House debates

Monday, 26 March 2007

Private Members’ Business

Human Rights in Zimbabwe

3:39 pm

Photo of Kate EllisKate Ellis (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the motion put before us by the member for Throsby and also commend her for bringing this important issue before the Australian parliament and ensuring that we debate this very serious issue.

Zimbabwe has been beset with horrific ordeals under Mugabe’s 27-year brutal autocracy. Since 1999 the Zimbabwean people have experienced the horrors of extended food shortages, leading to starvation and malnutrition, internal conflicts, political instability and hyperinflation, which was last month officially reported at 1,729 per cent. Life expectancy is only half what it was 15 years ago and the economy has shrunk by 40 per cent since the turn of the century. The urban poor have had their shanty homes bulldozed, and a constant sense of fear of the government permeates across almost every part of society.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a humanitarian crisis, and sadly its immediate neighbours and the global community have not done enough to ease the suffering and hardship felt by its citizens on all fronts. I have no doubt that every member of this parliament today is appalled and horrified by what has happened in Zimbabwe, but sadly this alone does not help the Zimbabwean people. What we have to do here today is call for greater action.

Mugabe’s regime has attempted to brutally stamp out dissidents and all peaceful opposition and resistance in Zimbabwe. Actively opposing the horror and fear that saturates Zimbabwe lies the Movement for Democratic Change, which, despite the violent suppression and human rights abuses against its activists, has remained the loudest voice in the world calling for change.

A little more than a week ago, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Mr Tsvangirai, was arrested and savagely beaten, along with other activists, during a peaceful prayer meeting. This motion absolutely condemns the brutal bashings of Mr Tsvangirai and his colleagues whilst in police custody and calls upon the international community to take a similar stance. If the international community does not take action immediately, we will see more attacks on members of the Movement for Democratic Change and other innocent people in Zimbabwe, like the attacks against Mr Nelson Chamisa in recent days.

On 18 March, Mr Chamisa was assaulted mere hours before he was to fly to Brussels for a meeting with European parliamentarians. This brutal attack came just days after he was beaten unconscious by police officers. Doctors have been reporting increased incidents of violence over the last week or so. Citizens have been reporting severe head injuries and brutal attacks. The threat of violence is clearly an ongoing concern. It will not get better until this regime falls.

It is painstakingly clear that the Mugabe government has abandoned the rule of law and will tolerate no dissent. They have refused to grant democratic concessions to the people of Zimbabwe despite sustained peaceful calls for democratic change. On Tuesday, 20 March, Zimbabwe’s foreign minister threatened to invoke the Geneva convention in order to expel Western diplomats from the country. He has accused these diplomats of interfering in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs and offering support to the government’s opponents, particularly to the Movement for Democratic Change. This is an unprecedented threat that has emerged from the Zimbabwean government and indicates its rapidly diminishing tolerance of opposing views.

President Mugabe presides over a regime that allegedly willingly bashed a 64-year-old grandmother in custody. This is a government which later denied that grandmother the right to leave for South Africa to seek medical treatment. We have talked in this motion about Mrs Holland, the secretary for the Movement for Democratic Change, another activist arrested during the prayer meeting on 11 March. Mrs Holland suffered devastating injuries, including a broken arm, a broken foot and three cracked ribs. According to her own reports, Mrs Holland was lashed more than 80 times by police officers.

Along with other speakers today, I am heartened by Mrs Holland’s recent transfer to South Africa and her intentions to continue her fight against this oppressive regime. I find her treatment absolutely revolting. I can but imagine how her family or any family in Zimbabwe can cope with these atrocities. I would also like to commend the Australian diplomats who visited her in hospital despite the ban on their offering support— (Time expired)


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