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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 11:21 GMT
Zimbabwe: Time for sanctions?
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Britain and the United States have strongly condemned a law passed by Zimbabwe's parliament that is expected to restrict media coverage of presidential elections in March.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the European Union would have to take that into account when it decided whether or not to trigger sanctions that have already been agreed in principle.

The European Union has threatened to impose sanctions if its observers are not allowed into the country by the weekend.

There has been widespread criticism of President Mugabe after parliament approved legislation increasing the government's powers in the run-up to the March elections.

A security bill criminalizing criticism of Mr Mugabe and giving the police new powers to disperse demonstrations, and new election regulations which ban foreign and local independent monitors were passed by parliament.

How should the international community respond to President Mugabe's new laws? Should sanctions be imposed on Zimbabwe?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

  • Your comments since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme

    Your comments since the programme

    The last twenty or so years of power vested in one government, or rather, one person whose history of civil rights abuses and systematic embezzelement of the economy, all of which has been well documented, must surely sway Britain and countries such as the US to invoke personal sanctions against the assets of the individuals within the Zimbabwean government. For those who pass comment without ever having been there, life in rural Zimbabwe cannot deteriorate that much further and the people there neither know nor care about the Commonwealth. The major issues are no longer race or land - it's power. Even money takes a back seat; there are no foreign reserves left!
    A Taylor, Scotland ex Zimbabwe

    What the people of Zimbabwe need is our input, not our rejection.

    Russ, UK
    No, Zimbabwe should not have been suspended from the Commonwealth - not for this. This is a problem between rich and poor, black and white. It is also a problem of dictatorship. What the people of Zim need is our input, not our rejection. In these situations, isolating the nation only makes matters worse for ordinary people.
    Russ, UK

    This is disgusting! Only international intervention can save Zimbabwe. I am not always for international bodies and coalitions entering a situation but when it becomes clear that a crisis is getting out of control and there is no sign of de-escalation, then the international community must respond.
    Jane Banderas, ZIM / USA

    Mugabe couldn't care less whether he is in the Commonwealth or not - to think that the threat of suspending or expelling Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth would in some way influence events within that sad country is being naive in the extreme. Also, the main reason that the so-called SADC did not do anything more than tap Mugabe with a feather is because most of them are in a similar position themselves. The old saying: "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" comes to mind.
    Malcolm, UK

    I think sanctions should be imposed just to make the point the we don't approve of a corrupt goverment. Lets face the facts sanctions can only help. The people are already starving there is over 60% unemployment and with Lybia and Iraq as friends they should have no problem moving money around.
    Glen, Canada

    The more aid he gets, the easier it is for him to keep going.

    Adam, UK
    Having lived most of my life in Zimbabwe and seeing what has taken place over the last 2 years makes me want to cry. There is a book called "Big men, little people" that describes all the African Dictators from their rise to their fall and Mugabe is playing out the script Scene by scene. All Zimbabweans have been suffering so badly in the last 2 years and all because of one man's greed. I can not believe that one human being can do what he has been doing to his own people, the people who voted him in.Most Zimbabweans are happy easy going people and are not fighters but I feel they will have to change their ways to get rid of this mad man. I do not think sanctions will do much, Just Cut all aid..A hungry man is an angry man and that's what we need to get the Zimbabweans all fired up to overthrow this looser. Zimbabwe has no food and no money and Mugabe will be going round with his begging bowl for aid...Give him nothing - the more aid he gets, the easier it is for him to keep going.To all the Zimbabweans living in ZIM, pull together and do not stop until you get rid of him...Then we can rebuild our beloved country..
    Adam, Uk

    The United States, UK -- whomever --should exercise their option and impose sanctions unilaterally. Clearly, Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF is hijacking the election, and thumbing it's nose at the world bodies. I suggest we stop pretending they will do right by their own people. Therefore the democratic world should take down this currupt leadership both covertly and overtly -- doesn't matter much to me exactly how. I say "Time for some 'real politics!'"
    Frederick Hancock, Media, USA

    Is it not more than coincidence that a striking majority of the big conflicts in the world today are taking place in former British colonies? The now English government has planted seeds of trouble all over the globe before they finished looting their natural resources. Even the queen's crown is mostly stolen gems. Examples include India and Pakistan, Israel's conflict with Arabs and of course the colonial leftovers in Zim. England should not be able to manipulate its former victims into isolating one of their own.
    marvin, USA

    While I would have supported the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, in reality, the effect will be comparitively minimal. It would have just blocked a channel of communication rather than utilise it. I stand for aggressive realistic action, rather than rethorics. The action by the UK & US agains the Taliban was real. This type of action is required again in Zimbabwe before the country and citizens are written off as a disaster zone.
    Tunde Tola, UK

    The situation here is completely out of control and we do not have the means to solve it

    ST, Zimbabwe
    I am amazed that you all, sitting in your safe countries, are able to judge what is going on in Zimbabwe. I live here, I see what is happening every single day. If you are white you are a target. If you do not have a Zanu PF card you are beaten. Today the war vets set up roadblocks in one of Harare's affluent suburbs and hassled motorists. At the risk of sounding pompous we now know how the Jews felt in Nazi Germany. The situation here is completely out of control and we do not have the means to solve it. Only the international community can do that now that the Media Bill has been passed.
    ST, Zimbabwe

    If Saddam Hussein and Milosevic are contemptible, how is Mugabe any different? The world has every right to assist Zimbabwe's oppressed people. Proper land reform could be most beneficial but Mugabe's sinister manipulation of that issue, as well as his thuggish intimidation of any opposition, should not be condoned by the world community.
    Bob, US

