Statement to Parliament on situation in Zimbabwe

Wednesday 25 June 2008, 6:24PM
By Rt. Hon Helen Clark

The Prime Minister moved.

I move that this House express outrage that violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe have led Morgan Tsvangirai, to withdraw from the second round of the election for the presidency scheduled to take place on 27 June; note that Mr Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round, and had strong prospects of victory in a second round had it been free and fair; urge the United Nations Security Council, regional organisations in Africa, and Zimbabwe’s neighbours to work for the holding of free and fair elections; and call on President Robert Mugabe to step down for the good of his country.



The results of parliamentary and presidential elections in Zimbabwe on 29 March made a change of government seem possible, giving new hope to the people of a country which has been brought to its knees by a dictatorial regime.

The Movement for Democratic Change and others opposed to Mr Mugabe won a majority of seats in the Parliament. Morgan Tsvangirai polled highest among the three Presidential candidates but his vote was reported as falling short of the fifty per cent required for victory – a result which was suspect in the eyes of many observers.

Since then, a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation has been mounted by the Mugabe regime and its security forces against Morgan Tsvangirai’s party and its supporters. At least 80 people are reported to have been killed, but the real figure is likely to be much higher. MDC officials at a seminar in Pretoria on 20 June said they believed the figure to be closer to one thousand. In addition to those killed, very large numbers of people have been beaten, tortured, maimed, detained, or driven from their homes. State hospitals refuse to accept MDC patients for fear of reprisals. Many victims are in rural areas and are unable to get to any hospital.

Physical intimidation is being accompanied by other measures. All food supplies are controlled by troops; there are stringent restrictions on the movement of people; and access to rural areas, where much of the violence occurs, is very difficult. The entire MDC elections directorate is in hiding. There are arrest warrants out against a number of MDC MPs, in addition to those who have already been detained. On Friday (20 June) a magistrate ruled that the MDC Secretary-General must stand trial on treason and related charges which seem to have been laid simply to prevent him from carrying out his party functions.

The regime has also imposed limitations on the numbers of international election observers, and denied access to observers from western countries.

In response to criticism of the political violence and associated human rights abuses, President Mugabe is reported to have said that only God could remove him from office.

Against this background, Mr Tsvangirai concluded on Sunday that he could not reasonably ask the citizens of Zimbabwe to place themselves in harm’s way by urging them to vote. On 23 June he announced that he was withdrawing from the second-round election scheduled for 27 June.

Yesterday the MDC’s headquarters in Harare were raided by security forces. This morning it has been reported that Mr Tsvangirai has sought refuge in the Embassy of the Netherlands in Harare.

For some time now the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has supported a course of attempted mediation by the President of South Africa between the parties in Zimbabwe. While there is a zero trust environment between the parties in Zimbabwe and no evidence that President Mugabe sees merit in a negotiated settlement, that cannot succeed.

Now a number of SADC leaders, publicly and privately, are calling upon President Mugabe to rein in the violence and allow a free and fair election to proceed. Similar calls have been made by African leaders further afield – the President of Nigeria, for example – and by leaders of the Nordic states, the European Union, the United States, and Australia and of course New Zealand.

Today the United Nations Security Council considered the disastrous situation in Zimbabwe. It condemned the violence against the political opposition and the actions of the Government of Zimbabwe. It regretted that those actions had made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place. It also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and the impact of the situation in Zimbabwe on the wider region. It called on the Zimbabwean authorities to co-operate fully with efforts to find a way forward through dialogue to allow a legitimate government to be formed which reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe.

The New Zealand Government fully endorses the Presidential Statement issued by the Council. It sends a strong message to President Mugabe, and leaves him and his supporters under no illusions about the widespread international abhorrence of their outrageous violations of the rights of Zimbabwe’s people.

The New Zealand Government has made its position on the tragedy in Zimbabwe very clear. Mr Mugabe, his regime, and its actions are abhorrent to us. We are consulting other countries about what further measures might now be put in place against the regime.

Zimbabwe has suffered enormously under Robert Mugabe’s presidency. A once prosperous country has been bankrupted. A once vibrant society has been intimidated and cowed. In its place is a repressive regime, run for the benefit of a few, under which human rights abuses are the norm. The results of the Parliamentary election and of the first round of the Presidential election expressed a clear demand for change. Mr Mugabe should accept the verdict of his people and stand down.