|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
the current political environment in Zimbabwe falls far short of
SADCs principles and guidelines. He said yesterday, more strongly, that the situation in Zimbabwe was scandalous and that what was happening there was embarrassing to all Africans in the region. I applaud his frankness and that of his Angolan and Tanzanian colleagues, who have spoken in similar terms. It is now for SADC and AU leaders to convene in early session and to establish a clear basis for regional engagement on the issue.
At the European Council last week, the Prime Minister and other leaders underlined their readiness to take further measures, should President Mugabe attempt to steal the election. On behalf of the EU, the Slovenian Foreign Minister has issued a clear statement condemning the violence and the conditions that forced Morgan Tsvangirai to withdraw from the election. I spoke to Foreign Minister Rupel last night to welcome that statement, and to discuss with him now the need urgently to consider how we can put further pressurea widening and deepening of the EU visa ban and targeted financial measureson Robert Mugabe and his elite that can be actioned at the next meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. Javier Solana and Commissioner Michel have both now issued statements condemning the violence and supporting Morgan Tsvangirais decision.
I have also spoken to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and I welcome his statement yesterday. Later today, the Security Council will discuss Zimbabwe. I am sure that our permanent representative will speak for the whole House when he says that the UN must contribute to the resolution of this crisis before the entire region is destabilised further. It is right and it is necessary that the Security Council, the African Union and SADC work together on this. The UN agencies have prepared for continued help for refugees who flee Zimbabwe.
The UN Secretary-Generals envoy remains in the region and should be allowed to return to Zimbabwe, but the burden will still be borne by the region and by Zimbabwes neighbours, and the role of their leaders is vital. Britain has long and historical links with Zimbabwe. I have never believed that the rights and wrongs of our history should prevent us from speaking clearly and frankly about the situation today. Robert Mugabes misrule does not invalidate the struggle for independence;
our colonial history does not mean we cannot denounce that which is wrong. The test, at all times, should be whether our commitment and action can help the people of Zimbabwe.
The cynical decision to suspend non-governmental organisations delivering vital humanitarian aid shows how far Mugabe has gone in abandoning Zimbabwes people. Our foremost duty is still to press for humanitarian space to be re-opened and for those NGOs to be allowed to restart operations. Some 1.5 million people have been affected by the ban imposed by the Mugabe regime. As the second largest bilateral donor, we will continue to provide aid and assistance as we can. The Secretary of State for International Development chaired a meeting this morning to consider what more we can do to support urgently those in Zimbabwe. Just before this sitting of the House, I spoke to our ambassador in Harare, and he and his staff are working hard to maintain a full suite of diplomatic roles in Harare. Travel advice remains under review and recommends against all but essential travel to Zimbabwe.
We will continue our efforts publicly and privately to press for a solution to this crisis that reflects the will of the people in Zimbabwe. I am sure hon. Members will agree with me that such a solution cannot come quickly enough. Mr. Mugabe says that only God can remove him from officelet us hope the people of Zimbabwe get there first.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): May I thank the Foreign Secretary for coming to the House to make that statement and say at the outset that I think that there will be unanimous agreement with what he said about the violence and murder of recent weeks? Should it not now be clear to the world that this is a despotic regime that cares nothing even for the welfare of its own people and that has no democratic credibility whatever? Does he agree that no one should condemn the Movement for Democratic Change for withdrawing from such a manifestly un-free and unfair election? As Morgan Tsvangirai has said, his party was
facing a war rather than an election.
We should commend the bravery of those opposition figures and supporters who campaigned despite the overt threats against them and in the face of appalling violence towards and suffering for their families.
The response by Zimbabwes neighbours and the wider international community should be swift, united and decisive, and we welcome everything that the Government have done to encourage such a response. We welcome their commitment to raise the issue of Zimbabwe at the UN Security Council today. Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House whether the Government will put actual proposals to the Security Council, for instance, on a UN commission of inquiry into the grotesque abuses of human rights taking place in Zimbabwe? Does he agree that unless there is a negotiated solution, Mugabe and those around him must one day be held accountable for the crimes being committed? Can the Foreign Secretary say whether the Government will at least call for and gather support for a United Nations referral to the International Criminal Court?
The Government announced earlier this year that they would seek an informal moratorium on arms sales to Zimbabwe. Is that still the Governments policy, and is there any possibility of it being achieved? The Foreign Secretary rightly referred to European Union sanctions.
This is surely the time for those to be seriously extended and rigorously enforced. In particular, should they not include extending the EU visa ban and assets freeze to associates and relatives of regime members, many of whom currently travel and study in Europe with impunity? The time has surely come for the pusillanimous policy of allowing Mugabe to attend summits with the European Union to be struck down once and for allthere should be no place for the man at any of the worlds summit tables.
I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said, in clarifying the Prime Ministers remarks, about not recognising Robert Mugabes regime as the legitimate Government of Zimbabwe. On that point, the Foreign Secretary is aware of statementshe listed some of themby SADC and its leaders that the election should not now go ahead as planned. The President of Zambia, who is also the chairman of SADC, has said that postponement was needed
to avert a catastrophe in the region.
