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Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

The House will have seen news of the political agreement reached between the parties in Harare on 15 September to form an interim coalition Administration. Three weeks have passed since that moment and still no cabinet has been appointed. The positive momentum generated by the signature is fast evaporating, Zimbabwe’s economic and political situation is deteriorating, inflation continues to mount and the people of Zimbabwe are still suffering.

That is why there must be no further delay in the appointment of a Zimbabwean Government. The people of Zimbabwe have made their choice. They had the courage to vote on 29 March in spite of the threats and political violence they faced then. They wanted a Government that represented change and reform. Robert Mugabe and ZANU(PF) spent five weeks suppressing the results of that vote. Time was used as a weapon to drag out the election and avoid the transfer of power. The same tactic is being employed now and it is unacceptable.

We and other donors are continuing to provide vital humanitarian relief to the people of Zimbabwe. The UK remains the second largest bilateral donor. We are providing seeds, fertiliser and other agricultural inputs. Via the Department for International Development, we have already given an additional £9 million to the World Food Programme over the summer. The cruel and inhuman ban on the operation of NGOs has been lifted and so our aid is now finally reaching the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe. But some local restrictions remain in place and the situation for ordinary Zimbabweans remains precarious.

Humanitarian relief is vital but it is not the long-term solution in Zimbabwe. We and others want to help the people of Zimbabwe and a new inclusive Administration deal with the root causes of those problems. For that to happen a new and genuinely representative Government must be put in place and they must commit themselves to reform and change. Evidence of that commitment will be simple to see, in the first instance: full and equal humanitarian access without any political or other restrictions; an end to all political violence and the threat of violence; independent media being allowed back in to Zimbabwe and permitted to report freely; freedom of association for all; and a new Government that shows itself committed to macroeconomic stability and reviving the economy.

Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC have already said they are committed to taking these kinds of steps. They are no more than the Zimbabwean people deserve and need. In New York at the UN General Assembly, Robert Mugabe said that his party will abide by the spirit and letter of the agreement he had signed. We and others are prepared to help and to judge a new Government by their actions, not by their history. The process of development and reform must be Zimbabwean-led and owned and must come out of Harare. A Government who demonstrates by their actions that they are committed to the rights and welfare of its people will attract substantial assistance from the UK and the international community.

Former President Mbeki worked hard to bring the political parties together. Follow-through on the agreement reached in Harare depends on the parties themselves but South Africa, the region and the African Union can all play a positive role in resolving the current impasse and in overseeing the implementation of the agreement. We continue to encourage them to do so. Zimbabwe’s problems are far from over. The agreement may mark a step forward but without fair and even-handed implementation it will not be the decisive step needed by the people of Zimbabwe.

Until a new Zimbabwean Government are appointed and that Government show by their action their commitment to reform, EU targeted measures will remain in place. I will discuss the situation in Zimbabwe again with EU Foreign Ministers when we meet on 13 October. We will continue to work within the EU and UN and with African partners to help resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis and to support a positive transition to reform on the ground.

Our commitment to the people of Zimbabwe has never been in question and remains constant. What matters now is whether Robert Mugabe and ZANU(PF) can support an agreement that will bring those people relief.