Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 14 MAY 2002
80. In relation to the freedom of the media,
you rightly referred to the extreme harassment to which the media
in Zimbabwe has been subjected. As you know, Geoff Nyarota, the
editor of the only genuinely independent daily newspaper in Zimbabwe,
was arrested last month. There have been examples of the most
outrageous harassment, and worse, of those who have sought to
produce any form of critical comment on the government. When this
Committee visited Belgrade, just before the last election, it
had the opportunity of talking to the few representatives of independent
media under the Milosevic regime, and learnt with considerable
interest the efforts which the British Government had made during
the Milosevic period to sustain the independent media in the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia. Can you tell us in general termsand
if you want to follow it up with anything on a private basis in
writing, we would appreciate thatthe steps that the British
Government are taking, as it did in relation to the free media
in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to sustain and support
those incredibly brave, courageous journalists and representatives
of the media in Zimbabwe who are trying to uphold the freedom
of the media in that country?
(Baroness Amos) As I think I made clear to you at
the meeting in December and earlier, we absolutely deplore the
kind of harassment and intimidation that we have seen of the media
in Zimbabwe. We continue to believe that a free press is absolutely
critical to a flourishing democracy, and we will try to sustain
and support and assist in any way that we can. One of the questions
that I was asked in December was with respect to assisting members
of the press who perhaps had to flee Zimbabwe quickly. We will
continue to look at cases like that. With respect to what is behind
the question, which is whether or not we, for example, give any
particular financial support to the independent media in Zimbabwe,
I am not aware that we do; but in general terms there are courses
and other mechanisms which the British Council run, which media
from all over the world have access to. If I can add anything
to that answer, I will alert the Committee.
81. I hope, Minister, you will take the opportunity
to look very closely to see how the Government supported the independent
media during the Milosovic regime in Yugoslavia.
(Baroness Amos) I entirely agree.
82. You have set out a pretty comprehensive
catalogue of the break-down of law and order and the complete
and total power of President Mugabe's regime and just about all
aspects of Zimbabwean life, the desperate need for humanitarian
aid and so forth; and whilst I share your concerns, it seems to
me from your responses that, frankly, this Government is powerless
to have any effects on the way forward in Zimbabwe. You have talked
at some length about the discussions and working together with
others, but can you give this Committee one instance that would
lead us to believe that progress is being made in restoring the
sort of good governance, human rights and rule of law that one
would hope for?
(Baroness Amos) I am afraid I cannot give the Committee
that kind of assurance. We are all deeply frustrated by the situation
in Zimbabwe. This is a country which in previous years has been
the bread basket, as it were, of southern Africa. This is a country
which, in the past, has put respect for human rights and democratic
principles at the centre of its agenda. We need to remember that
Zimbabwe is an independent country, and where you have a government
that appears to care very little for what is happening to its
own citizens and is not really prepared to take on board the concerns
of the international community; where you have international financial
institutions that have made it absolutely clear that they cannot
engage with Zimbabwe because the government of Zimbabwe is not
prepared to put in place the kind of economic policies that are
appropriate. There is a limit to what the international community
can achievenot just the British Government. We have to
continue to try to find all the levers that we can to continue
to put pressure on that government. We have to give support to
the very brave people in Zimbabwe who turned out to vote in the
face of some very, very difficult circumstances. We have to continue
to support the NGOs and the work of the independent media. Sir
John Stanley pressed me particularly on those areas. There are
areas where we can work to give support, but if the government
of Zimbabwe is not prepared to listen to its neighboursand
it is having an extremely detrimental effect on the economies
of neighbouring countriesto SADC, to the Commonwealth or
the UN, there is a limit to what the international community can
do. That is very frustrating indeed.
83. Thank you for that. On the last point you
made in relation to the involvement of the Commonwealth and the
suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for 12 months, there
is absolutely no indication as far as we can see that President
Mugabe cared anything about what the Commonwealth does in respect
of Zimbabwe. We have to ask whether a suspension for one year
will make any difference. What conditions will Zimbabwe have to
satisfy if its suspension is not renewed next year? What is the
British Government doing to maintain Commonwealth momentum on
this issue, and if necessary to gather support for a further period
of suspension? What further sanctions, in that situation, can
the Commonwealth take?
