Category: Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate. The recent developments in Zimbabwe do not reflect the aims stipulated in the historic global political agreement. Progress has been painfully slow with fears of a return to the old regime.

There is speculation that Mr Mugabe has sent serving and retired Zimbabwean military personnel to Libya in support of Colonel Gaddafi. The 46 people who were arrested in Zimbabwe for watching footage of the uprising in north Africa are to be charged with treason-an offence that carries the death penalty in Zimbabwe. The former MP and Labour activist, Mr Gwisai, is among those to be charged.

A magistrate in Harare has since halted the proceedings against these individuals and ordered that they undergo examination for torture. Most worrying is the revelation that among the 46 arrested is a woman who has had three operations for a brain tumour yet was assaulted by prison guards and refused treatment.

These actions have resulted in widespread condemnation, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concerns about civil society in Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe is such that there is hunger, poverty and unemployment among the majority of citizens but wealth is enjoyed by a select few.

The combination of low incomes and a shortage of food have exposed Zimbabwe, among other nations, to fluctuating market prices. The average citizen spends a large portion of his wages on food supplies. A meteoric rise in the cost of provisions has the potential to trigger protests in Zimbabwe as seen in north Africa.

The decision by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to increase tariffs by 30 per cent puts further pressure on the cost of living, especially for citizens on the lowest incomes. Although economic activity has increased over the past two years, Zimbabwe’s headline rate of inflation was still high for January despite the monetary policy statement of the Bank of Zimbabwe warning against the effects of rising inflation on the economy. Zimbabwe caught the world’s attention at the end of 2007 with hyperinflation which led to price increases of more than 60,000 per cent.

The rise in political violence is a cause for concern. Amnesty International has reported that supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change Party have been targeted by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF for a campaign of prolonged violence and intimidation. It has been just over two years since the historic power-sharing agreement was signed by the two parties. Shopkeepers who stock and sell independent newspapers are being harassed and intimidated by people suspected of being members of ZANU-PF.

A new organisation, Wealth to the Youth, which is linked to ZANU-PF, has been looting shops owned by foreigners. I support the decision of the European Union and the United States to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe until February 2012. This is the correct approach to dealing with a nation that does not reflect and does not respect its citizen’s human rights, democracy or the rule of law. These requirements were stipulated under the global political agreement but have not been implemented.

Britain is one of the largest donors to the Zimbabwean state and last year gave the biggest aid package to date. The Government have pledged to increase aid to Zimbabwe over the next four years provided that it holds free and fair elections and successfully implements reforms. I am in favour of this decision as Britain’s development aid reaches the people of Zimbabwe through the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.

I welcome the Southern African Development Community’s efforts to encourage the political parties in Zimbabwe to work towards achieving social and political reforms. The SADC is also playing an important role by investing in projects aimed at improving the infrastructure in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe has accused Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank of profiting to the detriment of Zimbabwe’s economy and has threatened to bring them under state control. I should be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House as to the steps Her Majesty’s Government will take in response to this overt warning.

During a recent visit, the Chinese Foreign Minister called for the withdrawal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. China has signed a deal to provide Zimbabwe with a grant of $7.6 million. It is important to remember that in 2008 China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that sought sanctions against Zimbabwe for violating human rights. Having an ally with the economic prowess of China provides the Zimbabwean Government with limited incentives to implement reforms.

It is not only irresponsible but incorrect for Robert Mugabe to blame the sanctions placed on his country for Zimbabwe’s ailing economy. It is more accurate to place a significant part of the responsibility for the nation’s suffering on the violent land-distribution programme that has almost destroyed the agriculture industry. The way that the white farmers have been treated by Robert Mugabe reminds me of how the assets of my family and other Asians were seized by General Amin when we were expelled from Uganda.

The concerns of foreign investors in Zimbabwe are compounded by Mugabe’s Economic Empowerment Act that states that black Zimbabweans should own 51 per cent of companies worth more than £307 million. Any form of discrimination is wholly unwelcome. It does not serve the best interests of Zimbabwe’s economy or society to implement such a blatantly odious piece of legislation that gives rise to racism. I should be grateful if my noble friend could provide up-to-date details of British companies and individuals affected by this law.

