Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.[Mr. Caplin.]
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): I start by saying gently to the Minister that it is disappointing that we have to have a debate on Zimbabwe in Westminster Hall. You will recall, Sir Michael, that many of us have called regularly on the Leader of the House to arrange for the Foreign Secretary to give a regular statement on the Floor of the House on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. I believe that the Foreign Secretary gave us such an undertaking six or nine months ago, but sadly it has not been fulfilled. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that and point out to the Foreign Secretary when he next speaks to him, as no doubt he will later today, that it would be helpful if the whole House could cross-examine him on the Floor of the House on the situation in Zimbabwe.
I intend to stress three separate pointsthe current position in Zimbabwe, the response to that position, and, most important, where we go from here. The situation in Zimbabwe is dire. During the year, there have been two dreadfully flawed elections: the general election in March, and local elections on 28 and 29 September, which were so deeply flawed that it was clear that thugs from ZANU-PF were telling local tribal leaders that there would be no food if they did not ensure that ZANU-PF's canvas won in their areas. There has rarely been an occasion in a so-called democracy when food has been used as an electoral weapon. That is disgraceful, and should be placed on the record.
You will also recall, Sir Michael, that Zimbabwe was formerly the most successful country in Africa. It is no longer so, due to a systematic destruction of its economy and institutions. The currency is completely debauched, and the only way in which many people survive is by obtaining hard currency from relatives abroad.
It is worth pointing out that real problems have arisen during the past week that will continue until Christmas as relatives return, especially from Botswana and South Africa. They are being treated most brutally at the border; their hard currency is being taken from them and, no doubt, is corruptly going into the hands of officials and Ministers. For many of those people, that money was the only way their families were going to survive.
There is a desperate food shortage, which cannot be excused solely on the grounds of the drought. There have been droughts before and there will be droughts again in sub-Saharan Africa. Until now, the commercial farms have coped extraordinarily well with droughts, as have the grain distributors. In other words, grain has been put away in good times to see the country through the droughts and the difficulties. However, that is not
The tragic figure, which unfortunately is true, is that 75 per cent. of the population of Zimbabwe now lives in poverty. That would be an extraordinarily high level anywhere in the world, but for a country that was once prosperous, successful and a food exporter, it is shocking and disgraceful.
The international response can best be summed up as too much bark and too little bite. We and other western countries have talked a good war, but have done precious little. Some critics would say that the bark has been counter-productive in Africa and the lack of bite has been counter-productive in bringing ZANU-PF to heel. However, if that has been our response, the lack of response within Africa has been devastating. That has damaged perceptions of southern Africa and weakened the promising but embryonic New Partnership for Africa's DevelopmentNEPADand the African Union, which I believe everyone in this Chamber supports. The lack of response also has an adverse effect on investment, not only in Zimbabwe but throughout southern Africa.
I hope that leaders elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, perhaps particularly in South Africa, will reflect on this debate and the fact that the continuing deterioration of the situation in Zimbabwe and the lack of regional action are harming not only the people of Zimbabwe but the whole of southern Africa. We, and to a greater extent they, will have to live with the consequences.
Enough of the current situation and the inadequate responses to date. Let us now try to be positive and see what we can do to help. Our prime objective must be to isolate ZANU-PF in every possible way and make life so uncomfortable for that party that its evil regime will be unable to function in future. It is a regime, not one man, although it is easy to demonise Robert Mugabehe is bad; he is evil. As my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) said on the Floor of the House last week, he is comparable with Milosevic and other dictators who abuse human rights.
However, the corruption has spread much wider. The whole ZANU-PF apparatus is corrupt. The senior civil service is corrupt. Much of the commercial world that remains in Zimbabwe is corrupt. Above all, the army is not only brutal but extremely corrupt, as we saw with the recent rape of the Congo, which was hugely to the financial benefit of senior army officers, who pillaged diamonds and other reserves. So what do we do about that? The most important thing is to enforce existing sanctions more rigorously and ensure that they are renewed in February.
Travel is a sensitive issue, as the sanctions include a restriction on ZANU-PF leaders travelling. It causes great hurt in and outside Zimbabwe that senior Ministers and other thugs attend meetings in Europe and elsewhere. We are told that that is because of international law, as they are attending United Nations-sponsored conferences, for example. I am not satisfied with that, and we should pursue it further. However, when these wretched people attend a conference they
I call for an expansion of the list of those targeted to cover the commercial supporters of the regime in Zimbabwe, who so far seem to have got off completelythe bankers and those who front ZANU-PF's economic interests, including safari operators. Many of those people are white and they benefit hugely from the regime. I hope that when the sanctions are reviewed their travel will be restricted. We know what type they are. Who was the most prominent supporter in this country of the Mugabe regime? None other than Mr. Nicholas van Hoogstraten, one of the most dangerous, vicious crooks that this country has seen, an evil man who is now behind bars and will be for a long time. That is the quality of the backers and supporters of the Mugabe regime.
The sanctions should be further expanded to include another layer of politicians and civil servants, including ZANU-PF Members of Parliament and senior civil servants, who must be subject to the same restrictions as Ministers and Army leaders. I encourage the Minister also to ban their immediate families from travelling, including children and relatives who are being educated in the west. Some will say, "Ah, if we educate these people they will see that western democracy works, so they should be excluded from such a ban," but I do not believe that that will happen. I am convinced that money looted from Zimbabwe, which should go into state education in that country, is instead going into private education in the United Kingdom, America and elsewhere, and that is morally wrong. We should make it absolutely clear that no members of the family of anyone on the sanction list, including the commercial backers, will be allowed any form of education in this country.
