the political stability of Zimbabwe's
neighbours, even including South Africa? This is the food issue
(Mr Dowden) On the food issue, it seems that a lot
of it is to do with weather this year, not politics. It is presented
as a particular Zimbabwe problem and political, but it is not.
Zambia has huge food shortages and Malawi is even worse and Botswana
is bad this year. I saw something today from the famine early
warning system saying the same weather conditions seem to be building
up again this year, so we might have another drought next year.
That aspect has been neglected.