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All the cases, and this is only from a list covering the past few weeks, have had this in common: they were abducted in the middle of the night. Most have been brutally beaten and tortured; all have been denied access to their lawyers, visits by friends and family, food, access to vital medication as well as medical care and worst of all their constitutional and

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legal rights to be released on the orders of the Attorney-General. The rule of law has broken down. I hope that the names of all the torturers, many of whom are known, will be posted daily on the internet.

I have one question: many of those being tortured are students and young people. How many children of ZANU-PF Ministers are peacefully studying in this country, some claiming to have MDC sympathies?

7.56 pm

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, in most countries, successful political transition, meaning one that does not descend into violent interethnic conflict, usually involves civil society organisations such as churches, trade unions and NGOs. Political upheaval creates a vacuum at the top, which is too often filled by nationalists aiming at overall power rather than any genuine form of democracy. Zimbabwe has undergone severe trauma and disruption to its civil society. The task now is to build those organisations that could play a crucial part in the political changes to come, and at the same time to work ceaselessly to build a critical mass of opinion condemning what is happening in Zimbabwe.

An almost total lack of planning for the post-Mugabe phase is more than worrying. Despite the obvious needs, funding for civil society programmes has decreased in the past few years. For example, the USAID budget for civil society organisations dropped from $4.3 million in 2004 to $2.7 million in 2005. Yet now is the time to expand the democratic space by means of funding and technical support.

As an example, I will sketch the kind of work undertaken by one such organisation, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA, which means “come forward” in Ndebele. WOZA was set up in 2003 to provide women with a united voice on issues affecting them and to create communities at the most local levels of women prepared to work politically. It now has a membership of 35,000, and more than 2,500 of its members have been imprisoned and/or tortured. This courageous organisation has, on the basis of widespread consultation, drawn up a people’s charter which spells out the basic requirements for peace and democracy and fulfils the most crucial lesson in development; that the people themselves must shape the future of Zimbabwe.

The Commonwealth proved resolute in dealing, for example, with apartheid South Africa and with Pakistan once it had been suspended from the Commonwealth. Why can it not now take a lead through, for example, the Commonwealth ministerial action group or its various arms, such as the Commonwealth lawyers or press associations? The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Uganda this autumn is an opportunity not to be missed.

A combination of proper and even increased funding and technical support for those organisations working to build democratic processes at village level, with a co-ordinated approach from the Commonwealth, would be persuasive in creating a critical mass. I ask the Minister to confirm that both those avenues will be explored in the immediate future.

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7.59 pm

The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, rather than speaking for two minutes, it might be better to have two minutes’ silence for that once lovely country and for the bravery of the opposition. How much longer that will continue, as my noble friend Lady Park said, none of us can judge.

President Mbeki has not been a neutral referee at all. He has been an active collaborator of the Zimbabwean Government. SADC has failed Zimbabwe, Africa has failed Zimbabwe, the UN has failed Zimbabwe and the British Government have failed Zimbabwe because NePAD, which was supposed to help, has been, as we predicted not so long ago in 2003, a total waste of paper. Poor Zimbabwe has been dealt the lowest card in the pack and no one seems to be able to help the country.

What plans have the Government to strengthen SADC—to make it an organisation that can operate efficiently and prove to be worthy of its constitution? How can it be made more robust? In many ways, the situation in Zimbabwe is the same that it was in 1979, except for one thing; that is, there is now no guarantee of free and fair elections—if there are to be any elections, because there may not be an opposition next year. What are the Government doing with other countries to make certain that there will be elections next year and that they will be free and fair? Without free and fair elections, there is no point in even considering a future for Zimbabwe.

My third question to the Minister is: what initiatives have been taken to include the former leaders of African countries who signed the Bamako declaration in 2005? The one group that President Mugabe might listen to are the former leaders who might persuade him that by stepping down he might still be a hero in his country; that would give him a peg to leave on. He obviously will not listen to anyone in power at the moment.

