IT was just a matter of time and last Sunday, December 7 2003, to be specific, was the day. Zimbabwe decided it had had enough of the racial and imperial machinations of the white Commonwealth and the country predictably pulled out of the colonial grouping.

About three years ago, Fiji described the white Commonwealth’s attitude as "negative, interfering and patronising", and after the grouping’s meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, last week the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) described the attitude of the white Commonwealth as "dismissive, intolerant and rigid". Things are deteriorating too fast in the Commonwealth and our Political Editor Munyaradzi Huni, looks at the developments that have taken place in the grouping over the years to see whether the grouping will survive for long and to answer the question "which way Zimbabwe after the Commonwealth?"

l The Commonwealth is a lie

When the Commonwealth was founded in 1931, this loose association of former British colonies was supposed to act as a force to push for democracy and human rights, but over the years, the grouping has been turned into an arm of the British government to bully other states, especially the black Commonwealth countries. And so when Zimbabwe decided to pull out of the grouping, it really didn’t surprise those who know what the Commonwealth has become.

But maybe the idea behind the Commonwealth has been a lie since its formation. To begin with, it has to be remembered that the Commonwealth was formed just when the British Empire was beginning to disintegrate as some of its colonies gained independence through the liberation struggles.

And maybe as a way of maintaining control over its former spheres of influence, the British cleverly came up with the idea of the Commonwealth that they presented to the world as a good platform for the former colonies to discuss issues of common interest.

For how and why, up to today, the Commonwealth, that was originally called the "British Commonwealth", still has the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, as its head? And why is the grouping’s secretariat permanently based in London? If this doesn’t raise suspicion, then, surely, what will? Isn’t this enough proof that the Commonwealth is just a post-colonial club created by the British to "police" its former colonies?

Just think of it, all leaders of former British colonies bowing their heads to Queen Elizabeth II! What does this symbolise? It’s really sickening, for how can we claim to be independent when our leaders still give the British Queen such unnecessary respect?

And to make sure that they would have room to use the Commonwealth to "police" the former colonies without any repercussions, the British deliberately left the grouping to function without any constitution or charter. As there are no contractual obligations, this enables the powerful member states to abuse the Commonwealth to their advantage as the British were doing in Zimbabwe in a bid to reverse the land reform programme.

So the Commonwealth could be one big lie and the treatment Zimbabwe was getting from the white Commonwealth should be used by other member countries to take stock. After all, even the claims that members benefit from the grouping through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation are not quite true.

l Zimbabwe after the Commonwealth —The Questions:

What does the pullout from the Commonwealth mean?

The pullout basically means that Zimbabwe has cut ties with the now 53-member club, but the country can deal with any of the countries in the Commonwealth in other forums. Zimbabwe has just distanced itself from British dominance through the colonial grouping.

From now onwards, the white Commonwealth, especially Britain, will not "bully or intimidate" Zimbabwe in the name of the Commonwealth as had become the case over the past few years.

There are other people suggesting that the pullout is a strategy by Government to cover up its human rights abuses, but it has to be remembered that Zimbabwe is still a member of more credible organisations like the United Nations and the African Union that have charters that bind all member states.

Yes, it looks like Zimbabwe is now in isolation, but this is just symbolic as there are many important organisations that the country can join.

Can Zimbabwe survive without the Commonwealth?

From the support that the country is getting from the black Commonwealth, other European countries, Sadc, Comesa and the AU, Zimbabwe can and will survive. And, besides, the country has been getting "very little" developmental assistance from the club.

In fact, now that the country is free from this British Commonwealth, it can concentrate on implementing its land reform programme without hindrance and look at other progressive organisations to join.

The country now has the opportunity to show the other remaining members of the grouping that there is even better life after the Commonwealth.

It was a bold decision to cut ties from the Commonwealth, but the Government should know that the pullout is just the start of a journey that has many curious on-lookers. Some countries like Britain will continue working hard to make life difficult for Zimbabwe in a bid to create the impression that life would be better in the Commonwealth and the Government should know that its enemies are not going for Christmas this year.

Are there any losers and winners from Zimbabwe’s pullout?

