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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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
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?
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
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.
leaving the Commonwealth is "good riddance to bad rubbish". Goodbye
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