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The sub-plot to that tussle for power is the struggle between the various clans within the numerically dominant Shona tribe. Mugabe leads the Zezuru clan, while Mnangagwa and Gono are influential members of the Karanga group. Makoni comes from another clan, the Manyika. This difficult situation leaves Her Majesty's Government in a position where they must continue to provide humanitarian aid, where possible, and apply pressure on the Harare regime.

Despite the irrational ranting of their president, many—in fact, most—Zimbabweans view Britain with deep affection and there is no doubt that, as soon as circumstances allow, this country will be expected to play a major role in the reconstruction of Zimbabwe. In preparation, Her Majesty's Government should start to promote a Marshall aid programme to support the swift recovery of Zimbabwe.

Finally, I add that we cannot take for granted our pre-eminent position in Zimbabwe, as there are

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increasing trade contacts between Zimbabwe and Russia and China, which are no doubt making promises that will not necessarily be delivered.

I wish to end on a more positive note—and I appreciate that I have overstepped my mark by one minute. Zimbabwe remains a country blessed with a relatively strong infrastructure, arable land, precious metals and minerals and a highly educated and literate workforce. Mercifully, the landscape is not strewn with landmines, as in the nearby states of Mozambique and Angola. The fundamentals remain in place and, when the time comes, Her Majesty’s Government must be ready to lead the recovery and to incentivise and motivate the international community to rebuild that wonderful country. That time, please God, will not be too far away.

2.14 pm

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, I, too, add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, on bringing this debate to us today and on the way that he set out the issues involving Zimbabwe, and to the many other noble Lords who have made telling and important contributions to the debate. The courage of the opposition movement was brought out. It has been pointed out that the economy is slipping back to least-developed status. The importance of South Africa’s role in its policy towards Zimbabwe and what might be the British Government’s influence on that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Acton. Those are all very important factors that I know the Minister will address in his response.

Zimbabwe is a country whose economy is now ruined, where unemployment and poverty are rampant and politically inspired thuggery, crime and repression are endemic. As noble Lords have mentioned, the annual inflation rate is again more than 1,000 per cent per annum and is predicted to reach 4,000 per cent per annum by the end of this year. Unemployment is at 80 per cent, with hundreds of thousands of skilled Zimbabweans having fled the country, while the people who remain are surviving mainly on grain handouts. It is a disastrous situation.

Zimbabwe today is a country facing economic meltdown, with less and less food, fuel, power, and water—and, under the current regime, less and less hope. The people of Zimbabwe may not have been able to vote freely and fairly to give their judgment on the regime through the ballot box, but nearly 1 million Zimbabweans have voted with their feet, leaving behind their country and the squalid mess created by the failed policies of a failed regime that is President Mugabe's Government.

For those in the diaspora who, having fled Zimbabwe, are trying to support families and relatives left behind, last week’s news from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will be particularly bleak. I understand that the licences of all money transfer agencies were cancelled with immediate effect. For the past two years, MTAs have provided a vital channel for expatriate workers to remit literally life-saving funds back to their families at home. The cancellation of MTA licences without warning has shocked the banking and financial services sector,

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and I understand that it has left many families who are dependent on money transfers from overseas facing destitution.

To add to the misery, last week also saw the introduction of massive, rolling power cuts across Zimbabwe. According to the Zimbabwean Herald of 10 October:

Those are the words of the Herald, not mine.The cutting off of the supply of vital remittance moneys, and the cutting off of the supply of heat, light and power are just more clear, stark examples of failure in domestic policy.

The country is sinking down to the level of a failing and bankrupt state, as noble Lords have mentioned. Where once Zimbabwe stood out among its neighbours as a model of economic and agricultural success, it now lies at the bottom of the heap of failing states. Let there be no doubt about those failures. They are entirely due to the actions of President Mugabe and his Government and are not due, as he continues to claim, to perfidious actions of the international community.

