Zimbabwe

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:46 am on 18th November 2003.

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Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office 10:46 am, 18th November 2003

That is perfectly true, and my understanding is that South Africa has been extremely active behind the scenes. The difficulty is that it is unclear whether the Government of Zimbabwe has sent an appropriate response. However, there is no advantage in dividing the Commonwealth along black and white lines, and to do so would only play into Mugabe's hands.

We have responded to the humanitarian crisis by continuing to honour our commitments to provide the Zimbabwean people with assistance. The latest estimate is that 2.5 million Zimbabweans, from a population of around 11 million, are dependent on international food aid, and that figure is expected to rise to around 5.5 million in the coming months. We are the largest European bilateral aid donor to Zimbabwe and second overall, after the United States. On 23 October, our high commissioner in Harare announced a contribution of a further £5 million to the World Food Programme's emergency appeal for food aid, which brings the UK's contribution to humanitarian programmes to £62 million since September 2001. We are doing all we can to ensure that ZANU-PF does not use international food aid for political advantage, as is the WFP. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North observed that the food distribution system in Zimbabwe had integrity, difficult though the climate is, and I take note of that.

The Zimbabwean economy is in a desperate state. The statistics speak for themselves: it is now not only the worst performing in Africa, but the fastest shrinking in the world. The decline of Zimbabwe's economy is not due to bad weather, as Mr. Mugabe would have us believe, but largely to his Government's disastrous economic policies, which have undermined macro-economic stability and destroyed business confidence.

I regret that it is not possible to find much positive to say about the current state of Zimbabwe, but I stress that we stand ready to work with any new Administration that is democratically elected in a transparent, free and fair process. My hope is that when political change comes it will be followed by renewed donor support and re-engagement by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. We stand ready to play our part when the time comes.