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29 Apr 2008 : Column 7WH—continued

which we all know is totally false. I am afraid that communiqués of that nature and the pro-Mugabe pronouncements of SADC’s secretary-general, Tomaz Salomao, have done much to discredit SADC. Fortunately, as has been mentioned earlier, there has been a shift in attitude led by people such as the President of Zambia and the new President of Botswana. They are leading SADC forward in a more progressive direction, away from some of the dishonest and disastrous posturings of the past few years.

There are now calls for the list of names on the EU restricted list to be reviewed and revised, but I think that we need to be very careful about doing that. We can afford to be cautious. If anyone currently on the banned list sees the light and wants to work for reform in Zimbabwe, there are many things that they can do simply by standing up inside Zimbabwe or by visiting neighbouring countries; they do not need to come to Europe to make a difference. I therefore hope that the Minister will confirm that she and the rest of Her Majesty’s Government will not support any lifting of any of the targeted sanctions. People who have been happy to remain inside the system while Morgan Tsvangirai and his colleagues in the MDC were beaten on the streets should use their contacts inside the system to help to bring about change.

I am also very suspicious of people who are now calling for a Government of national unity or for an inclusive Administration. It is strange that people who have been most reluctant to comment on anything that has happened under ZANU-PF’s years of misrule, claiming that it would compromise Zimbabwe’s sovereignty, are now very ready to hand out advice to the MDC, even though it has been given its own very clear mandate to govern by the people of Zimbabwe. There seems to be a rather odd idea that Zimbabwe is a fragile gift and that a way must be found for ZANU-PF to hand over that gift very gently to the MDC, and perhaps even stay on in the long term to help the country, as only ZANU-PF really knows how to care for Zimbabwe; but we know that ZANU-PF has destroyed Zimbabwe. ZANU-PF has undermined the economic development of the whole region and jeopardised its stability.

The struggle in Zimbabwe, carried on by the MDC as a political party and by civil society participants such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the National Constitutional Assembly, has been about democracy. ZANU-PF lost an election and then unleashed a new wave of violence. It would be completely anti-democratic if external pressure were to be applied on the MDC to include ZANU-PF in a new Government of national unity. What does such a proposal say to the people of
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Africa about democracy? What does it say to the long-suffering members of the MDC who, despite years of being victims of brutality and electoral rigging, withstood the temptation to resort to violence?

Morgan Tsvangirai and the team that he has built around him deserve enormous credit for having held together a political party under the most adverse conditions. There are far too many names in the MDC to mention, but I am honoured to call many of them my friends. I have got to know them when I have been inside Zimbabwe during my visits over the past four years. Those visits were only brief and I cannot imagine what it must be like to live under the constant threat of death and violent retribution, with no end in sight and no hope of respite. The MDC was isolated and denigrated; it was deprived of all the normal means of communicating its message, and yet it has prevailed. Imagine how much more decisive its win would have been if 3 million Zimbabweans had not been forced to flee abroad, given that most of the exiles are MDC supporters. I hope that they will soon be able to return home to rebuild their country.

Just as the government of Zimbabwe should be by Zimbabweans and for Zimbabweans, the reconstruction of Zimbabwe should be by Zimbabweans and for Zimbabweans. Huge amounts of aid will flow in from all around the world, and it is important that it be used to rebuild a sound infrastructure. The most vital element of a sound infrastructure is the local population, and Zimbabwe probably has the most able and well qualified population of any country in Africa. Having been fleeced by Mugabe and his cronies, I hope that everything will be done to guard against a bloated contingent of UN officials and international corporations being given a chance to siphon off aid to their own coffers.

The struggle has been about democracy. Democracy will work when people in Zimbabwe feel that they can influence the decisions that affect their lives. That means not only accountable politicians but accountable aid agencies. Just as outsiders must resist the temptation to try to micro-manage political solutions, they must be ready to implement the programmes that local communities want, not simply to impose grand designs that sell well in Rome or Geneva. Strengthening civil society means strengthening the voice of people at village pump level, not opening plush non-governmental organisation offices in Harare.

