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Zimbabwe

Volume 508: debated on Tuesday 6 April 2010

6. What recent assessment he has made of progress towards political reform by the Government of Zimbabwe. (325354)

9. What recent assessment he has made of progress towards political reform by the Government of Zimbabwe. (325357)

Hardliners in Zimbabwe continue to obstruct political reform. Effective implementation of the media, electoral and human rights commissions agreed by the parties to the global political agreement in December is absolutely essential.

Has the Minister noticed the case of Owen Maseko, the artist who has been imprisoned and harassed because of his depiction of the terrible carnage that went on in the 1980s under President Mugabe? Is this a sign that the problems in Zimbabwe are continuing, and that a political settlement is still very far from certain?

I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House want to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his many years of outstanding service to this House on a variety of very important issues. On the substantive issue that he has raised, the continued flagrant abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe of course remains a concern, as does the lack of political progress on reform. We very much welcome President Zuma’s renewed leadership on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, which we think is very important. We hope to have a report back from the recent visit to Zimbabwe within days, so that we can be clear about the implementation of reforms going forward.

The Minister has spoken about President Zuma’s package of measures to facilitate some sort of agreement. What chance does he give those measures?

I am not a betting man, other than on the outcome of the forthcoming election. The serious point is that hon. Members in all parts of the House have called for South Africa to play a responsible leadership role for a long time. We all know that it is in the best place to influence real change in Zimbabwe. We believe that President Zuma’s efforts are new and potentially radical, so this is a source of optimism and hope, to use a current phrase.

Will the Minister bring me up to speed on the extent to which the Financial Services Authority or his own Department have managed to determine the location of Mr. Mugabe’s laundered money?

The EU agreed in February to extend its targeted measures, which include an arms embargo, asset freezing and travel bans. Those measures are now affecting 31 companies and 198 people. On the specific point that my hon. Friend raises, I shall get back to him in due course.

At the founding of Zimbabwe, the UK put significant resource into helping the development of infrastructure—education systems and the training of people—through a wide range of organisations, including the TUC. A lot of the beneficiaries of those programmes have, of course, become the targets of Mugabe. Will the Minister work with his friends in South Africa to help to restore some of those links and get education programmes in which we can play a role back on the table?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that co-operation and collaboration, which achieved so many positive results. The UK is currently the second-largest bilateral donor to Zimbabwe, providing £60 million in aid, which is spent primarily on health but also on education. We remain deeply concerned by the intimidation, arbitrary violence, repressive legislation and curbs on press freedom that violate the rights of the Zimbabwean people. That is why political reform is so important.