The UK Home Office had broken a four-year moratorium last year saying the situation had improved. The courts stopped deportations to Zimbabwe in 2006 when judges ruled that the country wasn’t safe. That legal bar was lifted two years later, but the Home Office did not resume enforced returns immediately. The debate in the House of Lords comes as the UK Border Agency was organising the first flights after ruling that the situation in Zimbabwe had improved since 2009 and the UK court’s view that not all Zimbabweans are in need of international protection.
But Lord Griffiths of Burry Port said in a debate in the House of Lords on Thursday: “We need to be conscious that the security situation in Zimbabwe has not improved greatly and that refugees and asylum seekers should therefore not be pressurised to return home prematurely. Perhaps we can put a little bit of muscle behind the coaxingif it can be done with muscleof the UK Border Agency and other authorities towards that end.” Some 13,000 Zimbabweans have sought asylum in the UK over the past five years. About a third of them have been granted asylum after saying they faced persecution for opposing President Mugabe.
In practice 4,000 more were given some form of legal right to remain after the courts declared the country unsafe.
Lord Griffiths said the good work of agencies in the UK in preparing and training Zimbabweans to go home when things are settled and to take their rightful places in rebuilding their country should be continued and expanded. “Zimbabwe has slipped down the news agenda,” he said. “It has gone on for so long that thresholds of patience, tolerance and interest have been exhausted but the situation there is important. The people there need our best attention and any efforts that this Parliament can put behind making things better for them.”
The full text of the debate follows: UK Parliament
Thursday 10 March 2011
House of Lords
Moved By Lord Avebury
To call attention to the situation in Zimbabwe; and to move for Papers.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the last time we had a full-scale debate on Zimbabwe was in June 2010 at the instigation of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, who I am glad to see in his place. I am looking forward very much to hearing what he has to say. The debate before that was two years ago, just before the global political agreement was signed, and yet the global political agreement is still very largely unimplemented, and progress towards its most essential objectives has been painfully slow. The Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee has told President Zuma, the SADC facilitator, that it aims to have a draft of the constitution ready for approval by 30 September, but at the same time it complained that lack of resources has been hampering its work. The chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral CommissionZECsays that it cannot begin to work on the electoral register until it is provided with US$20 million needed to carry out the operation. He estimates that another US$200 million is required for the referendum on the new constitution and that the same amount is required for the national elections to be conducted on the cleaned-up register.
The backdrop to the looming election is the crescendo of political violence by ZANU-PF and the security forces against the opposition coupled with total impunity for the perpetrators, as detailed in a hard-hitting report from Human Rights Watch that was published earlier this week. Here, the coalition Government have announced that we are increasing our aid to Zimbabwe to 100 million a year to encourage fair elections and other reforms. The EU is spending 90 million on humanitarian aid in support of the key reforms of the GPA to promote an environment conducive to a general election. Presumably, the depoliticisation of the ZEC secretariat and staff must precede the collection of names for the electoral roll, but is that built in to the rules for the disbursement of aid? Will my noble friend say what we in the European Union are doing to combat the false allegation by the Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, that sanctions are to blame for the underfunding of the electoral commission? This is being echoed in newspaper advertisements in Zimbabwe carrying ZANU-PF and government logos that claim:
Sanctions are an attack on our health, on the education of our children, on our social services and our infrastructure.
This message gets picked up elsewhere in Africa. Have our embassies been instructed to explain to their host countries the truth that humanitarian aid is not affected by sanctions and that they bite on only 163 individuals and 31 businesses that are involved in human rights abuses and anti-democratic activities?
On 15 February, the second anniversary of the GPA, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai listed, not for the first time, his requirements for free and fair elections. He wants a new biometric voters roll, a stable and secure environment, a credible electoral body with a non-partisan secretariat, a non-partisan public media, security sector reform and a new constitution approved by a referendum. The need for a new list of electors was underlined just now by the ZEC finding that 27 per cent of the names on the existing list are of dead people.
There cannot be a free and fair election before these key milestones are achieved, the Prime Minister said, because, under the GPA, ZANU-PF has no power to hold an election without the consent of the other political parties. Obviously, they will agree only when the provisions of the GPA have been implemented. That position has been reiterated just now by SADC. They will also not allow elections to be held under the conditions that exist at the moment and without the substantial reforms that we expect from the GPA.
The three party leaders have just reiterated their commitment to the 24 principles of the GPA but that was exactly what they did last August, with ZANU-PF insisting that implementation should be concurrent with the lifting of sanctions. Is that still the position and what has been done to try and persuade ZANU-PF to lift that condition so that we can get on with the implementation of the entire GPA? Will my noble friend confirm that the US, EU and UK have no intention of lifting sanctions until substantial progress has been made towards full implementation? Will he also say that none of our $100 million-worth of aid will be dispersed until the sections of the agreement that were due in the first month are set in motion?
The Prime Minister wants a timetable based on the attainment of specific objectives with no dates attached. That seems to be the view of President Zuma, the SADC facilitator. Mr Zumas immediate concern is for an end to the politically motivated violence, as he demanded on a visit to Harare last month. The response since then has been more arrests, the torture of detainees and the denial of access to more than 50 political activists in custody by their lawyers and doctors. Nine of them, including MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, face trumped-up charges of treason, which of course attracts the death penalty. Their lawyer reports that they have been severely tortured and are held incommunicado on charges of watching a video of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Only yesterday, police disrupted a human rights workshop being held in a church and arrested the two co-chairs of the session. This morning, Elton Mangoma, the MDC Deputy Treasurer-General and Minister of Energy and Power Development, was picked up by three plainclothes police officers at his government offices, the Chaminuka building. Is SADC keeping a record of these events and reporting them to the African Union? Mr Mangoma is a member of the MDC negotiating team on the GPA and also co-chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee for the GPA, so this could be a particularly serious development.