I single out one person about whom I would appreciate a response from the Minister. Like me, he will have read a recent article in The Sunday Times about an evil thug called Chris Pasipamire. It is wrong that he came to this country as a student and his deportation, if it is not already under way, should take place very shortly indeed.
Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): Has the hon. Gentleman considered the question of sporting sanctions? Does he support a call to the England cricket authorities for England not to play its world cup matches in Zimbabwe next year, as do many Labour Members?
Mr. Mackay : That is my next point, and I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman will be disappointed by what I have to say.
It is important to extend sanctions a stage further, so that whenever anyone who has been involved in human rights abuses and torture enters the jurisdiction of the civilised world, they are arrested under the international convention against torture. Incidentally, in the obscene league table of human rights abuses around the world, Zimbabwe is near the top of the premier division. I am disappointed that we have not yet seen any arrests. As the Minister will be aware, under that convention, people can be tried outside Zimbabwe. In other words, we arrest, we detain, and, if the person is found guilty, we imprison them for a long time.
I have files, as no doubt the Minister does, containing detailed cases of torture of anyone in Zimbabwe who holds an independent view, particularly members of the Movement for Democratic Change. Those cases are horrific to read. It is essential that there are arrests, prosecutions and convictions under the international convention soon.
I will make a final point about sanctions. I hope that the Minister and the Prime Minister will mount a campaign to expose the extent of stolen assets from Zimbabwe in countries that have declined to participate in an asset freeze. Let us start embarrassing the many countries that are happy to make a quick buck by taking that tainted, dirty money. I also suggest to the Minister that the United States has performed well below the standards that we have come to expect from the world's leading democracy. The bureaucracy in the USA has been so inept that it has still not imposed an asset freeze on any of the funds from Zimbabwe that are there. I find that inconceivable. The USA, with the European Union, should be taking the lead, rather than being a laggard. I hope that pressure can be put on our US allies and friends.
There are two other areas in which I believe that we should take action. The first is the dire food shortage in Zimbabwe. People are dying in huge numbers, and the situation is worsened by the AIDS epidemic, which is weakening people and making them more susceptible to the food shortage.
As the Minister will readily acknowledge, food is being given only to supporters of the regime. The areas that backed the Movement for Democratic Change in this year's election are being starved, and the non-governmental organisations cannot always get through to those areas. The Zimbabwean Government systematically try to stop any food getting through. I urge the Minister to arrange, with our allies and partners, an international airlift of food to the isolated regions that voted for the MDC, which are facing a real humanitarian crisis. That is a matter of urgency.
My final suggestion follows from what the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) just mentioned. In general terms, I have always opposed mixing politics with sport. It is not healthy or positive and it is in nobody's best interests. However, there are always exceptions. I very much back the motion tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), which is on today's Order Paper calling for the International Cricket Council to think again about moving the world cup from South Africa to Zimbabwe. As the hon. Member for Harrow, West pointed out, this is a bipartisan issue. I should like to single out one other person for praise. The MEP
If the world cup goes ahead it will legitimise an evil regime. Mugabe is the president of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. I have no doubt that the sportsmen, officials and sports journalists who attend a world cup in Zimbabwe will be extremely well treated and well fed. They will see no problems or demonstrations and good cricket will be played, if that is possible with our present England team. That is not enough. It will do huge damage to cricket's reputation. It will condone evil. I hope that the Government are putting every possible private pressure on the ICC.
If the ICC does not agree to move the world cup from Zimbabwe to somewhere elsethere are plenty of other places that would host it, or it could stay in South AfricaI hope that pressure will be put on our cricket team not to go. If that does not happen, it will send out a bleak message that cricket is more important than human rights, more important than torture and more important than starving your enemies to death, and that we live in a happy little complacent world where we can play cricket and all is well. It will do the great sport of cricket immense harm. I hope at the very least that our team will withdraw.
We need to do more. Many of us were disappointed yesterday when we listened to the Prime Minister in the Chamber giving what was, rightly, a very positive statement on the Copenhagen summit. It was an historic occasion with so many central European countries, free of the Soviet yoke, coming into the European Union. It was a great day. But there was no mention of Zimbabwe. There was no suggestion that high on the agenda in Copenhagen was a debate about what further action should to be taken by way of sanctions or other means against the Zimbabwe regime.
Many of us cannot help but feel that there is boredom and fatigue among western Governments. There is the crisis in the middle east. There is the war on international terrorism. There is the issue of Iraq. Therefore, Zimbabwe drops down the agenda. We will be judged very badly if we let black Africa down in the way that we would not have dreamed of letting the white Balkans down, where there was positive intervention against a similar evil and corrupt regime. I urge the Minister and the Government, their partners in the EU, their American allies and others to do more and to do it quickly; otherwise, we shall have even more blood on our hands.
John Barrett (Edinburgh, West): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) on securing this morning's debate. He has done us all a service by once again drawing to the attention of the House the plight of Zimbabwe and the suffering that so many people will have to endure throughout Christmas and beyond. I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to you and other hon. Members for being unable, as a result of other parliamentary engagements, to be here for the summing-up speeches. However, I will in tomorrow's Hansard read with interest the contributions that I have missed.
The International Development Committee, of which I am a member, is holding an inquiry into the food crisis facing southern Africa. As part of that, we have examined the appalling humanitarian emergency that has developed in Zimbabwe. It is important for hon. Members and the public to appreciate that the ongoing problems of Zimbabwe have had repercussions extending far beyond its own borders.
Zimbabwe was once described as the bread basket of Africa and has traditionally been a net food exporter to its neighbour countries. However, many changes have arisen and the country now has the highest food aid requirement of any country in southern Africa. At the peak of the crisis, more than 6 million of its peoplealmost half the populationwere in need of food. Up to next March, the country requires some 705,000 tonnes of food aid. That is a disturbing and tragic turnaround for Zimbabwe, and it has rightly caught the attention of the international community.
