Australia does not fund political parties in Africa
EDITOR — Once again the Zimbabwe Herald has been working overtime to portray Australia in a negative light. This time, and completely at variance with the facts, the Herald alleges Australia has been funding the activities of political parties in Zimbabwe, particularly the Movement for Democratic Change.
The point needs to be made at the outset that Australia has not and does not provide any material support or funding for political parties anywhere in Africa. That does not mean, however, we do not give moral support to parties, such as the MDC, that espouse democratic ideals while suffering from continuing brutal repression.
As a measure of Australia’s support for democratic reform in Zimbabwe, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently invited MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to visit Australia to expose him to the many Australians who have an interest in seeing peaceful, democratic change in Zimbabwe and to hear his views of the situation in Zimbabwe.
Australia is a committed advocate of democracy and democratic movements around the world.
As citizens of a stable, independent and welcoming nation, with an open and prosperous economy, and a pluralistic and democratic society, Australians believe in the importance and the enduring value of liberal democracy — not just for Australians, but for other peoples as well.
Australia has opposed authoritarian tyranny around the world — including in the great conflicts of the 20th century against militarism, fascism, and communist aggression.
We have also been steadfast defenders of anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa, including in Zimbabwe, and sought to make a positive contribution to the development of sustainable free societies in our region through our humanitarian and education policies.
Australia is dismayed by the continuing lack of respect for democratic values, human rights and the appalling economic mismanagement that prevails in Zimbabwe today. Ongoing repression by the security apparatus of opposition parties, individuals and groups advocating constitutional change are justifiably condemned by the international community. Without an independent and active opposition, it is difficult to envisage a properly functioning democracy in Zimbabwe.
The violent intimidation of Zimbabweans who protest peacefully against the direction of the Government’s policies must cease if there are to be genuine free and fair elections in March 2008.
While Australia does not provide material assistance to the MDC or other political parties in Zimbabwe, we are committed to improving the lot of millions of ordinary Zimbabweans who are suffering from the decline in humanitarian conditions in recent years.
The Australian government has established the Australian Fund for Zimbabwe to intensify its humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe and support for human rights, democracy and good governance. Assistance through the Australian Fund for Zimbabwe in the 2006-2007 financial year was approximately $6 million, and Australia is prepared to provide potentially double this level of assistance in 2007 — 2008. These are humanitarian, not political, funds.
Of more than A$20 million in Australian aid since 2002-03, most has been for humanitarian assistance to relieve the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans. Our assistance has included essential food aid, support for Aids orphans, and funding to improve food security and assist households in need. Most recently, on August 28 2007, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer MP, announced a contribution of A$3,5 million to the World Food Programme, to help feed the many Zimbabweans currently facing severe food shortages.
The Herald chose to ignore this humanitarian assistance. Instead, it continues to promulgate the fiction that Australia has given $A18 million to the MDC — let us be clear, that allegation is entirely untrue.
Australian Ambassador to Zimbabwe.
MDC funding: Aussies deny the obvious
By Caesar Zvayi
IT appears Australian premier John Howard and his proxy here Jon Sheppard believe the truth, the whole truth and nothing else but the truth means three different things as they attempt to deny their funding of opposition activities in Zimbabwe.
Alternatively they are simply showcasing their low opinion for African minds. After all, Africans are much closer to the "darkies", the Aborigines they look down upon on a daily basis.
For how else can one explain Sheppard’s Open Letter to The Herald titled "Australian support for Democracy and Humanitarian Assistance in Zimbabwe" that, among other things, tries to deny Canberra’s involvement in funding the MDC when all evidence proves otherwise?
The same letter makes scandalous claims about Australia’s alleged democratic credentials, and independence, assertions at variance with what obtains in that former British penal colony.
Sheppard is hot under the collar over reports that his government released A$18 million to fund the MDC ahead of next year’s historic elections, which reports he attributes to The Herald per se.
Said Sheppard: ‘‘Once again the Zimbabwe Herald has been working overtime to portray Australia in a negative light.
