Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's foreign minister, said the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau's meeting on Zimbabwe combined "illegality with arrogance".
Mumbengegwi described as "acts of mischief" the meeting at which the thinktank suggested in a briefing paper issued before the Oct. 28-30 Commonwealth summit in Perth, Australia, that the Commonwealth could offer help to Zimbabwe to encourage progress towards democracy.
But David Howell, the Foreign Office minister responsible for Britain's relations with the Commonwealth, expressed deep concern at Zimbabwe's alleged violation of the rule of law and political values.
Howell said now was not the time for the Commonwealth to make a gesture to Zimbabwe. "No-one is going to encourage, certainly Britain isn't going to encourage, olive branches or anything else to a Mr. Mugabe who is showing no sign of recanting, standing down or removing some of his Zanu thugs from the scene," Howell told Reuters in an interview.
"There's got to be big changes inside Zimbabwe," he said. Mumbengegwi said the Commonwealth had no rifght to continue debating Zimbabwe.
"We parted ways in 2003, and we don't understand this obsession with Zimbabwe," he said. Zimbabwe was booted out of the 54-nation group consisting mainly of Britain and its former colonies, in 2003 after the organisation suspended it following Mugabe's re-election in a poll some observers said was rigged.
Zimbabwe was also suspended for failing to follow the Abuja Agreement, signed in September 2001 as a framework to bring order to the country's land reform programme and the Harare declaration on democracy and human rights.
The Commonwealth thinktank meeting expressed concern about continued violence in Zimbabwe, occupation of property, restriction of the media and political intimidation. The US and European Union have also expressed concern.
There will have to be fundamental reform in Zimbabwe and most of the change will have to be led by a regional grouping, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with South African President Jacob Zuma playing a lead role, said Howell, a member of Britain's upper House of Lords.
"But I think the Commonwealth certainly sees itself – when the time comes, which is not yet – also being a leading force in helping the recovery of Zimbabwe, the restoration of credible and properly monitored elections and the revival of its whole economy and its role in the world," he said.Post published in: News