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Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote sacrificed for business by Britain and the EU

27 Oct 2014 at 08:29hrs | Views
Author: Dr Clifford Chitupa Mashiri

Despite admitting that Zimbabwe remains a country of concern, the UK has arguably sacrificed Zimbabwe's Diaspora Vote for business by sponsoring the first official trade delegation to Zimbabwe at the end of October since a decade ago.

The British government should be seen to be promoting ethical investment rather than doing business as usual with an illegitimate regime like that in Harare after the disputed July 31 elections.

Ironically, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office ‘Country of Concern' Corporate report admits that progress remains disappointingly slow and limited to less sensitive areas, while key issues have not been addressed. Yet deportations have not stopped.

For example, it notes that the General Alignment Bill which would align 214 laws with the new constitution is still to be passed by Parliament.

Crucially it observes that the newly passed Electoral Amendment Act remains contradictory to the constitution, with no signs of further amendments to be made.

One way of interpreting the British position on Zimbabwe (September 2014) is to recognise the desperation and opportunism of the Tory government which chooses to look the other side on key human rights issues like the Diaspora Vote for the sake of sealing business deals with the autocratic regime.

Furthermore, the Mugabe regime has feigned a computer glitch for its failure to release the electronic voters roll that was used in the disputed July 2013 elections fearing it would lose legitimacy if flaws are identified.

But for Britain, a country professing to be a champion of democracy, it is a shame that the Foreign  and Commonwealth Office would like to be seen to be running with hares while hunting with the hounds as far as human rights violations are concerned.

The right to vote is guaranteed to all citizens as mandated by international law. Even the African Union's Commission on Human and People's Rights recommended in February 2013 that Zimbabwean citizens living abroad be allowed to vote in the country's referendum held in March 2013 but that was rejected by Mugabe.

The AU body agreed that excluding ordinary people in the diaspora is a violation of their rights to participate freely in government, however the regime said it was not compelled to cater for citizens living abroad other than those working in government service.

Despite serious budgetary problems, the Zanu-PF regime has been shrewd to turn down offers of election funding by the United Nations and the EU, fearing an audit would expose vote rigging especially the elusive electronic voters roll, the suspected ghost voters and the full scale of disenfranchisement of millions.

It is also common knowledge that Mugabe's reluctance to restore the diaspora vote is influenced by fear of losing control of the flawed electoral processes which have been challenged through petitions since 2000 and some of the cases have not yet been resolved to date. It's not possible for the regime to manipulate the Diaspora Vote.

Amid serious budgetary shortfalls and a corruption epidemic, the Sunday Mail's celebration on 19 October of a British trade delegation was understandable. ‘Heads up: The British are coming!" So the scramble continues! After China! After Russia! A luta continua!" The Sunday Mail screamed with excitement.

But the Sunday Mail should have instead said "Looting Continues" in view of revelations by the Auditor-General's report that the state-owned diamond miner, Marange Resources owes the tax collector US$3.7 million from 2010, while government has no board representation in two Chiadzwa diamond mines despite holding a significant stake in both.

Of course, Russia and China are being rewarded with business deals for blocking UN sanctions resolutions with the help of South Africa. They are "all weather friends".

For instance, as political violence intensified following the death of 113 MDC activists by March 2008, efforts by British and Americans to impose an arms embargo, and financial and travel restrictions on Mugabe and 13 other regime leaders were blocked in July 2008 after Russia and China vetoed The UN the resolution.

Significantly, the arms embargo would have affected Russia and Chinese weapons exporters (See Daniel Nasaw, and Mark Rice-Oxley, ‘China and Russia veto Zimbabwe sanctions,' The Guardian, 11/07/08). Russia reportedly sold 21,000 rifles to Mugabe's regime before the controversial elections in 2000 (see  Polikanov, D., ‘Russian arms sales to Africa seen conflicting with its international image', Moskovskiye Novosti, 16 Jan. 2001).

In 2008 Mugabe's regime confirmed that a consignment of weapons on board the  Chinese "ship of shame" the An Yue Jiang had landed as political violence claimed more innocent lives. The lethal cargo consisted of three million rounds of assault rile ammunition, 3,000 mortar rounds and 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades – ordered from the Chinese government.

Zimbabweans still remember that despite a British arms embargo in 2000, parts of Hawk aircraft manufactured by British Aerospace, now BAE Systems, were supplied to Zimbabwe through a third country ahead of the bloody 2000 elections.

It should be noted that Zimbabwe's Diaspora Vote is a human right and should not be sacrificed for mining contracts because the people's votes will never be depleted like minerals, short of a genocide.

Surely if prisoners in British jails should be allowed to vote, according to a United Nations report, and a European Court for Human Rights ruling passed in August, Zimbabwean exiles should be able to count on Britain and the EU to exert pressure on the Zanu-PF regime to restore their right to vote as a pre-condition for business deals.

One option Zimbabweans in the diaspora could use to regain their right to vote would be through mass petitions in the Constitutional Court and clog the system ahead of the 2018 elections. The British government can also be legitimately sued for compensation for rights abuses committed by Mugabe using British arms.

Donors who genuinely believe in democracy should not be difficult to find to sponsor a class action for the right to vote before 2018.

Clifford is a doctoral researcher at London South Bank University. Email:

Source - Clifford Chitupa Mashiri
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