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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 11:19 GMT
Mugabe victory: What should the world do?
Can Robert Mugabe's election victory be accepted as free and fair and should the international community recognise it? Talking Point discussed the implications.
Our guest was Dr. Chris Alden, a lecturer in International relations in the London School of Economics.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
What kind of precedent is the world allowing to be set in this country? Why not use the West as an excuse forever? Accuse them of being racist when they attack one for what one is doing to his people? Accuse them of interfering when they send observers? Accuse them of colonial aspirations when they ask one to restore the rule of law? Do not be dictated to by despots; we are a new generation of Africans wanting liberation from the feudal ways of our grandparents.
Mugabe's interpretation of democracy has caused both blacks and whites loss of quality of life as well as bringing starvation and death to his people. He will be pleading for money to feed his starving people from the West and blaming the white farmers for not producing enough food to feed his people. Having wrecked their farms it is understandable that production is down. It is my opinion that no more money should be given to this despot, and that will cause his people to rebel and throw him out.
The truth hurts. Some people believe they are the chosen race. When thousands of blacks die you don't want to talk. When a few whites die you want to make noise. When will you give others a choice or just a chance to do their own thing? We in Africa are tired of having masters. This white supremacy must end. Mugabe is very right. There is nothing the rest of the world should do. We Zimbabweans should decide for ourselves. We have just done that. You don't like it, but by the way who won in Florida, we still want to know?
Chris Castle, Perth, Australia
The world should leave Mugabe alone to go forward with his land reform policy. Britain can only do the right thing by providing the fund to compensate its subjects who unlawfully owns the land of Africans. Britain's divide and rule policy doesn't work anymore. All Africans are behind the land reform policy.
The people of Zimbabwe voiced their opinions, most of them black Zimbabweans, as minority whites were mostly disenfranchised, their voice was clear but quelled by Mugabe and his cronies. It is not the whites who are going to die (they are not a threat). People forget what happened in 1980 when Mugabe was placed in power. He annihilated the opposition (ex-ZIPRA/Matabele) in a series of atrocities that left many thousands dead. I fear for the black Zimbabweans who stand against him in the name of democracy and pray for their well-being.
Britain and the Commonwealth should do more than merely "suspend" Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. It should do the responsible thing which is to collectively remove Mugabe by military force. Then have the Commonwealth facilitate free and fair elections.
My heartfelt prayers go out to Zimbabwe, that there would be no more bloodshed and murder. It is clear the election was rigged, but I agree it is the height of hypocrisy for the EU and US to criticise Zimbabwe and ignore corruption in their "friendly" states. Maybe if the West stopped interfering, things would improve for Africa. Certainly if aid and trade were done justly and not just to benefit powerful interests things would improve. Perhaps.
Emad Shaarawi, Egypt
Virtually all African elections are rigged, and the West (principally Britain and France) have historically been actively involved in this process. The protests only emerge when the outcome of the rigging fails to further the interests of the West at that point in time, hence the muted protests over the recent elections in Nigeria, Togo, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Uganda to name but a few.
The Zimbabwe elections and the various differing opinions highlight a very simple issue.
White people simply do not appear to understand that this was a normal African election. This is how it is supposed to be in Africa.
One notes that the voices approving this flawed election are of those 'true' democrats who have either acquired, hold, or intend to retain power using similar brutal methods.
What is the excitement all about?
Western liberals kept quiet about the massacres of the mutable, "one-party" democracy, et al. They are in part responsible for giving moral support to Mugabe for the last 20 years, and for the result of the election. What should the world do now? Cut all aid to Zimbabwe, and to the other African countries that endorsed the election. If this is a transparent display of "African values", then why should the US and Europe send aid money to keep despots like Mugabe in power? Frankly, I think Africa deserves much better, but it won't do anything to help itself as long as Western aid keeps on going to the people at the top, rather than the needy. There should also be a reconsidering of the values of the Commonwealth. If these are the values espoused by its members, then it has failed as an institution and should be scrapped as soon as possible.
Alfred, London, UK
Let farmers of Zimbabwe get their land back. Throughout white farmers still control the best land. What Mugabe is trying to do now should have been done 20 years ago. I think he wants to put his mark in history by carrying out such a drastic land reform that would be a model in many African countries. The election was not fair, but I challenge you to point a country in Africa where election was fair.