    Sanctions on Zimbabwe are being called for at the instigation Britain. Mugabe is being punished for pursuing what blacks died for during the war. The EU, thank God has countries like France which has an independent foreign policy and will not be easily drawn into situations which they can judge for themselves. Since when has Britain been concerned with the welfare of blacks in Zimbabwe? The EU must refuse to be used by the British in its quarrel with Zimbabwe. Ironically the same British refuse join the Euro, while wanting to be called European. Wake Up EU. As for the Commonwealth thank you for refusing to be used. Three countries should never be allowed to decide who should or should not be in the club. After all, except for Mozambique, membership to the club was never applied for.
    Tendai, Australia

    Send in the SAS to arrest Mugabe. If the US can invade Panama to get Noriega, why can't the British do the same with Mugabe?
    Tony, USA

    African leaders are loathe to punish Mugabe for his corruption, as they are all at it themselves

    Len, UK
    As someone who has spent 25 very happy years working in Africa, I am not surprised that jack Straw failed to have Zimbabwe suspended for the Commonwealth. African leaders are loathe to punish Mugabe for his corruption, as they are all at it themselves. We continue to see crisis after crisis in Africa, and this will continue until someone has the courage to tackle corruption. I am afraid that people like Clare Short (who I am sure is well meaning), do far more harm than good.
    Len, Doncaster, UK

    Until such time as a coup has occurred, ie, somebody has seized power by unconstitutional means, Zimbabwe remains a democracy and should not be suspended from the commonwealth. The current state of violence and intimidation is strengthening the resolve of those who support the opposition. The British government is muddying the waters through the perception that it supports Zimbabweans of European descent. Incidentally, it doesn't. The policy has not changed since the sixties when it viewed the country as a great embarrassment and wanted to find the most expeditious route to get it off the British conscience. There has been no talk of suspending Zambia from the Commonwealth, even though its election was violent and highly irregular.

    By the way, those who identify Mugabe as Malawian are wrong. He's from Kutama, just down the road from my home town of Norton. Even if he were Malawian, why should that disqualify him? Zimbabweans are Zimbabweans, whether of Shona, Ndebele, European, Malawian, Asian or mixed descent, and all should enjoy equal protection under the law. Trying to brand Mugabe as a foreigner is playing into the same petty tribalism that he is exploiting to maintain his grip on power.
    Grant Lilford, USA and Zimbabwe

    Thank you to the UK for giving their support. Having just returned from home, people are now crying out for international help. Its a crazy world that nothing is being done. Its time for action.
    Alice Lester, England

    It's the people, not Mugabe, who would suffer from expulsion

    John Moyo, USA
    The Commonwealth was correct not to expel Zimbabwe. It's the people, not Mugabe, who would suffer from expulsion. I wish Mr Bush would target Zimbabwe and flush out the terrorists. Mugabe must be harbouring these terrorists, given his links with Libyan and other non-western allies.
    John Moyo, USA

    Why on earth is Mugabe being treated with kid gloves? This is a prime example of political correctness backfiring big time. Or is there something else we should know?
    M, UK

    I strongly believe that we made a mistake by supporting Mugabe when Zimbabwe won its independence. Africans were much better off then than they are now. They had more freedom and more food.
    Joe Rajah, USA

    The European Union does not run the world - it needs the consent of the United Nations

    John, Canada
    I think the European Union has no right to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe. If something like that is to be done, then the EU needs to approach the United Nations. The European Union does not run the world, and if it wants to do something like that, it needs the consent of the United Nations. Even if the United States, or Canada would do it, I still think they are wrong, and we cannot have a country or group of countries become a major voice in what is wrong and right, and dominating other societies unless it is done with the approval of an organization such as the UN.
    John, Canada

    What on Earth is John, Canada talking about. Of course the EU can impose sanctions without going to the UN. We have the right to trade or stop trading with anyone we want, both as an individual state and collectively for whatever reason we see fit. You seem to imply that countries have some kind of right to our trade.
    Garry H, England

    The Commonwealth's failure to act is another nail in the coffin of Africa. I doubt if suspension would have bothered Mr. Mugabe (it did not bother South Africa's apartheid government), but what it does do is add credibility to Mr. Mugabes destruction of a once beautiful and prosperous country. Credibility that he is today claiming as a diplomatic coup for his policies. No doubt foreign aid to prevent millions from starving will further help to keep Zanu-PF in power.
    J Shaw, South Africa

    The Commonwealth has just become an enormous embarrassment - the UK should leave. What real difference is there between Mugabe and Milosevic? How can the Commonwealth tolerate what is happening in Zimbabwe and still maintain the fiction of shared values etc. I object to another penny of tax payers money being spent on the institution. It is part of the past and we should let go.
    Will, UK

    The Commonwealth is a spent force and should have been disbanded years ago

    David Norris, Scotland
    A lot of time and money has been wasted trying to ensure "free and fair" elections in Zimbabwe. The results are a forgone conclusion. Mugabe dare not loose for fear of retribution for his disastrous term in office. Zanu PF is on the "gravy train" and they will do ANYTHING to remain on it. The country and its people are of no consequence to them. The Commonwealth is a spent force and should have been disbanded years ago.
    David Norris, Scotland

    The root of the problem has been the abdication of responsibility by the British Government in giving money to buy out white farms. Land Reform was one of the key reasons why Mugabe and Nkomo fought for freedom for Zimbawbe from the illegal rule of Ian Smith If the British had given the money as promised then Mugabe could have bought out the white farmers to resettle blacks. Yup, its always easier to ignore our own part in the debacle of Zimbawbe - but then it suits old world colonials to show that the natives could never manage themselves and hence helps to justify the barbarism that went under the name of colonialism
    B. Nath, UK

    I am and will always be tied to Zimbabwe as this is not only the place the I was born but it is also the country that I grew to love with every bit of my being and it was the saddest thing I have ever had to do when I left Zimbabwe. I am not and never have been a farmer, I and my family are just your regular everyday people but with this burning desire to see the terrible wrongs in Zimbabwe be righted.

