Zimbabwe

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11th June 2008.

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Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Special Envoy to PM on Human Rights in Iraq 11:30 am, 11th June 2008

If he will make a statement on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.

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Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

The humanitarian situation is deteriorating. Four million people relied on food aid last year. The fact that President Mugabe has now stopped aid agencies from distributing food and engaging in other humanitarian activities is indefensible. That decision by Mugabe has impacted on 2 million people already, and as we approach the hungry season, that number could rise to 4 million or even higher.

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Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Special Envoy to PM on Human Rights in Iraq

While I was in South Africa a few weeks ago, Zimbabwean refugees handed me a note for 10 million Zimbabwean dollars. That buys a bag of tomatoes in Zimbabwe. Now Mugabe is prepared to starve his people to death for their votes. What kind of human being is President Mugabe?

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Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

It is morally indefensible to use the threat of hunger as a political weapon, and that is exactly what Robert Mugabe has shown himself to be willing to do in recent days. Hyper-inflation is but one manifestation of the chronic misrule that he has visited on a country that was previously the bread-basket of southern Africa. That is why I took the opportunity last Thursday to meet in South Africa both the Government of South Africa and the president of the African National Congress to press them to continue to engage with that vital international issue.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Is not the Secretary of State desperately saddened that Robert Mugabe, who lost the presidential election in Zimbabwe, should strut the stage at the Food and Agriculture Organisation conference in Rome, particularly as he is denying to his country and its starving people access to the aid that so many countries and aid agencies want to provide to help the people of Zimbabwe?

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Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

Mugabe's attendance was not only inappropriate but, in light of his subsequent actions, morally repugnant. The fact is that somebody who is willing to use the threat of starvation has little credibility or authority to lecture anybody on food prices or production. There is little comfort regarding the current situation in Zimbabwe, but my comfort is that a matter of weeks after the first election, even Robert Mugabe and his closest associates have been unable to claim that they were chosen by the people of Zimbabwe in that last election. We continue to be committed to ensuring that the people of Zimbabwe are able to have their democratic will expressed in their choice of Government.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what impact the Government's new strategy will have on tackling HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe?

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Photo of Douglas Alexander Douglas Alexander The Secretary of State for International Development

We launched the latest HIV/AIDS strategy for the British Government only last week. Zimbabwe is one of the countries in southern Africa that has been most devastated by that affliction. I will ensure that a copy of the report is provided to my right hon. Friend so that he is fully updated on the actions that we are taking.

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