I accept that not all of the blame for Zimbabwe's food shortage can be attributed to Robert Mugabe and his regime. This year the country faced one of its worst droughts for 20 years. However, the political turmoil and land reform over which Mugabe has presided have served only to make an already appalling problem even worse. By removing so many white commercial farmers, he has contributed to the reduction of his country's maize production to a quarter of its customary level. Without food exports from Zimbabwe, more people in countries such as Malawi and Mozambique are now also starving.
My recent discussions with the Zimbabwean high commissioner confirmed what had previously been reportedabandoned farms are now owned by friends of Mr. Mugabe, and local people are unable to run them effectively because they lack expertise and, following years of employment at bread-line wages, capital.
The famine is now being exacerbated by the stranglehold of HIV/AIDSa disease that has a grip on the whole region. According to Oxfam and Save the Children, 33 per cent. of adults in Zimbabwe are now HIV-positive, the third highest figure in the world. The stigmatisation of those living with the disease has left many in Zimbabwe refusing to be tested. A recent report suggested that as many as 90 per cent. do not even know that they are infected. With levels of detection so low, the true level of infection must be much higher. How can the war against HIV/AIDS be won when we do not know where the enemy is?
I am not belittling the moneyaccording to answers to my parliamentary questions, some £7 millionthat the Department for International Development has contributed towards the funding of the voluntary counselling and testing centres. I know that the Minister and the Secretary of State share my passion to tackle HIV/AIDS. However, I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that we have a long way to go before we can say that the fight is being won.
Part of the blame for the scale of the HIV/AIDS problem in Zimbabwe can also be attributed to the policies of President Mugabe and his regime. His fast-track land reform policy resulted in a huge movement of people, forcing changes to family units. As many NGOs have reported, such population mobility has only added to people's vulnerability and potential for acquiring
The AIDS profile research undertaken by the AIDS policy research centre at the university of California recently produced a report that described how HIV is seen in Zimbabwe as the disease of shame. People who suffer from HIV there are often treated with contempt and described as immoral, leaving them unable to access decent care and treatment services.
The politicisation of aid distribution, which has already been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Bracknell, is well documented. The channelling of food aid away from HIV sufferers urgently needs addressing. HIV has left a scar on Zimbabwe that is likely to take many years to heal.
As a result of the AIDS-related deaths of parents, it is now commonplace for grandparents, or even young children, to be looking after households of 10 children. Those deaths mean that knowledge and skills are not being passed from one generation to the next, leaving orphans to head households and to farm with minimal experience of agriculture. The impact of that on Zimbabwe's ability to fulfil its future security needs is considerable, and has created a long-term problem for which a long-term strategy is required.
The tale of Zimbabwe is tragic. A great deal of excellent work is being undertaken by the Department for International Development, and by NGOs on the ground. I pay tribute to their efforts, especially during the coming months. President Mugabe has created a broken country and has left the international community to pick up the pieces. Little or no hope exists for the future of many citizens of Zimbabwe, and they look to the international community to provide some. We, here, can and must respond to that challenge.
Tony Cunningham (Workington): I did not intend to speak in the debate; I intended merely to listen to what was said. I give credit to the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) for giving me this opportunity to speak. I have an interest in the subject because the high commissioner in Zimbabwe is one of my constituents. I begin by paying tribute to him and all the staff in the high commission in Harare for the tremendous work that they continue to do in difficult circumstances.
I might differ from the right hon. Gentleman on the tactics that could be used and actions that could be taken, but I hope that all Members share an absolute abhorrence of what can only be described as a barbaric regime.
This man Mugabe is a dictator. He did not win the election, at least not freely, and it is difficult to deal with a situation in which it appears that the prime objective of a country's ruler is to destroy his country. It is difficult to put in place sanctions. With a normal, responsible leadereven a normal, responsible human beingpressure can be applied by saying that unless they
Mugabe keeps going on about the need for land reform. I should like to put it on record that successive British Governments have supported land reform. We have tried to go down a legal route to give peoplethe Africans in Zimbabwean opportunity to own their own land. We must pursue a legal route, not a route that includes the barbaric treatment that many farmers are having to suffer in Zimbabwe.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell talked about positive action and made a comparison with the situation in the Balkans. I should like to think that this Government are doing a great deal in terms of positive action. I should not like to think that it is suggested that military action should be taken against Zimbabwe.
Tony Cunningham : The right hon. Gentleman is nodding. I should not want those outside to get the impression that there will be military action. We need to do everything that we can to bring down the dictator. He is there illegally, he cheated in the election and he is creating a huge amount of suffering not only in his own country but around the rest of southern Africa.
I hope that the British Government are doing everything that they can to freeze assets and to impose sanctions. I should like to see more action from other southern African countries. It is important that we get a consensus across Africa because it is in the interests of all African countries to make sure that such an abhorrent dictator does not succeed. His reign should be brought to an end as quickly as possible and Zimbabwe should have a truly democratic Government, which would mean that we could start to deal with problems such as AIDS and food aid.
Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay). He made a thoughtful speech, and I shall be interested to hear the Minister's responses to some of his comments. The contribution from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) was also opportune, given his Select Committee experience.
I shall amplify my intervention on the right hon. Member for Bracknell, and I want to use the debate to put a little more pressure on the English cricket authorities and the International Cricket Council over their continuing plans to play part of the cricket world cup in Zimbabwe next year. I am at a loss to understand how anybody could contemplate playing international sport in that country at a time when such destruction is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) said, being wreaked on the people of Zimbabwe by their own Government. My hon. Friend was right to say that successive British Governments, and in particular this Government, have supported land reform and have offered to help finance it, only for those efforts to be rebuffed by the leadership in Zimbabwe.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell was right to say that in general politics and sport should not be mixed, but it is difficult to stand aside and pretend that cricket
Tony Cunningham : Does my hon. Friend draw a distinction between the England cricket team going to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans going to international competitions in other parts of the world? For example, we welcomed the Zimbabwe team to the Commonwealth games in Manchester.