As an honorary vice-president of Surrey County Cricket Club, an issue that is close to my heart is the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Mugabe is a ZCU patron, and its chairman, Peter Chingoka, and managing director, Ozias Bvute, are both deeply implicated in the financial corruption that props up the regime. Through cricket, they have access to hard currency, which they misuse to exercise corrupt patronage in collaboration with the bigwigs of Zimbabwe’s ruling party. At international matches Chingoka uses the VIP pavilion to host the ZANU-PF politicians, CIO operatives and senior army officers on whom he relies for protection.

I hope that change in Zimbabwe is imminent but, until it actually comes, cricket is one small way to show that we care about the millions of Zimbabweans who feel isolated, forgotten and condemned to misery. Zimbabwe cricket is an extension of the worst aspects of Mugabe’s regime. Those of us who care for Zimbabwe and cricket in particular, or human rights and sport in general,
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must do all we can to support the Prime Minister’s proposal to ban the Zimbabwean cricket team from touring in the UK. I hope the Minister will confirm that no UK visa will be given for Chingoka to come here to attend any International Cricket Council meetings, or for any other reason, in the next few months. I also want to ask whether the ICC has yet given Her Majesty’s Government a copy of the KPMG audit for which they asked regarding ZCU financial malpractice.

The most encouraging development in recent days has been the show of solidarity from the trade union movement, which was mentioned earlier. The proposal by the South African Tin Workers Union not to unload the Chinese arms shipment nails the lie that Mugabe is respected by the people of southern Africa. That is a myth put around by the establishments of the region and their cronies around the world, many of whom need to boost the myth of their own popularity. Privately, many of them probably fear the end of Mugabe, particularly if it is civil society and trade unions that bring that about. They may be looking over their own shoulder to see what is happening in their own country.

I pay tribute to the efforts of the International Transport Workers Federation and particularly Randall Howard, its president, who is also general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union. Thanks to the ITLF, the transport workers of all the countries in the region have imposed a de facto arms ban on the Zimbabwe regime. Their action has huge practical and symbolic importance, and, again, it nails the lie that there is no support in the region for restrictive measures against the Zimbabwe regime.

I also pay tribute to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which has stood firmly alongside its brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. When I visited COSATU in Johannesburg last year, it was impressive to see its engagement with the struggle in Zimbabwe. If Mugabe and all his hangers-on do not vacate State house soon, I understand that the ITF may well consider an embargo on the shipment of luxury cars and other goods bound for those who are running ZANU-PF and certainly not for the badly beaten and depressed people of Zimbabwe.

The trade unions have paved the way for a formal United Nations arms moratorium, and today—almost as we speak—that is being considered by the Security Council. The call for an arms embargo has been echoed by the Archbishop of Cape Town. I am pleased and proud that our Prime Minister set out his position on Zimbabwe in such robust terms when he addressed the Security Council recently. I hope that, if things have not changed by the time the UK is chairing the Security Council, further progress will be made at that time to protect the votes of the people of Zimbabwe. Those votes embody the sovereignty and independence of the country.

I again congratulate the hon. Member for North Norfolk. What we say in this House is significant, and it must not be assumed that the things that we say help to boost Mugabe and his propaganda machine. I hope that those people all over Zimbabwe who by various methods get communications from outside the country will be absolutely encouraged by the fact that we are debating this subject. I also hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the questions that have been asked, and that very soon we will see the end of Mugabe and a Government in Zimbabwe led by Morgan Tsvangirai.