I look back at the whole Zimbabwe elections as a rift that can tear a country at the bring of political unrest.
It irks me to know that there was so much violence in Zimbabwe elections and the allegations that President Robert Mugabe's supporters had defranchised the opposite camp in areas that has high voting yields.
Looking forward to the up-coming Sierra Leone elections, I scarcely foresee violence of such magnitude, save for those years when we were under the throes of war.
It is high time we in Africa began practising decent politics.
All I say now to the Zimbabwe populace is that the deed has been done and reacting violently will further escalate much trouble and the people at risk are not those in authority but the rank and files.
John Huruva, London UK
How should the world react? By helping the poor black peasants of that country get their stolen land back!
The world should do nothing. Mugabe is an old man with not many years to live. The best policy is patience and complete isolation of such regimes until such time as they aspire to and implement free and fair government and electoral practices. Unfortunately the logical consequence of such as policy will be withdrawal by EU and US governments of economic and political links with most African countries. That may be for the best, as then Africa will have the opportunity to develop in the way that suits it best. Perhaps it may be better to allow Africa to revert to the natural paradise that it was before contact with Europeans and Arab traders.
Hans Georg Klee, Munich, Germany
Nelson Mandella advocated sanctions to end apartheid. Why not Zimbabwe?
The international community should deal only with the democratic countries in Africa i.e. Botswana, Senegal and Ghana. This will encourage the despots to change, too.
Please, please do not keep saying anyone is trying to compare the running of elections of West and developed countries. THE ELECTIONS WERE NOT FREE and FAIR by Zimbabwean standards of elections that have gone on before! The framework and process was tilted in Mugabe's favour.
This is not about "Africans", this is about Zimbabweans and what Zimbabweans want.
The Zimbabwean people made their choice, but their choice was overridden. It is obvious to us who should be our leader - Morgan Tsvangirai.
Is it obvious to the rest of the world that Mugabe has once again lied and cheated his way back into power?
At the end of the day Zimbabweans will have the last say and the rest of the world can listen to them - so can Mr Mugabe!
Enough is enough!
What right do we have in the West to criticise Africa that way ?
Do we still believe that African are not humans ?
Have we forgotten the last American election where many black citizens could not even reach the polling stations to cast their ballots ?
Why is it that we cannot imagine African countries supervising our election ?
This was an election African style....a black minority imposing its will over a black majority.
Zimbabwe is part of the world community.
If Zimbabwe cannot conduct free and fair elections as judged by the world
community, it must be ready to be judged accordingly.
African nations cannot continue to put their head in the sand while the
rest of the world makes progress leaving Africa in the dust crying about
racism and colonialism. It is pathetic. In order to play in the real
world you must play by the rules.
Mugabe should have done everything in his power to make these elections
free and fair to ensure a genuine election term. From the way these
elections were set up he has basically positioned himself for criticism.
Maria Pons, Johannesburg, South Africa
I think EU, US and Britain are going very far with Zimbabwe issue. This clearly shows how badly-reared whites are towards a black person. There are countries which did worse in their election than Zimbabwe but we did not hear anything from EU, US or Britain. This shows that these people are biased and indeed they would want to colonise Africa. Please leave Africa alone to solve its problems.
Mugabe's "Freedom of Information and Right to Privacy Bill" is the ultimate oxymoron.
Anonymous, Lagos Nigeria
The Commonwealth should take a decisive action by expelling Mugabe and imposing full sanctions. If the president of South Africa does not agree for this, he should be given an ultimatum that his treatment of whites will be taken into consideration and all the willing nations of the Commonwealth should stop aid of their own accord to teach him a lesson.
In 1980 the people of Zimbabwe were given what they asked for: one man, one vote. Unfortunately, this became one man, one vote, once. Mr Mugabe used intimidation in that election and has continued to use intimidation and "gerrymandering" ever since to the extent that no election in Zimbabwe has been free and fair. I don't believe that the Commonwealth can offer much as it was instrumental in Mr Mugabe gaining power and henceforth misusing it.
