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What can be done on governance? I have some proposals. First, sanctions are absolutely vital and must continue. If they were to be reduced, the morale of those opposing Mugabe would collapse, as would their campaign. I am told that some members of the European Union are a bit wobbly on sanctions, especially those from southern Europe, although the Scandinavians are sound. Her Majesty’s Government should give this top priority.

Secondly, many of Zimbabwe’s neighbours are suffering economically, such as South Africa, as well as many others in SADC. South Africa fears that Zimbabwe will implode, flooding it with even more immigrants. I suggest that South Africa could use its dominant position in SADC to call for Zimbabwe to be suspended from its membership so long as Mugabe is in power.

Efforts should be made in the UN Security Council to follow up the excellent report, by the UN official responsible for habitat, on Mugabe’s scandalous operation, Murambatsvina, which destroyed the housing of between 700,000 and 1 million people. Despite Mugabe’s promises, only a tiny minority of these people have been rehoused. The whole operation was designed principally for electoral purposes.

The new UN Secretary-General could be urged to visit Zimbabwe in place of Kofi Annan, whose visit, planned for this year, was aborted by Mugabe. Mugabe alleged that it would clash with the nomination of the ex-president of Tanzania, Mr Mkapa, who had been called in to mediate—so Mugabe said—between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom. This ridiculous proposal was correctly rejected briskly by Her Majesty’s Government.

Another proposal is perhaps more ambitious and controversial. In April 2006, the Security Council decided in a resolution that it should have the power,

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This means, of course, possible intervention, with the approval of the Security Council, in the internal affairs of other countries. It follows a report by the Secretary-General in 2005 on the reform of the United Nations, and the broad proposals of which it is part are referred to as the “responsibility to protect”. The words I have used are distinct from any dealing with military action—I am not talking about that; it is not relevant to what I am saying. Her Majesty’s Government could take a lead with like-minded countries, to work out how to apply this part of the Security Council resolution usefully in the present situation in Zimbabwe. There is no doubting the massive crimes against humanity there.

Noble Lords may think that Mugabe would respond to such a move with his usual accusations of imperialism. Would they be so effective now that we would be on the side of the black trades unions in Zimbabwe and the United States? We have, of course, no imperial ambitions, as he would allege, and as much right as any other country to rely on the duty to protect, as given in this new proposal, in relation to Mugabe’s actions.

We are Zimbabwe’s biggest provider of aid. There are more Zimbabwean exiles in this country than in any other country, and we have more knowledge of Zimbabwe than any other country does. The president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions will be at the TUC meeting on 4 November, and he has already said that the United Kingdom should take the lead in these matters. His advice is worth listening to, so if Mugabe accuses us of neo-colonial ideas, as he has for the past six years, we should not now be concerned.

Events in Zimbabwe are now moving a little. In Cairo, on his way back from the General Assembly of the UN, Mugabe said the,


Those words were in a report by the valiant campaigner for freedom in Zimbabwe, Kate Hoey MP, who has recently been in that country as she reported in the New Statesman on 9 October. Mugabe’s words will be relevant if matters ever come to The Hague, as they amount to Mugabe claiming responsibility for the actions of the police.

More open support by Her Majesty’s Government for the campaign for democracy in Zimbabwe would give a boost to that campaign, which is being vigorously conducted. I hope they will give that support.

1.52 pm

Lord Acton: My Lords, I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, on his remarkable persistence in again bringing before your Lordships’ House the tragedy that ZANU-PF has made of Zimbabwe. I look forward to the contributions of all noble Lords, and I hope that they will join the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and say more about South Africa. My old friend, the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, who 15 years ago welcomed me to this House when I made my maiden speech in a debate on South Africa, can usually be relied on to stress his other homeland.

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I shall ask the Minister two questions concerning South Africa and Zimbabwe. First, will he explain the policy of the Government of South Africa towards Zimbabwe? Secondly, will the British Government do everything they can to persuade the South African Government to put maximum pressure on ZANU-PF?

Last week, I made a speech that lasted seven seconds. Today, I feel positively garrulous and am delighted to have given your Lordships an extra minute.

