The death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, although expected, is a moment of sadness for the British nation as a whole and more particularly for those whose lives have been lived, in part, in parallel with hers. It is perhaps difficult for younger generations to understand the special affection felt for her by people who remember the stressful circumstances in which her husband came to the Throne in 1936 following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII. George VI was not naturally fitted for the role of King but he assumed it as his duty and found enormous strength beside him in the person of his wife Elizabeth. She helped him through what was an ordeal for him and no sooner had they established themselves in the public's affection than an even sterner test presented itself in the outbreak of the Second World War. Again, in her supportive role, Elizabeth was an immense strength to her husband and through him to the nation. Their determination to remain at Buckingham Palace during the Blitz (and her often quoted remark after bombs fell in the garden there - “Now I can look the eastenders in the eye”) was a potent factor in maintaining public morale at that hard time.

In the long years after her husband's death the Queen Mother gave an impression of serenity and even of enjoying her life. She must have taken pride in the fine performance of her daughter as Queen. Yet she must also have felt sorrow at the dysfunctional character that the Royal family as a whole began to show. To some extent this was symbolised in the life of Princess Margaret and there was a certain tragic inevitability in the fact that the Queen Mother's last public appearance should have been at the funeral of her daughter.


Zimbabwe outlawed
Two weeks have passed since the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from its membership following the flawed presidential election which returned Robert Mugabe to power. The decision put Mugabe on warning that he must return his country to the rule of law and respect for human rights before its re-admission to the Commonwealth association could be considered. Unfortunately Mugabe does not seem to have got the message. Zimbabwe is becoming more lawless by the day: villages that supported the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the election are being terrorized by the Army and the notorious “war veterans”; scarce food is being distributed only to communities which voted for Mugabe's re-election; the campaign against white farmers and their employees has been 0intensified; the Amani Trust, Zimbabwe's human rights group, believes that over 30'000 people have been forced from their villages. On a different level, the charge of treason against Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition, is being pursued and the Zimbabwe correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, Peta Thornycroft, has been arrested under the draconian Public Order and Security Act and charged with “publishing a false report harmful to the interests of the state” or “inciting public violence”.

It is clear that President Mugabe has no intention of changing his policies and behaviour in response to the Commonwealth's censure. It is essential, therefore, that the pressure on him is maintained and that African nations especially South African and other neighbouring states - should not condone what Mugabe is doing.