    We were deeply distressed to hear that the proposed sanctions on Zimbabwe by the Commonwealth were rejected. Why certain leaders think that Mugabe deserves another month to get his act together is beyond me. These people have never lived in Zimbabwe and really have no clue as to how serious the problem is. To say that Mugabe has got a month to sort it out is a very bad joke. The Commonwealth has just given him his biggest weapon because come March it is going to be too late, far too late, to do anything about him or "his" election.
    Terry Williams, UK

    Just respect the African countries and their leaders like in other White or European countries. It's hypocritical to think of the harm these people inflict on each other and then failing to understand the disorders these people are suffering because of the wars and abuse during apartheid and racial segregation. Get them help as they were terrorised and abused for way too long. The Commonwealth has no real value to anyone anyway - it is just a social cluster and gathering of countries without clear results or progress.
    Matavata, USA/Zimbabwe

    What a relief, Commonwealth rejected the colonial attempt to put sanction on a sovereign country by its former colonial owner. And the news report said it all that except Canada, UK and Australia, none were too keen on doing so. Only the Zimbabwe-loving citizens of Zimbabwe should have a right to decide their country's future and the continuous illegal and unfortunate interventions by UK is bringing great shame to the UK only as we saw today. Mr. Jack Straw, not many share your 18th century views, no matter how good or bad they are.
    Jee, India

    Zimbabwe should be kicked out of the Commonwealth and effective sanctions imposed immediately for undemocratic actions stifling any political opposition to what is a dictatorship. It is the worst example of what seems to be a problem of almost tribal African governments in other countries too.
    ron tharby, Canada

    It seems the foreign ministers are still hoping for free and fair elections. When will these people wake up to the fact that hundreds of Zimbabweans have died and are still dying just so Mugabe can stay in power. Sorry, but I think the international community( IC) is engulfed in appalling double standards. IC reacts very quickly in situations where they have some interest and they wait till all is lost where they have nothing to gain. Amazing, when you think they will have to be trying to avert a famine soon!!!
    Poppin, UK/Zim

    I have lived all my life, apart from the last 18 months in Zim. I have seen first hand, the devious tactics Mugabe has employed over the past 22 years, to ensure that he holds the reins of power. The land invasions that started 2 years ago, were his final ace card in his attempt to gain another term in office. The fact that these invasions have now precipitated a famine and that his thugs have ensured the descent into complete anarchy, worries that tyrant not one iota. If Mugabe was so concerned about the redistribution of land, why was it not started in 1980? The reason is simple. If he had done it then, he would not have been able to reap/rape the coffers as he has done over the last 22 years. Smart sanctions should be applied. All the money he and his right hand men have embezzled should be seized and repatriated to Zim to rebuild the country after he has gone, which, God willing, will be soon.
    John McKenzie, Zim/ UK

    Sanctions are high risk. However, what else can be done?

    AJ, UK
    Sanctions generally affect the people more than the government in the short term - it is only when the pain and suffering caused by sanctions to be majority of voters that the government is affected, either through the ballot box or through violent eviction from power. So, sanctions are high risk. However, what else can be done - we (by which I mean the civilised democratic peoples, not just white Western Europeans) cannot sit back and watch this dictator cling onto power through the complete erosion of democracy in his country, whilst retrograding the economy of Zimbabwe by 30-40 years.
    AJ, UK

    Zimbabwe should have been suspended from the Commonwealth a long time ago. Sanctions should have been in place already on the regime. Mugabe has no place in the Zimbabwe government. For a start, he is from Malawi. He is an ex terrorist and is obsessed with keeping himself and his government in power. Nothing else matters to him. His corrupt ways have ruined the once prosperous country. The vast majority of Zimbabwe citizens live in fear of Mugabe's soldiers who terrorise and commit acts of atrocity to keep their leader in power. The people are afraid to vote for any opposition parties because their lives are threatened by Mugabe's forces if they show favour to a party of their choice. I cannot stress enough, the urgency with which world pressure needs to be placed on Mugabe's government, for them to stand down so that a democratic government can be installed.
    Crystal, United Kingdom

    If the human rights of the people of Zimbabwe are to be respected, then the government of Zimbabwe must be made accountable and answerable to its people. If, instead, the government of Zimbabwe is forced to be accountable to foreign powers like Britain flexing their muscles, it would be a step back for democracy.
    Anuj Dawar, UK

    Mugabe is playing on the fact that if you put sanctions on Zimbabwe, the ordinary people suffer and then he will look blameless. He knows that sanctions will not stop him in his bid for power so why do the world powers think that they can force him to do as they say? This man is not afraid to spill blood in order to get what he wants.
    Dee Williams, England

    Mugabe must be handled with tact and understanding

    Mike Ikhariale
    The British-led initiative to sanction Mugabe at the commonwealth failed because it was not the best thing to do in the circumstances. There is no doubt that the old man is staying for too long in office. But all that has to be resolved within the specific parameters of the Zimbabwean legal order. It has to be acknowledged that what is happening in that country is not just a case of a tyrant staying over.

