Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 17:30 GMT
Should the Commonwealth suspend Zimbabwe?
A decision is expected in London on Tuesday on whether Zimbabwe should be suspended from the Commonwealth.
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It comes as Commonwealth observers issue an interim report condemning Zimbabwe's election, which has also been criticised by the United States, the European Union and the UK.
The Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said the Commonwealth is committed to democracy and has described the decision on Zimbabwe's membership as "a moment of truth."
South African President Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo are holding talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in an effort to resolve the crisis.
Should the Commonwealth suspend Zimbabwe? What would it achieve?
When we see these periodic rows about whether Zimbabwe, Pakistan or Fiji should be suspended from the Commonwealth, I can't help wondering what the organisation is actually for? Clearly Britain is the mother country for the a large number of families in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand amongst others, and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies are the mother countries for many people in the UK - but apart from the embarrassing relics of colonialism, why should the UK be interested in most of the other members of the Commonwealth? The dubious nature of many of the Commonwealth's governments hardly makes this outdated and moribund organisation the best forum from which to censure the tyrant Mugabe. The country that should be leaving the Commonwealth is Britain. The governments of many other Commonwealth member states resemble Zimbabwe's too closely.
I can't help wondering what the organisation is actually for?
Could they not agree to expel the government, but not the citizens from Commonwealth membership and citizenship? That would be fair.
The question of the suspension is much more concerned with saving the Commonwealth rather than Zimbabwe. Mugabe is more than happy to be the cause of any controversy in the Commonwealth as it just strengthens the rift he is successfully creating between 'white' and 'black' nations.
The question is more concerned with saving the Commonwealth than Zimbabwe
The Commonwealth has a hard task ahead. They left sanctions too late, giving Mugabe and his cronies enough time to move their millions of pounds. With my mother aged 70 being beaten up in her car in November, nearly losing an eye, my brother who is trying to farm being stoned by a mob of about 60 so-called war vets, being threatened daily and my uncle and cousins whose farm has been looted, I have had enough of this so-called president. The elections were deeply rigged and the voice of Zimbabwe was not heard. I think the Commonwealth should ban Mugabe. Unfortunately the many brave people of Zimbabwe will suffer even greater hardships. To my heroes, the people of Zimbabwe, who have stood fast to their beliefs for change and have been murdered, beaten for it, I salute you.
Temporarily living in UK
The Western way of doing things does not work in Africa. This has been proved time and again.
The peasant worker will be the first to suffer under sanctions. South Africa laboured for many years under sanctions and all it did was put the poor black African out of work. The ivory-tower governments that sanctions are supposed to punish were unaffected. The Commonwealth should come up with regulations to ensure the accountability of those in power, not arbitrarily impose sanctions that will only cause people to starve. Any member country of the Commonwealth should be subject to certain standards. Mugabe is riding the tiger and when he falls off it will eat him.
Sanctions will only cause people to starve
What we need to do is suspend any funding that Mugabe receives from the Commonwealth countries. That would prove to be more effective.
Suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth may create more harm than good, as it would only represent a symbolic slap on the wrist which might provoke Zanu PF to even greater excesses. Mugabe is prejudiced at heart and will never listen to the opinions of the "old" Commonwealth countries. Only the advice and representations of other African Commonwealth nations have any chance of instilling sense into him and his supporters.
It would only represent a symbolic slap on the wrist
I used to have great faith in the Commonwealth, and its potential to fulfil the goals it applied to its future. Now I have lost this hope. It has been exposed as a useless organisation and I seriously doubt suspension will have any affect on the events in Zimbabwe
Immediate and severe action must be taken against the brutal and repressive Mugabe regime. Africans only understand strength and force. Dalliance and appeasement are looked on as weaknesses and will be disregarded totally. A human and environmental tragedy of epic proportions is about to unfold again. If South Africa and other African states continue to accept the status quo they are showing that they are no better than Mugabe and the future for Africa is desolate.
