Motion – Zimbabwe

December 4th, 2007 - Pat Breen

^ Situation in Zimbabwe: Motion. ^

4th December, 2007

Deputy Pat Breen: Robert Mugabe was once hailed as a symbol of the new Africa following his election as President in 1980. Soon afterwards, however, that optimism turned to fear. In May 2005 alone, some 750,000 people were evicted from their homes. Since 2003, four independent national newspapers have been shut down and the arbitrary arrest of journalists and protestors is commonplace. Power is now entirely in the hands of the government and the military. In the face of these concerns, hunger is spreading and the distribution of aid is controlled by the state’s grain marketing board. The Zimbabwean peace project has recorded hundreds of incidents of people being refused subsidised food because they do not support Zanu-PF. Fear is having the desired effect – vote with your stomach or starve.

“Suffer the little children” is a phrase that is never far from one’s mind in today’s Zimbabwe. The long lines of children’s graves in the overflowing graveyards in Bulawayo or Beit Bridge are a testament to the high mortality rate for children in that country. Nobody knows how many people are dying in Zimbabwe today, given that the costs of buying a coffin and registering a death are beyond the means of ordinary people.

The Mugabe government has tried to interfere in the distribution of international aid. The Irish contribution to this aid for 2006 amounted to over €8 million with many Irish agencies working under extraordinary conditions, battling with local government corruption to ensure that those most in need of aid will receive it.

Amnesty International has reported claims by many women of arbitrary arrest, beatings and in some cases torture in police custody. In Zimbabwe, the majority of human rights activists are women fighting to feed their children. Human rights activists, trade unionists, media workers, NGO workers, lawyers, students and the political opposition have been targeted by the Mugabe government for special attention. Human rights work is dangerous. In 2006, the director of the lawyers’ human rights group, Arnold Tsunga, was prosecuted by police because he sat on the board of an independent radio station, Voice of the People.

According to the latest monthly report on political violence, produced by the Zimbabwe human rights NGO forum, during the first nine months of this year there were 776 cases of assault and 526 cases of torture, which is almost twice as many as for the same period last year. Torture is Robert Mugabe’s election weapon and the international community can no longer sit by while human rights abuses are widespread in Zimbabwe.

Last weekend, the Senegalese President, Addoulaye Wade, attempted to mend fences between Mugabe and London, but Mugabe spurned the offer. Following the imposition of sanctions by the EU since 2002, pleas from this country and others have fallen on deaf ears. Mugabe has ruined his country with policies that are killing thousands of people. As my colleagues have said, the non-attendance of the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs in Lisbon would signal our protest at events in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.