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Neil Parish MEP: Time to get tough with Robert Mugabe

Neil_parish_2Neil Parish, MEP for the South West, argues for sanctions on Zimbabwe before all hope dies of a transition of power.

Nearly three months since the elections in Zimbabwe and the winner is still not in power. Morgan Tsvangirai won the Presidential election and although his MDC party were able to cling onto the gains they made in Parliament, Robert Mugabe is not giving the Presidency up easily, forcing the country to go through another election campaign which he will undoubtedly stitch up. Few doubt that this time Mugabe will get it right and sufficiently terrorise the population to ensure that they vote the right way. Against this backdrop Mugabe then turns up in Rome at a UN conference on Food, pretending to be a legitimate politician, in complete contravention of the EU ban on him entering Europe.

He is repeating the tactics I saw when I was an election observer there in 2002. On that occasion his forces set out to intimidate MDC supporters to such an extent that they were driven off their land and away from their homes. When they subsequently tried to re-register with the authorities in a new area, away from the terror, they were banned from voting. Mugabe used this tactic to great effect in 2002 and it is happening again right now.

He has used farm land as a political tool, turfing off both white farmers and farm workers and giving the land to his cronies to prop up his power base. These cronies have no interest in farming the land and the end result is systematic of his disease, no investment in agriculture or anything else that his people need. Yet at the same time, he portrays himself internationally as a hero of the African independence movement and an international statesman.

Despite the corruption, intimidation and terror, there is still a semblance of law and order in Zimbabwe, a sense of what is right and wrong and a genuine hope that this might be the end of Mugabe. The people bounce back from every further repression and still focus on a peaceful solution. It is amazing that this has survived this long but it can't go on for ever. Now is the time for us to act and properly put an end to his regime once and for all.

We need immediate regime change in Zimbabwe and whilst I stop short of ordering in the troops we must use every other available tool. We need to properly freeze assets that sit in international banks and put pressure on China and Libya to stop their dubious investments in the country. Libya has signalled that it wants a closer relationship with the EU, ending their financial support for Zimbabwe should be one of the conditions. The world is well aware of the role China plays in Sudan and Tibet yet not enough is made of her support for the Zimbabwean regime. We must highlight her dubious role in Mugabe's continued survival.

The so called EU "smart sanctions" on Mugabe's regime are clearly not working and must be strengthened. We did try to do this last year in the Parliament but the Socialists, including our Labour party, blocked it!

The United Nations also need to take a long hard look at itself. There is no use having an EU ban if the UN continually override it by inviting Mugabe to their meetings in the EU. Quite what Robert Mugabe, who has destroyed his own country's ability to produce food, can offer to a Food Conference is beyond me! The British government could also take the lead by recognising Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC party as the democratically elected government of Zimbabwe, although I doubt Gordon Brown is brave enough to even consider it.

But most of all, we have to get much tougher with President Mbeki in South Africa. His role in all of this has been a disgrace and his continued support does much to guarantee Mugabe's survival. He is too timid to use action mainly because many within his party, the ANC, see Mugabe as an elder statesman and do not wish to sell him out. It betrays the true loyalties of many within the ANC and should make us wary in our dealings with South Africa.

Mugabe has devastated Zimbabwe while the rest of the world has stood by apologetically. Zimbabwe used to feed most of Southern Africa yet now she is a destitute state dependant on food aid. But amongst the people there is still hope. We need to stop making excuses for Robert Mugabe and kick him out before all hope dies.


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