Foreign Affairs, House of Lords, Speeches


Posted by LordSheikh

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Blaker for initiating this debate. What we have witnessed in Zimbabwe over the past few years has been absolutely horrific, and, while we can all rehearse the depressingly familiar statistics, we need to recognise that this is, first and foremost, a human tragedy. Effectively, the Government of Zimbabwe have declared war on their own people. The cruelty that has been inflicted under Mugabe’s regime will take a long time to heal: and the hurt continues. Fifty-six per cent of the population in Zimbabwe lives on less than $1 dollar a day and around 80 per cent lives on less than $2 dollars a day. In economic terms, Mugabe has managed to transform one of Africa’s most successful economies into a complete disaster. Inflation is rampant and some economists count the figure as above 11,000 per cent. There is a shortage of food and the basic necessities of life.Mugabe’s hold on power appears strong. He continues to be declared the winner of elections, despite these being considered as seriously flawed by the opposition and foreign observers. In the 2005 elections, Zanu-PF won more than two-thirds of the votes in parliamentary elections said by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to be fraudulent. But, as my noble friend Lord Blaker acknowledged in the Motion for this debate, the damage extends well beyond economics and politics. Around 3,000 people die in Zimbabwe every week of HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 1.8 million Zimbabweans infected with the disease. When some people stand up and proclaim the wonders of their assistance in tackling this human tragedy, they measure their contribution in terms of money spent. We should focus attention on the number of infections prevented and on the number of treatments, rather than the crude measurement of finance injected.To focus our minds, life expectancy has fallen below 35 years, and there are an estimated 1.3 million orphans. I am appalled that other African countries have not shown more leadership and initiative: their approach has been supine. I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity in his response to this debate to update the House on the actions of the British High Commissioner in South Africa to ensure that Mugabe is placed under maximum pressure. I appreciate that the British Government have to overcome sensitivities, given our colonial history with Zimbabwe, but it must be possible to do more.Zimbabwe stands as testament to the truth that although the power, even of a good Government, to do good, is not infinite, the power of a bad one knows no limit. I hope that other African leaders will change course and live up to their responsibility for the disaster that keeps deteriorating in Zimbabwe. Mugabe has done his country no favours, and the sooner he is out of office the better. It is imperative that the country returns to true democracy, and that opposition leaders are respected and protected. Other African countries need to support this.In conclusion, it is not the removal of Mr Mugabe that is necessary; the country needs humanitarian aid, the building of institutions, the restoration of democracy on a proper basis, and considerable investment by foreign countries. 

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