1.53 pm

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for providing this opportunity to address once again the awfulness that is going on in Zimbabwe today. The recent arrest, prolonged detention and severe torture of many members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is but the latest example of the savage actions of the police. The arrests in mid-September took place before the explicitly announced peaceful demonstrations against the Zimbabwean Government’s mismanagement of the economy, which has reduced the country and its citizens to a state of penury and starvation. Those still in detention are at risk of death due to lack of medical attention to the injuries they sustained during torture. This series of arrests and its aftermath are extraordinary, even by the standards set by the Mugabe Government in the past couple of years.

Now is, perhaps, the time to use the full array of legal, diplomatic and other measures open to the UK and the EU in order to create a critical mass of international opinion and to support those in Zimbabwe who bear the unspeakable brunt of repression. The UK Government, who have had to withstand charges of wishing to re-colonise Zimbabwe, have nevertheless made strong statements against President Mugabe’s regime and have supported strong actions, but more can now be done. In particular, the EU, which passed a resolution condemning human rights abuses in Zimbabwe in September, is due to revisit both official and personal travel sanctions in January 2007. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, has already mentioned that there may be some EU countries, notably Portugal, which wish to ease these sanctions. I ask the UK Government to oppose with vigour any such moves, to strengthen wherever possible the criteria for their removal, and to vote to keep, and even extend, such sanctions.

The newly established Human Rights Council, which will convene its third session at the end of November, provides yet another forum in which to initiate and table a further resolution on Zimbabwe. Any resolution should endorse and thereby reaffirm that passed by the council of the African Union’s African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, if only to try to mitigate the accusation of western interference. At the UN level, there is the opportunity to lobby at the General Assembly, including in the Third Committee on governance and human rights. The Zimbabwean situation has now reached such proportions that it is appropriate to refer Zimbabwe to the Security Council.

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I remind the Minister of the recommendation in the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs 2005:

Torture in Zimbabwe is widespread, systematic and severe and therefore constitutes a crime against humanity. Under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, there is a duty on all those who are signed up to the statute to bring a prosecution at the court in The Hague. Perhaps now is the time to initiate a campaign on that.

Finally, given the blatant and severe torture committed by the Zimbabwe police, and its approval at the highest level, can the Government encourage the UN to exclude the Zimbabwe police from participating in any international peacekeeping missions, such as UNMIK in Kosovo, where a new group has just been sent?

1.57 pm

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, we owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for securing this debate. Mugabe, the great liberation leader, thinks in terms of command operations. Last year, Operation Murambatsvina destroyed the urban population and the urban opposition. Since many of the urban poor had returned, this year Operation Round-Up again removed children and the homeless to the countryside. I am glad to say that those operations were successfully publicised to the world by, among others, the admirable Kate Hoey, and were roundly condemned by the UN rapporteur, Anna Tibaijuka, and after her by Jan Egeland. However, UN agencies inside the country as usual felt unable to act to help the victims unless asked to do so by the Government. Tents were flown in, and tents were rejected and flown out again. The new housing in Operation Garikai, which was allegedly meant for the homeless, was allocated to soldiers, policemen and ZANU-PF.

However, far worse was to come. It was the creation of command agriculture in Operation Taguta, which means, “eat well”. I am indebted to the admirable Solidarity Peace Trust report for the information that follows on this. The military already managed food distribution through the Grain Marketing Board, and now they are also responsible for food production. This has the political advantage that angry, underpaid and demoralised soldiers will be kept active and well fed, whatever happens to the rest. The tragedy is that they know nothing about farming. In irrigation schemes, they have wantonly destroyed cash crops, including some for export, have ordered all established fruit trees to be uprooted, and market gardens, an essential source of income for lack of which most children can no longer be sent to school, have also been destroyed. Plot-holders have been turned into paupers. The military are destroying established crop rotation structures and, in one case, the fertility of the fields through grossly ignorant over-use of fertilizers. Underpaid, discontented troops have seized whole maize harvests, leaving families

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with nothing. Needless to say, there is wide corruption and 60 per cent of the funds allocated to agriculture have never reached the farmers, and the same is true of the diesel allocation. Vice-President Mujuru told the farmers that no family should receive more than 10 maize cobs a day from their own fields. Plot-holders must apply to the soldiers to get one maize cob for each family member.

