Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Dr Dale Doré


  1.  It was with great interest that I read the uncorrected evidence given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Amos, to your committee on the 14 May 2002. The frustration and powerlessness felt by committee members was palpable. Please allow me to comment on the proceedings by addressing a number of important questions. First, how much should the British Government rely on African members of the Commonwealth? Second, what has been the impact of Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth? Third, what will be achieved by negotiations between the political parties in Zimbabwe? And, finally, I wish to suggest a way forward to your original question: what can the United Kingdom do to help Zimbabwe in terms of governance and the crisis which is now upon it?


  2.  The Minister stressed that because the United Kingdom was unable to apply any bilateral pressure to Zimbabwe, the UK had to use its influence through the European Union, the United States and, in particular, through its Commonwealth partners. In the belief that Mugabe will listen to his peers, the Minister said: "I think that we are very, very dependent on the role which is being played by countries in the region, particularly by South Africa and Nigeria." Yet, in the face of everything that the Commonwealth's suspension of Zimbabwe symbolised, African leaders endorsed Zimbabwe's deeply flawed elections wholeheartedly. Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi's congratulatory message referred to Mugabe as "dear brother", and Tanzania's President Benjamin Mkapa sent Mugabe his "warmest congratulations", referring to the Zimbabwe leader as "a champion of democracy". During his state visit to Zimbabwe, President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia pronounced the elections free and fair—as did Bakili Muluzi of Malawi when speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

  3.  What faith, then, can we have in Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's commitment on behalf of Africa's leaders to end their reputation for corruption, human rights abuses and lack of democracy? "We will have peer review," he said. "We will say to ourselves: Mr President, what you do in your country is not good. Either you change or you get isolated." But these words are not matched by African leaders' deeds. The only evidence of Zimbabwe's isolation by African countries is to protect and isolate Mugabe from criticism by Britain and other western governments that are expected to contribute massively to Africa's development.

  4.  When Mr Mugabe disregarded the constitution and the rule of law, packed the Supreme Court with his supporters, used the public media as his propaganda tool, enacted draconian security and media laws, and embarked on a campaign of violence, African leaders remained silent. When Britain pleaded with Mr Mbeki to restrain Mugabe, he refused, relying instead on "quiet diplomacy", which all but endorsed Mugabe's brutal pre-election tactics. When Mr Mugabe stepped up his campaign of violence, racial invective and rushing through parliament legislation that was inimical to the letter and spirit of SADC's electoral conditions, Mr Mbeki stood by and did nothing. When the western democracies within the Commonwealth called for firm action against Zimbabwe in Coolum, Australia, African governments closed ranks and refused to censure Mugabe. When the presidential elections were condemned by all the major western democracies, the South African observer mission, with indecent haste and to the disbelief of assembled journalists, pronounced the elections "legitimate". In quick succession, Nigeria, the SADC countries and the African Union followed suit.

  5.  The unpalatable truth is that Mr Mugabe is not just ruthless, but imperious, shrewd, and articulate; he does not listen to his peers, his peers listen to him. By accepting Mugabe's heady mixture of historical distortion, propaganda and effusive nationalist rhetoric, South Africa and Nigeria went on to persuade their colleagues that land and race lie at the heart of an heroic political struggle that excuses Mugabe's racist and brutal expropriation of white Zimbabweans' commercial farms. In a shameful betrayal of the many Zimbabweans who have suffered appalling abuse at the hands of ZANU(PF) and state security agents, South Africa and Nigeria led 14 African countries to block a resolution by the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights calling for an investigation into human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

  6.  Is it really conceivable that Mr Straw's promise "to do all we can" for Zimbabwe amounts to being "very, very dependent" on Commonwealth "partners" who, in over two years, have done precious little to restrain their dictatorial neighbour, and who have not made the slightest headway in restoring human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe?


  7.  As the Minister says, Mr Mugabe probably does hold the Commonwealth dear; not for the values and principles it stands for, but because it includes many of his chums. He may have been stung by the suspension, not because of the principles it ostensibly stood for, but because his friends were forced to side with Mr Blair. But Mr Mugabe need never have worried. Since then, his friends have rallied to his side. In a recent meeting in Windhoek, the ruling parties of Commonwealth member states—South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Malawi—passed a resolution congratulating President Mugabe on his convincing electoral win against all odds!

  8.  Some western democracies, however, still think that Zimbabwe's suspension meant something. Walter Kansteiner, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, would have some believe that it was a "strong signal". Lucie Edwards, Canada's High Commissioner in Pretoria, called it "a sign of real political will to apply the principles of good governance." But I think Mr Chidgey is right: there is absolutely no indication that President Mugabe cared anything about what the Commonwealth does in respect of Zimbabwe. Yet, while Zimbabweans struggle in desperation with every passing day and while the life-blood of the country ebbs away, the Minister gave your committee the numbing assurance that the Commonwealth troika will revisit their decision to suspend Zimbabwe in a year hence!