    It also involves the resolution of the unfinished job by those who brought the independence of Zimbabwe into being, especially as it relates to the thorny issues of land redistribution against the present situation in which the minority white farmers own the best chunk of the arable lands. So, Mugabe must be handled with tact and understanding.
    Mike Ikhariale, USA

    You are judged by the company you keep. It is surely time for Britain to reassess whether we should continue to confer respectability on these nations by our membership of the commonwealth. We as a nation, certainly derive no benefit from it and serve only to provide a smoke screen for the tyranny and corruption practiced by the majority of them.
    Mark, UK

    The idea of sanctions on Zimbabwe are as unbearable as their effects may be to the already suffering Zimbabwean. The EU should go about assisting more the people of Zimbabwe with food health and especially education programs; which Mr Mugabe seems to know very little about. And when Mugabe undoubtedly falls the Mugabe treasure chest must be seized and returned to the peoples coffers.
    MPK, Brazil

    Any further procrastination erodes an already weak position which will be exploited by Mugabe

    A Taylor, Scotland
    If the EU has set a deadline of 3rd February by which time a decision must be made to allow EU (including British) election monitors into Zimbabwe with an appropriate time frame and adequate access, then stick to that deadline. Any further procrastination erodes an already weak position which will be exploited by Mugabe and his government. If you say you're going to do it, Jack Straw, do it.
    A Taylor, Scotland

    Imposing sanctions didn't have any profound effect on Saddam Hussein and Mugabe is likely to remain similarly unmoved. Sanctions will merely hurt the people of Zimbabwe - and they're certainly not in any immediate position to change the way Mugabe conducts himself. I'd be inclined to offer Zimbabweans the help they need to resolve the Mugabe problem, but sanctions would not be a part of it. If Jack Straw wants to make himself useful, he and others should be looking for a more practical, perhaps more direct solution, involving Mugabe rather than Zimbabwe.
    Chris B, England

    For so long the West have threatened Mugabe and his cohorts will face targeted sanctions such as freezing their foreign accounts. Obviously they prepared him, by giving him advance notice, to arrange to repatriate those funds out of the reach of the West. What a hypocrisy! Why not freeze the accounts without warning and unfreeze them when satisfactory change has occurred? The answer is, as the song goes, ...blowing in the wind.
    Laolu L, UK

    How many times have we made this mistake? Don't we ever learn? Sanctions only hurt the poor they have little or no effect on the politicians responsible for the decisions. When will our stupid politicians realise what they are doing. Or maybe they do realise but don't care.
    Phil T, Oman

    If you think it is only the western world that is worried about Mugabe's antics, think again. He is de-stabilizing the region of southern Africa and Mbeki is also aware and rightfully very worried about the effect this will have on Africa as a whole. To all you who support Mugabe without probably having ever been to Zimbabwe and seen the average man on the street unable to afford to feed himself or his family, begging for food, you really should open your eyes to what is actually happening. I have family there and have seen it myself! Mugabe needs to go. Simple. A strong and compassionate ruler who cares for Zimbabweans needs to replace him. One who will deal with the underlying fundamental problems that plague Zimbabwe and Africa for that matter, not someone who is purely interested in personal wealth and power.
    Vinny, UK

    The European Union's response is just too late

    Kuda K Chikanya, UK
    The European Union's response is just too late, so many people have been barred from registering because restrictive laws have been implemented already. In fact, the re-registration process should start again for everyone to have the opportunity to vote. Sending observers and monitors will not help since few people are eligible to vote and Mugabe is set to win, with even a huge margin.
    Kuda K Chikanya, Watford, UK

    Sanctions? What a waste of time, money, and political hot air. Sanctions will do nothing for Zimbabwe. Anything that the International community would want to keep out of that country can simply be smuggled in across its neighbouring borders. Once again the privileged few are preaching on how a country should run itself and treat it's people and of course nothing substantial will get done because the member nations will squabble amongst themselves over who should do what and where. All the while yet another country will buckle under the will of one man in a position of power, simply because nobody has the stomach to confront wicked evildoers on their own terms. If the International community really wants to get involved then it should, but only if it is willing to fully commit (not at all likely with all the interest involved), otherwise it would be wise not to stick its nose where it isn't welcome.
    John, USA

    You have no idea what sort of a man you a dealing with. All this talk of "smart sanctions" will not stop him, he is on a mission, a mission to win the presidential elections, and will drag the entire country down with him if he has to. The only people who are going to feel the effects of any sanctions are the poor oppressed masses of Zimbabwe.
    NJH, UK

    Having lived in Zim half my life (I still have siblings within Zimbabwe) I truly feel that call for sanctions is right. But unfortunately, I think that Mugabe is on the brink of a huge chasm and sanctions would push him into it, to the detriment of the Zimbabweans. Something should have been done about the man and his radical policies years ago. The question which I would like to ask is "Why is the Western World only now realising what Mugabe is?" Surely the UN should have realised years ago that in Zimbabwe the ordinary person has never had human rights under Mugabe.
    Angela, South Africa

    No leader should lose sight of their primary function - which is to serve the people of the country with both humility and equanimity.

    Andy, UK / Zimbabwe Here
    No leader should lose sight of their primary function - which is to serve the people of the country with both humility and equanimity. More than two decades have now elapsed since Zimbabwean independence, and ALL the people of the country deserve respect. The Zimbabwe national anthem implores "O God, we beseech Thee to bless our native land; .....May leaders be exemplary; And may the Almighty protect and bless our land". The future of Zimbabwe looks bleak. One step in the right direction is for continued international pressure for free and fair - monitored elections. In my opinion smart sanctions, inhibiting access to foreign travel and assets, are one lever that should be used to 'encourage' the government officials along the right path. General sanctions, are too 'blunt', and didn't work against Rhodesia in the 70s.
    Andy, UK (ex ZIM)

