UK Parliament – House of Lords – Zimbabwe – 7 January 2008

UK Parliament - House of Lords - Zimbabwe - 7 January 2008

Monday, 7 January 2008


Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of developments in the negotiations intended to be facilitated by President Mbeki of South Africa between ZANU-PF and the opposition in Zimbabwe.The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, we continue to support the efforts of President Mbeki and SADC to facilitate a dialogue between ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC. Although many deadlines have been missed, we are nevertheless told that negotiations are entering their final stages. It is uncertain when and what the outcome will be. The key to any agreement will be that it is implementable in practice on the ground, because without effective implementation there cannot be free and fair elections that meet SADC’s own electoral standards.Lord Blaker: My Lords, are there not two anomalies in particular in this situation? The first is that Mugabe’s henchmen carry out their brutal duties all the time, and that no one complains and no one stops them. The second is that Mugabe is quite clearly procrastinating so far as he can; his people do not turn up for meetings, and so on. He is doing so, I imagine, because he wants to delay the coming into force of the new constitution, which would make the electoral system more effective, before the elections that are due to take place in March. He is playing for time until then.What is Mbeki actually doing to hasten proceedings? What are the members of SADC and the AU doing to persuade him to be a bit more forceful? What effort are Her Majesty’s Government making to change the minds of leading Africans who have been persuaded by Mugabe that the fault here lies entirely with the United Kingdom for creating this situation?Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord knows that we use every encounter that we have with African leaders to make it clear to them that we believe that Zimbabwe’s problems are very much of President Mugabe’s own making. Many African leaders share our frustration about the refusal of President Mugabe to engage with the opposition and to move towards a new constitution. The choice is, as the noble Lord rightly says, his, because he still controls the levers of power in that country. He runs a brutal and oppressive regime. He has the choice of constitutional reform and open elections to allow his country to fully participate in the international community again, or he can continue further down this road of isolation that he has embarked on.Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, towards the end of last year, my noble friend gave us the welcome news that an EU envoy was going to Zimbabwe who would report to European foreign Ministers. What progress has the envoy been able to make?Lord Malloch-Brown: Some, my Lords, but not a lot. There has been progress. The mission has deliberately been kept discreet and low key, but there have been consultations. Perhaps the most important thing is that our European partners are confronted by the fact that there are no good, easy options in Zimbabwe. President Mugabe continues to resist change, and in Europe our position on that is well understood and supported.Lord Avebury: My Lords, assuming that by the time the European Council has to decide on the renewal of the targeted measures against named individuals—on, I think, 11 February—Mugabe has not met the opposition and that no further progress has been made in the negotiations, will the Government press for the travel ban and the asset freeze to be extended widely to individuals, such as Mr Gideon Gono, who have made a fortune out of their illegal activities under the present regime?With regard to the allegations of the corrupt deals made by Mr David Butau, who fled to Britain after having been accused of illegal currency transactions, to what extent will it be the duty of the police to collect information from him and to transmit it to those who ought to be aware of these facts, such as his own committee, Interpol and the African Union?Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, let me address those two points. First, on the issue of the renewal of EU targeted sanctions and their possible expansion, we have to wait and see what happens on President Mbeki’s initiative between now and then. If that decision was taken today, there is no doubt that we would have to report that there has been no progress and therefore we would have to take further steps. But, if the noble Lord will forgive me, let us not deal with a hypothetical situation; let us see what happens in the coming weeks.Secondly, for those Members not familiar with the case, Mr David Butau is a ZANU-PF MP who has come to this country. It is alleged in the Zimbabwean media that he is guilty of corruption, but no charges have been pressed against him in Zimbabwe, so he is in no way a criminal hiding from justice. He came here on a tourist visa which dates from before he became an MP. If criminal charges were pressed we would have to look into the issue, but at this point it is just speculation in the Zimbabwean media.Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, surely South Africa holds the key to the future of Zimbabwe. Let us face it, under a different sort of Government it actually brought down the Smith regime in Rhodesia. Do we not feel that President Mbeki has been a broken reed and really has not come up to expectations in terms of all the faith that the western powers have put in him?Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, President Mbeki has been confronted with an enormously difficult situation with an obdurate President Mugabe and at times a somewhat divided opposition, and he has been unable to move his mediation forward as effectively as any of us—including him—would wish. The difficulties faced in South Africa in recent weeks have further complicated this and have perhaps been a distraction from getting to a point of closure, which he had intended to do by now.Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, has my noble friend reflected that the obvious absence of progress does not necessarily equate to failure? In those circumstances, instead of simply condemning President Mbeki in a very difficult situation—even the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, refers to ZANU-PF and the opposition—and because there is no coherent opposition, should we not encourage President Mbeki and those in SADC to act on their own account rather than simply carp?Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity that my noble friend has given me to confirm our support for President Mbeki’s initiative and thank him and his SADC colleagues for all the effort that they have put into this. However, the clock is ticking, and we are moving towards the March elections without reforms agreed, let alone implemented. We are rapidly passing the point of no return in terms of what would allow free and fair elections at that time.

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