BRITAIN’S House of Lords has urged South Africa to renew systematic pressure on President Robert Mugabe to retire as part of plans to resolve Zimbabwe’s multifaceted problems.
In a wide-ranging recent debate, the Lord
s said Britain and South Africa, among other key members of the international community, have a duty to confront Mugabe over his regime’s intensifying acts of repression. This comes after the recent brutal assault on trade union leaders which Mugabe said was justified.
Lord Blaker said London and Pretoria should end their silence over the Zimbabwe situation and speak out against misrule.
“The Government of Zimbabwe is getting more brutally violent day by day. The courageous opponents of Mugabe’s regime have been demonstrating their opposition more vigorously than ever,” Blaker said.
“The campaign against Mugabe is backed by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the South African trade union organisation Cosatu, Zimbabwe’s National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe National Students Union, a statement by the ILO, Women of Zimbabwe Arise — a brave and active group — and churches, apart from the Bishop of Harare who has been busy collecting farms.”
He said the European Union must maintain sanctions against Harare to ensure Mugabe does not wriggle off the hook.
“Sanctions are absolutely vital and must continue. If they were to be removed, the morale of those opposing Mugabe would collapse, as would their campaign,” he said.
“I am told that some members of the EU are a bit wobbly on sanctions, especially those from southern Europe, although the Scandinavians are sound.” He singled out Portugal as a notable “wobbler”.
Blaker said South Africa should act because it had interests that were at stake in Zimbabwe.
“Many of Zimbabwe’s neighbours are suffering economically, such as South Africa, as well as many others in Sadc,” he said. “South Africa fears Zimbabwe will implode, flooding it with even more immigrants. I suggest that South Africa could use its dominant position in Sadc to call for Zimbabwe to be suspended from its membership so long as Mugabe is in power.”
He said Mugabe must also be taken to task through the United Nations Security Council for his “scandalous operation” of destroying informal businesses and shanties last year.
Lord Acton asked what Pretoria’s policy towards Zimbabwe was in view of its inconsistent engagement on the issue. Baroness D’Souza said South Africa and the international community must act collectively to sort out the situation in Zimbabwe.
“Now is, perhaps, the time to use the full array of legal, diplomatic and other measures open to the UK and the EU in order to create a critical mass of international opinion and to support those in Zimbabwe who bear the unspeakable brunt of repression,” she said.
“The Zimbabwean situation has now reached such proportions that it is appropriate to refer Zimbabwe to the Security Council.”
She quoted the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs’ report last year which said: “We recommend that the United Kingdom start a campaign for the referral of Robert Mugabe to the International Criminal Court for his manifold and monstrous crimes against the people of Zimbabwe.
“Torture in Zimbabwe is widespread, systematic and severe and therefore constitutes a crime against humanity,” D’Souza said.
“Under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, there is a duty on all those who are signed up to the statute to bring a prosecution at the court in The Hague. Perhaps now is the time to initiate a campaign on that.”
Baroness Park said the Matabeleland massacres in which 20 000 civilians were killed by the Fifth Brigade between 1982 and 1987 must be factored in this.
The Earl of Sandwich said Zimbabwe was in crisis largely because of the actions of “one man who has transformed himself from an acclaimed idol of the liberation struggle to a ruthless dictator who is well past his sell-by date”.
Lord St John of Bletso said although he had been hopeful, the Zimbabwe situation continues to deteriorate dramatically.
“There is a popular saying that pessimism is sensible because pessimists are never disappointed. Unfortunately I have been an optimist for Zimbabwe, and I have been bitterly disappointed,” he said.
Lord St John said Mugabe was now virtually Life President and was afraid of leaving office because he could be held to account for gross human rights abuses like former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
He said it was unlikely Zimbabweans would rise against Mugabe because there was no organised political opposition at the moment.
“There are two reasons why the people will not protest. First, unfortunately, there is a lack of plausible opposition in the country,” he said.
“The MDC seemed credible in the past but is now deeply-divided between those who support Morgan Tsvangirai, a man with charisma but doubtful judgement, and those who support Arthur Mutambara, a man of great intellect but less popular appeal. Secondly, a remarkable 70%, if not more, of Zimbabweans live in rural areas where they remain largely unaware of the government excesses in the urban areas.”
Lord Chidgey said Zimbabwe was “sinking down to the level of a failing and bankrupt state”. Lord Astor said Mugabe’s regime was currently being “shored up by collaborators — some guilty, some gullible, some in Zimbabwe and some in the international community”.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Triesman said people should focus on Zimbabwe’s crucial 2008 presidential election to ensure it is free and fair as part of measures to secure change. — Staff Writer.