A human and environmental tragedy of epic proportions is about to unfold again
Expelling Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth would be another gesture, an indication of disapproval after the horse has bolted, nothing more, or less. Suspension will achieve very little, but simply serve to distance the ordinary, peace-loving people of Zimbabwe further from the international community. The tragic chaos that is Zimbabwe needs to be resolved internally, and with intervention from its neighbours. The wider international community has to face up to a limited role in the process at this point in time, save for the smart sanctions already in place.
The world should not judge Mugabe, by condemning him or by saying he rigged the elections since clear evidence has been presented. If Tsavangarai has swallowed the bitter pill then who are we to say no to the victor, Mugabe? Closing Commonwealth doors to Zimbabwe will not help. The country needs help and the help shall only come through international interaction. If we shut them out then poverty shall prevail and maybe things might turn out like they did in the Congo, because essentially we will incite the citizens to eliminate Mugabe by force.
We will incite the citizens to eliminate Mugabe by force
The Commonwealth was born out of the world domination of British imperialism and colonisation. Yes, the Commonwealth should suspend Zimbabwe. It will be a blessing in disguise for Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole. Then the other victims of the remnants of the imperialist past should leave and who will be left behind apart from the UK? Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Countries built on the domination of native peoples. Are people so fickle to the realisation of what the white Commonwealth stands for? I used to think so but now there is an awakening and Africa can stand alone without the interference of the West.
The Commonwealth is a relic of colonialism. Aside from being a symbolic power, it has not got much enforceable power over its members. As another generation passes and links with the former colonial power weaken, young people will not even know what the Commonwealth is, let alone care about its "sanctions". Obviously other more practical solutions are being developed behind this Commonwealth publicity, which hopefully can offer the people of Zimbabwe the best.
Adrian, United Kingdom
Suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth will achieve nothing. It will only further strengthen Mugabe. I think one of the reasons he got more votes than expected from the urban population was because most people are becoming more and more frustrated by the West's determination to influence the political situation in Zimbabwe. If the West had played their cards more carefully behind the scenes, the situation could be different.
Suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth will achieve nothing
Chagwadza P, Zimbabwe
Chagwadza P, Zimbabwe
Should the Commonwealth ask Britain and other western countries to pay for the centuries of looting in Africa and account for their support of puppet dictators who facilitated, and benefited from this organised theft? Should the United Nations suspend the US for having a president who did not win a majority of the vote? Should African countries go along with British whims whenever and wherever their selfish interest is at stake? Do Africans trust, respect and have belief in leaders who are backed by these same countries?
Nji Ntum, USA
Suspend? Yes. Sanctions, absolutely! Send humanitarian aid only through private charities.
Glenn Peterson, US
No. Suspension will only give that madman what he wants. He knows his age is against him now and he wants to take the country down with him. The people of Zimbabwe want a change.
Let's be realistic here, the problem is Mugabe, not Zimbabwe. Let's not encourage the expulsion of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth but let us put heads together and do something about the president. Mugabe is the one who should be expelled from the Commonwealth. I liken Mugabe to a pebble in the eye, you don't remove the eye but the pebble itself. So I call upon all the Zimbabweans and the powers to refuse to be expelled from the Commonwealth but instead let's remove the pebble from the eye. (I am a Zimbabwean living in Canada)
The problem is Mugabe, not Zimbabwe
Chengetayi Bingepinge, Canada
Chengetayi Bingepinge, Canada
The Commonwealth must refuse to accept Zanu-PF as an elected government. It cannot accept these elections and remain a viable organisation. However, any further action must be careful not to hurt the people of Zimbabwe.
James Davey, UK
Rather than pursue the materialistic (and racist - leave running the farms and making money to white farmers rather than give black farmers a go) motives against Mugabe, we should be supporting him. There is an undoubted mandate for land reform in Zimbabwe. The neighbouring countries confirmed that they believe the outcome of the election to be representative despite the increasing violence in the country.
The original motive behind the UK and other political subversion over the past few months was to bring about the downfall of a man who might otherwise challenge our notion of property rights derived from colonial oppression and exploitation.
What Mugabe stands for is popular
We must now help the new owners come to terms with land management and help Zimbabwe through the transition.
