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Zimbabwe: the end game?

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Robin Lustig | 10:27 UK time, Friday, 20 June 2008

A week from today, the people of Zimbabwe will face an unusually stern test of their mettle. In the face of widespread violence and intimidation, will they have the courage to turn out to vote in the run-off presidential election?

Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, have already been forced to flee from their homes by supporters of President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. They will not be allowed to vote because they are no longer in the electoral district where they are registered. Others have had their identity documents confiscated by armed men at road-blocks because they did not know the words of ZANU-PF chants. They, too, will be disenfranchised, because without documents, they can't vote.

So what about those who, despite everything, insist on turning out next Friday? Some of them, when they get to the polling station, will be "invited" to accept assistance from government agents. If they decline, they will be labelled as opposition supporters, and their homes, their families, even their lives, will be at risk.

You think I may be exaggerating? I wish I were. Just yesterday, Amnesty International reported the finding of 12 more bodies of murder victims. Most of them bore signs that they had been tortured to death. This is no longer a campaign of violence, said one senior Western diplomat in the region, this is terror, plain and simple.

But something is stirring among Zimbabwe's neighbours. After having watched for years in silence as the country slid into poverty and anarchy, Mr Mugabe's neighbours are at last speaking out. Over the past couple of days, as if with one voice, they have criticised the terror unleashed in Zimbabwe - and have warned that unless something changes pretty dramatically over the next few days, there is no way that the outcome of the election can be regarded as legitimate.

So here's an imaginary scenario for you: the elections go ahead, and substantial numbers of people turn out to vote. The opposition MDC promptly announce that their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has won. ZANU-PF say rubbish and, after another lengthy delay, just like after the first round of elections, pronounce Robert Mugabe the winner.

What then? Will angry opposition supporters take to the streets, as they did in Kenya? Will government troops and security forces go on the offensive and crush any sign of dissent? Will President Mbeki of South Africa, who's meant to be mediating in the crisis on behalf of Zimbabwe's neighbours, urge that the elections be annulled and some form of unity government cobbled together instead? (Reports in the South African press suggest that he is already, in fact, proposing something along those lines.)

It is difficult to see any prospect of President Mugabe, after 28 years in power, agreeing to step down. Yet the same was said at various times of the Shah of Iran and Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania. Yet they did, eventually, bow to the inevitable - one died in exile in 1980, and the other was executed in 1989.

The MDC are insisting that they will offer Mr Mugabe a guarantee of his personal safety. He is, even now, a hero of his country's independence struggle, so he may avoid the fate of either the Shah or Ceausescu.

But he must know that with his neighbours now running out of patience (the Tanzanian foreign minister used those exact words in a BBC interview yesterday), his options are few. His neighbours fear a total breakdown of order across their borders - and it's beginning to look as if they've decided that the only way to avoid it is by easing President Mugabe into retirement.

It's going to be a tense few days, but we'll do everything we can to report and analyse the developments for you as they unfold.


  • 1. At 10:27pm on 20 Jun 2008, imv1962 wrote:

    you were fuming talking to the Zimbabwe Ambassador.
    Well done! Good man. It's so good to hear someone who cares.

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  • 2. At 10:37pm on 20 Jun 2008, cjeales wrote:

    I was very impressed with your interview with the Zimbawean Ambassador to the UN tonight (20th). Rather than letting him get away with his lies and propaganda, he got a bit of a reality check. Keep up the pressure!

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  • 3. At 3:24pm on 21 Jun 2008, edatardroe wrote:

    I lister to your program every night.
    Your reference to the situation in Zimbabwe, the electoral fiasco and Mugabe's attempt to blame GB for all it's problems. Nelson Madela is conspicious by his absence and lack of comment. The other African leaders, including Tambo Mbeki appear to have little or no influence on Robert Mugabe.
    Where is this 'highly respected and world renowned figure' when he, and he, only could have some influence this 'madman'.

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  • 4. At 4:48pm on 22 Jun 2008, MrRoderickLouis wrote:


    Residents of all EU member nations ought to be polled regarding their preferences for the structures, authorities and limitations of a future EU.

    In other words... residents of all EU member nations ought to at the minimum be asked, non-bindingly, whether the future EU model they prefer is an EU Super State or an EU that is a loose association of integrated, alligned, but independent nations...

