- Zimbabwe Ambassador: Self-determination is at root of conflict (FCN, 04-22-2008)
- Zimbabwe and the Power of Propaganda (GlobalResearch.ca, 04-16-2008)
- Zimbabwe President rips ‘hypocrites’ Bush and Blair (UN Streaming Media, 09-26-2007)
- Demonizing President Robert Mugabe (Race and History, 07-28-2005)
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – Pressure to act against Zimbabwe came from Britain and the United States and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon voiced concern about the political situation in the country during a recent Security Council meeting.
With no clear winner declared in March presidential elections, the western media and opposition leaders have clamored for action against President Robert Mugabe and southern African leaders have been of unconvinced of a need to intervene.
During an April 16 open discussion on expanding the relationship between the African Union and the United Nations on continent peacekeeping chaired by South African President Thabo Mbeki, the discussion turned to Zimbabwe.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “No one thinks Pres. Robert Mugabe won the first round last month.” The results of March 29 presidential elections haven’t been released and Zimbabwe’s high court ruled against a petition from the Movement for Democratic Change to force the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to immediately release the results. According to media reports, the high court said outcomes could not be published until “anomalies” were investigated.
That decision does not sit well with western governments who want Mr. Mugabe ousted and Movement for Democracy leader Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, who may face a run-off against Mr. Mugabe for president.
The Movement for Democracy has insisted that Mr. Tsvangirai won the necessary 50 percent-plus one to avoid a run-off. Mr. Mugabe has disputed that claim and ZEC has said it needs more time to tabulate the results. Opposition leaders call the ZEC a rubberstamp for the Mugabe government, which counters that the ZEC is an independent body composed of representatives from the opposition and the ruling parties. The ZEC previously declared that the Movement for Democracy won a parliamentary majority. It has announced plans to hold a recount of the parliamentary votes in 23 out of the 210 districts on April 19, according to the wire services.
“We are not saying there should be a second round. You don’t build cheat on cheat,” British envoy and former deputy secretary-general, Mark Malloch Brown told reporters stationed outside of the Security Council chamber.
U.S. Ambassador, Kalmay Khalilzad told reporters, “it is was very important that the election not be stolen, and that the results are released in a way that has credibility and reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe.” He added that the U.S. government supports the secretary-general’s call to send international observers for the re-vote.
Secretary General Ban told the Security Council he was “deeply concerned” about uncertainty created by the “prolonged non-release” of election results. “The international community continues to watch and wait for decisive action. The democratic process in Africa could be at stake,” he said.
Reporters pressed President Mbeki during a press conference after the meeting. They asked if he would agree to a request by the secretary-general for international supervision of the new elections in Zimbabwe. “That matter should be put to the government of Zimbabwe,” Mr. Mbeki responded. “If the election results indicated that no one had reached an absolute majority of 50 percent plus one, then there could be a second round. And, that second round should be handled in the same way as the first round, with no violence and everybody being allowed to campaign everywhere in the country.”
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) monitored March 29 elections and found the election process was largely “peaceful and credible, and an expression of the will of the people in Zimbabwe.”
“Our mission also noted that the elections were held against a background characterized by a highly tense and polarized international atmosphere where some quarters of the international community remain negative and pessimistic about Zimbabwe’s chance for credible elections,” the SADC report also said.
SADC issued another communiquÃ© after a 13-hour closed door April 12 meeting in Zimbabwe that called for election results to be revealed quickly. Results should be released “expeditiously” within the “due process of law,” the SADC statement said. SADC “urged all parties in the electoral process in Zimbabwe to accept the results when they are announced.”
According to the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based December 12th Movement, the ZEC found “reasonable cause” to believe there were problems that necessitated a second vote. The Dec. 12th Movement sent several members to Zimbabwe before the election and members remain in the country.
Robert Taylor, a Dec. 12th election observer, said his team went to several voting sites and spoke with polling officials and candidates for office. “All found the election peaceful with no problems and people being able to cast their votes freely,” he said.
The government of Zimbabwe invited not only SADC’s 163-member team, but 46 other teams of monitors from regional groupings as well as the African Union, China, Russia and Iran to observe the elections.