(Baroness Amos) Will suspension make a difference?
I think it is too soon to tell. As I have indicated to the Committee,
it is certainly not clear now, in the middle of May, what impact
that suspension has had. I have indicated to the Committee our
concerns about the fact that the dialogue set up for yesterday
did not happen. We have to wait and see what Presidents Mbeki
and Obasanjo decide with respect to next steps, because the Commonwealth
troika decision and the ommuniquéé makes
clear that one of the elements the Commonwealth wanted to see
was the dialogue. With respect to the conditions against which
Zimbabwe is being measured, the communiqué made
it absolutely clear that Zimbabwe would be measured against the
Harare principles, and I am aware that the Commonwealth Secretary
General would like a Commonwealth team to visit Zimbabwe, to enable
the Commonwealth to begin to gather information and evidence,
so that the troika will have information and evidence available
with which to make a decision. We continue to talk to our Commonwealth
partners. I have spoken to the Secretary General. There is a CMAG
Commonwealth ministerial action group meeting in Botswana, between
15 and 17 May. I have no doubt that Zimbabwe will be one of the
big issues on the agenda of CMAG. Again, the Committee will be
aware that Zimbabwe challenged the fact that the Commonwealth
ministerial action group had discussed Zimbabwe on previous occasions.
We continue to believe that that was entirely appropriate and
that with the broadening of CMAG's mandate, which happened at
the recent Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Coolum,
there is absolutely no doubt that CMAG has the remit to discuss
84. Taking it one step further, the Government
made very clear its very strong support for NePAD, and you know
that the Presidents of Nigeria and South Africa are two key players
in that organisation. You also, of course, know that one of the
critical and major objectives of NePAD is to agree codes and standards
of economic and political governance, and a peer-review mechanism.
Given that suspension from the Commonwealth seems to have had
very little influence, and given that the talks and working together
that you have discussed have had no influence, what specific discussions
has the British Government had with the leaders of NePAD in trying
to move forward to some solution for the problems in Zimbabwe?
In that context, is there any indication that some within that
community see President Mugabe as a hero rather than a villain;
and what action is the British Government taking to address that?
(Baroness Amos) There have been a number of discussions
with officials in NePAD, as well as with the members of the NePAD
implementation committee, which includes 15 heads of state.
85. It does not include Zimbabwe.
(Baroness Amos) No, it does not include Zimbabwe.
The discussions have been about issues of political and economic
governance. It would be true to say that there has been concern,
and that concern has been on a number of different levels. First,
there was a concern that Zimbabwe would be used as a kind of test
for the entire NePAD process. There was a very strong feeling
amongst the leaders that I have spoken to that one country should
not be used to judge an entire continent. There is also a very
strong feeling that NePAD is at the early stages of a process.
This is a long-term development agenda for the entire continent.
NePAD leaders see it as a minimum 20-year strategy. The NePAD
secretariat has been working on these issues only since last year.
They agreed at their meeting in Abuja in March the principles
for economic and political governance codes, and the Economic
Commission for Africa was asked to go away and work on the detail
of those codes. I understand that that will then be put to the
NePAD implementation committee members in the middle of June.
There is serious work which is ongoing and certainly the President
who is one of five steering committee presidents, has made absolutely
clear that he feels that the action that was taken around the
elections in Zimbabwe was entirely inappropriate. The President
of Ghana, who is closely associated with the NePAD processalthough
they are not on the implantation committeehas also made
his views absolutely clear. With respect to the question about
whether or not any within NePAD see President Mugabe as a hero,
I am not aware of that, although in the discussions we had at
Coolum, when we discussed Zimbabwe in the context of the Commonwealth,
there were a number of African Commonwealth countries that not
so much presented Robert Mugabe as a hero, but talked in terms
of Zimbabwe's political history and its relationship to Britain,
and felt that this was an issue which should be tackled within
86. Baroness Amos, the Prime Minister has appointed
you as his personal representative to develop a G8 action plan
in respect of NePAD. You know that contact with Africa delivers
good governance and that in response the developed world will
seek to build up the economy. Knowing how difficult it is in any
event to attract private investment into Africa, how damaging
do you believe the actions of the government of Zimbabwe have
been to the aims of NePAD?
