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Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

Zimbabwe is one of the greatest concerns to the European Union and it is regularly discussed with partners. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last did so on 15 June and will be doing so on an ongoing basis. EU sanctions against the Government of Zimbabwe will be discussed when they are due for renewal in February 2007. Those sanctions keep Mugabe’s regime isolated and under pressure, and they are wholly warranted by his grotesque misgovernance. We continue to do all that we can to help the people of Zimbabwe, who have suffered so much under Mugabe’s regime.

Hundreds of thousands of urban dwellers in Zimbabwe are having their homes bulldozed, the farming sector has been destroyed, people are starving, and inflation is at more than 1,000 per cent., with bank transactions measured in trillions—all because of a mad, evil dictator. What is the Minister going to do to ensure that at a time when the world’s attention is focused on the middle east, and rightly so, the plight of Zimbabweans is not forgotten?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that not only is their plight not forgotten but as a country we are doing several things—not only in continuing with the sanctions, important as they are, but in assisting the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe through hundreds of millions of pounds of aid to feed a country that was once southern Africa’s food basket but is now unable to feed its own nation. We are giving millions to help the quarter of the population who are suffering from HIV/AIDS.

We are working as a Government with civil society, trade unions and others who are bravely each day speaking up and speaking out about their fellow citizens in Zimbabwe, and we are making practical resources available to them. Our front-line staff are working in the country each day, in very difficult circumstances, to provide the necessary support for civil society. In addition, we are working with the front-line states, particularly those in southern Africa, to try to ensure that they do more to end this evil regime and return democracy to Zimbabwe.

Have Her Majesty’s Government made any representations to Kofi Annan and to the African Union about the recent appointment of the former Tanzanian President, Ben Mkapa, as the so-called mediator between Zimbabwe and the UK? Is he aware that Mkapa has consistently called for the ending of European Union sanctions, and does he accept that this appointment will do nothing other than satisfy Mugabe, because he has merely been a stooge of Mugabe?

If Mr. Mkapa can persuade Mr. Mugabe to undertake policy changes, we would support that. Mr. Mkapa has made no representations to us, nor has he sought our support. One thing that is certain is that, working with the United Nations, we will continue to pursue the issue of the lack of real progress in Zimbabwe. I hope that my answer to the previous question gives my hon. Friend certainty about how seriously we take the situation in terms of working in diplomatic and practical terms to assist individuals and Zimbabwe itself. It is important to build bridges. Zimbabwe is in this condition because of the actions of the Zimbabwean regime towards its own people, infrastructure and society. The sooner we get international action to resolve that, the better.

The Minister rightly assured my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) that Zimbabwe is not being forgotten at a time when events in the middle east are drawing attention elsewhere. When the Foreign Secretary raised Zimbabwe on 15 June, what specific measures were proposed to the European Union to increase the pressure on that country? What is the next set of proposals for the subsequent meeting that the Minister mentioned?

As I said in my earlier answers, the review of the sanctions will take place in early 2007. They were renewed for the fourth time earlier this year. I have no sense that they will not be maintained or that South Africa will not work with us more positively in the intervening period to try to find additional ways in which we can not only put more pressure on Mugabe but witness his taking some action on the changes that need to take place.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the meeting in June. As I said in my first answer, the EU reviewed how the sanctions are working, whether they are effective and whether member states are co-operating with them—the answer to that is yes.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall come to the House to set out in detail the discussions that we will hold between now and February with the United Nations, the front-line states and others to try to secure a more effective way of dealing with issues internally in Zimbabwe. Hon. Members should rest assured that, whether we are considering civil society, the aid programme or the health programme, we are committed to continuing to involve ourselves effectively on a day-to-day basis with the citizens of Zimbabwe.