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Oliver Colvile is MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport and is a member of the All-Party-Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe. Follow Oliver on Twitter.

Colvile OliverI
am not surprised by the results of Zimbabwe’s Presidential and General
elections; disappointed, but not surprised. After
all, Zanu-PF had four years to plan its campaign to hold onto power.  Robert Mugabe has worked hard on squaring his next door
neighbours – in particular South Africa. He
knew that intimidating the voters during the campaign would lead to international
condemnation; so what did he do? 

The
proceeds from the Marange diamonds went to Zanu-PF rather than the Zimbabwean
Treasury. Mugabe
fixed the registration process by appointing a senior ZANU PF player as
chairman of the Electoral Commission, and then didn’t release the electoral
register until it was too late for his opponents to do anything about it.

Apart
from ensuring that the roll included two million dead voters and a large number
of centurions, when the average age is 51, a million voters were omitted. On
Sunday, Mkhululi Nyathi resigned from the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission saying that the polls on Wednesday did not meet the benchmarks of
fairness.

Intimidation
had been taking place some two years ago, when Kate Hoey MP (the Chairman of
the Zimbabwean APPG) Lord Joffe (Nelson Mandela’s and Jacob Zuma’s solicitor)
and I visited Zimbabwe with the Commonwealth. Whilst
there, we learnt that 26 MPs from the MDC – the main opposition to Zanu-PF – had
been arrested; that the Speaker of Zimbabwe's Parliament, Lovemore Mayo, had been forced to
face re-election to his job within the Parliament, and that beatings were
underway in rural areas.


Mugabe
refused to allow any UN observers to oversee the
registration process or the election; only representatives from the African
Union were allowed to act as observers. Soon
after polling day, I was told of people turning up at the polling station only
to be informed that they were not on the electoral register or had been
reassigned to another polling district.

So
with over two thirds of the membership of the Zimbabwean Parliament, Mugabe can
now change the country’s constitution. 
He is no longer forced to have a coalition government with his arch
opponent Morgan Tsvangari, and stick to the MDC’s spending plans. Indeed,
the highly respected MDC Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, who brought stability
to Zimbabwean economy and oversaw the current boom through some very shrewd
policies including switching the discredited Zimabwean dollar to the US dollar,
only just held onto his Harare East constituency. 

Mugabe
will have the power to force through his indigenisation polices where foreign
owned companies in the countries will have to employ Zimbabweans irrespective
of their qualifications But
ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe’s victory may have much wider international and
regional implications which could damage British strategic trade interests. 

During
our 2011 visit, we learnt that the Chinese are investing in a new staff college
outside Harare, and are reportedly building in high tech communications similar
to what might be found at our own GCHQ. This
weekend the Chinese media reported that Hua Chumying, the Chinese Foreign
Minister, hoped that all the political parties would accept the result.
According to Fraser Nelson in Saturday’s Daily
Telegraph
, Zimbabwe’s economy is now very dependent on the Chinese.

He
rightly claims that this makes a mockery of our, the US and EU sanctions. The
Chinese are also South Africa’s largest trading partners. The Simonstown naval
base, near Cape Town, is of major strategic importance as it controls the Cape
of Goodhope’s trade routes – which we the British need to export our goods to
the Far East should the Suez Canal not be available. China’s
interest in Zimbabwe is nothing new as they funded Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s armed
struggle, whist the Russians funded Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU.

So
what can the West do to try and bring about change? Any outside pressure will
have to come from SADAC and specifically South Africa, the principal regional
power. The problem here is that Mugabe is the only southern African leader left
over from the anticolonial struggle for independence and as such is treated
with reverence and respect. To
many he is considered a war hero – as was demonstrated when the South African
President took Mugabe to a public rally in a football stadium to be greeted
with acclaim by the audience.

Britain
and the EU should continue with sanctions on Mugabe and his key
lieutenants.  Whilst we need to encourage
the Chinese to try and put pressure on the Zanu-PF regime we also need to remember
that the Chinese are indifferent to human rights and will want to protect their
economic investment. We
should be identifying the more moderate members of the Zanu-PF leadership who
might be keen to see an end to sanctions and being brought back into the
Commonwealth.

The
other key player within Zimbabwe is the army.  After all, the generals and brigadiers have prospered
under Mugabe’s presidency and won’t want to be prosecuted for any human rights
violations. They owe much to Mugabe’s patronage. They
will need to be convinced that they won’t pay a personal price for any regime
change. The
immediate future for Zimbabwe is gloomy. 
However, having led ZANU PF to an unprecedented election victory, Mugabe,
who is 89 and suffering from prostate cancer, may decide to bow out and enjoy what
is left of his retirement. The West therefore needs to plan for life after
Mugabe. 

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