don mckinnon 03.06.11.jpgAcademics have lamented the poor handling and politicisation of the Zimbabwe land issue by former Commonwealth Secretary General, Don McKinnon, describing this as the major cause for the fall out between Harare and the Commonwealth.

Close to a decade after the withdrawal by Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, academics and historians believe that Don McKinnon, the former Secretary General of the grouping comprising former British colonies could have done better to defuse the crisis between Harare and UK over the land issue.

During a Sapes Trust discussion in Harare on Thursday evening, Professor Hasu Patel who believes there was no justification for the ill-treatment of Zimbabwe by the Commonwealth leaders, lamented lack of pro-activeness on the part of McKinnon in handling the Zimbabwe issue.

“It became so obvious that the land issue had become personal between Howard, Blair and the Zimbabwe government. However it is the Secretary General who is to blame for his failure to use his powers to actively resolve the land crisis,” said Professor Patel.

In his presentation, Australian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Matthew Neuhaus acknowledged the void created by the withdrawal of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth and expressed optimism that parties to the dispute will one day find common ground.


Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 after the organisation attempted to use its powers to advance a British agenda on the land issue.

Since Zimbabwe and Britain’s bilateral dispute over land erupted in 2000, London has sought to internationalise the issue using such organisations as the EU, the Commonwealth and even tried unsuccessfully to have UN sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.