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Volume 722: debated on Wednesday 10 November 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to provide assistance to the economic recovery of Zimbabwe.

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Lord’s hard work and commitment to the African continent. The economic situation has improved significantly in Zimbabwe since the formation of the inclusive Government. Hyperinflation has ended, growth has resumed and dialogue has begun with the International Monetary Fund. The UK has played a pivotal role in supporting progress, including providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance. We are also working to boost economic growth, including by stimulating local markets and supporting planned multi-donor infrastructure programmes.

I thank the Minister for her reply and accept the reality of the progress made in the past 18 months. However, does she agree that the situation of the Zimbabwean people is still desperately difficult, with about 80 per cent unemployed and the vast majority living on the breadline? DfID’s contribution for day-to-day matters is substantial and honourable, but is there a prospect of a contribution towards the infrastructure needs of Zimbabwe, which are immense? Is it possible to make such an award conditional on free and fair elections being held in June next year, as has been stated by President Mugabe?

My Lords, I support the noble Lord in his desire for free and open elections. In the mean time, we are supporting the people of Zimbabwe through our development programmes. We are in dialogue with the inclusive Government, but, as the noble Lord knows, we are undergoing bilateral and multilateral reviews of all our programmes.

My Lords, would the Minister agree that the necessary role of the MDC in the economic recovery in Zimbabwe has been much weakened by the recent discovery of huge deposits of uranium in that country?

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that the European Union common position on Zimbabwe will be under review in February. Does she anticipate that there are likely to be calls for modification of the common position on targeted measures against Zimbabwe? If there are, can she assure us that the United Kingdom will insist that, before any such changes are made, there has to be a serious improvement in human rights, good governance and democracy in Zimbabwe?

My Lords, we agree with the noble Baroness that there have to be improvements in human rights issues. We are in discussions with our EU partners about the future of the restricted measures which, as she rightly says, are up for review in February. Any UK support for the easing of targeted measures will be guided by progress on the ground. These are not sanctions; they are appropriate measures targeted at individuals and entities that have played a major role in the mismanagement of Zimbabwe and in associated human rights abuses. We hope that as progress is made we will able to work much more closely with Zimbabwe.

My Lords, can my noble friend assure us that the bulk of our aid to Zimbabwe goes to projects that the department has identified and can monitor and that it does not find its way into the general coffers of Mr Mugabe’s Government?

Can my noble friend confirm that SADC has still been unable to get ZANU-PF to honour the commitments that it made in the global political agreement? Can she also reassure noble Lords that the ban on ZANU-PF Ministers travelling to the EU will remain in place and will not be lifted until those agreements are honoured—and not “honoured” by easy promises that are so readily dismissed and broken?

My noble friend can feel reassured that we will be working very closely with SADC and South Africa to ensure that the reforms we want to see in Zimbabwe are happening. On his final point: yes, of course, we will make sure.

My Lords, can the Minister explain what support is being given in order to expedite and help with the drafting of the new constitution of Zimbabwe? Does she agree that until such time as a constitution is implemented, there is very little chance of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and that the expectation is that there will be an election in June of next year? Surely, without a referendum and a credible voters’ roll, this is an unrealistic time assessment.

My Lords, it is up to the people of Zimbabwe to ensure that they hold their Government to account; we can only offer assistance to ensure that the processes are as fair as possible. However, we will offer assistance if it is asked for.

Does my noble friend agree that the best way for us to assist in the economic recovery in Zimbabwe would be to offer President Mugabe a safe, comfortable and well looked-after home in Britain?

My Lords, my noble friend’s suggestion is interesting but I think that I will not comment on it further.

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether there are still restrictions on certain members of Mugabe’s family et cetera coming here?

Yes, restrictions are in place on Mr Mugabe’s family members who have been involved in abuses, as there are on some members of the Government of Zimbabwe.