Zimbabwe

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 17th December 2002.

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Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay Conservative, Bracknell 9:30 am, 17th December 2002

That is my next point, and I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman will be disappointed by what I have to say.

It is important to extend sanctions a stage further, so that whenever anyone who has been involved in human rights abuses and torture enters the jurisdiction of the civilised world, they are arrested under the international convention against torture. Incidentally, in the obscene league table of human rights abuses around the world, Zimbabwe is near the top of the premier division. I am disappointed that we have not yet seen any arrests. As the Minister will be aware, under that convention, people can be tried outside Zimbabwe. In other words, we arrest, we detain, and, if the person is found guilty, we imprison them for a long time.

I have files, as no doubt the Minister does, containing detailed cases of torture of anyone in Zimbabwe who holds an independent view, particularly members of the Movement for Democratic Change. Those cases are horrific to read. It is essential that there are arrests, prosecutions and convictions under the international convention soon.

I will make a final point about sanctions. I hope that the Minister and the Prime Minister will mount a campaign to expose the extent of stolen assets from Zimbabwe in countries that have declined to participate in an asset freeze. Let us start embarrassing the many countries that are happy to make a quick buck by taking that tainted, dirty money. I also suggest to the Minister that the United States has performed well below the standards that we have come to expect from the world's leading democracy. The bureaucracy in the USA has been so inept that it has still not imposed an asset freeze on any of the funds from Zimbabwe that are there. I find that inconceivable. The USA, with the European Union, should be taking the lead, rather than being a laggard. I hope that pressure can be put on our US allies and friends.

There are two other areas in which I believe that we should take action. The first is the dire food shortage in Zimbabwe. People are dying in huge numbers, and the situation is worsened by the AIDS epidemic, which is weakening people and making them more susceptible to the food shortage.

As the Minister will readily acknowledge, food is being given only to supporters of the regime. The areas that backed the Movement for Democratic Change in this year's election are being starved, and the non-governmental organisations cannot always get through to those areas. The Zimbabwean Government systematically try to stop any food getting through. I urge the Minister to arrange, with our allies and partners, an international airlift of food to the isolated regions that voted for the MDC, which are facing a real humanitarian crisis. That is a matter of urgency.

My final suggestion follows from what Mr. Thomas just mentioned. In general terms, I have always opposed mixing politics with sport. It is not healthy or positive and it is in nobody's best interests. However, there are always exceptions. I very much back the motion tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr. Ancram, which is on today's Order Paper calling for the International Cricket Council to think again about moving the world cup from South Africa to Zimbabwe. As the hon. Member for Harrow, West pointed out, this is a bipartisan issue. I should like to single out one other person for praise. The MEP Glenys Kinnock has organised an excellent campaign within the European Parliament to ensure that pressure is put on the ICC.

If the world cup goes ahead it will legitimise an evil regime. Mugabe is the president of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. I have no doubt that the sportsmen, officials and sports journalists who attend a world cup in Zimbabwe will be extremely well treated and well fed. They will see no problems or demonstrations and good cricket will be played, if that is possible with our present England team. That is not enough. It will do huge damage to cricket's reputation. It will condone evil. I hope that the Government are putting every possible private pressure on the ICC.

If the ICC does not agree to move the world cup from Zimbabwe to somewhere else—there are plenty of other places that would host it, or it could stay in South Africa—I hope that pressure will be put on our cricket team not to go. If that does not happen, it will send out a bleak message that cricket is more important than human rights, more important than torture and more important than starving your enemies to death, and that we live in a happy little complacent world where we can play cricket and all is well. It will do the great sport of cricket immense harm. I hope at the very least that our team will withdraw.

We need to do more. Many of us were disappointed yesterday when we listened to the Prime Minister in the Chamber giving what was, rightly, a very positive statement on the Copenhagen summit. It was an historic occasion with so many central European countries, free of the Soviet yoke, coming into the European Union. It was a great day. But there was no mention of Zimbabwe. There was no suggestion that high on the agenda in Copenhagen was a debate about what further action should to be taken by way of sanctions or other means against the Zimbabwe regime.

Many of us cannot help but feel that there is boredom and fatigue among western Governments. There is the crisis in the middle east. There is the war on international terrorism. There is the issue of Iraq. Therefore, Zimbabwe drops down the agenda. We will be judged very badly if we let black Africa down in the way that we would not have dreamed of letting the white Balkans down, where there was positive intervention against a similar evil and corrupt regime. I urge the Minister and the Government, their partners in the EU, their American allies and others to do more and to do it quickly; otherwise, we shall have even more blood on our hands.