Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:18 pm on 3rd April 2008.

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Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Africa, Asia and the UN) 2:18 pm, 3rd April 2008

My Lords, if my noble friend will forgive me, let me say a word in praise of soft power. President Mbeki has been criticised in this House—we have all expressed frustration about the slow progress of the mediation—but it is that mediation that has got us to where we are today: a moment at which, after 28 years of absolute power, President Mugabe is on the edge; his days are over; the regime is finished. We are now debating the manner of its ending, not its continuation.

I add, in praise of soft power, that, for the first time since 1980, President Mugabe faced the people of Zimbabwe without his usual alibi; for the first time, he was not able to campaign against a British Prime Minister. In every other campaign, his opponent has not been someone in Zimbabwe. When Morgan Tsvangirai ran against Mugabe before, you would have thought, if you had looked at the campaign speeches and posters, that his opponent was not Morgan Tsvangirai but the Prime Minister of Great Britain. We have managed, on this occasion, to remain out of the firing line of President Mugabe's campaign rallies, leaving him with no excuse but to be confronted by a people whose lives have been reduced to utter penury by his mismanagement and misgovernment. That has brought us to this point. There is a good answer to people on the first of my noble friend's questions.

On my noble friend's second question, there is, at this point, also a need for firmness. Soft power should not be malleable power. At this point, privately and publicly, President Mugabe needs to understand that his choices have narrowed to two impossible options if he chooses to go forward: a second round in an election that he would surely lose, now that his political mortality and autocratic rule have been pierced by an inevitable second-place finish in the first round; or the option of trying to steal the election. The position of the SADC leaders, the position of the international community more generally and the position of the people of Zimbabwe, in view of the overwhelming sentiment that they currently feel, rule that out. He faces departure from office. We must ensure that we say and do nothing that gives him any wriggle room. He must now confront the consequences of the electoral situation of this week.


Monty Paul
Posted on 8 Apr 2008 11:27 pm (Report this annotation)

...but it is that mediation that has got us to where we are today...

My perspective as an African with close links to both Zimbabwe and South Africa leads me to doubt whether Mbeki's dilly dallying has achieved anything other than to lengthen the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans have little cause to regard the South African government as an ally to the democratic cause. They cannot, given the way that Mbeki and his minions in the ANC election observer group have given the last two patently rigged elections their blessing, calling them free and fair.

If anything, it is Mugabe's age, declining health, splits within his own power base and the 'Zvakwana' (enough is enough) attitude of the electorate which has led to the current situation. It is those with the most to lose who have convinced Mugabe to see out another election, mainly to give themselves time to plan for their retirements.