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Volume 725: debated on Thursday 10 March 2011


Moved By

My Lords, the last time we had a full-scale debate on Zimbabwe was in June 2010 at the instigation of the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, who I am glad to see in his place. I am looking forward very much to hearing what he has to say. The debate before that was two years ago, just before the global political agreement was signed, and yet the global political agreement is still very largely unimplemented, and progress towards its most essential objectives has been painfully slow. The Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee has told President Zuma, the SADC facilitator, that it aims to have a draft of the constitution ready for approval by 30 September, but at the same time it complained that lack of resources has been hampering its work. The chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission—ZEC—says that it cannot begin to work on the electoral register until it is provided with $20 million needed to carry out the operation. He estimates that another $200 million is required for the referendum on the new constitution and that the same amount is required for the national elections to be conducted on the cleaned-up register.

The backdrop to the looming election is the crescendo of political violence by ZANU-PF and the security forces against the opposition coupled with total impunity for the perpetrators, as detailed in a hard-hitting report from Human Rights Watch that was published earlier this week. Here, the coalition Government have announced that we are increasing our aid to Zimbabwe to £100 million a year to encourage fair elections and other reforms. The EU is spending €90 million on humanitarian aid in support of the key reforms of the GPA to promote an environment conducive to a general election. Presumably, the depoliticisation of the ZEC secretariat and staff must precede the collection of names for the electoral roll, but is that built in to the rules for the disbursement of aid? Will my noble friend say what we in the European Union are doing to combat the false allegation by the Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, that sanctions are to blame for the underfunding of the electoral commission? This is being echoed in newspaper advertisements in Zimbabwe carrying ZANU-PF and government logos that claim:

“Sanctions are an attack on our health, on the education of our children, on our social services and our infrastructure”.

This message gets picked up elsewhere in Africa. Have our embassies been instructed to explain to their host countries the truth that humanitarian aid is not affected by sanctions and that they bite on only 163 individuals and 31 businesses that are involved in human rights abuses and anti-democratic activities?

On 15 February, the second anniversary of the GPA, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai listed, not for the first time, his requirements for free and fair elections. He wants a new biometric voters’ roll, a stable and secure environment, a credible electoral body with a non-partisan secretariat, a non-partisan public media, security sector reform and a new constitution approved by a referendum. The need for a new list of electors was underlined just now by the ZEC finding that 27 per cent of the names on the existing list are of dead people.

There cannot be a free and fair election before these key milestones are achieved, the Prime Minister said, because, under the GPA, ZANU-PF has no power to hold an election without the consent of the other political parties. Obviously, they will agree only when the provisions of the GPA have been implemented. That position has been reiterated just now by SADC. They will also not allow elections to be held under the conditions that exist at the moment and without the substantial reforms that we expect from the GPA.

The three party leaders have just reiterated their commitment to the 24 principles of the GPA but that was exactly what they did last August, with ZANU-PF insisting that implementation should be concurrent with the lifting of sanctions. Is that still the position and what has been done to try and persuade ZANU-PF to lift that condition so that we can get on with the implementation of the entire GPA? Will my noble friend confirm that the US, EU and UK have no intention of lifting sanctions until substantial progress has been made towards full implementation? Will he also say that none of our $100 million-worth of aid will be dispersed until the sections of the agreement that were due in the first month are set in motion?

The Prime Minister wants a timetable based on the attainment of specific objectives with no dates attached. That seems to be the view of President Zuma, the SADC facilitator. Mr Zuma’s immediate concern is for an end to the politically motivated violence, as he demanded on a visit to Harare last month. The response since then has been more arrests, the torture of detainees and the denial of access to more than 50 political activists in custody by their lawyers and doctors. Nine of them, including MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, face trumped-up charges of treason, which of course attracts the death penalty. Their lawyer reports that they have been severely tortured and are held incommunicado on charges of watching a video of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Only yesterday, police disrupted a human rights workshop being held in a church and arrested the two co-chairs of the session. This morning, Elton Mangoma, the MDC Deputy Treasurer-General and Minister of Energy and Power Development, was picked up by three plainclothes police officers at his government offices, the Chaminuka building. Is SADC keeping a record of these events and reporting them to the African Union? Mr Mangoma is a member of the MDC negotiating team on the GPA and also co-chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee for the GPA, so this could be a particularly serious development.

