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Volume 691: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what policies they are adopting regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I pay tribute to all noble Lords who have come here to make a two-minute speech. Those who are going to speak should not thank me or congratulate me on this debate because that just takes time.

A few weeks ago we had reason to be optimistic about Zimbabwe. The two leading figures in ZANU-PF under Mugabe appeared to be agreed, in spite of their mutual rivalry, on denying Mugabe the opportunity of extending his presidency for six or more years. The International Crisis Group believed that a realistic chance had at last begun to appear to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. That prospect has disappeared in blood and brutality and through the feebleness of SADC.

We have seen the full horror of Mugabe's regime reflected in the battered faces of leaders of the opposition taking part in a peaceful prayer meeting. We have seen young men, no doubt trained in violence in the green bomber brigades, being issued with police uniforms to give them a semblance of authority to conduct violence against the innocent.

The courage of those at that meeting, completely unarmed, was remarkable. Random assaults by the police have been reported to continue for days. A woman member of the British Embassy, who had been visiting the injured in hospital, was told in the government-owned newspaper:

“It will be a pity for her family to welcome her at Heathrow Airport in a body bag".

So alarmed were the SADC governments by the violence, that a summit meeting was called in Dar es Salaam. These are some of the extracts from the communiqué of the meeting.

“The… Summit recalled that free fair and democratic Presidential elections were held in 2002 in Zimbabwe… The … Summit appealed for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe… The… Summit mandated Thabo Mbeki to come to facilitate dialogue between the Opposition and the Government and report back on the progress”.

Not surprisingly after that, Mugabe returned home in triumph. He proceeded to get agreement from ZANU-PF to increase the number of Members of Parliament from 150 to 210, with the bulk of the new constituencies in the rural areas where ZANU-PF is strong. Voting in the senate will be altered to the advantage of ZANU-PF. The constitution will be changed so that when an elected president dies or retires his successor will be chosen by Parliament and not by direct elections as at present.

South Africa is now in the UN Security Council, and was last month its president. Its record in that body is interesting. On a mild motion criticising Myanmar, alias Burma, calling for national reconciliation and release of political prisoners, and other measures not even including sanctions, South Africa cast a no vote—it voted against that mild resolution. It also used its position in the presidency to block debate on violent repression of the opposition in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Tutu, who with Vaclav Havel had taken part in reporting on conditions in Burma, said:

“I am deeply disappointed by our vote. It is a betrayal of our noble past”.

He is, as we know, a Nobel Prize winner. He has also criticised the Government of South Africa on their stand in the Security Council on Zimbabwe.

President Mbeki, as we all know, has had extraordinary views, which defied modern medical knowledge, on the question of HIV and AIDS. He is clearly capable of major misjudgments or self-deception and his record casts grave doubt on his suitability, to use the words of the Dar es Salaam communiqué, to facilitate dialogue between the opposition and the Government of Zimbabwe. It is not surprising that his so-called quiet diplomacy between ZANU-PF and the opposition in Zimbabwe was not successful. It looked more like quiet protection for Mugabe.

An interesting new light has been cast on the role of President Mbeki in relation to Zimbabwe by the remarks of Moeletsi Mbeki in a BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme a couple of weeks ago. He is a South African business man, brother of the president, who worked as a journalist in Zimbabwe. Asked by Edward Stourton what we should make of what happened at the SADC meeting in Dar es Salaam he replied as follows:

“There is something which is overlooked. Mugabe has the same adversaries that many African Governments in Southern Africa have. These are the trade unions and the non-governmental organisations who are pressing for policies that favour the majority of the people whereas the Governments are following policies in general that favour the elite. It is never going to happen for African Governments to pressurise Mugabe but a large number of the African people are opposed to Mugabe”.

Those words cast the most illuminating light on President Mbeki’s behaviour that I can remember. They do the same for the behaviour of SADC heads of Government in Dar es Salaam. I doubt that we should put much hope on success for President Mbeki in the role given to him by the SADC summit.

What should be our policy towards Zimbabwe now, in a situation which is worse than any other since Mugabe set out on his regime of terror seven years ago? There is one course that could succeed that has not been followed—that is, firm action by the G8. The Prime Minister, in a speech on 2 October 2001, called for,

“a partnership for Africa between the developed and the developing world based around a new African initiative. It’s there to be done if we find the will. On our side provide more aid untied to trade, write off debt, help with good governance and infrastructure”—

and other suggestions. He continued by saying that,

“it is a partnership. On the African side: true democracy, no more excuses for dictatorship, abuses of human rights, no tolerance of bad governments from the endemic corruption of some states to the activities of Mr Mugabe’s henchmen in Zimbabwe… the state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world”.

I say Zimbabwe is a scar on the conscience of Africa. Some countries in Africa are not living up to their part in the partnership. Early in this decade, President Mbeki seemed to cast doubt on the validity of the partnership, declaring that the problems of Africa should be left to Africans to resolve. But the present situation in Zimbabwe is so grave that it calls for a new and bold approach.

Almost all the African countries have joined the African Union, which replaced the OAU, which was wound up in failure a few years ago. The AU treaty committed its members to observe good governance, human rights and the rule of law and to use peer pressure to achieve them. The treaty for the SADC contained very similar obligations; Mugabe is in major breach of both treaties.

