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Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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What action the Government are taking to bring about the restoration of human rights in Zimbabwe. [117940]


What recent discussions he has had with the Governments of (a) South Africa and (b) Nigeria on Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. [117942]

The situation in Zimbabwe is very serious. We have been in regular discussion about it with Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki, and with South African Foreign Minister Zuma.

Last week President Mugabe's security forces sought to crush opposition protests, and again arrested opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. They have now also arrested the secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change, Welshman Ncube. Responsibility for the present state of Zimbabwe lies squarely with its present Government. It is they who are responsible for the abuses of human rights, the collapsing economy and the threat of starvation to millions of people. The plight of the white community is bad, but that of the black community is even worse.

Together with the rest of the international community, we will continue to provide humanitarian relief, to sustain Mr. Mugabe's international isolation and to highlight his abuses of fundamental human rights. We will continue to work with international partners—the European Union, the United States and the Commonwealth—in the region.

In that connection, the House will wish to know that, with our active support, the board of governors of the International Monetary Fund decided on Friday 6 June to suspend Zimbabwe's voting and administration rights in the IMF. It is an indication of how critical Zimbabwe's economic and political situation is that that is the first time that such a measure has been taken by the IMF against a country that is not at civil war.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for his answer. The whole country, and, indeed, the world, are aware of the ever worsening human rights position in Zimbabwe. There is not just torture and imprisonments but deaths, verified by more regular reports—the latest by Statewatch today. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider two specific things. First, will he make an additional effort with his Commonwealth colleagues to prevail on the President of South Africa to make it absolutely clear that the view in Africa, as here, is that that activity on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe cannot and should not continue? If South Africa and the neighbours of Zimbabwe were to say that in terms, there might be a chance of some movement and response by the Government in Harare.

Secondly, given the welcome announcement last week—

Thank God, Mr. Speaker.

We are engaged in very constructive discussions with President Mbeki and Foreign Minister Zuma of South Africa. Our Prime Minister met President Mbeki last week in Evian, and I met both the President and the Foreign Minister two weeks before that. The South Africans are well aware of the gravity of the position. Indeed, in a joint communique from Foreign Minister Zuma and me, both countries underlined that
"the longer the problems in Zimbabwe remain unresolved, the more entrenched poverty will become."

The arrest of Welshman Ncube today, and the fact that Morgan Tsvangirai is on trial for his life, are very serious. Why is it that the IMF has been able to act, the French have acted in the Congo, yet we have done nothing?

The IMF has, as I have just reported to the House, acted with our full and active support.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is South Africa that has to give a strong voice, and that Thabo Mbeki must recognise that this is not the time to repay Mugabe for the support he may have given to the African National Congress in the past? Now is the time to say to Mugabe that what is going on in his country cannot be accepted. ZANU-PF supporters in Zimbabwe must also be clear and condemn what is being done in their name if we are to see an end to the atrocities and tragedies.

I entirely understand how my hon. Friend feels about the matter. I know from my discussions in South Africa, and from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's discussions with President Mbeki, that the South Africans are well aware of the very serious damage that is being done not just to Zimbabwe but to the whole region of southern Africa.

Since the Foreign Secretary stood beside South African Foreign Minister Zuma on 14 May and meekly endorsed her policy of quiet diplomacy and dialogue in relation to Mugabe, does he know how many people in Zimbabwe have been murdered, tortured, imprisoned, beaten and politically prosecuted? In the past week alone, more than 800 people have been arrested, 400 treated for injuries and 10 hospitalised; three are on the critical list, two have been murdered, and the leader of the opposition and his deputy have been arrested and charged with treason. All that we have had from the Foreign Secretary today is more gestures and more platitudes. When will he finally accept that quiet diplomacy and dialogue are nothing more than a cover for appeasement, that they encourage Mugabe to ratchet up his oppression and that they are a shameful betrayal of the suffering people of Zimbabwe?

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's frustration and anger, which we all feel. What we have done is to secure sanctions by the Commonwealth, sanctions by the European Union, sanctions by the International Monetary Fund and the increasing international isolation of Zimbabwe, which is exactly what I thought the right hon. Gentleman had demanded in the past. What would be devastating for the people of Zimbabwe, however, would be to imply, by that kind of rant, that there are things that we could do, but we are holding back from them. The only thing that the right hon. Gentleman missed out from his rant was the obvious conclusion, expressed by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin), that we ought to be taking military action. However, the right hon. Gentleman has himself said to me that he rules out military action. So next time he comes to the Dispatch Box, instead of ranting let him say exactly what he would do in this situation.

We need to ask why, when we were so ready to take effective action against the abuse of human rights and against ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Balkans, we are apparently paralysed in the face of similar atrocities in Zimbabwe. For a start, when will the EU's targeted travel ban and freezing of assets be extended to the families of Mugabe's henchmen—not least to their children studying in England—and to the shameful business men who bankroll Mugabe? And when will the Foreign Secretary go to the United Nations Security Council to seek a resolution to internationalise the crisis in Zimbabwe and put observers on the ground? In short, when will he stop walking by on the other side?

I will go to the United Nations Security Council for a resolution when I believe that we will win a resolution. What would be a disaster—no doubt under the right hon. Gentleman's diplomacy it would already have happened—is for us to go to the Security Council with the certain prospect that such a resolution would be [HON. MEMBERS: "Flush them out!"] They say, "Flush them out," but I am not in the business of providing gratuitous victories for President Mugabe, as the right hon. Gentleman evidently is.

As for the right hon. Gentleman's reference to action in the Balkans, frankly, that shows up the vacuity of his position. He continually implies that we should take action similar to that taken in the Balkans. The only difference between the action that we took in the Balkans and that which we are taking in Zimbabwe is that in the former, yes, we were able to take military action. He knows very well that a military option is simply not possible in Zimbabwe. More to the point, he wrote to me on 24 October, saying:
"I have not called for military action in Zimbabwe."
I rest my case.