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So we in this House and elsewhere must be careful that, while expressing our outrage at recent events and at the downward spiral of Zimbabwe, we do not do or say anything that will hand a propaganda tool to Robert Mugabe. We will continue to exert pressure in international forums, including the United Nations —we expect a tough EU statement on the Human Rights Council this week, and a humanitarian briefing on the UN Security Council next week—the African Union and the European Union, and with international partners, until democracy is restored to Zimbabwe. We will continue to do everything that we can to ensure that whoever governs Zimbabwe does so in a way that guarantees
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a better future for all Zimbabweans: a democratic and accountable Government, and policies that ensure economic stability and development, not humanitarian misery.

My generation was the first to be born not as children of the empire, but as children of the Commonwealth. When I first became involved in political life, the struggle against colonialism, and the struggle of the peoples in southern Africa who were subjugated by racist regimes, were an inspiration to me and to my generation. As time went by, we celebrated as Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and the fighters came out of the bush to create a new democratic future for their people.

That is why it is so hard for me personally to watch what is happening in Zimbabwe today. Uniquely, the people whom we once cheered as liberators are now the oppressors who have taken away the voice of the Zimbabwean people. Brave Zimbabweans are speaking up for their freedom. They are looking to their African neighbours to help. We are playing our part in the international community.

In 1980, Zimbabwe proudly proclaimed its independence. Tragically, 27 years later, its people have still to gain their freedom.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the generous amount of time that he allowed the Opposition to have advance sight of his statement. I am sure that the whole House will join him in his condemnation of the Mugabe regime. Like the rest of the international community, we have been shocked by the regime’s brutal tactics, the country’s chronic food shortages and staggeringly high inflation and unemployment, and the increasing Government repression of all forms of dissent.

All Zimbabweans are suffering as a result of the Government-made, deteriorating economic, political and humanitarian situation, which has now become so desperate that Archbishop Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, said last week that he was

to force President Mugabe to step down.

I turn to some specific questions. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the international community’s response to 27 years of Mugabe misrule, although well intentioned, has been unable to prevent the situation from deteriorating, and that decisive action is now needed? Is not it the case that, although the Government have done the things the Minister outlined today, they could have done more? What we are looking for now is that all his good words in the House today are matched by action.

I welcome the Minister’s statement that the UK is pushing for additional EU sanctions. Will they include widening the scope of the assets freeze? We have heard the rumour that the financial sanctions currently affect only 400 bank accounts, covering £210,000. Surely the Government could do more in that respect.

Will people who have residence and visitor’s permits in the UK and who are on the list of banned people have their permits and passports withdrawn? Will the Minister assure the House that no member of ZANU-PF, including President Mugabe and anyone on the EU sanctions list, will be invited to the EU-AU
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summit in Portugal later this year? If they were, it would make a mockery of the travel bans.

Will the Minister urge Zimbabwe’s neighbours to make a concerted effort to resolve the crisis, and to exploit their many points of influence with the Mugabe regime? Will he now make the case that the consequences of a total collapse in Zimbabwe will fall heavily upon them and their regimes, and will he urge them to put pressure on the Mugabe regime to block the extension of his rule and engage in talks with the Opposition? Can he confirm that the UK is strongly conveying that message, particularly to the Government of South Africa? Is not it vital that the international community present a united front in pursuing a clear strategy that increases the penalties on the Mugabe leadership? Could he have a system of incentives and disincentives clearly linked to sanctions, so that the international community can ratchet up their actions? Can he confirm reports that the UK, along with other nations, is working with moderate members of ZANU-PF to discuss the possibility of agreeing a power-sharing transitional Government? Does he agree that any change in the Government will ultimately come from the actions of the Zimbabwe people themselves? Finally, does he agree that the international community should stand by, ready and planning to work as partners to lift and help Zimbabwe out of the unimaginable poverty in which it finds itself today as soon as genuine partners with whom we can work in Zimbabwe emerge?

Does the Minister agree that, like the iron curtain around the Soviet Union, once the tide starts flowing, it is unstoppable? Is not it high time for the 83-year old Mugabe to retire now?

Mr. McCartney: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his positive statement of support for the Government’s strategy. All of us in the House, whatever our political persuasion, want to do everything possible to ensure engagement with South Africa and other front-line states, which is why the steps taken by the Presidents of Tanzania and South Africa in the past few days are important.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is important that Mugabe see that it is not just the west, and Britain in particular, that is trying to get a regime change: it is a matter for the Zimbabwean people and those in the region. When Mugabe goes, he must be replaced with a regime that respects human rights and human dignity, and has the capacity to represent the interests of all Zimbabweans and all civil society.

