House debates

Monday, 26 March 2007

Private Members’ Business

Human Rights in Zimbabwe

3:34 pm

Photo of Dennis JensenDennis Jensen (Tangney, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the motion. Robert Mugabe has gone from political prisoner to Prime Minister to President to dictator for life. I support the Prime Minister’s condemnation of the appalling attacks on opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and on Nelson Chamisa. They only serve to highlight the violence and terror that have been hallmarks of the Mugabe dictatorship for some years. According to Statesman’s Yearbook, the rule of law is so banished that international observers declared that the 2002 presidential poll:

... failed to meet international standards for a democratic poll.

It goes on to state that these elections:

... were preceded by violence against opposition supporters, the passing of a law limiting press freedom ... and the arrest of Mugabe’s main political rival on charges of treason.

Cronyism is rampant. The UK paid Zimbabwe £44 million to buy out white farmers. Only 70,000 Zimbabwean farmers benefited, as 400,000 hectares went to Mr Mugabe’s senior colleagues. He also put his political allies into the High Court after he lost the 2000 referendum.

President Mugabe threw white farmers off their land, at first giving them 35 days notice and then only seven days notice and no compensation. He gave much of that land to his loyal foot soldiers—to the terrible and incontrovertible detriment of the country’s economy and wellbeing. But that was not the only appalling decision Mugabe made with regard to the land. The Statesman’s Yearbook continues:

In 2005 the government began the mass demolition of urban slums, claiming it would improve law and order and prompt development.

Instead, it merely left around 700,000 desperate Zimbabweans homeless.

As the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, pointed out in this place last week, the economy of Zimbabwe has haemorrhaged so badly that there is barely a drop of lifeblood left. According to Statesman’s Yearbook, real output has dropped one-third between 1998 and 2003. Real GDP growth has been negative every year since 1999 and has almost halved since 1995. The real tragedy for Zimbabwe’s people is that it should be a rich country. It has gold, nickel, diamonds and many other materials. It had a vibrant manufacturing industry and a flourishing agricultural sector. The iExplore website concludes:

Under other circumstances, Zimbabwe would have one of the most diverse and best-performing economies on the African continent.

Instead, under the dead hand of a Marxist dictator, Zimbabwe’s economy is now in free-fall and many of its inhabitants are starving.

Ironically, on 16 December 1966 the UN Security Council, I believe for the first time in its history, imposed mandatory economic sanctions on a state; Ian Smith’s UDI regime. The international community, especially neighbouring African states such as South Africa, needs to put similar pressure on Mugabe. South Africa has been propping Mugabe up both morally and financially for some years. However, I welcome Tanzanian President Kikwete’s initiative to meet with President Mugabe and deliver a strong response to the current situation.

The Howard government has made strong representations to have the situation in Zimbabwe considered by the UN, especially the Human Rights Council. The Prime Minister has said that the UN must take action against this regime as it did against Ian Smith’s regime. However, what shook me to the core was to find that here in Australia there are those who, for partisan political reasons, are sheeting home the blame for Zimbabwe’s tragic woes not where the blame clearly resides, in its dictator, but in the imperialist West. Rob Gowland, the Sydney district secretary of the Communist Party of Australia, blames white imperialists for the trouble. He claims that land reform was effectively stymied because Britain and the US reneged on their— (Time expired)


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