8.01 pm

Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords there have been so many false dawns in Zimbabwe. I have been a lone voice in your Lordships’ House, believing that sanity would prevail and that there would be a Government of national unity—and how wrong I have been. While the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and others are absolutely right to ask what the South African Government have been doing to put pressure on Robert Mugabe to resolve the ever worsening crisis in his country, your Lordships should be aware that the South African Government have, behind the scenes in the past five years, negotiated no fewer than two deals which would transition the country to a Government of national unity, but on both occasions Mugabe has reneged on those deals—to a large degree, perhaps, because of the fact that Charles Taylor was indicted for war crimes and the belief that many of Mugabe’s cohorts would face a similar destiny.

The South African Government are now lending support to a troika of Tanzania, Lesotho and Namibia to find a solution. Furthermore, as several noble Lords have mentioned, since the SADC meeting 10 days ago,

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Mbeki has been formally mandated to be the official mediator in an attempt to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe next year. That of course will be a monumental task, especially as much of the defective security legislation will need to be repealed and an independent electoral commission appointed.

Your Lordships should be aware that there is no love lost between Mbeki and Mugabe. Time restricts me from elaborating why the South African Government have not been more outspoken in the past. I still believe we are in the end game in Zimbabwe. With the ever worsening economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, the economy is the real opposition—and against that Mugabe has no response. I believe that the economy will determine what happens politically.

I have always believed that there should be African solutions for African problems. Increasingly, African Heads of State are now, thankfully, speaking out and deriding the Zimbabwe crisis as being embarrassing for Africa. I also believe that between now and the election next year there is a strong possibility of an internal challenge within ZANU-PF against Mugabe’s leadership.

In conclusion, it is not a matter of if there will be change, but when. What measures are likely to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government when that time comes to help rebuild what was once the bread-basket of Africa?

8.03 pm

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I intend to make only three points. The first is to support the action advocated by my noble friend Lord Blaker and many others for the Government to apply real pressure in every forum available—bilaterally, through the auspices of the UN, the G8, the EU and the Commonwealth—to urge South Africa and, in particular, President Mbeki, to face up to their responsibilities to make change happen in Zimbabwe. The situation is a true and manmade disaster—not only in the destruction of a once wonderful country, but in the collateral damage to the reputation and credibility of all other states in the region.

My second point is that we must be careful in guarding against the assumption that the removal of Mugabe alone, per se, will solve the situation at a stroke. That will be hugely important, but we are looking for fundamental and enduring political change, not just a rebranding of a dictatorial group of ZANU-PF chiefs.

My third point, also made by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, is that there is a positive message that we in the UK can send to the people and the political administration in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is not a hopeless case. With a change to a new and benevolent Administration that will come at some stage, the country could and will recover quickly with the right help from the West. Her Majesty's Government should be sending the message that we are standing by to do everything that we can to make that happen—to rebuild the country when that time comes. Zimbabwe has been a great country and I am quite sure that, with the right political leadership, it will be again—and quickly.

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8.05 pm

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, all the indicators point to a degree of deterioration unknown even in the poorest African countries. This is especially dangerous for a developed country that cannot easily rebuild its institutions. There is also an endemic agricultural crisis. We can hardly imagine the feelings of ordinary people, especially those in Matabeleland outside the ZANU-PF patronage who have been trodden down for such a long time. With the police now routinely arresting and humiliating opponents and disregarding court orders, the law is not an adequate protection.

Like my noble friend, I believe that President Mbeki will in the end recognise that Mr Mugabe is an obstruction in the way of political stability and that Africa cannot carry him indefinitely. President Mbeki was surely at least behind the SADC initiative and has offered to hold direct talks with the MDC and ZANU-PF.

None of us is in doubt of the evil of the regime. We have to go on speaking out about it. At the same time, it is important for us in Britain to appreciate the depth of the southern African apartheid legacy and we must be careful of the language of crisis. It is easy to say that when people are dying any cautious approach is appeasement. Like my noble friends, I expect that the end will come not from clever diplomacy, which has failed, but from inside—yet I know that that will be at the cost of more violence and bloodshed.