The hon. Gentleman is right about another matter. Alongside working in that respect, it is important that the international community have a twin-track approach. It is important that Zimbabwe should not implode when its leadership changes. That means working as a united force—the UN, the south African states and the European Union—to ensure that, alongside the transitional change, arrangements are in place, first, to stabilise the country, and, secondly, to ensure that the transition benefits the Zimbabwean people and does not result in further dispersal, dispute and violence. It is important that we do those two things together.

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On the targeted measures that the hon. Gentleman raised, I made it absolutely clear that we want to see further targeted measures and we are discussing that with our European Union colleagues and others. It is important that we do so. I will keep the hon. Gentleman and the Liberal Democrat spokesman informed—it is not a secret. As the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, I want to work with every party in the House to ensure that maximum pressure is put on the regime. That means working together and trusting each other to get the best result for the Zimbabwean people. That includes the issues about targeting.

The hon. Gentleman did not raise this point, but in the context of targeted measures, it is important to remember that, as well as a travel ban—I hope that we will add names to the travel ban—there is also an issue about some of the children the regime benefits from. As well as adding other names, it is important to consider seriously whether the children of the worst offenders should be included on the list. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will consider that.

Let us be quite clear that it is critical that the EU-Africa summit take place, because we want to discuss good governance, regional peace and security, development and integration, education, health and immigration in Africa as a whole. We should not let Zimbabwe or Robert Mugabe capture that important agenda. I said what I said about France for a specific reason, and I want to be absolutely clear about it: I want the summit to take place—not as a platform for Mugabe, but as a platform for Africa to work with the European Union. The summit does not take place till November or December, so we should not make hasty decisions. We should work with our colleagues who will have the presidency at that time—the Portuguese Government—to ensure that the EU-African Union summit takes place. I hope that there will be a place there for Zimbabwe, but a different type of Zimbabwe.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend say whether the Secretary of State found out anything more about the Angolan troop situation? Does my right hon. Friend share my regret at the seeming reluctance of the Commonwealth Secretariat to engage in Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe did not leave the Commonwealth; she was abducted by Mugabe, just as South Africa was abducted by Verwoerd. In the case of South Africa, the Commonwealth never accepted the abduction. The then Prime Minister of Canada said:

Why does my right hon. Friend think that the Commonwealth Secretariat has been unwilling to leave a candle in the window for Zimbabwe?

Mr. McCartney: I checked up on the reports about Angola, because it was important to do so. The Angolan authorities tell us that the reports are completely false, but I know that hon. Members raised the issue legitimately and in the right spirit. We went back to our post in Rwanda and spoke to the Angolan authorities who said—I repeat—that the reports about troops were false.

We are working actively with the Commonwealth Secretariat. It is critical that not just the Commonwealth Secretariat, but our colleagues in the Southern African Development Community and in the African Union,
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along with us in the European Union, make progress over the coming days to get the dialogue going about the situation in Zimbabwe so that it can move on to a new leadership, new politics and a new type society. As I tried to outline in my remarks to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), that should be done in a way that does not undermine further the ability of Zimbabweans to see through the crisis and get to a different place.

Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): I echo the comments of the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) in thanking the Minister for an advance copy of the statement. The Minister has made a powerful case against Mugabe this afternoon and the whole House will be grateful to him for doing that. He did not pull his punches in his description of Mugabe’s monstrous regime. I invite him to be more robust about the countries of southern Africa. Frankly, people are despairing at South Africa’s softly-softly approach, in particular. Notwithstanding what the Minister said about Angola, it is alarmed by the past week’s reports of closer security co-operation between the two countries.

Does the Minister agree that despite the sensitivities—we accept that humanitarian briefings in the Security Council are important—Britain has to force the pace on extending sanctions not only in the European Union, but at the Security Council, so that Mugabe and all his regime can be held to account? It has been reported today that to facilitate Mugabe’s political demise, he might get some sort of deal letting him off the hook for all his crimes against humanity, which would surely be an appalling prospect for all of us. Will the Minister confirm that neither the United Kingdom nor the European Union would support such a tawdry arrangement?

Mr. McCartney: Let me take the hon. Gentleman’s last point first. We are not holding discussions about giving immunity to Mugabe or any other member of the regime. However, our first act must surely be to assist efforts internationally and in the region itself so that we get to a position in which Mugabe is no longer in power. However, that should be achieved by the Zimbabwean people with the support of the international community. That will be an important first step, yet what happens after that, in terms of our contingency planning, ongoing support for the people of Zimbabwe and the problems flowing from the excesses of the regime, is important. I am not dodging the question, but as the hon. Gentleman indicated, we must ensure that South Africa and the other countries in the region—this is critically important—and China and other countries are in a position in which they will come along with ourselves and the European Union on multilateral action to resolve the situation in Zimbabwe once and for all. That is the priority. We must not provide anyone with a loophole or a bolthole so that things become more difficult than they are at the moment.