Remembering the extreme violence at the 2008 election run-off, which led to the withdrawal of the MDC after they had been solidly ahead on the first round, do President Zuma and SADC have a fallback plan if their warnings about the urgent need to curb the ZANU-PF armed gangs and security forces are ignored? Without security sector reform, there is no chance that they would refrain from manipulating the electoral register and intimidating opposition candidates and voters. Has SADC considered enlisting the AU, its co-guarantors of the GPA, to bring extra pressure on ZANU-PF on this objective?

In our previous debate, there was some discussion about how the Commonwealth might be enlisted. Even though Zimbabwe is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, there might be an agreement to welcome it back into the fold if it performs on the GPA. Would my noble friend consider whether the Commonwealth might have that important role, of course with the consent of SADC?

Mugabe and his party want a polling day this summer, no doubt fearful that at any moment his failing health will mean that he has to step aside. In between visits to Singapore for surgery, he finally met the other party leaders on 25 February and agreed to start implementing the GPA in accordance with the implementation matrix they had already adopted in August 2010. Have we any reason to assume that that agreement will go ahead this time when the August one was in fact a dead letter?

I turn now to the prodigiously lucrative Marange diamond fields, said to be the largest in the world and of which some 97 per cent are under the direct control of the military. The remaining 3 per cent was assigned to two companies granted their concessions without a tender process, both closely associated with ZANU-PF and military commanders. Senior executives of one of the companies, Canadile, are being prosecuted for obtaining their concession by fraud and smuggling $100 million-worth of diamonds into Mozambique so that they were not taxed. The frontier with Mozambique is still wide open to illegal exports sponsored by the military, as people at Global Witness told me when I spoke to them last week. We have some leverage with Mozambique, a major recipient of aid. Could we help it put an end to this traffic?

Leakage of revenue also seems to occur at ministerial level. Finance Minister Tendai Biti said a month ago that more than $100 million generated from recent diamond sales had not been accounted for. His ministry had been given a schedule from the office of President Mugabe listing a total of $170 million said to have been transferred to the Treasury by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, but in fact it received only $64 million. Mr Biti said he had asked the Accountant-General to investigate the destination of the missing millions, to which the Minister for Mines immediately said that he had no right or power to hold such an inquiry. If there has to be an alternative, one obvious choice would have been the KP monitor, Mr Abbey Chikane, but his betrayal of confidential discussions with Farai Maguwu, head of the Centre for Research and Development, the most effective human rights campaigner in Marange, ruled him out. Ironically, Mr Maguwu has now been chosen by the civil society organisations to head the technical team of the local focal point for the Kimberley process. Could SADC be asked to suggest an independent accountant to resolve the difference between Mines Minister Mpofu and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, and to recommend measures that will fully identify the amounts of money received and by whom they are now held?

This Kimberley process mechanism is responsible for overseeing the certification of rough diamonds as produced in an area free from conflict or human rights abuses. Even though the military is now firmly in control of the region, ITN reports that extrajudicial killings and major human rights abuses are continuing. That is confirmed by the recent Human Rights Watch report that I have already mentioned. There is an even greater likelihood that money from the three auctions held last year was siphoned off by the generals. Two of the auctions were held under the supervision of the Kimberley process but a third was not. It came to light only when Mugabe announced that $250 million from that sale would be used to pay the arrears of civil servants’ salaries. Last week, Mr Tsvangirai said that diamond sales had generated $300 million revenue so far and that the money would be used to reduce foreign debt. As Mr Biti said, there is no accountability for the moneys being generated by these operations. Zimbabweans are not allowed to know what sums were raised in each of the three auctions. Does the lack of transparency not make it easier for the crooks in government to dip not just their fingers but their whole arms in the till?