(Baroness Amos) I would like to answer that question
in two parts, if I may. It is very important to say what the core
of the G8 action plan is intended to be. The G8 action plan is
intended to identify those areas where the G8, as the G8, can
add value to the NePAD process. It is not a response to the entire
NePAD document, and we have made that absolutely clear to our
NePAD partners. The second thing in relation to that general point
that I would like to make clear is that the G8 are absolutely
clear that this is about identifying those countries in Africa
with commitment to reform that are willing to probe all development,
so that they will then be in a position to move into an enhanced
development partnership with G8 member countries and others. At
its core, lies the notion of selectivity. We are also absolutely
clear that issues to do with economic growth and investment need
to be central to the G8 Africa Action Plan because we all know
that development resources are helpful and useful, but will not
provide the kind of engine for growth in Africa which is needed
if we are to meet the millennium development goals. On average,
we need 7 per cent growth in Africa, and the majority of countries
are nowhere near that. That means that not only do we have to
attract foreign direct investment to those countries, but we also
have to retain capital within countries, because up to 40 per
cent of savings, for example, leaves African countries, which
could well be invested within those countries and make a difference.
The attraction of foreign direct investment is absolutely crucial.
In the discussions that I have had with businesses that are currently
investing in different countries in Africa or are thinking about
investing in Africa, there is absolutely no doubt that the situation
in Zimbabwe has really damaged the perception that businesses
have of the continent as a whole, and makes companies much more
wary about investing in Africa. We have already seen the knock-on
economic impact that the situation in Zimbabwe has had in southern
African countries. It means that that situation will be much more
long-term than perhaps those countries had anticipated. That means
that in the NePAD context, what African leaders are trying to
achieve in terms of turning the continent around, will be much
harder to deliver.
87. Minister, what is your assessment of the
effect on President Mugabe of the suspension from the Commonwealth?
We know what he has said publicly, but what is your assessment
of his private views and the effect it has had on him?
(Baroness Amos) It is very hard to know. The Committee
will understand that I am probably the last person, or one of
the last people, who could speak in terms of what Robert Mugabe
might be thinking or feeling, but what I will say is that we know
that the Commonwealth is one of the few international institutions
that Robert Mugabe holds dear. I would be very surprised indeed
if he had not been shocked by the decision of the Commonwealth
88. Having suspended him in March, there is
not much more the Commonwealth can do, short of expelling Zimbabwe
from the Commonwealth, which I would have thought perhaps was
something that is not on the agendaor maybe it is. Are
there any more shots left in the Commonwealth's locker, in terms
of bringing pressure or making threats, or raising the price?
(Baroness Amos) The troika undertook to review their
decision a year after it was made, so of course a number of options
will then be open to the troika, depending on the progress that
Zimbabwe has made, against the areas which the troika identified
in their communiqué, including adherence
to the Harare principles.
89. The European Union sanctions seem to me
to be quite cleverly framed: they were aimed at the regime rather
than on the people who live in the country. What is your assessment
of the effect that those have? Are they causing real inconvenience
to the regime?
(Baroness Amos) They are causing some degree of inconvenience.
The Committee will know that Robert Mugabe recently went to New
York to attend the UN session on children. Because it was a UN
meeting, he was able to go to New York because there are special
circumstances for heads of government and heads of state attending
UN meetings; he was limited to being within 22 miles of the UN
whilst in the United States, because the United States has a travel
ban. He had to transit through Paris and had to remain at the
airport in Paris rather than being able to go into France, precisely
because of the EU travel ban. It is causing some inconvenience.
It is too soon to judge the long-term impact.
90. It is inconvenience; and you have outlined
other inconveniences; and these things are largely trivial. Do
you think there are any higher prices he or his colleagues are
having to pay?
(Baroness Amos) There is a travel ban which is inconvenient,
but there is also the assets freeze as part of the European Union
sanctions, which is targeted at 20 members of the regime. The
Committee will understand that I am not able to go into any details
with respect to that.