Remembering the extreme violence at the 2008 election run-off, which led to the withdrawal of the MDC after they had been solidly ahead on the first round, do President Zuma and SADC have a fallback plan if their warnings about the urgent need to curb the ZANU-PF armed gangs and security forces are ignored? Without security sector reform, there is no chance that they would refrain from manipulating the electoral register and intimidating opposition candidates and voters. Has SADC considered enlisting the AU, their co-guarantors of the GPA, to bring extra pressure on ZANU-PF on this objective?
In our previous debate, there was some discussion about how the Commonwealth might be enlisted. Even though Zimbabwe is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, there might be an agreement to welcome it back into the fold if it performs on the GPA. Would my noble friend consider whether the Commonwealth might have that important role, of course with the consent of SADC?
Mugabe and his party want a polling day this summer, no doubt fearful that at any moment his failing health will mean that he has to step aside. In between visits to Singapore for surgery, he finally met the other party leaders on 25 February and agreed to start implementing the GPA in accordance with the implementation matrix they had already adopted in August 2010. Have we any reason to assume that that agreement will go ahead this time when the August one was in fact a dead letter?
I turn now to the prodigiously lucrative Marange diamond fields, said to be the largest in the world and of which some 97 per cent are under the direct control of the military. The remaining 3 per cent was assigned to two companies granted their concessions without a tender process, both closely associated with ZANU-PF and military commanders. Senior executives of one of the companies, Canadile, are being prosecuted for obtaining their concession by fraud and smuggling $100 million-worth of diamonds into Mozambique so that they were not taxed. The frontier with Mozambique is still wide open to illegal exports sponsored by the military, as people at Global Witness told me when I spoke to them last week. We have some leverage with Mozambique, a major recipient of aid. Could we help it put an end to this traffic?
Leakage of revenue also seems to occur at ministerial level. Finance Minister Tendai Biti said a month ago that more than $100 million generated from recent diamond sales had not been accounted for. His ministry had been given a schedule from the office of President Mugabe listing a total of $170 million said to have been transferred to the Treasury by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, but in fact they received only $64 million. Mr Biti said he had asked the Accountant-General to investigate the destination of the missing millions, to which the Minister for Mines immediately said that he had no right or power to hold such an inquiry. If there has to be an alternative, one obvious choice would have been the KP monitor, Mr Abbey Chikane, but his betrayal of confidential discussions with Farai Maguwu, head of the Centre for Research and Development, the most effective human rights campaigner in Marange, ruled him out. Ironically, Mr Maguwu has now been chosen by the civil society organisations to head the technical team of the local focal point for the Kimberley process. Could SADC be asked to suggest an independent accountant to resolve the difference between Mines Minister Mpofu and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, and to recommend measures that will fully identify the amounts of money received and by whom they are now held?
This Kimberley process mechanism is responsible for overseeing the certification of rough diamonds as produced in an area free from conflict or human rights abuses. Even though the military are now firmly in control of the region, ITN reports that extrajudicial killings and major human rights abuses are continuing. That is confirmed by the recent Human Rights Watch report that I have already mentioned. There is an even greater likelihood that money from the three auctions held last year was siphoned off by the generals. Two of the auctions were held under the supervision of the Kimberley process but a third was not. It came to light only when Mugabe announced that $250 million from that sale would be used to pay the arrears of civil servants salaries. Last week, Mr Tsvangirai said that diamond sales had generated $300 million revenue so far and that the money would be used to reduce foreign debt. As Mr Biti said, there is no accountability for the moneys being generated by these operations. Zimbabweans are not allowed to know what sums were raised in each of the three auctions. Does the lack of transparency not make it easier for the crooks in government to dip not just their fingers but their whole arms in the till?
The EU still occupies the chair of the Kimberley process Working Group on Monitoring, which is supposed to assess the effectiveness of monitoring. Yet when the KP plenary in November 2010 broke up without reaching agreement on what to do about the Marange diamonds, the KP monitor, Abbey Chikane, made a quick dash to Zimbabwe where he certified the whole stockpile of 3.9 million carats, worth some $160 million.
The KP chair issued a notice to members not to trade in Marange diamonds pending consultations on how Zimbabwe could bring its operations into compliance with KP rules. But amendments were agreed that would make it harder to secure investigation of human rights in the area, and it was to be no longer required that individual parcels of diamonds be certified. Even with those concessions, the Mines Minister said last Friday that Zimbabwe had not agreed to the light-touch KP guidelines that would allow Marange diamonds to be sold on the world market. The Mines Minister defiantly told Voice of America that the Government objected to any reference to human rights and that they would continue to sell diamonds regardless of whether the sales were authorised by the KP. It is as if they had decided to withdraw altogether from the KP, to avoid oversight that would reveal official theft of the proceeds that belong to the people. What does that mean for Zimbabwe diamond sales? Will lower prices have to be accepted because the sales will not be KP-authorised?
This is a make or break moment for the people of Zimbabwe. SADC and the AU, as guarantors of the GPA, could do the right thing, as Mr Tsvangirai puts it, and tell Mugabe that if elections are held without any of the reforms that were agreed two years ago, they would not be endorsed as free and fair, and any Government who came into office through such a process would not be accepted as the legitimate voice of the people. If on the other hand the elections are postponed until after the promised reforms are implemented, there will be a brilliant future ahead for Zimbabwe and its people. Like the Prime Minister, we have confidence in President Zuma and his team, and the EU should stand by to offer them any help we can provide.
Lord Griffiths of Burry Port: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for bringing this matter to our attention and giving us this opportunity today. For more years than I remember, and probably more years than he cares to remember, he has brought such matters to the attention of your Lordships House and making sure that we debate these things properly.