 

The recent direction taken by the President of Zimbabwe is hugely disappointing in the light of notable successes. The nation appears to have made progress, given its participation in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The Carlyle Group intends to launch a fund for investment in Africa, with a presence in three African countries, including Zimbabwe. The power-sharing agreement brought a great deal of optimism to Zimbabweans. However, it appears that ZANU-PF is still behaving in a manner that was rejected by the electorate two years ago.

Mugabe’s continued defiance of pressure from the international community is a constant concern. We have an historic duty to engage with partners in the region to work towards achieving the social and political reforms that the people of Zimbabwe greatly deserve.

Finally, I am a great believer in the Commonwealth and would like to see its countries, particularly the African states, do more to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe. I have spoken previously in your Lordships’ House on the Commonwealth. It should do more on conflict resolution and promoting trade among its various countries.

 

Zimbabwe – Debate

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, for securing this debate. Africa is a continent close to my heart. I was born in Kenya and spent my childhood in Uganda. His Excellency the Ambassador of Zimbabwe is in the Chamber, and I welcome him to your Lordships’ House.

About three weeks ago, I was asked by my Chief Whip to attend the sixth Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the Rule of Law, which was held in Uganda. I chaired and spoke in the session where the main speaker was the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. We discussed the situation in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Uganda.

I am a businessman who cares greatly about humanitarian issues. As a nation, Zimbabwe has fallen short of expectations since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. Zimbabwe was once a prosperous state. However, civil unrest, which still hinders the nation’s progress, has largely contributed to its unfortunate descent. Democracy and the rule of law have been overlooked in favour of tyranny. The penal system does not always function fairly and there have been many incidences where justice has been lacking. Farms belonging to white citizens have been seized and are being seized as I speak. This brings back memories of the situation when General Amin seized the assets of us, the Asians, in the early 1970s, and there was mayhem in the country until he was removed.

In Zimbabwe, prisons are overcrowded, prisoners are severely undernourished and the lack of adequate sanitation contributes to the spread of disease among inmates. The recent arrest and alleged torture of gay rights activists is wholly unacceptable. The Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has described same-gender couples as “lower than dogs and pigs”. Last December, I raised this issue in your Lordships’ House when I referred to a Private Member’s Bill in Uganda that seeks to criminalise same-gender couples. There has also been a well documented case of a couple in Malawi who were sanctioned for that reason. The rampant homophobia in certain African nations is a huge concern for us. Will the Minister tell the House what steps the Government are taking to address this issue in African countries that are members of the Commonwealth?

Although there are many areas where Zimbabwe needs to make swift improvements, it is important to recognise the recent progress made by that nation. The acquittal of Roy Bennett, the treasurer-general of the Movement for Democratic Change, is a testament to developments in the Zimbabwean judicial system. The decision to remove the ban on independent newspapers is a momentous step forward for Zimbabwe: the media have a right to exist without fear of intimidation. This development is all the more significant, as it was made by the new media licensing authority formed by the coalition Government. Following a High Court ruling, the South African Government has been asked to release a report on the disputed 2002 Zimbabwe elections. I welcome this decision, as there were widespread allegations of intimidation and irregularities. It is in the best interests of both nations to address the discrepancies in the statement made by the international observers and the then South African Government.

Zimbabwe‘s mineral wealth has the potential to make a significant contribution to the nation’s economic recovery. However, there have been many deaths and human rights abuses at Marange diamond field in particular and at others in the east of the country. What steps will Her Majesty’s Government take to investigate the widespread allegations that profits from the diamond trade are fuelling hostilities in Zimbabwe? In Sierra Leone, the international community witnessed the use of precious minerals in the pursuit of power to devastating effect.

We have a moral duty to ensure that Zimbabwe does not follow this path and be certified by the Kimberley Process to sell diamonds. It has seen a marked recovery in manufacturing, mining, agriculture and tourism. Its economic growth suggests that it is meeting the requirement of the Southern African Development Community to work towards achieving economic liberation, as stated in the Lusaka declaration. It achieved a gross domestic product of 5.9 per cent in 2009, which strongly suggests that the economy is started to show signs of long-term recovery. I welcome the African Union’s efforts to enforce good governance with proposals to sanction heads of state who engage in unconstitutional behaviour. Greater interaction among African nations could contribute to stability and economic growth on the continent.