Throwing Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth will be damaging to all in Zimbabwe including whites and will be damaging to the Commonwealth. No matter how much we dislike him, what Mugabe stands for is popular. Mugabe's main failing is that he is getting old, and like Maggie Thatcher here, his actions are becoming less measured.
Not all those who support Mugabe like him. You are forgetting that even in the Commonwealth there is a clear division between blacks and whites. Mugabe has won both the election and the support because of the actions of Britain, US and their support for the white minority in Zimbabwe. If the people of Zimbabwe had been left to decide without any interference from the so-called international community, Mugabe might have lost the elections and the support he has from other African countries. Could you please leave that country alone and concentrate on Congo, Angola and Somalia with the same kind of energy shown in Zimbabwe "crisis"?
The Commonwealth, if its so-called commitment to democracy has any meaning, should immediately suspend Zimbabwe. They should also make a statement that they do not recognise Mugabe as the legitimate president, and call upon the people of Zimbabwe to overthrow him. If this does not happen, then as far as I'm concerned, Britain should leave the Commonwealth. It's high time this pointless old institution was wound up anyway. It seems that with the exception of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, no country in the Commonwealth shares our fundamental values of freedom and democracy.
Britain should leave the Commonwealth
James Steel, UK (working in Algeria)
James Steel, UK (working in Algeria)
Although I have no regard for the way in which government is exercised in Zimbabwe, I have learned through correspondence with governments and officials in connection with a stoning case in Nigeria that influence can be exerted on countries through Commonwealth membership. The path is tortuous and slow, but it is certainly better than nothing. I am forced to conclude that it is preferable not to expel Zimbabwe.
Professor Desmond O'Connor, Australia
If the Commonwealth fails to uphold the very morals, principles and standards upon which it is built then it should cease to exist.
Iain Wood, UK
What is the point? Members pay scant regard to such measures. Like I said in one of the previous Talking Points, the Commonwealth has had no effect (positive or negative) on any of its members and it lacks any real authority over its members. What will suspension suddenly achieve that it has not been able to achieve so far? Pakistan was suspended. What good did that do? It shows no sign of returning to civilian rule. I think people will be indifferent to the suspension of Zimbabwe.
What will suspension suddenly achieve that it has not been able to achieve so far?
Yes, the Commonwealth must suspend Zimbabwe because Mr Mugabe stole the elections which were not only fraudulent, but also characterised by violence.
On the question as to what it will achieve, it would set a precedent for African leaders who have chosen violence and the abuse of human rights to perpetrate themselves in power.
If the Commonwealth and other world bodies remain steadfast in taking such actions against power-drunk African leaders, I believe democracy in Africa will improve considerably.
Yes... it would set a precedent for African leaders
Although I am white and have never been to Africa, I think
the Commonwealth should take its lead from the advice of the other
African heads of state. What Mugabe did to get re-elected was only more violent than George Bush, who was able to benefit from a state (Florida) that was controlled by his brother and
selected by judges in our court which his father had influenced significantly.
The support of some African countries for the corrupt and oppressive regime of Robert Mugabe is indicative of a "solidarity at all cost" policy, reminiscent of Greek popular support for Slobodan Milosevic. Those who will bear that cost, however, are the people of Zimbabwe, who were denied the fundamental right to a free and fair election, saw opposition officials murdered, and their right to self-government essentially stripped by Mugabe's thugs. Those who support Mugabe have no shame; his policy of crushing minorities and intimidating the opposition by brute force is one that the Commonwealth should deal with in a strong, unambiguous manner, should its own credibility and purpose be irreparably damaged.
Dr. Moses Altsech,
It is sad that the rest of the world has to intercede for a group of people who cannot take care of their own problems. It is also sad that selfish leaders of Africa are allowed by the people to continue to suppress, enslave and mislead them. Africa's problems should be solved by Africans. Africa is being lead by a group of men without vision and purpose. They steal from the very people they claim to want to deliver from the oppressors, when the very leaders are the true oppressors. What is it that the Commonwealth can do that has not been done before?