In two months’ time the next meeting of the G8 will take place in Germany under the chairmanship of Chancellor Merkel, who has been displaying considerable skill and determination. I have suggested in each of the past two years that the annual G8 meeting, which is attended regularly by President Mbeki, who will also attend the next one, and other world leaders, should be used by the G8 to persuade him and any other African leaders who may be present that the Zimbabwe problem must be resolved. The eight most economically powerful countries in the world should be able to persuade the countries of southern Africa, through President Mbeki, of the great importance of living up to their solemn obligations in the AU and SADC, as well as NePAD. It would be very much to the advantage of both sides in the partnership.

Mugabe is turning Zimbabwe into a failed state. It is time that we made it clear to the members of SADC, the AU and NePAD that the time has come to stop the rot.

My Lords, South Africa speaks with a voice that thunders throughout southern Africa, yet President Mbeki will not speak out against President Mugabe. The thunder is silent. The finest words from South Africa on the silence over President Mugabe’s conduct came on 16 March from Archbishop Tutu, who said:

“We Africans should hang our heads in shame”.

On 26 March in another place, the Minister for Trade, Mr Ian McCartney, said that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York and others had increasingly been,

“demanding of South Africa and cajoling South Africa to take a more proactive role. That is exactly what has been happening in the past few days. That is why we must maintain and develop a relationship. That is why the Prime Minister has written to President Mbeki”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/3/07; col. 1174.]

I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister would confirm that British policy is to request of President Mbeki that South Africa takes a more proactive role and in particular that British policy is to exert pressure on President Mbeki to use that voice of thunder. I trust that that is indeed the case, for if it is not people in Britain will increasingly adopt the attitude of Archbishop Tutu and hang their heads in shame.

My Lords, your Lordships may know that my diocese is twinned with three of the dioceses in Zimbabwe and over the years there have been frequent visits of church leaders and others in both directions. In fact, there is a party of two dozen people led by the Bishop of Croydon visiting at present. Through these visits and communications we are very well aware of the contribution that local churches in Zimbabwe are making to ease the lot of their neighbours and the extremely delicate and sometimes dangerous situation in which they find themselves. It has not always been easy to judge how the church in England can best support them because any criticism of the Zimbabwean Government coming from us is swiftly denounced as the predictable opposition of an ex-colonialist church, and Anglicans in Zimbabwe can then be disregarded as being the lackeys of colonialism. In spite of this, several of the bishops, particularly the Roman Catholic bishops, have been courageous in seeking to resist the excesses of oppression which they and their people experience. I say “several” because Anglicans here are also embarrassed by the part being played by the Bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, who is very close to the Mugabe regime.

All this is happening at a time when SADC decided to commission a team to develop a paper on possible solutions to the crisis. It would be good if the Minister could tell us what is the strategy of Her Majesty’s Government and the EU in working with this. It would also be good to know how the British Government will continue to support food aid and the World Food Programme without seeming to be propping up the regime.

It is difficult not to be pessimistic about the situation but the network of community care represented by local churches in Zimbabwe will still be there when the Mugabe regime has disappeared and it will be part of the basis for nation building. We in the church will do all we can to support them.

My Lords, Robert Mugabe’s cruel, corrupt misrule has cumulatively caused the economic and social decomposition of his country. The beginning of the answer to the tragedy of Zimbabwe must be his departure, but that answer can be applied only by the leaders of southern Africa. Realistically, no other group has the political status, security and strength speedily to propel the changes that are vital.

Initiatives from outside Africa will be dishonestly exploited by Mugabe as “neo-imperialism”. Inside Zimbabwe, the MDC—correctly and courageously—will not resort to violence. Inside ZANU-PF, the certainty of vicious reprisal still subdues those who now despise Mugabe’s reign of ruin.

I understand, of course, why some SADC leaders have felt a debt of solidarity to Robert Mugabe. But he has long treated their “mediation mandates” to President Mbeki—five since 2000—with a contempt that corrodes their credibility. More tangibly, the Mugabe-made catastrophe generates mass emigration which adds hugely to the already severe pressures on neighbouring countries.

Mugabe is not therefore the historic moral creditor of southern Africa’s leaders; he is now the direct cause of greatly worsened burdens on their economies. That will continue until they tell him forcefully and urgently that the only help now available from southern Africa is to facilitate his exile. Only when that happens will transition to meaningful democracy and reconstruction begin. The ultimatum should be public. Mugabe should face retribution. But if pressure has to be private in order to achieve very rapid results, I will rationalise that as a price worth paying.

For the sake of Zimbabweans and their own people and reputations, I urge the leaders of southern Africa now to exert that pressure relentlessly. The reliberation of Zimbabwe depends upon it.

My Lords, so great is the suffering within Zimbabwe that the hardship being suffered here in Britain by people who served the Crown in southern Rhodesia before UDI and in many cases continued to serve thereafter and have been robbed of their public service pensions seems very small in comparison. But they are victims nevertheless: victims of the catastrophe which has overtaken Zimbabwe for whom the British Government have a clear responsibility; victims who, unlike many other victims of the catastrophe, the British Government really can help. I declare an interest as president of the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association, which is doing its best to help these people, about 600 of them, including widows, who are dependent on social security and charity.

