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Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the possible postponement of Zimbabwe's presidential elections; and what discussions she has had with (a) the UK Embassy in Harare and (b) her counterparts in other countries on those reports. (112845)

At their December Party conference, ZANU(PF) took note of a resolution to postpone the presidential elections to 2010 and merge them with the parliamentary elections. The resolution has now been referred to the ZANU(PF) Central Committee. We are concerned that Mugabe will use this resolution to extend his current term of office from 2008 to 2010 reference to the Zimbabwean people. Our embassy in Harare discussed the ZANU(PF) Conference with other EU Heads of Mission on 19 December.

It is clear that what Zimbabwe requires is a truly democratically elected government that is determined to work for its people, and is committed to economic and governance reform: the economy has shrunk by 30 per cent. in the last five years; young Zimbabweans will be lucky to live past their 40th birthday; those made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina are living in poor, overcrowded conditions without proper access to food and medicine; and law enforcement authorities continue to respond to peaceful demonstrators with brutal violence and torture. Whoever governs Zimbabwe, it is clear that a dramatic change of policy direction is required.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received of comments made by the President of Uganda on Zimbabwe's land policy; and what assessment she has made of the effect of those comments on the situation in Zimbabwe. (113513)

We continue to call on African leaders to speak out against Mugabe's bad policies. We are not aware of any recent public statements by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, on Zimbabwe’s land policy. But independent surveys of the fate of Zimbabwe's agricultural population tell a tragic story: 75 per cent. of farm workers and their dependants have been forced out of their farmland homes. These people, who number at least two million, now live marginal lives without income, access to proper shelter, food or medicine. We fear that many of these people have died. We are concerned that the Gazetted Land Act, which Mugabe signed into law in December, will be used as an unjust pretext for further intimidation and attacks on farmers, with more damage to Zimbabwe’s economy.

We have always said that we would support a land reform programme that was transparent, fair and legal and that was carried out within a macro-economic framework that formed part of a wider Zimbabwe Government programme to reduce poverty.