91. Do you think that that has caused real difficulties
for those members of the regime; or did most of them manage to
get their assets somewhere where
(Baroness Amos) That is certainly the area that has
potential for very real difficulty for members of the regime.
92. I am trying to go through the various pressures
that might be brought. I completely understand that there is a
relatively limited role that the United Kingdom can play as an
ex-colonial power. The Commonwealth seems to have fired the only
shot that was in its locker. The European Union has caused inconvenience,
but he seems to be able to live with that. Do you think that if
there is a solution to this problem, it is with South Africa?
When Thabo Mbeki came here last year, well before the elections,
and addressed a public meeting in a room just along the corridor,
he was invited to be critical of President Mugabe, but declined
to do so. Maybe he just did not think this was the right place
for him to be critical of another African leader. Do you think
that privately he is prepared to twist President Mugabe's arm
sufficiently hard to have some effect, or again he has been trying
to do that for some months and nothing much seems to have resulted
(Baroness Amos) If there is a solution, it has to
come from within the leadership within Africa. We have made clear
that the people who Robert Mugabe might listen to and take seriously
are his peers. That is why SADC have a very important role to
play here. There have been a number of discussions and debates,
which are ongoing. Many of those discussions we do not know the
conclusions of. I cannot speak, obviously, for the President of
South Africa or other leaders in the region, but I am aware that
there is a great deal of concern about the current economic impact
on the region and also the long-term economic impact. If anything
is going to make a difference, it will be the recognition of that,
and the fact that those leaders feel strongly that something will
have to be done. Clearly, I cannot speak on behalf of those leaders.
93. Baroness Amos, there is a widespread frustration
here about the bind that the UK Government finds itself in. If
the UK Government does not speak out, there are plenty of people
in the House of Commons and the British media who will attack
the UK Government; when it does speak out, it plays directly into
Mugabe's hands and appears as though we are playing being the
colonial power, and so we will look to other institutions like
the Commonwealth and the EU. There is widespread frustration,
particularly with the EU. I cannot really see what difference
the sanctions are making. They might stop Mrs Mugabe shopping
at Harrods, but what else? On 15 April, the EU announced some
measures and said that they would consider taking further measures
in May. Is the British Government pressing the EU to take further
sanctions against Zimbabwe?
(Baroness Amos) The next GAC meeting is on 17 June.
The European Union has made it clear that that is the point at
which they will look again at the situation in Zimbabwe. We have
all been looking at the dialogue process, which is being mediated
between South Africa and Nigeria. I think what we clearly now
have to do in the light of the failure of those talks yesterday,
is to talk to our partners, and in particular talk to South Africa
and Nigeria about the next steps. The GAC will come to a conclusion
on 17 June, and there are a number of different factors that we
will have to look at that point.
94. I wonder sometimes whether the actions of
the EU can be counter-productive. Every leading member of the
European Union was once a colonial power, and actions taken by
the EU could have the effect of bolstering Mugabe, certainly within
domestic Zimbabwean opinion. Linked to that, and again linked
to something that Mr Maples was saying, what is the position of
Mbeki? I am deeply frustrated that South Africa and Nigeria to
a lesser extent have not been tougher on Zimbabwe. Is that because
they are reluctant to attack a neighbouring country, a fellow
African country that has been through a terrible colonial past?
Do you think they have a different dialogue with Mugabe in private?
Is there more that they could do?
(Baroness Amos) It would be important first of all
to make absolutely clear that the Scandinavians were not colonialists,
and would be concerned if we thought that they were. You have
pointed to the real complexity of the situation that we are dealing
with here. Of course, there is a history that many African countries
share when they look at the situation in Zimbabwe. There is also
what happened during the various fights for freedom in different
African countries, and it is very important that we do not forget
what happened then, in terms of the different front-line states,
for example, giving sanctuary to those who were fighting for freedom.
There are other complexities too. I sometimes think that it is
important for us to remember that in our own relationship, for
example with the European Union, to our partner governments, or
with the United States or other allies, that what we say in public
does not always match what we say in private. We are dealing very
often with complex diplomatic issues. We are always weighing up
the extent to which something which is said privately might have
a lot more impact than something which is said publicly. There
are degrees of influence exercised through the diplomatic process.