Meanwhile, we must not be diverted from the other important issues. In 2006, the number of rural food insecure people totalled 1.4 million, and this year it could return to the acute level of 2002—around 4 million. How will Her Majesty's Government continue to support the food aid programme? Why has DfID stopped its protracted relief programme for 12 months at such a crucial stage, and how will it support the most vulnerable after this July? Are we losing the battle against HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe?

Finally, will the Minister comment on the possible stalemate which is coming up at the EU-ACP summit in Lisbon, to which Mr Mugabe has been invited?

8.07 pm

Lord Best: My Lords, I shall make two brief points. First, I urge support for the work of the Zimbabwe Phoenix Trust, created by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, to provide training, skills and motivation for professionals now in the UK as refugees or settled residents, so that people with expertise are ready to return to that country when the task of rebuilding it begins.

Secondly, in relation to the notorious Operation Murambatsvina, in which the Government violently bulldozed people from their shacks and stalls in the areas of political opposition to Mugabe, I commend the work of the UK’s Homeless International. Against all the odds, with support from DfID, the EU and Comic Relief, Homeless International is empowering local communities and demonstrating what can be achieved through in situ upgrading of slums, land sharing and sanitation initiatives if only there is some political stability.

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I ask Her Majesty’s Government to make strong representations to the new Secretary-General of the United Nations suggesting that Anna Tibaijuka, the under-secretary of the UN, who made the original highly critical report on the mass evictions, should now be sent as his special envoy again to report on what has happened following this catastrophe of enforced homelessness for between 700,000 and 1 million of the most bitterly poor people in Zimbabwe.

8.09 pm

Lord Avebury: My Lords, in this end game, as it was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord St John, the 12 million people of Zimbabwe are sinking further into the abyss of destitution, failing public services, falling life expectancy and mass emigration. I hope that the Government will listen to the pleas made by my noble friend on behalf of the few exiles who manage to get to the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, referred to the SADC extraordinary summit, which ignored the destruction of homes and livelihoods referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the crushing of the free media, the expulsion of journalists, the hyperinflation caused by mismanagement, the corruption and the money-wasting on Mugabe’s birthday party and luxury cars for ZANU-PF cronies. SADC wants a dialogue between the wolf and the lamb, between the torturers and their victims—ZANU-PF and the opposition—but, first, it must get the regime to level the playing field, restoring free speech and peaceful assembly, dropping the spurious charges against opposition activists and complying with the recommendations of international bodies such as the UN special envoy and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Speaking of the IPU, at its meeting on 29 April it is expected to add three new complaints to the two dozen already on its books. Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the MDC, and Nelson Chamisa were arrested on 18 March and severely beaten. Mr Chamisa suffered a fractured skull and a detached retina in custody. Paul Madzore, who was arrested on 28 March, was tortured, denied medical attention and refused bail. President Mbeki and SADC may do no harm by deluding themselves about the effects of EU sanctions and the UK’s attitude to land reform, but they cannot ignore Mugabe’s crimes of violence against his own people if there is to be anyone left to engage in the dialogue.

8.11 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, it takes a lot of time to prepare a two-minute speech, and we have heard an enormous amount of wisdom packed into an amazingly short and brisk debate. This is no place for an opposition wind-up speech in the usual sense and I simply ask the following questions.

First, where, in the Government’s view, do we now turn? Can the Minister give us any glimmers of hope? Clearly, things are changing. There are growing splits within ZANU-PF. How clear is it to this Government that the senior party leaders of ZANU-PF are really fed up with the ageing tyrant and his policies of terror and their effects, or is he going to outmanoeuvre them yet again?

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Secondly, at least SADC, the Southern African Development Community, seems in a way to have woken up with the appointment of Mbeki to mediate between the parties. Perhaps, as noble Lords have indicated, this will lead nowhere as usual, but at least Zimbabwe is now seen as a SADC issue—and not before time. Is this the opportunity for real pressures of a new kind to be developed? Can the Minister give us some thoughts on that?

