Zimbabwe visit report
Report on a Visit to Zimbabwe in March 2011 by Members of the United Kingdom All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe.
Funded as a Fellowship by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association – United Kingdon Branch
Members of the Delegation
• Kate Hoey MP – Member of Parliament for Vauxhall (Labour Party) and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe
• Oliver Colvile MP – Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport (Conservative Party)
• Lord Joel Joffe – Member of the House of Lords (Labour Party)
Abbreviations used in this report
AU African Union
COPAC Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee
GPA Global Political Agreement
JOC Joint Operations Command compromising senior military, police and intelligence chiefs. Under the terms of the GPA it was supposed to have been replaced by a National Security Council including the Prime Minister.
MDC Movement for Democratic Change, formed in 1999. In 2005 the party split. Thelarger mainstream element remained loyal to the founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. The smaller breakaway faction chose Arthur Mutambara as its leader.
MDC-M Movement for Democratic Change – breakaway faction of the MDC formerly led by Arthur Mutambara (currently Deputy Prime Minister in the Inclusive Government) now led by Welshman Ncube (currently Minister of Industry & Commerce in the Inclusive Government)
MDC-T Movement for Democratic Change – led by Morgan Tsvangirai (currently Prime Minister in the Inclusive Government); with 100n seats it is the majority party in the Zimbabwe House of Assembly
ZANU-PF Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front – led by Robert Mugabe (currently President in the Inclusive Government)
SADC Southern African Development Community
2011 marks the twentieth anniversary of the 1991 Harare Commonwealth Declaration.
To mark this anniversary three members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe from Westminster visited Zimbabwe in March 2011.
Our visit was made possible by a grant from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association – UK Branch andwas a response to the invitation by Commonwealth Heads of Government in Article 12 of the Harare Declaration which, having set out the vision and aims agreed by Heads of Government assembled under the chairmanship of President Robert Mugabe, said:
“We invite the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and non-governmental Commonwealth organisations to play their full part in promoting these objectives, in a spirit of co-operation and mutual support”
The purpose of our visitwas to examine with our counterparts in Zimbabwe the role of parliamentarians in fostering open and accountable government through participatory and accessible parliamentary democracy as set out in the 1991 Harare Commonwealth Declaration:
“We believe in the liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief, and in the individual’s inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which he or she lives”
We also set our discussions against the background of the Introduction to the SADC Principles & Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections which reads:
SADC region has made significant strides in the consolidation of the citizens’ participation in the decision-making processes and consolidation of democratic practice and institutions. The Constitutions of all SADC Member States enshrine the principles of equal opportunities and full participation of the citizens in the political process.
The Southern African countries, building upon their common historical and cultural identity forged over centuries, agreed to encapsulate their commonality into a single vision, that of a shared future. In this context, in 1992 the Southern African countries meeting in Windhoek, the Republic of Namibia, signed a Treaty establishing the Southern African Development Community.
Article 4 of the Treaty stipulates that “human rights, democracy and the rule of law” are principles guiding the acts of its members. Article 5 of the Treaty outlines the objectives of SADC, which commits the Member States to “promote common political values, systems and other shared values which are transmitted through institutions, which are democratic, legitimate and effective. It also commits Member States to “consolidate, defend and maintain democracy, peace, security and stability” in the region.
The Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation provides that SADC shall “promote the development of democratic institutions and practices within the territories of State Parties and encourage the observance of universal human rights as provided for in the Charter and Conventions of the Organization of African Unity [African Union] and the United Nations.”
In addition, the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ, as the implementation framework of the Protocol, emphasizes the need for democratic consolidation in the region. The development of the principles governing democratic elections aims at enhancing the transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance as well as ensuring the acceptance of election results by all contesting parties.
The current Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe operates under the terms of the GPA between the two MDC formations and ZANU-PF. The GPA was facilitated by President Mbeki of South Africa on behalf of SADC and the AU. These two international organisations stood as guarantors of the Agreement which sought to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe resulting from a disputed outcome to the Presidential elections of 2008.