I come to this debate as a person concerned for the well-being of all Zimbabweans, those living in their own country and those scattered around the world and here in the UK because they have had to flee their own country in fear of what might happen to them and their families. I come to this debate also as a Methodist minister. Methodism has had a long relationship with Zimbabwe and with Rhodesia before that. The earliest missionaries from the British church followed the 1891 pioneer column and, by the end of that year, bases for outreach had already begun in Salisbury and in Epworthnamed for the place where John Wesley was born, of course, and now a high-density suburb of Harare. Later Methodists from the American church came to the country and focused their efforts especially on its eastern fringe. The relationship between Methodists in Britain and Methodists in Zimbabwe has weathered many difficulties, the creation and subsequent break-up of the Central African Federation, UDI and the war for black majority rule. The Methodists in Zimbabwe now form an autonomous and vibrant church with which we still have close ties. Indeed, where I work, my colleague is herself British Methodisms special envoy to the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, and we have contacts all over the land with whom we are in regular touch.
Zimbabwe is a country with great resources, wonderful landscapes, and above all a diligent, hard-working, resilient and extremely hospitable people. As with others we long for the day when the country can once again hold its head high in the community of nations. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, reminded us, the current situation in Zimbabwe gives us very little cause for hope. The global political agreement signed in 2008 between ZANU-PF and the two parts of the MDCone of which is itself terribly fragmentedwhich led to the formation of an inclusive Government, has for the most part not been implemented. Indeed, 24 articles have never been implemented, especially those that relate to security and the media. Technically, the lifespan of the GPA was over on 11th February 2011, so it ought to be behind us. Renegotiating it seems necessary, with seeking the implementation of all its articles as part of that negotiation.
According to our sources, the economic situation has seen some improvement with a reduction in inflation, largely the result of an abandonment of the Zimbabwe dollar in favour of the US dollar and other currencies. The relationship between the parties in the inclusive Government is largely characterised by mistrust, and ZANU-PF still controls the vital ministries dealing with security, the police and the media. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has still not been able to do something as basic as moving into the official prime ministerial residence.
At its last party conference at the end of last year, ZANU-PF chose Robert Mugabeaged 87 yearsonce again as its presidential candidate, and is eager to have elections as soon as possible. I wonder why. June this year would be its favoured time. Its hope is to gain an outright election victory and dispense with the GPA altogether. We have already heard eloquent arguments as to why such elections or proposals for elections should be held off until all the things mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, are in place. Elections this year and in the current circumstances could certainly not achieve a free and fair election acceptable to the majority of Zimbabweans and it is my strong conviction that Her Majestys Government should do all in their power to support and encourage those groups in Zimbabwe, in the region and in international organisations working for a postponement of elections until proper procedures and safeguards can be put in place. I hope that the Minister can give us some assurance on that when he winds up.
South Africa and the countries of the southern African region are crucial in working on a road map towards elections, and it is in that area that we in Britain might best offer our support and, if requested, technical expertise. A new constitution, mentioned again by the noble Lord, was an essential pillar of the global political agreement, but has still not been achieved despite some half-hearted attempts at consultation. That needs to be in place before any election. More pressure needs to be exerted to bring about a full implementation of all the other articles of the GPA. A new electoral register needs to be produced, as was again mentioned by the noble Lord. I do not apologise for repeating matters mentioned in a previous speech, something that I normally find offensive, because the more we say this thing, the better. There needs to be an open media that will give coverage to all shades of political opinion. Contacts across Zimbabwe inform us that there is already a great deal of violence and intimidation around the country because people, by virtue of the last conference of ZANU-PF, are on election alert already. Therefore, the population is already, once again, in a state of fear. It is important that SADC and African Union missions be in place now and in the run-up to elections, and not leave their presence or activity too long.
It is perhaps an irony that President Zuma of South Africa should have come out so clearly in favour of removing President Mubarak from one country in Africa when his country has played relatively little role in seeking the removal of President Mugabe from Zimbabwe. Messages coming from Zimbabwe indicate that the MDC is being banned by the police from holding meetings in the run-up to its own party congress, let alone any election that might be in the offing. Church peopleAnglican bishops and the general secretary of the Council of Churcheshave had death threats issued against them, as no doubt have others from civic organisations who are working for cases of harassment and violence to be investigated and for the individuals responsible to be brought before the courts. We can highlight the plight of these people; perhaps we ought to. These are real things, happening right now. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned other instances of violence against people and the creation of a climate of fear. We should keep mentioning that to keep it before the public eye, then perhaps our Government can put pressure in the appropriate places to get assurances and action that will minimise these instances.
I shall finish here at home, with a word that may need to be said. We need to be conscious that the security situation in Zimbabwe has not improved greatly and that refugees and asylum seekers should therefore not be pressurised to return home prematurely. Perhaps we can put a little bit of muscle behind the coaxingif it can be done with muscleof the UK Border Agency and other authorities towards that end. Instead, the good work of agencies in this country in preparing and training Zimbabweans to go home when things are settled and to take their rightful places in rebuilding their country should be continued and expanded. Zimbabwe has slipped down the news agenda. It has gone on for so long that thresholds of patience, tolerance and interest have been exhausted but the situation there is important. The people there need our best attention and any efforts that this Parliament can put behind making things better for them.
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Avebury on securing this debate. He is a man I am proud to sit alongside on these Benches for all that he does for oppressed people. This is a time when the process of political reform in Zimbabwe is under serious threat. Dozens of people have been arrested in the past couple of weeks in a co-ordinated crackdown on political dissent. There is a renewed assault on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. The build-up of intimidation and the recent deployment of military units on the streets of major cities are aimed at reinforcing a menacing sense of fear in Zimbabwe.
Ironically, while people have been, as my noble friend Lord Avebury mentioned, charged with treason simply for watching films about what is going on in Tunisia and Egypt, it is President Mugabe who makes inflammatory speeches that really threaten the future safety and economic well-being of the people of Zimbabwe. It is clear that he, together with the military high command and secret police, is determined to prevent any further progress along the road to democracy. They still have control of all the really important levers of power in Zimbabwe, which they plan to use to veto any further concessions to liberalisation.
I shall concentrate particularly on one area that is bearing the brunt of this crackdown: the independent media. I shall address some particular issues relating to freedom of the press and of broadcasting. Control of the mass media has long been a weapon in the armoury of those imposing repressive rule in Zimbabwe and it remains a key element in the old-guard strategy for undermining those working for reform. Free speech, free association and open access to the broadcast media would all give vital space in which to challenge the system of repression, but the tight system of control and regulation prevents that happening. That system was largely inherited by ZANU-PF from the minority regime of Ian Smith.