Mr. Thomas : I understand that a distinction can be drawn, and it is probably true to say that most Zimbabwean sportsmen and sportswomen have no truck with the regime in their country. We have reached a point, however, at which we have to contemplate Zimbabwe's sporting isolation. I was not entirely comfortable with the participation of Zimbabwean sportsmen and women in the Commonwealth games in Manchester, although on balance it was right that they participated.
I felt very uncomfortable when the England cricket team toured Zimbabwe two years ago; I thought that it was wrong at the time and I said so. It would be entirely unjustified for England to go ahead with matches in Zimbabwe. If the ICC is not prepared to move the games scheduled to take place at Harare and elsewhere, the English cricket authorities should show some leadership and refuse to play in the area.
It is right to say that we work with other southern African Governments to put pressure on the leadership in Zimbabwe, and to ascertain how we can freeze assets. There are more important ways than through sport alone in which to put pressure on Zimbabwe and ZANU-PF, but those of us with an interest in sport believe that it can add its voice to that pressure. I hope that we shall see leadership by the English cricket authorities and the ICC and that world cup matches will not be played in Zimbabwe next year.
Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): This has been an important debate, which rightly focuses our attention on one of the continuing disgraces in Africa and elsewhere. I add my congratulations to the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) on securing the debate. I endorse the point that he made at the outset that it is shame that we are forced to discuss Zimbabwe in Westminster Hall instead of having the opportunity to discuss it in Government time in the main Chamber. Perhaps the Minister will give some consideration to that and the various pleas that have been made to the Leader of the House for a debate in the House when it returns in the new year.
We have heard a range of contributions, which have rightly focused on the chronic situation in Zimbabwe. There is a consensus that all of us need to focus on a proper response. The economy is dire with inflation of well over 100 per cent., according to some reports; unemployment is more than 60 per cent.; starvation is rife; and the situation is exacerbated by a fuel crisis that
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): I wonder what conclusion the hon. Gentleman draws from the latest reports from Zimbabwe that Mugabe is considering sequestration of the assets of some western oil companies in that country, and what implications that will have for the long-term future of Zimbabwe's economy.
Mr. Moore : The reports, which I have also read, are alarming and show the truly desperate situation that Mugabe has put himself into. It is a downward spiral in a country which, over a short period, has gone from being one of Africa's beacons and one of its wealthiest countries to a position in which almost anything of any good has been thrown away. I do not believe that Mugabe will solve his problems by nationalising foreign oil assets.
The state of the famine must be the focus of our humanitarian concern. When organisations such as the World Food Programme are forced to withdraw from their work in the south of the country, when there is widespread abuse of the aid that arrives in the country because it is being channelled by Mugabe only to his supporters and when almost 50 per cent. of the country's population are suffering starvation, that regime must at some point recognise its responsibilities. We are not arguing that the situation is solely Mugabe's fault, but the measures taken by him and his regime over a period of years, most notably in the past year, have undoubtedly exacerbated a dreadful situation and made the prospect of Zimbabwe finding its own way out of this particular mess very unlikely.
The famine has been made worse by the suffering that HIV/AIDS has caused many people, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) said. That has happened in a wider situation that Mugabe has largely foisted on to his own country by his decisions. All observers outside the country and many inside believe that he cheated in the presidential election earlier this year. The most recent regional elections, too, are deemed to have been unfair and corrupted. The leader of the opposition party is under arrest for treason because he dared to provide opposition to the President, as he calls himself. The latest twist is the delaying of that treason trial into the new year. The regime is characterised by brutality and repression and, with every passing month, marches further beyond the acceptable limits of international states and their standards.
We learn today that, after months of negotiation and many false dawnsI hope that this is not another onepeace has been declared in the Congo, where Zimbabwean forces and commercial and other interests have played a major role. There is now the prospect of unpaid and undernourished armed forces returning to Zimbabwe, further complicating the situation there. The prospects are not good and it looks as if the downward spiral can get only worse.
In response, there has been much international wringing of hands and concern about what should be done. I hope that the Minister's reply will focus on some
Further afield, we had many months of difficulty in persuading all Commonwealth nations that Zimbabwe should be expelled or suspended from councils in the short term. That was achieved in March, but recent discussions by the troika of Australia, Nigeria and South Africa have demonstrated that there is no consensus about how progress should be made. The hard-fought victory earlier this year, which the British Government played a part in achieving, is now in danger of being lost, and all the political advantage gained from the March suspension with it.
Other hon. Members have commented on the existing travel bans. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bracknell that it is a shame that the United States of America has not been more robust and focused on the imposition of smart sanctions. Likewise, we have seen in the European Union the casual flouting of travel bans by other members of the regime. Protection under international law for attendance at United Nations and other meetings must be respected but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we must ensure that such attendances in Europe are properly regulated and monitored, not abusedwhich would give rather inelegant signals to the international community.
The United States has suggested coping with the famine in Zimbabwe through intrusive measures. It would be helpful if the Minister explained what the US might have in mind, and what our Government believe is appropriate. During operation Lifeline Sudan, air drops were used to deliver aid to key parts of the country that could not be reached by other means. Are the Government now considering that type of measure for the current crisis in Zimbabwe?
