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Secretary-General's report to the Commonwealth chairperson's Committee on Zimbabwe

2003

This document was originally posted on the Business Day website (www.bday.co.za)
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Executive Summary

By the Marlborough House Statement of 19 March 2002, the Troika suspended Zimbabwe from the councils of the Commonwealth for one year. This report has been prepared in accordance with that Statement which provided for a review by the Commonwealth Chairperson's Committee on Zimbabwe (Troika) of that country's suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth in twelve months time, "having regard to progress in Zimbabwe based on the Commonwealth Harare principles and reports from the Commonwealth Secretary-General". In addition, at their subsequent meeting in Abuja on 23 September 2002, the Commonwealth Troika decided inter-alia to "see how Zimbabwe responds to the Marlborough House Statement over the next six months as foreshadowed in that Statement, at which point stronger measures might need to be considered". This Report is submitted by the Secretary-General to facilitate the review by the Troika in March 2003.

The Government of Zimbabwe rejected the Marlborough House Statement, maintaining that the Report of the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) to the 2002 Zimbabwe Presidential Election, on which the decision to suspend Zimbabwe was based, was itself flawed and that Zimbabwe had not been given a chance to defend itself. Zimbabwe has publicly rejected the findings of the COG.

While the Secretary-General has had a meeting with the Zimbabwe Foreign Minister at the OAU/AU Summit in July 2002, all efforts by the Secretary-General, direct and indirect, to engage in dialogue with President Mugabe have been rebuffed. These include efforts made through former Secretary-General Sir Sridath Ramphal and the President of Namibia, HE Dr Sam Nujoma. Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki have, however, maintained regular contact with President Mugabe, who has given a number of undertakings to them in terms of Zimbabwe's adherence to the principles contained in the Harare Declaration.

The dialogue between ZANU-PF and the MDC facilitated by the special envoys of the Presidents of Nigeria and South Africa has broken down. ZANU-PF maintains that the dialogue can only be resumed once the courts have ruled on the MDC petition challenging conduct and outcome of the March 2002 Presidential election. Meanwhile, the MDC leader and two other senior colleagues in the party are under trial for treason.

Reports have continued of a widespread and systematic campaign of violence and intimidation by agents of the state and supporters of ZANU-PF against leading members and activists of the MDC. While there have also been cases of violence and intimidation by MDC activists and supporters against ZANU-PF these are not believed to be either systematic or widespread.

With the rejection by Zimbabwe of the COG Report, no steps have been taken to implement any of the Group's recommendations (or indeed the recommendations contained in the Report of the COG to the 2000 Zimbabwe Parliamentary Elections).

The constitutional, legislative and electoral framework for the conduct of elections thus remains unchanged. The Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (which came into effect soon after the Election) and General Laws Amendment Act, elements of which were found by the COG to be prejudicial to freedom of speech, the press, movement or association, remain on the statute books. President Mugabe has promised President Obasanjo that amendments would be introduced in the next sitting of Parliament to the Access to Information and Protection and Privacy Act but this is yet to be actioned. No independent electoral commission, as recommended by the COG, has been formed and elections remain the responsibility of the government appointed Registrar-General.

The institutions responsible for law and order in Zimbabwe, including the government, police, security forces and judiciary continue to function but there is widespread allegations of abuses of power. There continues to be a disturbing pattern of political pressure on the judiciary, especially judges thought to be unsympathetic to the Government.

On land reform, Zimbabwe has not responded to the proposals put forward by the UNDP following the visit of its team to Zimbabwe in November/December 2001 in pursuance of the Abuja Agreement brought about through the initiative of President Obasanjo in September that year. The Government of Zimbabwe has preferred to pursue its own "Fast Track land resettlement policy. It claims that this resettlement programme came to an end in August 2002, but compulsory acquisitions of private land continue to be gazetted and the Commercial Farmers Union maintains that further acquisitions of farms have taken place since that date.

There has never been doubt about the critical need for land reform in Zimbabwe UNDP has also been prepared to accept that the political philosophy and socio-economic rationale of the Fast Track programme. However it has also identified a number of deficiencies and undesirable consequences which would need to be urgently addressed if the Troika's and broader international requirements of transparency, equity and sustainability are to be met and international financial and technical assistance obtained. President Obasanjo has been given some commitments by President Mugabe in terms of addressing some of the deficiencies, but these are yet to be implemented. His Government has also not yet followed up the matters with the UNDP.

UNDP also is concerned (together with other external development agencies) that many of the 400,000 farm workers with antecedents in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia have been excluded from the Fast Track programme and face an uncertain future. This issue is compounded by the Citizenship Amendment Act 2001, introduced in the lead up to the 2002 Presidential election, which provides that those who hold or are entitled to citizenship of another country remain ineligible unless they renounce the other citizenship or claim thereto.

Overall, the UNDP has deemed the Government's "Fast Track" land reform programme to be "chaotic" and "the cause of much political, economic and social instability". In view of the position taken by the Government, UNDP is not currently officially engaged with the Zimbabwe Government in promoting land reform.

The latest assessment of the World Food Programme (WFP) is that Zimbabwe is facing an immediate and serious food crisis. The WFP has launched an urgent international appeal for more international assistance to deal with the looming famine. While paucity or rainfall has affected the entire southern African region, the Head of the WFP, Mr James Morris, has stated that the Fast Track land resettlement programme, along with restrictions on private sector food importing and marketing, were contributing to the food crisis. There have also been allegations of selective, politically motivated food distribution policies by the Government of Zimbabwe using its control over the importation and distribution of food to direct assistance towards those areas that are supportive of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

The general economic situation in Zimbabwe has also seen a persistent downward trend.

Overall the general political, economic and social situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated since March 2002. Regrettably to date there has been no positive responses by Zimbabwe to the Marlborough House Statement's call for:
  • political dialogue and national reconciliation;
  • the implementation of Commonwealth observer group recommendations
  • the promotion, in collaboration with UNDP, of transparent, equitable and sustainable measures for land reform in Zimbabwe; and
  • engagement with the Secretary-General to achieve these outcomes.
Likewise, there has been no significant or substantive change of direction in Zimbabwe towards compliance with the Harare principles, as was the expectation in the Marlborough House Statement and the Abuja Mid-Term Review Statement.

Background
  1. The Report has been prepared in accordance with the Marlborough House Statement of 19 March 2003 which provided for a review by the Commonwealth Chairperson's Committee on Zimbabwe (Troika) of that country's suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth in twelve months time, "having regard to progress in Zimbabwe based on the Commonwealth Harare principles and reports from the Commonwealth Secretary-General".
  2. At their subsequent meeting in Abuja on 23 September 2002, the Commonwealth Troika decided inter alia to "see how Zimbabwe responds to the Marlborough House Statement over the next six months as foreshadowed in that Statement, at which point stronger measures might need to be considered".
  3. This Report therefore covers Zimbabwe's response to the Marlborough House Statement as well as progress towards compliance with the Harare principles. A copy of the Marlborough House Statement is attached at Annex 1. A copy of the Abuja Mid-Term Review Statement is at Annex 2. A copy of the CHOGM Statement on Zimbabwe, which established and gave its mandate to the Troika, is at Annex 3.


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