    Sanctions or no sanctions - it is time Zimbabwean people stood up for themselves, and of course with some help from international and continental communities. Sanctions should be imposed on Mugabe and his henchmen. It is time the people of Zimbabwe realised that Mugabe had no interest whatsoever in that country and its people. All he was ever interested in was to push his own agenda, that is to rob people of their freedom and drain the country dry. Moreover he is not a Zimbabwean - is he really Malawian or is he Mozambican?? He is worse than foreigners who cheated African countries out of their wealth. The real Zimbabweans need to unite and remove him from power and, with the help of international communities, strip him of all his assets inside and outside the country. I bet all the money that they (him and his cronies) have stashed outside the country can pay off the IMF debt, feed the Zimbabwean people, resurrect the economy, rebuild the education and health system and provide social welfare for all the disadvantaged. He has absolutely lost the plot - what about the future generation - what will happen to them if he takes the country to his grave - which certainly looks like where things are going. There is no room for dictatorship in this century. He should be retired, given a small pension and let him live in the rural areas to enjoy the rest of his days.
    M Cook, UK

    Having watched the situation in Zimbabwe very closely, and have been following the debate on whether or not to impose sanctions. The International Community, and in particular, Britain, need to be very careful about the way in which they handle Mugabe over the next 6 weeks. On one hand, if sanctions are imposed, Mugabe may take it that he is a pariah, and he's got nothing to lose by stealing the election. If sanctions are not imposed, he'll reckon that he's going to get away with it, and steal the election. Maybe the threat of sanctions in this situation would be more influential than sanctions themselves. Whatever the conclusion, something needs to be done about Mugabe. Zimbabweans are not in a situation to help themselves - the world needs to make an example of this man to show others like him that this sort of thing can not and will not be accepted.
    Charles Nelson, Zimbabwe/UK

    The only real solution is for the people of Zimbabwe to stand together and try and remove Mugabe from power themselves.

    Dave, UK
    Having visited Zimbabwe in recent weeks and spoken to many Zimbabweans, both black and white, it is clear just how unpopular Mugabe's regime is. Several people were saying that 90-95% of the population are against him and would jump at the chance to remove him from power - but don't feel that they have any power to do so, and feel that the upcoming 'election' is a forgone conclusion.

    I was made to feel so welcome by the Zimbabweans when I visited, you couldn't wish to meet a more generous and friendly bunch of people, so it seems a great shame they feel so resigned to the fact that many of their lives are falling apart, either due to the economy collapsing or the underlying fear of the violence of the tiny minority of Mugabe's thugs. I think the typical personality of the Zimbabweans is not one of fighting or confrontation to force change; but to unwillingly accept their fate. If this was happening in west Africa I'm sure the population would have revolted by now. Sanctions will not work, as they will only make the citizens suffer more; and Mugabe doesn't give a monkeys about them. He is just interested in his own power and creaming off what he can for himself. The only real solution is for the people of Zimbabwe to stand together and try and remove Mugabe from power themselves, I can't see international intervention really doing much good as its often dangerous for other countries to start tampering and taking sides.

    Unfortunately Mugabe is becoming rather a symptomatic African leader, only interested in his own power and wealth and uncaring for his people. Zambia seemed to be suffering in a similar way with an election with very dubious results and the outgoing president a billionaire in a country with an average annual income of 300.
    Dave, UK

    This is an appeal from the average Zimbabwean citizen for the international community to help us remove the evil that persists in harming us

    Daniel, UK/ Zimbabwe
    Anyone who says that they fully support Mugabe and his policies is saying that they support numerous political killings, intimidation and the removal of rights of innocent Zimbabwean citizens of all types by a select few leading politicians. This is an appeal from the average Zimbabwean citizen for the international community to help us remove the evil that persists in harming us. Limit their international travel, freeze their Swiss Bank accounts, it is all of our tax money after all. But don't impose general sanctions, it would be like locking up a fox in the chicken pen, and cleaning your hands of your responsibility to help maintain a basic level of human rights.
    Daniel, UK/Zimbabwe

    Living in a country with almost similar conditions as Zimbabwe, I think that by imposing economic sanctions on Zimbabwe is a very bad and stupid idea!!. Who are you trying to punish? The Mugabe government or the poor people of Zimbabwe and the rest of Southern Africa as well. The only people that will feel the effects of the sanctions will be the ordinary people on the street. Look at Iraq and Cuba, years of economic sanctions did not remove the present governments, it only made them stronger as they were able to survive. Sanctions can only work if the whole countries abide by it, which is almost impossible as there is something called the black market that gives governments under sanctions a life line, as business with these countries become very profitable, due to the high demands for certain goods. So this whole issue of sanctions is a waste of time and a killer of the innocent. If you want to change something in the world today, you got to put muscle behind your words.
    Hola, Namibia

    I think Smart sanctions could be very effective. If illegal funds have been transferred to 'rogue' countries' banks then they should be treated similarly. The huge effort which is on-going re: terrorist and criminal financial matters should include these countries where the governments are stealing from the people.
    Russ James, Azerbaijan

    Of course sanctions should be taken against Zimbabwe. The sanctions, however, should be directed mainly at Mugabe, i.e. freezing his overseas bank accounts. Suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth would also be a good move, mainly because it would ensure that Mugabe lost "face" - apparently he thinks a lot about being in the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe is one of the few African states that still has a framework to build upon. Take the framework away and, in a couple of years' time, we'll be dropping aid packages to stop the entire population from starving. Ideally, the UN should move in and monitor the elections.
    Sue Hudson, London, UK

    As a country we have the capacity to solve our own problems

    Dan, Zimbabwe
    Please Leave Zimbabwe alone. As a country we have the capacity to solve our own problems without any outside interference, so hands off please. Sanctions should be applied to America for its bombardment of countries like Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Japan etc, not to Zimbabwe which is just trying to solve past injustices.
    Dan, Zimbabwe

    Any noble and right thinking Zimbabwean will say no to Sanctions and I am no exception.
    Sam, Zimbabwe

    Its a bit late now - this has been coming for a while. Yet again the inability of the aid sector to stand up to corruption has led to Mugabe being driven into a corner where he cannot give up power for fear of being held responsible for all the money and land he has acquired over the years. It looks to be heading for civil war, which is terribly sad for such a beautiful country. Unfortunately all over Africa we see these corrupt politicians and leaders, and they are just allowed to get away with it. The trouble comes when their own power base is threatened.
    Mike, Cheltenham, UK

