Mugabe win could force West to lift sanctions

HARARE - 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 claimed another election win, the quandary for Western governments is whether the time has come to roll out the red carpet and end his international isolation.

Mugabe is seen by many respected observers as a ruthless autocrat who has yet again rigged his way to victory.

But despite deep misgivings about the fairness of the poll, it is conceivable that realpolitik 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.

Throwing down the gauntlet to Britain, he said: “As far as Zanu PF is concerned, we have never refused to talk to them. It was Tony Blair and Godon Brown who refused to talk to our president over a decolonisation issue to do with the land question.”

Chinamasa visited the UK this year and said the Africa minister, Mark Simmonds, indicated that the government wanted to re-engage.

“So I said to 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 us.”

Chinamasa denounced 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.”

Asked whether 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.”

The Zanu PF 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 $2,6 billion (£1,7 billion) and sponsoring pirate radio stations to effect regime change.

“We have 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.

“We thought 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.”

Mugabe banned 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 perfect.”

Bernard Membe, head of the observer mission for the Southern African Development Community, described 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 diamond trade.

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 320 kilometres away, manipulation of voting slips, the exclusion of young people, and a woman who found nine dead relatives on the electoral roll.

Neuhaus said 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.

A spokeswoman 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.”

Comments (7)

What sanctions? You mean those travel bans. They should lift them of course. Remember we have given Zpf power absolutely. Now its time to see results.. I bet you sekuru wont last 2months coz he has nothing on his sleeves to resurrect this economy. Wait and see.

Sakiso - 4 August 2013

What sanctions? You mean those travel bans. They should lift them of course. Remember we have given Zpf power absolutely. Now its time to see results.. I bet you sekuru wont last 2months coz he has nothing on his sleeves to resurrect this economy. Wait and see.

Sakiso - 4 August 2013

In your dreams.Zanu mamama.ini ndizvo zvandangandichitoda kuti Zanu ihwine.Vakaivhotera vanyatsomame.After vanhu vanyatsorwadziwa zvichaita zvega.

Dream on - 5 August 2013

Sakiso and Dream on keep dreaming on that if Zanupf wins people will suffer.They have suffered but survived remarkably well that you hardly see anyone starvung or malnutrished.Munhu wese akagwinya vanhu zvigwindiri mumwe wang u vakatsvaga maitiro .Look East policy is in full swing and zvinhu zviri kufire hameno iwewe kana zvisiri kukuitira Chija endezve Tsvaka maitiro ari nani ko vamwe vari kuzvigona sei.People are going to prosper like never before.If you are a supporter of outdated and ill conceived Sanctions which have never worked anywhere in the world look at Cuba has been under Sanction for an eternity but the people are one of the happiest people under the sun and now prominent Americans and Celebrities go to Cuba and enjoy a nice time.Akarohwa muface wenyu free and fair and looking at him he is not ''LEADERSHIP'' material you are being led by a fool.Zim people dont need the so called West we have done without them for almost 20 years but we are still standing.All these so Western economies are being proped up by the Chinese to survive.They owe trillions of us dollars and uk pounds to the Chinese.Our education courtesy ofpeople like our honourable President RGM will always stand us in good bargaining when INDI kicks in soon.The west will be forced to engage RGM because if they dont do then INDI will be rammped up experditiously to the masses.You are in denial vana vepasi you will wake up soon.REALTY CHECK

mike muchapondwa - 5 August 2013

ZANU PF haina chainokwanisa, let it provide students grants and loans tiirovere maoko.

student - 5 August 2013

This is pathetic journalism. You have now resorted to coping and pasting articles from foreign newspapers. Its not the first time I'm seeing this artile. I saw it on Saturday on one of the British online newspapers and it was written by Agyemang, the director of the documentary, "Mugabe Villain or Hero.'' Please acknowledge the source of your content. this just shows how pathetic your reporting is. taking credit for the work done by others.

Muzimbo - 5 August 2013

Let ZANU PF rule and prove what they are made of.Do you think those old gurus will pull a surprise and come up with a solution to our country's economic woes now after having failed to do so in 33 years? That will be a miracle and we wait to see that.The MDC -T team should just let them rule as they are a power hungry lot.

Chigondo - 5 August 2013

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