House of Lords – Zimbabwe – UK Parliament

uk_parliamentZimbabwe Question Asked By Lord Avebury
To ask Her Majestys Government what recent discussions they have had with the Southern African Development Community concerning implementation of the global political agreement in Zimbabwe.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, in the unfortunate absence of my noble friend Lord Avebury, and

Lord Brett: My Lords, everyone in the House will join with me in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, a successful recovery from his broken leg and a speedy return to the House. He demonstrates great wisdom and experience on the Liberal Democrat Benches and great wisdom and effectiveness in debates in the Chamber.

The Southern African Development Community, as sponsor and guarantor of the global political agreementGPAhas a key role to play in this matter. We regularly discuss Zimbabwe with SADC Governments and a SADC troika visited Harare on 29 October to discuss developments. We will closely monitor the outcome of that and continue to make our priority working with the region to promote reform in Zimbabwe.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, while recognising the difficulties the British Government face in openly criticising the Zimbabwean Government and attracting ire from Mr Mugabe in return, what channels do the British Government find most useful in pressing SADC to act to bring the parties back together again in the rapidly deteriorating political, and therefore economic and security, situation within Zimbabwe?

Lord Brett: My Lords, the Government use all channels available, including, of course, bilateral channels with countries in SADC. My noble friend Lady Kinnock is in South Africa this week and I have no doubt that Zimbabwe will not be without note in her discussions with the South African Government. We also work with our European Union colleagues, who have a major part to play in bringing that country back to normality. We support the Unity Government, particularly those parts which favour reform. However, we cannot but condemn the henchmen within that Government who seek to continue what went before and to avoid returning to a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe.

Baroness D’Souza: My Lords, the current chair of SADC, President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, relies on Zimbabwean guards for his personal safety. Do the Government agree that this compromises his authority in dealing with the current upsurge in human rights violations in Zimbabwe? What diplomatic pressure will the Government exert on this issue?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I listened with care to the noble Baroness but I am not sure that I agree with her. SADC is a major geographical and regional power with lots of member Governments with considerable reason to hope that Zimbabwe will return to its prosperity of yesteryear. I do not think that the provision the noble Baroness asks about, though it might cast doubt in peoples eyes, is likely to be a major feature within SADCs decisions. However, I take her question on board.

Lord Elton: My Lords, given the power and spread of SADC to which the noble Lord has just referred, and the fact that it is meeting in Mozambique on Thursday to consider this issue, how does he interpret the fact that Mugabe has already said that the SADC tribunal ruling on land reform was of no consequence, that land issues are not subject to the SADC tribunal, and that he is already ignoring, and has long ignored, the undertaking he gave to swear in MDC district governors and Ministers on the instructions of SADC? What steps can SADC be encouraged to take that will bring him to his senses, or will it remain completely powerless?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I have every sympathy with the noble Lords points. The issues that President Mugabe seeks to deny are part of the global political agreement, which SADC produced in 2008. Therefore, we should ask SADC how it will implement the GPA and persuade and advise those in breach of it. I am sure that my noble friend and other Ministers in the Foreign Office are doing everything possible through all channels earnestly to advise SADC member states. One hopes that Thursdays meeting and the troikas efforts will pressure Zimbabwe to achieve what the Unity Government should be about; namely, to restore democracy, bring forward development and rescue the Zimbabwean people from a decade of desperate mismanagement.

Lord Acton: My Lords, my noble friend said that the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, was going to South Africa. We wish her very well in her diplomatic efforts. What is the current position of South Africa on the Zimbabwean situation? I do not ask this just to monitor how good the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, is at diplomacy.

Lord Brett: My Lords, we will have to see the outcome of the discussions that are taking place in Mozambique on Thursday to know that. Certainly, President Zuma has made clear his rather more urgent requirements of the Government of Zimbabwe, more than perhaps his predecessor has done. There are those in SADCBotswana is one and there are many others who can see why a solution to Zimbabwe is in everybodys interests in the region. I am pretty sure that my noble friend Lady Kinnock has arrived in South Africa by nowif she has not, she is on the longest flight that has ever taken place from the United Kingdomand I hope that she will be using her influence in all quarters to ensure that we bring about the policy, not that we want to see, or that Europe wants to see, but that the world wants to see.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the UN torture expert Mr Nowak said that, when he was denied entry into Zimbabwe the other day, he was going to complain to the UN Commissioner on Human Rights. Can the commissioner do anything about it? Are we backing his complaint? Is anything going to happen at all?

Lord Brett: My Lords, those who listened to the rapporteurs interview on Radio 4 will have no doubt how badly he was treated in contravention of international law and in contravention to the invitation already issued. In that sense, we are totally supportive that international law has to be applied. We have heard nothing since from the UN about how the rapporteur will take that forward, but clearly it will be an issue and not one on which we are likely to find ourselves in sympathy with the Zimbabwean Government.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): Sorry, my Lords, our time is up.

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