The agreement allowed a transitional process to be established during which all parties represented in Parliament are formally committed to sharing power and working together on overcoming the political and economic challenges facing Zimbabwe while a new constitution is negotiated sothat in due course fresh and credible elections can be held.
Despite having signed up to the agreement ZANU-PF and its leader, President Mugabe, have refused to honour many of the terms of the GPA; theyhave repeatedly acted unilaterally and continue to ignore the requirement for consultation and consensus with MDC-T and MDC-M. The GPA was given full legal force and incorporated into the Constitution of Zimbabwe pending enactment and ratification of a new constitution following the current nationwide process of consultation.
When we arrived in Harare parliamentarians and issues relating to parliamentarians were at the top of the news agenda in Zimbabwe. This meant the timing of our visit turned out to be particularly opportune and made our dialogue particularly topical. The themes we were examining were set out in bold relief.
Furthermore being able to observe developments as they unfolded during our brief stay gave immediacy to our discussions and greatly enhanced our understanding of the experience of parliamentarians in Zimbabwe and those who work with them in the process of defending and maintaining democracy.
Speaker of the House of Assembly
We arrived in Zimbabwe on 13 March. Three days beforehand the Supreme Court had ruled by a majority of 3-2 that the election ofLovemoreMoyo (Chairman of MDC-T) as Speaker of the House of Assembly in 2008 was null and void.
Theruling overturned an earlier High Court decisionwhich held that the election was valid. The Supreme Court decided that of the 208 MPs voting six had displayed their marked papers before depositing them in the ballot box and thus the secrecy of the ballot had been compromised.
The Supreme Court ruling seemed to us a peculiar decision. On that basis by displaying their marked voting papers before depositing them in the ballot box and thereby ‘breaching’ the secrecy of the ballot a few voters could render any General Election null and void. A ballot is secret to protect the voters. If they choose to disclose how they are voting that is their business.
Many of those we met told us that the rise in arrests of MPs was part of a plan to change the voting strengths of the parties in the House of Assembly so as to facilitate the election of a ZANU-PF candidate as Speaker.
The Zimbabwean Speaker currently holds the chairmanship of the Southern African Parliamentary Forum. Several people we spoke to were of the opinion that ZANU-PF was keen to wrest control from MDC-T since the Parliamentary Forum plays a crucial role on behalf of SADC in planning, deploying and reporting on election monitoring programmes for the region.
Following our departure, and despite actions by the Clerk of Parliament that seemed less than even-handed in terms of serving all members and parties represented in the House of Assembly,LovemoreMoyo was reinstated as Speaker. The voting figures showed that he had been backed not only by colleagues in MDC-T and the small breakaway faction MDC-M but also by some ZANU-PF MPs.
This shows that the longing for reform and a country that works is now spreading to the ranks of Mugabe’s own party. We came across this attitude in ZANU-PF MPs we met. While they were less robust in their support for democratic processes than their MDC-T counterparts we gained a clear impression that they too are weary of living in a country paralysed by failed policies and an ageing, intransigent leadership.
Joint Operations Command and Reform of the Security Sector
It became clear to us that voting in the election for Speaker was unlikely to be strictly according to party allegiance. Some ZANU-PF MPs expressed willingness to consider supporting LovemoreMoyo and there also seemed to be a degree of suspicion and exasperation towards Jonathan Moyo, seen as the engineer of the plot to depose LovemoreMoyo as Speaker.
Jonathan Moyo was elected as an Independent MP in the 2008 parliamentary elections but after a controversial political career (including a spell as Minister for Information when the crackdown on freedom of the media was particularly severe) is now aligned to the ZANU-PF faction led by EmmersonMnangagwa and closely associated with the Joint Operations Command .
The JOC is composed of the high command of the military, police and Central Intelligence Organisation. Many people we met regarded it as a de facto ruling junta with the ability to overrule and countermand any decisions of government ministers which run counter to the vested political and business interests of the ZANU-PF political and military oligarchy.
