Zimbabwe

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written statement – made on 6th May 2008.

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Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary

In the five weeks since the elections in Zimbabwe, 7,000 people have been displaced, 500 beaten, 120 hospitalised and at least two murdered. Many more were unable to access medical treatment. In addition, the police have arrested scores of people who they associate with the opposition in Zimbabwe and have raided their offices. The announcement of the result of the presidential election should be seen against that background. Violence has been commonplace in Zimbabwe but those figures and these acts show the brutality of the regime in its quest to hold on to power.

Very soon after the election it was clear that the majority of the electorate had rejected President Mugabe. But ZANU-PF chose to delay the results, rather than face the truth. That delay has simply allowed the Zimbabwean authorities to contaminate the results. We can have little faith that the figures announced accurately reflect the will of the people. Significantly, the MDC opposition have not endorsed those published figures, even though they show that a clear majority of voters want change.

The first round of voting in Zimbabwe suffered from significant structural deficiencies. The electoral roll was and is still grossly inaccurate. The majority of the 3 million to 4 million people who have fled Zimbabwe were and will still be prevented from registering as voters. Within Zimbabwe media coverage of the election was already biased towards Mugabe and ZANU-PF. And the Government of Zimbabwe, at its own admission, did not invite anyone to monitor the election whom they thought might point out its flaws—including the EU and the UN. For a second round to be considered free and fair, there must at least be an immediate end to violence, and international observers must be put in place now, well ahead of the vote itself.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown and I continue to engage regional leaders. They are feeling the destabilising effects of the crisis. They know it is in their interests for the SADC principles and guidelines on elections to be enforced and the rule of law in Zimbabwe established. Both SADC and the AU have a pivotal role to play now in ensuring an end to the violence, and by introducing observers to prevent further reprisals by ZANU-PF to punish voters for the choices they made in the first round.

International concern about the situation in Zimbabwe remains high. The UN Security Council briefing held in New York last week exposed the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and the need for the UN to be more engaged to resolve it. We will continue to press for a human rights mission or envoy to visit and for arms sales to cease until there is a return to democratic Government in Zimbabwe. We will also call again for UN backed monitors to go to Zimbabwe to observe any second round, and for the Government of Zimbabwe to allow EU and other observers in now to oversee preparations for the elections, as well as the voting itself.

We continue to support all those working for democratic change in Zimbabwe. We all share the wish of the Zimbabwean people to secure their democratic rights. We commend civil society groups in Zimbabwe who continue to fight for democracy and good governance in increasingly impossible circumstances.

We continue to respond to the humanitarian crisis on the ground. We are the second largest bilateral donor to Zimbabwe, giving around £49 million in 2007 and more than £200 million since 2000. UK aid currently keeps over 1.5 million people alive. The UK, along with the international community, is committed to supporting recovery in Zimbabwe when conditions on the ground allow it. This cannot happen until the will of the people is respected and democracy returned to Zimbabwe. But when that happens we will be ready to respond.

It is clear to all, including many in ZANU-PF, that this situation is unsustainable. Economically, Zimbabwe has been in decline for many years: total economic collapse, with the massive humanitarian cost that will bring, is inevitable unless there is a radical change in policy and approach in Zimbabwe. We still believe that the solution to the crisis must be an African solution supported by the international community. For the sake of all the people of Zimbabwe, this solution must come soon.