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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 22:38 GMT
Suspension 'not the answer'
George Shire
George Shire, a Zanu PF activist met Tim Sebastian
George Shire, a veteran from the Zimbabwean war of liberation and supporter of President Mugabe's Zanu PF party has said that suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth will not change the political situation in the country.

Speaking in an interview with Tim Sebastian for BBC HARDtalk, Mr Shire said any imposed suspension could make matters worse.

"It is a wrong move because it does not change the minds in one way or the other," he said.

"It simply ups the stakes and given the conflictual nature of the issue, it makes things worse."

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe is the leader of the Zanu PF political party
On Wednesday, Commonwealth foreign ministers rejected a call by Britain for Zimbabwe's suspension from the organisation, but urged a halt to political violence.

Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe has encountered fierce opposition following the proposal of a ban on foreign and non-governmental monitors at Zimbabwe's presidential elections, due to take place in April.

Press restrictions

Mr Mugabe has also come under attack after introducing a controversial bill that would impose extensive press restrictions inside Zimbabwe.

However Mr Shire dismissed criticism of this legislation, arguing that it does not mean journalists will be forbidden from criticising the presidency.


To my knowledge there is no head of state in Africa who disagrees with the position the Zimbabwe Government has on the land resettlement programme

George Shire
He believes that the legislation is not the basis for insisting on EU sanctions on Zimbabwe.

"Even if you look at this piece of legislation, regardless of whether you like it or not, I don't think one can read off this document and say that is the basis for insisting on sanctions," he said.

Support

Mr Shire went on to say that African Governments are lining up to support Mr Mugabe's policy on land resettlement, despite concerns raised by the South African President, Thabo Mbeki that land distribution in Zimbabwe "must be handled differently, without violence, without conflict, within the context of the law."

"To my knowledge there is no head of state in Africa who disagrees with the position the Zimbabwe Government has on the land resettlement programme," he said.

Zimbabwe's land reform programme involves the redistribution of land from white to black farmers.

However, Mr Shire condemned violent struggles involved in the distribution of land:

"I condemn unreservedly all forms of political violence or otherwise which has impacted on the process of land distribution."

Race

Mr Shire also spoke out about the issue of race in Zimbabwe in relation to the resettlement of land stating that the situation in Zimbabwe is an issue into which "race comes."

"You cannot understand the relationship between the people who have and the people who haven't without understanding how it's encircled by the story of race. he said"

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George Shire
"The question is what impact it will have on the Commonwealth as a whole."
See also:

08 Jan 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe's controversial bills
05 Dec 01 | Africa
Sanctions loom for Mugabe
10 Jan 02 | Africa
How loyal is Zimbabwe's army?
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