It is not just editors and journalists who face danger every day. I pay tribute to the people who are the unsung heroes of trying to disseminate free media: the newsvendors. They are attacked by Mugabes mobs simply for selling newspapers, such as the Zimbabwean, that favour reform. Their stock is destroyed and they put their limbs as well as their livelihood at risk. Meanwhile, vitriolic comment and denunciation of Morgan Tsvangirai and other MDC Ministers is a regular part of the diet of propaganda and distortion peddled by the state-controlled media in Zimbabwe. There is no BBC News, no ITV, no Channel 4 and no Sky. The television and radio stations of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which has a near monopoly on broadcasting, are under state control, and despite the existence of the inclusive Government, in this context the state still means ZANU-PF loyalists. They also control the major daily newspapers: the Herald , published from Harare, and the Chronicle , published from Bulawayo.
Two major tools of control are the AIPPA, a positively Orwellian piece of legislation that stands for the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Acttrue doublethink, given the way it is usedand POSA, the Public Order and Security Act. Those two Acts need to be repealed or radically reformed as a high priority. The international community has entrusted oversight of reform in Zimbabwe to the region. I hope the Minister will be able to tell the House that this issue is raised with South Africa and other SADC members in diplomatic and ministerial contact with the region. As major providers of aid to Zimbabwe and to its neighbours, the people of the United Kingdomand, indeed the EU as a wholehave a right to expect serious engagement on these issues.
I also urge Her Majestys Government, bilaterally and through the EU and the Commonwealth, to make every effort to ensure that adequate support is given to independent media operators. That means help to fund professional training and help with legal resources and technical assistance to ensure that robust and independent media operations flourish in Zimbabwe. It is very important that this should encompass support for investigative reporting on economic and social issues as well as politics. In an environment in which the media has largely been used as a tool for spreading propaganda, there is a real danger that the skills of journalism are lost. Corruption and malpractice in commerce as well as in central and local government have an easy ride if there are no vibrant and well-trained independent media professionals.
One of the most important ways in which we can support reform in Zimbabwe is by backing a free and fearless media sector on which an accountable, democratic tradition can be built. I am very pleased that the first group of Commonwealth professional fellows have just arrived in the UK from Zimbabwe and that part of their programme involves media training. However, I am also concerned that a fifth fellow, Tafadzwa Choto, is not here, as she is one of the six people still being held on charges of treason for watching television coverage of events in Tunisia and Egypt, as was mentioned before. I encourage both the FCO and DfID to continue to explore ways of supporting the independent media sector in Zimbabwe. I hope the Minister will reassure the House on that and add his voice to those who are calling for the immediate release of those who are being held on treason charges for watching the news.
Another important way in which our aid programme to Zimbabwe can help is by supporting the specially appointed statutory bodies such as the media commission and the electoral commission. They need assistance in the form of finance and technical expertise. I have a particular interest in the media commission, but the electoral commission is also vital. Unless these commissions are adequately resourced, their work is hampered and they become ineffective in their role. In dealing with the composition of these commissions, attention needs to be paid to the staffing of their secretariats. There is no point in carefully selecting the representative commissioners who oversee their bodies if their work is then compromised or undermined by staff whose loyalties lie with the old regime. Although these issues might appear to be primarily the responsibility of DfID, they have a huge impact on the political and diplomatic areas for which the FCO is responsible, so I hope the Minister will be able to comment on these areas.
Finally, I have an observationhere, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. Restrictions imposed on the British media, which had included banning the BBC, were lifted a couple of years ago, but this does not seem to have resulted in adequate coverage in our own media of this very important story. I am glad to say that on this point and in this country, I do not expect the Minister to have any influence.
Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, I, too, express my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his initiative in securing this very timely debate.
I pay tribute to the thousands of brave Zimbabweans who remain committed and in the front line of the struggle for democracy and human rights. I have had the honour of meeting some of them when they have visited us here at Westminster. There are countless others in towns and villages across that country whose dedication compels them to risk imprisonment, torture and even death in order to bring freedom to their people. Many of them are women. I think particularly of the courageous trade union leaders: Lucia Matibenga, General Secretary of the Commercial Workers Union; Gertrude Hambira of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union, who is now forced into hiding and exile in fear of her life for exposing the way that members of her union were persecuted by Mugabe’s regime; and Thoko Khupe of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Union, now Deputy Prime Minister.
It is heart-warming to see the solidarity with these heroes shown by the international trade union movement. The Confederation of South African Trade Unions has been staunch in its support, and in this country individual unions have mobilised support for their affiliated unions in Zimbabwethe CWU with the Communications and Allied Services Workers Union, and the NUJ with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists. Practical support such as this directly aimed at those working with people at the grass roots is enormously helpful, and I hope that more such links will be promoted.
Not long ago I had the pleasure of giving tea in this House to a member of the rather small union that I used to belong to, the Speaker of the Zimbabwean House of Assembly, Mr Lovemore Moyo. As well as being pleased to meet Speaker Moyo, I was delighted that the assistant accompanying him, Mr Zitha, has spent time studying at the University of Leeds, close to my home town. That reinforced for me the relationship between Zimbabwe, which has been spoken about earlier in this debate, and the United Kingdom. There are many deep and personal links at all levels of society between our two countries, so this debate and the many occasions when we can raise issues regarding Zimbabwe are most valuable.
At my meeting with Speaker Moyo I discussed some of the important protocols that protect Parliament. They have to be fiercely guarded if parliamentarians are to be free to conduct thoroughly and without hindrance the tasks entrusted to them by the electorate. I gave Speaker Moyo copies of our sessional orders, which I used as Speaker and which were agreed at the beginning of each new Session of Parliament. They protect Members of Parliament from obstruction or interference in the conduct of their parliamentary duties. These rights are vital to parliamentary democracy, by whatever mechanism they are enacted and however they are enshrined, and I am very disappointed by recent reports from Zimbabwe that show that they are not being upheld.