During our visit we were honoured to meet Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. We visited him at his residence shortly before his departure on a tour to meet heads of government in the SADC region, including President Rupiah Banda of Zambia, who chairs the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, and the leaders of Botswana, Swaziland and Mozambique.
On his return from that tour Prime Minister Tsvangirai said:
“While I was away in the last four days, it appears the civilian authority is no longer in charge and dark and sinister forces have engaged in a hostile take-over of running the affairs of the country, with or without the blessing of some leaders of the civilian authority.”
Arrests of MPs
The very different experience of MDC-T and ZANU-PF elected representatives was brought home to us very starkly during our time in Zimbabwe. While ZANU-PF representatives seem to be above the law MDC-T MPs are frequently arrested and detained in custody on trivial or trumped-up charges.
We were given figures showing that in the past two years 28 MPs from MDC-T have been arrested. That is 28% of the majority party in the house of Assembly. We tried to imagine the international outcry if 85 Conservative MPs had been arrested in that same period.
Judiciary & legislation
These arrests appear to be politically-motivated because very few if any of the prosecutions seem to have succeeded and many have been dismissed on the grounds that there is no case to answer. While some judges’ views appear to have been influenced by ZANU-PF loyalties or pressure – or by the lure of patronage and grants of land – there is still a significant politically impartial element in the judiciary maintains a professional approach and applies the law impartially.
There is a problem with PresidentMugabe thwarting the democratic process bywithholdingapproval from some laws.Legislation approved by Parliament is not gazetted and consequently cannot be brought into force. We were told, for example, that the Public Finance Management Act, which would introduce new financial management measures and budget monitoring, was approved by Parliament in June 2010 but had not been signed into law.
Consultation on a New Constitution
The COPAC consultation programme on a new constitution is a vital element in the GPA and has to be completed before new parliamentary or presidential elections can be held.
Shortly before our visit President Mugabe claimed that he could call for elections whether the new constitution is ready. However his position was contradicted by Marius Fransman, South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and International Cooperation, who said:
“The South African position and that of SADC is to ensure that the next elections as envisaged in the GPA are held under a new constitution that would have been the product of the constitution-making process supported by the Zimbabwean electorate through a referendum. In this regard, any calls for elections without the finalisation of the constitution-making process are in breach of the GPA as well as the constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment number 19, which gives legitimacy to the inclusive government.”
Capacity of MDC-T
When we asked a ZANU-PF MP why so many MDC-T MPs were being arrested he retorted that it was because they were not really up to the job. He told us that until they were elected most had been ticket touts at bus stops and so they did not understand how to behave properly.
This is typical of the way ZANU-PF has tried to smear the MDC-T as incompetent. In the media and through diplomatic channels it constantly suggests that they lack the capacity to be ministers or to form a government. This line that has been picked up and repeated far too readily by academics and commentators, but it is wrong and very damaging to Zimbabwe.
There are many very talented men and women in MDC-T, we met some of them. They are highly capable and one only needs to look at what ZANU-PF has done to the country over the past 31 years to see how ridiculous it is to say MDC-T could not do better.
The capacity of ZANU-PF ministers and MPs is best demonstrated by the destruction of the economy over the 10 years from 1999 until the formation of the Inclusive Government in 2009. Between 2000 and 2008 GDP declined by over 40%, agricultural output and industrial production were both halved.
Consumer price inflation was running at 11.2 million per cent in 2009. It was fuelled by the maintenance of a ludicrous official exchange rate that bore no relation to the rate prevailing on the street. Favoured ZANU-PF functionaries were granted licenses allowing them to access hard currency at the distorted official rate which they then exchanged at prevailing parallel market rates.
The arbitrage opportunity offered by this huge differential, allied to state protection for those licensed to deal at distorted official rate as part of the ZANU-PF system of patronage, meant the printing presses could simply not meet the demand for Zimbabwean dollar banknotes. In the face of these activities efforts such as lopping zeroes off the local currency – or even declaring inflation illegal – were inevitably futile.
