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Earl Attlee: My Lords, does the African Union force have access to helicopters, or does it rely on land transport only?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not know. However, I know that the logistic capabilities are part of the current review. When the UN report comes forward, there will be more discussion about further ways in which the United Nations can help to strengthen the logistic position on the ground of the AU
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force. That may be through logistics and—as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested—strengthening numbers on the ground.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, may I press the Minister one step further on this crucial issue? If there is an increase in the scale of the AU intervention, can she say for certain that Her Majesty's Government would give serious consideration to greater logistical help, including heavy-lift aircraft, which the AU has repeatedly pointed out that it has found great difficulty in arranging for itself?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we are giving substantial support to the AU mission—£14 million to date. We have supplied logistic support. The airlift comes from the Nigerian force protection contingent. We provided 143 vehicles last year and are contributing the majority of 470 vehicles that have further been requested by the African Union. We are also providing a military planner to the African Union, so we are already heavily engaged in the logistic support. If more logistic support is demanded as a result of the review, I am sure that the United Kingdom will be as much on the front foot in the future as we have been in the recent past on the issue.


3.7 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice, namely:

Whether Her Majesty's Government will make a Statement on the recent elections in Zimbabwe.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, in answering this Question, I am not repeating my right honourable friend's Statement in another place, but covering its salient points. Therefore, my response will be a little longer than would be customary in answering a Starred Question.

As the House is aware, elections were held in Zimbabwe last Thursday, 31 March. The declared results gave ZANU-PF 78 seats, the Movement for Democratic Change 41 seats, and independents one seat. With 30 further seats which are appointed—the gift of the president—that declared result will give ZANU-PF the two-thirds majority required for amending the Zimbabwe constitution.

Those are the official published results. However, there is strong evidence that they do not reflect the free democratic will of the Zimbabwean people. It is true that there was less violence than in 2000 and 2002 but, overall, the election process was seriously flawed. Thousands were turned away from the polling booths. There are serious unexplained discrepancies between votes tallied and the official number announced. Other abuse was rife—food aid misused, ghost voters, a lack of equal
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access to the media, the use of draconian security legislation, and an election commission packed with ZANU-PF supporters.

If Mr Mugabe had nothing to hide over the conduct of the elections, he would have allowed full access by the international media and experienced external election observers. However, key observers were banned, including from the Commonwealth, the EU and—most revealingly—the SADC parliamentary forum.

The report of the Commission for Africa rightly set out the need for stronger action by the international community to address Africa's problems. The commission also made it crystal clear how much bad governance had blighted parts of Africa and had frustrated people's hopes of building for themselves a better and more prosperous future. Tragically, there is no more powerful example than that in Zimbabwe.

Given all this, my ministerial colleagues and I are surprised and saddened that Zimbabwe's neighbours have chosen to ignore the obvious and serious flaws in these elections and have declared them fair. But many in southern Africa have spoken about the reality of Zimbabwe. Just two months ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that Zimbabwe was "a huge blot on the record" of the world's poorest continent.

The United Kingdom will continue to work with our international partners for a return to accountable, democratic government which represents the rule of law and human rights in Zimbabwe. The EU Commission's position on Zimbabwe is the strongest on any country in Africa. It includes targeted sanctions against the Government of Zimbabwe, and an arms embargo.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has made a major contribution to ensure that Zimbabwe's food shortages do not lead to famine by donating over £71 million in food aid since September 2001. A strong statement about the elections was issued last night by the EU presidency, concluding that the election could not be judged to be free and fair and called on Zimbabwe to restore democracy. International measures show the wide condemnation of President Mugabe's ruinous policies. Until Mugabe and his regime respond, they will continue to be isolated internationally.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply; time does not allow me to respond in detail to all the numerous points that she raised. But I must confess some surprise that neither here nor in the other place has a Statement been offered by the Government on this grim and ugly issue and that it has had to be squeezed out of Ministers by our questioning today.

Numerous other governments made statements over the weekend and all pointed out, as the Minister has done, that this was a fraudulent victory, secured in a climate of fear and intimidation. America, Australia, New Zealand and many others have been particularly robust, but, so far, until this moment, not the United Kingdom.

Is it not crystal clear that this matter should now go to the UN Security Council? We are told again and again that such an attempt would fail, but has it even
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been tried? In the changing atmosphere, should it not be tried again? Who is going to stand up in the Security Council to defend the actions of Mugabe in ruining his country and creating growing starvation? Why has there been so little pressure on South Africa to take a stand against what is happening on its doorstep? Is it not time that that should happen?

The declared objective of British foreign policy and of the Minister's own office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is supposed to be:

None of those exists in Zimbabwe. Is it not time that we should be saying so much more loudly and applying effective sanctions through our European partners, who so far have been remarkably tepid in their actions, much more vigorously?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I really must take issue with the noble Lord. I do not think that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, nor my honourable friend Mr Mullin, can be criticised for any lack of robustness on the question of Zimbabwe. They have been consistent and the noble Lord is aware of the effort that has gone into bringing together the 25 countries of the EU, the 50-plus countries of the Commonwealth and the fight that there has been—the noble Lord knows this—in the Commonwealth to ensure that Zimbabwe was barred from its counsels.

The noble Lord also knows that this country is singled out over and over again by the Government of Zimbabwe as still having colonial ambitions upon that country. That is why this country has worked with others and will continue to work with others.

The noble Lord asked why we do not try a little harder in the UN. Does the noble Lord really want to give Mr Mugabe the comfort of a UN Security Council resolution being denied? Does he really want Mr Mugabe to be able to turn around and say, "There you are—after all, they would not vote for it in the UN"? That would provide the kind of comfort to Mr Mugabe that none of us wants to give.

There is absolutely no doubt that we all feel strongly on this issue. I have answered questions on it many times in the past eight years. My noble friend Lady Amos has answered many questions. This is a wretched, ruthless regime in Zimbabwe. It is masquerading as a legitimate democracy. It is not. It is pretending to serve its people. It does not do so. It has reduced its economy to the worst performing in Africa and the fastest shrinking in the world. It is hiding behind false and spurious accusations against this country of colonial ambitions and is thereby claiming the support of its neighbours which it does not deserve.

This statement made a robust point about the disappointment and the sadness that we feel about the way that Zimbabwe's neighbours have reacted. That is the point. It is a real difficulty in Africa, and the noble Lord knows it.

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