    Data from this process could then be used in the objective compilation of a new 'draft' EU (Constitution) 'Reform' treaty (and future treaties), which could be put to binding referenda in all EU member nations...

    Considering that the ratification of Constitution-like EU Treaties (such as the misnamed Reform Treaty) have vastly far reaching effects on ALL residents of ALL EU member nations- it is the opinions and views of this body of people, not only a very small subgroup of them- a microscopic few bureaucrats and politicians- that ought to be paramount when the clauses and content of Constitution-like EU Treaties (that are to be put to binding referenda) are determined...

    An EU-wide, FUTURE-OF-THE-EU DIALOGUE-PROCESS is needed... This ought to be lead by the United Kingdom...

    Roderick V. Louis,
    Vancouver, B.C.,

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  • 5. At 5:34pm on 22 Jun 2008, MrRoderickLouis wrote:

    (above comment was intended to be posted on:

    "The Irish No: what next?" from June 15-2008

    Roderick V. Louis,
    Vancouver, B.C.,
    [Personal details removed by Moderator] )

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  • 6. At 6:55pm on 22 Jun 2008, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Like everything else on BBC, the whole thing seems like it's in a vacuum. It floats free of the past, of all other events related to it. The people suffering to a large extent did this to themselves. Britain gave money for Mugabe to buy the land from the white farmers but he kept it and just encourated throngs of thugs, squatters, and murderers to drive the white farmers off their land, loot and destroy the homes, drive away the employees, and beat or even kill the farmers themselves. All in the name of social justice to redistribute the land to the deserving "war veterans." I didn't hear an uproar from most anyone in Zimbabwe then, a lot of the population when along with him. They felt he was right. Well this kind of social engineering, this agrarian reform always leads to the same end. Stalin and Lennin come to mind. So now the inevitable has happened, the land has been given to people who don't know which end of a hoe is the handle and the breadbasket of Africa has become a famine ridden broken economy. And now the world is supposed to show its sympathy. Why can't I seem to find any? Zimbobwegians, heal thyselves. Freedom is bought and paid for with blood. If you want to win it, you have to fight and maybe die for it. This is how America did it and if you want it, that's how you have to do it too.

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  • 7. At 8:31pm on 22 Jun 2008, MrRoderickLouis wrote:


    If Mr. Tsvangirai's recent pullout from Zimbabwe's sure-to-be rigged June-27 2008 elections leaves responsible, rule-of-law AND wealthy developed world nations only debating "should we or shouldn't we remove his Knighthood, as some are doing, ... it will be just another phony excuse to avoid responsibility to take substantive actions...

    Zimbabwe's ever deteriorating human-rights situation and its brutal dictatorship governance have for many, many years been criticized by the west and most of the world's self espoused 'democracies'...

    Unfortunately criticisms were not followed up with any reasonably assertive actions to rectify the problems identified... leading- over the last decade and a 1/2 to Zimbabwe's melt-down to failed-state-status:

    - almost total internal-political-structure chaos;

    - mass starvation-of-its-peoples;

    - the world's lowest life-expectancy;

    - a defunct economy and pariah on the world stage...

    British Commonwealth and NATO member nations- along with other associations of nations which assert they 'ascribe to principles of 'democratic governance and "rule of law"- have an obligation to act to protect the innocent, highly vulnerable and suffering peoples of Zimbabwe... and perhaps just as important- to set an example for the rest of the African Continent's countries...

    Developed world nations' ACTIONS to assist in Zimbabwe need to occur not tomorrow or 'after June 27th when 'we see what the results of the elections are' or 'we'll look at that maybe next year after we see if (wimp/ two-faced) diplomacy has worked'->>> but now!!

    What could be a better use of the United Kingdom's (and other British Commonwealth/developed world member nations') generosity and resources: Afghanistan or leading (participating in) a British Commonwealth action into Zimbabwe??

    At least in Zimbabwe there would be- if customary British methodology is adhered to- a post-invasion 'plan' along with realistic, functional evaluation structures.....

    Taking a position on the far-to-long-avoided, unconscionable Zimbabwe situation and answering the question: "when/under what circumstances do developed nations have the obligation to act- militarily- in order to protect the citizenry/residents of a problemmed country/region??" would be a productive process for candidates participating in the upcoming US Congressional/Presidential elections...