This may be wishful thinking, but is it any wonder that, according to a report from the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation, dated 9 October and apparently leaked to on-line media, the people of Zimbabwe are readier than ever before to join a popular revolt against President Mugabe's regime? That report comes just a year after security agencies began issuing similar warnings of civil revolt in Zimbabwe, which might well have the support of the police and security forces themselves. Of course, that may be wishful thinking and some sort of double game may well be going on.

With the situation in Zimbabwe becoming ever more volatile, there is clearly a huge danger of adding fuel to the flames should the UK seek to become directly involved. Zimbabwe's torment can be resolved safely only through the democratic process by the peoples of Zimbabwe. On 9 October, in reply to a Written Question, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, who is here today, said:

Those are fine sentiments to which I subscribe, but, as we all know, achieving the solution is elusive.

I hope that the Minister will say what in the Government’s view can be practically done to support civic society in Zimbabwe—where 80 per cent of people are unemployed—by assisting NGOs, charitable trusts and international trades unions to accumulate the resources they need to help the proposed new patriotic front to blossom. How can we support a properly resourced opposition to present a genuine opposition to ZANU-PF? Finally, how can we support an internationally sponsored effort to start negotiations in a transitional process and get the agreement of President Mugabe to leave when his

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term of office expires in 2008, perhaps through the appointment of an eminent persons group able to engage impartially with all sides in Zimbabwe?

2.20 pm

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, since we last debated Zimbabwe, conditions there have deteriorated dramatically. We have heard much about that tragic decline in today’s excellent debate. The time is now right for Her Majesty's Government to adopt a far more proactive approach. The crisis in Zimbabwe is a threat to the stability of southern Africa. It is draining the economic energy of the region and our aid budget. The international community has been happy for the United Kingdom to take a lead in providing emergency relief for the victims of the crisis. Perhaps we might also expect to offer a lead in finding the solution. After all, the causes are hardly a mystery. They are political and manmade—largely made by one man: Robert Mugabe. His regime has been shored up by collaborators—some guilty, some gullible, some in Zimbabwe and some in the international community.

It is disappointing that our diplomatic representatives have to spend so much time persuading member states not to undermine the EU sanctions and travel ban targeted at individuals closely associated with the Zimbabwean regime. Nations hoping to promote their own interests by weakening the impact of those measures seem to show least support for the people of Zimbabwe in terms of aid and humanitarian support.

The people of the UK have given massive support to the people of Zimbabwe. Together with the United States we have, over the past six years, provided humanitarian aid that has fed, at times, more than one-third of the population. It is therefore particularly sickening that almost every time Mugabe speaks in public, he denigrates the UK and the US. For far too long Robert Mugabe has been allowed to set the agenda. The international community has largely been coerced into silence by Mugabe’s regional apologists. The response of Her Majesty's Government has been timid and lacking in conviction.

In 2001, we had high hopes when the Prime Minister told us that he had agreed a deal with Africa. In exchange for more aid and a debt write-off, he told us that Africa promised true democracy, no more excuses for dictatorship and no abuse of human rights. Sadly, for Zimbabwe, that is an unfulfilled promise. I do not single out Zimbabwe simply because it is the focus of our discussions. In that 2001 speech at the Labour Party conference, the Prime Minister singled out Mugabe when he said that there should be,

Recent events have reminded the world what is really happening in Zimbabwe. The ILO and the TUC have condemned the Government in Zimbabwe. Ministers have issued strong statements and stern rebukes. I hope that a corner has now been turned. I also hope that the Minister will tell the House that the Government are preparing to give a clear lead in

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calling on the international community to take up its responsibility to protect the people of Zimbabwe. Through direct contact with our partners and regional leaders a process can be started, which will be welcomed by the people of Zimbabwe. We must help them to deal with the disease that is destroying their country. When the Prime Minister announced his deal with Africa he said that progress could be achieved if we find the will. I am afraid that, to date, as regards Zimbabwe, his will has been lacking.

2.25 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, on having introduced this important debate. It is timely, but, tragically, debates on Zimbabwe are always timely. I also add my gratitude to all other noble Lords who have spoken, for their continued engagement and interest in resolving this crisis. I join the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, in his congratulations to the wide spectrum of organisations in Zimbabwe on the way in which they have sustained the struggle in very difficult circumstances. It is right that we should acknowledge it. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Park, in commending many of those who have maintained their dynamism in the most adverse circumstances.