Africa's problems should be solved by Africans
Most postings miss the point. It is not about land or blacks versus whites. It is not about east/west or north/south. It is about people who want the right to choose their own leader. We do not want to be told by Americans or South Africans that "interference" is not the answer. Of course it is! If we do not get help from the outside world, what can we be expected to do against Mugabe's murderous thugs? To those that applaud the status quo, the blood of our people is on your hands.
If we do not get help from the outside world, what can we do?
Zimbabwean in London
Zimbabwean in London
Mugabe cannot understand that there are white Africans who contribute to the wealth and culture of the African countries of which they are citizens.
Zimbabwe should be treated the same way as South Africa during apartheid - banned from everything.
W J Andrews,
Britain's policy towards Zimbabwe should be no different from Britain's policy towards South Africa during the apartheid era. The main questions are:
1. Did Britain campaign for the exclusion of South Africa from international bodies?
2. Did Britain ban exports from South Africa at the time?
3. Did Britain severe sporting links with South Africa at the time?
The answers to many of these questions is, regrettably, "no".
Yes we should suspend Zimbabwe, if only to be seen to do the right thing. As to what the effect will be - alone, probably very little (a BBC Online story in the run-up to the election noted that Mugabe has long since ceased to care what the rest of the Commonwealth thinks of him).
Land reform is an issue in Zimbabwe but it needs to be handled with care - many white farmers are only too willing to hand over their land I believe, but the inheritors must be taught how to manage their inheritance properly. Otherwise you may as well burn all the farms and watch the ability of the country to feed itself disappear.
Dr. Dominic Jackson,
The answer is definitely NO! Why should a nation of 14 million or so be punished for the actions of its tyrant leader?
His filthy leadership methods and tactics should have been put to a stop by the international community in the early 1980s, but we merely sit back and watch all these human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, intimidation and violence.
He will actually get more political mileage out of being expelled from the Commonwealth!
Do not let the people of Zimbabwe suffer more than they have already.
Mugabe has to be stopped, by military intervention only. All the political pressure in the world will not affect his self-destructive plans.
Why should a nation of 14 million or so be punished for the actions of its tyrant leader?
Yes. It should have happened earlier. It would prove that there is only one acceptable standard of democracy and it certainly isn't the type practiced by Zimbabwe or the United Nations. Problem is, most of the governments of the Commonwealth countries are post-colonial left-over despots. It would be a bit rich of them to point at Mugabe. Britain didn't even try to ensure a free election for the first post-colonial governments in most of its forcibly acquired territories, especially the African ones. In my opinion it was because they secretly wanted these countries to fail so they could say, hah, you see, you can't do it without us, just like some white South Africans want South Africa to fail.
It would prove there is only one acceptable standard of democracy
It does not make a difference if Zimbabwe is suspended. The Commonwealth does not serve its members any useful purpose, especially the African members. The Commonwealth should be disbanded so that the West can leave African members alone to fend for themselves.
Mr Mugabe is a corrupt politician and it is likely that he will evolve into a dictator. But can we achieve what we want to by suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth or by imposing sanctions? I do not think so. The world is unfortunately polarising into a Muslim and non-Muslim world after 11 September and what happened afterwards, though the intention of the international community was to defeat terrorism. Mr Mugabe is an shrewd politician and he will try his best to create further divisions and we are already seeing signs of that. It will be the whites and the blacks. In later stages it will be the whites and the coloureds. Do we want that? Remember in the Soviet era it was the haves versus the have-nots. We should not play into his hands. Also we need to find how committed the opposition leader is to democracy. If that is true we should support him.
Suspending Zimbabwe from a vestigial organisation like the Commonwealth is going to achieve nothing
Suspending Zimbabwe from a vestigial organisation like the Commonwealth is going to achieve nothing. Sanctions will only create more resentments and there are other rogue states which are likely to support Mr Mugabe. Terror networks will have new havens. The solution is to dig for the root causes of the unrest in Zimbabwe via a neutral international organisation (like the UN, though its credibility is questionable). There is a lot of poverty in Zimbabwe, especially among the majority black community. And it is a fact that white people hold a lot of land and wealth and proper redistribution of resources has not occurred even after independence. We need to address that, and alleviate the black community's concerns.