The west’s anti-Mugabe sentiment surfaced at the United Nations the day before the Security Council meeting, when representatives from the UK and the U.S. attempted to have Zimbabwean elections placed on the agenda, which was vehemently opposed by South Africa, which holds council’s rotating presidency for the month of April.
“If the situation deteriorated and became a threat to peace and security, then the matter should be on the Security Council agenda,” argued President Mbeki, at his post Security Council meeting press conference.
The Western press, some at the United Nations and some human rights groups called on African leaders to demand an immediate announcement of presidential election results and to condemn President Mugabe before the April 12 summit. All implied there would be politically-motivated violence or charged such violence was already perpetrated by the Mugabe regime.
“We would have hoped SADC would have been stronger in calling for an end to the violence, but we are not surprised at their stance,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “So far, SADC leaders have been unwilling to deal with the Zimbabwe political crisis, and if they can’t they should turn the whole thing over to the African Union,” Ms. Gagnon told The Final Call.
“We have been told by our representatives still in Zimbabwe that there has been no sign of the violence that the Western media claims is taking place,” countered Dec. 12th Movement leader Omowale Clay, which has expressed support for Mr. Mugabe and his land reforms in the past.
The question, what does the vote mean for Zimbabwe’s future, was put to analysts such as Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco; as to whether the unofficial results show that Zimbabweans used this election to voice their desire for change.
“Lots of people still relying on revolutionary movements such as the one in Zimbabwe have become disenchanted. Sure, land reclamation is still their goal, but it is the economic collapse, and Mugabe’s ineffectiveness in solving it that have fueled the call for change,” Mr. Zunes said.
“I am afraid Mugabe has to go, but not because of the hypocritical position of the U.S. government, it’s just time for him to go,” added the professor.
Dr. Edmond J. Keller, a political science professor and director of the UCLA Globalization Research Center on Africa, told The Final Call, “Mugabe has tried to start programs that would increase indigenous business opportunities, but the high inflation rate, the worthless Zimbabwe currency; and a vibrant civil society which has become anti-government make it impossible for him to hold on to power.”
Pres. Mugabe initiated the Empowerment Act in early March, which compels all foreign owned companies to sell 51 percent of their equity to indigenous Zimbabweans, of course he means those of African descent, said the UCLA professor.
“Zimbabwe is in for a long haul, but a new government would have the support of the international community,” said Prof. Keller.
Al Jazeera reported in early March that 25 million Zimbabwe dollars equaled a single U.S. dollar and the Zimbabwe dollar fell quickly before the election.
According to the U.S.-based Association of Zimbabweans Based Abroad, there are 43,000 Zimbabweans living in the United States. Another two million live in South Africa and two million live in the United Kingdom, the group said. Concerning the recent election, the group said: “The people have spoken and they want change.”
“The country has been robbed of brilliant minds in business, (600,000 Zimbabwean professionals in the UK) the health sector and other crucial sectors,” the association said on its webpage.
The Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action urged the U.S. to look past the current government to Zimbabwe’s future. “The U.S. should lead an international process to plan for recovery and reconstruction after President Mugabe eventually departs. The U.S. can increase the likelihood that change would bring constructive reform instead of conflict and state collapse,” a CFR report said.
The Financial Times recently reported that “a number of hedge fund managers are waiting to invest heavily” in Zimbabwe, with inflation running at “400,000 percent.”
“Daring investors believe returns are likely to be strong in the long-term if a new president is elected and economic reforms introduced,” stated Financial Times.
Financial observers say “vulture investors” are ready and poised to snap up Zimbabwean farms, industrial property and mining leases at discount prices using foreign currency. Zimbabwe is ripe with reserves of gold, chromium ore, asbestos, nickel, copper, iron ore, vanadium, lithium tin, and platinum group metals.
The UN reported in 2005, 700,000 Zimbabweans lost income, with 83 percent living on less than two dollars a day and, in 2007, there were over 500,000 internally displaced persons. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs reported the country’s total population was 13.3 million. Sixty-six percent of the Zimbabwean labor force work is in agriculture. Unemployment stands at 80 percent and the poverty rate 68 percent. The service industry accounts for 10 percent.