The economic turnaround achieved by MDC-T Secretary-General TendaiBiti as soon as he took office as Minister of Finance was dramatic. The Zimbabwean Dollar was abandoned and the use of the US Dollar and South African Rand made official. Inflation fell to 5% per annum. Shops where for years the shelves were bare are now well stocked with full ranges of food and consumer products.
The economic disaster was blamed on what President Mugabe and ZANU-PF portrayed as Western economic ‘sanctions’. Together with the state-controlled media they claimed measures imposed by the EU and USA prevented foreign investment. Senior members of ZANU-PF we met even claimed that pharmaceutical imports had been blocked by such measures.
This view of the economic recession is unfounded. The restrictive measures imposed by some Commonwealth members, by EU member states and the USA are carefully targeted at named individuals (around 200 people and 40 companies under their control). They apply only to those closely associated with abuse of human rights and are designed not to harm the economy of Zimbabwe.
The destruction of the economy was the result of disastrous policies implemented with the short-term political aim of maintaining ZANU-PF’s grip on power through patronage and reward for party loyalty. There was also a concerted effort to undermine trade unions – the springboard from which the MDC was formed.
The assault on commercial agriculture was as much about destroying the power of the agricultural workers, the largest unionised sector of the workforce, as it was about land redistribution. Being able to dress up this assault on black African workers as the completion of the process of decolonisation was a political bonus for the ZANU-PF propaganda machine. It also disguised an unpleasant tribalist political agenda. Many agricultural workers are descended from earlier generations of migrant workers from Malawi and were stigmatised as being ‘not true Zimbabweans’.
If the agricultural sector is to be revived a new system of secure land tenure will need to be devised. Investment in infrastructure and borrowing for inputs of seed and fertiliser are not possible under a system where possession can be revoked at any time and where land holdings cannot be utilised as collateral for agricultural loans.
Role of MPs in Zimbabwe
An important point that came to light in our discussions with MPs, particularly those from the Movement for Democratic Change, was that they did not feel sufficiently engaged or consulted by the implementing agencies of aid programmes.
Of course those responsible for aid programmes are anxious that their work should not be seen to be in any way interfering with the internal politics of countries where they operate. However there can be dangers if local circumstances are not acknowledged.
Normally aid agencies will consult with local officials since it is they who are seen as being professional rather than political. However this is not the case in Zimbabwe. A deliberate ploy of ZANU-PF has been to politicise every level of life and government in Zimbabwe. This means that District Officers and officials in healthcare and education are all apt to represent a ZANU-PF view.
To counter this it is really important that elected MPs and Councillors, who have a mandate from the people, should be consulted. Otherwise there is a risk that the ZANU-PF line is fed into the consultation via officials while the alternative MDC view is excluded because it is regarded as political.
One thing that particularly struck us in the course of a full morning’s consultation with Zimbabwean MPs was that they described themselves as being ‘engines for development’ in their constituencies. In our experience there are not many countries in the world where MPs would describe themselves in that way.Special budgetary provision is made by the Ministry of Finance granting MPs allocations to enable them to fund developmental projects in their constituency.
Another area where both MDC and ZANU-PFMPs we met clearly feel able to make use of their experience and position in parliament is as members of parliamentary portfolio committees. They felt important work was done in holding the executive to account and partisan politics could be put aside to challenge performance and policy implementation by ministers regardless of party affiliation.
Shepherd Mushonga, who we met, is an MDC MP and chairs the Parliamentary Legal Committee.Paddy Zhanda a ZANU-PF MP, who we also met, chairs the equally important Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance
Visit to Chegutu West Constituency
We travelled two hours south west out of Harare to visit the Chegutu West constituency of Takalani Prince Matibe. He is an example of the promising young generation of Zimbabwean parliamentarians determined to play their part to the full in restoring Zimbabwe and making it work again. He explained to us that he wanted to see a Zimbabwe that can stand proudly on its own feet; that can feed its people and provide them with jobs.