I see that every day in the work that I do, and I have absolutely
no doubt that that is happening the whole time, in terms of the
relationships that different African leaders and African governments
have with each other. They have to take on board the history but
they also have to take on board the reality of their influence
and how that might best be exercised. Whilst there is no doubt
that there has been some disappointment about the lack of public
statements from some African countries, it would be wrong for
us to assume that there are not robust and difficult discussions
going on behind the scenes.
95. I take on board the point that you make
about the different histories of the relationships, and that may
have some effect, as the GAC was more closely linked with South
Africa than Zimbabwe. You seem to be arriving at some consensus
that the Commonwealth is doing what it can, as is the EU, but
it is not quite achieving what we all want, which is to see a
huge improvement in human rights and the economy of Zimbabwe.
Perhaps the best country to effect that kind of help is South
Africa. Is there more that we can do with our friends in South
Africa to effect that kind of change and put more pressure on
Mbeki and the South African administration?
(Baroness Amos) I think it is important that all the
channels that are available to us, in terms of working with our
South African partners, are utilised. We continue to use our government-to-government
contacts. There are parliamentary contacts, NGO contacts, business
contacts and trade union contacts, which are important for a variety
of reasons. It is very, very important indeed that our African
partners really understand the reality of the position. When I
was last in South Africa, for example, I did one of these radio
telephone programmes and people were surprised to hear that since
independence the British Government has given the government of
Zimbabwe over £500 million in bilateral development assistance.
The British Government continues in the work it is doing with
HIV/AIDS, which impacts on the poor, and is the biggest bilateral
donor to Zimbabwe. Other donors have pulled out. This is work
that we are doing with NGOs and others because it has a direct
impact on what is happening to the poor. We set up complementary
feeding programmes in Zimbabwe last year, long before the government
of Zimbabwe even admitted that they had problems. These are things
that not only the people of Zimbabwe do not know, but the people
in South Arica, in Malawi and associated countries do not know
and do not understand, and they absolutely cut across the kind
of propaganda that the government of Zimbabwe is trying to use
about the British position. We have also made it absolutely clear
that we support land reform in Zimbabwe, which is absolutely critical
to development. We gave money post independence to land reform.
In fact, some of it was returned by the government of Zimbabwe.
So in all the ways that we can, through our parliamentary and
government contacts, and through NGOs and so on, we should be
making those messages absolutely clear so that the British position
96. Minister, in a league table of countries
in the Commonwealth that have a democratic deficiency, where does
Zimbabwe come? It begs the question: we are all exercised about
Zimbabwe; presumably, everything else is above that line. In terms
of African countries that have democratic deficiencies, where
does Zimbabwe come?
(Baroness Amos) It is very, very difficult to answer
that question in those terms, and can I say why? You have not
only in Africa but also in the developing world more generally,
a country that is doing well on some criteria and bad on others.
But the situation also changes over time, so you can have a country
that may have been doing well two years ago, which, today, for
a variety of reasons, is not doing so well. We have to look at
a complex set of issues, and this is what NePAD is currently grappling
with. At the last count, they had come up with something like
86 indicators that would measure a country's achievement on democratic
and political governance standards. You can have a country that
is doing well on 80, but the absolutely critical ones in terms
of human rights and rule of law are not being met. That is why
it is so difficult to answer the question. However, I would say
that if we look at issues related to economic reform, for example,
we have a country where the IFIs are refusing to engage, and where
the majority of donors have pulled out, in terms of bilateral
assistance, and will only give humanitarian aid. On the absolutely
key political governance indicators, we have a country where we
have seen interference with the judiciary and the media; we have
seen human rights abuses and we have seen a deeply flawed election.
All of that gives us deep cause for concern, but it is very difficult
to have a league table in that way without going into detail of
the kind of standards that NePAD are currently looking at.
97. When it comes to entering the European Union,
you have the Copenhagen criteria. You can audit commercemarket
economy and democratic deficiencies. I want to press you on this.
