1 Nov 2001

Commonwealth blasts Zimbabwe

The Commonwealth team which visited Zimbabwe last week in October strongly rebuked the government for not upholding the rule of law and told it in closed-door sessions that its fast-track land reforms are unlawful, according to officials who took part in the discussions. Describing the discussions as very frank and open, the officials this week said the Commonwealth team had been blunt, citing its grilling of Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri who was harshly censured for his failure to implement lawful orders by Zimbabwe’s courts. „We told the government quite frankly that the fast-track land reforms did not fully comply with Zimbabwe’s laws," one official said. „In the communique, we say some members of our delegation felt the rule of law had not been adequately observed, which is our way of just being nice. The truth is that all of us except the Zimbabwe government itself were unanimous that the rule of law was not being upheld," the source said. The Commonwealth mission visited Zimbabwe to probe ways of carrying forward a September 6 agreement signed in Nigeria’s capital Abuja under which Zimbabwe agreed to restore law and order and to stop seizing commercial farms in exchange for British funding for its land reforms.

The team’s communique did not fully censure Harare for its failure to implement the agreement, but only urged the government to uphold the Abuja accord. The sources said the Commonwealth ministers took Chihuri to task, throwing at him specific cases where they said he had grossly failed to maintain law and order as he is required to do under Zimbabwe’s Constitution. They said Chihuri was, for example, challenged to explain why the police had not complied with a High Court order issued in early October requiring the police to ensure farm occupiers did not interfere with operations at five farms in Ruzawi district in Mashonaland East province. The order was issued well after the signing of the Abuja agreement. Chihuri, caught off-guard and visibly shaken, could only mumble that in future „the law will take its course," one of the officials at the meeting said. Nigerian Foreign Minster Sule Lamido will present the team’s full report to his President Olusegun Obasanjo, who will then brief Mugabe on its findings. The foreign ministers of the countries that were part of the mission will remain in touch with Lamido to ensure that his report will accurately and fully represent the findings and feelings of the whole group, the sources said. (Financal Gazette)


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