The international community in its various guises has a major responsibility to focus on Zimbabwe. Perhaps the most important focus should come from southern African countries. In the past year, we have seen the New Partnership for Africa's Development brought forward, and hailed as a great step change in the way that Africa looks after its economic development and its political governance. Africa has given itself the tools that it needs to tackle many of its problems. Although that has been hailed as a qualitative change, the most recent meeting between the Southern African Development Community and the European Union failed to agree on the procedures that NEPAD should follow.
South Africa, the key player in the region, has continued to support Zimbabwe to an extent that is hard for those us of outside the region to understand. Without its help, Zimbabwe would be in a truly awful stateeven worse than at present. South Africa, along with Nigeria and Australia, was the key to the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth earlier this year. At the time, the Canadian high commissioner hailed that as NEPAD passing its first test. It would appear that it is in danger of flunking the
African media comment was rightly harsh, criticising that Minister for ignoring the ugliness of what has happened in Zimbabwe.
The country cannot shake off its responsibilities. It has to lift its own veil; other countries in the region will then perhaps play their part. It is argued that there is an honourable tradition that countries in Africa do not meddle in each other's affairs. That might be realpolitik if the problem existed only within Zimbabwean borders, but the contagion is spreading economically and politically. Not only are the southern African countries suffering from the withdrawal of current investment and further concerns about future investment, but they seem to have no prospect of being accepted for additional positive treatment from the international community in the years ahead unless they tackle the problem.
African media comment on the current state of NEPAD has been just as harsh as its observations on the activities of South Africa concerning Zimbabwe. One commentator stated that the NEPAD project
That would be a disaster for southern Africa, and specifically for Zimbabwe. The United Kingdom has long links with Zimbabwe and the region as a whole, and we are rightly concerned about what goes on in that great country. The despot who is in charge of it and is determined to ruin his country should be under no illusions about what the international community regards as right and proper. We have slightly lost pace during the past few months. I hope that the Government will show us that that pace is about to pick up again.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) on securing the debate and on introducing it in such a measured yet forceful manner.
The debate addresses some of the most vicious violations of human and civil rights in the world today. I join my right hon. Friend in regretting that the debate is not taking place in Government time on the Floor of the House of Commons. Once again, an Opposition Member has had to raise the topic. My right hon. Friend said that he chided the Government gently. If I may, I shall be a little more blunt. For months, we have had nothing but silence and inaction from the Government. I say that in a spirit not of anger but of frustration. For months, I have pressed the Government not only to say more but to do more. There was silence at the G8 in June and at the Earth summit in August. When pressed to raise the subject at the Earth summit, the Prime Minister said that he did not wish it to be hijacked by Zimbabwe, but it was hijacked by Zimbabweby President Mugabeand by the President of Namibia. There was silence in November when the EU Southern African Development Community conference was moved from Copenhagen to Maputo to allow banned Zimbabweans to attend. There has been inaction in the face of ethnic
It is no wonder that the people of Zimbabwe feel abandoned by the British Government. I was there in July, and they told me so. They do not understand the reason for that. They know that they are not inhabitants of some distant country of which we know little. We know a lot about Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe knows a lot about us. We can have debates like this at a distance, but when one is in Zimbabweas I was for a short period in Julyand sees the situation on the ground, it is difficult not to become frustrated. I saw the displaced black farm workers in the woods outside Harare. They were starving, they had been thrown out of their homes without any possessions or any hope of future employment, and they were being harassed by the authorities. I saw the food queues in Harare, alongside the fields outside Harare that were unplanted and unsown, with the rotting vegetation from last year's harvest still there. I met the brave young civil rights lawyers who are, at great risk to themselves, collecting evidence on human rights abusesrape camps, murders and tortures. I met Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the oppositiona very brave man facing a charge of treason.
Tony Cunningham : Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Mr. Ancram : I will give way. If I sound a little emotional, it is because I sometimes feel that we do not understand with sufficient emotion what is happening in Zimbabwe.
Tony Cunningham : I want to reinforce the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making. In some sections of the media, the situation is seen as an attack by a black African Government on white farmers, but the people who are suffering most are not white farmers but tens of thousands of black people who have also been forced from their homes and workplaces.
Mr. Ancram : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I am glad that he reinforces my point.
I sometimes wonder whether the reason for the Government's inactivity is, as the Foreign Secretary suggested in his recent article in the New Statesman, that they are ashamed of our history and fearful of being accused of being neo-colonialist. I have talked to black people in Zimbabwe and they do not see it in that way at all. They see us as having a responsibility that they are waiting for us to fulfil. Rightly, the Government never hesitated to protect the oppressed people of Kosovo from violation and destruction, but they appear to standing passively by as even worse things happen in Zimbabwe. We must never let a situation arise whereby the millions of Zimbabweans who look to us for help appear less important than the peoples of the Balkans and of Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe is facing catastrophe. Hon. Members have outlined many of the ways in which that is happening. Of the 15.5 million people facing starvation in southern Africa, 6.5 million are in Zimbabwe. One in three adults in Zimbabwe is HIV-positive. The hon. Member for
As the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) pointed out, inflation is running at more than 100 per cent. It was 144 per cent. at the latest count, and the International Monetary Fund predicts that it will soon be more than 500 per cent. The economy is expected to shrink by more than 10 per cent. this year. The economy of Zimbabwe is in meltdown, yet we are told that the targeted sanctionsisolating Mugabe and his thugs from the international communityare effective. However, my constituents and I see Mugabe and his lieutenants waltzing around Europe unimpeded. His police chief has twice gone to France on Interpol business. People do not understand how that can happen if we are serious about sanctions that ban travel.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell raised a particular case, which I wish also to discuss. What is the truth about the vice-chairman of the ZANU-PF Harare executive, Chris Pasipamire? He is a well-known, brutal activist in farm evictions in Zimbabwe. Is it true that he has been granted a visa to come to this country to studyironicallyland reform? If so, I can say only that that is outrageous. Baroness Amos in the other place last week was unclear about that. I hope that we can get the full facts today, because they are owed to us.