After UDI the British Government reaffirmed southern Rhodesia’s status as a British colony by appointing a new governor. They then negotiated a constitution for an independent Zimbabwe which, according to the then Minister, provided full safeguards for public service pensions and their remittability. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that that assurance was not worth the paper it was written on. During the 1980s and 1990s the value of the pensions remitted by the Government of Zimbabwe to former Crown servants steadily declined. Then in February 2003 payments ceased entirely.

Her Majesty’s Government did not then, as one might have expected, step in to help these former servants of the Crown. They said that although southern Rhodesia was a colony, its civil servants were not appointed by the Secretary of State but by the colonial Government. They failed to explain why it should make the slightest difference whether a person was appointed by the Secretary of State or by the colonial Government under the authority given them by the then Secretary of State, because that must have been the case it being a colony.

Ministers have often claimed that because of our colonial past there is not much we as a country can do to help Mugabe’s victims, but there are some people who were part of that colonial past who the Government can help—British people who went out to a British colony as servants of the Crown and have suffered loss following the decision by Britain to hand over responsibility for their pensions to Zimbabwe.

Earlier Governments also claimed that they were under no legal duty to guarantee payment of the pensions, but the point is that in those days the pensions were still being paid, now they are not. Whatever the legal position, the Government’s moral duty is plain.

My Lords, I echo what the right reverend Prelate said. I quote from the remarkable statement of the Roman Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe on 30 March:

“The people of Zimbabwe are suffering. Our country is in deep crisis … It almost appears as though someone sat down with the Declaration of Human Rights and deliberately scrubbed out each one in turn”.

That was a brave thing to say and all those men risked their lives saying it. We must recognise that some of the most trenchant criticism of the awful Zimbabwe regime comes from African individuals showing immense commitment and courage in making clear their opposition to what that regime is doing.

What can we do? A number of noble Lords referred to things that we might do, including the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. First, we should check up—as we have not done—on the extent to which the sanctions, which we have supported, are actually being carried out. My information is that on investment, and to some extent on the education of the elite of Zimbabwe, our position is, to say the least, not exactly wholly of one piece. Her Majesty’s Government need to look at that as well as rightly calling on South Africa to take much stronger steps.

On the 10,000 to 12,000 Zimbabwean detainees who are currently in this country, in evidence to the human rights committee, the Immigration Minister Mr Liam Byrne said that enforced return to Zimbabwe was safe. I wonder whether that could possibly be true, given that every single person returned to Zimbabwe is now denounced as a British spy and is almost invariably, if not at worst tortured, harassed, pursued and treated as an outcast.

Very shortly the decision made in the AA case that Zimbabweans would not be deported for the time being will come up again because the matter has been referred to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. There appears to be a deep gulf between the Home Office and the Foreign Office. I plead with the Government and the Minister to consider whether we might not do something that was imaginatively done by the German Government back in 1991-92, which was to offer a temporary right to remain until such time as the Bosnian Government recovered their democratic and human rights recognition. A similar action in the case of Zimbabwe would be vastly in the interests of the United Kingdom because we would breed a whole regiment and generation of people determined to go back when the time came to rebuild Zimbabwe and make out of it a beacon of democracy.

My Lords, it is common ground that Zimbabwe is fast proceeding towards becoming a failed state. I was doing the same job as the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, 27 to 28 years ago when, as Minister for African Affairs under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, we negotiated in 1979 independence, a new constitution and a trust fund for land resettlement. It gave an opportunity to end a war that had cost 25,000 lives, and for that country to take its own decisions on whether to build or destroy. The tragic thing is that Mr Mugabe has destroyed rather than built. He has built his own power and wealth at the expense of his people, for whom he has shown the utmost contempt. All that is in sharp contrast to South Africa, where Mandela became president under a democratic system and yielded power under a democratic system; or indeed in Ghana, where President Kufuor, president of the African Union, has twice come to power democratically, following the late President Rawlings.

I have only one point to make. What can we do after Mugabe has gone? What contingency planning are we preparing? I will make one proposition. The initiative should come from the Commonwealth. After all, it was in Harare where the declaration was signed by all Commonwealth leaders in the early 1990s that they would commit themselves to democracy, to a plural society, to human rights, to the rule of law and to freedom of expression. The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe in 2003, and the Commonwealth should prepare to offer to the Zimbabweans, after Mugabe is gone, subject to the right conditions, the mobilisation of Asian, European, African and Caribbean expertise to help to give the Zimbabweans the tools to enable them to rebuild their country.

My Lords, two questions in two minutes. First, could the United Kingdom have done more to bring pressure on the Mugabe regime as it systematically ruined a once prosperous country? What a contrast with the role of President Mandela, south of Limpopo. I have visited Zimbabwe many times and spoken to key players there and in New York, and I am convinced that a more robust approach by the UK would not have helped, and would indeed have played into the hands of Mugabe’s propaganda machine.