Since that is the view of those countries, and even now the regime seems bent on going ahead with the rerun, does it not follow that it is time for SADC countries to withhold recognition of the legitimacy of the regime?
Have we not also reached the point at which South Africas willingness to prop up the Government in Harare is harming South Africas image in the world and when all friends of that country should call on the South African president to live up to his regional responsibilities?
There are between 3 million and 4 million Zimbabwean refugees living in neighbouring countries. The latest shocking violence and the economic collapse are expected to create another wave of desperate people fleeing the country. The Foreign Secretary mentioned it in his statement, but can he tell the House what help has been offered to the neighbouring countries in dealing with that problem?
Whatever happens in Zimbabwe over the next weeks, we must stand ready to continue to support the people. Is he satisfied that we have prepared as fully as possible for the rehabilitation of Zimbabwe at the appropriate time, once the country is set on a clear course towards the rule of law and democracy?
Finally, from a wider perspective, the early 1990s saw a positive trend towards multi-party elections in Africa. For various countries, they marked a transition from an extended period of authoritarian rule to fledgling democratic government. They held out the possibility that democratic practices might be deepened on that continent. However, the recent use of violence, intimidation and politically motivated harassment of various forms to retain power in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and now, so spectacularly, in Zimbabwe have undermined that trend. Is it not therefore more crucial than ever that we send a message of unity and clarity to the criminal regime of Mugabe and those who may be tempted to use intimidation and brutality against their own people that that can never be accepted as the norm, and that the people of Africa deserve the rule of law and freedom just like the rest of us?
I counted 12 questions from the right hon. Gentleman, so I hope that he will forgive me if I try to pick out not the easiest ones, but those that I have not covered at great length so far. Certainly there is
no condemnation of the MDC from anyone who has their senses about them. The life and limb of its supporters were at risk.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether, in the happy circumstance of a negotiated solution or way forward, we would call for and gather support for criminal action against Robert Mugabe. Sometimes calling for such things makes it more difficult to gather support for them, but we certainly believe that all aspects of international law should be used where appropriate. We will not shy away from using the tools that are at our disposal, although as the Prime Minister made clear, Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, and any action on that level would therefore require a UN Security Council resolution.
There is an EU and, I think, a US arms sales ban on Zimbabwe and we certainly seek to take that further and wider. I think that I am right in saying that the Chinese ship that tried to dock in Zimbabwe never did disperse its cargo and we hope that that remains the case
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman shouts out his support for the South African dock workers, and he is right to highlight their role. It emphasises the need for both Governments and civil society, including trade unions, to be active on this issue.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about President Mugabes attendance at summits. Certainly it was gut-wrenching to see him turn up at a summit to discuss food, of all things, but it is not possible to ban him from attending the UN summit until he is no longer the President of Zimbabwe. In respect of Mugabes legitimacy, the right hon. Gentleman raised an important point about the need, even in the first 24 hours after Mr. Tsvangirais decision not to contest the second round, of southern African countries not to throw in their lot with Mugabes rule. As the right hon. Gentleman said, those countries should refuse to recognise the Government as a legitimate expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people.
I will be in South Africa in two weeks time and I certainly propose to discuss all aspects of the crisis, including the refugees. I would have thought that it dawned on people in South Africa some time ago that, since the majority of those refugees are in South Africa, it is their problem as well as a Zimbabwean problem and that it afflicts them directly.
In respect of the threat of further refugees, we obviously keep the issue of stockpiles of food and shelter under review. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, as I said, held a meeting on that this morning. The UN presence is critical to this, and we are in touch with the UN on this issue.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention to the importance of the rehabilitationI think that was what he saidof Zimbabwe afterwards. He asked how confident I was about the plans for that. I am confident that a lot of work is going into them, but I have to say to him in all candour that a country that, according to our ambassador today, has reached 8 million per cent. inflation this week is a country for which rehabilitation is hard to plan. With that caveat in mind,
I assure him that although the focus is on the immediate issue we certainly have not forgotten the need to recognise not only our responsibilities but those of all wealthier countries, including those in the region, to contribute to the rehabilitation of Zimbabwe when this vile rule is over.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): The first round of the presidential election was clearly won by Morgan Tsvangirai. The Movement for Democratic Change won the parliamentary elections. Given that this second round is illegitimate now that the opposition have been forced to withdraw, should we not recognise that fact and do more to help the MDC internationally as well as to help the civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations forced into exile by the Mugabe regime? Should we not do whatever we can internationally not just to de-legitimise Mugabe but to say that the real President is Morgan Tsvangirai?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course, it is not just him who says that Mr. Tsvangirai won the first round. Mr. Mugabe recognises that the parliamentary majority was won by the MDC and the presidential plurality was won by Mr. Tsvangirai. That is why I have said yesterday and today that if anyone can claim democratic legitimacy it is the MDC and Mr. Tsvangirai. It is worth saying that there is a lot of talk about Governments of national unity and about people coming together, but that must be based on respecting the only decision that the Zimbabwean people have made, which was certainly not one that would put Robert Mugabe at the head of a Government.
Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (LD): I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for advance notice of his statement and we very much welcome what he has had to say. He is absolutely right that over the past few weeks Robert Mugabes regime has reached new heights of brutality and disregard for the people of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is heading for total collapse. It is clear that free and fair elections would have been impossible under those circumstances, so we can all fully understand and respect the decision taken by the MDC to pull out of the election.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that under the UN principle of responsibility to protect, the international community now has a duty to act? Is he concerned that SADCs chairman, the President of Zambia, recently described the silence of that organisation over the elections as scandalous? Is the Foreign Secretary doing all he can to remind SADC countries, particularly South Africa, of the principles on which that organisation is founded, namely respect for democracy and human rights?
In the absence of a free and fair second round of elections, the Foreign Secretary is right to say that the result of the first round must be taken to express the will of the Zimbabwean people. Does he not agree, too, that the Zimbabwean Parliament should be allowed to meet unmolested to express its will on the matter?
The demands that we must now make are clear. The violence must stop and either the elections must be rescheduled with a massive international presence or a
Government of national unity should be formed under Morgan Tsvangirai. In order to ensure that those demands are met, are the Government willing to take three further steps on a temporary basis until the regime complies? First, will they act to stop the remittances that provide the hard foreign currency that sustains the regime in power? Secondly, will they pressure the Governments of South Africa and Mozambique to be willing to restrict or cut off the supply of electricity to Zimbabwe? Thirdly, will they exceptionally allow asylum seekers from Zimbabwe to work in this country should they seek refuge here? Those are drastic steps but they would remove the only resources that now sustain this evil regime. The Government must show now that they are prepared to take such steps.
David Miliband: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his overall welcome for my statement. I certainly agree that we must do all that we can in all our roles to make sure that SADC lives up to its principles. His point about the Zimbabwean Parliament is well made; it does, of course, represent one source of strength for decent people in Zimbabwe.
Let me address the three questions that the hon. Gentleman asked. He is not the first member of the Liberal Democrat Benches to raise the question whether we should try to stop remittances. On previous occasions in the House, I have tried to say in a diplomatic way that I think that a completely idiotic idea. I have to say again in the nicest possible way that it is very stupid indeed to keep on asking us to try to stop the remittances, because the remittances are keeping together the bodies and souls of very poor people.
I have said in the House before that I have met people in this country who are providing care and sending money back. When they are asked about the conditions of their families, they say, This money is the only thing that is keeping them alive. Honestly, I ask in the nicest possible way that people should stop suggesting the idea; I promise that it is a very bad idea [Interruption.] Carry on if you want, but I say to the hon. Gentleman that I honestly do not believe that stopping the remittances would serve the ends that we share on this issue. They are providing much-needed currency not to the regime but to very poor people who need to keep body and soul togetherditto in respect of the electricity supply; living in Zimbabwe is tough enough without that being cut off.
The right thing to say on the question of the asylum seekers is that every case must be treated seriously on a case-by-case basis. Anyone with a genuine fear of persecutionwe can see the conditions under which that would existmust, of course, be given asylum in this country.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, there is a split in the leadership of the African National Congress in South Africa. While I was there a few weeks ago, President Mbeki addressed 1,500 delegates from all over the world and did not mention the word Zimbabwe. However, the Speaker of the Parliament got up directly afterwards and said that nobody should remain silent on the issue.
There is one voice that is respected throughout the world and ought to be heard on the issue: President Mandelas. He is in London this week celebrating his
90th birthday. Will my right hon. Friend discuss the matter with President Mandela and ask him to speak out, as I am sure he would have done had he been President now?
David Miliband: My right hon. Friends role with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and her visit to South Africa were important. Obviously, President Mandela has a unique position in the world, never mind in Africa. I certainly would not tell him what to do. As I am sure my right hon. Friend knows, he will use whatever offices he has and can appropriately use to effect decent change in South Africa. The issue will certainly be a subject of discussionnot necessarily during the pop concert, but at some time during his visit. I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree that any of us would proceed with great temerity and humility in suggesting lessons that we could teach President Mandela about how he fulfils his functions.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House to what he attributes Mr. Mbekis pathetically inadequate response to this terrible tragedy? Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Commonwealth has put together a response formidable enough to ensure that its views are properly known?
David Miliband: In respect of the first question, I do not want to put myself into the mind of the leader of South Africa. As I said earlier, the burden borne by South Africa from the 2 million-plus refugees from Zimbabwe who are there is reason enough for any countryfrom self-interest, never mind moral interestto speak out on the issue. We have debated before the role of President Mbeki in securing the rounds of the election. Obviously, however, the fact that those elections have not been able to take place in anything other than grotesque circumstances has rendered that null and void.
The hon. Gentleman raised a very important point about the Commonwealth. Zimbabwes absence from the Commonwealth is regretted and due entirely to how Mugabe has run the country. Mugabe has spurned the Commonwealth; I do not believe that the people of Zimbabwe have done so. I can certainly confirm to the hon. Gentleman that this week I will be in touch with the new secretary-general of the Commonwealth to see how neighbouring Commonwealth countries can use the organisations good offices in a positive way.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|