I make no apology for deviating for a moment. Only a few minutes ago, I had a note handed to me that comes from a very reliable source. It tells me that a court ruling in Zimbabwe today says that the conduct of the secret ballot by which Speaker Moyo was elected was improper. This is a very worrying development and a serious situation. It is another example of the way in which the judiciary is often used to undermine democracy. A re-election could of course be used as a shoo-in for a new Speaker sympathetic to the Mugabe regime. That could be the case if enough of the MDC MPs are kept locked up in jail. Although there is not much longer to go in this debate, I hope that the Minister will have something to tell us about that devastating news when he winds up.
Six years ago yesterday, on 9 March 2005, I raised the case of the Member of Parliament Roy Bennett. My concern then was the imprisonment of Mr Bennett as a result of an altercation in Parliament. The penalty imposed was out of all proportion to the misdemeanour for which he had unreservedly apologised. Mr Bennett was sentenced to 12 months hard labour in the most inhuman conditions. Six years on, Mr Bennett is in exile but continues to devote himself to fighting for the rights and dignity of his fellow citizens.
The arrest of any Member of Parliament is a serious matter. A few weeks ago I learnt of the arrest of Mr Douglas Mwonzora. Mr Mwonzora is co-chairman of the parliamentary constitutional select committee, as was mentioned earlier, and is jointly overseeing the process of consultation on a new constitution for Zimbabwe. He simply lodged a complaint with the police about the violent disruption by Zanu-PF militia of a meeting that he was holding in his constituency. In what seems an utterly bizarre turn of events but sadly is not at all unusual, Mr Mwonzora himself was subsequently arrested by the police outside Parliament in Harare.
As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has mentioned, we got the news that Elton Mangoma, MDC Minister for Development and a member of the MDC negotiating team on the global political agreement, was picked up from his government office by police. The reasons for the arrest are unknown to me. Perhaps the Minister will have some news of this latest arrest in his wind-up.
Politically motivated arrests affect other citizens too. Vexation charges are brought but time and money that can ill be afforded are then needed to mount a defence. Court proceedings are deliberately delayed, leading to protracted uncertainty. There seems to be a calculated process by which key people like Mr Mangoma and Mr Mwonzora are diverted from their duties and important responsibilities, and it inevitably means that the vital reforms so desperately needed in Zimbabwe are delayed or derailed altogether. Arrests of this nature have become far too commonplace. It is what that brave lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has called rule by law rather than rule of law.
I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us when next there might be an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary or the Minister for Africa to discuss these matters with the South African authorities. After all, the current political dispensation in Zimbabwe was imposed by South Africa. Robert Mugabe was able to engineer his so-called victory in the presidential elections only because he manipulated the figures in the first round and managed to deny Morgan Tsvangirai an outright win. In the second round, Mugabe unleashed such a wave of violence that Morgan Tsvangirai felt compelled to withdraw from the race to prevent further bloodshed. As we know, the former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa then used his powerful position within the region to manoeuvre for a settlement that propped up Mugabe and allowed him to remain in office. It was not a good development for democracy. It never is when the will of the people, democratically expressed, is denied, subverted or overridden. The way in which deals have been brokered allowing presidents to remain in office, just because they want to stay put despite losing an election, is to me a very worrying development.
We have to deal with the world as it is today. We have heard much about the global political agreement signed in 2008 by Mugabe and Tsvangirai. It is supposed to be guaranteed by South Africa as well as by the AU and SADC. Furthermore, it has been incorporated into the constitution of Zimbabwe. What is shameful is the continuing contempt with which Mugabe treats the obligations to which he solemnly signed his name. He has continued to take unilateral action on key appointments, and has threatened to call elections unilaterally without consultation with Prime Minister Tsvangirai and without waiting for the approval and implementation of the new constitution.
Surely the Minister would agree that such action is in contravention of the global political agreement. I feel very strongly that these issues need to be raised with Ministers from SADC countries. But I ask whether they are raised. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us.
Surely we can negotiate with SADC countries. I do not need to remind your Lordships that we grant substantial sums of aid to them in our budget. We have good relations with them and most are members of the Commonwealth. Can we not use that leverage for the benefit of Zimbabwe? I hope the Minister will agree, after all, that political progress in Zimbabwe will help the progress of the whole region.
The government statement on priorities for UK overseas aid made it clear that we want to see value for money. I agree with that. Surely an important aspect of this, in the context of Zimbabwe, is that we need to deal with the causes of the crisis and not simply with the symptoms. The causes are political and the symptoms affect the whole of southern Africa. In footing the bill, should we not make it clear that we need the partnership of the region to overcome the political obstacles that are holding back development of SADC as a whole?
Last week I was encouraged to read the comments on these issues made by Marius Fransman
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are quite tight on time.
Baroness Boothroyd: I am so sorry; I will bring my remarks to an endas important and fascinating as they are. As a former Speaker I must do that.
I look forward to hearing from the Minister what steps the Government will take to impress upon members of the AU and SADC the gravity of the commitments they have made. I particularly look forward to his comments on the possible Speakership in Zimbabwe that I spoke about in my comments.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the role of a Whip is a painful one during debates. We are very tight on time. It would be very helpful if noble Lords could manage to bring their remarks to a close before 10 appears on the clock.
The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells : My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for this timely debate. I rise to speak in it because of an association with Zimbabwe over some 20 years. I have had the privilege of both employing and training some of the Bishops who now lead the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, and I attended most recently the consecration of the present Bishop of Harare, the Reverend Chad Gandiya.
The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is undergoing a sustained and brutal persecution with its origins in a dispute over church properties and the non re-election of Dr. Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare and someone widely regarded as a plant of the Mugabe regime. When Kunonga lost the election in 2007, instead of stepping down he went on to form a rival faction. The police have consistently failed to protect Anglican congregations and clergy. This is something that I have witnessed, all too painfully, for myself in a number of places.