    Isn't it about time we branded Mugabe and his henchmen as terrorists? Just like the Taleban in Afghanistan they have mismanaged a once beautiful country and ruined the economy. In the 20 plus years they have been in power they have looted the country and stashed their ill gotten gains in offshore accounts around the world. It is time for justice!!!!
    Joe Bielawski, UK

    I was sad when I read the story about the family in Bindura, whose son was bitten and killed by Mugabe's supporters. The reason why Mugabe is letting the Zimbabwean people suffer so much is because he does not care about them. After all he is from Malawi, not Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean people need a Zimbabwean president that will care about the country and it's people.
    Dina, Zimbabwe/ USA

    Sanctions would be the best thing for Zimbabwe at the moment as the people can't stand up for themselves. And since they are letting Mugabe walk all over them what choice is there? People still living in Zimbabwe are to scared to stand up and protect their country and are frightened for their lives. Which brings me to the so called 'Free and fair elections' PLEASE, what a joke!!! Mugabe will never let it be free and fair. Maybe when people have to fight for food will they stand-up and say 'NO' to Mugabe and his goon's but that will never happen!!! Guess it's goodbye to a Great country!!!
    Carl Brown, UK

    Mugabe is desperate to keep his reign. But he is just as desperate to give it a mask of legitimacy. This is basically a positive sign: The times are gone where dictators could go on and on without caring to justify their own rule. I think there is no turning back: He may stay in power this time, but next time he will fail because he let himself be drawn into the game of legitimacy. He will fail like Milosevic did, and with him other dictators will fall.
    Rafael Humpert, Munich, Germany

    The claim that the West is concerned about democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe is absolutely absurd. If the West is really concerned, why don't they intervene in many countries in Latin America, Indonesia, Arab states of the Persian Golf and many more around the world that are strongly supported by the West and are ruled by corrupt regimes. The West has only one reason for intervention in Zimbabwe, they do not want an African Cuba in the form of Zimbabwe. I fully support Robert Mugabe and his policies and wish him success.
    Joe, Milton Keynes, England

    Knowing what the world community should do in the case of Robert Mugabe and his cronies should not be a hard decision when viewed in the context of how much misery and suffering he has caused to thousands of people black or white. People that use legacies of past injustices to vilify the present are feeding the eternal wheels of conflict. Let us decide once and for all what constitutes human injustice and deal with it once & for all through a legitimate body like the UN. Maybe then we will focus on building a better future for all.
    John Takoulas, Gladstone, Australia

    Mugabe has destroyed many people's dreams and is leading his country towards anarchy

    Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE
    What I have read and heard, so far, is so saddening. When I was at college in England many, many years ago those students from Zimbabwe had so much hope for their independent country. Mugabe has destroyed many people's dreams and is leading his country towards anarchy. Sanctions will not stop Mugabe but what little I know of Zimbabweans, they are not going to keep quiet for long. They will not be willing to give up their freedom without a fight. Sanction or no sanction the people of Zimbabwe will triumph in the end.
    Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

    There is a certain irony in the European Union lecturing Zimbabwe on democracy. The phrase 'physician heal thyself' comes to mind. Nevertheless I trust that the Commonwealth can rise to the occasion and help to isolate Mugabe.
    J Rogers, London, England

    As an adult living ten years under the Smith administration, ten years, under the Mugabe administration, and the last ten years in Canada, I have experienced three totally different styles of Governance. Sanctions did not have a huge initial effect during the Rhodesian era; in fact in many ways it strengthened the economy. Its previous reliance on imports from the outside world forced local industry and government to unite and become innovative to survive. Under the current regime, direct sanctions will, I believe weaken an already struggling commercial, industrial and dare I say it, agricultural sector desperately trying to service the general population.

    Mugabe has gone far beyond the stage that he cares what happens to the country and its people as long as his corrupt circle of hierarchy retain power at all cost. Over the years, he has made sure that they have as much to lose as he has should he not retain the presidency. "Smart sanctions," against him and his party members will go a long way to restrict their movements, however if they haven't moved their accumulated wealth by now to some untouchable friendly Middle Eastern country (Libya) I would be surprised. At the very least the world should apply smart sanctions now, not wait until the Commonwealth meeting in March.
    Richard , Ontario, Canada

    The history of sanctions around the world is not a positive answer

    Samson Nibi, Cuijk, Netherlands

    The history of sanctions around the world is not a positive answer. It will not be the best scenario for Zimbabwe now. It will sway the people of Zimbabwe after Mugabe, and that is what he wants. Let the international community not fall for this trap. There are better options of dealing with Zimbabwe. He can be isolated without hurting the people of Zimbabwe.
    Samson Nibi, Cuijk, Netherlands

    Can an African own land in Britain the way the British are owning land in Zimbabwe? Leave Mugabe alone, he wants land for his people and not for the colonialists. Africans have suffered long enough and now it is payback time. Let's talk about slavery as a crime against humanity and how the West can payback. Don't just look at one side of the coin.
    Khamadi Samoel, Nairobi, Kenya

    Sanctions: Remember all the fuss over sanctions against the apartheid governments in the eighties? It can be said that once they were implemented, they did contribute to bringing about peaceful change here in South Africa. The Mugabe regime is showing the same despotic symptoms as the Botha regime mid-80's, so there is no reason why the same sanctions logic can not be applied. It could be one factor in bringing about peaceful change. Regarding the land issue, yes, it needs to be properly and justly addressed. But we need a process. In South Africa, we have such an inclusive process to deal with the issue properly and fairly and this takes time. This is not happening in Zimbabwe. Mugabe is using (or more correctly abusing) the land issue for his benefit. The ordinary people continue to suffer.
    Joziburger, Jhb, ZA