Let me deal immediately with some of the points that have been put. I understand the argument for trying to engage the international community in the responsibility to protect, which the Government took a major part in helping to design for the United Nations. It is a sign of the creative thinking of the House that we have turned to it. This is no easy matter. The first attempt to get the international community to engage with a responsibility to protect—in Security Council Resolution 1706 on Darfur—took a huge amount of work. Even then, three abstentions were visible in the most appalling of circumstances—two were fortunately abstentions rather than votes against by veto-carrying members of the permanent membership of the Security Council. If we can drive this policy through on Darfur, we will have taken an extremely large step forward. I do not believe that there is at the moment the basis for even that degree of support in the Security Council. I would hate to hand Mugabe another victory of that kind until we can drive it through successfully.

I commend the realism shown by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for the difficulties inside Zimbabwe in making progress. But I continue to believe that there is a lot that we can do and that we should do it. Of course, the general election in 2008 will, I hope, be a clean election, not a rigged election or an election characterised by the kinds of unreasonable pressure that have been put on people in other elections, and I hope that that election goes ahead and is on time.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, is, like me, a student of Labour Party conferences and the speeches made. I do not truly accept that we are timid, but I acknowledge how hard it is to find the levers that work, because they are what we need. We consistently try to find where we can

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identify the forces for change. The noble Lord quite rightly reminds us of the deal on Africa, which has produced a degree of movement—not enough, but, I repeat, a degree of movement—among some heads of African states, to which I shall return.

I share the concerns across the Chamber. As the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, said, Zimbabwe is a failing state. Despite abundant rains, the World Food Programme reckons that nearly 2 million people will face hunger in the coming months; I believe that the figure will be larger than that. Poverty deepens, more and more people are unable to afford the food that is available and 80 per cent of the population are unemployed, many of whom are in jobs that earn way below the bread-line. As has been pointed out, official inflation is at 1,200 per cent and rising: in reality, it is probably almost twice that figure now. The IMF has suggested that without reform, as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, said, it will reach 4,000 per cent by the beginning of 2007. This is an economy that has collapsed.

There are widespread shortages of basic food commodities and fuel, and constant interruptions in the supply of electricity and water. Three million people—one-quarter of the population—have already fled the country. For those who are left behind, as we have heard in the debate, life expectancy is the lowest in the world, and it is getting worse: 34 for women and 37 for men. Yet, despite all that, the Government of Zimbabwe refuse to acknowledge that they have any responsibility.

The Government ignore international calls for reform and crack down on the attempts of ordinary Zimbabweans to raise their concerns about the situation, most recently, as we saw, in the brutal suppression of a demonstration held by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions on 30 September. So I share the view that it is a failing state, as I share the view that the world trade union movement, which has a fine history in this respect, will respond to what has happened with practical help, as it has historically elsewhere. I join others in congratulating my honourable friend Kate Hoey on the support she has given recently to the trade unions and others.

However, I have also noted the way in which Zimbabweans have blamed others for the crisis they have brought upon themselves. Joseph Made, the agriculture Minister, who has presided over the collapse, in the past has blamed falling production in agriculture on helicopter pilots who flew too high and as a result could not distinguish between maize and lush grass. He has blamed birds for consuming the harvest. Most recently he has said that the harvest as a whole failed because of a monkey. He said that investigations showed that a monkey dived into a transformer,

That is the reason given for the failure of the harvest. The saddest thing of all is that when this was reported to the Zimbabwean Parliament, it was accepted without demur. That tells a story in itself. The monkey, of course, has taken its secrets to the grave.

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Most Zimbabweans understand these problems very well. They understand the solutions that are required. Like the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I pay tribute to them because they have always grasped these facts. Many even in ZANU-PF know that the party must change or it will lose everything. They see the manifest absurdity of the mistakes that were described so vividly by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. But Mugabe still opposes reform and Zimbabweans need to move beyond his leadership or they will decline, and the decline will accelerate. I also recognise, because it is important, that there is increasing militarisation throughout the Zimbabwean economy, with military people taking up command roles in the economy. In my view that reflects the dependence of this regime—an increasing dependence—on the military for its security.