Police claim to be acting on orders from above. This persecution is evident across the country, most evidently in Masvingo and Matabeleland. Members of your Lordships’ House will recall that in the 1980s, shortly after independence, the Mugabe Government recruited the North Korean Fifth Brigade with the specific intention of subjugating Matabeleland through a series of well documented atrocities, amounting to what has been described since as ethnic cleansing.
The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths mentioned the current death threats which have been made against the Bishops of Harare and Manicaland, and both men have recently escaped through warnings from friends when attackers have been on the way. All the congregations in Harare and Manicaland are prevented from entering their churches, or being within 200 metres of them, each Sunday, and this has been the situation since 2008. Policing this situation requires the use of hundreds of officers every Sunday. There are weekly arrests of clergy without charge.
Most recently, an 89 year-old woman, Mrs Jessica Mendeya, was killed defending the church. The Bishop of Harare described the circumstances surrounding her death, and I warn your Lordships that the description is shocking. Gandiya said:
People came on Friday night. They raped her, they cut her mouth and genitals and pierced various parts of her body.
Those who did this said it was something to do with the fact that she belonged to the Anglican Church. Following this killing, Gandiya said that he hoped that the police would step in this time to offer them help. He said:
My hope is that they will do their work in terms of protecting all the citizens of Zimbabwe without singling us out as people not to be protected.
The Bishop has also spoken of the resilience of the people, again something I have personally witnessed on a number of occasions. Reporting on a meeting a week or so ago, Gandiya spoke of another elderly woman beaten by Kunonga’s supporters who had lost the use of one of her arms. She said:
They can come and beat me and render my other arm useless but I will never give up my faith.
Your Lordships cannot fail to notice how both the murder and the attack that I have reported signal a move to targeting the old and defenceless, indicating new levels of violence and human rights abuses.
The Anglican tradition is strong in Zimbabwe. The church has been active in peacemaking and reconciliation. Bishop Gandiya in his enthronement sermon in Harare Cathedral, an occasion itself marked by the locking and barring of the cathedral, offered an olive branch to those who supported Dr Kunonga. Bishop Gandiya is a valued member of the Archbishops international visitor programme, which I have the privilege of chairing, a body which seeks to keep conversations going across the divisions of the communion.
The oppression of the Anglican Church must be seen in the context of the wider oppression of civil society in Zimbabwe, of those perceived to be, or in fact in, opposition to ZANU-PF. Freedom of association has long been strictly limited in Zimbabwe and this has extended into restrictions on freedom of worship for many Pentecostal and Methodist groups, as well as other Anglican groups. As other noble Lords have mentioned, human rights groupsmost particularly Amnesty International, of which I am a memberand Human Rights Watch, have recorded the extent of those abuses over the past few years and are due to present these at the international human rights review of Zimbabwe, which will happen in November. But November is a long time away, and things are pressing.
The prerequisites for new elections outlined in the global peace agreement have not been met, as we have heard. We also know that ZANU-PF is gearing up for a brutal election campaign of propaganda, intimidation and violence which will be funded through misused government funds, illegal diamond sales and sympathetic foreign regimes.
The persecution of Anglican Christians in Zimbabwe involves one of the most serious and sustained violations of human rights and religious freedom and demands international advocacy. The most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the head of the All Africa Council of Churches and the Archbishop of Cape Town, have supported the need to develop a regional advocacy strategy. The international human rights review will not take place until November, as I have said, but discussion needs to take place. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has said, there is an opportunity surely for the representatives of SADC to enable something of this kind to happen in the meanwhile. The support of your Lordships’ House in this regard would send a strong signal to all those who are seeking an end to violence and intimidation. I hope that this debate will contribute to a better and more peaceful outcome in the beautiful country of Zimbabwe.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate. The recent developments in Zimbabwe do not reflect the aims stipulated in the historic global political agreement. Progress has been painfully slow with fears of a return to the old regime. There is speculation that Mr Mugabe has sent serving and retired Zimbabwean military personnel to Libya in support of Colonel Gaddafi. The 46 people who were arrested in Zimbabwe for watching footage of the uprising in north Africa are to be charged with treasonan offence that carries the death penalty in Zimbabwe. The former MP and Labour activist, Mr Gwisai, is among those to be charged. A magistrate in Harare has since halted the proceedings against these individuals and ordered that they undergo examination for torture. Most worrying is the revelation that among the 46 arrested is a woman who has had three operations for a brain tumour yet was assaulted by prison guards and refused treatment.
These actions have resulted in widespread condemnation, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concerns about civil society in Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe is such that there is hunger, poverty and unemployment among the majority of citizens but wealth is enjoyed by a select few. The combination of low incomes and a shortage of food have exposed Zimbabwe, among other nations, to fluctuating market prices. The average citizen spends a large portion of his wages on food supplies. A meteoric rise in the cost of provisions has the potential to trigger protests in Zimbabwe as seen in north Africa. The decision by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to increase tariffs by 30 per cent puts further pressure on the cost of living, especially for citizens on the lowest incomes. Although economic activity has increased over the past two years, Zimbabwes headline rate of inflation was still high for January despite the monetary policy statement of the Bank of Zimbabwe warning against the effects of rising inflation on the economy. Zimbabwe caught the worlds attention at the end of 2007 with hyperinflation which led to price increases of more than 60,000 per cent.
The rise in political violence is a cause for concern. Amnesty International has reported that supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change Party have been targeted by Mugabes ZANU-PF for a campaign of prolonged violence and intimidation. It has been just over two years since the historic power-sharing agreement was signed by the two parties. Shopkeepers who stock and sell independent newspapers are being harassed and intimidated by people suspected of being members of ZANU-PF. A new organisation, Wealth to the Youth, which is linked to ZANU-PF, has been looting shops owned by foreigners. I support the decision of the European Union and the United States to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe until February 2012. This is the correct approach to dealing with a nation that does not reflect and does not respect its citizens human rights, democracy or the rule of law. These requirements were stipulated under the global political agreement but have not been implemented.
