Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mugabe set to be declared 'winner'

Robert Mugabe looks set to win Friday’s run-off election in what has been a campaign of intimidation and violence against the opposition MDC. Even critical comments from other African leaders failed to influence Mugabe who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years. On Wednesday, Nelson Mandela made his first outspoken but brief comment on the Mugabe regime while in a visit to London. He said there had been a “tragic failure of leadership” in the country but his comments have been criticised for not going further. Nonetheless, hes successor, Thabo Mbeki has yet to make any substantial statement on the chaos that has surrounded the Zimbabwe elections [BBC]. Other African leaders have attempted to bring about discussions. Zambia’s President Levy Mwanawasa has attempted to bring about talks, the governments of Swaziland, Tanzania and Angola have said conditions would not permit a free and fair election, and Jacob Zuma, President of the African National Congress, has described the situation in Zimbabwe as being “out of control”. But in the main African voices have been mute over the continuing crisis [BBC].

Yesterday saw a low turn out across the country with few people on the streets, though the government claims the turn out was high. The few journalists in the country reported that some had been forced to attend polling stations and vote for Mugabe. Others attended voluntarily, but only to obtain the mark on their finger to indicate they had voted and prevent any retribution by Zanu-PF ‘thugs’.

The MDC has sought refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare and many ordinary Zimbabweans have also sought sanctuary in the relative safety of the South African Embassy in the capital. But for many others their is no sanctuary from the retribution met out for not supporting Robert Mugabe. In addition they live in a country with inflation racing out of control and with unemployment soaring.

There have been harsh words spoken by many world leaders, most notably Gordon Brown, President George W Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But there have only been token actions implemented against the Mugabe government. On Wednesday Robert Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, but many have asked why it took so long. The honour was removed as a “mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for democracy” according to the Foreign Office [BBC]. And in another token effort to further isolate the Mugabe regime the England and Wales Cricket Board cancelled Zimbabwe's 2009 tour. But these measures are unlikely to affect the thinking, nor the behaviour of Mugabe and his Zanu-PF followers.

Gordon Brown has announced that further sanctions would be put in place, however many British companies have been the subject of criticism for their continued investment in the country. At least 130 Zanu-PF members are named on an EU travel ban, but there are omissions and there have been calls to extend the list further. Opposition leader David Cameron called for companies with investments in the country to “seriously examine their consciences” with regards to their continued trade with the despotic government.

WPP, Unilever, British American Tobacco, Standard Chartered, Old Mutual, Lonrho, Shell, BP and Barclays are just some of the Western companies heavily involved in Zimbabwe and the company Anglo-American is planning to build a platinum mine according to Channel Four News. But the Anglo-American have released a statement saying they will be “reviewing all options surrounding the development of the project”. And because Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he does not wish to further increase poverty in the country for ordinary Zimbabweans, it is unlikely these companies will face any sanctions themselves [al-Jazeera / CNN / Sky News].

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