The EU still occupies the chair of the Kimberley process Working Group on Monitoring, which is supposed to assess the effectiveness of monitoring. Yet when the KP plenary in November 2010 broke up without reaching agreement on what to do about the Marange diamonds, the KP monitor, Abbey Chikane, made a quick dash to Zimbabwe where he certified the whole stockpile of 3.9 million carats, worth some $160 million.

The KP chair issued a notice to members not to trade in Marange diamonds pending consultations on how Zimbabwe could bring its operations into compliance with KP rules. But amendments were agreed that would make it harder to secure investigation of human rights in the area, and it was to be no longer required that individual parcels of diamonds be certified. Even with those concessions, the Mines Minister said last Friday that Zimbabwe had not agreed to the light-touch KP guidelines that would allow Marange diamonds to be sold on the world market. The Mines Minister defiantly told Voice of America that the Government objected to any reference to human rights and that they would continue to sell diamonds regardless of whether the sales were authorised by the KP. It is as if they had decided to withdraw altogether from the KP, to avoid oversight that would reveal official theft of the proceeds that belong to the people. What does that mean for Zimbabwe diamond sales? Will lower prices have to be accepted because the sales will not be KP-authorised?

This is a make or break moment for the people of Zimbabwe. SADC and the AU, as guarantors of the GPA, could “do the right thing”, as Mr Tsvangirai puts it, and tell Mugabe that if elections are held without any of the reforms that were agreed two years ago, they would not be endorsed as free and fair, and any Government who came into office through such a process would not be accepted as the legitimate voice of the people. If on the other hand the elections are postponed until after the promised reforms are implemented, there will be a brilliant future ahead for Zimbabwe and its people. Like the Prime Minister, we have confidence in President Zuma and his team, and the EU should stand by to offer them any help we can provide.

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for bringing this matter to our attention and giving us this opportunity today. For more years than I remember, and probably more years than he cares to remember, he has brought such matters to the attention of your Lordships’ House and made sure that we debate these things properly.

I come to this debate as a person concerned for the well-being of all Zimbabweans, those living in their own country and those scattered around the world and here in the UK because they have had to flee their own country in fear of what might happen to them and their families. I come to this debate also as a Methodist minister. Methodism has had a long relationship with Zimbabwe and with Rhodesia before that. The earliest missionaries from the British church followed the 1891 pioneer column and, by the end of that year, bases for outreach had already begun in Salisbury and in Epworth—named for the place where John Wesley was born, of course, and now a high-density suburb of Harare. Later Methodists from the American church came to the country and focused their efforts especially on its eastern fringe. The relationship between Methodists in Britain and Methodists in Zimbabwe has weathered many difficulties, the creation and subsequent break-up of the Central African Federation, UDI and the war for black majority rule. The Methodists in Zimbabwe now form an autonomous and vibrant church with which we still have close ties. Indeed, where I work, my colleague is herself British Methodism’s special envoy to the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, and we have contacts all over the land with whom we are in regular touch.

Zimbabwe is a country with great resources, wonderful landscapes, and above all a diligent, hard-working, resilient and extremely hospitable people. As with others we long for the day when the country can once again hold its head high in the community of nations. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, reminded us, the current situation in Zimbabwe gives us very little cause for hope. The global political agreement signed in 2008 between ZANU-PF and the two parts of the MDC—one of which is itself terribly fragmented—which led to the formation of an “inclusive Government”, has for the most part not been implemented. Indeed, 24 articles have never been implemented, especially those that relate to security and the media. Technically, the lifespan of the GPA was over on 11 February 2011, so it ought to be behind us. Renegotiating it seems necessary, with seeking the implementation of all its articles as part of that negotiation.

According to our sources, the economic situation has seen some improvement with a reduction in inflation, largely the result of an abandonment of the Zimbabwe dollar in favour of the US dollar and other currencies. The relationship between the parties in the inclusive Government is largely characterised by mistrust, and ZANU-PF still controls the vital ministries dealing with security, the police and the media. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has still not been able to do something as basic as moving into the official prime ministerial residence.