    Why bother imposing sanctions? Zimbabwe has done a fine enough job of imposing sanctions of themselves. By disrupting the production of export crops and other means of earning foreign currencies they have already effectively isolated themselves. Let them continue with their current policies and see what comes of that without sanctions.
    Philip, San Francisco, USA

    Sanctions will only worsen the situation. Are there no other options? If yes they need to be explored.
    M. Masocha, Harare, Zimbabwe

    The power is in your hands, Zimbabweans

    Mwewa Kyamulanda, Lusaka, Zambia
    In the roaring sixties, when the winds of change were blowing over Africa, we had a dream. We dreamed of peace, prosperity, development! We dreamed of freedom from oppression, fear and want. We were led by young and enthusiastic men. Men who had a vision-who held hope for us. Men we called heroes. Kaunda, Seseseko, Banda, Mugabe.

    I weep when I see what those men have done to us! They got into office and suddenly became monsters! They brought Southern Africa to its knees. Zimbabweans must not let their thirst for land blind them to the fact that peace, democracy and development remain superior in importance to land!

    What's the use of having land when your economy faces the prospect of isolation or when democracy denied? Help us revive the dream that once was Mother Africa! The power is in your hands, Zimbabweans.
    Mwewa Kyamulanda, Lusaka, Zambia

    I find it interesting that most of the comments are from people that have never visited or lived in Zimbabwe. We left Zimbabwe during the late 80's as we did not agree with Mugabe's policies. I count ourselves lucky as we had a choice to leave. The people who remained stayed because they wanted to, stayed because they had no skills and could not immigrate, or they stayed because they are Zimbabweans, and they felt that there was a bright future in front of the nation.

    What nobody counted on was the huge rape and pillage that the ZANU-PF and Mugabe have forced on his people. I feel that some form of sanctions should be placed against the Mugabe regime and its political party to give the ordinary man on the street the satisfaction of seeing Mugabe suffering like they do everyday. I find it amazing that the so-called liberation war was to liberate the nation - instead they have landed with a president who was far worse that Smith.
    Angela, South Africa

    Unless sanctions are targeted specifically at Mugabe and his inner circle immediately there will be yet another Somalia situation in Africa

    Andrew Jackson, Reno, USA
    Mugabe has reverted to type. He gained power through terrorising civilians and he is holding on to power the same way. It is all he knows how to do. The west has continually backed down from Mugabe's excesses, paralysed with fear of being labelled racists, to the extent that Mugabe now feels totally invulnerable and able to do anything he likes to maintain his "God-given" right to rule. Unless sanctions are targeted specifically at him and his inner circle immediately, he will continue on his path and there will be yet another Somalia situation in Africa. It may be too late already.
    Andrew Jackson, Reno, USA

    Forget EU sanctions - Zimbabwe is not a member of the EU and it has no common policy to deal with this problem. International action should come via the UN and more importantly the Commonwealth. If the Commonwealth fails to act then it has failed as a body. This is not about the rights of white ownership of land (if it ever was) but about a small group of people using and abusing power.
    Stephen Barrett, UK

    Mugabe is clearly trying to stay in power however he can. Although I am always opposed to sanctions the international community has got to help to make sure that the elections there in March are free and fair. I was in Zimbabwe in July and August and the people there were ready to rough out whatever was necessary in order to get rid of Mugabe. Their lives have already been so negatively affected by life under Mugabe that they said they were willing to have things get worse (by having international sanctions and whatever it takes to get him out) in order for things to get better and for Mugabe's reign to end.
    Brooke Smith, New York, USA

    Mugabe was a tyrant in the 70s and 80s. So why are we surprised of his actions today?
    Martin McGowan, Tampa, Florida, USA

    If the US and the EU can target the bank accounts of terrorist groups and collaborating individuals and halt flights for Gaddaffi, Sadam Hussein and Milosovich surely they can do the same to Mr Mugabe and his ministers. The problem would then be to ensure that they do not take it out on their own people.
    James Stilwell, Vigo, Spain

    Your comments during the programme

    Punish the leaders, not the people

    Christophe Van Gampelaere, New York, USA
    Punish the leaders, not the people. Imposing sanctions on the whole country will only ease the conscience of the west because it will feel that something is being done. It is much like washing your hands in innocence.
    Christophe Van Gampelaere, New York, USA

    It is time for sanctions on Mugabe and his close accomplices. Not against innocent Zimbabweans. This type of demonic and selfish behaviour cannot be allowed to continue in Africa. When will Mugabe come to his senses from his drunkenness for power? Hopefully when sanctions are on his table he will stop harassing innocent citizens of Zimbabwe. Maybe he will be civilised.
    Benjamin, Malawi

    Yes to sanctions and no to aid

    Colin, Stuttgart, Germany
    Yes we should do everything in our means to bring down this despicable Mugabe despot and his cronies and help return democracy to the people. What was once a rich agricultural country, "the bread basket" of central Africa, is now in ruins and those responsible are those that have been in power for the past 20 years. Yes to sanctions and no to aid. If we send in aid it will only feed the army and police. When the controllers of power face starvation then perhaps they will do something and bring down the dictators.
    Colin, Stuttgart, Germany

    Everyone has to realise that Mugabe's targeting of white farmers in Zimbabwe has just been a ploy to mask the opposition. Land reform has been an effective way to tie the hands of what has become the most effective opposition to Mugabe in recent years. Once he's elected he'll drop the land issue, remove the war veterans from the white farmers' land and let them continue to be productive members of Zimbabwean society. Mugabe's motivation is not justice for his people but merely to grasp power once again. Mugabe is appealing to the basest forms of political manipulation. What profit is there in harassing a group of fellow Zimbabweans who happen to be white? He's just a desperate man who doesn't know when to retire.
    Robert Williams, Toronto, Canada

