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Southern Africa

4.12 p.m.

Lord St John of Bletso rose to call attention to the current political, social and economic challenges facing Southern Africa; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted that so many noble Lords have put down their names to speak, and pleased that we have the privilege of an

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extra hour's debate. Too often in your Lordships' House, in debating subjects as broad as this we have limited time in which to share our views. Many of the challenges facing South Africa and Southern Africa were raised last month by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, in the debate on the government White Paper, Eliminating Global Poverty.

I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, will speak. Almost a year ago to the week, the noble Baroness initiated a five-hour debate in this House calling attention not only to the opportunities but also the challenges in Africa. The themes discussed in that debate a year ago will, I am sure, arise in this debate. The noble Baroness has played a major role in promoting good governance and democracy in Southern Africa.

Despite the many positive developments in Southern Africa over the past decade, the region has recently experienced a spate of extreme uncertainty: uncertainty politically, especially in Zimbabwe and Angola; and uncertainty socially and economically in the light of the HIV/AIDS pandemic which is spreading at an alarming rate in the region with potentially disastrous economic implications for growth. My particular knowledge is of South Africa where I have spent most of my life.

While much progress has been made in promoting multiparty democracy in Southern Africa, the tactics of Robert Mugabe's mass intimidation of his opposition, in particular during the run-up to elections last year, with the farm invasions by so-called war veterans and general abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe, has resulted in the country facing one of its worst social and economic crises in its history, with food prices soaring, foreign exchange reserves desperately low and petrol stations running out of fuel. Businesses are going bankrupt in record numbers and rural unemployment is soaring as the land crisis deepens. Much of the arable ground lies unplanted following the occupation by the war veterans and the drought in the south, particularly during the past six months, has compounded the crisis. More recently, the bomb attacks on the Daily News, the expulsion of foreign journalists and attempts by the Zimbabwean Government to control the judiciary, have exacerbated the crisis.

International action against Zimbabwe has been limited to criticism, withdrawal of aid and disengagement by international financial institutions. I hope that the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the EU can bring more pressure to bear on President Mugabe to end the human rights abuses and violations in that country. The knock-on effect in the region has been disastrous.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) in many respects has been rudderless and in desperate need of reform. Apart from the achievement in September of last year of establishing the Southern African Free Trade Zone, it has been unable to address the instability and conflicts in the region in a co-ordinated and coherent manner. Economic integration in Southern Africa has been a thorny issue

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for SADC. In its meeting last month there appeared to be a greater sense of urgency to push ahead with much needed reforms including a co-ordinated approach to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I hope that the SADC heads of government meeting in Zimbabwe on Friday will cement a clearer timetable for reform.

Southern Africa has paid a bitter price as a result of the civil wars in the region. Despite the political compromise in Mozambique in 1992 and the fantastic revival in that country in those nine years, in Angola the hopes of a resolution to the civil war that has been raging for several decades have been frustrated by UNITA persistently evading complying with successive peace agreements. Sadly, it has been the civilians, in particular young children, who have been afflicted by casualties as a result of the many landmines which lie scattered around the country. It has become apparent that the lucrative spoils of diamond and mining concessions in Southern Africa and many other parts of Africa have impeded attempts to resolve the civil wars. Here I refer to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Angola. The civil war in the Congo has had a major destabilising effect on economic and political harmony in Southern Africa, putting the heads of government in Zambia, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe at odds with each other.

We can only hope that the recent attempts at the Congo Summit to resolve this ongoing crisis can lead to a lasting resolve. Despite international efforts to resolve the civil wars and crises in Southern Africa, it is becoming increasingly important, I believe, for African governments to resolve African conflicts.

Sadly, in Zambia concerns are rising about the MMD's attempts to entrench its power base with President Chiluba standing for a third term in office. The recent political hiccups, in particular the prison deaths in Mozambique and, more recently, the terrible floods that Mozambique has been experiencing have given rise to concern that what has been achieved over the past nine years could be eroded. The international relief agencies are to be commended on the speed with which they have come to the assistance of the flood victims in Mozambique this year. I just hope that the Cabora Bassa floodgates will not need to be opened. As in Angola, landmines have posed a significant humanitarian threat to the people of Mozambique. Here I commend Her Majesty's Government on their efforts in clearing many of the landmines, which have resulted in many areas of Mozambique now being declared safe.

I would now like to touch briefly on current developments in South Africa. Nelson Mandela's great achievement was to ensure a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy. His successor, President Thabo Mbeki, is very conscious that reconciliation cannot be maintained without a transformation in the country's economy which will enable it to meet the aspirations and the expectations of what I have referred to as the emancipated. He is a fervent believer in a strong state capable of intervening in the economy. I should not comment now on whether that is a good

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or a bad thing. He also expects the private sector to help create more economic equality and has introduced fairly draconian black empowerment legislation to move this forward.

Over the medium term South Africa needs to increase its potential growth rate from an average of 3 per cent to 4 per cent in recent years to about 6 per cent at least in order to help address the problems of high unemployment which is around 36 per cent at the moment. President Mbeki has adopted a two-pronged approach, that being to declare his commitment to restoring democracy and stability in other African countries as well as stimulating economic growth and development in South Africa. He has been extremely successful with his Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, and the governor of the Reserve Bank, Tito Mbweni, in achieving that.

South Africa clearly has an interest in promoting regional security, particularly in Zimbabwe, which is inflicting economic damage on all its neighbours both through the loss of trade and as a result of potential investors avoiding Southern Africa because of their concerns about regional stability and the ongoing effect of the brain drain from the region. There is no doubt that South Africa's tactic of silent diplomacy in respect of the Zimbabwe crisis has been to the detriment of both countries. I was encouraged, therefore, by the recent speech by Thabo Mbeki recently, which he gave to the Chamber of Commerce in South Africa. At long last he openly condemned the land grab in Zimbabwe which, in his words, "flouted" the rule of law. He assured delegates that a land grab would never be allowed in South Africa, which is certainly encouraging. Unfortunately, President Mbeki has resisted taking a more assertive line in putting pressure to bear on Robert Mugabe's regime to cease its repressive policies.

I believe that it is essential for Southern Africa that a climate of open debate and the freedom of the press is promoted. I was alarmed by the overreaction of the South African Foreign Minister in January of this year to the comments made by Peter Hain on the South African handling of the Zimbabwe crisis. Thabo Mbeki has often tended to react with aggression to journalists who have criticised some of his policies. I hope that that is only a teething problem rather than an ongoing attempt by the president to silence his critics

My time is rapidly coming to an end. The impact of HIV/AIDS on families is one of the greatest social catastrophies facing Southern Africa. This pandemic is fast reversing many of the social gains of the past 40 years and has deprived several Southern African countries of their most economically productive workforce. Attempts to change individual behaviour have proved ineffective, not helped by an attitude of fatalism on the part of individuals and institutions and the high cost of treating the symptoms. In Zimbabwe and Botswana, over 25 per cent of the adult population is infected by HIV and in South Africa over 4 million people are infected. AIDS is rapidly becoming a greater threat in rural areas than in cities, contrary to conventional wisdom. It is having a devasting effect on

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agricultural and rural development and poses enormous challenges to governments, NGOs and the international community. The disease is no longer just a health problem, it is becoming a major development issue.

In conclusion, the challenge for Southern Africa is to create the right conditions for high economic growth and to improve the welfare of Africans living in severe poverty. I entirely agree with the sentiments of Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations in a recent article in the House Magazine. It is headed "Africa's Thirst for Democracy". He said,

    "What is striking is the fierce and ever-growing thirst for democracy that Africans have shown, their indomitable courage in defying oppressive regimes and their success in so many countries in insisting on accountable government".

I fervently hope that the dream of an African renaissance will be a reality. I commend DfID'S pro-active approach to tackling the challenges facing Southern Africa. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

4.27 p.m.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, on raising this very important debate on the economic, political and social challenges facing Southern Africa. As the noble Lord said, problems abound in Zimbabwe. These are undoubtedly compounded by the actions of President Mugabe and the ZANU government. When we campaigned against Ian Smith in years gone by and against UDI in Southern Rhodesia it was no academic exercise. It was not an esoteric exercise about democracy with no real meaning; it was to ensure democracy in Zimbabwe: to make sure that the people there had a better future than what was intended under the old hardline Rhodesian white settlers. It certainly was not to replace dictatorship and corruption of whites by blacks. Abuse of power has to be condemned wherever it exists and whoever is responsible for perpetrating it. I doubt whether President Mugabe will listen even to the friends of Zimbabwe--and I count myself as one of them--when we tell him that the rule of law and order and the need for press freedom are essential.

Friendly criticism should be accepted and not dismissed as British colonialism. It is ironic that his claims that we are interfering in the sovereign affairs of Zimbabwe echo the words of Vorster et al when they told us that we had no right to speak out against apartheid in South Africa.

I support the idea that white power and privilege cannot be entrenched in Zimbabwe forever. There is an extremely strong case for land distribution. That has to be done in an orderly fashion and the landless peasants who get the land must be given the help and assistance necessary to keep the land productive. That is what it is all about. Simply taking the land and doing nothing with it is not a policy worth pursuing and is contrary to proper land use.

We all agree that current events in Zimbabwe will not help the people of that country. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, and I have discussed what

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should be done about the situation on many occasions. Do we engage or do we disengage? Condemnation appears simply to feed the paranoia of President Mugabe that colonials still rule, even when that criticism comes from his friends. Failure to condemn makes us complicit in the wrongdoing. Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, says that Zimbabwe should be suspended or expelled from the Commonwealth. That is a dilemma faced by the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, has shown immense courage in his outspoken criticism and his stand for freedom in Zimbabwe. However, while he has condemned the visit of President Mugabe to Belgium and France--there is a lot of merit in that argument--he has also called on the British Government to engage in dialogue and to keep our military training mission there. Which of those arguments should we listen to? It is very difficult to know what is best.