In addition, and alas, African solidarity has prevented that Commonwealth initiative that the noble Lord, Lord Luce, has mentioned, and South Africa refuses to be positively engaged. There is no chance of putting Zimbabwe on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Now, pace the African Union summit, there are at least some signs that the southern African leadership is beginning to recognise, at least in words, the damage to its own interests, and it may well be that Zimbabwe is now entering the end game. In what way should we in the UK and our EU partners be involved?

Obviously, we continue to encourage our friends in southern Africa to be more bold and show the damage to their own interests. We build on the remaining strengths of democracy in Zimbabwe from the independent trade unions, non-governmental organisations, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, a credible infrastructure and of course the lingering experience of democracy. We should accept that when change comes it will not be a democratic state immediately but will arise from a palace revolution from the inner circle of Mugabe. Are we therefore ready, both in the UK and the EU, even in those circumstances, to launch an immediate programme of reconstruction, on the condition that the new Government recognise that they are only provisional and honour their pledges? In short, are we and our partners ready to see beyond any such interim Government to prepare for a Government who can restore democracy, revive a disastrous economy and relieve the suffering of their people? So much damage has been done that rehabilitation will indeed take a long time.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Luce, and I must meet, because I had intended to speak about a possible Commonwealth initiative, about which I am in touch with the Secretariat. I prefer to denounce the appalling treatment being meted out to members of civil society and the MDC, with 28 cases so far in the past three weeks, among them two Members of Parliament. That needs to go on the record.

Violent beatings and torture have left innocent men and women blinded, deaf and unable to talk, quite apart from many broken limbs. They are told variously: “We are going to take you one by one. By 2008, there will be no MDC. We’ll kill you all so that the party does not succeed”; “If we hear of you at the MDC offices or at a rally, we shall kill you. You will just disappear”; “Go home and you will find your wife and children are not there”. As well as being brutally beaten, prisoners are denied food, water and medicines and are said to have resisted arrest.

The list of victims includes a respected black cameraman, abducted and beaten to death, and two MPs. The CIO claims that it is looking for petrol bombs, but, it says: “This is about death. If you do not admit to one of three offences, you will die. Leave Zimbabwe within seven days or you disappear”.

All the cases, and this is only from a list covering the past few weeks, have had this in common: they were abducted in the middle of the night. Most have been brutally beaten and tortured; all have been denied access to their lawyers, visits by friends and family, food, access to vital medication as well as medical care and worst of all their constitutional and legal rights to be released on the orders of the Attorney-General. The rule of law has broken down. I hope that the names of all the torturers, many of whom are known, will be posted daily on the internet.

I have one question: many of those being tortured are students and young people. How many children of ZANU-PF Ministers are peacefully studying in this country, some claiming to have MDC sympathies?

My Lords, in most countries, successful political transition, meaning one that does not descend into violent interethnic conflict, usually involves civil society organisations such as churches, trade unions and NGOs. Political upheaval creates a vacuum at the top, which is too often filled by nationalists aiming at overall power rather than any genuine form of democracy. Zimbabwe has undergone severe trauma and disruption to its civil society. The task now is to build those organisations that could play a crucial part in the political changes to come, and at the same time to work ceaselessly to build a critical mass of opinion condemning what is happening in Zimbabwe.

An almost total lack of planning for the post-Mugabe phase is more than worrying. Despite the obvious needs, funding for civil society programmes has decreased in the past few years. For example, the USAID budget for civil society organisations dropped from $4.3 million in 2004 to $2.7 million in 2005. Yet now is the time to expand the democratic space by means of funding and technical support.

As an example, I will sketch the kind of work undertaken by one such organisation, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA, which means “come forward” in Ndebele. WOZA was set up in 2003 to provide women with a united voice on issues affecting them and to create communities at the most local levels of women prepared to work politically. It now has a membership of 35,000, and more than 2,500 of its members have been imprisoned and/or tortured. This courageous organisation has, on the basis of widespread consultation, drawn up a people’s charter which spells out the basic requirements for peace and democracy and fulfils the most crucial lesson in development; that the people themselves must shape the future of Zimbabwe.

The Commonwealth proved resolute in dealing, for example, with apartheid South Africa and with Pakistan once it had been suspended from the Commonwealth. Why can it not now take a lead through, for example, the Commonwealth ministerial action group or its various arms, such as the Commonwealth lawyers or press associations? The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Uganda this autumn is an opportunity not to be missed.

A combination of proper and even increased funding and technical support for those organisations working to build democratic processes at village level, with a co-ordinated approach from the Commonwealth, would be persuasive in creating a critical mass. I ask the Minister to confirm that both those avenues will be explored in the immediate future.

My Lords, rather than speaking for two minutes, it might be better to have two minutes’ silence for that once lovely country and for the bravery of the opposition. How much longer that will continue, as my noble friend Lady Park said, none of us can judge.

President Mbeki has not been a neutral referee at all. He has been an active collaborator of the Zimbabwean Government. SADC has failed Zimbabwe, Africa has failed Zimbabwe, the UN has failed Zimbabwe and the British Government have failed Zimbabwe because NePAD, which was supposed to help, has been, as we predicted not so long ago in 2003, a total waste of paper. Poor Zimbabwe has been dealt the lowest card in the pack and no one seems to be able to help the country.