Zimbabwe’s pullout left Africa and other black member countries of the Commonwealth even wiser. In short, Africa won because from now onwards, it knows how to deal with the white Commonwealth and is now taking stock to see whether this club has a role to play in the 21st century.

The country’s pullout has also opened the eyes of other African leaders for them to see that there are wolves in sheep’s skin in their midst and that the imperialists are dangling the "carrots" even more dangerously.

But if the truth be told, President Olusegun Obasanjo came out the loser. Just the idea that his country was the venue where another African country pulled out of the Commonwealth is bad enough. His miscalculated strategy of not inviting Zimbabwe to Chogm, despite appeals from the rest of the continent, leaves his face with a lot of egg.

President Obasanjo should have asked himself why despite the international outcry against the elections that retained him to power, why despite the ethnic violence in his country and why despite his country being rated as one of the most corrupt on earth, the white Commonwealth was prepared to attend Chogm in his troubled country and yet they pushed him not to invite Zimbabwe.

Now that he didn’t invite Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe went on to pull out of the Commonwealth as Chogm was being held in his backyard, many African countries feel he is a sell-out or was used by the white Commonwealth. There is justification to all these sentiments no wonder why President Obasanjo is running around making plans to visit Harare in a bid to persuade Zimbabwe to reverse its decision to pull out of the Commonwealth.

Of course, the other big loser is Mr Blair — his treatment of Zimbabwe has exposed his imperialistic machinations to the rest of the world and from now onwards he won’t do what he had grown to enjoy most, that is bullying Zimbabwe under the guise of the Commonwealth. He has closed the avenue that he was using to try to reverse the land reform programme. Tough luck!

Should Zimbabwe rejoin the Commonwealth at some stage?

What is important to note is that there is growing agreement that the Commonwealth does not serve any purpose in the world today and so the issue really is about whether the grouping will survive rather than whether Zimbabwe should re-join the Club at some time.

With the growing sentiments against the grouping and its division on racial lines, it looks like the club won’t survive for long and so Zimbabwe should not bother re-joining such a dying club. And as events over the years have shown, the Commonwealth is a British creation to promote and protect its interests in its former colonies and so it doesn’t look like there would be a time that this British agenda will change.

Why should Zimbabwe re-join a club where the voice of the majority is not listened to? Remember Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth councils following a controversial report that split the Commonwealth observer group, then the country was further suspended for nine more months although two members of the troika (SA and Nigeria) were against this. As if that was not enough, the country was last week further suspended from the grouping without consensus as was exposed by the Sadc members in the Commonwealth.

Yes, President Obasanjo may vow that he will do everything to bring back Zimbabwe into the Commonwealth, but he should remember that the white Commonwealth has ignored his voice on many occasions and chances are that they will do the same if he calls for the country’s re-admission.

The President should ask himself why the voices of African countries, that are the majority in the Commonwealth, are ignored whenever a decision against a member state is to be passed? And why is it not possible for the Commonwealth to suspend Britain from the club for invading and occupying Iraq, not only after "sexing up evidence" but even without the approval of the United Nations?

The double standards, the British dominance and total disregard for consensus in the Commonwealth is making the club irrelevant and there is no reason of going back to such a monster.

Instead of thinking of re-joining the club, Zimbabwe should look elsewhere for developmental organisations that value each member’s independence and sovereignty and organisations where all members are treated as equals.

The Commonwealth is now a useless club and Africa, not Zimbabwe alone, should just dump this colonial grouping for good. And in any case, if Zimbabwe hopes to re-join the Commonwealth at some time, then that’s self-imposed "suspension" and so it may as well choose to remain suspended as the white Commonwealth wishes.

South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth between 1961 and 1994, Tanzania led a group of other African countries as it cut ties with the British government in protest against Ian Smith’s UDI in the then Southern Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe has withdrawn from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has always been haunted by racial problems and it looks set to see its death due to the racial problems.

For Zimbabweans, leaving the Commonwealth is "good riddance to bad rubbish". Goodbye Commonwealth!
 
            The Mulindwas Communication Group
"With Yoweri Museveni, Uganda is in anarchy"
            Groupe de communication Mulindwas
"avec Yoweri Museveni, l'Ouganda est dans l'anarchie"

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