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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. He is quite right. There are enormous problems in achieving genuine reform particularly national reconciliation and a government of national unitywhen it is so painfully evident that the current government do not want to be a party to anything of the sort, and when theyas the noble Lord rightly reminded ushave not only arrested but charged Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube. That is why it is so important that the troika has agreed that work on these issues should be taken forward by Presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo.
I agree with the noble Lord that, immediately after the election in Zimbabwe, there was some confusion about what was thought by a very small number of people to have been a fair election. When the more substantial reports were properly examined, it was decided that that was not really the case. I remind him of the statement made by the SADC parliamentary forum observer on 13th March:
I fully take the noble Lord's point that we must now be very vigilant. The issue of what is to happen to those arrested and charged with treasonalthough, as I said, they are out on bailis another reason for maintaining the full strength of our diplomatic mission in Zimbabwe. We shall be looking for regular reports on those issues.
The food shortages are causing great worry and concern. Donors are already providing supplementary feeding through the NGOs. Our own Department for International Development has given £4 million of assistance to some 300,000 people. Additionally, last month, DfID made a £6 million contribution to the UNDP's humanitarian assistance and recovery programme for Zimbabwe. I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be keeping that issue under constant review.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, I join those who have congratulated the Government on the part they have played in bringing about the troika's decision to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. However, no one who is a friend of Zimbabwe takes any pleasure from the suspension as it marks a very serious situation. Does my noble friend agree that the attacks on the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and on trade unionists trying to exercise
The Opposition spokesman seemed to suggest that in no circumstances should we have any contact with anyone in the Zimbabwe Government. Taking that view to its logical conclusion, should he not be advocating withdrawing Britain's mission, unpalatable as that may be? My noble friend has said that the opposite action is required. Can my noble friend assure the House that, as well as the sanctions which have to be applied, every possible means and method of discussion and dialogue will be used to bring about a resolution as early as possible?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend draws an important and valuable distinction when he refers to suspending our contacts at an official level with the Government of Zimbabwe while at the same time trying to have proper discussions with those with whom we can do business there. If it is possible in future to have discussions with those in the Mugabe regime who are willing to talk in terms of reconciliation for the future, that would be valuable.
I agree strongly with my noble friend's remarks regarding the violent attacks on trade unions. The NGO figures suggest that about 73 per cent of the perpetrators of violence appear to be affiliated to ZANU-PF, and 16 per cent are police officers, which is extremely worrying. As your Lordships may know, between 1st January and 28th February this year, 31 people were killed in politically-motivated attacks. Nearly all of those were black Zimbabweans. As we have seen, three members of the MDC have been murdered since the election and one commercial farmer tragically lost his life.
My noble friend is right. Sanctions are never a magic bullet, but they signify an important measure of outrage and disgust about what has happened in Zimbabwe. It is worth noting what suspension from the councils of the Commonwealth will mean. It means that there will be no participation by the Government of Zimbabwe in intergovernmental meetings, but it does not deprive the people of Zimbabwe of cultural and sporting activities which may be organised by the Commonwealth.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it was enormously fortunate and right that the Government increased the number of Commonwealth observers? We have seen what a happy result that gave. However, there is a lesson to be learnt. I entirely shareas we all dothe Minister's admiration for what the mission in Zimbabwe is doing. I hope that we shall not only leave it in place but greatly increase it. The only thing we can do, which no
I hope that it will be possible for there to be an element of observation from the high commission of the dispensing of our humanitarian aid, for instance, so that it is not taken over by ZANU-PF and used to reward its people. My other point is that I hope that we shall persuade the rest of the EU to stay and report. I was rather concerned to see that the Danish mission is withdrawing. The one thing that can be done is to stay and report and be seen to do so.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, perhaps in turn I may thank the noble Baroness for her timely intervention on the subject of Commonwealth observers. Your Lordships may remember that, as always, she was forthright in pointing out some of the shortcomings in the number of Commonwealth observers. I was delighted that the Government were able to increase the numbers significantly. I agree that we should keep the numbers in our mission in Zimbabwe under constant review. It is enormously important that their role in observing what is happening on the ground is maintained. The noble Baroness spoke about how aid might be used in a way not intended by the donors. We shall have to keep that in mind, as I am sure my noble friend Lady Amos would agree.
The noble Baroness is right. We should try to persuade others not to withdraw their mission. She will know that withdrawing a mission is a potent signal of disapprobation that governments use to indicate the depth of their anger about what has happened within a country. I understand the motivation of our Danish friends in acting as they have. However, my own view is that we should like to see many of our colleagues who value the principles of democracy and humanitarian assistance stay on the ground. That will strengthen those who are able to give honest reports about what is happening in Zimbabwe.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, we should not underestimate the horrors which have occurred in Zimbabwe. However, should we not look ahead on a wider basis to consider how the atmosphere might be changed for the better in the whole of southern Africa? Is not the main and most urgent problem facing all the SADC countries that of economic reconstruction so that they can play their part as a whole in the New Partnership for Africa's Development? As that will require substantial changes in policy, not least in Zimbabwe under whatever government, will it not require outstanding leadership? Is there not an outstanding leader available in southern AfricaI hope that he is availablein the form of Nelson Mandela? Would the Government, with our European allies, consider whether that is a thought which might be pursued?
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, as someone who was Commonwealth Secretary during the period of UDI, perhaps I may suggest to the Minister, echoing the words of my noble friend Lord Wallace, that the role of Her Majesty's Government in this difficult relationship with Zimbabwe is best played with a degree of humility about the past. Is the Minister aware how much the success of the troika will be welcomed in deciding to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for one year? That will allow other members of the Commonwealth to take a more high-profile role in dealing which such problems, while behind the scenes, and maintaining our own mission there, we play a less prominent role. The Zimbabwe problem is a Commonwealth problem of great importance, but it is one for the Commonwealth as a whole. The more Her Majesty's Government play their role with some delicacy and a low profile, the more successful the outcome may be.
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