"This time, and completely at variance with the facts, The Herald alleges Australia has been funding the activities of political parties in Zimbabwe, particularly the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The point needs to be made at the outset that Australia has not and does not provide any material support or funding for political parties anywhere in Africa.’’
A few headlines and quotations from other parts of the world might help Sheppard realise this story was not a figment of The Herald’s imagination. In fact, The Herald picked it from Western newspapers that Sheppard can never accuse of having an agenda against Canberra:
The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, of May 14 2007 carried the following headline: "Australia puts up £8m to Mugabe’s opponents to oust tyrant". Its report said, among other things, ‘‘Australia said it would spend £8 million (A$18 million) backing critics of Zimbabwe’s strongman President Robert Mugabe just a day after banning a cricket tour of the troubled African nation . . .’’
Reuters, May 14 2007, had a similar story under the headline "Australia to spend A$18 million on Mugabe opponents".
The Independent on Line, a South African publication said, "Mugabe opponents get Aussie backing", and the report went on to say: ‘‘Australia on Monday said it would spend A$18-million (about R104 million) backing critics of Zimbabwe’s strongman President Robert Mugabe, just a day after banning a cricket tour of the troubled African nation.’’
The examples are numerous but the message was always the same, Australia funds not just the MDC but a range of opposition activities in Zimbabwe. In fact, since Blair’s resignation in June, Howard thrust himself to the forefront of the Western onslaught on Zimbabwe.
On May 13, Howard, who always claims there are no economic, but ‘‘targeted’’ sanctions on Zimbabwe cancelled the Australian cricket team’s planned tour of Zimbabwe claiming it would legitimise the Government.
Twenty-four hours latter, his foreign minister, Alexander Downer, announced Australia would release A$18 million to fund opposition activities ahead of the 2008 elections, as we know only political parties and not NGOs contest elections.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia was significantly boosting support for opposition groups in Zimbabwe, beginning with the immediate release of nearly A$6 million followed by a further A$18 million by 2008 through the Australian Fund for Zimbabwe. The announcement came in the wake of the opposition’s orgies of violence in Highfield and surrounding suburbs.
The financial largesse was followed by the Tsvangirai’s invitation to Australia, which had a counterflow of deported Zimbabwean students, whose only "crime" according to Howard is that their fathers are either Government officials or have links to the Government.
Though Sheppard tries to be clever by half in claiming ‘‘the Australian government has established the Australian Fund for Zimbabwe to intensify its humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe and support for human rights, democracy and good governance’’. It is a fact that Western interests have been using NGOs to channel funds to the MDC to circumvent the Political Parties Finance Act that outlaws external funding of political parties. Many will remember how, in October 2002, the then British High Commission in Harare was caught pants down after writing a $3,6 million cheque to Amani Trust, which funds were to be used to run safe houses for MDC thugs on the run from the law.
Anyway what does Sheppard mean by saying his government only provides moral support to the MDC? Wasn’t paying for Tsvangirai’s sojourn to Australia tantamount to funding opposition activities as it enabled Tsvangirai to meet the self-exiled Rhodesian lobby in Sydney and many other cities?
What about the sanctions Australia imposed on Zimbabwe, which Tsvangirai expressed so much gratitude for? Isn’t that a way of abetting the MDC cause of trying to effect illegal regime change?
It is a fact that of late Australia has outdone even the British and Americans in abetting the MDC cause, yet Sheppard dares posture otherwise.
This brings us to Sheppard’s contentious assertions that Australia is an advocate of democracy and human rights. Yet exactly one week ago, September 13 2007, Australia joined Canada, New Zealand and the United States in voting against the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Fortunately the historic declaration was adopted by the General Assembly after it was approved by 143 member states with 11 abstentions, and of course the only opposition coming from the fore-mentioned quartet of settler colonies.
Indigenous people are, of course, the original inhabitants of lands that were violated by settlers.
The landmark declaration, that was passed after more than two decades of debate, outlines the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlaws discrimination against them, which is why it is hardly surprising that the world’s remaining settler colonies voted against it.
