Friday, October 26, 2007

Zimbabwe News Update: Pan-African Parliament Rejects Mission; Ties Strengthened With Zambia

Pan African Parliament rejects fact-finding mission to Zim

Herald Reporter

THE Pan African Parliament meeting in Midrand, South Africa, on Wednesday rejected a motion to send a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe after the House voted against it in yet another diplomatic victory for the country.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Ms Suzanne Vos moved the motion at the 15th session sitting, arguing that the mission should be sent as was agreed in May this year.

She urged the bureau of PAP "to proceed as a matter of urgency with arrangements required to send a fact-finding mission to the Republic of Zimbabwe" as was agreed at the last session, but the House rejected the motion.

Speaking from South Africa yesterday, Zanu-PF Chief Whip Cde Joram Gumbo, who is leading the Zimbabwean delegation to the meeting, said the motion was rejected on a technicality after they successfully argued that it could not be moved twice after it was presented in May.

He said Ms Vos had argued that the mission could not be aborted for financial reasons as the parliament could seek the funds from other sources.

"We opposed the motion because the House could not implement a motion which fails and then reintroduce it. We also made it clear that the parliament could only use funds from the African Union, not suspicious sources from outside.

"The House had a protracted debate leading to a vote and Ms Vos was the only one who voted in favour while the whole House voted against the motion," he said.

Cde Gumbo said even the MP from Botswana, Mr Boyce Sebeleta, who had seconded the motion in the last session, was nowhere to be seen during the voting.

Cde Gumbo said the latest diplomatic victory by Zimbabwe shows that the continent had finally built some confidence in efforts being made by the people of Zimbabwe and the region to resolve the country’s challenges.

Other members of the Zimbabwe parliamentary delegation in South Africa are Chief Fortune Charumbira, Cde Charles Majange (Zanu-PF), Senator Sheila Mahere (Non-Constituency) and Ms Paurina Mpariwa (MDC).

"The rejection of the motion shows that Africa has confidence in the Sadc-initiated talks being led by (South African) President Thabo Mbeki.

"The countries have also come to understand the situation in Zimbabwe and have decided to give the ongoing talks a chance," Cde Gumbo said.

He added that it also shows the progress being made through the dialogue between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition parties has impressed the countries.

"We brought before the Parliament evidence that indicated how much progress has been made in the talks, especially the successful passing of the Constitutional Amendment No. 18 Bill," he said.

PAP president Ms Getrude Mongella said the PAP would send an observer mission to the harmonised elections scheduled for early next year.

Delegates had, during the first session in May, voted to send a mission to Zimbabwe after opposition MDC representatives and other parliamentarians from some African countries raised allegations of human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean authorities.

Zimbabwe’s latest diplomatic victory comes shortly after a meeting of European Union foreign affairs ministers in Lisbon, Portugal, ignored calls by Britain to send a human rights envoy before the EU-Africa Summit set for December this year.

EU parliamentarians visiting the PAP last week also dealt British Premier Mr Gordon Brown a body blow after coming out in full support of President Mugabe’s attendance at the summit.

Mr Brown had caused division in Europe after threatening to boycott the summit in the event that President Mugabe is invited.

He, however, faced stiff resistance from fellow EU countries — Germany and the hosts Portugal — while Africa has solidly stood for President Mugabe’s attendance.

Sadc member states have also threatened to boycott the summit en masse if President Mugabe was barred from attending it.

Strong Zim, Zambia ties hailed

Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWE will always cherish contributions made by Zambia during the country’s liberation struggle and will also seek to enhance the cordial relations that date back to the pre-independence era, a Government minister has said.

Speaking at the occasion to mark the Zambia’s 43rd Independence anniversary, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Cde Reuben Marumahoko said the people of Zimbabwe were deeply conscious of the unique and excellent relations that exist between the two countries.

"These relations are rooted in our common history and culture and they were cemented by our common struggle against colonialism. Zambia occupies a very special place in the hearts of all Zimbabweans because of the unwavering support and sanctuary that you rendered to us during the liberation struggle for self-determination.

"Our governments should approach our economic challenges with the fortitude with which we overcame colonial subjugation, so that our farms, mines, industries and wildlife can benefit our people. I wish to reassure you of Zimbabwe’s determination to continue co-operating with Zambia to broaden and deepen our bilateral relations," he said.

He said the Government was satisfied with the close co-operation between Zambia and Zimbabwe on both regional and international matters and was confident that after taking over as the chair of Sadc, Zambia would steer the regional bloc to fulfil its mandate.

Speaking at the same occasion, Zambia’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mrs Sheila Siwela said the two countries had remained excellent neighbours, co-operating at both regional and international levels.

She said the two countries were co-operating well in economic, trade, immigration and social matters and were holding regular consultations at various levels for the benefit of both countries.

"Zambia and Zimbabwe have worked very well together to enhance initiatives such as the proposed building of the Kazungula Bridge and border facilities, which will link the two countries to Botswana and Namibia," she said.

She said the bridge, expected to be completed in the next four years, was important to the region as it would ease the flow of trade among the countries. The two nations are also working together in developing Chirundu border post.