The result of studies published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union reveals that trade among African nations accounts for just a maximum of 12 per cent. The African Union has a greater role to play in fostering better regional integration. South Africa, as the largest investor on the continent, can play a leading role in ensuring that this becomes a reality.

The Commonwealth, too, can play a prominent role to encourage trade among the member states. I would like plans to be put in place to ensure that this becomes a reality and that active trade is generated between the various countries. It is estimated that every day close to 300 Zimbabwean migrants cross the Limpopo River into South Africa seeking asylum, and there are close to 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa as a result of the dire social and political situation in Zimbabwe. The high number of Zimbabwean migrants has exerted great pressure on South Africa, which in turn has created social problems that have resulted in violence and death. Constructive dialogue is needed between the Governments of South Africa and Zimbabwe to address this mass migration.

The terms of the global political agreement include requirements that Zimbabwe must produce a new constitution and has a duty to hold democratic elections by next year. It can be argued that this latter requirement can be met only if international observers are allowed to carry out their duties in the absence of bribery or coercion. Although I would like Zimbabwe to gain readmission to the Commonwealth, this should be granted only on the proviso that the ruling coalition can meet the terms of the global political agreement.

Commonwealth countries can be more actively involved in conflict resolution in member states. We all appreciate that the Commonwealth is a unique organisation that values equality, and that the spirit of commandership can be utilised to settle disputes. At present, the Zimbabwean healthcare system is underresourced and underequipped. HIV and AIDS are endemic. Zimbabwe has become one of the most affected countries in the world. Commentators have attributed this to a number of reasons, including a lack of resources and community awareness. The Zimbabwean Government have not shown adequate leadership in addressing prevention and care in tackling the HIV epidemic. What plans do Her Majesty’s Government have to assist Zimbabwe to combat this deadly affliction? The Zimbabwean people have suffered violence and degradation for far too long. It is the duty of regional partners and the international community to ensure that these abuses and impunity for the perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes are brought to an end.

The battle against apartheid in South Africa and the support of neighbouring states given to those involved in the internal struggle for justice was paramount to achieving freedom against oppression. The people of Zimbabwe deserve the same consideration in their quest to lead their lives free from intimidation and oppression. The social and political changes which face this country can be resolved with combined efforts from a democratic Zimbabwean Government and other countries, most notably with help from South Africa. We have historic ties with Zimbabwe and we can play a vital role in achieving the objectives.

Zimbabwe

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to promote political stability in Zimbabwe.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): Through its global political agreement (GPA), the inclusive government have committed themselves to a package of reforms that will restore security and welfare to Zimbabwe’s people and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law. Several aspects of the GPA remain to be implemented. We will support the Government in their continuing efforts to achieve these reforms, offering any assistance that promotes and strengthens positive change. We are in regular contact with the new Government to discuss how this can best be achieved, and we maintain a close dialogue on this with our EU and other partners. Civil society in Zimbabwe remains strong and has an important role in monitoring progress on reform, holding the Government to account. We continue to support civil society with advice and with significant levels of funding.

 

 

 

 

Zimbabwe

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have given to the Government of Zimbabwe to increase the likelihood that a democratic constitution is adopted in Zimbabwe within the next two years.

Lord Malloch-Brown: We continue to support civil society organisations in Zimbabwe, including those working for an inclusive and transparent constitutional review process. We are speaking to the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and the relevant parliamentary committee about their plans, and stand ready with other donors to provide support when we see evidence of a just, inclusive and transparent constitutional review process.

 

Zimbabwe

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent reports they have received concerning human rights in Zimbabwe.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): We continue to have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, including the increase in violent farm invasions, with credible reports of police being complicit. Although the approximately 70 political detainees who were in custody when the inclusive government was formed have been released, they are under strict bail conditions and there are reports of continued state harassment. We will continue to monitor the human rights situation closely and to put pressure on the Government of Zimbabwe to honour their commitments to improve respect for human rights and the rule of law.