Britain is one of the largest donors to the Zimbabwean state and last year gave the biggest aid package to date. The Government have pledged to increase aid to Zimbabwe over the next four years provided that it holds free and fair elections and successfully implements reforms. I am in favour of this decision as Britains development aid reaches the people of Zimbabwe through the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.
I welcome the Southern African Development Communitys efforts to encourage the political parties in Zimbabwe to work towards achieving social and political reforms. The SADC is also playing an important role by investing in projects aimed at improving the infrastructure in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe has accused Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank of profiting to the detriment of Zimbabwes economy and has threatened to bring them under state control. I should be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships House as to the steps Her Majesty’s Government will take in response to this overt warning.
During a recent visit, the Chinese Foreign Minister called for the withdrawal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. China has signed a deal to provide Zimbabwe with a grant of $7.6 million. It is important to remember that in 2008 China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that sought sanctions against Zimbabwe for violating human rights. Having an ally with the economic prowess of China provides the Zimbabwean Government with limited incentives to implement reforms.
It is not only irresponsible but incorrect for Robert Mugabe to blame the sanctions placed on his country for Zimbabwes ailing economy. It is more accurate to place a significant part of the responsibility for the nations suffering on the violent land-distribution programme that has almost destroyed the agriculture industry. The way that the white farmers have been treated by Robert Mugabe reminds me of how the assets of my family and other Asians were seized by General Amin when we were expelled from Uganda.
The concerns of foreign investors in Zimbabwe are compounded by Mugabes Economic Empowerment Act that states that black Zimbabweans should own 51 per cent of companies worth more than 307 million. Any form of discrimination is wholly unwelcome. It does not serve the best interests of Zimbabwes economy or society to implement such a blatantly odious piece of legislation that gives rise to racism. I should be grateful if my noble friend could provide up-to-date details of British companies and individuals affected by this law.
The recent direction taken by the President of Zimbabwe is hugely disappointing in the light of notable successes. The nation appears to have made progress, given its participation in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The Carlyle Group intends to launch a fund for investment in Africa, with a presence in three African countries, including Zimbabwe. The power-sharing agreement brought a great deal of optimism to Zimbabweans. However, it appears that ZANU-PF is still behaving in a manner that was rejected by the electorate two years ago.
Mugabes continued defiance of pressure from the international community is a constant concern. We have an historic duty to engage with partners in the region to work towards achieving the social and political reforms that the people of Zimbabwe greatly deserve.
Finally, I am a great believer in the Commonwealth and would like to see its countries, particularly the African states, do more to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe. I have spoken previously in your Lordships House on the Commonwealth. It should do more on conflict resolution and promoting trade among its various countries.
Lord Dannatt: My Lords, the great privilege of being invited to join your Lordships’ House has been exceeded in the past six weeks by the kindness and courtesy that everyone within this House has extended to me since 24 January, when I took my seat. My only sorrow is that my long-time friend and colleague, Lieutenant General Sir Freddie Viggers, was not able to lead me into your Lordships Chamber. I know that your Lordships have paid generous tributes to him for his time as Black Rod, which was curtailed only by his wretched illness. While I was the Chief of the General Staff, General Freddie was my No. 2 as the Adjutant General. Nothing would have given both of us greater pleasure than serving our nation together in your Lordships House; but it was not to be.
However, I thank my two, or really three, supporters who guided me in my early days, and I hope they will continue to do so, given that map-reading is not my strong suit. I am most grateful to my senior supporter, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. He was the undoubted father of the modern British Army and I could have turned to no one else than he to stand beside me. Field-Marshal Dwin had won a Military Cross in battle five years before I was born. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, has been a friend for many years. We share a common background in our military antecedents. As a Christian on the one hand and a Zoroastrian Parsi on the other, we share a common desire to do the very best for and with those around us. My third supporter, who was unavoidably detained elsewhere on the day of my introduction, was my former commanding officer and mentor, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge. Having been his adjutant and principal staff officer many years ago, I am delighted to be standing by his side in your Lordships House today.
Before entering your Lordships’ House, it was my privilege to serve for 40 years in the Regular Army40 years that naturally divide into four decades, each with very different characteristics. Those decades resonate soundly with this afternoon’s timely and important debate secured by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, whom I thank for providing this opportunity. Perhaps noble Lords will permit me to reflect briefly on those decades to make the association with todays debate.
For me, the 1970s were characterised by service in Northern Ireland; 1977 was the only year in that decade when I did not serve in the Province. The 1980s was the final decade of the Cold War, and of course included the Falklands conflict. The two are connected, because I believe it was not lost on the Kremlin that a democracy such as ours was prepared to send a task force 8,000 miles to fight for a principle. My third decade was that of the so-called new world order, when Francis Fukuyama announced the end of historybut we discovered the Balkans, East Timor and Sierra Leone, not to mention the deserts of Kuwait and southern Iraq in the first Gulf War. Then 9/11 ushered in my final decade as a soldier, propelling the Army, which it was my privilege to lead for three years from 2006 to 2009, back into Afghanistan and Iraqcountries well known to our grandfathers and great uncles, and those of previous generations.
The conflicts that I took part in, or which formed the backdrop to my professional career, were all about people: their rights, their hopes and their future. That is all that the people of Zimbabwe are asking for. Like the people of Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the Falklands in the 1980s, the Balkans in the 1990s and Iraq and Afghanistan in this decade, all they want is to live free from intimidation in a secure environment that is conducive to freedom and prosperity. Is that too much to aspire to after the first decade of the 21st century?