We visited the newly-established Borden Primary School built using part of Takalani’s constituency development fund of $50,000 for which all MPs are eligible. We met the headmaster and some of the children and also the local councillor, a member of ZANU-PF, who praised the project and was clearly fully engaged with the project.
It was notable that constituents were very hesitant to speak to us about matters relating to government. This seemed to indicate deep-seated anxiety about retribution if they were in any way critical of authority.
Visit to Glen View South Constituency
Paul Madzore, another very energetic and impressive MDC MP, showed us round his Glen View South constituency, a high density suburb on the south-eastern outskirts of Harare.
We were warmly welcomed by the staff and pupils of Glen View High School. The good manners and smart uniforms of the pupils were a delight to see and their hard work and dedication made it all the more sad that for many there will be no jobs when they finish their education.
Outstanding results are achieved in O & A Level exams –we felt it might be a good idea to send our UK Education Ministers on a visit to see what lessons they could learn from the headmaster there. The school has a roll of 3,200 with the staff and premises being used to educate two sittings; a morning session starting early and finishing at midday and an afternoon session finishing in early evening.
There is still a thirst for education among children in Zimbabwe and literacy rates remain high despite the lack of resources and huge classes and economic pressures on family life.Unfortunately the new text books paid for by taxpayers in the UK and donated to Zimbabwe schools via the Education Ministry in Harare had not yet arrived at either ofthe two schools we visited in Glen View South andChegutu East.
Resources to support the electoral process
Both Paul Madzore’s constituency office in Glen View South and Takalani Prince Matibe’s constituency agent in Chegutu West were clearly desperately short of resources. Communication with constituents is severely hampered if there are no resources, material or financial, for producing leaflets or newsletters. This difficulty is compounded if, as in the case of Chegutu West, there are no funds to travel to the outlying districts of a large rural constituency.
However Zimbabwean political parties are precluded by law from accepting foreign funding which makes external support for the essential processes of democracy, electioneering and voter engagement very difficult.
Shortly before our visit to Zimbabwe Vice President Motlanthe of South Africa said, speaking of the next presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe:
“The conception is that these elections would be a watershed like the 1980 elections that happened when the old Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. There would be a need for an international presence of the same scale, to ensure a bridge with the past. The next elections are viewed by all parties as watershed elections, and therefore they have to prepare for them thoroughly to ensure that there will not be any more violence and intimidation during the course of the election campaign.”
We feel it is vital for the Commonwealth, whose membership overlaps with both SADC and the AU,with its long experience of monitoring elections and providing technical assistance, to engage in planning for a protracted presence in Zimbabwe as envisaged by Vice President Motlanthe.
The period before campaigning begins in earnest will be important in establishing confidence among voters that they will not face retribution or persecution for the outcome of the electionl in their ward or district.The presence of technical advisers, electoral monitors and international observers needs to be carefully planned. Adequate resources should be allocated for a large contingent to be present in Zimbabwe for several months.
The period after polling day will also need to be observed to ensure that any political transition is not marred by violence. The police, military and state security sector must not be allowed to impede the peaceful transfer of power in accordance with the democratically expressed will of the people and they must notnot, as has been threatened, withhold recognition from those elected to government office.
Since substantial financial support for the electoral process will be provided by Commonwealth member states (as well as by the EU and USA) we feel it is not unreasonable that provision should be made by SADC in its roadmap for significant presence by Commonwealth representatives in Zimbabwe during the extended period leading up to elections and following the poll.
Freedom of assembly and association
Freedom of expression and freedom of association are fundamental to the conduct of credible elections. We heard reports from many sources of meetings and rallies organised by the MDC-Tbeing banned or broken up. MDC-T party workers told us that even where police permission is sought well in advance it is frequently refused and for no good reason.
