Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Scotland Zimbabwe Group

  1.  The Scotland Zimbabwe Group was launched in Edinburgh in October 2001. It is linked to the Britain Zimbabwe Society which for over 20 years has sought to be a vehicle of friendship, support and solidarity with Zimbabwe, building on links in a non-partisan way, but concerned about human rights and democracy. Group participants are Scots and Zimbabweans living in Scotland, including some asylum seekers, working with organisations such as ACTSA Scotland. All of us have direct links with organisations in Zimbabwe such as the Council of Churches, and/or with individuals there.

  2.  In the last six months the group has met with Professor Rugano Zvogbo, University of East Midlands (Zimbabwe), Ms Evelyn Masaiti MP, Shadow Minister for Youth and Gender, and Mr Godfrey Kanyenze, Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions. On the occasion of a vigil held in February in central Edinburgh for free and fair elections we received strong written messages of support for the Zimbabwe people and expressions of concern about the political, economic and human rights situation from a number of Scottish civic leaders including the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (who visited Zimbabwe officially in January), the General Secretary, STUC, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and the leaders of the main Scottish political parties. A personal message was also received from Sir David Steel, convenor of the Scottish Parliament, who was officially present at the independence ceremony in Harare in 1980.

  3.  Such concern is increasing as post-election we receive information of arrests of, and violence against, known or suspected opposition supporters, some known personally to group members, and as responsible groups such as the Amani Trust (Zimbabwe) publish evidence of human rights abuses, some of which are exacerbating the already existing and serious incidence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.

  4.  We offer the above information in order to underline the concerns felt in Scotland. We recognise these are shared by the British Government and that much work, both publicly and "behind the scenes", is on-going.

  5.  We would like to put forward the following points. They reflect only those informed concerns of our group upon which we feel able to comment.

  6.  Overt protestations from the UK to Mr Mugabe, while not necessarily making the situation worse, do not currently seem to be productive. Our own contacts endorse the view that South Africa, particularly, and other countries in the region hold the key.

  7.  Nevertheless it is important that the people of Zimbabwe continue to know that the international community are aware of events, appreciate the urgency of the situation and that as soon as possible, positive partnerships, investment, links and development assistance will be re-established.

  8.  It is important that the Government can avail itself of accurate information. We were disturbed, for instance, to learn of the outdated country report for Zimbabwe being used by the Home Office for adjudicators in immigration and asylum cases.

  9.  It is important to find additional ways to work with the many civil society groups which we believe are the key to Zimbabwe's recovery. The fact that the bloodbath forecast due to people's dismay at the election results did not occur is an indication of their influence, in spite of the current campaign of retribution. However, there are signs that many are becoming exhausted and demoralised. The need is to support non-violent, constructive and democratic responses to state violence and to economic collapse.

  10.  This also means continuing to support NGOs, both here and in Zimbabwe, with experience and innovative ways of working, so that appropriate expertise and development aid reaches the intended targets.

  11.  Equally while new cultural exchanges may be difficult to set up at present, it is important to sustain those that exist and to welcome visiting groups and academics in order to continue to learn from Zimbabwe.

  12.  Ways of supporting the independent press whose journalists have shown outstanding courage need to be found.

  13.  Information to, and by the media in the UK must avoid racial categorisation. Current activities by the ruling party are opening old wounds and creating destructive racial antagonisms.

  14.  We hope that evidence will be sought from some of the many Zimbabweans now living temporarily or as refugees in the UK, for example, the former Chair of the Zimbabwe National Constitutional Assembly.

  15.  It is necessary now for British policymakers to acknowledge its own part in bringing about this situation: eg its lack of initiative in the area of land reform, before a new and truly equitable relationship can work in the future.

  16.  Meanwhile we recommend that while the situation in Zimbabwe remains problematic, an obvious form of action is to make special if temporary arrangements for Zimbabweans in this country experiencing problems due to the current political climate, such as accessing funds from home, obtaining student visas or being able to make secure communication. We endorse the calls from Canon Collins Education Trust for Southern Africa (CCETSA) and other educational grant-giving bodies for increased grants via government sources for Zimbabwean students. We have evidence that some educational institutions are not aware of the causes of their difficulties.

  17.  We very much welcomed the Home Secretary's decision before the presidential elections to suspend deportation for Zimbabwean asylum seekers, and hope that this will not be reversed until their safety can be assured.

  18.  We recognise these issues are not comprehensive and likely also to be made by more established groups than ours. However, we welcome the opportunity to contribute to these discussions.

Scotland Zimbabwe Group (Linked to the Britain Zimbabwe Society)

May 2002

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