Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth group in 2003 after the Commonweath made moves to suspend Zimbabwe from the councils of the Commonwealth for one year pending the restoration of violence and holding of free and fair elections after the bloody 2002 elections.Mugabe then also announced his decision to withdraw his country from the Commonwealth on December 7, 2003.
“Zimbabwe quits and quits will be” said Mugabe who likened the Commonwealth to George Orwell’s Animal Farm where some members were more equal than others. “Anything that you agreed to on Zimbabwe … no matter how sweetly worded means Zimbabwe is still the subject of the Commonwealth,” were Mugabe’s parting words.
The 2002 presidential elections in Zimbabwe were held amidst violence which was heightened by Britain’s refusal to continue funding land reforms. A Commonwealth Observer Mission reported that the elections were marred by violence. This report concluded that “the elections did not adequately allow for a free expression of will [and] were a violation of the fundamental Commonwealth principles, most notably those of the Harare Declaration.” This statement helped to infuriate Mugabe.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said then: "It is disappointing that the Government of Zimbabwe has taken this step. All members will be saddened by it. I hope that Zimbabwe will wish to return in due course, as have other members in the past."
"Nelson Mandela once declared that he had discovered a secret," said Brown on Friday. "After climbing a great hill," Mandela said, "One always finds that there are many more hills to climb."
Brown is one of President Robert Mugabe’s worst foes. Whenever he finds an opportunity, Mugabe attacks Brown in his public speeches and blames him and other western nations for causing hardships to Zimbabweans through sanctions.
Brown said only when the rule of law had been fully restored among other things will the EU freeze targetted sanctions to 203 Zimbabweans involved in the violence and human rights abuses, and on 40 companies associated with them.
He applauded the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by Mugabe and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, describing it as a landmark achievement, rightly welcomed in the UK and across the world.
"Prime Minister Tsvangirai signed it having endured elections that the Southern African Development Community declared were neither free nor fair – and having survived the violence and human rights abuses that followed. The magnanimity he demonstrated sent a powerful message of hope that Zimbabwe could unite, recover and – once again – take its rightful place in the international community," said Brown.
He said the inclusive Government had improved living standards for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans. The economic destruction wrought by hyperinflation, had been brought to an end; tax revenues had grown; and the credibility of the Ministry of Finance had been restored. Humanitarian needs were being better managed; schools had been re-opened; and the vibrant and dynamic Zimbabwean private sector was stirring once again.
"As a result it is today easier than for many years to dream of a Zimbabwe that is once again a powerhouse of its region," said Brown. "But there is no doubt that the opponents of reform – both inside and outside government – will do everything possible to obstruct the change that Zimbabweans and SADC have demanded, and that the international community must see before it can have full confidence in the Zimbabwean government.
"There are persistent and serious human rights violations; a continuing lack of judicial independence and an absence of the rule of law. And the constitutional reform process – a vital component for the free and fair elections essential to full international re-engagement with Zimbabwe – is already behind schedule."
He said as guarantors of the GPA which set up the inclusive Government, SADC was rightly leading the international approach to Zimbabwe, and he welcomed the leadership of President Zuma as SADC facilitator. "I was encouraged by the outcomes of the recent SADC summit in Maputo which called on the parties to abide by both the spirit and the letter of the agreement, and asked South Africa to monitor implementation.
"The UK has in the last year, helped one million Zimbabwe get access to clean water; enabled two million to grow vital food crops; and helped bring the worst cholera outbreak in the country’s history under control. During Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s visit to the UK earlier in the year, the country promised to assist the country with 60 million pounds.
This includes an additional 5 million pounds to improve food security and to provide much-needed textbooks and educational materials to Zimbabwean children in the country’s newly-reopened schools.