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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Mugabe election victory could force west to lift Zimbabwe sanctions
David Smith, The Guardian (UK)
August 02, 2013
There was a
time when he was welcomed to a state banquet at Buckingham Palace
and knighted by the Queen. Now that Zimbabwe's president, Robert
Mugabe, has all but claimed
another election win, the quandary for western governments is
whether the time has come to roll out the red carpet and end his
Mugabe is seen
by many respected observers as a ruthless autocrat responsible for
thousands of deaths during his 33-year rule who has yet again rigged
his way to victory. But despite deep misgivings about the fairness
of the poll, it is conceivable that real politik will pressure Britain
and its allies to lift the last remaining sanctions against Mugabe
and his inner circle.
On Friday his
Zanu-PF party summoned journalists to a rare press conference at
its headquarters in the capital, Harare, predicting that a record
turnout of 3.95 million voters would give it a two-thirds parliamentary
majority. An exultant Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, suggested
that the result was a historic vindication of Mugabe and defeat
of the west, proof that Zanu-PF was right about everything from
human rights to seizures of white-owned farms.
the gauntlet to Britain, he said: "As far as Zanu-PF is concerned,
we have never refused to talk to them. It was Blair and Brown who
refused to talk to our president over a decolonisation issue to
do with the land question."
the UK this year and said the Africa minister, Mark Simmonds, indicated
that the government wanted to re-engage. "So I said to Mr Simmons,
when you are ready, if you are able to deal with your British public
opinion which you poisoned through demonisation of our president
for no basis through lying that we were in violation of human rights,
if you are able to think that politically you are now ready to engage
us, you will find our doors open. Basically, you know where to find
the travel bans and asset freezes imposed by the European Union
and US, which Zanu-PF has blamed for Zimbabwe's economic crisis.
"These are not from the UN, they are just from a club of white
people who just don't like the fact that we are repossessing our
land … The sanctions are illegal and they should be lifted
yesterday, not tomorrow."
Mugabe could one day set foot in Britain again, Chinamasa expressed
hope that relations would be restored, but complained: "I was
the first minister of Zanu-PF to visit London in 15 years. They
lied to the public that they'd lifted sanctions against me, only
to find when I got there that they were giving me a licence to buy
in British shops. I never understood that British people can be
so petty that I can't buy in a restaurant until I produce a licence
when in fact I have been given a visa."
philosophy is fervently historical and anti-colonialist, questioning
why Africa's wealth of natural resources have not alleviated poverty
and insistent that land and businesses must be returned to Zimbabwean
hands. Chinamasa accused western powers of funding non-government
organisations in the country to the tune of $2.6bn (£1.7bn)
and sponsoring pirate radio stations to effect regime change.
said to Europe that they should change their mindset: we are no
longer their colony," he said. "Each time they speak,
they speak down on us as an enslaved people. They speak down on
us as a colonised people. We want them to change that mindset. They
should not continue the mindset of their grandfathers who colonised
us which is what they continue doing.
that the new generation of Europeans and Americans – especially
after they speak about human rights and so forth – would have
a different mindset, but when you interact with them it's the same
mindset that existed 500 years ago. It's like father like son, like
a goat can only give birth to a kid goat, it's the same. But we
are not goats, we are not animals."
He added: "We
want Europe and America, white Commonwealth countries, to accept
us as an equal sovereign country. If they do, they will find themselves
welcome, we will receive them with open arms. That is the relationship
we want to nurture between ourselves."
the EU and groups including the US-based Carter Centre from monitoring
the election, claiming that countries that imposed sanctions were
biased in favour of the rival Movement for Democratic Change, which
has called the poll "null and void". Official verdicts
have therefore been left to two African observer missions - a critical
test for democratic accountability on the continent.
On Friday the
African Union released a preliminary report
expressing concerns about the non-availability of the electoral
roll and the "high incidence" of voters who were turned
away at polling stations. But its head of mission, Olusegun Obasanjo,
said the apparent irregularities did not constitute evidence of
systematic tampering. "Yes, the election is free," Obasanjo
said. "Fair? Fairly. I have never seen an election that is
head of the observer mission for the Southern African Development
the election as "very free" and "very peaceful"
but noted that there were some violations, and a full analysis was
still under way. "The question of fairness is broad and you
cannot answer it within one day," he said.
The tone of
the assessments implied that both organisations would ultimately
rubber-stamp the result, especially given Zanu-PF's big margin of
victory. That will put western governments in a dilemma, since to
directly contradict African observers would play into the hands
of Zanu-PF's anti-colonialist ideology and risk causing alienation
on a continent where China is making friends. Some in the EU, such
as Belgium, are said to be eager for a share of Zimbabwe's
But one Harare-based
ambassador has stuck his head above the parapet. Australia's Matthew
Neuhaus sent a diplomatic cable to Canberra titled "A farcical
election", and called for a rerun. "It wasn't credible,
it wasn't fair," he explained later, adding that he had personally
witnessed a woman being turned away and told to vote 200 miles away,
manipulation of voting slips, the exclusion of young people, and
a woman who found nine dead relatives on the electoral roll.
he was in touch with his American and Canadian counterparts and
they broadly agreed with the Zimbabwean opposition MDC's critique
of the way the election was conducted. "It does make a farce
of the election process and it doesn't pass the test of credibility.
There's no intention to remove the remaining targeted sanctions
given that the nature of this election is obvious," he said.
for the US embassy in Harare said it was not yet ready to comment.
The UK's ambassador, Deborah Bronnert, declined to be interviewed.
It remains to
be seen whether these governments will heed their ambassadors' cables.
Petina Gappah, a Zimbabwean writer and political commentator, said:
"I think the process of re-engagement should continue. We live
in a world where Britain does business with nasty people such as
Saudi Arabia. The Foreign Office will have to accept that Zanu-PF
is going to be in government for a very long time."
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