What plans have the Government to strengthen SADC—to make it an organisation that can operate efficiently and prove to be worthy of its constitution? How can it be made more robust? In many ways, the situation in Zimbabwe is the same that it was in 1979, except for one thing; that is, there is now no guarantee of free and fair elections—if there are to be any elections, because there may not be an opposition next year. What are the Government doing with other countries to make certain that there will be elections next year and that they will be free and fair? Without free and fair elections, there is no point in even considering a future for Zimbabwe.

My third question to the Minister is: what initiatives have been taken to include the former leaders of African countries who signed the Bamako declaration in 2005? The one group that President Mugabe might listen to are the former leaders who might persuade him that by stepping down he might still be a hero in his country; that would give him a peg to leave on. He obviously will not listen to anyone in power at the moment.

My Lords there have been so many false dawns in Zimbabwe. I have been a lone voice in your Lordships’ House, believing that sanity would prevail and that there would be a Government of national unity—and how wrong I have been. While the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and others are absolutely right to ask what the South African Government have been doing to put pressure on Robert Mugabe to resolve the ever worsening crisis in his country, your Lordships should be aware that the South African Government have, behind the scenes in the past five years, negotiated no fewer than two deals which would transition the country to a Government of national unity, but on both occasions Mugabe has reneged on those deals—to a large degree, perhaps, because of the fact that Charles Taylor was indicted for war crimes and the belief that many of Mugabe’s cohorts would face a similar destiny.

The South African Government are now lending support to a troika of Tanzania, Lesotho and Namibia to find a solution. Furthermore, as several noble Lords have mentioned, since the SADC meeting 10 days ago, Mbeki has been formally mandated to be the official mediator in an attempt to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe next year. That of course will be a monumental task, especially as much of the defective security legislation will need to be repealed and an independent electoral commission appointed.

Your Lordships should be aware that there is no love lost between Mbeki and Mugabe. Time restricts me from elaborating why the South African Government have not been more outspoken in the past. I still believe we are in the end game in Zimbabwe. With the ever worsening economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, the economy is the real opposition—and against that Mugabe has no response. I believe that the economy will determine what happens politically.

I have always believed that there should be African solutions for African problems. Increasingly, African Heads of State are now, thankfully, speaking out and deriding the Zimbabwe crisis as being embarrassing for Africa. I also believe that between now and the election next year there is a strong possibility of an internal challenge within ZANU-PF against Mugabe’s leadership.

In conclusion, it is not a matter of if there will be change, but when. What measures are likely to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government when that time comes to help rebuild what was once the bread-basket of Africa?

My Lords, I intend to make only three points. The first is to support the action advocated by my noble friend Lord Blaker and many others for the Government to apply real pressure in every forum available—bilaterally, through the auspices of the UN, the G8, the EU and the Commonwealth—to urge South Africa and, in particular, President Mbeki, to face up to their responsibilities to make change happen in Zimbabwe. The situation is a true and manmade disaster—not only in the destruction of a once wonderful country, but in the collateral damage to the reputation and credibility of all other states in the region.

My second point is that we must be careful in guarding against the assumption that the removal of Mugabe alone, per se, will solve the situation at a stroke. That will be hugely important, but we are looking for fundamental and enduring political change, not just a rebranding of a dictatorial group of ZANU-PF chiefs.

My third point, also made by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, is that there is a positive message that we in the UK can send to the people and the political administration in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is not a hopeless case. With a change to a new and benevolent Administration that will come at some stage, the country could and will recover quickly with the right help from the West. Her Majesty's Government should be sending the message that we are standing by to do everything that we can to make that happen—to rebuild the country when that time comes. Zimbabwe has been a great country and I am quite sure that, with the right political leadership, it will be again—and quickly.

My Lords, all the indicators point to a degree of deterioration unknown even in the poorest African countries. This is especially dangerous for a developed country that cannot easily rebuild its institutions. There is also an endemic agricultural crisis. We can hardly imagine the feelings of ordinary people, especially those in Matabeleland outside the ZANU-PF patronage who have been trodden down for such a long time. With the police now routinely arresting and humiliating opponents and disregarding court orders, the law is not an adequate protection.

Like my noble friend, I believe that President Mbeki will in the end recognise that Mr Mugabe is an obstruction in the way of political stability and that Africa cannot carry him indefinitely. President Mbeki was surely at least behind the SADC initiative and has offered to hold direct talks with the MDC and ZANU-PF.

None of us is in doubt of the evil of the regime. We have to go on speaking out about it. At the same time, it is important for us in Britain to appreciate the depth of the southern African apartheid legacy and we must be careful of the language of crisis. It is easy to say that when people are dying any cautious approach is appeasement. Like my noble friends, I expect that the end will come not from clever diplomacy, which has failed, but from inside—yet I know that that will be at the cost of more violence and bloodshed.

Meanwhile, we must not be diverted from the other important issues. In 2006, the number of rural food insecure people totalled 1.4 million, and this year it could return to the acute level of 2002—around 4 million. How will Her Majesty's Government continue to support the food aid programme? Why has DfID stopped its protracted relief programme for 12 months at such a crucial stage, and how will it support the most vulnerable after this July? Are we losing the battle against HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe?