    Why impose sanctions? Just stop foreign aid to Zimbabwe. Why on earth does the west persist in this guilt trip with Africa? These countries have been independent for decades. Let them sort out their own (and almost entirely self made problems). Until Mugabe declared his war against white Zimbabweans, the country exported food. Now it expects the west to prop it up? Not a chance.
    Peter C Kohler, Washington DC, USA

    Let's stop this hypocrisy now. What did Abacha do in Nigeria that Mugabe hasn't done in Zimbabwe? Why wait until this despote has ruined all his country before thinking of sanctions?
    Mak, USA

    Zimbabwe is a sovereign state and member of the United Nations. Interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state is against international law. The Zimbabwean government is recognised as legitimate by the UN because it wields power. In order to retain sovereignty and legitimacy within the artificial, colonial, yet sacrosanct boundaries of many African and other states, it is necessary to demonstrate power, often by killing or starving large numbers of people. The international community can help in this task by imposing sanctions. Mr Mugabe will get away with the destruction of his country and the murder of its inhabitants, as did Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and his friend Haile Mariam of Ethiopia. The United Nations will ensure that condemnations will become ritualised and ineffective. No country, not even South Africa has been thrown out of the world body. In short, there is nothing to be done about Mr Mugabe. He is a creature of the UN system, as is his country.
    AJ Downing, Geneva, Switzerland

    The international community including South Africa have ignored the situation in Zimbabwe for too long

    Tim Mbanga, Atlanta, GA, USA
    The international community including our very important neighbour have ignored the situation in Zimbabwe for too long. They have done nothing but fostered and encouraged what was, is and will always be a corrupt regime. It's high time the international community showed us, the ordinary citizens, that they do care about what is taking place in Zimbabwe and let this despot, Mugabe, know that his facade is over and democracy will win.
    Tim Mbanga, Atlanta, GA, USA

    Comments on the success of sanctions always take Iraq as a negative sample. The success of sanctions against the apartheid South African regime seems to have been forgotten.
    John Berge, Lindesberg, Sweden

    It has been with great dismay that I have watched the events of the past years unfold in my childhood home of Zimbabwe. If ever sanctions were not only justified but also essential to bring about change in Zimbabwe, it is now. Mugabe's one man, one vote, one-time style of "democracy" has outlasted its shelf life by about 20 years. North Americans and people in general are so busy dealing with their own lives that news about countries like Zimbabwe just becomes background noise. Governments are needed to bring about change. Sanctions on Zimbabwe and immediate exclusion from the Commonwealth are two changes that will create an environment needed before any progress can be made. Perhaps then a responsible government which has been fairly elected, will start to repair the damage of 20 years of systematic plunder.
    Alex Bruce, Canada

    Your comments before we went ON AIR

    Europeans use sanctions only to protect their own interests

    Goradew, Namibia
    It seems unreasonable for the European Union to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe. It is after all an internal affair that needs to be sorted out by Zimbabwe itself. I don't understand the reason why the Europeans are interested in observing an election in an independent and sovereign country. Has Zimbabwe asked to observe European elections? It is clear from history that the Europeans use sanctions even to the level of armies only to protect their own interests, not to play a fair game in African politics. When will westerners adopt a fair policy towards third world countries and learn to keep their hands off the internal affairs of Africans?
    Goradew, Namibia

    Zimbabwe is in chaos at the moment, and who as usual will have to bail them out financially? Europe and America. I read from other people's columns that they blame colonialism for Zimbabwe's woes now. How is it then that Robert Mugabe and his cronies have the best land in the country. The average black man in the street has nothing compared to him. That is not because of colonialism but through greed and power. Zimbabwe might be a independent country with a so called elected leader but that is pretty obvious when all the opposition is being murdered.

    The war veterans are not freedom fighters as they claim, I think some of the 18 year olds who have been plundering the farms weren't even born when Mugabe came to power. It is time for Africa to sort out its own problems. The EU and America should ignore Zimbabwe and see what happens. To those people in Zimbabwe who complain so much about Europe meddling in its affairs just have look at the mobile phones you own and the cars you drive and ask yourself one question. Are they not made in Europe? I hope that democracy will prevail in Zimbabwe but that is pretty difficult when it is effectively a one party state.
    Rouan, Nottingham, UK

    Sanctions might push the country over the brink into civil war

    Archie, London, UK
    I think the international community should come down on Mugabe and his cronies like a ton of bricks. Freeze his assets and issue an arrest warrant for inciting violence leading to injury and death. Sanctions might push the country over the brink into civil war in the worst case and in the best case just make the already suffering population suffer even more. I doubt that the sanctions will ever empty Mugabe's pockets.
    Archie, London, UK

    Claude Mararike, Harare, Zimbabwe
    "President Mugabe has been very generous with land"
    Sandra Mhlanga, New Jersey, USA
    "Mugabe is playing hardball"
    Hilton Mendelsohn, London, UK
    "The economic situation can be resolved given the right government"
    Domingo Tivane, East Timor
    "He's going to feel pain when we target his elections"
    Tim Hosking, Botswana
    "To expect free elections is expecting too much"
    Ivan Debilliers, Johannesburg, South Africa
    "Sanctions will undoubtedly fail"
    Charles Nelson, UK
    "Mugabe's using the land problem to buy votes"
    See also:

    01 Feb 02 | Africa
    Fury at Zimbabwe media curbs
    09 Jan 02 | Africa
    Zimbabwe adamant on new laws
    08 Jan 02 | Africa
    Zimbabwe's controversial bills
    08 Jan 02 | Africa
    Shock defeat for Mugabe
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