Whatever else, the sanctions are not working, but what is working is the use of starvation as a political weapon. ZANU-PF's organising secretary, Didymus Mutasa, said in August:
The extra people happen to be the 7 million other Zimbabweans who are now being starved, harried and ethnically cleansed, not least the 5 million proud Matabele. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 6.7 million Zimbabweans need food aid. Increasingly, they can get it only from Mugabe in return for votes.
Food is a valuable political weapon for Mugabe. In Chimanimani, illiterate and hungry voters were rewarded with maize once they had been assisted to vote for ZANU-PF in the September rural district council elections. The World Food Programme had to suspend food aid distribution in Insiza in October, following the seizure of food by ruling ZANU-PF activists. In that part of the country, which very much supports the Movement for Democratic Change, Mugabe used food for political blackmail. That safe MDC seat was won by ZANU-PF in a recent by-election in return for food.
The control of food in Mugabe's hands is, in a sense, a weapon of mass destruction. He has created the shortages. His illegal farm seizure policy has destroyed Zimbabwe's self-sufficiency. The national cereal deficit is a staggering 1.5 million tonnes. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West mentioned a drought. I saw no drought when I was in Zimbabwe in Julythe
Mugabe still has in his sights constitutional gerrymandering to preserve his dictatorship. He needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament for a change. In November, he was six MPs short of that. After the Insiza by-election, he was five short and, after the suspicious death of MDC MP Learnmore Jongwe, he is down to four. To put it simply, he is terrorising and bribing, if not murdering, his way to the destruction of democracy.
Then there are the attacks on justice and press freedom. There is now no justice to speak of and no protection to which people can turn. The Insiza by-election showed that graphically. An MDC official was shot in a police station in front of police by the ZANU-PF candidate, Andrew Langa. The victim and 11 MDC associates were subsequently charged with inciting violence against themselves, and the aggressor walked free. On 29 August, one of the two independent radio stations in Zimbabwe, the Voice of the People, was destroyed in a midnight bomb explosion. Since July, a total of 18 journalists have been arrested and charged under Mugabe's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. ZANU-PF supporters and war veterans continue to attack vendors selling copies of the fiercely independent Daily News.
Yet, astonishingly, in the face of all that, the International Cricket Council still looks likely to hold part of the coming world cup in Zimbabwe. Inevitably, the patron of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, Robert Mugabe, will be there and will parade himself as a great leader on an international stage. I found an extraordinary quotation from Robert Mugabe that dates back to 1984. He said:
How hollow that must ring in today's Zimbabwe. To use a cricketing analogy: if Mugabe is really keen on cricket, he should learn that when one is given out one does not glue the bails to the stumps and say, "I have not been given out," as he did in the election earlier this year.
To give Mugabe a stage is to ignore his fascist brutality, to turn a blind eye to his genocidal behaviour and to spit in the faces of the millions of Zimbabweans who are enduring poverty, oppression and death at the hands of this vile dictator. The people of Zimbabwe love cricket, but not at the cost of buttressing Mugabe and his henchmen. I call again for the ICC to relocate the Zimbabwean part of the world cup. This is not about sport, it is about a murderous dictatorship. No one can deal with Mugabe and not be soiled by it.
How much of the estimated $10 million revenues accrued from media coverage and match sponsorship will end up in the coffers of Mugabe and his cronies? The Government have been strangely silent on the matter.
Mr. Swire : Will my right hon. Friend join me in regretting the Government's seeming lack of determination to pursue the millions that Mugabe and his henchmen have sequestered around the world?
Mr. Ancram : I very much agree with my hon. Friend. I will come to his point in a moment.
I hope that the Government will take this opportunity to join me and others in urging the ICC to move the world cup from Zimbabwe. None of us can stand aside from what is happening. We cannot do nothing and hope that death, destruction and implosion will bring their own answer. The human cost is too horrific to contemplate. Last week, to my surprise, the Secretary of State for International Development said:
It must not be the Government's policy simply to let famine, genocide and corruption decide the future of Zimbabwe's people.
Of course, as the hon. Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) said, there is no easy solution. There are a number of steps that must urgently be taken. In many cases, the previous measures that we called fortravel bans, the freezing of assets, suspension from the Commonwealthcame too late. Sanctions must be tightened and made to bite. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell rightly suggested, the travel ban and the assets freeze must be extended to cover families, including children, of members of the regime and also those international business men who bankroll the regime. He mentioned Mr. van Hoogstraten. I mention Mr. John Bredenkamp. I hope that the Government will investigate carefully what his involvement in Zimbabwe has been.
The Government must work with the United States of America to monitor food distribution on the ground in order to destroy Mugabe's ability to use food as an instrument of oppression. They should persuade the United Nations Security Council immediately to place UN personnel on the ground in Zimbabwe in order to monitor not just food distribution but human rights abuses. We have to work with the United States State Department to bring new pressures to bear on South Africa to get Mugabe to hold fresh elections. There is a genuine and growing concern about the potentially devastating economic impact of the situation in Zimbabwe on the South African economy.
I have always welcomed NEPAD and think that it is a worthwhile initiative, not least because of the quasi-contractual nature of the plan: financial investment is offered in return for good governance. The agreement was that good governance is for African Governments to assess at peer-group level. A test of that assessment must be whether those African Governments condemn the clear misgovernance of Zimbabwe. If they do not, they should not receive the NEPAD money. In arguing for that legitimate leverage, I have frequently been accused of seeking to damage black African interests beyond Zimbabwe. Of course it would cause wider pain, but nothing like the pain being experienced by the people of Zimbabwe today. There is no painless
Why are the British Government so shy of bringing friendly pressure to bear on South Africa? Why is the Prime Minister so loth to ensure that NEPAD works as it was designed to workgenuinely to promote good governance for all of Africa? Why are the Government so resolute in the face of human rights abuses elsewhere, yet so silent in the face of Mugabe?