We will take each step in turn. The first step is to get momentum going with regard to what the hon. Gentleman said. That was why I was robust in negotiations to ensure that the Human Rights Council, which is sitting at the moment, debates Zimbabwe
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before its session breaks up in June. It will be important for us to pursue the matter in the Security Council early next week—of course, South Africa is its chair at the moment. Over the next few days, it will be critical for us to maintain our pressure on the international community to come together on Zimbabwe.

The hon. Gentleman asks us to be robust. I am robust as any Member, but I am acutely aware that I want to be robust in such a way that it will make a difference. I do not want to be robust and thus give someone an excuse. It is easy to get a clap or a nod of approval in here. As I said in my statement, we should not say or do anything that would give anyone the opportunity not to participate in this international effort to rid Zimbabwe of Mugabe.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): What countries will be represented at the regional conference and what issues will actually be discussed? It has been a long time since we first started thinking about tightening up the sanctions. Why has it taken so long to do that?

Mr. McCartney: The European Union sanctions are a matter for the EU as a whole. We will have to wait to find out what comes out of the debates in the Human Rights Council and the Security Council. However, my hon. Friend can rest assured that from our perspective, as I said in my statement and in reply to the hon. Member for Cotswold, we want to maximise our ability to extend the bans and to examine other measures. We want to take colleagues with us. It is important that the action is multilateral and that it is seen that that action is being taken by the international community, not just by ourselves.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): I served in 1979 to try to bring Zimbabwe back to democracy and I am horrified by the state that we are in now. I must say to the Government that I think that we have dragged our heels unnecessarily over the years. Does the Minister agree that surely the time has come to deal directly with South Africa and the other neighbours and to say to them very simply, as a process of limit diplomacy, that it is time for them to put real pressure on Zimbabwe? If they do not do so, perhaps we should examine again the programmes, such as aid programmes, that are going in their direction and say, “It’s a two-way street. Either you act, or we act.”

Mr. McCartney: I recognise the right hon. Gentleman’s contribution in his previous roles, but I disagree entirely with his last remark. I am all for putting increased pressure on people in the region to take their responsibilities seriously, and that is why, as I said, the Prime Minister has already been in contact with President Mbeki and has already had discussions with the President of Tanzania, and there will be other such discussions to follow. However, what we cannot and will not do is withdraw our important international aid activity, whether it is dealing with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, or with pandemic AIDS and TB. We will not take action against the ordinary citizens of any country in Africa simply to get at Mugabe’s regime. That is playing entirely into his
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hands, and that is the kind of suggestion that I tried to allude to earlier. Such suggestions are not only unhelpful, but are nonsense, given what we are trying to do.

Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): In view of reports that ZANU-PF might itself move to get rid of Mugabe, will my right hon. Friend set out the principles that the UK Government and others will expect from an incoming Government, particularly in respect of the move to full and free elections in Zimbabwe? Some of us are concerned that people in ZANU-PF who have benefited greatly from the regime might try to ensure regime change to protect their own position, whereas most people, obviously, want a move to a truly democratic Zimbabwe, with a return to peace and security for the millions of Zimbabweans.

Mr. McCartney: I am absolutely certain that there are some people within the regime who would like regime change but who would like to simply carry on with the policies that have led Zimbabwe to a position of international isolation. That country, which was able to feed itself, and which used to be the bread basket of Africa, now cannot even feed its own nation, and has an AIDS pandemic and a life expectancy of 34 years for a woman, and 37 years for a man.

Let me be absolutely clear that any regime change, which has to come from inside and not outside the country, has to result in a Government who recognise the human rights of all their citizens, who recognise opposition and the freedom of the press, who have the capacity to work with the international community to rebuild their shattered economy, and who have the ability to treat with respect and dignity all the people in Zimbabwe who want to make a contribution to the rebuilding of their country. No individual or organisation can simply take over and carry on as before. That is why it is important, as I said to the hon. Member for Cotswold, that alongside that effort, a second effort is made—an effort on the part of the international community to provide contingency plans on what support we can give to ensure that changes in government, and any transition that takes place, are sustainable on the grounds that I have set out.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): In associating the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru with the Minister’s description of the woeful circumstances in Zimbabwe, may I press him for details of the plan that he has mentioned a number of times? Surely it will take a plan of Marshall plan application to make a real difference to the country when regime change takes place. Does he not think that it is time to tell the people of Zimbabwe about the degree of commitment outside the country to helping them back to the circumstances in which they should live?

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