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This is a timely debate and I join those who congratulated my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) on calling for it. This week, the Zimbabwean Government are trying to shut down 3,000 family farms and, one week ago, further attempts were made to curtail freedom of speech in that country. The debate also comes at a time when there is growing and worrying evidence of sanctions failing.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), I was disappointed by the content and the style of the Foreign Secretary's speech. I hope and am sure that the Secretary of State for International Development will be able to be more comprehensive and thorough.
The House will be familiar with the fact that the sanctions that are being imposed at present are supposedly smart. Although they may be smart in theory, the way in which they have been implemented has proved to be remarkably dumb. For example, the much-vaunted travel ban is already in tatters.
Members have already heard how Mr. Mugabe, accompanied by several other Ministers, flew into Rome on 9 June under the guise of attending a United Nations conference. It is ironic that it was a conference on food production. That was not an isolated incident. In late May, Augustine Chihuri, the police commissioner, travelled to Paris for an Interpol conference. Joselyn Chiwenga, the wife of the army chief, has been reported as visiting Britain earlier this month along with three Zimbabwean Ministers. As we have heard, Grace Mugabe has applied for and been granted a tourist visa by the Spanish Government. Worst of all, Olivia Muchena flew into Gatwick recently. She is a member of the ZANU-PF cabinet and the very woman who, as a deputy Minister, was responsible for the fast-track land-grabbing policy that is at the heart of the problem.
Each incident represents a deliberate flouting of the letter or the spirit of the ban. For those reasons, I hope that the Secretary of State for International Development will answer these questions in her winding-up speech. Why are the Government not implementing sanctions against people such as Mrs. Chiwenga? Have Ministers complained to the Spanish Government about the visa for Mrs. Mugabeand if not, why not? Why has the United Kingdom not included people such as Mrs. Muchena on the list of responsible people, given that she had direct responsibility for the policy that is at the heart of the problem?
At the beginning of Question Time this afternoon, the Foreign Secretary said that the travel ban policy would be humiliating. In one sense, he is right. It is humiliating for this Government, for the European Union and for the people who are still in Zimbabwe to watch the ban being flouted.
The Government have made requests for us to come up with a policy for them. Although that is a generous offer, I can only bring some early thoughts to it. I shall briefly summarise them. First, the Government need to implement the sanctions and travel ban effectively. That means stopping existing abuses and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes rightly said, widening the net.
Secondly, we need to show not just people here but people in Zimbabwe how corrupt the Zimbabwean Government have become. There is a wonderful opportunity for the British, American and European authorities to expose the assets held by ZANU-PF officials abroad. It is vital that we show the Zimbabwean public and the people in neighbouring states how the regime is bleeding Zimbabwe dry.
Thirdly, we need to encourage both South Africa and Nigeria to become more assertive in their demands. I hope that the Secretary of State will respond to that specific point. Finally, Colonel Gaddafi has been mentioned, and he is the principal provider of oil to Zimbabwe. The Government need to persuade Libya to use its considerable leverage to good effect. Clearly I do not expect the Secretary of State to give an open response to that; I simply ask the Government not merely to note the points raised but to act on them.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): This is an important debate. I was disappointed that the Foreign Secretary started his speech with one or two cheap points about why the Leader of the Opposition has not spent more time discussing this subject. There is one simple reason for that: we have an extremely competent shadow Foreign Secretary who has been at the forefront of these issues for the past year. Hardly a day has gone by when he has not mentioned something related to Zimbabwe, and it has been raised a number of times in every Foreign Office Question Time and International Development Question Time. I think I am right in saying that we have had no fewer than three Adjournment debates on the subject, all initiated by Opposition Members. We have not been sitting idly by. The Leader of the Opposition has given us a great deal of encouragement to keep Zimbabwe at the top of the agenda. The Foreign Secretary's comments were cheap indeed.
We have heard some excellent speeches. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) listed a catalogue of truly wicked incidents. One of the most moving speeches, however, was by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). I am sure he moved all of us when he went right to the heart of the tragedy in that beautiful land.
We all know that the elections were a farce. Every independent observer condemned them as a sham. They have brought utter shame on the ruling party and are an insult to democracy. Robin and Jennifer Plunkett, a couple who own a farm in Zimbabwe near the Mozambique border, sent me an interesting video, which I passed on to my right hon. Friend, which documents numerous examples of outright intimidation, fraud and ballot rigging. Lest anyone should have any doubts about the reports of those elections in the world mediaand there may have been some exaggerationsthe video made it clear to me beyond peradventure that they were a total sham.
No one can accept the result. Mugabe has no legitimacy whatsoever. He is a political pariah who has completely demeaned himself and brought misery to his people who were denied the right to vote him out of office. The man is a wicked tyrant. My right hon. Friend was right when he said that our key priority must be to have a rerun of those elections as soon as possible.
A number of hon. Members mentioned the appalling famine in southern Africa. The once great country of Zimbabwe was the bread basket of that region and it boasted proudly of its food exports to other countries. However, its food production is now a quarter of what it was 10 years ago, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) explained, and that is mostly attributable to Mugabe's confiscation of productive farms. The pretence of handing the land over to landless peasants has long since disappeared. As several hon. Members have made clear, those farms have been handed to Mugabe's cronies.
The latest ludicrous order preventing farmers from farming stems from an amendment made last month to the Land Acquisition Act. Those who carry on farming after the 45-day period will either be fined or imprisoned for two years. I gather that an appeal is to go to Zimbabwe's High Court. We must all hope and pray that it is successful.
In Mugabe's actions we see the politics of a madman. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury, the Chairman of the International Development Committee, told the House that there is famine in southern Africafor example, in Malawi. In an excellent article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph two days ago, the journalist Neil Darbyshire made it crystal clear that the dislocation and ruination of farming in Zimbabwe is part of the cause of the appalling famine in Malawi.
My right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary made it clear that freezing bank accounts has yielded only a pitiful sum£76,000 to date. We know that there are millions of pounds in bank accounts around Europe, and I hope that the Secretary of State for International Development will explain why more has not been frozen. Why is more not being done in that respect?
There are strong arguments in favour of other types of action, and I have a suggestion. What about imposing a ban on Air Zimbabwe? The airline is obviously still flying and its aircraft are not being impounded. A ban would not hit the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, but would hit the politicians and Mugabe's cronies. Yes, it would also hit various business men who are doing their level best in difficult circumstances to run their businesses, but surely, when push came to shove, they could make alternative arrangements, probably via South Africa. The symbolism of banning Air Zimbabwe would be extremely powerful. That very suggestion was made by a couple of leading American politicians only two weeks ago.
There is need for other action, because we are talking about a brazen bully. Mugabe is laughing at the west. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes that there is a crucial role for South Africa and Nigeria to play, especially in putting pressure on Libya and giving Thabo Mbeki more stomach for getting involved. He has to take a position and start taking risks. Politicians have to take risks.
There is no question of Britain acting alone, but we should in no way be ashamed of our former colonial involvement in Zimbabwe. We should be proud of what was done under British rule. We bequeathed a sense of fair play and justice to that country, and sooner or later its people will say, "Enough is enough." They will rise up and depose the monster. Then, Zimbabwe will again be on the path to peace, prosperity, justice, observance of human rights and, above all, freedom.