I hope that the Minister will be brave. He should stop being frightened of his post-colonial shadow, restore this country's credibility and fulfil the promise that his Prime Minister made at the conference a year and a half ago that the Government had a moral duty to act. The Minister must tell us today what the Government will do to end this nightmare. History will not easily forgive the Government who walked by on the other side, and nor will the people of Zimbabwe.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien) : I begin by congratulating the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) on securing the debate. I welcome this opportunity to consider the critical situation in Zimbabwe. It is tragic that half the population of that country, which was once referred to as the bread basket of Africa, now depends on food aid. The tragedy is all the greater because, although southern Africa is affected by drought, the policies of ZANU-PF have turned a situation that could have been managed into a humanitarian crisis.
Evidence of ZANU-PF's mismanagement can be found everywhere: inflation at 140 per cent., unemployment at more than 60 per cent. and a currency trading at more than 20 times its official rate. Zimbabwe's economy will shrink by about 12 per cent. this year, at a time when most of Africa is seeing growth, and it has already shrunk by 23 per cent. in the last two years. It is the fastest imploding economy in the world.
That incompetent economic performance is coupled with a collapse in the rule of law and high levels of political violence. More than 140 people have been killed since 2000, the great majority of them opposition supporters. The majority of the victims are black, as are the many thousands of former farm workers who are now homelessdisplaced in their own country in the name of the fast-track land resettlement policy.
Zimbabwe's problems are the result not of a black versus white conflict or a conflict between Zimbabwe and Britain, but of poor Government policies. The main victims of the regime's policies are the poor black people of Zimbabwe. For that reason, we continue to help Zimbabwe with humanitarian assistance. Since September 2001, we have contributed £43 milliontaxpayers' moneyand we will continue to do so. That money is disbursed through the World Food Programme and non-governmental organisations, not the Zimbabwean Government.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell asked why we could not do more. Well, Britain has done a lot. Indeed, we invested substantial resources under a Conservative Government in helping to bring Zimbabwe to independence. Those resources were extended after independence in the form of £500 million in bilateral assistance. However, independence means just that. Zimbabwe's regime is responsible for its actions; it cannot pass the buck to others, whether in Britain, Europe or anywhere else. Zimbabwe's regime needs to accept responsibility for its actions, which are damaging the Zimbabwean people.
The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) gave what he described as an emotional speech. He referred to the UK Government standing passively by and urged us to respond as we did in Kosovo. I suspect that there is a loss of perspective here. It almost seems as if he thinks some form of gunboat diplomacy is the way forward. It is not. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) and the right hon. Member for Bracknell were right to say that some form of military intervention was a bad idea. It would carry huge political costs and is practically impossible. Zimbabwe needs peace, not more conflict. The MDC does not want it. In any case, the region would not co-operate. The UN Security Council's role is international peace and security. The region would need to support any action. That is not the way forward.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Devizes that we need to put more pressure on the Zimbabwean Government. We have had co-operation from both the European Union and the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth in March. The Commonwealth troika remains engaged. Australian Prime Minister Howard, South African President Mbeki and Nigerian President Obasanjo met in Abuja on 23 September. Mugabe was invited, but did not attend. The troika will review the situation in March, at which point it has said that stronger measures might need to be considered. We welcome that clear signal of a continuing Commonwealth engagement and regret that Zimbabwe has not responded.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell asked why the Prime Minister did not mention Zimbabwe in the Copenhagen statement yesterday. Zimbabwe was not on the agenda at Copenhagen, but was discussed at the previous week's EU General Affairs Council. It will be raised again in January. Zimbabwe is raised regularly by the United Kingdom in EU forums and will continue to be raised regularly. I accept that it is an enormously important issue. The Government intend to ensure that it remains high on the EU's agenda.
EU sanctions were introduced in February 2002. We will work to ensure their rollover or extension next year. Some 79 people are now on the banned list; 28 accounts in the United Kingdom containing funds totalling over £500,000 have been frozen. We expect more to follow. That is the sort of well targeted pressure that hits the individuals responsible for Zimbabwe's situation.
Mr. Mackay : Will the Minister confirm that we plan to extend and deepen the sanctions to include financial backers, middle-rank officials and/or Members of Parliament, as I suggested in my speech?
Mr. O'Brien : I shall come to that. We ought to consider the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. I will certainly look at an extension and see whether there are ways in which we can tighten the grip and pressure on Zimbabwe. We would obviously need to talk to our European partners and the United States. They have a longer list of banned people, but they are not applying the freezing of assets as we would prefer. We need to increase the pressure on Zimbabwe by working with both our European partners and the United States.
Mr. Swire : The Opposition have asked repeatedly about the freezing of assets of all those involved with Mugabe and his regime, particularly those assets that are held overseas. Can the Minister tell us what action has been taken by the Government since we started asking those questions?
Mr. O'Brien : As I have just said, we have frozen 28 accounts in the UK. Obviously, it is for other countries to freeze accounts in their territories. We want to see the freezing of accounts and the extension of pressures, restrictions and bans on individuals who are responsible for Zimbabwe's condition.
