Zimbabwe

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:40 am on 17th December 2002.

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Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office 10:40 am, 17th December 2002

He is not on the banned list. [Hon. Members: "He should be."] Several hon. Members are now saying from a sedentary position that he should be. However, he was not on that list when he applied for his visa, so he was granted a visa. He will have to apply again if he finds a course and wants to go on it. I will ensure that the concerns expressed in this House are brought to the attention of Home Office Ministers, who will be able to do what is appropriate in the circumstances and within the law.

The right hon. Member for Bracknell expressed concern about extending the various bans. I will consider that, and will write to him on that point. He also said that we should consider the possibility of extending the bans to civil servants and some of their families, as well as to bankers. That is a useful point, and I will consider the feasibility of doing that and how it would work. Again, I will write to the right hon. Gentleman.

The right hon. Gentleman also said that he wanted to see arrests. Again, if it is possible to do so—if people are in this country and there is evidence of offences—I am sure that the police will respond appropriately. He rightly said that there was a lack of response from some parts of Africa to the situation in Zimbabwe, and that countries next to Zimbabwe needed to respond much more firmly to ensure that the reputation of Africa, which in many ways is at stake, was not damaged by the likes of President Mugabe. The British Government are talking to other African countries, and President Mbeki, the president of southern Africa's most major country—South Africa—will visit the UK at the start of next year. The Prime Minister will raise those issues with the president, who is engaged in trying to move them forward.

The EU-Africa summit in Lisbon on 3 and 4 April was mentioned. The EU troika will discuss it at the meeting in January; our view is that the visa ban on ZANU-PF elite should not be waived for that event.

The right hon. Member for Bracknell was concerned about the continuing violence against MDC media and trade unions. We condemn that violence and ZANU-PF's continued use of intimidation, especially against the MDC. It was clearly seen at the by-election in Insiza district on 26 and 27 October, as was ZANU-PF's blatant manipulation of food aid. The World Food Programme was forced to suspend distribution in Insiza during that period.

We strongly condemn the disgraceful and groundless arrest of Wellington Chibebe of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and of eight other trade union leaders. The right hon. Gentleman said that people were threatened that if they did not vote ZANU-PF they would not get food, but the situation is worse than that. In some instances, people who do not carry a ZANU-PF membership card do not get Government food. Donor food is dealt with in a different way, but it shows the extent of the regime. A leading ZANU-PF MP, Didymus Mutasa, was reported as saying that he did not mind if 6 million Zimbabweans died as long as the remaining 6 million were loyal to ZANU-PF. When one is dealing with someone with that turn of mind, what can one say to convince them that they have to behave in a different way?

We are doing all that we can, putting in substantial resources to help the victims of Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis, the scale of which is great. DFID has committed £43 million of UK taxpayers' money since September 2001; British aid is distributed by the UN World Food Programme and internationally respected NGOs on the basis of need alone. Some of that support will also go towards agricultural inputs for planting next season. We are worried that next year might be worse than this year, but there is nothing that we can do about the food that the regime has bought, which is being distributed based on people's membership of, or loyalty to, ZANU-PF. We strongly condemn that. The United Kingdom has committed £56 million in response to the latest humanitarian appeal for Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The right hon. Members for Bracknell and for Devizes raised the issue of sport. Like the right hon. Member for Bracknell, I think that we should be cautious about importing politics into sport. However, we should recognise that there are exceptions. The right hon. Gentleman said that the world cup should not go to Zimbabwe. The Government's position is that the decision whether to play the six world cup matches in Zimbabwe can be taken only by the International Cricket Council, of which the England and Wales Cricket Board is part.