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Zimbabwe: another forgotten nation?

Three months after a power-sharing agreement between Zimbabwe’s key parties was signed, the stories of violent human rights abuses and political oppression have died down. Yet the situation is still dire and the struggle for peace is far from over. Mugabe has been running a brutal and illegitimate regime since 1980. His political opponents have been suppressed through threats, torture and murder. His ill-conceived land reforms have left his party wealthy but his people famine struck and desperate.

Despite September’s agreement, horror stories are still emerging from the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security prison in Zimbabwe where at least 16 human rights activists are being held. Popular campaigner Jestina Mukoko was found to have been poisoned and tortured in an unknown location for weeks. She is being denied essential hospital treatment. She, and 28 other members of the Movement for Democratic Change, are suffering this inhumane treatment merely because they were encouraging others to oppose Mugabe’s unacceptable regime.

This brutality is not reserved for his political opposition. Just last week, Nigel Mupfuranhehwe, a two-year-old, was abducted with his parents, Violet and Collen, and was beaten by security agents and needed medical attention. This shocking incident is not isolated; it is symptomatic of a culture of violence perpetuated through the actions of this illegitimate government.

“Giving Barclays bank your money is indirectly financing torture and brutality in Zimbabwe.”

The new power-sharing government has yet to be formed as Mugabe has taken a month’s leave; this means it will be at least February before the coalition partners have any chance of creating positive change in Zimbabwe. Even then, the terms of the deal are questionable; although Tsvangirai would become prime minister, Mugabe has allocated powerful ministries to his ZANU-PF and relegated the MDC to a junior partner.

The MDC is allowed no power over home affairs, leaving ZANU-PF in full control of the police force and justice system. There is massive scope for corruption to continue.

In addition to this deplorable political injustice, Zimbabwe now faces a health crisis. The cholera outbreak has caused over 1,600 deaths so far and many more are infected; 23,712 was the UN’s count at the start of the month. Rural hospitals have reported receiving no supplies from governments – their only access to vital drugs has come through Doctors Without Borders.

In urban areas, the government has been redirecting medical supplies meant for HIV sufferers leading to the worsening of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Zimbabwe. UNICEF figures show that a quarter of the nation’s children have lost both their parents to the disease; creating over 1.3 million orphans. The international community must make the government do more to protect the health of its people.

The schools system is also in crisis; poverty is preventing 80% of children from receiving any education. The UN is calling for rescue packages of vital food aid that would enable the teachers to return to work, yet the government remains resistant to outside aid. Nor will Mugabe provide key workers with the vital facilities they require to resume work. Although the individual stories of violence and torture are more immediately shocking, in refusing to recognise the plight of his people, Mugabe is abusing the human rights of an entire nation.

The UN estimates 5.5 million Zimbabweans urgently require food assistance; meanwhile, Mugabe and other prominent members of his party live in exorbitant wealth and luxury.

A disgraceful proportion of their funds come from British sources, most notably Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and the insurance firm Old Mutual. Between them, these firms have lent the regime around £100 million. Barclays has a particularly appalling record as they provided £30 million for land reforms.

These ‘reforms’ consisted of land being seized from its owners and given to Mugabe’s friends and allies. 100,000 Zimbabweans lost their homes and jobs. Famine and starvation followed.

Barclays has given the top members of the illegitimate government over £750 million in ‘personal loans’ which inevitably seeps through to Zanu-PF and so funds deplorable human rights abuses. This is all done through local companies, thus avoiding contravening the European sanctions directly in an underhand and morally reprehensible manner.

Although the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems requires international intervention, tighter sanctions and African diplomacy, it is important to recognise what we can do to stop this travesty; UK companies must stop providing Mugabe with financial means to impose his regime.

Barclays is the main culprit of this, giving Barclays your money is condoning their immoral practices. Giving Barclays your money is indirectly financing torture and brutality. It is therefore imperative that we all withhold our custom and boycott Barclays.

The situation in Zimbabwe is still dire; Nick Clegg denounced it as, ‘A stain on the conscience of the world.’ Clear your conscience. Boycott Barclays.

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