We need to listen to the people of South Africa, as I have always done. At the moment they are saying that we should keep the lines of communication open. That is probably the right thing to do. There is still time for President Mugabe to change his mind and reverse his policy. I urge him to listen very carefully. If he will not listen to me--and why should he?--why will he not listen to Nelson Mandela, who has recently made a very powerful speech against corruption in Southern Africa? Nelson Mandela has argued strongly that it is necessary to accept criticism, because without criticism it is impossible to have good government. Perhaps we should remember that fact in this country as well. Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest Africans who ever lived, if not the greatest. When he speaks out in that way, surely President Mugabe ought to listen carefully and act accordingly.

As has been said, there are many challenges facing the different countries in Southern Africa, but they all boil down to how to tackle poverty and underdevelopment. We cannot go through each country in the region in this debate, no matter how long it is, but I hope that in what will inevitably be a Cook's tour of the region, people will not feel that our concerns are diminished because we have not mentioned the specific problems of certain countries. I agree that Mozambique faces desperate problems. A year ago it had ravaging floods. Their effects were just beginning to be tackled with some reasonable chance of success when there were more floods. Perhaps the Minister will tell me whether I am right or the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, is right about the opening of the floodgates of the Cabora Bassa dam. I thought that the current problems were caused by opening the floodgates. One of us is right and the other is wrong. We shall find out which.

On the other side of the continent, Angola is facing serious problems. There are signs of slow economic recovery and there is some optimism. However, as the noble Lord, Lord St John, has said, the problems remain with Jonas Savimbi and UNITA, who are still causing hardship and difficulties for a large number of the Angolan population. It is estimated that there are

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3.8 million internally displaced persons in the country, almost half a million of whom fled their homes last year, when the UN was supposedly being very tough on UNITA. Sporadic attacks make it difficult for people to go back to their homes.

Some alarm has been expressed recently that Jardo Muekalia, the UNITA representative in Washington, met with US Deputy Defense Secretary Bernard McConnell and three other officials a week after the Bush inauguration. That appeared to be a flagrant breach of the UN resolution on sanctions, but the Pentagon says that it is all right because it was an unofficial, informal meeting. We heard that time after time during the years when the United States financed and armed Savimbi against the legitimate government. Although the Angolan Government appears to be remarkably relaxed about what has happened, we need to be aware of developments. I ask my noble friend the Minister to assure us that the Government will keep a close eye on what is happening and will speak regularly with the American administration to keep them from slipping back into old habits.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, mentioned the AIDS pandemic. It is a huge problem. More than 4 million South Africans alone are affected. In this year's South African budget, an extra 16 billion rand has been allocated to tackle the problem. Concern has been expressed about some of President Mbeki's comments about AIDS and HIV, but a huge amount of money is being devoted to trying to deal with the problem. It is very sad that this week the big multinational chemical companies are taking the South African Government to court to prevent a sovereign government allowing parallel imports or generic medicines to be made in the country. We do that, so why should it not be done in South Africa?

I welcome DfID's very important recent initiatives, pressing for more co-ordinated international action on TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS, especially from the G8 countries and the European Union. The department says that there must be a strong emphasis on prevention and support for health systems to help poor countries to deliver better care. Because of last-minute tidying up of my speech, I have not yet heard the details of what my right honourable friend the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has said in another place this afternoon, but I understand that he has announced an initiative to help research and development to make cheaper drugs available to poor countries. Whatever the detail, that is an immensely important initiative, but cheap drugs on their own are not the answer. They have to be made available.

A lot of nonsense is spoken by the big companies that they are losing sales because of parallel imports. The whole of sub-Saharan Africa represents only 1 per cent of the pharmaceutical companies' global sales. That is a minute proportion. There is no reason why they should not allow the much cheaper sale of drugs. I hope that we shall pursue that.

I want to finish on a positive note. South Africa is making good progress. Its economy is improving. It had 3.1 per cent growth in GDP last year. Its inflation

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is down to 5.3 per cent from the double-digit rates of the 1980s and early 1990s. The budget deficit is now down to 2.4 per cent. Great strides are being made to tackle poverty and under-development. There has been an increase in employment from 9.3 million to 10.4 million--a 1.1 million increase in the number of jobs. That is all welcome. However, I agree that the budget forecast of 3.5 per cent growth over the next two to three years is nowhere near what is necessary. A growth rate of 6 per cent is needed to tackle the unemployment problem.

I commend South Africa's capacity to change. It has transferred almost 1 million hectares of land to new black owners. That has been done with much sense and very little difficulty. The process has benefited nearly 38,000 households and it will continue. President Mbeki has made it clear that South Africa is a country of many different peoples and many different colours. He believes in and wishes to continue the policy of Nelson Mandela that South Africa should be an all-inclusive country, where every section of the population is welcome, is part of the country and deserves to improve its future. I hope that we can bring some sense of hope to the people, because hope is in desperately short supply for those who live in Southern Africa.

4.40 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to contribute to this debate, which was inaugurated by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. As he said, this debate comes almost a year after our debate on opportunities in Africa, but this time we are concentrating more on the southern parts of the continent.

When I was preparing for this debate, I made a list of all of the Southern Africa Development Community--SADC-- countries and all of the key problems, and I started putting crosses where problems existed. I had hoped that I should have many blanks on my sheet but I did not, which is a sadness because, 12 months on, matters have declined.

It would be easy to spend all of the 12 minutes that are allotted for my speech--I hope not to take up all of that time for the sake of other noble Lords--discussing the situation in Zimbabwe. The poor example of Zimbabwe, which is much regretted by many of her neighbours in the region, is seriously dragging down the whole image of Africa. There are many good people--black and white--in Zimbabwe who wish to have a democratic future but they are unable to secure it. When I and others called for democracy in Zimbabwe, we were told that we would not be welcome in that country again. That exclusion applies to Dame Helen Suzman, the noble Lord, Lord Renwick of Clifton, and several others. I have not tried to go there; I do not particularly want to spend time inside a Zimbabwean gaol and I have much else to do in other countries where people are prepared to listen. We have to create an atmosphere of much greater co-operation.

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I am not sure why the deafness has become so profound in Zimbabwe. Undoubtedly, however, a number of serious mistakes have been made in the dialogue between the parties in Zimbabwe and in that between donors and the Zimbabwean Government. Not to contribute and persevere with common-sense democratic approaches would have very serious consequences. Although I believe that the Minister needs no urging in this respect, we have to go on trying, and we should do so in our bilateral relations and through SADC, the EU and the Group of Eight, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, said. To have no dialogue would mean not giving an opportunity to those who are working for a common-sense approach in Zimbabwe. That does not mean that we refrain from condemning the behaviour of the thugs in Zimbabwe, who have fought against those--black and white--who want to secure democracy and some economic success in that beleaguered country. I urge the Minister and her colleagues to take every opportunity in every forum in which the Government participate to push for dialogue in Zimbabwe right across the board. When the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting gathers in Brisbane, there may be no option but to condemn Zimbabwe and to force it to withdraw from the Commonwealth. I hope that it will not come to that. Once on the outside, as we know from experience, it is hard to bring back into the field those who have been--in this case, rightly so--cut out of the debate.

I said that I would not concentrate on Zimbabwe but I have spent two-and-a-half minutes discussing it. It is difficult not to speak of that country. However, there is another country in Southern Africa that is a member of SADC and in which the crucial aim is to gain peace; namely, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Following the death of Laurent Kabila at the hands of one of his own men, there are signs of dialogue in that country and in the countries surrounding it, whether they be supporters of the late Laurent Kabila or believe in the need for change in a democratic manner. The debate is beginning to start between leaders of different groups. We will not see political, social or economic advance in Southern Africa and in Africa as a whole until there is a cessation of the warring activity of the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its supporting armies, particularly that from Zimbabwe, which can ill afford to have its troops in the Congo. The defence mechanism, which is frequently painted as an attack mechanism by the rebels in the east and by Rwanda and Uganda, must also cease.

I want to spend a few minutes discussing the situation in the Congo. I do not know the Congo well--I have visited Kinshasa only three times, and have been to the east a couple of times--but I do know a number of the surrounding countries. Corruption is as rife there as it is in other African countries. The outside world has to take a much greater interest in the scramble for diamonds and precious minerals. Some of the blame for developments in the Congo--obviously, I do not refer to the war there--lies with the reluctance of many nations to take an earlier interest

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in that country's economic development and in the creation of a level playing field for the exploration and development of precious metals and stones in the region. That said, we cannot change the past, although we can encourage dialogue. The new president, President Joseph Kabila--it is still not clear whether he takes his own decisions or acts out those of others--may be able to encourage dialogue on the basis of the Lusaka agreement, which was signed by all of the countries involved; if so, there is a chance of going forward. However, that requires a national debate in the Congo. In order to encourage that debate, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, appointed the former president of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, as facilitator. Until January Sir Ketumile had absolutely zero success in making progress, despite the help that has been given to him by the British Government and others to help him to get on with the job. It now appears as if there can be progress. I implore the Minister and her colleagues to do all that they can to step up the support for the facilitator and to encourage the Congo nation to participate in creating that national dialogue, which I assure the House is much wanted by the ordinary people of the Congo.

Members of the House will already know that I have interests in Africa through my business and some of the companies of which I am a director. Dialogue with ordinary people, many of whom are illiterate, makes it clear that they want peace, that they are prepared to work for it and that they do not want warfare to continue. I have been privileged--some would say that I have been unlucky--to see film of some of the attacks by the forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Pweto and Peta down in the south-east of the Congo. Seeing those attacks and reading and hearing about what has happened in other parts of the country leaves no doubt in my mind that the UN, members of the G8 and of the EU must back the efforts for peace in the Congo.

If peace is achieved, other matters may start to fall into place. The withdrawal of the Zimbabwean army back to Zimbabwe would remove at least one of the drains on that country's economy. That would probably give President Mugabe some more problems, but he went into the war knowingly and I have no sympathy for him with regard to the problems with which he may have to cope as a result of his own actions.

This debate is not solely about making peace or avoiding conflict. As the noble Lords, Lord St John and Lord Hughes, said, it also involves dealing with what I call barriers to business. One of the greatest such barriers is the spread of HIV and AIDS. That should be the subject of an entirely separate debate. An enormous amount of activity and self-help is taking place to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. For the World Bank and for all the major donors support for the NGOs has become one of the key areas of activity. There is also support for the Government and the business councils that work through their own businesses to advance information and to create a barrier to the spread of HIV and AIDs.

