Zimbabwe: Parliamentary Elections

– in the House of Lords at 2:53 pm on 10th March 2004.

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Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative 2:53 pm, 10th March 2004

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they will take to encourage the international community to recognise the importance of the parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe in spring 2005 being free and fair.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we and our partners in the wider international community will be making it clear to the Government of Zimbabwe that we want next year's parliamentary elections to be conducted in a process which is free, fair and transparent. The Zimbabwean people must be allowed to exercise their democratic rights without the threat of violence or intimidation. If the Government of Zimbabwe are to have any chance of the election results being taken seriously, they must agree to the independent observation and monitoring of these elections.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that statement, so far as it goes. Is she aware that in his speech in his constituency last Friday, the Prime Minister suggested that the world should be moving on from the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, the philosophy of which is that,

"a country's internal affairs are for it and you don't interfere unless it threatens you, or breaches a treaty, or triggers an obligation of alliance".

That is a quote from the Prime Minister's speech. He went on to suggest that we should not now accept that regimes have a right to brutalise and repress their people, and that we should do all we can to spread the values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, religious tolerance and justice for the oppressed. Does that apply to Zimbabwe?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I very much agree with the Prime Minister in his speech last Friday. Given his great expertise in the subject, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, is aware of the enormous and considerable pressure that the international community is bringing to bear on the regime in Zimbabwe. I cite, for instance, the very important lead that this Government took in ensuring the continued suspension of Zimbabwe from the councils of the Commonwealth and how we have worked extremely hard with our European Union partners to extend the rollover of EU sanctions.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Shadow Minister, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, did the noble Baroness notice the report in the Guardian yesterday about the systematic violence and intimidation practised against not only the MPs of the MDC but their parliamentary candidates and supporters? Did she notice, too, the egregious Mr Jonathan Moyo's statement yesterday that journalists who took freelance work with "Voice of America" would be dealt with through the law? Under these circumstances, how is it possible for there to be free and fair elections?

While I am on my feet, may I ask whether the noble Baroness has anything to say about the British-owned aircraft which has been detained in Harare with its 64 passengers?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we have seen the story referred to in the recent breaking news on the report Playing with Fire by the South African NGO about the attacks on opposition MPs in Zimbabwe. The fact that 78 MPs and candidates have been subject to 616 attacks and other incidents is indeed shocking. We know that this has been going on for some time; for example, a by-election will soon take place in a constituency where an MP has been stabbed by ZANU-PF supporters. We pay tribute to the bravery of MDC MPs, councillors and candidates. The NGO report underlines the correctness of our Government's robust stand on Zimbabwe.

The noble Lord also asked about the press reports on a mercenary aircraft, as it is described. We are checking out these reports; the Government of Zimbabwe have not contacted us about this incident. Were British citizens among those detained, the Zimbabwean Government would have an obligation, under normal consular procedure, to inform us within 24 hours. We contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zimbabwe this morning to remind them of this obligation.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative

My Lords, what have Her Majesty's Government done to exploit the new warm relationship with Libya and Colonel Gaddafi, and between the EU and the African Union, to stop the African Union preventing any discussion of the situation in Zimbabwe at the UN? It seems to me that it is a waste of time for us to say we disapprove—we have to get other people to disapprove. At the moment, they are not doing so because they do not know the facts and they are not being allowed to know them. I hope that at least we shall be showing the "Panorama" programme at the UN to everybody.

Secondly, are we following the latest actions of the United States Government in imposing fresh, much more troublesome financial sanctions on individual Ministers, such as Jonathan Moyo? Are we doing anything like that and what, by the way, has been the result of our financial sanctions so far?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we continue to raise the issue of Zimbabwe with Libya. We have done so in the past and will continue to do so. Those discussions are ongoing.

We were, as I am sure all noble Lords were, absolutely disgusted by the "Panorama" programme and the evidence that it gave of the training camps in Zimbabwe. We call on the Zimbabwean Government to close them down immediately. We cannot take seriously any election prospects for Zimbabwe if such camps were in operation.

Photo of Baroness Boothroyd Baroness Boothroyd Crossbench

My Lords, has the Minister read the speech made by President Mbeki at the opening of the South African Parliament only a few weeks ago? In giving a comment about his own country and its relationship with others in Africa, the word "Zimbabwe" never passed his lips. Have the Government made an appraisal of that important speech? What comments does the Minister have to make on it?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

No, my Lords, I have not read that speech. We continue to work very closely with the governments of South Africa and Nigeria, as well as partners in SADC, to ensure that considerable pressure is brought to bear on the Zimbabwean regime.