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3 July 2008 : Column 1047
12.58 pm

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): The Foreign Secretary was right to say that there was cross-party support on almost all the issues to do with Zimbabwe, and I agree with many of the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), including on the need to put more pressure on South Africa, and on the need to support those African nations that are speaking out, such as Botswana; that clearly is the route forward. I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary recommended that Her Majesty take up our proposal to withdraw Mugabe’s knighthood. I want to use the small amount of time that I have to make three constructive suggestions to the Government. The first has to do with how we can help Zimbabweans living in this country prepare for their future role in rebuilding Zimbabwe. The second is to propose that the Government push for a stronger legal threat on Mugabe through the UN, and the third involves some comments about sanctions.

The key development objective for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe must be to help as many Zimbabweans living in this country prepare for their task of rebuilding their country, through education, training and work experience. The Government have taken some action in that respect, but I have spoken to representatives of the Movement for Democratic Change and of many of the organisations that work with Zimbabweans living in this country, and they are quietly critical of the Government for not doing much more. Their criticisms come down to two things—that huge uncertainties remain for failed asylum seekers, and that the thousands of Zimbabweans still waiting for their original asylum cases to be heard are unable to work. Those people have been left virtually destitute, with their skills and talents untapped by this country and withering away when it comes to any future use in Zimbabwe.

On failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers, the Court of Appeal yesterday decided to adjourn its hearing in the so-called “HS” case. That means that there should be no removals of such people for at least a few more months, but what about the longer term? We have heard some warm words from some Foreign Office Ministers, most recently on Monday in the other place, when Lord Bach said:

Yet colleagues will readily see that even that statement has a degree of uncertainty and ambiguity about it, even before one adds the ambiguity that is the hallmark of the Home Office’s position on this matter.

The policy issue involved is totally in the Government’s control. No quiet diplomacy or negotiation with any other country is needed; Ministers could take a decision and act. Why cannot all Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers be given special discretionary leave to remain lasting, say, for two years from today? That would give them the certainty that they need to get their lives together so that they can prepare for their eventual return to Zimbabwe. Ministers could also allow those people the right to work, and give the same right to work to the thousand of Zimbabweans who have been waiting for their asylum cases to be heard. Those people are seeking sanctuary in this country from the evil of
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Mugabe, but why do we allow them to suffer here? They have to rely on charity hand-outs and Red Cross parcels, but why can we not allow them the dignity of work?

On Monday in the other place, Lord Bach repeated the pledge that his colleague Lord Malloch-Brown had made the previous week. Lord Malloch-Brown had said that the Government were

I hope that the Government will say more about that. Technically, Lord Malloch-Brown was wrong. Refugees have the right to work here, but asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers do not. I am pleased that the Government are looking at the matter, but we need action and some details now.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I endorse enthusiastically what my hon. Friend is saying, and commend his request to the Government. Those of us who represent many people from Zimbabwe know that they want to be able to work now so that they can live and work in Zimbabwe later. Does my hon. Friend agree with the plea made to the Government by the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) that we work to make sure that those elected to Zimbabwe’s Parliament can take up their places? In that way, and by working with the AU, the Southern African Development Community and others, we can be sure that a Parliament with an Opposition majority is in place to hold the Government to account. That is a hugely important and immediate requirement.

Mr. Davey: I agree totally with my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley).

My second point, about the UN and the International Criminal Court, has been touched on by Liberal Democrat and Conservative Members in recent days. However, the point that I want to make is more precise and immediate, and I believe that it will help focus the minds of those in the inner circle of ZANU-PF. The UN should resolve that, if Robert Mugabe does not leave office within six months, the jurisdiction of the ICC will apply in Zimbabwe.

Currently, Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the ICC, and that puts Mugabe and his henchmen outside the reach of international police and prosecutors. However, the UN Security Council can, by a resolution, bring any country within the locus of the ICC. That would mean that Mugabe and any other named individuals—wherever they went in the world and at any time until their dying day—could face lawful arrest, and subsequent prosecution in the Hague. That would surely focus the minds of the ZANU-PF inner circle.

Ministers should mount a diplomatic offensive to that end in the UN. I accept that it would be difficult, but trying to win international support for that powerful legal threat—the ultimate eviction notice—would surely be worth the effort.

My final point has to do with the vexed question of sanctions. There has inevitably been a debate over smart or targeted sanctions as opposed to dumb or blanket sanctions. Should we toughen the current targeted regime—for example, by including the families of the ZANU-PF leadership—or should we consider more intermediate measures, such as a UN arms embargo, or specific bans on things like financial remittances, electricity and petrol?
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Wider measures could include commercial disinvestment to a full-scale economic and trade embargo.