Finally, will the Minister comment on the possible stalemate which is coming up at the EU-ACP summit in Lisbon, to which Mr Mugabe has been invited?

My Lords, I shall make two brief points. First, I urge support for the work of the Zimbabwe Phoenix Trust, created by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, to provide training, skills and motivation for professionals now in the UK as refugees or settled residents, so that people with expertise are ready to return to that country when the task of rebuilding it begins.

Secondly, in relation to the notorious Operation Murambatsvina, in which the Government violently bulldozed people from their shacks and stalls in the areas of political opposition to Mugabe, I commend the work of the UK’s Homeless International. Against all the odds, with support from DfID, the EU and Comic Relief, Homeless International is empowering local communities and demonstrating what can be achieved through in situ upgrading of slums, land sharing and sanitation initiatives if only there is some political stability.

I ask Her Majesty’s Government to make strong representations to the new Secretary-General of the United Nations suggesting that Anna Tibaijuka, the under-secretary of the UN, who made the original highly critical report on the mass evictions, should now be sent as his special envoy again to report on what has happened following this catastrophe of enforced homelessness for between 700,000 and 1 million of the most bitterly poor people in Zimbabwe.

My Lords, in this end game, as it was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord St John, the 12 million people of Zimbabwe are sinking further into the abyss of destitution, failing public services, falling life expectancy and mass emigration. I hope that the Government will listen to the pleas made by my noble friend on behalf of the few exiles who manage to get to the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, referred to the SADC extraordinary summit, which ignored the destruction of homes and livelihoods referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Best, and the crushing of the free media, the expulsion of journalists, the hyperinflation caused by mismanagement, the corruption and the money-wasting on Mugabe’s birthday party and luxury cars for ZANU-PF cronies. SADC wants a dialogue between the wolf and the lamb, between the torturers and their victims—ZANU-PF and the opposition—but, first, it must get the regime to level the playing field, restoring free speech and peaceful assembly, dropping the spurious charges against opposition activists and complying with the recommendations of international bodies such as the UN special envoy and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Speaking of the IPU, at its meeting on 29 April it is expected to add three new complaints to the two dozen already on its books. Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the MDC, and Nelson Chamisa were arrested on 18 March and severely beaten. Mr Chamisa suffered a fractured skull and a detached retina in custody. Paul Madzore, who was arrested on 28 March, was tortured, denied medical attention and refused bail. President Mbeki and SADC may do no harm by deluding themselves about the effects of EU sanctions and the UK’s attitude to land reform, but they cannot ignore Mugabe’s crimes of violence against his own people if there is to be anyone left to engage in the dialogue.

My Lords, it takes a lot of time to prepare a two-minute speech, and we have heard an enormous amount of wisdom packed into an amazingly short and brisk debate. This is no place for an opposition wind-up speech in the usual sense and I simply ask the following questions.

First, where, in the Government’s view, do we now turn? Can the Minister give us any glimmers of hope? Clearly, things are changing. There are growing splits within ZANU-PF. How clear is it to this Government that the senior party leaders of ZANU-PF are really fed up with the ageing tyrant and his policies of terror and their effects, or is he going to outmanoeuvre them yet again?

Secondly, at least SADC, the Southern African Development Community, seems in a way to have woken up with the appointment of Mbeki to mediate between the parties. Perhaps, as noble Lords have indicated, this will lead nowhere as usual, but at least Zimbabwe is now seen as a SADC issue—and not before time. Is this the opportunity for real pressures of a new kind to be developed? Can the Minister give us some thoughts on that?

Thirdly—I note that this is more of a hope than a fact—the whole Commonwealth, which Zimbabwe left in 2003, has a stronger role and voice to offer in giving backbone and resolve to Zimbabwe’s neighbours before that country drags them all down. Like the noble Lord, Lord Luce, and others, I can never understand—nor, incidentally, can our overseas partners—why we here do not play the Commonwealth card more vigorously. We have one of the richest and most powerful transcontinental networks in the world and we should make much more use of it.

Finally, there are the international institutions—the EU, the UN and perhaps the G8, as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, suggested in initiating this excellent short debate. The EU has sanctions on travel by Zimbabwean ruling personnel, as we know, but frankly these sanctions keep on being breached. They were breached yet again in Belgium the other day. They should be extended to whole families and they should be much tougher. We should like to hear what propositions the Government have on that front. As for the UN Security Council, I know that HMG try to keep raising the issue, but they should go on trying and trying again to raise a matter that may not yet be one of international peace and security, but which could become so in this network world if the whole of southern Africa is infected, as it probably will be.

It is the people of Zimbabwe—there are still many brave ones left—in whose hands the escape from this appalling downward spiral lies. That nation must save itself. We here should not be deterred by propaganda or lies from acting at every point we can. We would be failing in our duty if we did not stand ready to help and support to our utmost the people of Zimbabwe in their deep torment and suffering as they face the collapse of their nation.

My Lords I join all those who have thanked the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, for having introduced another important debate on Zimbabwe. My thanks to all noble Lords who have undertaken an extraordinary task in distilling so many important points into so few minutes. I thank all of them for that and shall do my best to address the crucial issues that have been raised.