All those who support ZanPF, and send messages to the effect that the rest of the world should ignore what is happening should be ashamed. Should the rest of the world keep quiet when people are being murdered, raped and muzzled just to keep one despot in power? What worries me most is that after a few months when all the fanfare has died down, it's us - the people of Zimbabwe who have to bear the brunt of Mugabe's failed policies and the collapsed economy. But obviously all those praise-singers will benefit from funds looted from the state coffers. I doubt very much that a normal sane person would support what is currently going on in our beloved country. I think the letters suggesting that we be left alone are from the members of the dreaded CIO, or people who directly benefit from what is going on.
It hurts to think that a few months down the road, this will become stale news and the world will keep going about its business whilst we are suffering. How much more does it take before the world wakes up and starts doing something about this man before we all perish? It's about time the world acts rather than just talk and more talk. We are tired, we have prayed, but our prayers have not been answered. Its time to do something or else this monster has set bad precedent. Other brutal leaders might decide to take a leaf from Mugabe's book, in the belief that they will too get away with it.
I don't know how the world should react to the turmoil in your former colony but I suspect that I know what you will do. Nothing. You will vacillate and debate and try to talk around the problem and take everyone's politically correct, white guilt point of view into consideration, then debate it all over again. Meanwhile people starve in the name of total consensus and multilateralism.
It's pathetic that some would use even this topic in order to take pot shots at the US. You Brits need a new hobby.
Congratulations Mr. Mugabe! In spite of Western interference and intimidation, especially Britain, Zimbabweans have spoken. Where were these so-called do-gooders when the whites, who are less than 1% and own more than 80% of the fertile land, ransacked, tortured, denigrated, and murdered the natives?
Is the land rightfully theirs because they killed, bullied and forced the natives off their land?
Why is there so much interest in Zimbabwe now? Is it because the British have developed a renewed interest in Africa? There are worse regimes than Zimbabwe throughout Africa. Is it because here whites are on the receiving end? How many people died in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia just to name a few? Where were these people who are so concerned about Zimbabwe?
Where is the architect of this white land grab? Ian Smith is living peacefully amongst people that he dehumanised, maimed and killed!
What is this patronising attitude? You set the priorities for Africans when it comes to dealing with whites in Africa, right?
The Zimbabwean people have asserted their independence in the face of foreign threats and intimidation.
Democracy is the government of the people from the people by the people. I believe the whole world should recognise Mugabe's victory as the people's choice. No matter how bad the minorities may classify him. If the populace (Zimbabweans) do not want him, he should have lost. If he won the election by bribery and corruption, then let the people who accepted his bribery and corruption bear the consequences of their action.
Wycliffe Avutaga, Nairobi
A fascinating collection of opinions. As one of the dreaded white colonials (left in '99) I was not suprised by the result or the subsequent pathetically ineffective hand wringing which will go on for a couple of months and then the whole thing will be forgotten. Just like the 1000 South African farmers who have been murdered there since the ANC came to power, without an arrest being made. Too right Mbeki sees no problem with an election being not free or fair but legitimate!
I wonder why UK didn't show this much concern in the recent elections in other African nations, which has been even less "free & fair"?
The situation in Zimbabwe and its future is almost one to come down to political correctness. It can't be seen to the rest of the world of a Western government overthrowing an African government - slavery and the Klan etc. Therefore Zimbabwe's future is in the hands of the "black Hitler".
The British Government will do nothing, or more likely the wrong thing - just like they are doing by trying to sell Gibraltar down the river to the Spanish. What's next, the Falklands?
My personal opinion is that a more forceful measure should be adopted, but the UK politicians have no spine for it.
Kevan Hyett, Gaborone Botswana
Admit Zimbabwe to the European union of course; Mugabe is quite a progressive fellow quite adept at politics. Surely Mugabe will be receptive to the Euro, unlike other backward countries.
The implications of his victory are more suffering for black and white Zimbabweans. The world should react to the election result by refusing to recognise it and cutting off diplomatic relations to Zimbabwe. It's an extreme measure, but Mugabe will not be deposed any other way. Sanctions are a joke - does any government seriously believe they will work?
Morgan Tsvangirai should have won the election without doubt, but is he to blame for his loss? Yes and no. Yes because he didn't focus on the rural masses and he didn't apply common sense. Suppose he had gone and paid off or to politely put it, made an alliance with the other opposing candidates that received 6% of the votes, then he would have come eve with at least 50% OF THE VOTES splitting even with Mugabe. He would then have called for Mugabe 's resignation as he would have won the popular vote. He could then have called for a nationwide strike to force Mugabe into submission .All this was very possible. Getting Siwela on his side was the best he could have as it would have drawn all Ndebele votes.
