Zimbabweans Ducking under Naive British Cover

By Andrew Field
The other day a member of the British Aristocracy, Lord Renton, posed a quite remarkable question
in the Lords. He asked,

“Would you agree that the best way for us to help and assist the economic recovery of Zimbabwe would be to offer President Mugabe a safe, comfortable and well looked after home in Britain?”

It makes you wonder, sometimes, if those who have any serious influence actually know what is going on in Zimbabwe.

If you lay this naive inquiry alongside the allegations made in a recent speech by Roy Bennett, a leading opposition party member, previously jailed by the Mugabe regime, deprived of his farm, and now, apparently, back in exile, you may be staggered. Bennett chronicles the ethos of ZANU (PF) violence to achieve election dominance and securing Mugabe a ‘North Korean-styled personalised one-party state’. What Lord Renton is saying, in his very myopic view, is that it is alright to calm the waters of alleged human rights abuse through appeasement and asset facilitation.

There is, perhaps, a little clue to Lord Renton’s motives, in so far as it has recently been suggested that Britain’s new coalition government is now making overtures to Robert Mugabe, or vice versa. Unconfirmed reports that Mugabe aides have been praising David Cameron and the Coalition seems incredibly out of character, given Mugabe’s outrageous abhorrence of anything British. Zimbabwe Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi, a Mugabe die-hard, is quoted as saying that Mr David Cameron had made a positive impression on the Zimbabwe ruling party. President Mugabe is now keen to meet with British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mark Canning.

Canning recently visited his home during which he addressed a meeting of ‘Diaspora Zimbabweans’ and answered their questions. He was taken to task by one Zimbabwean over the escalating pre-election violence and the deployment of army personnel into rural opposition strongholds. Dates for the election have not even been fixed, but the setting is thick with allegation. The Ambassador responded by promising to “send observers to all the affected areas before the elections take place”. One cannot help but believe that Britain’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe is either a touch naive, uninformed, or just turning a blind eye to the very ugly situation allegedly taking shape on the ground, accepting of course that he does have a duty of diplomacy.

Bennett’s essay of pre-election violence, if this is to be believed, and many do, outlines very clearly the ZANU (PF) modus operandi, as Bennett perceives it. He has spoken of his experiences with at least two elections which were afforded the protection of these mysterious foreign observers: who firstly arrive only on the cusp of the election; generally never get off the beaten ‘tourist’ track; and never really see the real position on the ground. The international community seem to have accepted the concept of ‘free and fair elections’ in Zimbabwe, overwhelmingly, in the face of a bloody, battered, beaten and weary Zimbabwean electorate. Mugabe’s friends in the Southern African Development Community ensured that without question.

By now, the British Government, its elected and hereditary representatives in both houses, and its officials abroad should know better than to trust their weak election monitoring methodologies in Africa. Zimbabwe may be heading for more elections and Zimbabweans will be wondering if Britain really intends to have a stake in ensuring free and fair play. They have a duty to do so. The naivety of some recent utterances would suggest not, or are we seeing the predictable need for Zimbabweans to again propitiate the inevitable strongman outcome? British hands are going to be washed in blood once more, if they are not careful.