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Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

4. When she next expects to meet her European Union counterparts to discuss the effectiveness of current sanctions against Zimbabwe. (107308)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed Zimbabwe with her EU counterparts in October. I have also had discussions on that country, including with my Portuguese counterpart. There will be further discussion of the EU’s targeted measures against Zimbabwe early next year, before their expiry in February. We believe that the measures, which target the regime members and not ordinary Zimbabweans, are effective and should be continued.

The Minister will be aware ofthe total collapse of Zimbabwe’s infrastructure and the rampant hyperinflation, with the cost of water in Harare last week increasing from 8 to 130 Zimbabwean dollars per unit. Is he also aware of the horrific human rights abuses, including the recent police attacks on the trade union vice-president Lucia Matibenga, which resulted in a broken arm? Surely the time has come for our Government and Europe to tighten smart sanctions and travel bans, which do not affect Zimbabwe’s hard-pressed citizens, but are aimed at Mugabe and his evil henchmen?

May I make it clear that the UK condemns the most recent assaults on ordinary Zimbabweans? The organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise shuns any form of violent demonstration and has a history of peaceful protest; there can be no excuse for the attacks that its members have suffered. The beating of women and children only two months after the abuse of the trade union leadership is further evidence of Zimbabwe’s terrible human rights record, which Robert Mugabe tries to argue is a figment of the west’s imagination.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is vital that we continue to isolate the regime, but, as his opening observations made clear, we have no quarrel with the people of Zimbabwe and no reason to cause further harm to a population who are already suffering as a result of the appalling decisions of their leaders. That is why we draw the distinction between sanctions that are aimed at the regime and other measures that might further damage the people of Zimbabwe.

Although I welcome the talks on Zimbabwe with our EU partners, should not more effort be spent in talking to Zimbabwe’s neighbours, whose actions might have more effect, and to countries such as China, which continue to invest in Zimbabwe?

I agree that all parts of the international community, and in particular Zimbabwe’s near neighbours, could do more. It is important to continue to isolate the regime, and it is vital to world opinion that the countries of southern Africa take united and effective action to isolate Zimbabwe. I strongly agree with my hon. Friend’s comments.

Is it not a fact that there are no practical consequences that the Minister can name that have affected the leaders of Zimbabwe as a result of the sanctions? To follow up the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins), is it not necessary to do more and not only talk to Zimbabwe’s neighbours, but pin them down to practical measures that they can impose and we cannot?

I have made it clear that we would likethe international community, including Zimbabwe’s southern African neighbours, to do more, but I do not accept that there are no practical consequences. If that were so, the regime in Zimbabwe would not protest so loud and so long about the impact that the sanctions have. The fact is that its leaders do protest, which means that the sanctions are having some effect on them.