A glimmer of hope for Zimbabwe

Brussels,– Mr Geoffrey Van Orden Tories MEP, who spearheads the European Parliament's campaign for freedom and democratic change in Zimbabwe, yesterday (15 June 2011) hosted a conference with leading Zimbabwean civil society activists.

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP is Conservative Defence and Security Spokesman. Over many years he has initiated the European Parliament’s tough resolutions on Zimbabwe. He has been personally banned by Mugabe from entering Zimbabwe.

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McDonald Lewanika (Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition), Cephas Zinhumwe (National Association of Zimbabwean NGOs) and Gabriel Shumba (Zimbabwe Exiles Forum), joined MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) representatives, MEPs and EU diplomats for the discussion.

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They focused on the need for more rapid progress towards real democratic change in Zimbabwe and a route to free and fair elections. Diplomats from the Zimbabwean embassy were also present and responded to questions.

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP said: “The situation in Zimbabwe continues to be most disturbing but there are some glimmers of light. We heard first-hand accounts of the recent upsurge in violence and intimidation against those that Mugabe fears. But at last, Zimbabwe’s neighbours have begun to demand action.

“We have always advocated an African solution to the ongoing problems in Zimbabwe and are pleased that, at long-last, SADC (the Southern African Development Community) has recognised the true nature of the situation and has called for an end to all political violence and for free, democratic elections that meet international standards.

“Elections are not a single event but a process.  A road map to elections needs to be set out. Elections cannot be judged free in an atmosphere of intimidation and where the media does not give expression to all opinions. The people need education in the electoral process and a proper system of voter registration needs to begin very soon.

“Zimbabwean delegates also agreed that until there is real evidence of change, the EU’s “restrictive measures” – aimed specifically against Mugabe and his inner circle and not bearing in any way on the wider Zimbabwean population – must remain in place and be better explained.”

ENDS