There are questions about the efficacy of such sanctions and who would suffer, but we need to do far more than we have done so far. It is the ordinary Zimbabweans who are suffering tremendously from malnutrition, unemployment and inflation. Many of the tougher sanctions that are available would not hurt them, but they would hurt the elite and those in Mugabe’s Government.

1.5 pm

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I very much welcome the cross-party nature of this debate, and especially the work done by the Foreign Secretary and the shadow Foreign Secretary. However, I also want to pay tribute to the Prime Minister for his personal commitment to this matter and the huge amount of time and effort that he has devoted to it over the past few months. There has been some progress at the UN recently, and I honestly believe that that has resulted from the extra efforts that he has made, and from the work that has gone on generally in this House.

I am pleased that some of the things for which various hon. Members have called for some time have been accepted by the Government. For example, sanctions are to be tightened, and the problems with the Zimbabwe cricket tour have been cleared up. We called for that a year ago, but we were told that sport and politics do not mix. I hope that no one is dreaming of giving a visa to any Zimbabwean cricketer even if the International Cricket Council were to say that the team could carry on in Twenty20 cricket.

I do not want to go into too much detail, but does the international community really want Mugabe to attend the Beijing Olympic games? Should a Zimbabwean team be able to compete? If we can get South Africa out of the Olympics, we should be able to do the same for Zimbabwe.

I want to talk about humanitarian protection. What is the UN’s role in that? What has it said that it can do, and how little does it actually do? It utters grand-sounding words and resolutions, but how can we take that seriously if there are no mechanisms that allow it to intervene and give the real help needed to save people from the violent frenzy of Zimbabwe’s illegal Government? We should not even talk about President Mugabe—he is not a president, and he has not been legally elected. The Zimbabwean Government are an illegal, pariah Government.

The UN has a special adviser on the prevention of genocide. That sounds very laudable, but what has he done to prevent the slide towards genocide in Zimbabwe? It is not too extreme to use the word “genocide”, as some extremely dreadful things are happening in that country. Those events are not seen by cameras, and they happen out of the sight of the many brave reporters and journalists who have managed to get into the country. Has the adviser given any assessment to the UN of the genocide that is taking place in Zimbabwe?

I could spend a lot of time making critical comments about the AU, but we do not have that time. I welcome the fact that some African leaders have finally gone
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public with the criticism of Mugabe that they had hitherto made quietly behind the scenes. The AU monitors said that the first election was completely free and fair, but we knew that some terrible things were going on. They condemned the second round of elections, so how come Mugabe was allowed even to think of being able to attend the summit in Egypt? Zimbabwe must be suspended from the AU until an end is put to Mugabe’s Government and a new Government put in their place. The AU must be pushed by us. It has no credibility while it allows Zimbabwe to remain a member.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) (LD): The hon. Lady is making an important point, but does she agree that it is important for members of the African Union to understand that if the international community is committed to massive transfers of aid and development funding to Africa, Africa must solve the political and economic problems at its heart? Otherwise, it will be very difficult to maintain public support for that transfer of funds.

Kate Hoey: Absolutely; I shall come on to that issue if I have time.

What is the point of negotiation and mediation if they are simply used as a tactic to prolong Mugabe’s rule and allow him to wear down the MDC by intimidation and violence? ZANU-PF is working on the basis that, if it can string out the mediation process for long enough, there will not be any coherent opposition left to confront. There is a systematic taking-out of duly elected Members of Parliament at this very moment. They continue to be abducted and beaten up and to disappear. Although there may be an MDC parliamentary majority, Members of Parliament who are kept in prison or in police cells for more than 21 days can be removed from their seats. The idea is that, by the end of the process, Mugabe will get his parliamentary majority by killing and torturing the Members who already sit in Parliament.

Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that, unless clear standards are set for the proper governance for Zimbabwe, there is a real risk that mediation and compromise will simply result in a fudge that allows the present atrocities to continue, albeit under a slightly different banner?

Kate Hoey: Any fudge that involves Mugabe or any of his closest Government allies staying in power must be opposed.

John Bercow: If talks and sanctions fail, surely there is a logical corollary of that state of affairs, in that the only way to remove a genocidal regime is by virtue of a military deployment with an obligation to enforce peace.

Kate Hoey: We may have to consider a peacekeeping force, but I am very keen to ensure that we do what the MDC—the official Government, as far as I am concerned—asks for, rather than sit around here and decide what is best.

If this is an African problem, as we are told it is, and it needs an African solution, the AU and SADC must call for an end to the intimidation of African lawyers when carrying out their professional duties. The draft communiqués that emerge from the AU still manage to parrot ZANU-PF’s version of events.