The international community must promote democracy and peace, i.e. don't condemn the elections so strongly as it makes the whole exercise of elections meaningless. Voting is still at its infancy in Africa, and we can only hope it improves. Having observers was in itself an improvement.
Hannah, London, UK
I am saddened as much by the polarised commentary on the elections in Zimbabwe as by the result. The people were denied a free and fair choice. Not by the irregularities in the actual poll, as significant as they were, but by their government. It found it necessary to deny them a free press, through the mechanics of government as well as through intimidation. It made others the authors of the country's deteriorating fortunes, despite an enviable record in creating a literate citizenry.
If the politics of power and greed can so obviously prevent its citizens from benefiting from Zimbabwe's considerable resources, then how do the peoples of poorer African states maintain any hope for their future? This to me is the great tragedy of the election in Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe has not just delivered a blow to the nation, but because of the promise of Zimbabwe post-liberation, he has delivered a blow to the continent. I can only hope that the citizens of Zimbabwe can overcome this tragic event and the government that caused it.
The Zimbabwe situation is not about land redistribution; it's about an old politician trying to cling to power. Mr Mugabe has used every means possible to manipulate the result. But the biggest shame for me is not about what's happened in Zimbabwe itself, it's the way that other African nations have failed to condemn Mr Mugabe and his tactics. It's a sad reflection on those African leaders. And yet both the Commonwealth and the United Nations have failed also.
The Commonwealth might as well be disbanded, for it has highlighted the fact that some of the member countries' leaders will quite openly make questionable comments without any condemnation. But the biggest fence- sitter is the United Nations. Neither Kofi Annan nor any of his entourage, have mentioned this situation. I would have expected some leadership and guidance from them. But once again the United Nations has proved itself to be a lame duck of an organisation. At the moment I am of the opinion that maybe the UK should consider using its economic muscle to influence the situation. No more support to any nation that does not support democratic principles and is seen to do so. I also think that maybe the UK should cease its payments to the United Nations until it stops sitting on the fence.
One thing you have to say for Mugabe, he has managed to remove every trace of colonisation from Zimbabwe - that would be freedom of speech, good living conditions, future education (the cost of which is now astronomical), rule of law, trade with other countries, food on the shelves, jobs for those in town. I'd pretty much say he's succeeded - although I note he himself lives in the lap of luxury - how can those people writing in be blind enough not to see this discrepancy?
Shame on you for not supporting your brothers when they need you most - you fought for freedom and all you got was a tyrant. The biggest drive for 1980s black rule was the right to vote. Tell me, has Mugabe delivered even that promise? I think not. The world community needs to apply sanctions not only to Zimbabwe but to all those blind and irresponsible nations who are content to accept the mockery of a government now presiding over Zimbabwe. God bless Zimbabwe - may she and her people get the freedom and leadership they deserve.
What do you mean by the term "free and fair"? What is your yardstick in this measurement, when are the elections free and fair?
As for Mr Mugabe, I think the elections were free and fair, the only problem now is that before even they went in for elections (Zimbabweans) the West had a bias about him so the outcome did less in fact it was just adding insult to injury.
The West is full of double standards. Did you hear George Bush state yesterday that he would not recognise a flawed election? He would rather recognise that military dictator in Pakistan. What a cheek.
The West is highly misinformed by its journalists who are in the business of manufacturing news. The result is that the West believed its propaganda that they thought that their preferred candidate would win. As usual Mugabe has outmanoeuvred his opponents and exposed how hypocritical they are. Mugabe won because of the land issue. The majority of the people in Zimbabwe are in the rural areas and the issue of land is close to their hearts and souls. My 80-year-old grandmother in Zimbabwe does not care about democracy but what she wants is her own piece of land to farm. Mugabe has provided that and a lot of people in the rural areas did not vote otherwise.
The way forward is for the West to leave Zimbabwe alone and let Zimbabweans decide their own destiny.
People are forgetting that the biggest issue is land. The election result is a go-ahead for the ZANU PF to finish the unfinished business of redistribution of land. Most of Zimbabweans don't own land and there are comments in this forum about shortages of milk and bread. It is a pity how easy people can be brainwashed by neo-colonialists propaganda.