    The US could assist/logistically support British-lead Zimbabwe actions without compromising its ability to continue efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq...

    Roderick V. Louis,
    Vancouver, BC, Canada,

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  • 8. At 10:37pm on 22 Jun 2008, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Roderick V. Louis.

    How nice to know that the US has a Canadian's permission to intervene in the internal affairs of other nations. Now all you will have to do is get a resolution of the Security Council and the support of American taxpayers. Perhaps China will abstain. Unlike the Sudan, I don't think they have any oil or other minerals in Zimbabwe to exploit through collusion with the dictator there.

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  • 9. At 2:16pm on 24 Jun 2008, KennethM wrote:

    Unfortunately, due to the fact the BBC feels it has a right to comment rather than report the news it now has to scratch around of information and has yet again become part of the news story. If it stuck to the facts that were known, rather than speculating and worse still, offering its own angle, it may have some bridges left that are not burned.

    I heard you talking to a representative of the Zimbabwe government a few nights ago and I felt that you were struggling to get any meaningful sense out of the interview (unusual as I reckon you are normally an excellent interviewer). It seemed to me that you were lacking any fresh events or angles to put to him. What we were left with was a rather shrill, almost desperate rant at the representative in a situation where he obviously had a lot more information than you.

    It appears that the BBC is more reliant than ever on other news organisations, hearsay, blogs etc to get any information. As such, I do not rely on the BBC for Zimbabwe news. Apart from the obvious partial output, some sources used appear to be from vested interests.

    I would hope that the BBC withdraws completely from reporting the Zimbabwe story and instead contracts another news agency to do this work. I also feel that the BBC should refrain from commenting on this, or any other news story as it ultimately impedes its ability to gather reliable news.

    Only in the last paragraph of your blog entry do make any reference to the process of news making. The rest of it appears to be your (the BBCs) opinion. It is this kind of activity, I believe, that has left you so short of facts.

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  • 10. At 03:07am on 25 Jun 2008, MarcusAureliusII wrote:


    These Blog entries are where those who own them are supposed to give their opinions. That's what we want them to do here so we can give ours. That's the fun of this place.

    The problem is that BBC reporters and correspondents give their opinons so intermingled with their reporting of the news when they are supposed to be only reporting, there is no discontinuity between where the facts end and the editorializing begins. I didn't think that was Robin Lustig interviewing the Zimbabwian ambassador to the UN. Instead of an interview, as is often common practice at BBC it was a debate the reporter engaged in, one the BBC reporter was ill suited for and never should have started. Not only was that bad journalism, he was massacred. The ambassador was well trained to handle far tougher than anything BBC can throw at him. But they never seem to learn. My favorite interviewer is Charlie Rose. You can catch him on PBS or on his web site. Probably on Youtube as well. He has an outstanding technique for getting the interviewee to relax, open up, and tell his entire story. That's what an interviewer is supposed to do. BTW, he's always very well prepared, something most BBC interviewers rarely seem to be.

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  • 11. At 05:59am on 26 Jun 2008, JohnDGray wrote:

    Dear Robin Lustig,

    Re: your recent interview with Sir Mark Moody-Stuart

    Implicit in Mark Moody-Stuart’s argument was that if Anglo American failed to comply with Mugabe’s threats, Anglo American would lose its mining asset in Zimbabwe. His company is thus constrained to prevent the asset going to a competitor because of the established economic model: an obligation to maximise profits for its shareholders.

    Don’t you think that if these are the result of this economic model, that model now needs to change? If you are not aware of the Global Responsible Leadership Initiative, I do encourage you to look at their website. They are looking to change the MBA to support business leaders in taking account of the human and environmental consequences of economic activity. See their Principles for Responsible Management Education, available from: http://www.unprme.org/the-6-principles/index.php

    By the way, I thought you did well in the interview to elicit that AA is acting under the coercion of the Zimbabwe government. Mark Moody-Stuart talked of “difficult decisions”. But when Nelson Mandela recently spoke of the tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe, perhaps he had a reason in not identifying Mugabe as the sole example of that failure?

    John Gray

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