Zimbabwe

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 25th June 2002.

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Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Shadow Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, Shadow Foreign Secretary 7:14 pm, 25th June 2002

I am grateful for that. Mugabe and his henchmen have ridden roughshod over democracy in Zimbabwe. It is worth recalling that the principles of the 1991 Harare declaration—this is ironic—state:

"We believe . . . in the individual's inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic processes in the society in which he or she lives".

Yet two days after the elections, Mugabe laid formal charges of treason against the leaders of the MDC. Between January and August this year, the Parliament will have been closed for all but two days in May, when legislation was pushed through without consultation or debate.

In terms of the law, Mugabe has ignored any rulings that did not suit him. On 9 April, a senior Government official, George Charama, said that it was the intention of the Government to ignore rulings by the court which were not in the Government's favour. The contemptuous Government reaction to the Supreme Court ruling that the Public Order and Security Act did not apply to certain internal meetings of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions only helps to corroborate that.

Press freedom and freedom of expression are also under attack. The draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act has already allowed the arrest of more than a dozen journalists on various charges. Poets, too, have been jailed under that legislation for poetry critical of Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's economic outlook is even bleaker. The violent land-grabs continue. Yesterday, 60 per cent. of Zimbabwe's remaining white farmers were told to close down. Many of them will not even be allowed to complete the essential grading of the tobacco that used to provide 30 per cent. of Zimbabwe's foreign currency. Agricultural output has fallen 67 per cent. from last year. Farmers are being dispossessed and their labourers are losing their jobs and watching helplessly as their families face hunger and homelessness.

Unemployment has soared to 70 per cent. Business closures are rife. Everyone is suffering except for those who are in Mugabe's pocket. Inflation has now reached 122 per cent. Skilled people are leaving Zimbabwe. Wildlife, so essential to the tourism industry, has been devastated, including the rare black rhino. The dire economic crisis is beginning seriously to damage neighbouring economies as well.

Then there is the Mugabe-created and fuelled humanitarian crisis. Some 6 million people face malnutrition in Zimbabwe. The United Nations estimates that Zimbabwe needs 1.5 million tonnes of food aid, including 1.3 million tonnes of corn. Mugabe cynically and dishonestly blames the white imperialists, but the blame lies firmly on his shoulders. He is even blocking grain imports from the port of Beira.

Home production has been devastated by the land-grabs. Andrew Meikle, chairman of Commercial Grain Producers, projects a harvest of only 498,000 tonnes this year compared with 1.47 million last year and 2.1 million in 2000. Wheat is expected to run out by the end of the month. The crisis is massive and it is politically induced. My hon. Friend Mrs. Spelman will have more to say on that in her winding-up speech.

The horrifying truth is that Mugabe is using starvation as a political tool. He is primarily responsible for his people's hunger. The PHR report vividly describes how the feeding plan in Midlands school has been altered to keep MDC children from obtaining food. A ZANU-PF councillor is chillingly reported as having said:

"even if stone was to melt, MDC children will not get the food because it is ZANU food".

While our Government may say little, others have spoken out. USAID head, Andrew Natsios, describes Mugabe as tyrannical and predatory. Mary Robinson, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, has accused Mugabe of being primarily responsible for the hunger and deprivation afflicting Zimbabwe. Mugabe may blame drought, but the truth is that his people go hungry alongside full dams with the waters unexploited.

We must make no mistake about it: the crisis and the evil are real, and real international action is urgently needed. It simply does not wash for the Foreign Secretary to say, as he did at Question Time today, that action is being taken. The right hon. Gentleman has to answer some central questions. What has exclusion from the councils of the Commonwealth achieved? How many meetings has Zimbabwe been excluded from? Will it still attend the Commonwealth games at the end of next month? Will any Zimbabwean Ministers attend those games? What message will that give to Mr. Mugabe?

Then there are the EU targeted sanctions which the Foreign Secretary apparently believes are isolating the Zimbabwean Government. I thought that Mugabe and senior members of his regime were supposed to be banned from travelling. In the words of the Foreign Secretary in January, that policy was "clear, unanimous and unambiguous"—so clear, apparently, that Mugabe was able to attend the United Nations in New York; so unanimous that Grace Mugabe was recently able to go shopping in Spain; and so unambiguous that police chief Augustine Chihuri was able to attend a meeting of Interpol in Lille in May, and Mugabe, with offensive irony, was able to attend a UN conference on world hunger in Rome a few days ago. Dr. Olivia Muchena, Minister of State in the Vice-Presidents' office, a former Deputy Minister of Agriculture, is allowed to travel at will. Kumberai Kengai, ex-Minister of Agriculture, is receiving medical treatment in the United Kingdom. Why is the travel ban list not comprehensive? The asset freeze includes Mugabe, individual members of the Government of Zimbabwe and any natural or legal persons, entities or bodies associated with them. But only 20 individuals are named in the travel ban.

It is time that the Government faced the facts. EU targeted sanctions are not working. The author of the recent International Crisis Group report described the sanctions as a joke. He went on to say:

"Britain and the EU talk tough and do nothing. They threatened Mugabe that if he stole the election they would come down hard on him. Mugabe must be laughing at them."

What an indictment!

The sanctions regime needs to be strengthened both in scope and extent; it needs to encompass more targets; and it needs to be given more bite. I would like the sanctions regime to include the immediate families of those who are on the banned list. Why has the EU perversely postponed further consideration of such an urgently needed review of the sanctions until 22 July? Ministers met—what was it, a week and a half ago? Did they not consider at that time whether the sanctions were working? Last week's General Affairs Council conclusions contained one page about Zimbabwe and not a single action point.

The Government have lost the plot on Zimbabwe. The overriding objective must now be to secure new, fresh, independently monitored presidential elections. Any fudged and artificial compromise between ZANU-PF and the MDC that falls short of that would be a victory for Mugabe's dishonesty and his despotic behaviour, and the MDC are right to reject it.