Western societies, rather than rush to make harsh criticisms and administer equally harsh punishment, should take a moment to reflect on what is happening in Zimbabwe. The unequal distribution of land, the humiliation and injustice brought on black Zimbabweans by people of western descent, is certainly something that should be looked at. Western countries should look at what they can do to right the past wrongs of their forefathers rather than pass judgement on those who have been the victims of a long legacy of oppression and humiliation. Suspending Zimbabwe will do nothing to heal the harsh wounds of history.
Mandela's "Rainbow Nation" vision should be the goal for both RSA and Zimbabwe. A racist past does not justify a racist future. For it to have any credence, the Commonwealth must try to use its influence to repair the deepening divisions in Zimbabwe.
The Commonwealth must use its influence in Zimbabwe
Yes, Zimbabwe should be expelled from the Commonwealth. There is always talk by African leaders on 'let's wait and try and make a compromise in this situation'. Compromise is a word used far too often in Africa - what it means in the African-Zimbabawean context is - let's buy some more time and fiddle while Zimbabwe burns, and if we can, let's blame it on the white man.
As support gathers from African leaders for Mugabe - (despite despicable acts of violence and intimidation from his party) - don't find this surprising. Many African leaders have their own misdemeanours that have been swept under the carpet. They are scared of upholding fundamental political principles like democracy and the rule of law, because to do this, means that they would have to uphold those principles themselves.
There is always talk by African leaders on 'Let's wait and try and make a compromise in this situation'
Therefore we are left with two options :
1. Keep Zimbabwe in the Commonwealth and abandon our democratic beliefs and call it yet another 'African compromise'- so that this false 'Commonwealth' can keep the first and developing worlds talking and allow dictators, murderers, IMF thieves to call the shots.
2. Pray that the two African leaders who will make this decision, have the sense in their African rennaissances to make a space for upholding democracy and the rule of law, and actually prove that Africa has some future. If not, well I can see the first world abandoning Africa for good.
Yes, the Commonwealth should suspend Zimbabwe. It would probably have very little effect in Zimbabwe itself as it is now too late for that, but it would send a very clear message for the future that the Commonwealth is dedicated to democracy and human rights. If the Commonwealth has any hope of playing a constructive role in this type of situation, it should act against Zimbabwe now and show that it is serious. Otherwise, what is it for apart from allowing various world leaders to meet up in exotic locations and the organisation of a sub-standard athletics event every few years?
The Commonwealth is dedicated to democracy and human rights
Absolutely yes! Any political leadership that encourages its supporters to commit murder should suffer the same fate as Afghanistan, Bosnia and other rogue states.
The recent elections in Zimbabwe were a farce, and proved that Mugabe clearly does not believe in democracy in his country.
He blatantly rigged the voting process so that his opponents had no chance of winning. Now he has to pay the price. I would be very surprised if a suspension from the Commonwealth was totally unexpected by Mugabe. We need to give him a strong message that the democratic world is not going to put up with this kind of behaviour.
I would be very surprised if a suspension from the Commonwealth was totally unexpected by Mugabe
By allowing Zimbabwe's membership of the Commonwealth to continue, the other member states are not only overlooking the obvious flaws of Zimbabwe's supposedly democratic system, they are actively encouraging Mugabe to continue with his brutal tactics.
Suspension from the Commonwealth will be no more than a slap on the wrist for Mugabe and his thugs. Of more consequence will be the commencement of prosecution [like Pinochet and Milosevic] for his and his henchmen's crimes against humanity. The election fraud is peanuts compared to the subhuman atrocities carried out by the Mugabe regime.
Having seen the way the Commonwealth is now split along racial lines, perhaps the question we should be asking is whether the UK and other non-African members of the Commonwealth should leave the Commonwealth as it exists today and set up an entirely new group of countries which don't allow race or religion to get in the way of reasoned decision-making?
