Shame on You!

Just recently some countries tried to take the issue of the Burmese Junta to the UN Security Council. The demands made by the resolution were not outrageous or unreasonable - just release political prisoners and allow normal political activity and restore some form of democracy.

In the subsequent debate and vote both China and Russia spoke and voted against the resolution - effectively killing it and once again frustrating the efforts of the global community to try and restore some form of decent and responsible government to the Burmese people. Both Russia and China are States that claim on paper that they are in favor of human and political rights. But when it comes to these as against economic interests and political influence, they take second place. Self-interest comes first. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Then the President of South Africa, writing in his weekly column in the magazine ANC Today, drew attention to the crisis in Somalia and called for African solidarity with the people of Somalia in their struggle to find themselves and a way forward. In respect to the crisis in Zimbabwe, a close neighbor and very much his responsibility in geopolitical and diplomatic terms, he shows no such concern or activity. His silence on the ongoing human and political crisis here is deafening. It is not as if China, Russia and South Africa were defending a socialist state or leadership and expressing solidarity with the people of these countries, the leadership of Burma and Zimbabwe are corrupt military junta who are simply bent on enriching themselves, their cronies and their families. They are violating every tenet of international human and political rights and do not allow freedom of expression or assembly in their countries.

The heirs of Mau claim to have taken on his mantle of people rights and the pursuit of a more equitable and just world but in fact, they are now exhibiting all the traits of a neo colonial power that does not give a damn about the rights of those who live under repressive regimes today. They pursue self-interest at the expense of principle. The leadership of the ANC similarly has lost sight of the fact that in their struggle for freedom, justice and democracy in South Africa, they were supported by the entire western world in a solidarity that has not been often seen in world history. They now state that we in Zimbabwe must seek change to our circumstances without international or regional help. When we were in the front line, Zimbabwe made great sacrifices for the achievement of the revolutionary changes in South Africa after 1994. It was the combined efforts of the Front Line States and the international community that eventually brought freedom to South Africa and Mr. Mbeki to the premiership.

The situation here in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate rapidly. We are clearly now in the grip of a severe drought and crop prospects are declining daily. The government has lost its grip on the fiscal and monetary situation with inflation spiraling out of control. Far from seeking to improve their image in the international community they have intensified the illegal assumption of control over private land - even land protected by bi-lateral investment guarantee agreements. They are threatening to resume the eviction and destruction of homes in poor areas that do not have planning permission and have intensified efforts to repress the freedoms of the community - assisted by the military of both China and Pakistan who have sent personnel to train the local militia and army in crowd control and 'urban warfare' techniques.

In the sphere of press freedom they are confiscating small radios in rural areas that have the capacity to tune into foreign broadcasts. They are jamming SW Radio and the Voice of America (Studio 7) using Chinese equipment and expertise, they are threatening the continued publication of the only two remaining independent newspapers following the cancellation of the citizenship of their publisher who was born in Zimbabwe. In addition to this, the deliberate destruction of the main pillars of the economy in the form of a fresh assault on investor rights is underway. Gold miners are being forced to either cede control to the State or to close down, foreign owned firms across the board are now threatened with an exercise to seize 51 per cent of their equity and control of management. In the informal sector the State maintains a constant programme of harassment and this has been extended to small-scale miners.

As a consequence, young people, especially the educated and upwardly mobile, are fleeing the country for any destination that will have them. Last week MDC leadership in Beitbridge reported that nearly 100 people drowned in the Limpopo trying to reach South Africa without documents. Those transporting people to the border and helping them enter South Africa illegally, report record numbers in the past month. South Africa deports as many as they can identify, but they are losing this battle by a ratio of 3 to 1. Every new arrival exacerbates the threat of violence and crime in South Africa, already the violent crime capital of the world.

So where do we go from here? Last week we resolved, together with our civil society and Church friends to maintain our campaign of civil disobedience. This takes many forms and is being co-ordinated nation wide. In addition we resolved to reject the proposed extension of the presidency of Robert Mugabe to 2010 and beyond. The leadership of the MDC called for elections to be held in March 2008 as scheduled and for these to be conducted under a new constitution drafted with the support of the whole country and not just the small, kleptocratic Zanu PF minority.

There are signs that the SADC leadership is also concerned about these matters. They want a quick solution to the Zimbabwe crisis as we are holding back progress in a region that is becoming increasingly dynamic and growing strongly. Just this week it was announced that Southern Africa had record numbers of tourist arrivals last year - the best performance worldwide. Zimbabwe remains a painful exception. Unfortunately, Mbeki remains the key to any progress and there are no signs of any change of heart or tactics there!

As for our colleagues and comrades in this struggle in Burma - all we can say is hold your heads up high, we will win eventually and to Aung San Suu Kyi, we admire your courage and your sacrifice for your people. You are not alone - all freedom loving people stand with you in solidarity.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 17th January 2007