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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 December, 2003, 18:12 GMT
African body slams Commonwealth
President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe blames "white" members of the Commonwealth
Southern African countries have condemned Zimbabwe's continued suspension from the Commonwealth.

The Southern African Development Community said the situation in Zimbabwe called for engagement by the Commonwealth and not isolation.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe pulled out of the Commonwealth on Sunday, following its decision to continue sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Twelve members of the 14-nation SADC are also members of the Commonwealth.

They include Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia, which all opposed Zimbabwe's suspension.

Decision not helpful

In a statement, SADC blamed the decision to prolong Zimbabwe's suspension on the "dismissive, intolerant and rigid attitude" of some Commonwealth members during discussions.

It said the decision would not help alleviate Zimbabwe's difficulties, but has instead caused the withdrawal of Zimbabwe.

And in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe has been urged to take further steps against Britain and Australia, which led the pro-sanctions group against Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's state-controlled Herald newspaper blamed the British Prime Minister Tony Blair for the country's deepening economic and political crisis.

We are concerned that the matter of Zimbabwe's participation seems to have been pre-judged
SADC statement

It said: "Kicking Britain out of Zimbabwe and withdrawing from London will have its repercussions, but it will be a worthwhile price to pay and a true test of sovereignty."

How it all started

Zimbabwe was intially suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002 following allegations that Mr Mugabe had won by vote-rigging and intimidating the opposition.

At the annual summit in Nigeria which ended on Monday, the Commonwealth decided to extend the sanctions. Many African members had wanted Zimbabwe reinstated.

The SADC statement said the Commonwealth had been prejudiced about Zimbabwe before the meeting.

"We are concerned that the matter of Zimbabwe's participation seems to have been pre-judged, considering the pronouncements made by some members prior to the finalisation of this matter," the statement said.

The statement said there had been a lack of consensus among Commonwealth members, which it said would not augur well for the body.

"We fear that this attitude is destined to undermine the spirit that makes the Commonwealth a unique family of nations."

In addition to Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa, the SADC Commonwealth members are: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


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