"Zambia looks forward to more co-operation with Zimbabwe, for instance in the joint marketing of our shared treasure, the Mosi oa Tunya (Victoria Falls) which we can showcase to the world in readiness for the 2010 World Cup, not forgetting Kariba, the third largest artificial dam in the world," she said.

She said her country remained committed to African unity and will continue to call for a single voice in negotiating against the outside world.


Pan-African News Wire said...

We’re waiting for Brown’s answer

By Peter Mavunga

A FORMER Zimbabwean civil servant who cares deeply about her country was so concerned about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s threats to boycott the European Union -Africa Summit in Lisbon (if President Mugabe attends) that she wrote to persuade him to change his mind.

Last weekend, the retired consultant psychiatrist was reeling over the replies she received from both Number 10 Downing Street and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

On September 16, Dr Doris Hollander wrote to Brown suggesting that the EU-Africa Summit in Portugal presented "a unique opportunity for you to meet with President Mugabe so as to begin to repair the situation and move forward positively".

"As you may recall," she went on, "the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in Edinburgh in 1997, shortly after the Labour Party’s victory, did not allow for a proper meeting between the newly elected prime minister (Tony Blair) and the President of Zimbabwe.

"I feel that a lot of what followed might not have developed in the way it did if there had been the opportunity to develop a more constructive understanding between Britain and Zimbabwe."

She concluded by saying she "sincerely" felt that "direct communication between you and Mr Mugabe now could only be helpful and determine a positive way forward".

Dr Hollander grew up in Rhodesia. A German Jew fleeing persecution in her native country, she arrived in Rhodesia with her parents eight days before war broke out in 1939.

She went to study medicine in Cape Town, returning to work at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo, where she met the late Dr Herbert Ushewokunze, who was a medical student there.

She continued her studies in the United Kingdom, where she qualified as a psychiatrist and worked there until 1980.

At Independence, she returned to Zimbabwe and worked at the head office of the Ministry of Health where she says she was "helping to develop the services" between 1981 and 1986.

In 1986, Dr Hollander (and her husband Martin Page) returned to the UK, where they continued to work. They are now both retired but maintain a keen interest in what is happening in Zimbabwe.

Dr Hollander’s letter to Brown is one example of this continuing interest in the country in which she grew up.

"All I think the British Prime Minister should do is talk to President Mugabe," she explained when I asked her why she wrote the letter.

It is a positive suggestion, one that I have canvassed in this column before. But it is not one that the British Prime Minister is likely to adopt as Dr Hollander found out.

She received a reply, dated September 19, in which the writer said the PM had been pleased "that you felt able to write about this matter, a careful note has been made of your comments".

It went on to say (the PM) "has asked me to send your letter to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who are responsible for this subject, as he feels that it is important that they are aware of your concerns and can send you any comments they may have".

On October 8, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote back and it is the letter that further baffled Dr Hollander.

Christopher Hayes, who works at the Zimbabwe Section, launches into a diatribe that, nevertheless, does not answer Dr Hollander’s question.

He begins: "The situation in Zimbabwe is appalling, disgraceful and utterly tragic. President Mugabe is pursuing policies which are hurting rather than helping ordinary Zimbabweans already struggling from hyperinflation, mass unemployment and food shortages."

The next paragraph describes the contribution the UK is making to "humanitarian relief operations".

"Since the humanitarian crisis began in 2000," the letter continues, " the UK has committed over £143 million for humanitarian programmes, including food aid, life-saving vaccines (and) agricultural inputs, to the poorest farmers and support for orphans and vulnerable children."

The letter refers also to £37 million given since 2000 to tackle the HIV and Aids pandemic and a further £33 million in bilateral assistance. It also says there is a further £50 million recently agreed to start in 2008 towards "a scheme (the Protracted Relief Programme) that ‘provides vital support to the 1,5 million most vulnerable Zimbabweans’."

At that point Dr Hollander, who had been reading the letter with me, stopped to express her disbelief. "Leaving aside the money for HIV and Aids and other money for the protracted relief programme, why on earth was not the £143 million used for land purchase? I feel the economic hardship resulting from the stand-off between Britain and Zimbabwe would have been avoided."

But her answer comes in the very next paragraph.

"All of our funding is channelled through the UN (United Nations) and non-governmental organisations, and not the Government of Zimbabwe, to ensure that this aid is not abused. Monitoring systems are also in place to ensure that relief provided by the UK reaches those members of society who are most in need of humanitarian assistance."

Says Dr Hollander: "If this is not colonialism, I do not know what is. Why are they treating us like this?" The paternalistic attitude of the British government towards Africans reinforces a colonial relationship. It reflects the relationship between "the horse and its rider"as Sir Godfrey Huggins, Southern Rhodesia prime minister of the "so-called responsible government", characterised the nature of relations between black and white people in the country back in 1933.

It reminds me of the Smith regime’s justification for paying Africans low wages which was, as he put it, they do not know how to use it".

Likewise, the Labour government is saying it does not trust the Government of Zimbabwe and because of it, New Labour knows best and is the final guarantee of the welfare of the poor in Zimbabwe.