Thirdly—I note that this is more of a hope than a fact—the whole Commonwealth, which Zimbabwe left in 2003, has a stronger role and voice to offer in giving backbone and resolve to Zimbabwe’s neighbours before that country drags them all down. Like the noble Lord, Lord Luce, and others, I can never understand—nor, incidentally, can our overseas partners—why we here do not play the Commonwealth card more vigorously. We have one of the richest and most powerful transcontinental networks in the world and we should make much more use of it.

Finally, there are the international institutions—the EU, the UN and perhaps the G8, as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, suggested in initiating this excellent short debate. The EU has sanctions on travel by Zimbabwean ruling personnel, as we know, but frankly these sanctions keep on being breached. They were breached yet again in Belgium the other day. They should be extended to whole families and they should be much tougher. We should like to hear what propositions the Government have on that front. As for the UN Security Council, I know that HMG try to keep raising the issue, but they should go on trying and trying again to raise a matter that may not yet be one of international peace and security, but which could become so in this network world if the whole of southern Africa is infected, as it probably will be.

It is the people of Zimbabwe—there are still many brave ones left—in whose hands the escape from this appalling downward spiral lies. That nation must save itself. We here should not be deterred by propaganda or lies from acting at every point we can. We would be failing in our duty if we did not stand ready to help and support to our utmost the people of Zimbabwe in their deep torment and suffering as they face the collapse of their nation.

8.15 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My Lords I join all those who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for having introduced another important debate on Zimbabwe. My thanks to all noble Lords who have undertaken an extraordinary task in distilling so many important points into so few minutes. I thank all of them for that and shall do my best to address the crucial issues that have been raised.

The debate, as we know, coincides with a particularly brutal period—the past month being probably the most brutal of the lot—in Zimbabwe. As the noble Baroness, Lady Park, said, there are plain examples of that brutality. Mugabe's security apparatus has embarked on an odious, country-wide campaign of violence and intimidation in a determined

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effort to offset its decreasing support in the country. Human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition members have in the past few weeks all faced harassment, torture and, in some cases, death at the hands of Mugabe's security apparatus. Their only crime has been to dare to work and campaign for a better future for their country. I am sure that everybody in this House will join me in applauding all of those who have shown such courage in the face of such hostility.

I also deplore the threats that have been made to one of our own diplomats, which were referred to in the debate. He has been conducting normal diplomatic duties. We, of course, have the Zimbabwean ambassador on that matter, and on the matter of the parliamentarians who were savagely beaten on their way to Brussels. We have raised all those crimes of violence.

I look at the realities as other noble Lords have done. We see a wrecked economy—there is no other way of describing it. It is not alarmist or extravagant to make the point that this economy has imploded. As somebody who has spent a good deal of his professional career as an economist, I make the point that no economy in the world that I know of has ever recovered of its own volition from the depth of crisis that this economy now experiences. It has been plundered.

The official rate of inflation went through 2,200 per cent at the end of last week, and we all know that it is probably double that. It was a land of plenty, which has become a land of destitution. My noble friend Lord Kinnock is right to say that it has become a place from which there is mass emigration to neighbouring countries. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that peace and security are often fundamentally disturbed by large movements of people across international borders with no food and no capacity to sustain themselves or their families. That may well be exactly the kind of thing that the United Nations should have focused on and must do so now, given its past failure to focus.

I do not know whether I have any encouraging words for the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. I know of and have great respect for the work done by the Overseas Service Pensioners Association, but I do not think that any Government in the recent past have been able in any simple way to take on the debts that have arisen out of pensions and the collapse of regimes.

How different all this could have been if the agreement described by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, had been sustained. I shall not go through the statistics—they are so well known to your Lordships’ House—on the nature of the collapse in Zimbabwe. It would take time, and would not be particularly helpful because nobody denies the truth about the economic and humanitarian enormity of the collapse.

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