3 July 2008 : Column 1051

I cannot even begin to say what I think of the South African President. I said last week in Parliament that we have been far too nice for far too long to President Mbeki, and I am glad that we are beginning to think that it is time to stop. When he and many others rallied people in this country on the issues of apartheid, we were not told that we should not get involved because we were ex-colonialists, or that we should not struggle to rid South Africa of oppression. Many South Africans came to the UK to seek refuge from terror; today, many Zimbabweans are coming here, and we need to give them the same support that we gave to the African National Congress exiles all those years ago.

I want to mention some people who have been to this Parliament, who have been involved with all of us and who are still being held in prison. Tendai Biti is of course now out of prison, but he was released not because of Mbeki’s protestations, but because of the very brave lawyers who continue in that country to ensure that, occasionally, judges rule on some elements of law and order. I want to mention also some of the women from Women of Zimbabwe Arise, whom I met many years ago on my first visit, and indeed, on my second and third visits. Those women, who were working throughout Zimbabwe, were not partisan and did not even think of themselves as politicised; they wanted their lives and those of the people in their communities to get better. Many were widows, and they knew that their children would soon be orphans, but they looked out for each other and vowed to care for each other when they were no longer able to look after themselves. That is what human rights should mean in practice, and that is what the responsibility to protect means at grass-roots level.

Today, many of those women are still in prison. People such as Jenni Williams and Magadonga Mahlangu were arrested on 28 May. They are still being held in custody in harsh and sub-human conditions, and they are subject to torture and other degrading treatment. Those women were detained purely because they attempted to exercise their rights to freedom of association and assembly.

In the trade union movement, Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and one of the most impressive men I have ever met, is fighting valiantly against all the odds to uphold the rights of workers in Zimbabwe. He has been imprisoned many times—under Ian Smith as well as under Mugabe—and is now on trial for inciting rebellion as a result of a speech that he made on May day. I welcome the role of the trade unions in trying to confront Mugabe, and I welcome also the changed and very strong views of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. If only the South African President would listen to them.

The UK Prime Minister recently challenged the G8 members to live up to their promises at Gleneagles to increase development aid, but so far they have not kept them. I hope also that he will issue a strong challenge to Thabo Mbeki and the AU representatives to live up to their promises. It is quite amazing that we continue to think about pouring in millions of pounds of aid. I am not necessarily talking about Zimbabwe, but there are real problems with the way in which aid is used there. We have to be very careful, because when I was in Zimbabwe, and more recently, many people said to me, “We’re suffering anyway. Is it not better to get the
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suffering over as quickly as possible, rather than dragging things out and keeping Mugabe in power by paying to feed the people who Mugabe is trying to kill and oppress?” It is us—my constituents—who are paying. We have to say to the rest of the African Union, “We are aiding you, we are giving you things, we are helping you. You cannot expect continually to have it both ways—to take what we give and then condemn us for interfering in Africa.”

It is time for Governments throughout the world to recognise that we have been too slow to get involved in Zimbabwe. If we do not now undertake proper international involvement, get in there and make Mugabe go, there will be a genocide unlike anything we have seen—certainly not since Rwanda.

1.16 pm

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey). As she knows, I have taken an interest in Zimbabwe ever since I entered the House, and the country and its people are very close to my heart.

Three months on from 29 March, when the presidential and parliamentary election results that were posted at polling stations seemed to bring change within the grasp of the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe, their lives have become worse. With every day that passes, there are examples of brutality, killings, beatings and imprisonment. You name it, they have experienced it. It is important to remember that Zimbabwe has a democratically elected Parliament, as the hon. Lady said. While discussions over transitional arrangements continue among South African Development Community and African Union leaders, we must bear in mind the Zimbabwean people’s democratic will, which was expressed in the mandate given to the members of the House of Assembly on 29 March. The voices of those parliamentarians must be listened to as an expression of the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe.

We in this House want democracy in Zimbabwe, not a stitch-up engineered from outside to protect the interests of ZANU-PF, its elite and its associates. Mugabe is reported to be planning to undermine the MDC majority in Parliament by bringing trumped-up charges against Movement for Democratic Change MPs. It is also said that he will use imprisonment and abduction to make them forfeit their seats, because as the hon. Lady said, under Zimbabwean law, MPs who do not attend Parliament for 21 consecutive days lose their seats.

Understandably, I advise the House, many newly elected MDC MPs are already in hiding and at least 10 have been arrested on spurious charges. I hope that this House will do all it can to alert parliamentarians throughout the world to the threats faced by those Zimbabweans who have put their lives on the line by offering themselves up for election.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Nicholas Winterton: No, I shall not give way. Time in the debate is limited and others want to speak.

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