Britain will play an active role in ensuring fair elections in Zimbabwe, which a British peer said were scheduled for September, the parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Lord Astor of Hever said yesterday.
He did not elaborate on how the UK, which is already under fire in Harare for meddling, will do that.
Lord Astor was responding to points raised by Lord St John of Blesto who said that Britain should put pressure on the Southern Development Community as the guarantor of democracy in Zimbabwe to ensure that essential check and balance is put in place.
“The recent successful referendum on the constitution in Zimbabwe should be the first step towards democratic reforms leading to the general election scheduled for September,” he said. “So far, so good.”
But he added that although over the past five years there had been considerable economic progress in the country, with the so-called unity Government of the MDC and ZANU-PF, the army, the police and the dreaded CIO were all still controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, which raised the threat that the forthcoming elections might be marred by intimidation.
“To ensure that the elections are free and fair, transparent, non-violent and sustainable, it is essential that international observers are allowed to monitor the general election. Unfortunately, not much progress has been achieved in getting that consent from ZANU-PF. That is certainly a cause of concern.
“Can the minister assure us that we will put pressure on SADC as the guarantor of democracy in Zimbabwe to ensure that that essential check and balance is put in place?
“The dividends of a free and fair election in Zimbabwe would be a huge boost not just to the country but to the entire region. It would lead to the lifting of the remaining economic sanctions and, I hope, pave the way to Zimbabwe rejoining the Commonwealth.”
The Herald this week reported that Britain and the United States were funding several non-governmental organisations to campaign for the MDC.