At its last party conference at the end of last year, ZANU-PF chose Robert Mugabe—aged 87 years—once again as its presidential candidate, and is eager to have elections as soon as possible. I wonder why. June this year would be its favoured time. Its hope is to gain an outright election victory and dispense with the GPA altogether. We have already heard eloquent arguments as to why such elections or proposals for elections should be held off until all the things mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, are in place. Elections this year and in the current circumstances could certainly not achieve a free and fair election acceptable to the majority of Zimbabweans and it is my strong conviction that Her Majesty’s Government should do all in their power to support and encourage those groups in Zimbabwe, in the region and in international organisations working for a postponement of elections until proper procedures and safeguards can be put in place. I hope that the Minister can give us some assurance on that when he winds up.

South Africa and the countries of the southern African region are crucial in working on a road map towards elections, and it is in that area that we in Britain might best offer our support and, if requested, technical expertise. A new constitution, mentioned again by the noble Lord, was an essential pillar of the global political agreement, but has still not been achieved despite some half-hearted attempts at consultation. That needs to be in place before any election. More pressure needs to be exerted to bring about a full implementation of all the other articles of the GPA. A new electoral register needs to be produced, as was again mentioned by the noble Lord. I do not apologise for repeating matters mentioned in a previous speech, something that I normally find offensive, because the more we say this thing, the better. There needs to be an open media that will give coverage to all shades of political opinion. Contacts across Zimbabwe inform us that there is already a great deal of violence and intimidation around the country because people, by virtue of the last conference of ZANU-PF, are on election alert already. Therefore, the population is already, once again, in a state of fear. It is important that SADC and African Union missions be in place now and in the run-up to elections, and not leave their presence or activity too long.

It is perhaps an irony that President Zuma of South Africa should have come out so clearly in favour of removing President Mubarak from one country in Africa when his country has played relatively little role in seeking the removal of President Mugabe from Zimbabwe. Messages coming from Zimbabwe indicate that the MDC is being banned by the police from holding meetings in the run-up to its own party congress, let alone any election that might be in the offing. Church people—Anglican bishops and the general secretary of the Council of Churches—have had death threats issued against them, as no doubt have others from civic organisations who are working for cases of harassment and violence to be investigated and for the individuals responsible to be brought before the courts. We can highlight the plight of these people; perhaps we ought to. These are real things, happening right now. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned other instances of violence against people and the creation of a climate of fear. We should keep mentioning that to keep it before the public eye; then perhaps our Government can put pressure in the appropriate places to get assurances and action that will minimise these instances.

I shall finish here at home, with a word that may need to be said. We need to be conscious that the security situation in Zimbabwe has not improved greatly and that refugees and asylum seekers should therefore not be pressurised to return home prematurely. Perhaps we can put a little bit of muscle behind the coaxing—if it can be done with muscle—of the UK Border Agency and other authorities towards that end. Instead, the good work of agencies in this country in preparing and training Zimbabweans to go home when things are settled and to take their rightful places in rebuilding their country should be continued and expanded. Zimbabwe has slipped down the news agenda. It has gone on for so long that thresholds of patience, tolerance and interest have been exhausted but the situation there is important. The people there need our best attention and any efforts that this Parliament can put behind making things better for them.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Avebury on securing this debate. He is a man I am proud to sit alongside on these Benches for all that he does for oppressed people. This is a time when the process of political reform in Zimbabwe is under serious threat. Dozens of people have been arrested in the past couple of weeks in a co-ordinated crackdown on political dissent. There is a renewed assault on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. The build-up of intimidation and the recent deployment of military units on the streets of major cities are aimed at reinforcing a menacing sense of fear in Zimbabwe.

Ironically, while people have been, as my noble friend Lord Avebury mentioned, charged with treason simply for watching films about what is going on in Tunisia and Egypt, it is President Mugabe who makes inflammatory speeches that really threaten the future safety and economic well-being of the people of Zimbabwe. It is clear that he, together with the military high command and secret police, is determined to prevent any further progress along the road to democracy. They still have control of all the really important levers of power in Zimbabwe, which they plan to use to veto any further concessions to liberalisation.