The debate, as we know, coincides with a particularly brutal period—the past month being probably the most brutal of the lot—in Zimbabwe. As the noble Baroness, Lady Park, said, there are plain examples of that brutality. Mugabe's security apparatus has embarked on an odious, country-wide campaign of violence and intimidation in a determined effort to offset its decreasing support in the country. Human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition members have in the past few weeks all faced harassment, torture and, in some cases, death at the hands of Mugabe's security apparatus. Their only crime has been to dare to work and campaign for a better future for their country. I am sure that everybody in this House will join me in applauding all of those who have shown such courage in the face of such hostility.

I also deplore the threats that have been made to one of our own diplomats, which were referred to in the debate. He has been conducting normal diplomatic duties. We, of course, have the Zimbabwean ambassador on that matter, and on the matter of the parliamentarians who were savagely beaten on their way to Brussels. We have raised all those crimes of violence.

I look at the realities as other noble Lords have done. We see a wrecked economy—there is no other way of describing it. It is not alarmist or extravagant to make the point that this economy has imploded. As somebody who has spent a good deal of his professional career as an economist, I make the point that no economy in the world that I know of has ever recovered of its own volition from the depth of crisis that this economy now experiences. It has been plundered.

The official rate of inflation went through 2,200 per cent at the end of last week, and we all know that it is probably double that. It was a land of plenty, which has become a land of destitution. My noble friend Lord Kinnock is right to say that it has become a place from which there is mass emigration to neighbouring countries. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that peace and security are often fundamentally disturbed by large movements of people across international borders with no food and no capacity to sustain themselves or their families. That may well be exactly the kind of thing that the United Nations should have focused on and must do so now, given its past failure to focus.

I do not know whether I have any encouraging words for the noble Lord, Lord Waddington. I know of and have great respect for the work done by the Overseas Service Pensioners Association, but I do not think that any Government in the recent past have been able in any simple way to take on the debts that have arisen out of pensions and the collapse of regimes.

How different all this could have been if the agreement described by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, had been sustained. I shall not go through the statistics—they are so well known to your Lordships’ House—on the nature of the collapse in Zimbabwe. It would take time, and would not be particularly helpful because nobody denies the truth about the economic and humanitarian enormity of the collapse.

I have no doubt that most Zimbabweans understand the problems they face and the solutions required. Many, even in ZANU-PF, know the party has to change or lose all credibility. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked whether we see splits that may be of some benefit. I know that some leading members of that regime have been rather slower than they have in the past to climb on the Mugabe bandwagon. We must pay careful attention to that, not in a way which labels them and makes it impossible for them to operate, but one recognising that there are fundamental changes. Mugabe, of course, opposes all reform and continuously blames others for the crisis he has created, even to the extent of threatening international diplomats based in Harare, as I have said.

The United Kingdom shares the region’s desire to see Zimbabweans recover. There is no UK agenda other than the decent recovery of that country, but it is increasingly obvious to all that the present policies pursued by that Government are a barrier of the most profound kind on Zimbabwe’s road to recovery. Mugabe’s policies must change, or someone who can introduce new policies must be there, for any hope of a better future for ordinary Zimbabweans. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, asked what we were doing. I shall try to answer that, although he will appreciate that trying to “ensure”, as he put it, free and fair elections is something we can influence, but not achieve directly of our own volition. We can certainly try.

As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in another place, there is considerable concern across the international community about the situation I have described. The United Kingdom’s concern is shared by the European Union and many in the wider international community, particularly in Africa. SADC has shown for the first time that it is willing to discuss a matter which it has steadfastly refused to discuss on all previous occasions. So we must work closely with all of these bodies to sustain international pressure on the Mugabe Government. There are issues where we can exert pressure but have not so far done so. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked me how many children of the regime are in university. I tell the noble Baroness candidly that I do not know, but I am determined to find out.

We have maintained a firm EU policy, including the use of targeted measures. They have put pressure on the leaders of the regime and underline the EU’s position. We have recently achieved the roll-forward of those pressures, although not everybody in Europe was entirely confident that that was the right thing to do. They were content with our pressure, but I believe that rolling forward was absolutely right and we were successful in doing so. We must try to extend those measures. They are inadequate. They certainly punish Mugabe and his ruling clique, but are not intended to punish the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. I am with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on this: we check, and must ensure that we continue to do so. We must be certain that the measures in place are as effective as intended.

I say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that there has been no invitation to Mugabe for any EU conference held with Africa. My understanding is that nobody wishes to see the agreed sanctions stood down. We will continue to maintain the United Nations’ focus on Zimbabwe as well. That has included a strong statement: a number of nations have associated themselves at the Human Rights Council on 29 March, expressing their deep concern at the situation in Zimbabwe and calling for special rapporteurs. Briefings at the UN Security Council, most recently on 29 March, about the deteriorating humanitarian situation were among the first and most serious discussions we have seen. Visits by envoys of the UN Secretary-General have been important. The role of the new Secretary-General and what he might say were asked about. On 12 March, he made a hard-hitting statement condemning the brutality used against peaceful protestors. We believe that he is willing to continue to exert that pressure, which I welcome.

