Zimbabwe

– in the House of Lords at 3:36 pm on 7th January 2003.

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Photo of The Bishop of Oxford The Bishop of Oxford Bishop 3:36 pm, 7th January 2003

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What financial support they are giving to Zimbabwe in the present food crisis.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, the Department for International Development has pledged over £47 million for humanitarian assistance for Zimbabwe since September 2001. Some £38 million has been spent. DfID funds food purchases and supports non-food relief efforts, including nutritional surveillance, emergency drugs and support to agricultural recovery. Funding is directed through NGOs and UN organisations. No financial support is provided through Zimbabwe government systems.

Photo of The Bishop of Oxford The Bishop of Oxford Bishop

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. It was good to learn of the amount of financial support that is going to Zimbabwe. As the Minister is aware, the situation is exceedingly serious, with 6.7 million Zimbabweans under a serious threat.

On 3rd December, the United States Government voted 100 million dollars, one of the largest grants ever. Does the Minister judge that the aid that we put into Zimbabwe is commensurate with that? Can she say more about the steps that Her Majesty's Government take to ensure that the aid that goes to Zimbabwe does not go simply to ZANU-PF supporters?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, the United Kingdom is the second largest bilateral donor to Zimbabwe with regard to the humanitarian crisis. My right honourable friend Clare Short made it clear in the other place that we would consider other ways of continuing to support the people of Zimbabwe. We also contribute to the aid given by the European Union.

I must make it clear that there are two different channels for humanitarian relief. Two-thirds of that relief goes through the Zimbabwe Government; one third through humanitarian organisations and, in particular, the World Food Programme. Our aid is channelled through the World Food Programme, and we are confident that it is not being diverted.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, did the Minister notice the comments made by Comrade Jabulani Sibanda, the regional chairman of ZANU-PF in Bulawayo, on the need for greater transparency in maize distribution? The Sunday Times reported his allegation that maize was,

"used by the 'big fish' to spin money".

In other words, the proceeds are being diverted into the pockets of senior politicians. Although I applaud the Government's response to the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa, is the noble Baroness satisfied that there is sufficiently rigorous independent auditing of the distribution of food and sufficient reporting of the alleged illegal diversion and profiteering that is taking place?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I repeat: through the Grain Marketing Board, which has a monopoly, the Zimbabwe Government are responsible for tackling two-thirds of the crisis. The other third is handled through international organisations and the World Food Programme. We are absolutely confident about the auditing processes in place for our contribution, which goes through the World Food Programme and NGOs.

In a recent by-election, there were allegations that World Food Programme resources were being diverted. That allegation has been investigated and the World Food Programme stopped distribution for a time. With respect to the operations of the Government of Zimbabwe through the Grain Marketing Board, we have no control over that. It is significant that their own people are now making complaints about lack of transparency.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, is it in any way sensible to give money to the Government of Zimbabwe, who are the cause of the problem? Is it not true that that must be wrong? Is the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, aware—actually she cannot be—that an acquaintance of mine went on holiday to Zimbabwe? As he crossed the border from South Africa, the South African border guard said, "I will bet you that by the end of this evening you will have seen dead bodies".

And he did. He saw people lying dead of starvation by the side of the road. Does the Minister agree that those dead bodies were directly caused by the Government of Zimbabwe, and that to give the Government of Zimbabwe just one groat is criminally irresponsible?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, perhaps I have not made myself clear. We are not giving the Government of Zimbabwe any money. We are concerned about the plight of the people in Zimbabwe—nearly half the population is facing food shortages. We are supporting feeding programmes. In November, we fed up to 1 million children through the World Food Programme and NGOs. None of that money is going through the World Food Programme. The World Food Programme has not received 100 per cent of the money that it needs, partially due to donors' concerns about the behaviour of the Government of Zimbabwe.

Secondly, we are extremely concerned about the possibilities of famine and death in Zimbabwe. An assessment is being carried out now and we shall have the results next week. We believe that the situation will become much worse and that we must do all we can to ensure that people are fed.

Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside Lord Hughes of Woodside Labour

My Lords, most people who have studied the Zimbabwean situation are grateful for the work done by the Minister and her department. Is the Minister aware that it is impossible to deal with Zimbabwe without having the greatest of respect for its people? We think very badly indeed of the Government of Zimbabwe. But whatever we think, we cannot allow those feelings of distaste to prevent us providing the fullest possible aid to those people who so desperately need it.

I would like to get my retaliation in first. I recall many of those people chastising the Government for not being strong enough on the cricket match in Zimbabwe taking precisely the opposite view and being bitterly opposed to sanctions on South Africa, especially sporting sanctions. Some of those people are on the other side of the House today.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I agree. It is an irony that we are spending £47 million in humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe. It is money which could have gone to development of that country if it had a different government who were committed to promoting the interests of the country and its people.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative

My Lords, it is important that good governance, human rights and the rule of law should be re-established in Zimbabwe, without which the food crisis will get even worse. What steps are Her Majesty's Government taking to persuade the African leaders, including the President of South Africa, Mr Mbeki, to live up to their undertakings under the NePAD and African union treaties to ensure that those human rights and related matters are observed?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, noble Lords will know that our policy is aimed at ensuring a stable and secure Zimbabwe. We shall continue to work with our partners in Africa and other parts of the world in respect of the breakdown of the rule of law, the harassment of the opposition, and the falling away of human rights which have occurred in Zimbabwe. We shall do everything we can to restore the rule of law and human rights. Noble Lords will appreciate and understand that where there is a leader and members of a government who care nothing for their own people—we are seeing the results of that with half of the population needing food aid—it is very difficult.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, with reference to the questions by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, would my noble friend agree that while effective government is the long-term answer, as women, men and children are starving, and dying of starvation, the challenge becomes all the greater, not less, to increase our assistance to ordinary people being abused by their own government, and to find ways in which the food can effectively get through? Is there a fuller part that the non-governmental organisations could be playing in this role?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I believe that the NGOs are playing an extremely full role. Noble Lords will know that some NGOs themselves have come under attack in Zimbabwe. We must do all that we can to work with them and support their work—not just the international NGOs, but also Zimbabwean NGOs, some of which are committed to reporting the many human rights abuses in that country—as well as supporting the population with respect to food aid. We shall continue to do what we can.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Conservative

My Lords, is the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, aware of reports by Didymus Mutasa, a senior official of ZANU-PF, that Zimbabwe would be,

"better off with only 6 million people"?

Does she agree that selective starvation of political opponents now seems to be the official policy of the Government of Zimbabwe? What are the Government doing to ensure that food aid distributed by Zimbabwe's Grain Marketing Board, which she mentioned earlier, is distributed on the basis of need and not party politics?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I am aware of those comments. We are not sure whether those comments have actually been made, but I have seen the reporting of them. If those comments have been made they are appalling. I repeat what I said earlier. We have no control on food aid going through the Grain Marketing Board, over which the Government of Zimbabwe have the monopoly. None of the UK or other donor resources is going through that channel. Our money is going through the World Food Programme and other NGOs.