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The examples of sound leadership in Uganda and Senegal have helped to slow the spread of HIV and AIDs. We now need that sound unequivocal leadership from all the other leaders of African countries where the ravaging advances of this disease, Malaria and TB are such inhibitors to a successful life.

Every government must start to deal with corruption. That is one of the other main inhibitors to progress--political, social and economic. Some effort is being made. I encourage the Government to back the anti-corruption commissions and, indeed, the efforts being made in a number of countries. But corruption survives where there is no democracy, where there is no transparency and no accountability. That is why elections and good governance are the only real guard against abuse of power. If one guards against the abuse of power, one has a chance to meet the challenges, whether they be political, social or economic.

4.51 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, reminded us of the days when he and many of us campaigned against the racist regime of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. It is with that in mind that we look with particular horror at the descent by Zimbabwe towards dictatorship. That is especially painful because it is occurring in a country where the Harare declaration was signed 10 years ago. That declaration committed the member states in the Commonwealth to democracy, democratic processes and institutions, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression.

Instead the chief justice has been forced out of office; the Supreme Court has been emasculated by threats and intimidation; the offices of the Daily News have been bombed; foreign correspondents have been kicked out; more than 14 cases of assaults, harassment and intimidation against media professionals, reported by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists to the police, have not been investigated; the legitimate activities of the opposition MDC have been crippled by murder and violence; and the so-called "war veterans" have brought the economy to a standstill. So it is not simply the occupation of the white farms that we are talking about. We are talking about the system of intimidation and harassment and the undermining of the institutions of democracy by this man.

In the face of all these indications of a repressive, intolerant regime that has turned against its own people, what should be the reaction of Commonwealth, and, indeed, of the rest of the world at large?

It is suggested that Zimbabwe should be suspended from the Commonwealth. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, that although that may be for consideration later, and particularly at the CHOGM in Brisbane this coming October, it is the ultimate deterrent. It is a weapon that can be used only once. It

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is perhaps better if we hold it in suspension as an earnest of the better behaviour of President Mugabe, if indeed, he is susceptible to that kind of persuasion.

Mr Mugabe has been in Brussels and Paris. No doubt the economic abyss opening up in front of him has persuaded him that he needs the friendship of Europe, which has perhaps more practical implications for him than that of the Commonwealth, because the EU could invoke Article 96 of the Cotonou agreement. Under that an ACP nation is given 60 days to engage the EU in consultations over its unbecoming behaviour.

The sanctions available to the EU could include suspension of aid valued at 132.7 million euros. Clearly the EU would have to be careful that any such measures would be selectively applied against Mugabe and not against the people of Zimbabwe, who are already the innocent victims of his mismanagement and criminality. But, as the Financial Gazette in Harare commented, he is like a cornered animal and we should be careful not to goad him into even more extreme acts of irrationality.

Meanwhile, it may not have been noted that there is a steady trickle of asylum-seekers arriving here from Zimbabwe. As the repression continues, it is inevitable that an increasing number of genuine refugees will migrate to the UK. Unfortunately, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate is treating Zimbabweans as prima facie unqualified. There is a "special exercise" to detain them in Oakington and then transfer them routinely to places of detention or prisons. That practice is unlawful. I hope that the Government will carry out a review of the treatment of asylum-seekers from Zimbabwe in the light of the dreadful human rights situation there.

Yesterday, President Mugabe was due to meet President Chirac to discuss the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda, Uganda and Namibia have already disengaged their forces in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1341. There is some hope that by 15th May Angola and Zimbabwe will co-operate with MONUC in preparing a timetabled plan for withdrawal of all their forces and disarmament of the factions.

Unfortunately, this has coincided with an increase in attacks by non-state armed groups on Catholic-run health facilities in south Kivu. I should like to ask the Minister how the Security Council envisages that adequate security can be provided for civilians in the areas of eastern DRC from which the foreign troops are being withdrawn.

Yesterday evening on "Focus on Africa", I heard the RCD Minister for External Affairs, Mr Joseph Mudumbi, say that two battalions of Interahamwe, supported by Zimbabwean troops, were moving to occupy Pweto. I suggest that if that happened it would wreck the peace plan. But how can any plan for the disarmament, repatriation or resettlement of armed groups be effective when there is no legal military force in south Kivu? No doubt, the same applies to other areas all the way along the eastern frontier of the DRC.

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The Security Council said that, if the Secretary-General thinks it necessary, it would be prepared to deploy troops to Goma or Bukavu later. Pweto, which is much further to the south on the borders of Zambia, was not mentioned. At the time of the Secretary-General's last report, MONUC had only 200 men in the whole of DRC. It was not meant to be a peace-keeping force. Therefore, the Security Council should be wary of inserting small numbers of troops into what may still be a war situation.

When President Joseph Kabila visits Britain next week, will the Government discuss with him the huge problem of security all the way along that eastern frontier, and whether a better solution might be achieved by co-operation between the regular forces of the state and those of the RCD?

As mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, Zimbabwe still has no fewer than 12,000 troops in the country; Angola has 7,000; and Namibia has 2,000. The noble Baroness asked, as I should like to, how can the bankrupt Mugabe afford to maintain such an enormous army in a foreign country? Many Zimbabweans would also like to know the answer to that question. Some have gone to prison for suggesting that the army's top brass and politicians are making a killing by plundering the DRC's valuable mineral assets, as the noble Baroness suggested.

Part of the cost of the equipment has been met by loans from the Chinese, who supplied 12 F7 fighters at a cost of 3.7 billion dollars, and of course our own generous ECGD, which, until recently, continued to fund the purchase of spares for the Hawk jets.

Two years ago the cost to Zimbabwe of the war was estimated at 2.3 million dollars a day. That is now probably an underestimate. Is the Minister satisfied that Mugabe is genuinely committed to the withdrawal called for in Security Council Resolution 1341 and that he will stick to the timetable specified?

The civil war in Angola has also been mentioned. That is draining huge sums from a potentially rich country. It is perhaps the wealthiest in the whole continent, with huge resources of oil, minerals and diamonds. The Angolan Government trousered 800 million dollars in sign-up bonuses for deep-water licences to develop a few blocks for oil exploration. That money has vanished without trace, no doubt into the purchase of arms. What steps will the Government take to ensure greater transparency in the disposal of oil and other mineral royalties in Angola or, for that matter, more generally? It would not apply only to Angola, but that country is one of the largest examples. BP has taken a lead by publishing a good deal of information about payments made to the Angolan Government and Sonangol, but other countries should follow suit. The Angolan Government should produce audited accounts showing how the receipts from the oil licences are being spent.

Illegal deals with Angola through a group of traffickers, worth 500 million dollars from 1993 onwards, are now being investigated in a Paris court. It is alleged that the principals were M Pierre Falcone,

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who lives in Paris, and one Arkady Gaidamak, who, it is said, has lived in the Dorchester Hotel in London for the past seven years. On 11th January an international warrant for his arrest was issued by the Tribunal de Grande Instance, but he disappeared before it could be executed. I hope that we are complying fully with requests from the French authorities for co-operation in that case.

It is a great pity that the Government have not found the time to introduce the strategic export controls Bill, which would require arms brokers who operate from British territory to obtain licences for the sales that they procure from third countries. The Government promised that a draft Bill would be published in the spring. If the Minister can give a firmer date than that in her reply, that would be helpful. Can she also say whether the Bill will apply to foreign nationals in the UK?

The Monitoring Mechanism on Angolan Sanctions, which reported in December, produced a good deal of information on how the illegal trade in arms to UNITA operates and how it is financed by diamonds. It made a series of recommendations on improving the effectiveness of the sanctions. It would be useful if the Minister could say what action the Security Council is taking to implement those recommendations. Among other things, can the Minister say what steps we are taking, as close allies of the UAE, to persuade the authorities there to curtail the activities of Mr Victor Bout, who is a prominent player in those illegal activities? Mr Bout operates a fleet of ageing Russian planes from Sharjah and uses them to transport illegal arms to the region.

Can we also, via the EU, lean on states which are candidates for accession to see that they verify end-user certificates? A great deal of the illegal arms traffic into UNITA came from countries in eastern Europe which apparently accepted those end-user certificates, although later many of them turned out to have been forged. The report details millions of dollars' worth of sales by Romania and Bulgaria in particular, ostensibly to Togo and Burkina Faso but actually destined for UNITA. Should that matter be monitored by the Enlargement Commission of the European Union? How else can we be certain that candidates for accession are taking adequate measures to ensure that arms sales by companies under their jurisdiction are not being diverted for illegal purposes?

It is amazing that in this business arms suppliers rely on the authenticity of pieces of paper as their warrant to enter into large transactions worth millions of dollars. Perhaps the OAU would consider setting up a register in which all member states would be invited to lodge copies of certificates. Do the Government have other ideas on how to stop the use of false end-user certificates?

Southern Africa has many other problems, which I do not have time to deal with in this debate. However, our ties in the SADC region with fellow members of the Commonwealth, our role as a permanent member of the Security Council, and our position as one of the main investors in the region should all enable us to

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make a contribution towards the solution of those problems and the conflicts which have plagued the region and prevented it from realising its full potential.

5.4 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate. I congratulate my noble friend Lord St John of Bletso on his timing for this topic. In the declaration of category 3 interests, I record that I am a Fellow (unremunerated) of Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management Ltd--CPTM for short. I shall return to that in a moment. First, briefly I shall provide the background to CPTM, which has a large amount of support and influence in various parts of the world, particularly in Southern Africa.

CPTM was formally established by a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Auckland in 1995 as a not-for-profit UK company, limited by guarantee and without shareholding. It is financed by interested Commonwealth governments and by a few private sector companies. It owes its genesis to efforts in the early 1980s to help link the fields of technology, business and economics for wealth creation in the developing areas of the Commonwealth. It relies on extensive networking, which it pioneered, to promote partnerships between governments and businesses.