We will continue to support those working for peaceful democratic dialogue in Zimbabwe through the development of civil society programmes, which we support. Whatever the brutality visited on many of those people, I am with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark in applauding the work of most religious groups and leaders. The Archbishop of Bulawayo has played an exemplary role and deserves not just our support but our heartfelt thanks.

We are discussing with partners how the international community can best support the people of Zimbabwe, if and when there is a Government willing to turn from their present course and undertake serious and genuine political and economic reform. There are ways in which we could increase that pressure; they have come up in your Lordships’ debate. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, made the point that the G8 could do more. I assure him and the House that we are pushing for the matter to be on the agenda of the G8 and will continue to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Luce, and others, raised the role that the Commonwealth may play. I say to him and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, that the Commonwealth in planning its conference is none too keen to reintroduce matters which took up almost the whole of the Commonwealth conference not too long ago. None the less, I see the strength of the argument and I am certainly prepared to argue it with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Luce, that through the Commonwealth and the United Nations, the mobilisation of the tools of recovery is absolutely vital. I also share with the noble Viscount, Lord Goshen, the fundamental point that, if there is just another leader like Mugabe, pouring in additional resources, or trying to make these arrangements in circumstances which have not changed fundamentally, will not succeed. For those reasons, it is a matter of changing and securing different policies. My noble friend Lord Anderson was quite right to say that we have the advantage of being able to build on some existing strength; and we have to make sure we do.

Africans are highly critical, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said. Many individual Africans have been bravely outspoken. We pursue the issues repeatedly with the African organisations and states. We have urged at every stage a stronger African response. I have raised the Zimbabwean issue regularly with African Ministers—I think with every one I have ever met—as do my colleagues and officials. The noble Viscount, Lord Goshen, described it as “constant pressure”. I say to my noble friend Lord Acton that this has been at the centre of my discussions with President Mbeki on all occasions, and—I say to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness—with other former leaders who might have influence, such as President Chisano. It has been a constant theme of the work we are doing.

Following the recent escalation in violence, I am pleased to tell the House that, as many noble Lords will know, the Prime Minister has spoken to President Mbeki and President Kikwete of Tanzania. They made clear to him—this is their contribution to the conversation rather than the Prime Minister’s—that the tragedy in Zimbabwe is now having a significant impact on them and their region. It is a direct impact; it is also a social impact. They see the situation also as liable to get worse rather than better.

How do I assess this African intervention? My assessment in the past has been that it has been lacklustre. I think everybody knows my view on that. Quiet diplomacy has been urged on me. I believe that it has mostly been silent rather than quiet, but it is now audible and change is potentially unstoppable.

In saying these things, of course we all must make sure that the failed attempts of the past—including President Mbeki’s attempts, which the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, mentioned—culminate in the present attempt being more successful. We must relentlessly exert pressure. But I echo the point made by my noble friend Lord Anderson. This must be done in a way, as Morgan Tsvangirai has made clear to us, that does not undermine the efforts of those in the country who will have to bear the greatest weight in the changes we are trying to achieve. There is absolutely no point in destroying the credentials of those who may very well emerge as the leaders we need in the new Zimbabwe, whatever accommodations have to be made in order to achieve that result. When a key opposition leader makes those points, we must listen very carefully to them and show proper respect.

I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark and the noble Lord, Lord Best, that we are continuing work to provide aid. DfID has put £35 million into HIV/AIDS—a matter the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked about—in an attempt to bring down its prevalence in that country; €200 million have been given by EU states; and the United Kingdom alone disbursed nearly €60 million in bilateral assistance. These are not the actions of nations that are not interested in the well-being of the people of Zimbabwe rather than the problems of its rulers.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Best, that Anna Tabijuka is unlikely to be welcome to return to make another report. I share his view, but we will have to find either someone like her or others who will continue to put on that pressure. I perfectly appreciate what he said about the homelessness organisations and I should like to know more about them.

We intend to maintain that pressure and to work in difficult circumstances for the outcome that this House plainly wants. During his Easter message on 8 April, His Holiness the Pope made clear that Zimbabwe is in the grip of a crisis. It echoes the sentiments expressed throughout the international community condemning Mugabe's actions and supporting the brave Zimbabweans who have stood up against the regime.

We must all—we in this country in particular—play our role, strongly supporting the steps towards a new democracy, towards fair elections, towards a different outcome for the people of Zimbabwe, without, as I have said, damaging the opposition. We will continue to ensure that the targeted measures of the EU are in place. We will make sure that those who violate human rights and subvert the rule of law are targeted. We support all those working for peaceful and democratic dialogue, including WUSA, if I may say so to the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza. We will make sure that we are supporting them as well.

In two days’ time, the Government of Zimbabwe will hold celebrations for Zimbabwe's independence day—27 years after independence was declared. Independence from what? Are these people truly free? This House has expressed its view tonight and I hope that the House will feel that I have expressed the Government's view tonight: they cannot express their basic rights. They cannot choose the Government without a beating or worse from the police. That is unacceptable and we will play our part in turning round that grievous disaster.