April 10, 2003

Commonwealth report: No progress made by Harare

Commonwealth secretary- general Donald McKinnon's confidential report on Zimbabwe to heads of government obtained by Business Day is clear in its conclusion that based on the criteria on which the country was suspended last year it has made no progress.

The main conclusion of the report is that no progress can be found in the areas of political dialogue and national reconciliation, of the implementation of steps to normalise the political situation, of the promotion with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of transparent, equitable, and sustainable measures for land reform, and of engagement with the Commonwealth secretary-general to achieve these outcomes. "All efforts by the secretary-general to engage in dialogue with President (Robert) Mugabe have been rebuffed," McKinnon states in his report.

When McKinnon met Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge during the African Union Summit in Durban last year, he says he was told that he was "illegitimate". And when the man McKinnon was about to appoint as his special envoy, Sir Sridath Ramphal the former Commonwealth secretary-general, called Mugabe, the calls were not returned. McKinnon also sent one of his deputies to brief Nambian President Sam Nujoma on Commonwealth efforts to engage Zimbabwe, but this led nowhere.

The report states that "the depressing situation in the country offers even more grounds for the government of Zimbabwe to change course and to engage in meaningful dialogue with international partners". The report cites the UNDP, which was tasked to look into the land issue, as saying that the Zanu (PF) government's fasttrack land reform programme has been "chaotic" and "the cause of much political, economic, and social instability".

Harare has also not responded to UNDP proposals put forward by an expert team, which advised that land reform be conducted on a phased basis. This would start with the redistribution of 5-million hectares over a three-year period, with fair and speedy compensation for those whose farms have been forcibly acquired, and an assistance package for farm workers. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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