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Volume 703: debated on Monday 30 June 2008

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is their assessment of the incoming Government of Zimbabwe.

My Lords, it is clear to the world that the so-called election last Friday was a complete sham and that, as African observers have already said, it did not reflect the will of the people. It is not surprising that Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC felt that they had to withdraw, given the horrendous levels of violence and intimidation. We will continue to press for a resolution that reflects the political choice of the people as they voted on 29 March.

My Lords, there are so many threads in this picture that it is difficult to know which ones to pick up but I shall briefly mention three. The first is that support is flowing away from Mugabe. He has been criticised by Mandela, two archbishops, the Secretary-General of the Security Council, the G8, the EU, SADC observers, which is significant, and the African Union, which is also significant. Therefore, it is a case of Mugabe against the world. The second is the position of Mugabe’s military, which played a very big role in the terror over the past weeks in return for Mugabe giving up his idea of retiring. Finally—

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it is important that we should not play too big a role in this scene and that it is for the Africans to deal with?

My Lords, I agree with everything that the noble Lord said. We should not play too big a role, and it is important that the Security Council, the African Union and SADC work together on this. However, we do have a role and a strong view on this, and anything that we can do to help to resolve this outrageous position, we will do.

My Lords, in the light of the fact that the second presidential election in Zimbabwe was held beyond the 21-day limit legislated for in the constitution and that it appears that the MDC and its allies have an overall majority of about nine in the Zimbabwean Parliament, is there any possibility of the Parliament being able to exercise any practical pressure on Mugabe and his henchmen, who usurp power in that country?

My Lords, the noble Lord’s points are good ones. There is no doubt that in the legitimate elections held in March the MDC won a majority in Parliament and the opposition candidate for president certainly got more votes than President Mugabe. I pay tribute to the bravery shown by MDC opposition politicians over a long period and to those who voted for them last week. Whether the politicians who make up a majority in the Parliament will feel able to take a stand is very much a matter for them, but we need to understand the appalling situation that exists in that country in terms of the number of people who have already died and the violence and threats that made up the election that was supposed to take place last Friday.

My Lords, in view of the point made in the previous question that the run-off election was outside the due time under the Zimbabwean constitution and that in the legitimate elections Mugabe was beaten both in the presidential election and in the parliamentary election, why do the Government not just simply withdraw recognition of the regime?

My Lords, it is extremely tempting to do so, but we have to think very carefully whether that is sensible at this time. All options are possible. We recognise states, not governments, and Mugabe is not a legitimate president. However, 14,000 or so British citizens live in Zimbabwe. At present, we believe that it would be wrong not to have some representation for those people, especially given the very difficult circumstances that I have tried to outline.

My Lords, are we ready to tighten the screws on the ZANU-PF elite, for example, by halting the three-times a week flights by Air Zimbabwe from Zimbabwe into Gatwick and by persuading the Germans to halt the printing of bank notes, which have fuelled the 9 million per cent inflation? As it will be impossible to send Zimbabwean asylum seekers back there in the near future, will the noble Lord answer the question which has been put to him by my noble friend Lady Williams about allowing Zimbabwean refugees in this country to work, particularly in activities that will contribute to the rebuilding of their country when they are able to go home?

My Lords, on asylum, I make it clear that we have no current plans to enforce returns to Zimbabwe and will not do so until the current political situation is resolved. On the work position, as my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown, who, as we speak, is at the AU meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, said last week:

“We are looking at the support that we may need to give Zimbabweans in this country, particularly at the ban on refugees taking up work”.—[Official Report, 23/6/08; col. 1258.]

My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board. I welcome the decision to stop Zimbabwe’s cricket team playing bilateral matches with England. Are there any plans to stop the Zimbabwean cricket team visiting England for the Twenty20 World Cup next year? If not, what will the position be if England meets Zimbabwe in the finals?

My Lords, there are no sporting sanctions as such on Zimbabwe. However, international sport should never be a way for dictators to publicise their misrule. As my noble friend says—I am grateful for his comments—we have made it clear that we do not want the bilateral tour to go ahead and that we will do all in our power to prevent it from going ahead. We have also—I hope this answers the question—asked the ECB to represent to the International Cricket Council our serious concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe and ask the ICC to reconsider its inclusion in the Twenty20 World Cup.

My Lords, can the Minister please elaborate on what measures can be taken to allow duly elected MDC Members of Parliament to take their seats?

My Lords, I wish I could. Given the state of government in Zimbabwe at present, anything I said on that would have every prospect of not being accurate. One hopes that those properly elected Members of Parliament will be allowed to take their seats and to exercise their powers in the proper way. We hope for so much for that country, and so far we have seen so little.