More recently, the range of contacts has included labour and media representation and participation beyond Commonwealth boundaries. New ideas may be floated and tested without compromising formal Commonwealth structures. It has broken down bureaucratic barriers to discussion, planning and action; it provides quick networking access for less formal contacts between countries and individuals; yet it retains strong formal linkage with CHOGM and other Commonwealth organs.

Although much is achieved at national and regional levels, CPTM's major efforts are directed at arranging a series of meetings, known as "Smart Partnership" dialogues. Those meetings are attended by many of the developing countries of Southern Africa and by Malaysia, Indian Ocean nations and the Caribbean. Uniquely for such gatherings, the active participation of heads of state and government over a three or four-day period has been a key feature. I have attended the last three such gatherings at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Maputo in Mozambique and, last November, at Langkawi in Malaysia.

The meeting at Victoria Falls was attended by a dozen heads of state and a couple of former heads. With President Mugabe in the chair, we had, in alphabetical order, President Chiluba from Zambia, President Chissano from Mozambique, President Mbeki from South Africa, President Mogae from Botswana, President Muluzi from Malawi, President Museveni from Uganda, President Nujoma from Namibia and President Rawlings from Ghana. To the latter, I said tongue-in-cheek over breakfast that perhaps I could try to pull rank on Flight-Lieutenant

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(retired) President Rawlings. We got on very well. Prime Ministers from Malaysia, Lesotho and Swaziland also attended.

I participate in all the Fellows-only closed sessions. The heads are the core of the Fellows group and only three or four other Fellows, of which I happen to be one, attend with them. It was clear how valuable the heads of developing nations find the informal and participatory atmosphere of the Smart Partnership dialogues. Perhaps I may characterise that by one example.

Towards the end of the meetings at Victoria Falls and at one of the larger open sessions, it fell to me to introduce a message from the Fellows to the CHOGM which was to take place in Durban in six weeks' time. The burden of the message was to inform the CHOGM of CPTM's development since it was formally approved in 1995 at Auckland and given encouragement and increased support at the Edinburgh CHOGM of 1997.

After I had drafted a suitable communique, I soon cleared it with President Mugabe as the chairman of the gathering. When I introduced the message in the final session of the dialogue, I proposed to say that President Mbeki, who would be chairing the CHOGM in Durban, had undertaken to bring the Fellows' communication to the attention of his colleagues at the CHOGM.

I had a chat with President Mbeki, and he was very happy to agree to what I proposed to say. When my programmed slot came, I gave some background to my own position, including a reference to my unique advantage over many there as a member of a Parliament for life, unless declared bankrupt or found guilty of murder. I ran through the bullet points in the communique. I had noted that there was no sign of President Mbeki in his place. I assumed that he had left to get home. When I reached the place in my script which said that His Excellency President Mbeki had agreed to bring the message to the attention of his colleagues in Durban, there was a large round of applause. That was gratifying, of course, and I continued to the end.

At dinner that evening, I was surprised to see President Mbeki and I said to him that I had not seen him in the marquee during the latter part of the afternoon but that when I had said my piece about his undertaking, it had been very well received. To my surprise he said that yes, he knew that because he had been standing at the back of the marquee and heard all that I had said.

That combination of informality and several days continuously together provides many opportunities to share and discuss, without the rigidity of set-piece meetings, a whole range of issues. At Victoria Falls, greater integration of regional tourism was one theme. Last August in Mozambique we discussed developing the Maputo transportation corridor, so important to seaport access for the inland countries of that part of the world.

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It was amazing to see how resilient President Chissano and his countrymen were following those disastrous floods earlier in that year. I hope that their successful recovery last year will not impact adversely on the support which that country now so urgently requires yet again as the Zambezi River floods and breaks its banks.

Last November in Malaysia, interest focused on improving the media coverage of those developing countries' affairs, with special interest in how to benefit from globalisation and the protection of intellectual property rights.

At all those gatherings, the problems of HIV-AIDS are also aired. Indeed, the first ladies also devoted a great deal of time to meetings and discussions about AIDS. Mrs Grace Mugabe has been a most active advocate of greater efforts to tackle that problem and has done much to raise awareness of the need for action rather than mere talk. My wife was included in those talks.

I was impressed when President Museveni said that he had decided that HIV-AIDS in Uganda should be treated as a subject for education. He had moved responsibility for it from the ministry of health to the ministry of education. Even then, he said that the only way to ensure that the message is heard and understood is for him, the president, to go on tours of the villages. People would come to hear him in large numbers, far more than would turn out for a minister. So he personally lectured on safe sex, condoms and all that his people must know about that dreadful scourge. No country in Africa is free from it but Uganda has a better record than most. President Museveni is to be congratulated on his enlightened approach. From some others, there is a regrettable tendency to look the other way or even to deny that there is a pandemic.

The presence of so many heads at those dialogues--and other countries are represented at vice-president or senior minister levels--all willing to participate in an unstructured manner and in a way that is not pre-scripted is very welcome. For the other delegates who come, around 250 or 300, the opportunities to converse and network with the heads of government and among others with similar business interests to themselves has proved to be extremely successful. The philosophy of those gatherings may best be summed up in the phrases "win-win" and "smart partnership"; helping thy neighbour, not confronting or challenging him.

Uniquely for a Commonwealth organ, CPTM has been able to reach beyond the Commonwealth. The prime minister of Krygyzstan and a senior minister from Algeria joined us in Langkawi and if His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan had not died early in 1999, I would have been co-chairing a 1999 smart partnership dialogue which the king and the then crown prince had planned for Petra.

This year, the dialogue will be held in Kampala. It promises to be a lively and successful occasion under the dynamic chairmanship of President Museveni, assuming, of course, that he wins his election next

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week. The theme for our discussions in Kampala will be enhancing the climate for foreign direct investment though smart partnership.

There is much to do to help Southern Africa and other developing countries, and help can take many forms. Not so well known but, I believe, significant is the work of CPTM. It is an excellent example of a Commonwealth activity with a new, fresh approach. It emphasises public/private partnerships. It has enjoyed the support of the British Government since its inception. I welcome that lead from the Government and hope that it will long continue. I commend CPTM's activities to your Lordships. I urge the Commonwealth High Level Review Group, under the chairmanship of President Mbeki, to give CPTM the strongest endorsement and the moral and financial support which it requires to pursue its work for good throughout the developing Commonwealth and beyond.

5.16 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for giving your Lordships' House the opportunity to debate the serious challenges which face Southern Africa and our part in them.

In December 1998, in Harare, the World Council of Churches celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding in Amsterdam. The celebrations in Harare were marked by an African exuberance, the highlight of which was the arrival of Nelson Mandela. His speech, while thanking the missionaries for the schools and hospitals without which he would not have been standing before us, also echoed what the assembly had already heard and decided upon; namely, that much of the council's work needed to concentrate in the future on the continent of Africa.

The situation then was bad and over the past two years, it has become worse, much worse, as we have already heard, because of the natural disasters in Mozambique, political instability in Zimbabwe and the continuing problems concerning disease and the economy for which we have some responsibility.

The World Council of Churches, with its 337 member churches, and in co-operation with the relief agencies across the world, has pinpointed two areas of special concern: HIV/AIDS and debt relief. In reality, those two major issues are very much related. Disease leads to poverty and poverty leads to disease. The spiral of poverty leads to social and economic collapse of families, communities and even nations.

We have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, and others about the number of people who are HIV positive. We recognise that that is quite staggering: 1,500 people are newly infected every day in South Africa alone.

One of the results has been to create 100,000 children orphaned in one year. That is far too many for the extended family to absorb, which has been one of the strengths of Southern Africa. Suddenly we find that it is necessary to provide orphanages in great numbers.

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But with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, I would like to add that it is not all gloom for in Uganda, which perhaps I know best, with a major education programme introduced in 1987, the numbers of newly diagnosed HIV infected people dropped from 200,000 per year to 57,000 in 1997. It is still a staggering figure but progress has been made.

Safe sex education, practical advice and structures around marriage have had some mitigating effects. But the need for drugs is now being pinpointed. I read that the World Bank estimated that the cost of drugs to treat AIDS in Africa alone is over 10 billion US dollars. That begins to reveal the enormity of the problem.

In 1995, as we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, the members of the World Trade Organisation signed, as part of the GATT package, the trade-related intellectual property rights agreement. In particular, under this agreement the pharmaceutical industry, has had the monopoly of manufacturing and selling its products for 20 years.

The effect of those agreements has been that the governments of Southern African countries have been prevented from finding the cheapest possible sources for essential medicines required for public clinics and hospitals. From the noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, we have already heard that something has happened, of which I am not aware, but perhaps the Minister can clarify that. Perhaps the Minister will say whether Her Majesty's Government have any intention of addressing this issue in the next round of talks.

HIV/AIDS and debt relief are bound together in Southern Africa. The Jubilee 2000 Coalition campaign for the remittance of unpayable debt has been heard by governments and peoples. In this regard we can be proud of the leadership given by successive British governments. I want to put on record the pride that I feel at international meetings when such issues are raised.

Such a movement is right on humanitarian grounds as well as on grounds of justice, but I believe that it is good economics as well. Countries that take responsibility for their own economies in their own ways, increase trade and increase markets to the benefit of us all. But as we have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, the issue of corruption has yet to be properly addressed. I believe that the leaders of churches worldwide, and especially those in Southern Africa should make witness in this respect. We need to tackle not just debt relief but also the issue of corruption itself.

As we have already seen, the connection between disease and poverty is real. While we would all agree that we have to help the nations of Southern Africa to address the provision of healthcare and making available clean and safe drinking water, and while we would agree that the remittance of debt is vitally important, that cannot be where our responsibility ends.

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At a recent meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches in Berlin in February this year a whole session was devoted to a close look at the world economy. I suspect that we may not necessarily have liked what was said about the World Bank, the IMF or the World Trade Organisation by some of the representatives from the south, but it becomes understandable when just one story among many is told in relation to agreements on agriculture.

In October 1997, a fruit canning factory, the main employer in the fruit-growing area of a small town in the western Cape in South Africa, had to close down. It could no longer sell its canned fruit in Japan, its traditional market, because Greek peach canners, benefiting from export refunds, exploited the system to price them out of the market. They were also priced out of the EU market by the high import taxes imposed on canned fruit in the EU. The result was a loss of 800 permanent jobs and 4,000 seasonal jobs. Time does not allow me to tell of beef exports to northern Namibia or issues surrounding the production of sugar and dairy products.