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10.5 am

Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): I shall contribute briefly to this debate. We are all running out of adjectives with which to describe the regime in Zimbabwe. In a way, describing its actions is a waste of time, because we want to get down to discussing other details, but last night I sent to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), who is the courageous and highly respected chairman of the all-party group on Zimbabwe, some e-mails that had been sent to me about precisely what is happening. There is an organised campaign of terror by Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation and senior echelons in the army against the Movement for Democratic Change and the courageous people of Zimbabwe. It is highly moving and deeply distressing to hear exactly how brutal and vile the regime is being at this time.

To the outside world, one of Mugabe’s most perverse acts is the abandon with which he prints money. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is printing money as though it were confetti, because Zimbabwe’s Government believe that, by so doing, they have more money. That is the most economically illiterate thing that they could be doing. It is driving a nation that has been impoverished by the regime into even greater poverty.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) for securing this debate. In a debate on sanctions, we must ask how that Government are physically able to print money, because what is absolutely certain is that the banknotes are not being printed in Zimbabwe. As a Back-Bench MP, it is relatively difficult to find out precisely where they are being printed, but I suspect that it is relatively easy for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to find out. Through rumours and articles that we might read in Africa Confidential or other papers, we have been led to believe that they are being printed in Germany. If that is the case, I want to look into the eyes of the company’s directors to see whether they are ashamed of their complicity in the impoverishment of Zimbabwe; I want to find out from the German Government what they are doing to bring pressure to bear on the company; and I want to find out from the European Union Commission what pressure it is bringing to bear on companies, such as that one, which support the vile and perverse actions of the Government of Zimbabwe.

At times, I have a problem with the approach of the FCO to what is happening in Zimbabwe. I visited the country in 2000 or 2001 with my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who was then the shadow Foreign Secretary, after having gone there many times in the past and having worked with members of the Movement for Democratic Change. I saw that the MDC was rising as a real political force in that country, but diplomats in our high commission were saying, “No, no, we should not be talking to the MDC. We should be talking to the young bloods in ZANU-PF. They are the future.” That was not my reading of the situation.

I was alarmed recently to discover that an enormous amount of weight was being put behind Simba Makoni as a possible future political figure in Zimbabwe. In fact, he did not have much traction with the electorate. I feel that the tentacles that diplomats put out in Zimbabwe are not really bringing back the true message—which perhaps they do not want to hear—that the MDC is the
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Opposition, whatever we hear about different factions, and we should be putting our weight securely behind the MDC.

I have often raised another aspect of sanctions—I raised it with the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) when he was the Foreign Secretary. Many family members and followers of the cronies and thugs who are part of Robert Mugabe’s coterie come to this country and benefit from our education and health systems and various other aspects of our tolerant western liberal democracy. The right hon. Gentleman said, “You cannot visit the sins of the fathers on their sons, daughters, cousins and aunts.” Well, I am sorry, but we have reached the stage where we just jolly well can and we must, because if those people are denied education and benefits from our health service and are prevented from doing business in this country, they will take a strong message back to Zimbabwe and will be forced to live in the country to whose impoverishment they have contributed.

If Barclays bank has been complicit, it has strong questions to answer, but in a debate such as this we should really look at who the true villains are in supporting the Government of Zimbabwe. We all know from history that the Government of South Africa can turn the switch off on the Government of Zimbabwe, given the way that Vorster turned the switch off on Smith in Rhodesia. I will not delay hon. Members any longer expressing my disappointment—that is a mild word for it—and deep frustration with the Government of Thabo Mbeki. I hope that Jacob Zuma will take a different approach. I sense that the new people moving into the governance of countries in the Southern African Development Community have a more modern, enlightened approach, and we must hope for more from them.

I do not believe that we as a Parliament can ignore—particularly at this time of the Olympics—the complicity of China in many of the problems in southern Africa. China supports the Governments of Sudan and Zimbabwe and they have been found out. Many hon. Members know that, while our Foreign Office is deciding how to cut costs here and different missions there, China has been buying up Africa—buying the infrastructure and companies—and providing arms, financial support and, no doubt, banking support to Governments such as the Government of Zimbabwe. How could they do that at a time like this? I hope that the Minister will tell us today that the Foreign Office is being as strong as it possibly can in saying to the Government of China, “You are in the eye of the storm now. The world is looking at you at the time of the Olympics. You have to join the world condemnation of such regimes, not just by warm words but by your actions. You have the power, as the Government of China, to turn off the tap of your support for regimes such as the one in Zimbabwe.”

