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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10365

Mr DANBY (9:10 PM) —I move:

That the House:

(1)   congratulates Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), on his appointment as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, which is a just recognition of his long struggle for democracy and reform in Zimbabwe;

(2)   acknowledges the courage of the people of Zimbabwe in defying the thuggery and intimidation of the Mugabe regime in voting for a change of regime at the Zimbabwe elections of March 2008;

(3)   condemns the Mugabe regime for instituting a reign of violence and intimidation which forced Mr Tsvangirai to withdraw from the second round of the presidential election, despite his clear lead in the first round;

(4)   calls on the international community, and particularly Zimbabwe’s African neighbours and its fellow members of the Commonwealth, to maintain pressure on the Mugabe regime to ensure that it carries out the terms of the power-sharing agreement between the regime and the MDC; and

(5)   calls on the Australian Government to render every assistance to Mr Tsvangirai in carrying out the reforms urgently needed to restore democratic elections, good government and economic prosperity to the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe.

Notice of this motion was given on 13 October, when there were at last some grounds for optimism about the situation in Zimbabwe. In the month since then, unfortunately, the situation has reverted to its previous state—if not quite a state of hopelessness, for we always have hope, then at least a state in which no escape from the impasse is immediately in view.

The motion congratulates Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, on his appointment as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. Sadly, that appointment has not come to pass, because President Mugabe has reneged on key elements of the agreement which was brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. President Mugabe has unilaterally appointed members of his own ZANU-PF party to the key ministries of foreign affairs, defence and internal affairs, a move which would leave Mr Tsvangirai as no more than a figurehead prime minister. Quite rightly, Mr Tsvangirai has refused to accept office in those circumstances. Indeed, Mr Mugabe has denied Mr Tsvangirai travel permission; that is an unbelievable situation for a prime minister of a country.

This is a piece of arrogant bad faith by Mr Mugabe. I remind the House that the only reason Mr Mugabe is President of Zimbabwe today is that he unleashed a campaign of violence and intimidation against the people of Zimbabwe so that it became impossible to hold the second round of the presidential election. Mr Tsvangirai had a clear lead in the first round and there is no doubt that he would have won the second round had it gone ahead. The majority of the people of Zimbabwe wanted to be rid of the Mugabe regime. This was shown in the parliamentary elections, in which the two factions of the MDC between them won a majority of seats.

Mr Tsvangirai showed great statesmanship by deciding to withdraw from the second round although he would have won it, because he felt he could not ask his supporters to go on losing their lives in the face of the reign of terror unleashed by the ZANU-PF thugs across the rural areas of the country. Mr Tsvangirai made this sacrifice in the hope that the international community would respond by insisting that Mr Mugabe would resign, or at the very least agree to a power-sharing arrangement.

President Mbeki brokered a deal on which Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai shook hands in September. Under this deal, Mr Tsvangirai would be Prime Minister, and the MDC would get 16 cabinet posts and the ZANU-PF would get 15. This deal at last offered the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe some prospect of respite from the economic chaos, the international isolation and the lack of security to which they have been subjected as a result of the incompetence, corruption and lawlessness which have come to characterise the Mugabe regime.

The establishment of a power-sharing regime would have allowed the lifting of international sanctions against Zimbabwe. It would have brought aid and investment back to Zimbabwe. It would have allowed a reversal of the ruinous economic policies that have bankrupted a once prosperous country, debased its currency, destroyed its agricultural export industries and driven hundreds of thousands of skilled and educated people into emigration. All this has been put at risk by President Mugabe’s blind determination, at the age of 84, to cling to power and to preserve the shell of his regime in the face of all the disasters he has inflicted on the people of Zimbabwe.

Although the first part of this motion has sadly been overtaken by events, the other parts remain highly relevant. In the words of the motion, this parliament should most urgently call on the international community to maintain pressure on the Mugabe regime to ensure that it carries out the terms of the September agreement. The people of Zimbabwe have shown great courage in defying the Mugabe regime’s thugs and voting for a new government. It is time the international community, and particularly the countries of Africa, and also Australia, came to the aid of the poor people of Zimbabwe.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Is the motion seconded?

Ms Parke —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.