When an agreement was signed in 1995, all World Trade Organisation members agreed to reduce all forms of subsidies given to their agricultural sectors. At that time the United States, the European Union and Japan provided 80 per cent of all subsidies, to which can be added the help given in marketing costs and the payments to exporters where price differences were to their disadvantage. It is estimated that in 1998 that amounted to 274 billion US dollars. In anybody's language that is a lot of money and puts people in Southern Africa at a great disadvantage when they seek to help themselves.

There is no level playing field and all the help given by individuals, Comic Relief and aid agencies is like trying to stem the mighty Zambezi with buckets and spades. The words of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, rightly cover political, social and economic matters. Such matters interact with each other, as has been made abundantly clear by noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. But we cannot sit by and observe. In order to enable Southern African countries to help themselves, major issues relating to the agreements of the World Trade Organisation need to be addressed.

I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House how the Government propose to deal with the two issues: drugs in relation to HIV/AIDS and subsidies in relation to the economy. There is also our continuing concern to provide debt relief. A verse in the Old Testament mentions being one's "brother's keeper". We are our black and white brothers' keeper in Southern Africa.

5.26 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for initiating this debate.

One of the greatest African statesmen whom I had the privilege of knowing was Robert Gardiner, a Ghanaian in the UN who became head of the

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Economic Commission for Africa. He believed that the most precious gift that the British gave to Africa was the rule of law, where before there had been only the power of the witchdoctor and the corruption and fear through which that power was exercised.

We left behind all too fragile infrastructures because a combination of political correctness, war-weariness after 1945 and the dead hand of a Treasury without vision caused us to withdraw from Africa at least a generation too soon. At that time there were simply not enough trained Africans with experience of government in a modern world. Some of the African leaders did not lack authority, ability or the readiness to accept and use responsibility--for instance, in Kenyatta, Malcolm MacDonald recognised that ability--but in far too many ministries and governments there were fine front doors but no house yet built behind them. The Congo had no infrastructure at all at independence and many of its evils stem from that.

As President Kaunda told me in recent years, he had four experienced, able and reliable men whom he had to move around key posts. A good friend of mine, previously a young district officer, on independence was made permanent under-secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs, then secretary to the cabinet and finally governor of the Bank of Zambia, before he became IBM's representative in Southern Africa.

The people want peace, stability and health in a region that is under the dark shadow of AIDS, the chance to be educated and developed and the power to change their leaders by democratic choice. In Zambia, President Kaunda accepted the people's decision that he must give way to a freely elected successor, President Chiluba. Unfortunately, Chiluba is attempting to resist the democratic process.

In South Africa a yet more remarkable peaceful transfer of power took place. Between those two countries lies Zimbabwe, which has an excellent infrastructure but also trouble. We all know something of what is happening there from the attacks on freedom of the press and on the judiciary, to the state-driven attacks on blacks and whites alike in the cities as well as on the farms if they appear to pose any threat to Mugabe.

Two years ago the greatest living African, Nelson Mandela, said that Mugabe was a tyrant who should be removed from power. He should know what tyranny is and how precious is freedom. Therefore, I do not understand why neither the Commonwealth, which has been so quick to condemn Fiji and Pakistan, nor the United Nations, nor the European Union, which outlawed Austria because of the emergence of one neo-Nazi party which did not even enjoy power, has acted to denounce and to condemn what the leader of a country is doing to his own people.

I recognise that the United Kingdom has to refrain from public condemnation for fear of Robert Mugabe being able to claim that a former colonial power is attempting to dictate to a sovereign African country. The leader of the MDC appears to support that view.

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I was glad that the Secretary of State privately asked the Belgian Government to raise such issues as the intimidation of judges, the harassment of the press and the "unacceptable" treatment of white farmers--in most countries, the murder of an elderly woman at the very moment of Mugabe's visit would indeed be considered "unacceptable"--but what about the European Commissioner for Development and still more the President of France? Mugabe has broken every promise on development and on loan; has flouted the UN and the donors' conference; and is behaving with the utmost brutality to his own people, black and white Zimbabweans alike. And yet the Commission wants to "build confidence". Confidence-building measures do not exactly have a good record in this country. The EU must have been confusing the visit with a negotiation with the IRA.

It is no use the Government claiming that they have achieved serious power and influence in the EU, as I hope they have, nor the EU setting up military bodies to enable it to carry out humanitarian tasks, even within a non-compliant country, if we are then to be treated to the sight of an EU Commissioner negotiating with an undoubted tyrant. I hope that we shall be told exactly what was offered and what, if anything, the EU did to protect law and order in a beleaguered country.

The Belgian Government's claim to need to talk to Mugabe is that the Zimbabwe army is an important player in any negotiation for peace in the Congo. We have heard some interesting background on that from my noble friend Lady Chalker. Belgium has heavy responsibility for the chaos there and a natural interest in the country. But I should be very surprised, I fear, if Mr Mugabe had any intention of bringing his troops home. On the one hand, he and some senior officers are making too much money from their mining concessions, including diamonds; and, on the other hand, the troops, when they return home, will discover what has been happening to their families. They will perhaps call their C-in-C to account for deplorable support in the field and for not a few black bags--all in support of a country where they have no national interest.

The French of course also have a major interest in what happens in the Congo, but they are probably also angling for achieving influence in Zimbabwe. It remains very important to France to be seen as the only really influential European power in Africa, quite apart from not inconsiderable commercial considerations.

We must also be concerned, I fear, about whatever Libya may be promoting on Mugabe's behalf in the new African union and perhaps in South Africa, given the ANC's close historic links with Libya, to which country they feel they owe much. If we are to claim to have an ethical foreign policy, it seems to me we need to demonstrate that we respect and defend the principles of freedom under the law. I have never been able to understand why the events in Zimbabwe were seen for so long as simply the awkward problem of a small group of colonialist whites. They, too, are Zimbabwe citizens who were born and brought up

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there. Most bought their farms from the government and before the land could be bought that government had to declare that they did not want it.

The whole livelihood and future of the Africans who work on the commercial farms is bound up with them. Their skills and commitment are paramount. The farmers' union has repeatedly offered to turn over designated farms in return for the sale of the land and to leave the whole infrastructure to be managed by African farm managers whom they have been training for some years, and by the African workers on the farms who well know how to run them. They would have every chance of running viable commercial farms, an important part of the economy.

Instead, the government want, as they have done before, to settle landless men without skills and without capital, since the government refuse to give land title and therefore they have no collateral on which to borrow to grow a subsistence crop. Those Africans who have worked the farms for years, and their families, including the very young and the very old, will become refugees, flowing over into the neighbouring African countries and first and foremost into South Africa. Most of these Africans have worked for the same family for years and they live in communities which include a school, a clinic, a shop and modern housing for the workers. They are virtually villages. When they are destroyed and the workers and their families are driven out, as happened on a number of farms, they face complete destitution.

These people, and not only the white farmers, saw their only protection in the law, a free vote and a free press. They have lost all three. They cannot even expect police protection when their houses are torched and their wives beaten. Yet the Commonwealth does nothing visible; the UN does nothing; and the EU does something disastrous. What kind of cynical message are we allowing to be sent to desperate, brave people? It would be ironic indeed if the EU's first Petersberg task proved to be the evacuation of refugees.

I know that in these dangerous days no government want to have to display their hand to the enemy, but I share the growing fear of the people of Zimbabwe that nothing is being done. At the very least, a major statement, led by the Scandinavian countries, which are respected in Africa and have no colonial baggage, is needed to give hope. A practical step would be a proposal for an immediate meeting of the donor countries involved in the 1998 conference with the UN and Zimbabwe, together with perhaps South Africa representing the African countries. That would be engagement with Mugabe; it would be a constructive approach which he would be hard pressed to reject.

At present, I am only too forcefully reminded of the years of appeasement in Europe before World War II. Africans, like us, respect principle. I do not advocate sanctions--they never worked in Africa before and they probably would not now. I suggest that it could well be that in risking bloodshed, the people of Zimbabwe will free themselves before the country

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reaches disaster--and they are the only people who can in the end do so--but they will remember then what we did and what we did not do.

5.37 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, we are fortunate in this House to have as a Member the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, with all his experience of Southern Africa. I congratulate him on introducing the debate and thank him for giving us this opportunity to speak.

It is easy to feel outraged about the situation in Zimbabwe, but outrage of course changes nothing. So far in the debate, we have been restrained. Our Government have chosen to take a low profile, with the aim of upholding human rights and the rule of law through African leaders and the Commonwealth. But as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, so well pointed out, we may have to do even more than that.

South Africa and Zimbabwe share some common history and many present objectives. My foremost hope is that they will learn from each other. The signs are that President Thabo Mbeki will see it as his duty to become more involved in restoring peace in the region and respect for the law in Zimbabwe. He, after all, has much to be proud of in South Africa, as I shall mention later, and he is the only African leader who can influence Robert Mugabe. The new young Congolese President also seems anxious to rebuild his links overseas. It is encouraging to hear the news from the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, especially about the special facilitator. Perhaps he, with Mbeki's support, will breath new life into the Southern African development community to revive the Lusaka Accord, which is one of its main purposes, and in that way exercise restraint on his principal ally.

However, these pious hopes still look like straws in the wind. The ordinary people of Zimbabwe are suffering terribly under a cruel and racist dictatorship which betrays so many of the principles behind the liberation war. I cannot forget the positive outlook of the bridge-builders of modern Zimbabwe, the young federals and liberals whom I met in the early 1960s, the influence of the churches during the liberation struggle and the new truly multi-racial society which followed. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, mentioned President Vorster, but no wonder that the voice if Ian Smith has been heard again in terrible mockery of Mugabe.