Though the declaration is non-binding, which means it is up to individual member states to accept or reject it, it sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education, among other issues. It emphasises the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.
It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own vision of economic and social development.
As such it is a milestone for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, which is why it hailed by the General Assembly.
But, of course, Australia and its allies did not think so, and the reason is obvious, supporting the declaration would be tantamount to accepting that Aborigines have rights to the territory and resources of the landmass we know as Australia.
The history of modern-day Australia dates back to January 26 1778 when the British established a penal colony at Port Jackson, New South Wales, to accommodate dangerous convicts from Britain’s overflowing prisons.
The convicts; the forebears of the incumbent premier Howard and his representative here Sheppard; then went on a campaign of displacing the original inhabitants, the Aborigines, of their land, and killing them in cold blood, which is why today Aborigines constitute a mere 470 000, or about 2,3 percent of Australia’s 20 million people, though they form 25 percent of the prison population.
Yet Sheppard would want Zimbabweans to believe he comes from ‘‘a stable, independent and welcoming nation, with an open and prosperous economy, and a pluralistic and democratic society’’.
How independent is Australia, when it is still a settler colony that has not yet granted independence to the Aborigines, the original inhabitants who settled on that landmass more than 50 000 years ago?
How democratic is Australia when, according to the Australian Medical Association, Aborigines are dying more than 17 years earlier than white Australians due to institutionalised racism, and when studies show that the health of Aborigines lagged 100 years behind other Australians, with life expectancy as low as 33 years.
How pluralistic is Australia when Aborigine settlements cannot even be found on maps today because of the racist policy of exclusion that barred them from government programmes? In fact, as late as 1967 Aborigines were not included in national censuses but were regarded as wildlife along with kangaroos and koalas.
How prosperous is Australia when 72 percent of Aborigines live in abject poverty in slums deemed unworthy of inclusion on Australia’s maps?
Zimbabwe respects democratic values, which is why it tolerates a Western-funded, and openly reactionary opposition, which cannot be said of Australia that recently deported innocent students simply because of differences it has with a Government their fathers serve.
If Australia is committed to peaceful democratic change in Zimbabwe as Sheppard claims, why then does it fund subversive opposition activities, why did Australia applaud the orgies of violence launched by the MDC factions and their allies on March 11. Why didn’t it condemn Tsvangirai on the numerous occasions he threatened to violently unseat the Government?
Equally preposterous is Sheppard’s claim that there is political repression in Zimbabwe when the country has an opposition with the biggest representation in Africa. In fact, of late the MDC has been holding peaceful rallies all over the country and they have never been stopped by the police. The problem only comes when the urge for power overwhelms them and drives them to try to effect illegal regime change in the streets.
No country in the world, Australia included, would fold its arms and watch when an opposition party declares a "campaign to defy the law", and actually lives up to that declaration by assaulting security agents going about their job of protecting innocent citizens.
This is exactly what happened on March 11, and the times the MDC clashed with the police. Lovemore Madhuku’s sponsored street forays can never be equated to peaceful constitutional advocacy as on many occasions his hired hands attacked the police and innocent by-standers.
It is rather ironic that Sheppard postures his government is concerned about the economic situation in Zimbabwe, yet it has not revoked the sanctions it imposed, or prevailed on its allies to do the same.
If the West stops sabotaging Zimbabwe, the economic problems will go away, but all progressive people know that the last thing the West wants to see is a Zimbabwe whose success is built on the transfer of resources to indigenous people. Exactly the reason why Australia voted against the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples in the first place.
Sheppard appears to be under the mistaken notion that Zimbabwe needs alms from Australia, which is why he gloats about the so-called Australian Fund for Zimbabwe. What Zimbabwe needs is to be left alone to pursue its own development path, based on transferring resources to its indigenous population.
It needs a homegrown opposition that does not pander to Western interests, and Australia’s funding of the MDC is preventing Zimbabwe from having the "independent and active opposition’’ that is integral to a functional democracy.