Since April, people on the banned list have been denied access to the European Union on six occasions. As recently as November, others have been obliged to cancel their plans to travel in the EU. That shows that EU sanctions are having an effect. Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia have also imposed targeted sanctions, and the International Monetary Fund adopted a declaration of non-co-operation with Zimbabwe because of its refusal to co-operate with it on policy, and its arrears. On 11 September, the board began procedures to suspend Zimbabwe's voting rights, which in effect expelled Zimbabwe. It is clear that Mugabe is imposing his own economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell made a point about the visa for Chris Pasipamire. All visa applications are carefully assessed in accordance with immigration rules. I understand that the gentleman in question has a visit visa, not a student visa, so he cannot study in the United Kingdom at this point. He is not on the EU banned list, and I understand that he has told a newspaper and others that he wants to look for a course. However, if he does so and finds one, he cannot go on it. If he wants a student visa, he will have to reapply. I will ensure that Home Office Ministers are aware of the concern expressed in the debate about his case.
Mr. Ancram : Will the Minister give way?
Mr. O'Brien : I said that I would not give way again, but I will give way if the right hon. Gentleman is very brief. Before he intervenes, however, I must tell him and other hon. Members that I cannot prejudge the view of a Home Office Minister and officials about a particular visa case. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that, given his experience in government.
Mr. Ancram : Why was Chris Pasipamire allowed to come here, given that we have a ban against people who are active in the regime in Zimbabwe? Why is he not on the banned list?
Mr. O'Brien : He is not on the banned list. [Hon. Members: "He should be."] Several hon. Members are now saying from a sedentary position that he should be. However, he was not on that list when he applied for his visa, so he was granted a visa. He will have to apply again if he finds a course and wants to go on it. I will ensure that the concerns expressed in this House are brought to the attention of Home Office Ministers, who will be able to do what is appropriate in the circumstances and within the law.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell expressed concern about extending the various bans. I will consider that, and will write to him on that point. He also said that we should consider the possibility of extending the bans to civil servants and some of their families, as well as to bankers. That is a useful point, and I will consider the feasibility of doing that and how it would work. Again, I will write to the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that he wanted to see arrests. Again, if it is possible to do soif people are in this country and there is evidence of offencesI am sure that the police will respond appropriately. He rightly said that there was a lack of response from some parts of Africa to the situation in Zimbabwe, and that countries next to Zimbabwe needed to respond much more firmly to ensure that the reputation of Africa, which in many ways is at stake, was not damaged by the likes of President Mugabe. The British Government are talking to other African countries, and President Mbeki, the president of southern Africa's most major countrySouth Africawill visit the UK at the start of next year. The Prime Minister will raise those issues with the president, who is engaged in trying to move them forward.
The EU-Africa summit in Lisbon on 3 and 4 April was mentioned. The EU troika will discuss it at the meeting in January; our view is that the visa ban on ZANU-PF elite should not be waived for that event.
The right hon. Member for Bracknell was concerned about the continuing violence against MDC media and trade unions. We condemn that violence and ZANU-PF's continued use of intimidation, especially against the MDC. It was clearly seen at the by-election in Insiza district on 26 and 27 October, as was ZANU-PF's blatant manipulation of food aid. The World Food Programme was forced to suspend distribution in Insiza during that period.
We strongly condemn the disgraceful and groundless arrest of Wellington Chibebe of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and of eight other trade union leaders. The right hon. Gentleman said that people were threatened that if they did not vote ZANU-PF they would not get food, but the situation is worse than that. In some instances, people who do not carry a ZANU-PF membership card do not get Government food. Donor food is dealt with in a different way, but it shows the extent of the regime. A leading ZANU-PF MP, Didymus Mutasa, was reported as saying that he did not mind if 6 million Zimbabweans died as long as the remaining 6 million were loyal to ZANU-PF. When one is dealing with someone with that turn of mind, what can one say to convince them that they have to behave in a different way?
We are doing all that we can, putting in substantial resources to help the victims of Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis, the scale of which is great. DFID has committed £43 million of UK taxpayers' money since September 2001; British aid is distributed by the UN World Food Programme and internationally respected NGOs on the basis of need alone. Some of that support will also go towards agricultural inputs for planting next season. We are worried that next year might be worse than this year, but there is nothing that we can do about the food that the regime has bought, which is being distributed based on people's membership of, or loyalty to, ZANU-PF. We strongly condemn that. The United Kingdom has committed £56 million in response to the latest humanitarian appeal for Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.
The right hon. Members for Bracknell and for Devizes raised the issue of sport. Like the right hon. Member for Bracknell, I think that we should be cautious about importing politics into sport. However, we should recognise that there are exceptions. The right hon. Gentleman said that the world cup should not go to Zimbabwe. The Government's position is that the decision whether to play the six world cup matches in Zimbabwe can be taken only by the International Cricket Council, of which the England and Wales Cricket Board is part.
Mr. O'Brien : I will come to that in a minute. The decision should be taken in the light of what is happening in Zimbabwe and in recognition of the fact that the political, economic and humanitarian situation could deteriorate in the next few months. We briefed the England and Wales Cricket Board with our travel advice, as we would other British organisations and individuals considering travelling to Zimbabwe, and we have agreed to keep in touch. Decisions whether to travel to Zimbabwe have to be taken by the individuals or organisations themselves, based on all the information available to them. The Government's position is to ask the ICC and the ECB to look at the matter. We will not issue orders to them; however, speaking personally, I hope that they will listen to the strong views expressed in the debate. My view is that it would be better if the team did not go.
The hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) raised the issue of the arms embargo. As the time available is short, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman.
Our objectives for Zimbabwe are clear. We want a prosperous, stable and democratic Zimbabwe. The ruler of Zimbabwe is preventing the country's people from having such a future. We condemn the way in which he is running the country, we are determined to take action to deal with him, and we will work through international institutions to achieve that. With the help of the Zimbabwean people and the international community, we will ensure that we create a Zimbabwe in the long term that works in the interests of all the people of Zimbabwe and is prepared to deal with all the critical issues facing the country.