Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Commonwealth throws Zim lifeline

Commonwealth throws Zim lifeline

Friday, 22 October 2010 11:47

Nelson Chenga, Staff Reporter

THE Commonwealth is quietly working on a multi-million dollar aid package to
assist Zimbabwe emerge from a decade-long socio-economic bog as the
54-member bloc moves to re-engage Harare, which renounced its membership
about seven years ago. The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal that the
Commo-nwealth has been hard at work on what it terms a “Special Programme
for Zimbabwe” since mid last year despite President Robert Mugabe severing
ties with the former British Empire after threats to suspend the country
over alleged gross human rights violations and flawed elections between 2000
and 2002.

The programme is a brainchild of a civil society-led Common-wealth
organisations’ roundtable meeting that took place in South Africa in early
July last year and will target, among other sectors, education and health,
confirming years of behind the scenes efforts by successive Commonwealth
secretary generals to re-engage Zi-mbabwe.

Commonwealth director of communications and public affairs, Eduardo del
Buey, told The Financial Gazette this week that as a former member country,
Zim-babwe and its people remained important to the grouping.

“Plans are being finalised to launch a Special Programme for Zimbabwe,
offering technical assistance in a number of areas, including education,
health and capacity building for key institutions,” said del Buey.

The education and health sectors, for instance, are desperate for assistance
after suffering the worst during the past decade of economic and political

“As a former member country, Zimbabwe and its citizens remain very much in
the Commonwealth’s thoughts and indeed, since the withdrawal, the
secretary-general has consistently engaged with Commonwealth leaders,
especially within SADC (the Southern African Development Community), on the
situation in Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwe has a special place in the history of the modern Commonwealth and,
as our Heads of Government have said, we hope the conditions can be created
for Zimbabwe to return to the Commonwealth family.”
Despite Zimbabwe having voluntarily withdrawn from the association the
Commonwealth still maintains that for the country to be readmitted it should
“accept and comply with Commonwealth fundamental values, principles, and
priorities and specifically to demonstrate commitment to: democracy and
democratic processes, including free and fair elections and representative
legislatures; the rule of law and independence of the judiciary; good
governance, including a well-trained public service and transparent public
accounts; and protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and
equality of opportunity”.

Discord in the inclusive government has so far shredded most of these
conditions prompting Move-ment for Democratic Change leader, Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai, to openly vent his frustrations over the unilateralism by
one the partners in the unity government, ZANU-PF, through letters to the
United Nations, the European Union and SADC mediator, South African
President Jacob Zuma, among others.

The soured relations between the Commonwealth and Zim-babwe still run deep.
This was evidenced by the conspicuous absence of Zimbabwean athletes at the
recent Commonwealth Games held in Delhi, India.

The games, held every four years, are not specifically targeted for
Commonwealth countries only but invite athletes from all over the world and
this year the event attracted athletes from 71 countries.

 When he pulled Zimbabwe out of the grouping in December 2003 President
Mugabe equated the club to the famous English writer George Owen’s novel
Animal Farm, accusing some of the group members of being “more equal than
others”. If the choice were made, one for us to lose our sovereignty and
become a member of the Commonwealth or remain with our sovereignty and lose
the membership of the Commonwealth, I would say let the Commonwealth go,”
said President Mugabe then.

 The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of large and small as well as
rich and poor countries that seek to support each other and work together
towards common goals of democracy and development. The group emerged in the
1870s and was reconstituted in 1949.


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