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The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short), the British International Development Minister at that time, was right to say:

Amanda Hammar, a leading Danish academic, commented:

Many well-informed observers of the region believe that the architecture of the inclusive Government was, in fact, never designed to deliver real reform. Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group, who has already been quoted in the debate, has said that:

That may explain why SADC—the Southern African Development Community—and the African Union have been so forthright in calling for the lifting of the European Union travel restrictions on certain named individuals, yet so reluctant to censure Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF hardliners for blatantly undermining both the spirit and the letter of the global political agreement.

The efforts to undermine the stability and progress of the new Government are very evident. They operate through a parallel power structure controlled by the joint operations command. That junta, comprising the chiefs of the army, air force, police, prisons and intelligence, still refuses to accept the new political order, and is manoeuvring to maintain its grip on power. Ever since the swearing in of the new Government, elements loyal to the JOC have continued to use abduction, beatings, arrest and detention as a means of intimidation and control, along with, of course, the continuing invasion of white farms. There are too many in southern Africa—not only the unreformed ZANU-PF hardliners, but the fervent ideologues of the region—who seem incapable of moving on from the anti-colonial rhetoric of their glory days to a politics that deals with the needs and aspirations of the people today in their country.

With the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), I recently had the privilege of meeting Thabitha Khumalo, MDC Member of Parliament for Bulawayo East. Morgan Tsvangirai has appointed her to a vital role as a member of the joint monitoring and implementation committee, the body set up under the global political agreement to oversee the monitoring and implementation of that agreement, which is the foundation on which the new and fragile political framework in Zimbabwe was built.

To those who listened to Thabitha Khumalo’s accounts of life in Zimbabwe—of the continuing petty interferences, and the far more worrying abductions and detentions of those engaged in the political life of the country—it was apparent that JOMIC had a critical role to play. Its role is defined as being—I quote precisely—

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JOMIC is supposed to be guaranteed by both SADC and the AU. However, as Thabitha told us at the meeting at which we saw her, it is barely able to function because of its lack of funds. It is difficult for members to attend meetings, because not even their travel expenses can be covered. It should be an absolute priority for South Africa and other SADC nations to ensure that that vital committee is properly resourced.

The memorandum of understanding between political parties in Zimbabwe says that implementation of the global political agreement—again, I quote precisely, in order not to mislead the House—

I personally interpret “underwritten” as implying a certain financial responsibility. It certainly ill behoves the SADC nations to call so stridently and vehemently for the United Kingdom and other donor nations to provide financial backing for Zimbabwe when their response to the continuing breaches by ZANU-PF Ministers and Mugabe loyalists is either non-existent or so muted that it is as good as silent. Given the responsibilities that SADC took upon itself and into which it freely entered, I fear that silence in such circumstances amounts to complicity.

We must remain firm and resolute that financial support, other than the essential humanitarian support that we have always provided, will not be released until there is clear evidence of respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe. For as long as the old guard, as I describe them, continue to have their fingers on the levers of power—and their fingers in the till—we would be foolhardy in the extreme to advance financial assistance through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it would do little if anything to advance the prosperity or security of the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, about whom we in the House are most concerned.

A clear and immediate threat, which I have already mentioned, is the renewed wave of farm invasions. It has shown utter disregard for the rule of law and contempt for both investment and production, both of which—as many Members have pointed out today—are central to development and security. If donors and commercial investors are to be attracted back to Zimbabwe to rebuild the shattered economy, to provide more jobs and income, to produce goods and to grow food, the upsurge in violence against commercial farmers must be halted.

Zimbabwe continues to be a test case for the institutions of Africa, for the Southern African Development Community and for the African Union. The accepted wisdom over recent years has been that Zimbabwe is an African crisis needing an African solution. The basis, agreed at Gleneagles, on which African leaders have been invited to attend recent G8 meetings is that in return for increased aid, Africa as a whole—but particularly the countries neighbouring Zimbabwe—will take responsibility for human rights and good governance. I do not know what we are to make of the recent comment by South Africa’s interim President Motlanthe, who said, speaking in Zimbabwe:

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I find that very difficult to understand.

