Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Eighth Report

The United Kingdom and Zimbabwe

15. We noted in our previous Report that the United Kingdom's relations with Zimbabwe are complicated by its status as the former colonial power. Any steps which the United Kingdom takes, bilaterally or through international bodies, are liable to be misrepresented by Zimbabwe as continuing interference in the affairs of an independent African state by its former white masters. The Government has to decide whether such misrepresentation makes it less likely that its goals in relation to Zimbabwe will be achieved. Ministers appear to have concluded that many of the actions urged on them by others would be counter-productive.

A human rights dossier

16. For example, we asked Baroness Amos whether the Government would publish a dossier of Mugabe's abuses of the human rights of Zimbabweans, as it published a dossier on the abuses perpetrated by Saddam Hussein. After reflecting on this request, Baroness Amos wrote to us declining to prepare such a report. She told us that "the facts are already widely available, and an FCO Report would add little value." ZANU-PF would "dismiss the reports as 'British lies'."

17. We are disappointed. While information on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe is indeed widely available to those who, like us, choose to look for it, the act of producing a report on this and, possibly, on corruption in Zimbabwe would serve to focus wider attention on Mugabe's abuses and should serve as a powerful statement of the Government's concern. And while we do not doubt that ZANU-PF would do exactly as the Minister suggests it would, by dismissing the report as post-colonial propaganda, we are surprised that the Government is apparently fearful of allowing the international community to judge for itself who is telling the truth, particularly when much of the evidence comes from sources whose integrity and independence cannot seriously be questioned.

18. We note that the United States State Department published in March an illustrated document, entitled Zimbabwe's Manmade Crisis. That document, which has been bitterly denounced by ZANU-PF, is uncompromising in its criticism of "the arbitrary and brutal rule of a self-appointed elite." It is an example of the harder line which we believe it is now time for the United Kingdom Government to take on Zimbabwe, and which it did not hesitate to take when it published its dossier on Iraq. We recommend that the Government prepare and publish a detailed dossier on human rights in Zimbabwe.

19. Baroness Amos drew our attention to the publication by the EU on 19 February of a statement about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and undertook to try to publish a factual document under EU auspices. We welcome the Minister's commitment to this initiative, and we recommend that in its response to this Report the Government bring the Committee up to date on progress towards publication by the EU of a document on human rights in Zimbabwe.

Support for independent media

20. In our previous Report, we called on the Government to "pursue all appropriate means of supporting the work of independent journalists in Zimbabwe", drawing on our experience of relevant successful government initiatives, particularly in Milosevic's Yugoslavia. The Government responded that it "must think carefully before providing direct technical or financial assistance to the independent media in Zimbabwe. There is a real risk that such support could give the regime a pretext to increase attacks on the independent media." Since then, ZANU-PF have imposed further restrictions on journalists. Some foreign journalists have been refused accreditation; a number of Zimbabwean journalists have been beaten or tortured. It is remarkable, and a great testament to the courage of those concerned, that an independent press still functions in Zimbabwe.

21. We are not convinced that ZANU-PF requires any pretext to increase its attacks; it has been doing so in any case. In our view, the best people to ask whether assistance would be welcome or unwelcome are probably those who might require it. We recommend that the Government take a positive decision to provide technical and financial assistance to the independent media in Zimbabwe, in consultation with representatives of those media.

22. Media based outside Zimbabwe also play an important role in bringing news to the people of Zimbabwe and in drawing that news to the attention of an international audience. The BBC World Service broadcasts continue to provide an essential service in this regard, but we were also impressed by the achievements of SW (Short Wave) Radio Africa, which is run from the United Kingdom by Zimbabweans. BBC World Service is already funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We recommend that the FCO—on it own, with other relevant Government Departments, or through the European Union—consider carefully the case for offering appropriate support to independent broadcasters operating from outside Zimbabwe.

The cricket World Cup

23. Our inquiry coincided with the cricket World Cup, hosted jointly by South Africa and Zimbabwe. The England cricket team and the Cricket Board had to decide whether to play in Zimbabwe; their decision, taken on security grounds, was to stay away. We believe that was the right decision, although we would have preferred it to have been taken earlier and on more principled grounds, and we wish more teams had followed suit.

24. We applaud the courage of Zimbabwean cricketers Henry Olonga and Andy Flower in making clear in their moving and dignified personal statement that in taking the field they were representing their country, but not its rulers. They later paid for this defiance with their places in the national team. In evidence before us, their fellow countrywoman

Georgina Godwin made the following graphic comment :

I think picking up a cricket bat and playing international matches in Zimbabwe, you might as well be clubbing people to death yourself frankly.

With a tour of England by Zimbabwe's cricket team taking place as we prepare this Report, and a tour of Zimbabwe by the England team on the cards for next November, we hope that England cricketers and others considering sporting links with Zimbabwe will reflect on this comment.

Mugabe's honours

25. Robert Mugabe was created an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1994. He is not the first bearer of that honour to fail to deserve it, and his would not be the first name to be erased from the Order's Register were Her Majesty to be so advised: in both cases, the relevant precedent is provided by another despot, Nicolai Ceausescu of Romania. When we expressed our concern to Baroness Amos, she said that she would "take it back", by which we presume she intended us to understand that she would raise it with senior colleagues in the Government. We recommend that the Government take steps to strip Robert Mugabe of all honours, decorations and privileges bestowed on him by the United Kingdom.

26. A lesser, but still significant honour was recently conferred on Zimbabwe's controversial police chief, Augustine Chihuri, by the international police organisation, Interpol, which created him an honorary vice-president. The Zimbabwe Government's newspaper, the Herald, described this as "a show of confidence in Zimbabwe's police force by the international community." In a letter to the Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, the Foreign Secretary called the appointment "an insult to the people who have suffered at the hands of the Zimbabwean police". We are astonished that such an award should have been made, apparently at the behest of Spain, France and Germany, all of them countries which are party to the EU sanctions regime under which Chihuri has been banned from visiting Europe. We recommend that the Government explain in its response to this Report exactly how Interpol came to honour Chihuri, and how it now proposes to persuade Interpol to remove the honour.

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Prepared 27 May 2003