As if it were not bad enough to be beaten and starved and to see their children lose all hope of school, the farmers see the arbitrary reallocation of plots by the soldiers. This has caused deep anxiety over tenure and the power of the community to make its own decisions. In Matabeleland the brutality of the soldiers and their absolute power has brought back memories of the murderous destruction wrought by the Fifth Brigade in the 1980s. Once more the people are entirely at the mercy of the troops; they are starving; and the Government are successfully destroying their independence.

The harvest was never going to be enough, despite all these recipes for failure, but since Mugabe told the World Food Programme earlier this year that there would be no need for further food aid, WFP food is running out, there are no donors, and a famine is certain. Food distribution will be cut by 60 per cent immediately, and 364,000 school children and 190,000 of the chronically ill are expected to die. We are looking not at the death of a nation but at its murder by its own rulers; and from Anna Tibaijuka and others, we know that the UN, though present and anxious to help, has been rebuffed as has the whole western world.

However, brave Kate Hoey's most recent incursion has confirmed that there are still many Zimbabweans—such as trade unionists, the women's movement, the human rights cohort, the Churches and the judiciary—incidentally the brave lawyer Beatrice Mtetra has just been given the Woman of the Year award—who continue bravely to resist and to protest. What they lack is the oxygen of publicity in a world where they cannot speak on the radio or through the press or gather together, and they cannot move around or communicate countrywide for lack of funds. I believe that we have a duty, through trade union links, Bar Councils, women's movements and so forth in the free world, to enable civil society to survive and lead the country. They need funds, support, and to know they have friends.

As the UN, the large NGOs and government seem paralysed, and the African Union leaders value one cruel and reptilian liberation leader above the suffering of millions, civil society in the free world must act. Very little money would be needed to give a voice to the students, the trade unionists and the other unknown and unsung leaders whom we must help to help themselves. It is vital they should be in place and have an effective national voice when the situation implodes. They, not the UN or the AU, must decide what happens then. The first thing they will want is the return of the rule of law. No squalid bargains must be struck by the world with this loathsome regime to pre-empt the wishes of the

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people. They must be able to count on the AU, the EU and the UN to enter into no negotiation about the future of the country over their heads.

2.02 pm

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, does us all a service in raising this issue again. Earlier this year Zimbabwe ranked fifth in Foreign Policy magazine's index of failed states, alongside Iraq and worse than Afghanistan and even Somalia. With inflation still over 1,000 per cent—the highest in the world outside a war zone—and acute shortages of everything, a once prosperous country, and the most promising multiracial African state only 25 years ago, has been brought to its knees. The breadbasket has become the basket case.

This is largely the achievement of one man who has transformed himself from an acclaimed idol of the liberation struggle to a ruthless dictator who is well past his sell-by date. In passing over the known atrocities which this regime has perpetrated—the Matabele massacres; the attacks on farmers and farm workers, black and white; the torture and abuse of elected politicians and trade union leaders; and the wanton destruction of homes—we must pay tribute to the ordinary Zimbabweans who have resisted these torments and who ultimately will survive their tormentors.

There is no point now in recalling the expectations we had when I was working for the British Council of Churches at a time, a generation ago, when we were rejoicing at Zimbabwe's new saviour. Since then the Churches have been divided, compromised and silent. But there has been some reawakening in the last year through the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and its related Save Zimbabwe Campaign. This campaign has brought together a wide spectrum of civil society, professional men and women merely seeking peaceful change. But such groups have to contend every day with repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act which forbids public gatherings. As the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, said only last month, Wellington Chibebe and a dozen other trade unionists were imprisoned, tortured, and, in his case, beaten unconscious.

We must take care in the UK not to mouth anyone's propaganda but to get our facts right and listen to Zimbabweans. I know of someone who spent half of last year assisting hundreds of people made homeless by the notorious Operation Murambatsvina. He says that, disguised as an urban clean-up exercise, this operation,

Many of his relatives who are professionals, he says, have been “literarily reduced to paupers” by rampant inflation and economic meltdown. There is no exaggeration here. Zimbabweans like these are still fleeing the country in their thousands, just as others once came from Zambia and Botswana to Zimbabwe to find work and a means of survival. With farm evictions continuing, who knows what is happening to thousands of farm workers and landless labourers, many of whom have been forced by the army to

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remain on the land unremunerated. The scale of suffering away from the eyes of the restricted media can only be imagined.