Article XII of the GPA is entitled ‘Freedom of Assembly and Association’. These freedoms are fundamental to the agreement and yet the police and security sector conspire with the ZANU-PF old guard to thwart these most basic rights. Such difficulties were obviously forseen when the agreement was drawn up and the article commits the contracting parties to
“work together in a manner which guarantees the full implementation and realisation of the right to freedom of association and assembly; and that the Government shall undertake training programmes, workshops and meetings for the police and other enforcement agencies directed at the appreciation of the right of freedom of assembly and association and the proper interpretation, understanding and application of the provisions of security legislation”.
Furthermore even routine meetings of local committees of political parties and civil society activists are broken up using draconian legislation which means that any gathering of more than three people can be deemed illegal if permission has not been granted by the police – and even where it is sought it is often denied or the process delayed to such a degree that compliance with the law is, in practice, impossible.
Press and media freedom
Some progress has been made toward freeing the print media from the repressive control imposed in 2003. However, although the Media Commission envisaged under the GPA has now been set up, and has granted licenses to some independent newspapers, the broadcast media remain outside its remit and are consequently firmly under the control of government officials and management loyal to ZANU-PF. MDC-T ministers and commentators who might balance the heavily pro-ZANU-PF editorial line are denied access to the broadcast media. News broadcasts are little more than crude propaganda and all commentary on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation radio and television broadcast monopoly is dismissive of the MDC at every level and presents only the ZANU-PF world view.This is a particularly serious shortcoming in outlying rural areas where access to newspapers is very limited and other sources of information such as the internet are not widely available.
Again fundamental elements of the GPA are being ignored. ZANU-PF as a contracting party signed up to a commitment obliging it to ensure:
“that the public media provides balanced and fair coverage to all political parties for their legitimate political activities [and] that the public and private media shall refrain from using abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or that unfairly undermines political parties and other organisations”.
Prospects for the future
The view of people we met, confirmed by our own observation,is that there is a widespread yearning for truly democratic government in Zimbabwe and that this would undoubtedly lead to a very rapid revival of the economy. The speed of the possible turnaround has been foreshadowed in the dramatic changes seen following the measures such as the dollarisation of the economy introduced by TendaiBiti and fellow MDC ministers in the Inclusive Government.
At present uncertainty over indigenisation proposals acts asan additional deterrent to inflows of capital. Conflicting messages from ministers in the Inclusive Government over this area of policy continueto frighten away potential investors as well as unsettling major existing investors in significant sectors of business and industry and.
Zimbabwe is blessed with significant natural resources and a well-educated population. The reassurance of political stability and respect for the rule of law would release a flood of investment and growth is likely to be rapid and sustained. This would have a beneficial effect across SADC as a whole – both economically and socially -providing sustained support for regional development, food security and healthcare provision.
Recommendations to the Commonwealth
1. Commonwealth member states that are also members of SADC or the AU should discharge their responsibility towards the people of Zimbabwe, and more widely to the people of the region, as guarantors of the GPA by supporting the efforts of President Zuma and his facilitation team tohold all Parties to their obligations under the Agreement and their commitments to plan and implement a roadmap to credible and internationally recognised elections in Zimbabwe.
2. The wider Commonwealth should use its good offices to promote a peaceful and vibrant multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe, with balanced access to print and broadcast media.
3. The wider Commonwealth should stand ready to offerlong term monitoring programmes before, during and after parliamentary, presidential and local government elections in Zimbabwe and mobilise adequate financial support to ensure nationwide coverage through extended observation of campaigning, of the electoral process and any subsequent political transition.
We wish to express our gratitude to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association – UK Branch for their grant of a fellowship to fund our visit.
We are also enormously grateful to the number of Zimbabweans, from the highest levels of government, parliament and civil society, who generously found time to meet us in their busy schedules. Our cordial and frank discussions with them were most valuable and we believe helped in our mutual understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by parliamentarians in Harare and at Westminster.
The readiness of officials to make themselves available and to engage in dialogue meant our visit was a great deal more than simply an academic exercise. We came away feeling that in the short time we were in Zimbabwe we had done useful work that will help lay the foundation for further progress in strengthening parliamentary democracy and development in Zimbabwe and relations between our respective parliaments.