How can Zimbabweans get out of this impasse? Do those who have come to respect the law because of its colonial associations now have to accept the appointment of "liberated" judges who feel empathy with those oppressed by the same system in the past? Is it necessary to go back in time and understand the anguish which Mugabe and others genuinely suffered under Ian Smith in order to re-establish a position of trust; or is a stiff upper lip, steady support for the rule of law and silent resistance to blackmail still the best option, especially for the parliamentary opposition which, after all, now claims the real moral high ground? The truth must be somewhere in between these positions.

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ZANU-PF's violent attacks on the judiciary and media have rightly provoked angry reactions. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will be tested when it meets and will no doubt resort to the Harare declaration. I doubt whether sanctions or expulsion on the Pakistan-Nigeria model will help, and I am relieved to hear that other noble Lords agree with that. But pressure will certainly be needed, especially to unite African leaders behind a peaceful solution.

It is not enough to preach human rights and democracy unless land reform and resettlement are back on the agenda, as all Zimbabweans now accept. That was an injustice inherent in the Lancaster House agreement which still must be put right. Britain cannot simply be seen to protect the interests of commercial farmers. One approach may be to revise the dialogue with SADC and other organisations in the UN over Britain's contribution to resettlement and the land redistribution plan set out by UNDP. Perhaps the Minister is able to comment on that.

One oppressed group which has largely been ignored, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, pointed out, is the farm workers who are caught between the militant war veterans and the commercial farmers. Thousands have been ill-treated and beaten on suspicion of their links with the MDC or former employers. The latest wave of violence has occurred in Matabeleland North where ZANU-PF is again trying to intimidate those who failed to support it in the elections. It is a brutal form of civil war in which local government vehicles are used to carry war veterans to attack farmers and farm workers and MDC supporters are cruelly denounced by ZANU for "voting for recolonisation".

Research by NGOs, such as the Zimbabwe Network of Informal Settlements, shows how farm workers are trying to survive on subsistence plots on abandoned farms in the wake of destruction by the war veterans who extort money from them. These farm workers are not recognised in the Government's resettlement plan and are expected to live on almost nothing while the country depends on them for food supplies. Severe food shortages are imminent, partly because of the lack of rainfall and past drought, but chiefly because of the devastation and economic chaos which affect the rural poor most and spare the Government, police and ruling party. When the Minister comes to respond on Mozambique perhaps she can confirm that Britain is also helping NGOs such as Save the Children to assist an estimated 11,000 people who are, I believe, affected by floods in northern Zimbabwe.

Turning to South Africa, there have been very encouraging developments which have some relevance for Zimbabwe. First, as one who once worked alongside the Churches in the anti-apartheid movement, I have been impressed by the growing pluralism and genuine democracy which has held up since the retirement of President Mandela. The biggest achievement is the alliance with Inkatha, which is as much a tribute to the ANC's organisation in KwaZulu-Natal as to Chief Buthelezi, and, with that, the gradual erosion of the crude political power of

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traditional Zulu leadership. Secondly, there is the surprising ability of the Opposition to challenge the ANC, most recently in the Zimbabwean debate in parliament, although without much prospect of a viable political alternative. As in the UK, we watch the development of a born-again opposition which is essential to a healthy democracy. Even more important are the prospects of friendly criticism within the ranks of the ANC and its allies, whether on social change, politics, the economy or Zimbabwe.

Nelson Mandela, as we have heard, does not hesitate to speak out. Only last week we heard Zwelinzima Vavi, head of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, say at a seminar in Johannesburg:

    "People cannot eat slogans, rhetoric or history; liberty must bring tangible benefits to the oppressed".

That is a very simple statement. He was referring to Robert Mugabe, but in another sense it was a warning to the ANC leadership that the time of heroes was over and the people still waited for results. The growth, employment and redistribution programme still has not delivered on earlier promises, and the low turnout in the local elections is itself the strongest indicator of disaffection within the ANC. Others have already described the economic and fiscal successes achieved by South Africans under Trevor Manuel's firm guidance, perhaps influenced, bizarrely, by our own Chancellor.

Knowing that the noble Baroness is to reply to the debate, I should like to spend a few minutes on the condition of the poorest in South Africa and the small contribution of the Government. Foreign aid to South Africa is only a fraction of GNP. In the past decade aid has been only 0.4 per cent, but it needs to be targeted towards health services and education in deprived areas, such as the KwaZulu-Natal hinterland where, incidentally, farmers have also suffered from foot and mouth disease in recent months. Britain gave £32 million in 1998, mainly for essential projects to help the rural and urban poor; for example, AIDS prevention which is obviously vital today. But that aid works out at only £6 per head in South Africa, compared with £11 in Zimbabwe and £16 in Zambia. Can the Minister see any reason why the poorest South Africans should receive any less per capita than other Southern Africans?

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to asylum seekers. It is a sad but telling fact that skilled South Africans and Zimbabweans of all ethnic origins are leaving for Australia and Europe, and many are now in Britain. I saw one report in the Financial Times that one-fifth of registered nurses have left Zimbabwe since last June. The number of asylum seekers from Zimbabwe has risen ten fold since 1998. The provisional total for last year is 980, which is twice the number of those accepted for settlement in 1999. In 1998 and 1999, according to figures kindly supplied by the Library, 49,000 South Africans came here while only 12,000 left, which is a net gain of 37,000 in that period. These numbers rise when dual nationality is taken into account. That is, surely, further telling

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evidence for both Presidents Mugabe and Mbeki that Britain must not be seen as a problem but as part of an urgent solution.

5.48 p.m.

Lord Brett: My Lords, the ninth speaker in a debate of this nature faces the certainty that what he wants to say has already been said with much greater expertise given the experience of Africa, ministerial or otherwise, that resides on all Benches. Another certainty, of which my noble friend Lord Hughes reminds us, is that this debate is likely to be a Cook's tour of the region. My contribution will be a Cook's tour of a country that has not yet been mentioned. Some echoes of the contributions of noble Lords will, I believe, play a part in the points that I make.

I refer to six friendships that I have made in the International Labour Organisation over the past dozen years. These South African trade union leaders, past and present, have had a considerable willingness to fight for democracy and gone on to give their countries greater service. Sam Shilowa, former general secretary of COSATU, is now the Premier of Gauteng. Cyril Ramaphosa, also formerly of COSATU, is now a major industrial figure in South Africa and is assisting in the Northern Ireland peace process. My former colleague on the worker benches of the ILO, Freddie Chiluba, has gone to even greater heights. He reached the exalted position of elected President of Zambia. I regret to say that his enthusiasm for democracy seems to have waned somewhat since. I share with the noble Lord, Lord St John, and others concern about his willingness perhaps to forget past ideals in his desire to hold on to power at present. In Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda, formerly leaders of the Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions and now the MDC, continue to be friends. I hope to greet Gibson Sibanda in two weeks' time in Geneva at the governing body of the ILO, as he remains a member on the worker benches.

However, I am worried about the threat of the withdrawal of the passports of those who have been arraigned before the courts. Both Morgan and Gibson have been before the courts. If that is the case, and Gibson is prevented from carrying out his international obligations by the Mugabe regime, I hope that our Government, other European governments and the ILO will raise the greatest protest. I join the noble Lord, Lord St John, and other noble Lords in condemning what has happened in Zimbabwe. I visited Zimbabwe last year and produced a report, which I circulated to colleagues, on what I found there. What I forecast has, regrettably, turned out to be the case.

I have mentioned five friends. I wish to mention a sixth. He is Jan Sithole, President of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions. I have visited Swaziland three times in 10 years, twice in an attempt to get Jan Sithole out of prison. Swaziland is a small and beautiful country with a population of only a million. It is in southern Africa. It does not have tribal divisions. It has a monarch who stands high in the

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affection of many of his people. It has only one major problem. It has no democracy. In emergency legislation in 1973, the present king's father abolished and banned political parties. That remains the case today.

Swaziland has many things going for it. It has a relatively high standard of living. But it has now a festering sore. The great thing about being the tenth speaker is that previous speakers quote. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, who is not now in his place, quoted Kofi Annan saying that there is a thirst for democracy. There is a thirst. It exists in most parts of the world. It exists no less in Swaziland. But it is a small country and does not capture attention. There are not that many countries with influence over Swaziland. It is a member of the Commonwealth. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, reminded us of the Harare Declaration. That is just as applicable to Swaziland, which has no political parties, as to any one-party state in Africa. But there is a difference. Our Government have a part to play and should have an influence in that country.

In the 10 years I have known him, my friend Jan Sithole has not only been incarcerated twice but is now again before the court on charges, with a view to silencing the only democratic voice in that country. The Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions took upon itself the democratic voice and it is the only allowed democratic organisation. But it joins the Bar Association, the Churches, the youth sections and the employers of Swaziland in demanding that those around Swaziland bring pressure on the government. It is a strange government--a feudal monarchy. The government are appointed by the king. The king is held in high esteem. It is an almost soviet system--no one criticises the king but everyone criticises the shadowy figures around him.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, commented on President Mbeki's silent diplomacy and how unsuccessful it has been in respect of Zimbabwe. Great Britain has been engaging in silent diplomacy in Swaziland for a decade or more. It is not good enough to hope that the patient and peaceful nature of the Swazi people will continue; it will not. My friend Jan Sithole and his organisation have been the subject of harassment over a decade. The trade union laws in that country were changed to prevent the trade union movement being a voice of protest and dissent.

In 1995, Jan Sithole was kidnapped, stripped naked, put in the boot of his rather battered old Mercedes and left on a mountain road where, had a lorry come along, it would have pushed the Mercedes down a ravine. Fortunately, someone on a bicycle heard his knocking from the boot and released him. He told his story to a number of colleagues in Geneva. Jan Sithole is a big lad. He is almost my size. One of my trade union colleagues, who is well versed in negotiations, said, "But, Jan, if there were only two of them, why did you get into the car so easily? You are a big man". Jan said dryly, "They were carrying AK-47s, and it was not a negotiation".

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Everyone who knows Jan Sithole believes that he is the least likely revolutionary leader. He is a deeply religious man. He does not want to see the monarchy removed from that country. But he is a man who, with his colleagues in the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, is determined to call for democracy and is in a sense disappointed that that call is not being echoed in countries such as ours. Many of us are concerned about what is happening in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. We should have the same degree of concern for our colleagues in Swaziland. The fact that it is a small country should not deter us from speaking up.

