Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Tenth Report


66. Zimbabwe is in grave crisis. As the Foreign Secretary told the House on 25 June, "almost half the population—up to 6 million people—will be unable to meet their minimum food requirements in the next 12 months."[78] Agricultural production is down by two thirds.[79] Unemployment stands at more than half the adult population. Inflation is at record high levels. The shops are short of goods to sell. On all economic indicators, Zimbabwe is caught in a downward spiral. The world watches, apparently helpless. Baroness Amos is clearly as frustrated as the rest of us at this deterioration: "As the months go on, if the situation does not change, I think the neighbouring governments may well have to review their strategy. Whilst I am frustrated by it, I continue to believe that there may well be something that happens that will make a critical difference. We saw it in Angola recently. We have seen it in other situations where one thing that was entirely unexpected happens and makes a change. I continue to hope that that will happen in Zimbabwe, because its people deserve better."[80]

67. The Minister set out her policy, as follows:

    "we have to be absolutely clear about what we want to achieve: ... 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 Zimbabwe—that is absolutely not true."[81]

68. The United Kingdom's aims in relation to Zimbabwe are clear, but there is no route map for their achievement. Reporting to the House on his visit to Canada for the G8 summit, the Prime Minister said that "As for what we should do about Zimbabwe, at every level—in the European Union and elsewhere, in the negotiations with the United States—of course we raise the matter."[82] 'Raising the matter' is certainly important—it counters the danger of inattention, which would play into Mugabe's hands—but more is required.

69. Land reform remains a key issue. A largely European minority has been left in ownership of a significant proportion of farmland, much of it forcibly acquired at a time when the rights of non-European peoples over their land were not fully recognised.

70. We conclude that, while only Zimbabweans themselves can decide the future of their country, their friends must co-operate to offer them every assistance in realising their aspirations. We recommend that the Government continue to work through the United Nations, the European Union, the Commonwealth and above all through Zimbabwe's concerned friends and neighbours in Africa, to increase pressure on the illegitimate regime of Robert Mugabe and to maximise the success of action taken in support of the people of Zimbabwe, through effectively targeted sanctions, generous and well-administered aid programmes which impact directly on the poor majority, and a commitment to responsible, fair and productive land reform.


71. In his independence speech in 1980, Robert Mugabe said "Only a government that subjects itself to the rule of law has any moral right to demand of its citizens obedience to the rule of law. Our constitution equally circumscribes the powers of the government by declaring certain civil rights and freedoms as fundamental. We intend to uphold these fundamental rights and freedoms to the full."[83]

72. Since 1980, Robert Mugabe has deliberately and systematically flouted the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Even judged against his own yardstick, he has lost the moral right to govern his people. By abusing their fundamental rights and freedoms, he has earned their contempt and that of the international community, and has transformed himself from a respected statesman into an outcast. The tragedy is that he has taken his country with him. One man can exalt a nation, as Nelson Mandela did South Africa; one man can destroy a nation, as Mugabe has Zimbabwe.

73. Zimbabwe deserves better. The United Kingdom is under a particular obligation to assist, not primarily because white farmers with British forebears are under threat—although that is a matter of great and proper concern—but because as the former colonial power it still has a residual responsibility. Yet, because it is the former colonial power, the United Kingdom's actions are viewed with suspicion and mistrust: for the time being, it must therefore work with and through other countries and international agencies. In time, the relationship will surely change. We hope, for the sake of the people of Zimbabwe, that time comes soon.

78   Official Report, 25 June 2002, col 816. Back

79   So far in 2002, Zimbabwe has arranged to import 600,000 tonnes of maize. With the exception of the severe drought year of 1992, it has previously been an exporter of maize. See Back

80   Q111. Back

81   Q98. Back

82   Official Report, 1 July 2002, col 26. Back

83   See Back

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