While I do not doubt the sincerity of the British government’s thinking, I am appalled by the arrogance, pompousness, naivety and lack of understanding of the basic common courtesy.

It reminds me of a situation where a man owes an African family some money. The man wants to repay his debt, but he is worried the man of the house will misuse the money, probably on drink or gambling.

He, therefore, decides unilaterally to give the money to the sahwira or friend of the family with clear instructions on how that money has to be spent. The man of the house, who has not seen the money, continues to insist that the man has to settle his debt since, from his point of view, the loan remains outstanding. And he has good reason to feel slighted and humiliated.

New Labour has clearly confused those acts that it can do to help Zimbabwe as a humanitarian effort and those it has to do because it is obliged to do them. Helping Zimbabwe deal with HIV and Aids funds as a humanitarian effort is a good thing, but it should not be confused with the obligations that tie Britain to meeting land costs arising from the Lancaster House Agreement.

This is the issue Dr Davis Gazi, author of "Zimbabwe: Racism and the Land Question: A Colonial Legacy", the Labour Party has historically been unable to work productively with Africans. His analysis shows that although the Africans in Zimbabwe have traditionally looked to Labour for solutions to their plight, they had invariably been disappointed: from Wilson, Callaghan, Blair and now Brown.

He argues that Labour is totally unable to work with Africans and asserts that this Labour government has an obligation to settle the land question first and foremost, a process the Conservatives began, having successfully chaired the Lancaster House Conference that ushered independent Zimbabwe.

He argues that the British government has a duty to fulfil its residual role as a former colonial power and has to pay for the costs of resettlement land and, crucially, this is irrespective of who is heading the Zimbabwe Government.

"This is not charity. This is not philanthropy. It is an international obligation and ought to be honoured," Gazi said.

He thought the idea that the British government should be giving aid to specific groups in Zimbabwe was a way of avoiding responsibility by the former colonial power.

The way it is doing so is by giving help and to be seen to be giving help while demonising the leadership of Zimbabwe who are understandably angry at Britain’s repudiation of her obligations. This is clearly not the way forward.

Dr Hollander picksup the story: "It’s divide and rule. It is a way of separating the people of Zimbabwe from their properly elected Government."

Her argument is that it is no business of the British government to decide how the money they owe should be spent, however well-intentioned they may be.

The British government ought to have learnt to trust the newly elected Government of Zimbabwe even when mistakes might have been made. Just like a parent, there comes a time when the teenage child has to be trusted to find his or her way in the world, even though mistakes may be made.

It is not good enough for British politicians to say public opinion in Britain would not allow public funds to be"wasted" in that way. It is their problem; or, rather, they have to find skills to persuade their voters of the merit of Britain meeting its obligations to Zimbabwe on the land issue.

The stance Labour had adopted was, as Dr Hollander argued, a way of creating divisions within Zimbabwe rather than trying to heal them.

There seems to be evidence to support the divide-and-rule thesis. The historic agreement between Zanu-PF and both factions of the MDC leading to the passing Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No .18) Bill has gone unnoticed in official circles here. It is as if it never happened. Yet it is a concrete example of how Zimbabweans (with the assistance from our brother President Mbeki of South Africa) can work together to produce results.

We must really ask the question: why is Brown not congratulating President Mbeki in his efforts? More to the point, why is he not congratulating and encouraging more dialogue between the Government and the factions of the MDC as well as the other parties?

If Brown is really interested in the welfare of the poor in Zimbabwe, the way to show this is not in giving them handouts.

The way to ensure the interests of the poor and vulnerable are guaranteed is to work with the elected Government of Zimbabwe and to encourage dialogue among the political parties in Zimbabwe. Dividing them is destructive; it is the cause of the economic problems in Zimbabwe today.

And that takes me where I began. The aim of Dr Hollander’s letter to the British prime minister was to try to persuade him to rethink his strategy and go to Lisbon in December where a unique opportunity will present itself to talk with President Mugabe.

Dr Hollander still says she is still waiting for an answer to her suggestion.


Pan-African News Wire said...


Zim sanctions illegal - Angola

Fri, 26 Oct 2007

The presidents of Namibia and Angola called on Western countries to lift sanctions imposed against neighbouring Zimbabwe on Wednesday, calling them "illegal" and unfair.

"The sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are illegal and unjustifiable," Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his Angolan counterpart Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in a joint press statement on Wednesday.

"These sanctions cause hardship to the Zimbabwean people," said the statement, released during a ceremony to mark the departure of Dos Santos after a two-day state visit to Namibia.

The two presidents also expressed concern about a recent upsurge of violence by rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

They encouraged the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to continue supporting the government of the DRC in consolidating democratic institutions and maintaining peace and stability in that country.

Dos Santos returned to Angola on Thursday, after an address to the Namibian parliament in which he emphasised the close ties between the two countries.

"Together we fought a powerful enemy to obtain freedom and independence," Dos Santos said.

During the state visit the two countries signed co-operation agreements on education, private investment, legal assistance in criminal matters and health services along the common border.

Pohamba and Dos Santos also discussed a possible railway link across the common border, as Namibia is building a railway line to the Angolan border by 2009.