  9.  Having recognised the legitimacy of Zimbabwe's presidential elections in March 2002, South Africa and Nigeria were later forced to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth on the insistence of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and by Tony Blair's threat to withdraw Britain's support for NEPAD. But this pressure came at a heavy price. Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo wrung a fundamental concession from their western counterparts: instead of an unequivocal condemnation of the presidential elections and a commitment to fresh presidential elections, the Commonwealth troika's communiqué supported "dialogue" between the MDC and ZANU(PF).

  10.  This has insidious implications. First and foremost, such talks tacitly assume a one-way process of MDC's reconciliation with ZANU(PF) and, hence, the recognition of the election results and Mugabe's continued leadership. Second, the talks are a substitute for the sovereign right of Zimbabweans to choose their own leader through an internationally acceptable and democratic electoral process. Third, reconciliation between the parties is considered essential to address key national problems—food shortages, economic recovery, political stability, the rule of law and the conduct of future elections—surreptitiously drawing the MDC into sharing the blame and responsibility for resolving a crisis that was deliberately and systematically created by ZANU(PF) to retain power in the first place. And, lastly, the talks provide a pretext for Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo to reward themselves with the fruits of NEPAD for "doing something" in the face of their blatant complicity with Mugabe.

  11.  Yet Britain has been drawn into supporting talks that put expediency before principle and diplomacy before democracy. Instead of condemning the elections as "deeply flawed", your envoy to Zimbabwe, Brian Donnelly, expressed "reservations" at the outcome of the presidential elections. Instead of insisting on fresh presidential elections, he said: "We believe that the best thing is an agreement between ZANU(PF) and the opposition MDC." It is not just that the talks deny Zimbabweans justice and democracy, but Britain is supporting talks with an unconscionable regime that, in the Minister's words, "appears to care not one jot for what is happening to its own people." If Mr Mugabe is willing to subvert the whole electoral process, decimate commercial agriculture, and allow his people to starve in order to retain his grip on power, what faith can the Minister have that Mugabe would honour any agreement reached with the MDC?

  12.  Is it conceivable that Britain still believes that it is possible to negotiate with a government that breaks its part of the Abuja accord "virtually hours after the ink was dry"—as Mr Olner put it—while calling on Britain to honour its side of the bargain? No sooner had the Minister assured Mr Chidgey of the Zimbabwe government's guarantee that food distribution would not be manipulated (because local headmen were involved), when we learn from Physicians for Human Rights that these same headmen "made it clear the food was not for MDC children, but only ZANU children." Like Smith before him, Mugabe will only negotiate in good faith when forced to do so by South Africa.



  13.  Why should the Minister be so sensitive to the "very strong feeling" amongst African leaders that Zimbabwe should not be used to judge an entire continent? After all, it was African leaders themselves who made peer review a pillar of NEPAD. If one is to believe Baroness Amos' assurance that Britain will "pull all the levers" to help Zimbabwe, then, as your Prime Minister's personal representative for NEPAD at the forthcoming G8 meeting, she must make it plain that African leaders are not being judged only for their own countries' record of governance, but for their acquiescence of a brutal and lawless regime. We are talking about Commonwealth countries—including South Africa and Nigeria—whose leaders failed to lift a finger to restrain Mugabe's two-year campaign of terror, who have unashamedly endorsed a flagrantly rigged election, and who have every intention of legitimising Mugabe's re-election through talks.

  14.  If these countries are unable or unwilling to bring sufficient pressure to bear on Mugabe to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights, then Mr Blair must make his influence felt at the G8 summit this month. He and other leaders of the G8 will lose nothing by speaking out more bluntly, as Mr Cole has, about their frustration that South Africa and Nigeria have nothing to show for their quiet diplomacy. By insisting that African countries take their peer review obligations seriously, Mr Blair will enhance his moral authority by sending a clear message to Africa's leaders: human rights, democracy and good governance cannot be compromised if Africa is to achieve the stability, growth and development its people so yearn for.


  15.  Either the presidential elections were free and fair or they were not. If they were not—as the Commonwealth observer mission found—then Britain must insist that justice and democracy in Zimbabwe are not sacrificed on the altar of reconciliation and "national unity" with a dictator. The western democracies within the Commonwealth, the United States and Europe must insist that any inter-party talks must lead to a democratic solution for Zimbabwe; fresh presidential elections that are based on an independent electoral commission, the restoration of fundamental human rights and compliance with internationally acceptable electoral standards.

  16.  If the Commonwealth insists on inter-party talks, it must recognise that the restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights cannot be subject to discussion because they are non-negotiable, bedrock values of the Commonwealth. As such, they can only be preconditions for negotiations. Nor can talks centre on food shortages, the economic crisis and political instability—for which ZANU(PF) has been wholly responsible, and against which the opposition fought bravely, peacefully and constitutionally, but was powerless to prevent. This leaves only the matter of future elections to be discussed. The British Government must insist, in line with the European Union, that new elections be held within a year under the auspices of the Commonwealth and the international community to allow the people of Zimbabwe the freedom to elect the President of their choice.

Dr D Doré

May 2002

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