Most despicable thing I have ever heard, insensitive and cruel. However coming from a government which believes that HIV does not cause AIDS and therefore unborn babies should not be protected from it (and is prepared to go to court about it), should one be surprised? We should not expect anything different from President Thabo Mbeki who is almost certainly going to say the same as his deputy and tell "white supremacists to shut up".
As soon as Mugabe puts his foot on international soil he needs to be arrested and trailed at The Hague like Milosevic.
This result is an international outrage. People are denied votes and polls are closed. Lives are threatened if anyone speaks out against the government. The people of Zimbabwe were denied the opportunity of free and fair elections. Mr. Mugabe is a dictator in the same vain as Milosevic. Mr. Mugabe should be removed from power and an international peace keeping force should be sent until free and fair elections can take place.
Maybe the whole world should just
shut up just as they did when Mugabe
slaughtered 20,000 Ndebeles in the
B Bates, London
Mugabe should remain if the people of Zimbabwe say so. EU and America should mind their own countries and allow us to run our continent.
Yes, the election was free and fair in Zimbabwe and I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Mugabe. I also urge the West to change their mind for thinking that elections are fair if opposition parties win! The case of Zimbabwe is interesting for two reasons:
We in Sri Lanka had to put up with the South Asian version of Mugabe during our general election held in December 2001. President Chandrika Kumaranatunga tried every dirty trick in the book - using her presidential security to harass voters, stuff ballot boxes etc. Yet the people of Sri Lanka were able to overcome this female Mugabe. It is only a matter of time before Zimbabweans will be able to achieve what we have achieved in Sri Lanka.
PS, London, UK
So what? Probably a greater percentage of his country voted for him than voted for Bush!
An election has been, is and will always be an election. Diamonds, indeed, FOREVER?
People wanted one that's already available and they of course till now have it. But not to have it till it's GONE.
The issue of Zimbabwe's elections has highlighted serious discrepancies in the UK's policy on Africa. Why is Robert Mugabe any worse than Levy Mwanawasa, who was recently elected president of Zambia in elections described by the EU as "seriously flawed"? Why is Mugabe's campaign against white farmers more worthy of moral outrage than his involvement in the genocidal civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Why aren't Kenya and Uganda expelled from the Commonwealth for failing to live up to the democratic norms touted by the UK government? The Blair government's lack of a consistent stance on African development and democracy has undermined the UK's credibility in the continent and in the Commonwealth as a whole. This duplicity is simply fuelling the rhetoric of African leaders who accuse the UK of acting arbitrarily as an imperialist power. I would argue that as a result, Blair has become a pariah dictators can rally around.
I cannot believe that the South African Government chose to endorse this "election win".
I pity the people of southern Africa as if this the quality of the leaders one can only imagine the results of their future decisions. Is democracy going to be able to grow in this beautiful land - Jacob Zuma answered and nailed the final blow in its coffin!
Nana Gyan, Accra Ghana
Well, well, I have digested a lot of comments. I am really impressed by those who support Mugabe for I am one of them. It is time for the West to learn that a new Africa is rising; we need our own freedom with as little interference as possible. Give us a chance to deal with our own problems, I am quite sure Mugabe will at some point leave his position as president (since no-one lives forever) but surely we DO NOT NEED the westerners to tell us how to live. When will it stop, learn to separate issues here, if you personally hate Mugabe, it is unfortunate but the people of his country have spoken and since you are Champions of democracy yourselves you should for sure keep away for the sake of other people's rights (those who have voted). And anyway, it is very ironic that Western Governments have the audacity to see a tiny stick in Mugabe's eye without realising big "trees" in their own. Nobody is a saint when it comes to these things and for sure westerners cannot play god telling and policing other world nations on ways of dealing with their own problems.
If Mugabe was so sure his people would vote for him, why did he not allow international observers into the country? Clearly because he knew that if he did he would not be the president of Zimbabwe today! However, I ask Juma, Perth, who declares support for Mugabe, why is she living in Australia? I suppose because there she doesn't have to line up in a queue kilometres long to get fuel, she can go to a supermarket unlike her fellow countrymen who waste a day in line for fuel, another for oil, another for sugar, meal and even milk.
Ojulu Ocala, you ask how long the British can dictate to their former colonies? For as long as we continue to believe in freedom, democracy and the right to self-determination. FOREVER, I HOPE!
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