10.12 am

Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) on securing today’s important debate.

I must admit that I am not an expert on Zimbabwe. I have never been there. The closest I ever came to it was playing rugby with two Rhodesian guys in the early 1970s at college in Bristol; who were really good eggs, as
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we say. However, we need to consider sanctions in the context of the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe and the humanitarian implications of further sanctions.

Many religious leaders in Zimbabwe feel that, if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe, we will soon be witnessing genocide similar to that in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other African hotspots of the past. There is widespread famine in the countryside, basic goods are unavailable or too expensive and there are no medicines to treat people injured in the post-election violence. There is no doubt that people are being tortured, humiliated and abducted for voting for the wrong candidate in the recent election.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) mentioned the trade unions active in the Southern African Development Community area that are trying to oppose the regime in Zimbabwe. I recently received evidence from my former trade union in Britain—the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers—via e-mails about what is going on in Zimbabwe at present. I received an e-mail from a former head teacher in my constituency, Tony Skipworth, who now lives in Darfield and was head teacher at Shafton primary school, which I used to serve as a governor. His e-mail included a couple of graphic photographs of a guy who had been beaten up in Zimbabwe. I showed those photographs to Lord Malloch-Brown last week at the meeting of the all-party group on Zimbabwe and I shall pass them to the Minister at the conclusion of this debate. They are pretty graphic.

Mr. Skipworth’s e-mail reads as follows:

Zimbabwe.

preventing them from doing so.

That is the reality of Zimbabwe today under the Mugabe regime.

I should like briefly to mention the Archbishop of York’s stance against the regime in Zimbabwe. Hon. Members might remember that he cut up his dog collar on a political programme on television just after Christmas. He also instigated a day of fasting at York cathedral this Sunday. As a Yorkshireman, I am proud to have John Sentamu as the Archbishop of York; he is doing a fantastic job.

Many political pundits in the immediate aftermath of the election felt that Mugabe was ready to stand down. It is only certain party officials and senior military and
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police personnel who have stopped him doing so, protecting their own backs. Many of those are among the 130 people identified by the resolution and the sanctions embargo. I agree with many of the points on sanctions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall. If sanctions are to be increased, we must try to target those individuals more and expose them more in the eyes of the media to exert more pressure on them to comply with change. The difficulty with increasing sanctions is that, if we instigate broader economic sanctions, it is only the people of Zimbabwe who will suffer and they are suffering enough at present.

I share the concern of the hon. Member for North Norfolk about the role played by three British banks—particularly Barclays bank, which he named—that appear to be assisting the Mugabe regime. I hope that they will review their business activities in Zimbabwe once they have read this debate. As a member of the all-party group on cricket, I also agree with many of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall about Zimbabwean cricket.

In efforts to resolve the current impasse, it is difficult for us as the former colonial power to be in the driving seat. In my opinion, the main driver in the first instance has to be the Southern African Development Community, which needs to take a much firmer stance in not allowing the desperate position in Zimbabwe to deteriorate any further. Most hon. Members who have contributed this morning have made that point. All 14 member states of the SADC need to be much more vociferous than they have been. In particular, South Africa, via President Mbeki, needs to set the future agenda. After all, the former Rhodesian leader, Ian Smith, knew that he was finished when South Africa pulled the plug on him. History could repeat itself. In addition, I believe that Kofi Annan and the United Nations could play a positive role in resolving the situation.

People speak of an African solution to an African problem. There has already been an African solution for Zimbabwe, which the people of Zimbabwe voted for about a month ago. The will of the people of Zimbabwe must prevail.


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