Thursday, March 22, 2007

Support democracy in Zimbabwe

Sekai Holland was beaten up so badly by Zimbabwe police that she has a broken arm, a badly broken foot and broken ribs as well as severe bruising.

Yesterday, via a phone smuggled into her hospital room by a supporter, she told the ABC's Radio National, "My whole body is still covered with 81 lashes minimum, administered by 15 men, really strong men," she said.

When her Australian husband arranged for her to fly out of Zimbabwe for medical treatment in South African, she was stopped and arrested by police.

The 64-year-old is the policy secretary for Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. She says she will die if she is forced to stay in Zimbabwe., a Europe based grassroots campaign group, says:
Robert Mugabe's desperate attempts to cling on to power are plunging Zimbabwe into ever greater chaos. His attacks on democratic opposition leaders must end now.
They say that Zimbabwe has "plunged further into crisis", thus requiring stronger action from the international community:
On Sunday, while boarding a plane to an international meeting, Zimbabwe's democratic opposition spokesman was beaten so severely that he lost an eye. Last week, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and beaten for attending a protest prayer vigil. Other democratic activists in Zimbabwe are under a terrible threat, with many still held in prison. uses online campaigning in very much the same way that GetUp! Australia does (you can't miss the similarities in their websites and online campaign tools!). They are urging people to sign their petition demanding that "Zimbabwe's two main trading partners, South Africa and the European Union, adopt and enforce tougher sanctions targeting Mugabe and his top aides".

You can sign Avaaz's online petition here.

This approach contrasts significantly with that of Australia's Foreign Affairs apologist, Alexander Downer, who rejects Australian calls for tighter sanctions on the grounds that they will hurt the general public more than Robert Mugabe's regime. I think they are hurting already.

Australian readers may have heard that Sekai Holland had been an Australian resident for many years (and has an Australian husband), before returning to Zimbabwe to participate in the democracy movement. When in Australia, she had been a strong anti-apartheid activist and campaigned in solidarity with Aboriginal Australians for their rights. In fact, Aboriginal activist Gary Foley credits Sekai Holland with creating links between the anti-apartheid movement in Australia with Aboriginal rights activists in the early 70s.

I was appalled to find nitpicking arguments amongst some commentators about whether or not Australia should come to her aid – because she wasn't an Australian citizen, was no longer a resident, and shouldn't receive consular treatment – or didn't deserve it (perhaps because she is black African?).

I think the approach has a better chance of working. Instead of pushing shit uphill to get get the Howard government to take stronger action, we can appreciate the need for global responsibility for this crisis, and take a global approach to directly lobby the European Union to take stronger action. There are already recent signs that some European governments, and perhaps the US, are prepared to listen. And hopefully act. I don't know if this will be enough to save Sekai Holland, though.

Update: I've noticed that Gary Foley and other Aboriginal leaders and activists have certainly not forgotten Sekai, and have expressed their outrage at her mistreatment, as recorded in Foley's statement on a Zimbabwe democracy blog. It's very heartening.
[Updated 11.40 am, Thursday 22 March]

[Image of Sekai Holland in hospital with her injuries is from Movement for Democratic Change, posted on, an NGO Network Alliance website.]

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At March 22, 2007 2:48 pm, Blogger Steve Hayes said...

No sanctions against Zimbabwe could possibly hurt the Zimbabwean economy more than Mugabe's policies are doing.

Zimbabwe already has sanctions. They are self-imposed, and they are working, at least in destroying the economy, if not in changing government policies..


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