Sunday News Reporter
THE British House of Lords has vowed to pressure its government to expeditiously press for a regime agenda change in Zimbabwe and has pledged to move in if “chaos” erupts in the country after harmonised polls despite its other commitments in war torn Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been learnt.
This came out in a full text of the United Kingdom's House of Lords debate on Zimbabwe held on Thursday 3 April 2008 and was presented by UK Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown. The House of Lords had a lengthy debate on Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections and the need to put the right people in the right places in order to effect regime change in the country. The lords could not wait to see an MDC Tsvangirai government taking over in the country which they described as good news and pledged to assist the new government as they were a major donor to the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Baroness Northover in her contribution to the debate, said the situation in Zimbabwe was fragile and there was need for Britain’s position on the country to be clarified, likening the happenings in the country with Iraq and Afghanistan..
“We cannot let Zimbabwe slide into chaos. Could the Minister assure us that, even though we have pressing concerns in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will not let Zimbabwe slide down the agenda.
“I did not anticipate that Mugabe might be removed, as now seems possible, by peaceful, democratic means. That makes me feel incredibly optimistic about development in Africa. However, we must make sure that the citizens of Zimbabwe, who are not resorting to violence, are supported and reinforced in their exercise of democracy. We are still in very dangerous and fluid circumstances and the present crisis is far from over,” she said.
The House of Lords was unanimous that although the harmonised elections were held within the confines of the country’s electoral laws and Southern Africa Development Community’s principles and guidelines governing the conduct of democratic polls, the political playing field was still tilted towards the ruling party.
“The conditions for free and fair elections were not in place. The playing field was tilted heavily in favour of Zanu-PF.
“ We will probably never know how many dead people on that roll cast ghost votes. But we do know that, in spite of those problems, millions of ordinary Zimbabweans still queued peacefully and voted. Now they are holding their breath: will their country reverse the spiral of decline or exacerbate it,” she said.
The house confirmed that a heft package was already in place to rescue the MDC Government if it win the Presidential poll.
“I welcome the Minister’s confirmation that a $1 billion package is being discussed. I hope that it will be further discussed at the IMF spring meeting in Washington later this month,” said Lord Watson of Invergowrie. The house also agreed to put more pressure on the region, mainly the South African leader, Mr Thabo Mbeki to put pressure on President Mugabe to step down.
Contributing to the debate, Baroness Park of Monmouth, argued that for change to take place in Zimbabwe, there was need for what she called right people being put on “the right places.”
“Unless the present head of the UNDP (Agostinho Zacarias) is withdrawn, there will not be very much confidence in the UN’s role in the future of Zimbabwe. Two successive UNDP leaders (Victor Angelo and Dr Zacarias) have been far too close to (President) Mugabe and indeed, in one case, have taken land from him.
“It will be extremely important to create confidence among the people of Zimbabwe by telling them that the international community is going to come to help them, but it will be the right people. I propose having Anna Tibaijuka as the UN commissioner. She would have their total trust - she reported honestly on the (Operation) Murambatsvina.
“Her role in the UN is to do building and that is what is going to be necessary. She understands the situation, she is respected and she understands women’s issues. She would make an excellent UN representative,” she said.
Dr Tibaijuka, a Tanzanian was dispatched by the UN to access the impact of Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Hope in June 2005, but later produced a damning report on the country. The Government of Zimbabwe however dismissed the report as flawed as it did not also input the steps by the Government to construct house for affected people under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Khuhle.
Baroness Park said Britain had left the decisions to resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis too long to the Southern African Development Community (SADC.)
She argued that Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in 2004 because President Mugabe took the country out - not because the people wanted to leave. She argued that it was time that the country was re-admitted.
“…Therefore, I hope that the Secretary of State, who said that he would be approaching the new head of the Commonwealth at the appropriate time, will regard this as the appropriate time. It is a time when the Commonwealth can do a great deal,” she said.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth after the 2002 Presidential election which the Commonwealth observer mission argued was flawed inspite of the fact that other observers said it was free, fair and legitimate.
Zimbabweans went to the polls on March 29 to choose President, Senate, Lower House Assembly and Councillors. The results of the council, Senate and House of Assembly polls were made public at the command centres. So far the out of the results of announced Zanu-PF got 97 seats, MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai 99 seats and MDC led by Aurthar Mutambara 10 seats. Professor Jonathan Moyo, an independent got one seat in Tsholotsho.