Zimbabwe — [Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 4:00 pm, 30th January 2019

As I was saying, President Mnangagwa must address the finding of the commission that the use of force by his security services was unjustified and disproportionate. The Government’s internet shutdown was also a disturbing curtailing of freedom of expression and the media. I was pleased that the High Court of Zimbabwe ruled the shutdown unconstitutional on 22 January.

The UK Government have been robust in our response to the crackdown, including working with the EU. Targeted EU suspended sanctions remain in place, including on Vice-President Chiwenga. I summoned the Zimbabwean ambassador on 17 January and told the ambassador that we expected Zimbabwe’s security forces to stop using disproportionate force, and that the Government should reinstate full internet access and investigate all allegations of human rights violations. The Foreign Secretary repeated that message publicly to President Mnangagwa on 21 January.

Last week, I met the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security to raise concerns about Zimbabwe. Yesterday, I spoke to Foreign Minister Moyo to reiterate our concern and to call for an end to ongoing human rights abuses. I am also travelling to the region this week, to urge a co-ordinated international approach to the crisis.

Our ambassador in Harare, Melanie Robinson, has delivered the same messages locally. She met Home Affairs Minister Mathema on 23 January and Foreign Minister Moyo on 25 January. The ambassador also met the Opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, on 16 January. She has also been meeting civil society groups supporting victims of the violence and working to bring perpetrators to account. The team that we have on the ground in Zimbabwe has been absolutely outstanding throughout. I pay tribute to our entire diplomatic service and to our DFID civil servants.

At the end of the day, Ministers are advised by civil servants, but it is we who decide. The programme of clear-eyed engagement with the new regime to encourage free and fair elections is one that I am happy to answer to in Parliament.

DFID supports the Commonwealth Local Government Forum. In fact, the UK provides extensive financial and technical assistance to a range of civil society organisations in Zimbabwe. They help to support Zimbabwean citizens to hold the state to account. I am sure that colleagues will understand that we do not publicise the names of our partners, to avoid putting them at risk. That in itself is an indictment of the Zimbabwean regime.

I assure colleagues that extensive work is being done on the humanitarian side, that no aid is channelled through the Government of Zimbabwe, and that the UK will continue to play a key role in ensuring that the very poorest in Zimbabwe will have their suffering minimised during this period when economic reforms need to be undertaken. It is vital that Zimbabwe’s political leaders focus on doing what is best for its people, with all parties rejecting violence and upholding the rule of law.