How should we respond? Mugabe continues to describe the crisis as a bilateral issue backed, as he argues, by illegal “economic sanctions”. It is not a bilateral issue and there are no economic sanctions. The crisis in Zimbabwe is caused by bad governance and bad policies. The crisis is between a dictatorial regime and a subjugated people, and it can only be reversed by significant political reform, including the repeal of damaging legislation on human and property rights, as noble Lords have said, together with a comprehensive economic reform package as already set out by the IMF. The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, asked what we are doing. I can tell him that one of the things we have been doing is to take part in the design of some of the programmes which we believe, if they could be accepted, would make a fundamental difference—and to provide those to the international community and the opposition. But I think it is recognised that much of the reform effort necessarily still has to come from within Zimbabwe. International pressure should be maintained to encourage the Government to heed some voices of reason. Many of those voices will come from within Zimbabwe and we will continue to encourage and assist if we can human rights defenders and those working for democratic change, in concert with the EU, the UN and other international partners. Further, I can assure the House that our embassy in Zimbabwe, often working in great difficulty, works on this project all the time. We have heard David Coltart and others from the Zimbabwean opposition expressing similar views in London recently.

I do not think that Zimbabwe will ever go off the international radar screen, as I emphasised in my Statement on 14 September after the crackdown on the union demonstrations. I add that my right honourable friend Ian McCartney summoned the Zimbabwean ambassador and told him in the strongest possible terms that it will not go off the radar screen that these are our concerns, and the EU joined us in making those criticisms.

Concern has been expressed about Africa’s response to the crisis. I have said before in the House that we press Africa to do more. After all, the impact of the collapse of Zimbabwe on the region has been huge. Hunger-fuelled migration is causing problems and regional trade has been affected. The Zimbabwe

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Research Initiative has estimated that between 2000 and 2002 the economic crisis in the country cost SADC in the region of $2.5 billion. If that was carried through to the present day, South Africa’s economy, had it been able to help to resolve this problem, would be 3 per cent bigger than it is. Above all, Africa’s credibility is at stake in promoting good governance as set out in NePAD and the Commission for Africa. African credibility will be damaged unless it is possible to confront the problems of Zimbabwe.

Africa is increasingly frustrated. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and my noble friend Lord Acton both raised questions about South Africa. The South African deputy Foreign Minister has said that his Government are concerned not only about the effects on the people of Zimbabwe but also about the impact on the region as a whole. Indeed, the hastening economic implosion will see millions of people trying to cross the Limpopo in search of food and a degree of security. I should say to my noble friend Lord Acton that we hold talks with South African representatives all the time, and we have seen some pressure begin to be put on through the IMF.

Lord Acton: My Lords, with respect to my noble friend, I did not ask about talking to South Africa; I asked Her Majesty’s Government to do everything possible to persuade South Africa to put maximum pressure on ZANU-PF.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, the way we can try to put on maximum pressure is by having a continuous dialogue with South Africa and seeking to persuade it.

Lord Acton: My Lords, that was not my question. The question was that Her Majesty’s Government should do everything possible to persuade South Africa to put maximum pressure on ZANU-PF.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I shall not try to repeat the point I have made. We try to persuade it, and that is done by talking.

Tanzania has raised its concerns about the situation, as have others. In his remarks the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, made sure that we inject some realism into what we think is possible. However, as we have just heard once more, I note that some noble Lords may believe that not enough pressure has been put on Africa to deal with Zimbabwe. It is raised at every opportunity and I will not go through the whole of the list of the occasions on which it has been raised, but I shall give an example. Zimbabwe was central to our approach at the African Union summit in Banjul this summer, where every South African and other leader present found that we were talking about these issues and urging specifics. So change, while hard to get, I believe is possible and we must continue to pursue it.

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