Equally, we must not forget the extent of the past suffering of African leaders, including Mr Mugabe and his family, who were imprisoned or tortured during the struggle against colonialism and apartheid. That does not excuse it, but it has inevitably coloured the bitter feelings that they have carried with them into so-called liberation. Friendships made then endure, and we have to recognise that. We must remember that even the present leaders of the “front-line states” are likely to show solidarity well beyond the call of duty. The actions of such as Benjamin Mkapa or Thabo Mbeki, who act as intermediaries, cannot be dismissed simply on the grounds of their contact with Mr Mugabe.

It is important for every bridge to be built, and this of course includes our own aid programme and those who take part in it. I fully acknowledge what DfID has been doing through the United Nations and civil society, especially to combat hunger and HIV/AIDS. We cannot expect a lot more from our own Government in the absence of conventional diplomacy. But they could give Zimbabwe more priority. We could keep pressing for more effective EU sanctions. We should also take care that we adopt immigration policies that are fair to those genuinely seeking asylum, as distinct from those found to be fraudulent. I believe that the British public would like Zimbabwe to be a special case. And yet under the fast-track process we are detaining and sending back more and more genuine refugees to an unknown fate. The Government must think again about the effects of this policy on our friends in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa.

2.07 pm

Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for introducing this debate and once again bringing the ongoing plight of Zimbabwe to the attention of your Lordships' House.

There is a popular saying that pessimism is sensible because pessimists are never disappointed. Unfortunately I have been an optimist for Zimbabwe, and I have been bitterly disappointed. There have been so many false dawns for Zimbabwe and her long-suffering peoples in recent years when it seemed as though a deal would be done and a government of national unity would be established and law and order restored. The essence of most of these initiatives, generally originating in South Africa, is that President Mugabe would agree to step down and a government of national unity would be formed in return for a guarantee that leading members of the ruling ZANU-PF party would be granted amnesty from prosecution.

There have been times when agreement seemed imminent but the deals have failed, most recently because of the indictment of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, for human rights crimes. The incident scared Robert Mugabe into believing that the same fate might await him. He therefore prefers to cling to power. In those circumstances, most observers accept that Robert Mugabe will remain as President of Zimbabwe until he dies. Sadly

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for Zimbabweans, life is worse, and it is likely to get even worse before it gets better.

Some observers continue to believe that the people of Zimbabwe will rise against their leaders, in much the same way as the people of Romania rose against Ceausescu, and the Ukrainians staged their Orange Revolution. Sadly, I believe that such an uprising in Zimbabwe is extremely unlikely. It did not happen when the Zimbabwean Government launched their cruel operations to bulldoze the stalls and shacks of street traders in Harare in areas where their political opponents are strong. It also did not happen when the opposition MDC recently called for mass action.

There are two reasons why the people will not protest. First, unfortunately, there is a lack of plausible opposition in the country. The MDC seemed credible in the past but is now deeply divided between those who support Morgan Tsvangirai, a man with charisma but doubtful judgment, and those who support Arthur Mutambara, a man of great intellect but less popular appeal. Secondly, a remarkable 70 per cent, if not more, of Zimbabweans live in rural areas where they remain largely unaware of the government excesses in the urban areas.

As a result, it is probably true that if a general election was held tomorrow, ZANU-PF would be the clear winners. In fact, the next presidential election is scheduled for 2008, with the next parliamentary election to follow in 2010. There are rumours that the Government intend postponing the presidential election until 2010, giving Mugabe another two years in power. Perhaps the Minister could inform us whether Her Majesty's Government are taking steps to ensure that the presidential election is held in 2008.

Succession planning is of course a key issue. Whenever Mugabe goes, he will probably be succeeded by one of four main candidates. There is the increasingly prominent and proactive Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, who has presided over the recent devaluation of the currency and clampdown on the parallel currency market. Alternatively, there is the current Vice-President, Joyce Mujuru, wife of the powerful retired general, Solomon Mujuru; or even the former Finance Minister, Simba Makoni. The other alternative would be Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former Speaker of Parliament.

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