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UK-Zimbabwe Relations

Volume 513: debated on Tuesday 6 July 2010

We want to do all that we can to support the aspirations of the Zimbabwean people for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. We will work with reformers in Zimbabwe and the region to maximise the prospects for achieving the reforms necessary for properly conducted elections.

What can the British Government do for British nationals who were born in Zimbabwe whose property has been expropriated by the Zimbabwe Government, some of whom live in South Thanet?

We condemn illegal farm and property seizures, which contravene the global political agreement and a Southern African Development Community decision, and which do nothing to advance Zimbabwe’s economy —we should make that very clear. Economic regeneration in Zimbabwe depends on respect for the rule of law, and we urge the Zimbabwean Government to respect the rule of law and to end such seizures.

In the light of the concerns raised by the UN’s Kimberley process into mining diamonds in Zimbabwe, what measures do the Government have in place to ensure that conflict diamonds do not make their way into the UK?

The European Union, including the United Kingdom, has called for efforts to reach agreement through the Kimberley process so that all mining in the Marange fields in Zimbabwe are subject to it. In that way, diamonds could actually help the economic development of Zimbabwe in future. We would like to sort that out within the Kimberley process, so that those diamonds can then be used productively.

What action is my right hon. Friend taking with other African nations to ensure that Zimbabwe adopts a new constitution and ends the endemic corruption within the country?

We work closely with our partners around Africa, foremost among which, of course, is South Africa. We support its efforts and those of President Zuma to engage closely with Zimbabwe and to push it towards reform. We—the UK and other donors—also support, through the UN development programme, the implementation of the Zimbabwean constitution. Given the concerns that my hon. Friend and others have raised, I should say that that happens not through direct funding of the Zimbabwean Government, but through that UN programme.

The Prime Minister will know that Morgan Tsvangirai was promised by the African Union and SADC that they would honour the global political agreement and ensure that it worked, but clearly they have not done so. Can we do anything more to put pressure on the AU and SADC, without which we will never get the free and fair elections that will make Zimbabwe once again a flourishing nation?

We can put diplomatic pressure on those organisations—that is the leverage we have. The hon. Lady may think that that is not substantial enough, but that is what such pressure amounts to—working with those countries, particularly South Africa, and of course with reformers in Zimbabwe, to try to ensure that the global political agreement is properly respected. The UK will remain a strong voice for that, but we cannot guarantee it on our own.

The noble Baroness Ashton, as the EU foreign affairs chief, recently met Zimbabwean Ministers to discuss what she termed human rights abuses and political development. I understand that a €20 million grant is currently being made available to the Zimbabwean authorities as Baroness Ashton seeks to make concrete progress on those political objectives. Does the Secretary of State have any idea what concrete progress means in reality?

I think we can fairly say that concrete progress would be a great deal more than anything that is happening at the moment. There have been no noticeable improvements in the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, and we are deeply concerned about harassment and politically inspired detentions, which continue in that country. Concrete progress means a lot more than anything we have seen so far.

Have our Government any new initiatives or plans for such initiatives to deal with Mugabe’s ruthless regime, under which many people are starving or subject to persecution?

It is not within the UK’s power alone to deal with Mugabe’s regime. It is possible to do many things to try to improve the situation, some of which I mentioned in answer to previous questions, such as working with South Africa and other partners in Africa, supporting the implementation of the constitution with development money—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will continue to support that while reviewing the situation—and stressing the need for economic progress and the possibility of economic regeneration in Zimbabwe. It is a case of continuing all those things to try to help the situation in Zimbabwe rather than introducing one bold new initiative.