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and Fair Elections on 31 March? 'I think it is impossible to do
Bizos tells Gugulethu Moyo
from International Bar Association, Zimbabwe Election Focus
is a party to the principles for free and fair elections. Did
he cross his fingers when he signed all these things?"
George Bizos was recently interviewed by Zimbabwean lawyer
Gugulethu Moyo about the situation in Zimbabwe and the forthcoming
elections. This is an edited
extract from that interview.
Let's talk about an interview that you gave to South Africa's Sunday
Times in March 2004. In response to a question about Zimbabwe you
said, 'Generally speaking I think that democratic governments should
give the cold shoulder to those who violate human rights. Democracy
is the poorer if one turns a blind eye; it's no good saying they
are only allegations, we had enough of that during apartheid.' Does
this mean that you see parallels between the situation in Zimbabwe
BIZOS: In relation
to violations to the rule of law, yes, there are parallels. And,
the denials of wrongdoers should not be too readily accepted. When
you have undeniable evidence that hundreds of thousands, if not
a few million people leave their country, they do not leave their
country, their homes, their families without good reason. There
must be good reasons and the reasons which they state are credible
- I do not think that excuses should be found for tyrants.
When you say that you don't think that excuses should be found,
what means do democratic governments actually have to intervene
in situations outside of their own territory and to actually put
a country on the path to democracy?
in clear and unequivocal terms. Hold the tyrannical governments
to what they have signed, like the constitutive document establishing
the African Union; the adoption of the African Charter; the principles
of free and fair elections agreed to by everyone for the SADC region,
and, call a spade a spade.
When you say hold these governments to what they have signed, how
can this be done?
of all by speaking out against it, and sometimes, shunning them.
The question of sanctions is a difficult one, and one must have
regard to the wishes of the local people. In relation to sanctions
in South Africa, we had very good guidelines. When those who criticise
the international community and the liberation movement were calling
for sanctions, because the people that they represented would be
the sufferers, the wise man of our liberation struggle, Walter Sisulu
said, 'Yes, sanctions brought the black people to their knees, but
the whites are standing tall. The enforcement of more stringent
sanctions may bring us down to the ground on our belly, but if they
bring the whites down to their knees that will be progress for us.'
of the position in Zimbabwe is that the vast majority of the people
think that effective sanctions like closing the borders, or cutting
off electricity, or not using the means of transportation that South
Africa has, is not really advocated by the MDC or others in Zimbabwe.
There are other ways in which a regime which has no respect for
the rule of law and oppresses its people can be shunned and shamed
in order that it may mend its ways.
You've spoken a lot about what happened in South Africa in the past
in relation to what is happening in Zimbabwe now; do you think that
South Africa has a special role to play in the Zimbabwe crisis today?
I think so. I think first of all that a lot of South Africans are
emotionally involved with the freedom struggle in Zimbabwe and they
acknowledge that many Zimbabweans gave their blood for the benefit
of the liberation movement in South Africa. They acknowledge that
Mr Mugabe played an important role in assisting South Africa in
that struggle; but I think that indebtedness should not excuse everything
that is happening in that country.
Talking about excuses, one of the issues that comes up very frequently
in the debate in Zimbabwe is that the demands for the respect of
human rights in Zimbabwe are fuelled by an imperialist agenda. You
have often said that democracy is not some form of 'Eurocentric
idealism'. How is this relevant to the discussion about Zimbabwe?
you know that President Mugabe was the 53rd signatory of the constitutive
document establishing the African Union which promises the rule
of law, the implementation of the African Charter of Human Rights.
He is a party to the principles for free and fair elections. Did
he cross his fingers when he signed all these things?
These are very
African documents, which he and the other 52 heads not so long ago
put their signatures to. This demagogic suggestion that human rights
and democracy is only for Western countries… I strongly believe
that any adjective before the word 'democracy' actually diminishes
it. There is democracy and that's it.
So as Zimbabwe prepares for elections within a regional framework
for democratic elections must it scrupulously apply all the principles
and guidelines in the SADC declaration on democratic elections?
BIZOS: Mr Mugabe
needs this election, he would like it to be certified as a free
and fair election in the hope of getting some relief from the terrible
situation which he has led his country to.
I don't think
that he should get such a certificate because in order to have a
free and fair election you have to have the rule of law, and an
impartial and independent judiciary and an impartial and independent
prosecuting authority and an impartial and competent police force.
None of these things exists, nor can they be put in place before
the end of March, when the election takes place.
which do not support Mr Mugabe's policies have been closed down;
the journalists have been deprived of the right to ply their trade.
Take the Department of Justice for instance, the MDC filed 18 petitions
in relation to the election of almost four years ago, the Zanu-PF
noted appeals, those who were found by a court of first instance,
the High Court, to have been irregularly elected still occupy their
seats, because of chicanery within the justice system. Those appeals
have not been heard yet, and they are not likely to be heard, for
what is the purpose of their being heard, if the period of office
of the irregularly elected is about to expire?
Now, if you
don't have an election commission which operates efficiently or
you don't have a judiciary which would hear urgent applications
and give speedy decisions for any violation of the electoral code,
where there are complaints about the electoral roll of being incomplete
and interfered with and the copies are not made available to the
opposition, how can you possibly have a free election, if in the
rural areas, the chiefs so dependent upon the government for their
salaries and their motor cars and the powers they exercise over
the rural people, how can you possibly have free and fair elections?
Given that you say there is so much that must be reformed in Zimbabwe
before it is ready for a free and fair election, given that this
election is a few weeks away and most of those reforms that you
suggest have not been undertaken, how do you think Zimbabwe can
get to a point where it is ready for a free and fair election?
BIZOS: I think
that it is impossible to do it. I think that if the international
community is serious about expecting Zimbabwe to have free and fair
elections, they should put pressure for a postponement of the elections
and a reasonable period in order to level the playing field. By
making the state media available to all the parties that want to
take part; by allowing people to study the voter's roll; to organise,
to allow people to have meetings without the permission or the control
of the police; to have venues available to have meetings held, and
above all, a change of attitude. The MDC is considered as an enemy
and a traitor. Let me give you one example: when the Minister for
Justice was asked why the MDC adverts on the national television
were rejected, his answer was that CNN would not air an advert from
bin Laden. When you have people in high places so bereft of logic
or common sense, how can you expect those to orchestrate a free
and fair election?
is edited excerpts from an interview given to Gugulethu Moyo on
16 February 2005 for 'In the Balance', a weekly programme broadcast
on SW Radio Africa. To listen to the original interview or read
the transcript go to http://www.ibanet.org/humanrights/Radio_Programme_In_the_Balance.cfm
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