During our visit to Zimbabwe we had discussions with a good number of Zimbabwean parliamentarians. We held a well-attended workshop with Members of the Zimbabwe House of Assembly which was co-chaired by the Chief Whip of the majority party in the House of Assembly, Innocent Gonese MP, and the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe at Westminster, Kate Hoey MP.
We met leaders of civil society including the Director of the Zimbabwe NGO Human Rights Forum, the President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly. Our discussions helped build on good relationships established during visits by representatives of these organisations to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe at Westminster.
We are particularly grateful to HM Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mark Canning, for generously hosting two extremely useful working dinners at his Residence and to staff at the British Embassy for helping arrange meetings and providing us with background briefings.
We are also grateful to the UK High Commissioner in South Africa, Dr Nicola Brewer, for finding time to meet us in Johannesburg.
Dave Fish the Head of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in Zimbabwe made an important contribution to the success of our visit through being readily available for dialogue with us and with our Zimbabwean counterparts and explaining the operation of UK support for development in Zimbabwe.
John Makamure, Henry Ndlovu, RongaiChizema and PlaxedesDhlamini of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) greatly assisted our dialogue with Zimbabwean parliamentarians and provided superb support with practical arrangements, technical briefings and accompanying us during meetings and on our visits to constituencies.
Arrests of MPs
Elton Mangoma was under arrest while we were in Zimbabwe. As well as being MP for Makoni North and Minister of Energy and Power Development Elton Mangoma is co-negotiator with TendaiBiti appointed to represent MDC in the talks on the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) facilitated by President Zuma of South Africa under the auspices of SADC.
His arrest and detention in custody was not only having a serious impact on the working of the Inclusive Government but was also exacerbating the already protracted delays in making progress with President Zuma’s facilitation team on a roadmap towards full implementation of the GPA.
During our time in HarareMangoma was granted bail but then rearrested. When he was granted bail the state prosecutors then invoked Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (which suspends bail orders for seven days). He was subsequently arrested on a further charge but the State Prosecutor’s attempts to have him denied bail were dismissed by the High Court.
Douglas Mwonzora MP (MDC), co-chairman of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC), had been arrested outside parliament a month before our arrival. Mwonzora had gone to the police to make a formal complaint after a meeting he held in his Nyanga North constituency had been disrupted by a militia sent by Hubert Nyanhongo, the ZANU-PF MP who represents Harare South, but ended up being charged himself.
Progress on constitutional reform is fundamental to the roadmap for new elections. The process has already fallen behind schedule; further diversion or stalling through the arrest of the co-chairman has serious implications for the resolution of the political crisis. This will in turn delay economic revival and so has a negative impact on the lives of millions of Zimbabweans.
Shepherd Mushonga is MDC MP for Mazowe Central and chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee. We met him just after his release on bail and he is a lovely cheerful man. The charge against him was that he had stolen $700 worth of excess quarry stones donated for building a nurses’ home in his constituency and used them to build a primary school.
Another prominent topic during our time in Harare was the arrest, three weeks before our arrival, of MunyaradziGwisai and 45 other social and human rights activists. Gwisai was formerly MDC MP for Highfield, a high density suburb of Harare.
Gwisai, now an official of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), was been arrested together with members the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (ZINASU) and other unions.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesman said:
“On February 19 it is said Gwisai invited people from ZCTU, students from ZINASU, Medical Professionals and Allied Workers’ Union and International Socialist Organisation to attend a meeting with a theme — ISO calls on workers, students and the working people to support the struggle in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian workers.”
“The agenda of the meeting was the revolt in Egypt and Tunisia — what lessons can be learnt for the working class in Zimbabwe and Africa. Videos of the uprising in Egypt and revolts in Tunisia were being shown to the guests who attended as a way to motivate the people to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.”
The ZRP spokesman was reported as saying police would not allow any plots to take Zimbabwe the Egypt way and would clamp down mercilessly on plotters of any revolts.
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