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Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 5 June 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What conclusions were reached about Zimbabwe at the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Mbeki of South Africa on 1 June.

My Lords, the Prime Minister and president agreed that the states in the region had a key role in finding a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe. The Prime Minister expressed his concern at the situation and reiterated the Government’s support for SADC initiatives and President Mbeki’s leading role. President Mbeki described the progress of his mediation between the MDC and ZANU-PF. The Prime Minister stressed that Zimbabwe’s crisis was one of internal governance and that the United Kingdom remained committed to help, together with international partners, in the stabilisation and economic recovery of a reformed Zimbabwe.

My Lords, is not Africa one of the two main subjects for discussion at the G8 conference, which begins tomorrow, and do not those attending include representative strong leaders from other African countries, who recognise that the Zimbabwe disaster is bad for the whole of Africa and who need our support? Also, has not the German Chancellor said that the policies of Mugabe are not acceptable and called on African countries to use their influence for the good of Zimbabwe’s people? Is not the G8 better positioned to use its influence for the good of the people of Zimbabwe than almost any other organisation one can think of? Could this not give President Mbeki a great opportunity at last, if backed by the G8, to show that he is capable of decisive action?

My Lords, the facts relating to the statements of the German Chancellor and the potential statement of the G8 are absolutely accurate. I hope that President Mbeki will listen to the points that are made with proper and due attention. He says that he is trying to find a means by which the contending parties, including the opposition, can move forward, and that is part of his mission, but he will be in no doubt about the opinion of this country, the European Union or, as I believe we will see in the statement, the G8.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that President Mbeki’s current mediation efforts are the fifth such initiative since 2000 and that none has so far managed to shift Mugabe or to provide protection for civil rights in Zimbabwe or for those who work peacefully to secure democracy in that country? Will Her Majesty’s Government join President Kufuor and President Kikwete, both African presidents, in recognising that Mugabe treats such quiet diplomacy with contempt and that more direct African pressures are required? As the machinery of state terror is about the only thing that now works in Zimbabwe, does my noble friend agree that those who seek refuge from that repression by coming to this country should not be returned to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe when they are bona fide opponents of that regime, even when the current litigation is concluded?

My Lords, no one can doubt that we are aligned with what President Kufuor and others, including President Kikwete, have said. Indeed, we have gone way beyond anything that they have said. In Africa, we have been widely accused of having engaged in what people have called “noisy diplomacy”, by which I think they mean that we have been outspoken. I see nothing at all wrong in having been outspoken. It is certainly true, as my noble friend Lady Scotland said, that no one is being returned to Zimbabwe at the moment. Those who are entitled to make proper claims for asylum should have their claims treated in exactly the same way as this country historically has always treated claims for asylum, and they should not be subjected to any further peril.

My Lords, did the Prime Minister discuss with President Mbeki the vote by the Pan-African Parliament—by a majority of 149 to 20—to send a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe? Notwithstanding the fact that that was rejected contemptuously by the Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe, do the Prime Minister and the Government think that President Mbeki and the other leaders of SADC could make a significant move forward if they pressed the ZANU-PF regime to accept that mission?

My Lords, as regards any kind of delegation going to Zimbabwe, it is hard to know what would impress Mugabe. The Prime Minister was completely clear in what he said in South Africa and in his meeting with President Mbeki. He said:

“African governments should also hold other African governments to account. In Zimbabwe, decades of repression have forced up to one third of the country to flee”.

I shall not read further from the quote; it deals with life expectancy and the tragedies and crimes that we know have been committed in that country. No one is in any doubt about the United Kingdom’s position or the overall position of the EU. President Mbeki understands that perfectly.