I hope that when the Minister responds to the debate she will be able to give assurances. What are we doing to ensure that democracy comes to that country? Can we really see a Commonwealth in the 21st century with the last remaining feudal kingdom? Should we not be concerned about that? Fortunately, as far as I know, only one person--a schoolgirl--has been killed in the rioting that has taken place from time to time in the capital of Swaziland. I hope that we will not wait for the situation to worsen. My fear is that at some stage Jan Sithole will be swept aside and replaced by people who are far less peaceful and far more revolutionary. There is a diaspora of young educated Swazis in South Africa and other countries. They are calling for democracy in Swaziland.

While we are rightly concerned about the repugnant things that are happening in Zimbabwe and while we are concerned about my good friends Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda, I hope that noble Lords will also have regard for someone whom many will not know, whose name they have not heard, but who, for almost 10 years now, has led peacefully and with great expertise the only democratic organisation in Swaziland and has tried to bring about the understanding of his government, his monarch and his community in moving towards democracy before feudalism is swept away in that part of the world, as it was swept away a century ago in Europe. I hope that in our great concern for the whole of Africa, we do not forget one small country, Swaziland.

5.57 p.m.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, on bringing this subject to your Lordships' attention today. In my contribution to the debate I shall concentrate on Zimbabwe.

A few years ago I visited Zimbabwe to stay with some very great friends. During that time I spent three days with the Commercial Farmers Union visiting a number of farms and land. These visits culminated in separate meetings with the British High Commissioner and the president, chairman and chief executive of the Commercial Farmers Union. It took place around the time soon after some 1,470 farms had been gazetted by the Zimbabwean government for compulsory acquisition without compensation and the landowners were filing applications to the courts to prevent that happening.

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The conclusions from this visit were many and three of them I remember well. First, white farmers would be content to sell some of their land provided fair compensation was paid by the government. Secondly, the government refused, and still will not give the small black farmers title deeds to their land on which they have been resettled. As a result, no newly resettled person can apply for a loan from the bank to buy seed corn, fertiliser or water pumps, and thus the land is not farmed, the trees are chopped down for firewood and the area becomes an arid dust bowl. However, it was significant to see black farmers who had attended one year at an agricultural training college financed by the Commercial Farmers Union producing as good a quality of tobacco as white farmers.

As we all know, the overall situation in Zimbabwe has now become very grave. Turning to the political situation, the elections held on 24th and 25th June of last year were marred by politically inspired violence and intimidation. The Movement for Democratic Change was formed in September 1999 and, in the recent election, it won 57 of the 120 contested seats, with ZANU-PF winning 62. It is now mounting legal challenges to the results in 37 ZANU-PF constituencies. But in December Mugabe violated the constitution when he issued a statutory instrument banning opposition lawsuits over disputed results, even if the incumbent was convicted of electoral corruption. It is more than apparent that Mugabe is taking action to ensure that he remains in power by using his private militia, which has already shed innocent blood and specialises in intimidation, beatings and murder; and a police force and military that always carry out the instructions from ZANU-PF.

The opposition leader, Mr Tsvangirai, a most courageous man, expects an early election as a new wave of repression has started and the crisis that has come from the collapse of the economy gathers pace daily. A pre-election campaign of unparalleled ferocity has started and ZANU-PF will resort to massive repression conducted by the so-called war veterans.

Mugabe has stepped up his campaign against the media by bombing the main independent newspaper, the Daily News, and by the expulsion of a BBC World Service reporter on 17th February. A journalist working for a South African newspaper has also been ordered to leave. White farmers are still being intimidated, beaten and tragically murdered. Judges' lives have been threatened. Political opponents have been beaten and the so-called war veteran thugs are turned loose on anyone who has had the courage to challenge the despotism that is now passing for presidential rule. The law itself is no longer a protection from harassment. The judiciary has been denounced as biased, the supreme court has been surrounded by thugs and the chief justice has been forced to retire early. Mr Mugabe's evil actions have plunged the country into war and penury.

I shall now turn to the economy. Its main pillars are farming, mining and tourism; all three have collapsed. The economy is in a critical situation, with unemployment running at over 60 per cent, inflation at

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60 per cent and foreign currency reserves have run out. Interest rates are at 70 per cent and the lack of foreign currency reserves has led to fuel shortages and power cuts, as the country is dependent on 40 per cent of its electricity and energy supplies from adjacent countries. The Zimbabwe dollar is overvalued, despite recent devaluations. In the past, mining has accounted for around one-third of exports and 23 per cent of GDP, while commercial farming accounts for around 19 per cent of GDP and earns 40 per cent of the country's foreign exchange. It is no wonder that the economy is at the point of critical mass as the government are persecuting the white managers of the mining industry, bringing closures to mines; the occupation of farms by illegal squatters has ruined commercial farming; and tourism is down by 60 per cent.

The Land Acquisition Act 1992 gave the government of Zimbabwe power to acquire land for redistribution and provided for compensation. In 1998, a programme for land redistribution and alleviation of poverty was presented and an inception plan was agreed by donors, landowners and the government. It is essential that this programme starts up again, as it hardly got off the ground. In June of last year, the Land Acquisition Act was amended to allow the acquisition of farms, with compensation to be paid only for improvements. In December, Mugabe stated in an address that over the past six months 2,540 out of a requirement of 3,000 farms, covering around 12 million hectares, which would resettle around 162,000 black families, had been listed for compulsory acquisition. This equates to around 80 per cent of the land owned by commercial farmers. Some 1,600 farms contain illegal squatters who have been responsible for the murder of seven white farmers and for some 2,400 cases of brutal assault. Mugabe has repeatedly supported these squatters and refused to act in accordance with two high court rulings that ordered their eviction by the police, declaring that the seizure of white-owned farms was illegal. The land seizure programme has violated property rights, denied farmers the full protection of the law and ignored legislation offering due notice of eviction.

In conclusion, the critical situation existing in Zimbabwe is because Mugabe is determined to ensure that ZANU-PF remains in power and wins the presidential election using the most brutal and repressive systems to achieve this. The descent into totalitarianism, combined with attacks on minority white people, is not simply the breakdown of civil society, as seen elsewhere in Africa; it is a calculated entrenchment of a man who believes that he is above the law. Furthermore, recognition of Mugabe by President Chirac of France, the Belgian Prime Minister and EU politicians is abhorrent and in no way helps towards a return to democracy in Zimbabwe.

The one country that can apply pressure to bring about a return to democracy in Zimbabwe is South Africa, through its trading, economic and political weight. President Mbeki believes that this is an African

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problem and should be resolved only by African countries. However, there is no desire within other African countries to resolve this desperate situation and, in any event, they are more or less incapable of doing so. President Mbeki should distance himself from Mugabe. If he does not do so and does not bring his economic and political weight to bear, the United Kingdom should bring pressure to bear on South Africa to do so. The time has come for sanctions to be applied by the Commonwealth, the EU and the UN in condemnation of Mugabe's policies and for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Commonwealth.

6.7 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, would like to share in the appreciation shown to the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for initiating this debate. The deep involvement of the Christian Church in the history of Southern Africa and especially in the struggle to overturn apartheid means that we have deep bonds of affection with many of its peoples.

Indeed, the emergence of South Africa from the history of apartheid is a quite remarkable story. I remember visiting South Africa in 1989 where, from a conference of over two dozen Anglicans meeting from all over the world in Harare, only four were allowed to enter South Africa in that year. Anglican clergy were not welcome in South Africa in those days. But less than a year later, what had seemed out of the question in 1989 had happened; Nelson Mandela was free and a new journey seemed possible. I am reminded of the Old Testament image of evil empires which present themselves as powerful and strong, but often have feet of clay and come crashing down when least expected.

Noble Lords will forgive me if I focus my remarks on South Africa, because I believe that that country is the key to peace and stability in the region. There are two issues on which I should like to comment. The first concerns governance in South Africa. For those of us who have enjoyed the benefits of western and European political histories, and especially for us here in Britain, it would be easy to underestimate the struggle involved in moving a nation from one history to another. In this country, freedom, justice and peace, established in institutions of law and government, are taken for granted. But when you have lived through generations of oppression, cultures are created which will not be shifted overnight. In South Africa, for the lifetime of many of its peoples, the law, together with its officers, was understood as threat and danger; government as the enemy; and the structures of the state as the incarnation of injustice. So people grew up in a mode of resistance; their dignity preserved in spite of the structures of governance.

On the day that Nelson Mandela was released, at a service in church to celebrate his freedom, I remember the leader of the local anti-apartheid movement sharing with me how deep would be the cultural shift from resistance and opposition to reconstruction and responsible government. I want to hear that support and solidarity are being offered to the emerging institutions of the new South Africa as it makes this profound cultural shift.

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Faith communities and the Churches, in particular, education and schools and the reshaping of the structures of law and order, all have a crucial part to play in effecting that change. I believe that the United Kingdom has a special responsibility to support South Africa in making this change of culture and in ensuring that the processes now being embodied in its governance are rooted in the cultures of its people.

The second issue upon which I want to comment concerns the peace of the region. It is not long ago that the collapse of the old South Africa went hand in hand with the end of the war in Namibia and the civil war in Mozambique--a good reminder that justice and freedom are the best guarantors of peace. We all know that peace and stability in South Africa are the keys to peace in the whole of Africa and, indeed, will have an influence on the wider world.

We need to play our part in helping to shape all of this. If peace, justice and freedom are to spread northwards from South Africa, it will not happen by accident. Indeed, if we do not recognise the importance of this, we might fail to take the action needed to hold the gains that we have made in South Africa itself. Many noble Lords have spoken of the troubles northward in Zimbabwe. The future of South Africa has to lie in peace and justice shared across the cultural histories of its many peoples.

That is tough enough for South Africa, but to watch the attacks on human rights and a growing culture of violence, lawlessness and political abuse in Zimbabwe--a nation with huge material and human resources--is not only tragic but deeply dangerous. Settling old scores of perceived injustices by vigilante action, by undermining the rule of law and preventing the processes of democratic freedom, will not only damage that country but threatens to spill over into the whole region. Many of us find the sight of the President of Zimbabwe touring Europe seeking support, with little or no public challenge, somewhat unacceptable.

