Foreign Policy — Debate (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 26th February 2009.

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Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative 2:59 pm, 26th February 2009

My Lords, I start by congratulating two people, one of whom was here a moment ago. I wanted to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, on choosing a topic for debate that has turned out to produce an excellent debate, which we still have not finished. I congratulate noble Lords still planning to speak on staying in the Chamber. The other person whom I wanted to congratulate is the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, who made remarks on the future of the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development with which I wholly agree and which I hope he will push further.

It will not surprise noble Lords that I want to speak on Zimbabwe. It is far from clear whether the present transitional Government in that country will provide a workable basis on which to move forward from the current multiple crises of governance, human rights, disease and economic collapse. Mugabe is rejoicing in the fact that the situation is very complicated and gives him every opportunity to use his devious skills. The situation has also become sufficiently important for the most reverend Primates the Archbishops of York and Canterbury to enter the debate by urging people to pray for the future of Zimbabwe.

I welcome the appointments of Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister and of his MDC colleagues to ministerial office but, so far, all the signs are that their position seems to be best described by the phrase "in office but not in power". It has long been clear that real power in Zimbabwe is in the hands of the JOC, the Joint Operations Command. This is the junta comprising the chiefs of the army, air force, police, prisons and intelligence—five posts. Those are the people who really count. This is the junta that is effectively in control of the country. They continue to use abduction, beatings, arrest and detention as a means of intimidation and control. Corruption is rife and they use their power arbitrarily to seize property and other assets to accumulate wealth and power. Gideon Gono, the governor of the Reserve Bank, acts as their ally and banker.

An African diplomat was recently quoted as saying:

"The JOC is the real enemy of democracy. It obeys no laws and wants to send the signal that the MDC should not think that being in government offers it any sort of protection".

It is significant that every member of this five-man cabal boycotted the swearing-in ceremonies for Tsvangirai and his new Ministers. They simply stayed away. Once its aim was to destroy the MDC as a political movement; now it is intent on bringing a swift end to Prime Minister Tsvangirai's power-sharing Government, or at least keeping it on a tight rein for as long as it can serve a useful purpose of window-dressing the regime to the world.

Ironically, the body that ought to be monitoring and reporting back to SADC and the African Union on these breaches of the Global Political Agreement, which is the basis of this activity, is struggling to hold meetings because of a lack of money. JOMIC, the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, was set up in January by SADC as a crucial element in the global agreement. Its role is defined as being,

"to ensure the implementation, in letter and spirit, of the Global Political Agreement", to ensure "full implementation", to act as a conduit for complaints and to promote,

"an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding between the parties".

JOMIC is supposed to be guaranteed by both SADC and the AU, yet Elton Mangoma, its co-chairman, says that it is barely able to function through lack of funds. That is one of the key organisations that is meant to hold the reins. It has no permanent office to hold meetings, no administrative staff and three of its 12 members have difficulty in attending meetings since not even their travel expenses can be covered.

It is worrying that South Africa's foreign affairs spokesman is blithely able to announce that JOMIC is "up and running". This is an organisation that has no staff and practically no money. There seems to be a very dangerous complacency over much of the region that, now that the agreement has been signed and the swearing-in has taken place, they can sit back. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is needed is continuing and robust engagement.

Mugabe has been driving a coach and horses through what was supposed to be a finely balanced and delicate concord between the parties. Months of careful and painful negotiation have been set aside and overridden by Mugabe appointing more Zanu-PF Ministers—that is, Ministers from his own party—than he was entitled to. This week he has ridden roughshod over the agreement again by unilaterally appointing permanent secretaries to the 31 ministries. That means 31 new permanent secretaries. Anything more ridiculous one cannot imagine.

In response, Prime Minister Tsvangirai stated:

"Yesterday's announcement of the appointment of Permanent Secretaries is in contravention of both the Global Political Agreement and the Constitution of Zimbabwe which is very clear with regard to Senior Government Appointments".

Article 20.1.7 of the eighth schedule of the GPA states:

"The Parties agree that with respect to occupants of senior Government Positions, such as Permanent Secretaries and Ambassadors, the leadership in Government, comprising the President, the Vice-Presidents, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers, will consult and agree on such prior to their appointment".

He also quoted the SADC communiqué issued in Pretoria on 27 January, which states that,

"the appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney General will be dealt with by the Inclusive Government after its formation".

I know that the Minister for Africa has maintained a close and detailed watch over all these issues. He is committed, as we all are, to the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the economic development of the region. It is vital that the EU-targeted measures against those who have brought death and destruction to Zimbabwe remain firmly in place. The very fact that Zanu-PF and its apologists in Africa call so vehemently for their repeal demonstrates that they are effective, particularly the hindrance to global gallivanting imposed by the prohibition on travel through the hub airports of Europe.

The UK has provided massive humanitarian support over recent years. I am sure that this is appreciated by the vast majority of the people of Zimbabwe, even though it is treated with contempt by the Zanu-PF elite, who simply see it as another source of hard currency that they can raid. While I accept that this aid will have to continue simply to relieve suffering and save lives, I hope that so far as possible it will be channelled via agencies well protected from the greedy clutch of the Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono. I also hope that together with our EU partners we will be strict in releasing other funding only once it is clear from evidence on the ground that the very basic benchmarks of rule of law are observed, including press freedom and respect for human rights, as reiterated recently by the Foreign Secretary.

Regional leaders must unequivocally support Prime Minister Tsvangirai's brave efforts to prove that a peaceful transition to democracy, good governance and economic stability is possible. Much more support should be forthcoming from members of SADC. For the second time in 30 years, Zimbabwe is a test case for democracy in southern Africa. The credibility of SADC and the AU are at stake. So are the lives of thousands of Zimbabweans.