In two resolutions passed
this week, the US House of Representatives has joined other western and African
countries in stepping up the pressure on Zimbabwe to curb political violence
and intimidation before next Friday’s presidential run-off election. One House measure, sponsored by Congressman
Donald Payne, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee,
condemns the election-related violence and calls for a fair and peaceful
resolution of the political crisis.
Congressman Payne says it
is constructive for countries to continue to persuade President Robert Mugabe
forcefully to curb what the resolution calls the orchestrated campaign of
violence and harassment against Zimbabwe’s opposition by the ruling party and
Mugabe supporters in the police and military.
“I think that it certainly is important that the
free world expresses its concern about the situation in Zimbabwe. I think that even though Mr. Mugabe has
tended not to listen, I do believe that it is useful for our voices to be
heard. The more voices, the better. And at the end of the day, perhaps he may
listen to some of the pleas for a fair and free election,” notes Congressman
The second House proposal, a proclamation
authored by ranking Foreign Affairs Committee member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, with
bipartisan backing from Republican Ed Royce along with New Jersey Democrat
Payne, commends South African dockworkers and citizens in Mozambique who
refused to let a Chinese boat delivering arms to Zimbabwe unload its cargo at
their ports. Ultimately, the ship went
on to Angola, where reports say a significant load of firearms made its way to
Zimbabwe. Nonetheless, Congressman
Payne likened the inspiration of the early arms embargo proponents to the
courageous stand made by dockworkers in Poland in the early 1980’s, who backed
trade union leader Lech Walesa’s resistance to a military crackdown on a labor
strike at the Gdansk shipyard.
“It’s symbolic that they stood up and said no,
we’re not going to do this. And so,
there was a tremendous amount of praise.
And it does show that people can stand together and defeat tyranny,
defeat wrongdoings just by their solidarity,” he said.
Yesterday in a VOA interview, Zimbabwe’s
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai said
his latest meeting in Harare with Southern African Development Community (SADC)
mediator, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, produced no new plans from
Mbeki on how to end the deepening political crisis in Zimbabwe. However, Congressman Payne remarked that MDC
calls for the South African mediator to be replaced fail to take note of a
significant positive move by Mbeki, who succeeded in winning approval to
station one-thousand South African observers in Zimbabwe next week to monitor
the June 27 election.
“South Africa has agreed to send one-thousand
election monitors to Zimbabwe. I think
that that is a positive sign that Mr. Mbeki has not been given very much credit
for. But I do believe that if there are
sufficient election monitors, they tend to prevent violence from occurring just
by their presence. And so I’m not sure
that all is lost on President Mbeki’s position. I’m not ready to say that the election will not be fair and
free,” he said.
With more African leaders speaking out now on
Zimbabwe, the House Africa subcommittee chairman said it was constructive for
Kenya’s new prime minister Raila Odinga to address African concerns in
Washington this week about the leadership crisis in Zimbabwe.
“I think it’s very important, the fact that
Kenya, of course, had its tremendous upheaval at the beginning of this year,
which shocked the world because of the stability that Kenya has always shown
through the decades. But I do believe
that the prime minister speaking out strongly sends a good message to Zimbabwe.
And I would hope that Mr. Mugabe, who we all know was a person that we all
revered and admired when he and Joshua Nkomo fought the Rhodesian white
minority rule, and was of course a hero, and did a great job in education in
Zimbabwe….hopefully, there will be a change of heart. And perhaps other African
leaders might speak out as the election comes to the date. And that may have influence on the behavior
of the security forces and the government of Zimbabwe,” he noted.
The MDC reported yesterday that
the bodies of four recently abducted
members who were found near Harare were most certainly victims of the
Mugabe regime’s campaign of violence and intimidation. Human rights groups reported that an
additional eight bodies just discovered were also civilians who were allegedly
tortured by ZANU-PF supporters and government agents carrying out President
Mugabe’s campaign to boost his chances of victory in next Friday’s run-off
contest against Mr. Tsvangirai.