I hope that African leaders as a whole will be challenged by the United Kingdom Government, not least at the G20, which will take place a few yards from here later this week, because they need to be challenged over their apparent attitude. The welfare and development of millions of people are at stake. The attitudes of Africa’s leaders to their international obligations are important considerations in our debate on Africa as a whole. That surely goes to the heart of respect for the rule of law and respect for the treaty obligations which commit African nations—just as much as they commit nations elsewhere in the world—to upholding the freedoms, rights and dignity of individuals. We must make it clear to Africa that we are watching.

Let me express, from this House, my sympathy to Morgan Tsvangirai for the loss of his wife Susan. She was a wonderful person, and gave him great support. He has borne that tragic loss with huge courage and dignity. I hate to say it, but perhaps he has benefited from that great loss. The people of Zimbabwe—I referred to this earlier in my speech—describe him as “Papa Morgan”. I say to the House that Morgan Tsvangirai, the champion of the people and the current Prime Minister of the Government of Zimbabwe, deserves all the support that we can give him, and I hope that the world will rally around a man who can restore the peace, stability and security of Zimbabwe.

7.9 pm

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South) (Lab): Few Members can match the eloquence displayed by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) in his speech. We are aware of the issues to do with Zimbabwe, and the hon. Gentleman has spoken about them with great courage. Depressingly however, while he was making his speech I was looking at the Economist Intelligence Unit league table of democratic countries in the world—which uses a sophisticated methodology—and I have counted that 10 countries in Africa are even less democratic than Zimbabwe. If we have only one debate every 15 years, the hon. Gentleman will be 100 before he has addressed all the other countries. I hope that there will be considerable progress before that happens, however.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I have been listening closely to the debate while outside the House. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that there is a concern in concentrating so much on those states in Africa that are underperforming? Should we not think also about praising those that are doing a great job and making great changes of which we should be proud? Should we in this House not articulate the view that where there is progress and real democracy, that should be applauded?

Mr. George: I was going to make that point. However, although there is a superficial attraction, including in financial terms, to my hon. Friend’s argument, if we were to do what he wishes, we would wash our hands of Zimbabwe, which I would not want.

I welcome this debate, and my contribution will focus on democratisation, human rights, good governance, elections and election observation. Some might think
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that that will make for a remarkably short speech, but there are times when I am encouraged, such as every time I think of Ghana. I also used to be encouraged every time I thought of Kenya, but I am less so now. It is important to point out that the results of democratisation in Africa have so far been, at best, mixed, but we should also acknowledge that research has shown that about half the countries in the world have some sort of democratic system, so perhaps we should seek to build on that.

I do not seek to be deferential towards Her Majesty’s Government, but what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Government as a whole have done has been significant and largely very beneficial. I would also like to be able to say with greater conviction that this House has played a significant role in the process of democratisation on the African continent. The speeches we have heard today have displayed a great deal of experience, and much of that has emanated from an initial visit to a country that a Member might be supporting, organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The impact on Africa over so many years of Members of Parliament having their continuing interest in the continent stimulated is important, because when Members visit a country they often come back and join or found an all-party group, and therefore there is a strong body of opinion in support of assisting Africa.

Africa is very important to us. That is not because many of us have a feeling of guilt, even though we were not responsible for the history of colonisation. That was in many cases pretty rotten, and although we were not the worst colonisers by any stretch of the imagination, there is much that we need to feel rather guilty about. Africa is important because it is right that we assist the continent, in conjunction with other countries that have gone through the process of democratisation. We want to give African countries the support that will help them make the journey from authoritarianism up the scale—just as the football structures of this country go higher and higher, up to the highest level. Much has been done, but much remains to be done.

Although we should talk about evil leaders in Africa, as we have done—we have just heard about one of the worst, although apparently there are 10 who are even worse than Mugabe, hard though that is to believe—we must also speak with a degree of humility. It is only within living memory—more within the living memory of those in the other place than Members of the House of Commons, although with some exceptions—that the European continent produced dictators to make some of the dictators in Africa seem almost benign: Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, the Greek colonels and most of the Governments of east and central Europe before and after the war. A degree of humility is therefore in order, as is a recognition that many countries and parts of the world go through an appalling process, after which it is to be hoped that they emerge at the other end as a more transparent, decent and humane society.