It was as a schoolboy in 1965 that I heard that the then Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith, had unilaterally declared independence from the United Kingdom. To a teenager at the time, it seemed preposterous that this should have happened, and therefore it was with some relief that one heard in 1979 that, after a vicious and bloody civil war, there was the prospect of peace, perhaps reconciliation, and a better future for Zimbabwe. In the years that followed, I visited Zimbabwe several times, noting with a degree of professional pride the staff college that the British Army had established in Harare to underpin the professional development of the post-UDI army. I often reflect that there must be a generation of Zimbabwean army officers who were trained by us in the 1980s and who know that there is a better way than that of the repressive dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. Will they, I wonder, find the moral courage to stand up and do the right thing? They know what that is; we taught them.
On my third day in your Lordships’ House, we had a debate on the military covenant. I was too much of a new boy to take part, but the debate highlighted what is really at the heart of the people issue that I am talking about today. In general terms, the covenant touches on the unwritten contract, or bond, between those who govern and those who are governed. In specific terms, it sets out the relationship between an elected Government, who decide what military operations are to be carried out, and those of their citizens in uniform, and their families, who are to carry out those operations. When the covenant is in balance, much can be achieved: when it is out of balance, the sparks fly. In a mature democracy such as ours we can debate these things, imbalances can be rectified and the scales brought into equilibrium: but in a brutish and nasty society such as Zimbabwes today, the imbalances are perpetuated, injustices go unchallenged and the poor get poorer while the rich get what passes in Zimbabwe for richer. It is therefore no surprise that decent people around the world say that enough is enough and that the regime of Robert Mugabe has more than had its day.
In closing, I pay tribute to those who, despite the repression and opposition, have continued to try to do what is right for the people of Zimbabwe. I declare an interest as a periodic contributor to the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for choosing the charity ZANEor, to give it its full name, Zimbabwe A National Emergencyas one of the charities for its 2010 national Christmas appeal. The 350,000 raised will go a long way to making the lives of former service and civilian pensioners just that little bit more bearable. However, in a country such as Zimbabwe, rich with agricultural and mineral potential, it should not be like this. The people of Zimbabwe deserve a chance, just as the people of Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan have deserved a chancea chance given to them, or a chance being given to them, by our nation, as I have witnessed over the 40 years of my military service, but there is more to do. I am grateful to have been given the chance to continue to serve people here in your Lordships House.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, it is a great privilege to be the first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Dannatt on his interesting and compelling maiden speech. We have all followed his recent career both as a soldier and, for a time, as a party politician, and I hope and expect that it is with great relief that he has arrived on the Cross Benches, where he will feel among friends both gallant and otherwise. As my noble friend told us, he completed 40 years service in the Army. He held many prominent positions, including Commander, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, 2003-05, Commander-in-Chief Land Command, 2005-06, and Chief of the General Staff, 2006-09. He also told us very movingly of his personal experience of and service to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans. I reassure him that his map-reading in the House can only improve. In the mean time, we will greatly look forward to his contributions to our debates.
We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate at a time when we need to be more watchful than ever of events in Zimbabwe, which, again, are taking an unpleasant turn. It seems that the violence that we saw three years ago leading up to the elections is returning in a similar form. The noble Lord, Lord Aveburyas he does so welland others have given us details of this rise in violence and human rights abuse. Inevitably, the MDC is being targeted, as are the churches, the trade unions and civil societyin fact, anyone, for whatever trivial reason, who falls foul of the authorities. The most ludicrous example was the video of the news the other day, and most recently there have been gruesome attacks on those attending International Womens Day and other events in Bulawayo.
There is a new determination by ZANU-PF to block constitutional change, remove or intimidate the opposition, and threaten more violence in preparation for possible elections later this year, no doubt assisted by the diamond money which is being pocketed by officials. I strongly support those who call for a firmer intervention from SADC and the African Union. They could be selecting observers and getting ready for these elections now. What can the Minister tell us about the UKs contribution, including technical support for the Electoral Commission, the need for voter education and making better use of civil society organisations, churches and trade unions in spreading awareness? Some of us have direct experience of the elections in South Africa, where this was so effective. It seems that history is repeating itself. It may therefore help to look back at what happened after the 2008 elections and to examine the EUs and the UKs diplomatic role at that time.
During the summer, when Mr Mugabe had clearly lost all legitimacy and credibility in the June 2008 elections, could the UK and other EU members have played a cleverer game? In retrospect, we now see that, three months later, he got ahead of us by entering this agreement which led to a coalition the following spring. Surely we can now admit that the coalition, which left the opposition with almost only the junior portfolios, was a considerable coup for the president and a major deception for the rest of us, as my noble friend Lady Boothroyd said. It simply became a prop to perpetuate Mr Mugabes regime.
Secondly, I wonder whether the sanctions, strengthened in February 2009 and relaxed since then, have really had any effect on Mr Mugabe, or whether in some perverse way they have actually boosted his morale. If we look at the Ivory Coast, we see President Gbagbo grandstanding against the French colonial power in order to boost his post-election position, echoing Mr Mugabe’s performance three years earlier. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya is playing a similar game of one-upmanship by baiting foreigners. Clearly, the Zimbabwe dictator has attracted other African leaders, or should I say gangsters, to his master class. Interestingly, Jeune Afrique magazine left him out of its list of contemporary political arch criminals from Salazar to Saddam last week. Is it possible that we in the UK have exaggerated the importance of Mr Mugabe and, thereby, contributed to his platform?
Having recently spent two weeks in Africa, I am certain that in both African and European Union eyes we in the UK still seem to feel over-responsible for Zimbabwe and are still his outstanding critics. I am not sure that that is a good thing. Is it perhaps time for us to lower our profile and join forces with the European Union in reaching a more convincing EU foreign policy? I recognise that that is controversial, but in a sense the process is inexorable and it might be a more effective and pragmatic diplomatic policy. We already have positive examples of close EU co-operation. At the time of the coalitionthe Minister may confirm thissome EU members were understandably reluctant to work with the ministries held by ZANU-PF but since then there has been a more general engagement with the Government as a whole which has undoubtedly been a more productive way of working.
Another example has been the success of the EUs partnership with the NGOs, which kept many families out of poverty during the harsh times of inflation and the collapse of social services. We can be very proud of the EU aid programme, and our owPost published in: News