Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Independence and Democracy in Zimbabwe by Obi Egbuna.
The Zimbabwe Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Simbi Mubako, recently held a press conference on April 13th at the National Press Club in Washington DC. Ambassador Mubako used this as an opportunity to respond to allegations made by both the Bush and Blair administrations and MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, that the parliamentary elections held on March 31st 2005 were undermined by intimidation and corruption on the part of the ruling party ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe National Union Patriotic Front).
In his remarks Ambassador Mubako highlighted several important points. He began by informing everyone present that it was expected that the ruling party (ZANU-PF) would win two-thirds of the parliamentary elections and it was certainly no surprise to anyone who followed the elections inside the country, elsewhere in Africa or abroad in nations such as the United States and Britain. He then went on to say that MDC had the option of boycotting the elections altogether if they chose to do so. As recently as February 3rd of 2005 MDC announced they would not boycott the elections, but at the same time they toured African and European countries claiming they would do the exact opposite. Dr. Mubako also mentioned the third political party ZANU-NDONGA, which has consistently been represented in parliament, also opted to participate in the elections and praised the government for being in compliance with SADC (Southern African Development Community) principles and guidelines governing Democratic Elections when preparations for elections began. Dr. Mubako then went on to discuss the significance of favorable election reports from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Union of African States and the Southern African Development Community, which is the regional structure all Southern African countries fall under and adhere to.
The press conference also had other participants Omowale Clay and Roger Wareham from the December 12th Movement and Dr. John Tremble from the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party. The December 12th Movement was the only grass roots organization in the African(African-American)community given an official invitation to observe the elections, and Dr. Trimble had spent a year in Zimbabwe courtesy of a Fulbright grant arranged by Howard University where he is a Professor. Clay and Wareham gave the elections overwhelmingly favorable reviews and complemented everything from the way votes were counted to the peaceful behavior displayed by the country's citizens. Mr. Clay and Mr. Wareham also mentioned the use of indelible ink during voting and the extension of voting hours from eight to twelve at the polls. Dr. Trimble remarks focused on the elections he witnessed in 2004 and the impact of the Zimbabwe government's land reclamation campaign not only in
Harare, but in other surrounding cities and the villages. These accounts were necessary to include especially since the NAACP then under the leadership of Kweisi Mfume decided not to make their observance report of the 2002 Presidential elections in Zimbabwe available to the public. Ambassador Mubako, when asked about that report, claimed it was very favorable and felt the NAACP could have helped Zimbabwe a great deal if the report was published and used to intensify discussions held inside the African (African-American) community inside US borders.
The issue of the Congressional Black Caucus becoming more vocal and active around political developments in Zimbabwe was raised by Attorney Ronald Issac representing the National Conference of Black Lawyers, whose organization drafted a resolution two years ago highlighting the flaws and contradictions of the sanctioning of Zimbabwe by the Blair and Bush administrations. This was a good point for Attorney Issac to raise because the invitation accepted by the NAACP three years ago to observe the Presidential elections, mentioned earlier was initially offered by President Mugabe to the CBC and they declined. However Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and then Congressman Earl Hilliard both called for an alternative resolution to the Zimbabwe Democracy Act which justifies the existing sanctions. I believe the energy spent questioning the CBC's participation on this issue, should be channeled towards working closely with their staffers who formulate their agendas and action plans in the first place, to make sure Zimbabwe is no longer overlooked. If the organizers on the grass roots level stay on top of this, our work will not be reduced to the usual practice of using an African country's suffering as an excuse to sling mud at Republican Presidential administrations for the sole purpose of putting Democrats back in charge of the White House.
We must also encourage the National Conference of Black State Legislators and World Conference of Black Mayors to help Zimbabwe more at this point in history. The Mayors of Atlanta and Selma, Ms. Shirley Franklin and Mr. James Perkins are interested in developing and maintaining Sister City projects in Zimbabwe, South Carolina delegate Joseph Neal wants to develop a Sister State project with Zimbabwe, you also have a city council rep Mr. Samuel Davis in Columbia, South Carolina who wants to develop a Sister City project in Zimbabwe.
The media outlets we have at our disposal, whether we are talking about television print or radio, could be a valuable tool in this fight, especially since the State Department sponsored Voice of America has a designated studio to focus exclusively on the vilification of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. This comes as no surprise because they march to the drum of BBC which is the springboard of Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair who is the world's biggest opponent of President Mugabe.
In conclusion the main criticism of Mugabe's government are human rights violations which translates in the US and Britain to a lack of Democracy. This is a country which allocates 25.24%of the national budget to this area, which has led to the establishment of ten technical colleges, twelve universities and a literacy rate of 94%. Zimbabwe also became the first African country to elect a woman Vice President Joyce Mujuru who was one of the highest ranking Guerrilla leaders during the armed struggle for independence against British colonial rule. The Zimbabwe government also is the only one in the world that uses 3% of the country's income tax to finance a national AIDS trust fund to combat the AIDS pandemic in the country which has a 24.6 percent of the adult population. The country has 900,000 aids orphans and by the end of the year expecting an additional 160,000 children to be added to this list. The straw that breaks the camel's back is the courageous Land Reclamation campaign which has given land back to 350,000 families in a country where the average family comprises of six people, the government confiscated 12 million acres of land from 4,500 European commercial farmers. The British and the US are not pleased with this especially the darling of the west, South Africa, even though independent for 11 years has yet to address why Whites still own and control 83% of the land, and Namibia independent for 13 years monitored Zimbabwe very closely before they decided to develop a land reclamation campaign of their own. The United States Ambassador to South Africa Jendaye Frazier who was Condoleezza Rice's top aid when she was National Security Adviser in her first public statement called for the invasion of Zimbabwe, this was right after Blair threatened to give the main opposition party in Zimbabwe the equivalent of 200 million dollars towards the parliamentary elections. I wonder how Nigerian President Obasanjo feels when the Union of African States which he currently presides over, recently sent a team to observe the elections in Zimbabwe received a complete endorsement, especially since he decided to give the White commercial farmers who lost land in Zimbabwe asylum in Nigeria. There was also a case of Nigerian Diplomats in Harare having clandestine meetings with the government's opposition last summer.
As Catholics lay the Pope to rest as the demand to revaluate the role of the United Nations as the world's court, Africans and poor people all over the world have the chance to defend the integrity of the people and government of Zimbabwe no matter who it
threatens or offends.
Obi Egbuna is a member of the Pan African Liberation Organization based in Washington DC. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Tuesday, April 26, 2005