I was recently rereading a book that I read as a student—which was rather a long time ago—by a famous British diplomat, Margery Perham. She wrote in the “Colonial Reckoning” of 1961:

That is very apt. Unfortunately, however, after some countries turfed the British out and lowered the Union flag, what went up was less the embodiment of the best of British, than the worst of the Soviet Union. A number of countries, including Ghana, went through that phase.

With the third wave of democratisation, which began not in eastern Europe but 15 years earlier on other continents, including Africa, where the process was accelerated, we saw the flowering of a number of democracies, which we must welcome.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. George: I am sorry, but I shall not give way, as my hon. Friend has intervened on at least six occasions as well as making her speech, and I have only 10 minutes, 39 seconds left for my contribution.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): Only 10 minutes!

Mr. George: Yes, only 10 minutes. There has been Celtic solidarity. I shall give way, however.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Earlier, my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) suggested that there might be a limited number of times when failed states could fail, after which we might have to consider European Union or United Nations control of that country, in order for it to move into steadier waters. Does my right hon. Friend have a view on that?

Mr. George: Yes, and my hon. Friend has delayed my expressing it by 35 seconds. As a former colonial power, we have both an advantage and a disadvantage. That has allowed people such as Mugabe to blame all their deficiencies on British colonisation. Now that Africa has seen off European colonisation, one thing that I would not like to see is its sort of recolonisation by other entities. We have heard about China. We have problems with our expeditions into other countries; using armed forces in other people’s countries is very dangerous. I would love it if that could happen in Zimbabwe, but I am afraid it is not going to happen. I can see the advantage of the proposal, but I feel that it would exacerbate matters.

While there must be a lot of endeavour from the international community—I will mention that in a moment—one would hope that the pressure for democratisation would come from below. I say that because in the past 15 or 20 years the role played by the trade union movement in Africa has been very significant in the process of helping to overturn not only colonisation but in some cases the appalling regimes that followed the lowering of the flags of colonial countries. Some of those involved have become Prime Ministers, so civil society is very important.

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I hope that the process of democratisation may be spurred by assistance. I do not mean assistance to create a revolution, albeit a peaceful one. I am talking about assistance from so many organisations in the world, such as the United Nations, the European Union, national Governments, non-governmental organisations that are greatly funded by their national Governments, and institutions such as the Commonwealth and La Francophonie. I hope that that will help to create knowledge, awareness and expertise among good people in NGOs operating in civil society, and in banned parties, that will bring about the flowering of democracy—not in the Swedish style immediately—rather than its being imposed from outside.

One of the ironies in examining what the British Government have done can be found when considering a very good effort being made by the Department for International Development. I have said the following before, but it still causes me amusement. If one looks in the annual report, which is a very thick document, one finds that the only reference to democratisation in its index relates to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is as though DFID is too timid to mention that it is in the business of helping to promote democracy, so it hides that behind good governance, human rights and so on.

Mike Gapes: My right hon. Friend has referred to DFID’s report, but has he seen the human rights report produced by the FCO? It contains several pages about the work on building democracy and references to the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Mr. George: I was going to mention the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and Electoral Reform International Services—stalwart efforts are made by United Kingdom NGOs, although the WFD is largely funded by Her Majesty’s Government.

A lot of help can come from international organisations and there has been great success, but the task is an uphill one. I am very impressed by some of the things being done by the UN, including what is being done by a department within the Secretary-General’s office and the United Nations Development Programme, which does not do much now by way of election observation, having subcontracted that, but does much more on assistance in the process of democratisation.

The progress chart is limited, but there have been some spectacular successes. Almost everyone has spoken of Ghana and Botswana, which are both countries that I know well. The only other country that is really deemed to be democratic according to the Economist Intelligence Unit is Mauritius, which is not strictly on the African continent, whereas the list of those countries that are truly appalling is long. The 2008 election in Ghana was another that met international standards. It is a poor country, but it is now developing energy, which is often a guarantee that a country will fail to be democratic. That is because energy generates too much money for it to be shared with ordinary people or other members of the political elite, and I desperately hope that Ghana will buck that trend.

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