I do not accept that you cannot at least give some guidance as
to where Zimbabwe falls. I think that the British Government has
very limited room for manoeuvre, and I support the British Government's
position basically; but I cannot help feeling that there is a
beating of breasts here because we feel guilty of the way we screwed
things up before 1981.Going right back to the UDI and Lord Malvern,
1923-81. Yet we are not seeing the broader picture of serious
human rights abuses in Commonwealth countries, and in other countries
in Africa. Whilst I wholly deprecate and would do anything I could
to frustrate any human rights abuse in Zimbabwe and elsewhere,
I do think sometimes we ought to be a bit more candid with ourselves.
Why we are having these hearings is, firstly, guilt, and secondly,
a large European population there which does not exist in some
of these other countries.
(Baroness Amos) Let me try and answer the different
elements in that question. First of all, as the Minister responsible
for the British Government's policy in Zimbabwe, can I say I certainly
do not feel guilty.
98. The wider body politic does.
(Baroness Amos) I think there is a history which we
have to acknowledge. I think we have to acknowledge the failure
of some of our policy in Zimbabwe; and we have to be absolutely
clear about what we want to achieve, and we have been: which is
that we want to restore the rule of law; we want democracy to
be implemented, and part of that is in elections; we want to see
development; and we want the poor of Zimbabwe to have the opportunity
to exercise their rights and their choices. That is what drives
British Government policy. I have been pressed on many occasions
about the fact that there is a large British community which is
the thing driving our policy in Zimbabwethat is absolutely
not true. Clearly, we also have a responsibility to the British
community of Zimbabwe, but they want precisely the same things
that ordinary black Zimbabweans want. They want a free press.
They want the rule of law to be adhered to. They want to have
the right to be able to eat. They want security. They want economic
stability. I think all Zimbabweans want pretty much the same thing.
On your question about how do we assess a countryyou are
absolutely rightNePAD are working on a series of codes
of standards to look at economic and political governance. We
also do that in a number of different ways. We do it partly in
terms of development agenda. One of the standards we have, for
example, is the nature of the elections process. There are a number
of areas in which that process was flawed. We have the facts that
absolutely tell us that. What I am resisting doing is saying that
Zimbabwe comes ten out of ten because, firstly, I do not think
it is helpful to do that; but, secondly, the situation is more
complicated than that. I think just the kind of list that says
a country comes towards the bottom or in the middle is not necessarily
helpful without additional information to tell us exactly what
that means. I hope in my answer to your question you did not feel
we did not have a criteria against which we look at countries;
we absolutely do. We will continue to refine those; but also to
work with our African partners on ways of making those more concrete
and more applicable to the African situation. Within a Commonwealth
context that is why we have CMAG. That is why the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group's role was enhanced at Coolum: because
there was a recognition that the Commonwealth also had a role
to play; that it had principles that it expected Commonwealth
countries to adhere to; and that there needed to be a process
against which we could measure that adherence.
99. If there is any misunderstanding, let me
make it clearI actually think the British Government has
pitched it correctly, and also what they can and cannot do. The
other question I wanted to ask you is, President Mugabe is about
80 years of age, actuarially there is likely to be a change in
the next decade, perhaps even sooner, or it might be longer. What
is your analysis of the body politic under Mugabe? I am told there
is no obvious successor. I wonder whether we have done any contingency
planning, either HMG or the Commonwealth, as to, firstly, look
at who is likely to succeed and, secondly, and it will happen
because it happens to us all, we are going to pass on one day,
whether or not there can be some swift engagement with any successors?
It seems to me you need to have that kind of contingency planning.
Can you amplify on that?
(Baroness Amos) Of course, as part of our policy planning
and our thinking, we are constantly looking at different possibilities
and different kinds of scenario. That is something we do in all
of the countries in which we work. One small thing changes, and
opportunities are created. We know that there are some members
of the Government of Zimbabwe who are more reform-minded than
others, for example. We will continue that kind of analysis, which
we will feed into our policymaking and policy contingency processes.
It would be difficult to say more than that.
1 Note by Witness: President Wade of Senegal. Back