Zimbabwe should be suspended, it's the only way that would delay the emergence of the military wing of the MDC.
How come we never hear about the catastrophe that is unfolding in Madagascar? Is it because there are no white people or white people are in no way threatened? What will be the outcome of suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, if not stifling the already dire economy and therefore destabilising the entire sub-region, especially South Africa.
Other methods should be found to deal with this issue without harming the population of the country, both black and white. And while you are at it, try to deal with the issue of Madagascar. I am appalled by the fact that the situation in that country never made real headline news.
Other methods should be found to deal with this issue without harming the population of the country, both black and white
If the objective is to make President Mugabe even a greater hero in Zimbabwe and Africa at large, then yes, let the Commonwealth impose sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Remember, the West earned President Mugabe lots of votes by openly supporting Mr Tsvangirai and demonising him.
For the benefit of all you non-Africans, the litmus test for a hero is simply he or she who is hated the most by white people. Trust me on this one.
Mugabe looks no less than the African sun king. The background of the rising golden sun confirms it. However it is difficult to confirm if this is a rising sun, or a soon to be setting one!
Mugabe and his government have to be suspended, or are there still no consequences for there actions?
Yes, Zimbabwe should be suspended from the Commonwealth and the suspension should be led by its nearest neighbour. It is time for South Africa to show some courage and some leadership, for the sake of the majority of Zimbabweans and for the sake of its own people too.
Allowing Mugabe to hijack the land reform issue and claim it as his own is dangerous. No one with any sense of decency supports the corrupting economic inequalities between white and black that exist in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
But Mugabe spent 20 years doing precisely nothing to alleviate this inequality, and created the current chaos only as a feeble smoke screen to cover the total failure of his economic policies and as yet another sop to the war veterans who he can neither control nor subdue. Mugabe is a feeble champion for the poor of his nation.
South Africa should denounce the failure of his leadership and the corrosive effect it has had on the conduct of Zimbabwe's democracy, the politicisation of its courts and military, the emasculation of its police service, and the grinding poverty that has been created.
If Mbeki cannot show some moral courage now in support of the people of Zimbabwe, if he cannot distinguish right and wrong in a leader's behaviour, how can he expect to be trusted or respected himself?
It is time for South Africa to show some courage and some leadership
Zimbabwe should clearly be suspended from the Commonwealth. Their recent elections were a sham and already press restrictions are being imposed and we are standing by and watching the death of a democracy. It is extremely sad. I am all for the powers of a sovereign nation so long as it doesn't begin to restrict the democratic process and the peoples right to be heard and represented. In Zimbabwe's case the people are getting neither.
It is no use to suspend Zimbabwe from this useless,
organisation. Suspension will not do anything to Mugabe.
Nigeria, Pakistan were suspended, and what happened: nothing - so
why should Mugabe lose sleep? The Commonwealth acted too late, it should have acted in the 1980s when Mugabe killed
thousands. Now he has the opportunity
to kill more thousands.
The Commonwealth acted too late
No, of course not. Who are we in the West to decide what is a legitimate way to elect a leader? The Africans have for centuries chosen leaders based on the physical and military strength of their support base, even though it may not seem democratic to us. Our own democracies are bought and sold by corporations anyway. They are happy with their system, so we should let it be and welcome Mr Mugabe into the world community, even if we are too Euro-centric to understand how his selection reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.
We should welcome Mr Mugabe into the world community
It is the ordinary Zimbabweans that will suffer if sanctions and expulsion are considered. As it is expected, a dying dog will always fight hard not to die. It is therefore not going to be an easy task chasing away tyrants from African leaderships. However, there is victory in the recent election results -
1) Mr Mugabe now has an effective opposition, who commands almost half of the Zimbabwean electoral population.
2) The land issue (which is a priority) must now be addressed by Mr Mugabe, failing which he will become unpopular with his own Zanu-PF.
3) If younger Mr Tsvangarai could fight this much, then Mr Mugabe must be ready to fight even harder with the likes of Mr Moyo in the next Zanu-PF party election.
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