We surely have to shut the door on those ways of handling the issues of power and of social and economic justice. We need to be aware that the peoples of South Africa are seeking to establish a political culture which is going in the opposite direction to what is happening in Zimbabwe.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, very helpfully reminded us, Zimbabwe is caught up in the conflict in the Congo and, through that, in Angola. We cannot leave South Africa to work for peace in the region on its own. The international community needs to be much more active and committed in the endeavour to cut off the profits of the diamond trade which are feeding war in the region, and at pressing for peace, democracy and justice. Backing up the gains that the people of South Africa have made by extending their virtues progressively further into the continent of Africa is the task.

I sometimes question the energies of the international community; the comparative energy that we put into, for example, the issues of the Balkans, Iraq and the Middle East, over and against the

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commitment that we have to root out war and injustice in Central Africa. Is the international community doing enough to support peace, justice and freedom in this region by vigorously tackling these areas of conflict?

South Africa is a new democracy. It has made remarkable strides from a bitter and oppressive past. New things need nurturing and feeding. It needs investment and the committed support of the international community in establishing these values more widely in the region. Upon its success depends so much for Africa as a whole. That is why we take these issues for granted at our peril.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, the perceptive introduction to this timely debate of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, and an array of distinguished speakers, leaves little more to say--and even that has been said.

However, I should like to take issue a little with the implications of the title of the debate. I know that noble Lords do not think so, but to read many of our newspapers you would think that Southern Africa--indeed, the whole of Africa--was one country in a uniformly bad way. Headlines like "Africa's Plight" in the Financial Times or, the week before last, the Economist's "Africa's Elusive Dawn" do a disservice to reality.

The countries of Southern Africa are very different. For instance, the World Bank thinks that Botswana's high growth rates could significantly reduce poverty within a decade. When I was in Botswana, I noticed that it was the Botswana Government who paid for outside expertise, not aid. Their diamond revenues were funding a range of employment developments.

Botswana also ranks high, with South Africa, on the respected Freedom House index of democratic governance and has a top ranking, with Namibia, in the World Economic Forum's Africa Competitiveness Report. Zimbabwe, in contrast, as noble Lords will well understand, is now nearly at the bottom.

In the important UNDP Human Development Index, which shows quality of life measures such as life expectancy, adult literacy rates and school enrolment, as well as GDP, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland were all up in the "medium" bracket, higher, for instance, than Ghana or India. That is in the report for the year 2000, although some figures will have been collected earlier, and AIDS, as noble Lords have said, will have made inroads since then.

I recognise the extreme lack of democracy in Swaziland, vividly described by my noble friend Lord Brett, but my own acquaintance with some of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa has shown me that you can have good government with good policies--and even a loyal opposition--and yet not reach economic take-off. Economic development is impeded not only by the spread of disease, as noble Lords have said, but also by outside factors, including power

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imbalances, which even good governments cannot counter. This is where the international community has a role.

Among the important power imbalances are tariffs and subsidies. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol spoke powerfully about subsidies. Tariffs are said to be four-times higher for a developing country exporter than for one in a developed country. So it is very welcome that the World Bank's new chief economist is, I understand, planning to cost the whole tariff regime for poor countries. Let us hope that that is a prelude to action. It is also very good news that the European Union Council of Ministers agreed, on 26th February, the quota and duty-free "Everything but Arms" initiative--or, at least, everything but arms, bananas, rice and sugar, until 2009. It is a start. One might say that the EU does better in trade than aid for the developing world.

The cost of drugs and vaccines, together with the role of patent protection, has the most serious consequences, as many noble Lords have said. I, too, welcome the decisions taken last week by my right honourable friend Gordon Brown to set up a global purchase fund for drugs and vaccines and also to provide tax incentives for research on the fatal diseases of the poorest regions. This comes alongside UN challenges to monopolies over drug prices and patents in other parts of the developing world.

There is more joined-up international action. My right honourable friend Clare Short's achievement of untying British aid is now being promulgated in the OECD. Britain and Italy, as joint chairs of G7, aim to influence the World Bank and the IMF towards poverty reduction as the key objective, rather than low inflation and a balanced budget, responsible for harmful public expenditure cuts in the past. Is it not also time for serious consideration of a Tobin-type tax to finance development through currency transactions, on the Canadian model?

There are of course barriers that are internal to some of the countries of Southern Africa themselves, as has been eloquently described by noble Lords. But we do well to remember that the countries of Southern Africa are different from each other; that there are those that are more suitable for investment than the private sector, so fond of mining and oil extraction, recognises. For others, there remains a need to press for more concerted international action to remove barriers to development--at the IMF and World Bank meeting in April, G7 in July and the UN Children's Summit in September. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can tell us what the Government will be aiming for at these key international decision points.

6.24 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for initiating this debate. However, I feel that he needs to be slightly rebuked for making the debate so inclusive and so wide-ranging that it will be difficult for the Minister to answer comprehensively.

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Many issues have been discussed this evening, including floods, AIDS and Zimbabwe. However, an issue that was not perhaps touched upon was the refugee situation in Guinea. As I did not write my speech with the knowledge that I would be covering areas that had already been mentioned, I should like to begin with a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, which reflects some of the views expressed in a debate in this place five years ago on the Great Lakes, when we considered the abyss into which Zaire, after its collapse, was about to plunge. I raise the issue because I do not believe that anyone at that time even contemplated the disastrous effect that the civil war would have in actually sucking in other countries. I do not suppose that anyone in this Chamber would have believed that troops from Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe would be engaged in that conflict. Having worked with soldiers in Zimbabwe when I lived there, I find it difficult to believe that they would be happy with that situation.

The peace process as regards the Lusaka Accord is not an issue that can be ignored. I believe that the international community will have to act in this respect. I very much support the view put forward by the noble Baroness that, until the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is addressed, the humanitarian crisis that affects the whole region will carry on. This is a very strange civil war because the enormous resources in the Congo mean that this is a conflict that is actually self-sustaining. People are benefiting from the continued conflict. I was particularly made aware of this by a recent article that highlighted not only the humanitarian crisis but also the fact that participants from all sides have started occupying areas that did not previously have human inhabitants--for example, some of the national parks--so that the very existence of the lowland guerrillas is now in question. Indeed, they could become extinct due to this crisis.

Mention has also been made of Mozambique. While discussing the floods in the area, perhaps I may welcome the prompt action taken by the DfID. Many questions were asked last year as to why the DfID did not act sooner; indeed, there was that rather unfortunate debate over who should fund the helicopters that were to be sent to the region. The fact that two Puma helicopters have been rented--which makes logistical sense--from the South African Government and are already in operation, soon to be followed by a further six helicopters, will make a considerable difference. However, I do not believe that the scale of the catastrophe can be overlooked. A hundred people have already lost their lives, with over half a million being affected. I believe that riot police and troops have been used to move people out of the area. Having working in Mozambique, I can understand the need for troops, because we are dealing with people who have lost everything. Indeed, when they return to rebuild their lives, even the most basic necessities, such as a sheet of tin, are seen as very valuable commodities.

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There is one further issue that should be raised as regards the floods in Mozambique. Although we are talking about a national disaster, the majority of the rainfall has not fallen within the borders of Mozambique; it has actually fallen in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The overflow of the Kariba dam is a real issue because it flows into the Cabora Bassa. This could force the flood gates to be opened on Cabora Bassa and thus add to the problem.

The issue of AIDS has been mentioned. Indeed, 35 million people in Africa now suffer from AIDS. Four million--an extremely high figure--of those sufferers are to be found in South Africa. When I worked in South Africa back in 1991, there was little mention of AIDS. It was seen as a problem that did not affect South Africa, so not a great deal of work was carried out in that respect. Indeed, it was rife in the township, but due to the political system it was overlooked. Obviously this is no longer the case. The legacy of that inaction is that one in five of the young people in South Africa will not live to attain the age of 15 years. Indeed, the workforce will shrink by 17 per cent. AIDS in the whole of Africa has a disproportionate effect on the educated and those with skills. That is devastating for economies that need such people.

The issue of generic drugs has been raised. I believe that the pharmaceutical companies have discussed discounts, but discounted drugs will not meet the need due to the fact that they are too expensive for the budgets of many of the developing countries in Africa. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol has already said that debt relief is crippling the economies of those countries. I believe that future generations will feel a degree of anger that more money is being spent on debt relief than on health budgets. Perhaps it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that in the future many involved with these matters will be labelled with the term "genocide" as millions of people are being denied the means to fight this terrible infection.

I find it particularly galling that the pharmaceutical industry has retained every single patent lawyer who works in South Africa to fight its case against the South African Government on generic drugs. Given that a case should be based on the body of evidence produced by experts on each side, it is perhaps worrying that all those who have knowledge of this difficult area of law are being retained by the side with the most money. Will the British Government consider sending lawyers with expertise in patent law to balance the arguments?

The issue that has been mentioned most often this evening is that of Zimbabwe. We on these Benches support the measured, calm and constructive approach of the Government on that matter. As a member of the Opposition, I do not believe that the Zimbabwean Government can claim that the sentiments I express are those of the Government. I mention that because of the rather strange incident that occurred in Brussels the other day when Mr Peter Tatchell attempted a citizen's arrest on Mr Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean Government claimed that Mr Tatchell

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was a member of the British secret services. I ask the Minister whether Mr Peter Tatchell is a member of the secret services. If he is, I believe that we need to consider the way in which they operate.

Sanctions against Zimbabwe have been called for. I do not believe that that is an option. The DfID's work, which accounts for the majority of the £6 million aid budget we give to Zimbabwe, is very focused on AIDS and humanitarian relief. To cut that budget would hurt the people of Zimbabwe.

I have seen at first hand the repression meted out in that country. It is not a new problem in Zimbabwe. I assume I am the only person in this Chamber who has attended a ZANU-PF political rally. I did not do so through choice. That occurred back in 1991, when Nelson Mandela, having been released from prison, made a speech in Zimbabwe. Halfway through his speech most of the audience got up and--

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