I shall concentrate particularly on one area that is bearing the brunt of this crackdown: the independent media. I shall address some particular issues relating to freedom of the press and of broadcasting. Control of the mass media has long been a weapon in the armoury of those imposing repressive rule in Zimbabwe and it remains a key element in the old-guard strategy for undermining those working for reform. Free speech, free association and open access to the broadcast media would all give vital space in which to challenge the system of repression, but the tight system of control and regulation prevents that happening. That system was largely inherited by ZANU-PF from the minority regime of Ian Smith.

It is not just editors and journalists who face danger every day. I pay tribute to the people who are the unsung heroes of trying to disseminate free media: the newsvendors. They are attacked by Mugabe’s mobs simply for selling newspapers, such as the Zimbabwean, that favour reform. Their stock is destroyed and they put their limbs as well as their livelihood at risk. Meanwhile, vitriolic comment and denunciation of Morgan Tsvangirai and other MDC Ministers is a regular part of the diet of propaganda and distortion peddled by the state-controlled media in Zimbabwe. There is no BBC News, no ITV, no Channel 4 and no Sky. The television and radio stations of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which has a near monopoly on broadcasting, are under state control, and despite the existence of the “inclusive” Government, in this context “the state” still means ZANU-PF loyalists. They also control the major daily newspapers: the Herald, published from Harare, and the Chronicle, published from Bulawayo.

Two major tools of control are the AIPPA, a positively Orwellian piece of legislation that stands for the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act—true “doublethink”, given the way it is used—and POSA, the Public Order and Security Act. Those two Acts need to be repealed or radically reformed as a high priority. The international community has entrusted oversight of reform in Zimbabwe to the region. I hope the Minister will be able to tell the House that this issue is raised with South Africa and other SADC members in diplomatic and ministerial contact with the region. As major providers of aid to Zimbabwe and to its neighbours, the people of the United Kingdom—and, indeed the EU as a whole—have a right to expect serious engagement on these issues.

I also urge Her Majesty’s Government, bilaterally and through the EU and the Commonwealth, to make every effort to ensure that adequate support is given to independent media operators. That means help to fund professional training and help with legal resources and technical assistance to ensure that robust and independent media operations flourish in Zimbabwe. It is very important that this should encompass support for investigative reporting on economic and social issues as well as politics. In an environment in which the media has largely been used as a tool for spreading propaganda, there is a real danger that the skills of journalism are lost. Corruption and malpractice in commerce as well as in central and local government have an easy ride if there are no vibrant and well-trained independent media professionals.

One of the most important ways in which we can support reform in Zimbabwe is by backing a free and fearless media sector on which an accountable, democratic tradition can be built. I am very pleased that the first group of Commonwealth professional fellows have just arrived in the UK from Zimbabwe and that part of their programme involves media training. However, I am also concerned that a fifth fellow, Tafadzwa Choto, is not here, as he is one of the six people still being held on charges of treason for watching television coverage of events in Tunisia and Egypt, as was mentioned before. I encourage both the FCO and DfID to continue to explore ways of supporting the independent media sector in Zimbabwe. I hope the Minister will reassure the House on that and add his voice to those who are calling for the immediate release of those who are being held on treason charges for watching the news.

Another important way in which our aid programme to Zimbabwe can help is by supporting the specially appointed statutory bodies such as the media commission and the electoral commission. They need assistance in the form of finance and technical expertise. I have a particular interest in the media commission, but the electoral commission is also vital. Unless these commissions are adequately resourced, their work is hampered and they become ineffective in their role. In dealing with the composition of these commissions, attention needs to be paid to the staffing of their secretariats. There is no point in carefully selecting the representative commissioners who oversee their bodies if their work is then compromised or undermined by staff whose loyalties lie with the old regime. Although these issues might appear to be primarily the responsibility of DfID, they have a huge impact on the political and diplomatic areas for which the FCO is responsible, so I hope the Minister will be able to comment on these areas.

Finally, I have an observation—here, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. Restrictions imposed on the British media, which had included banning the BBC, were lifted a couple of years ago, but this does not seem to have resulted in adequate coverage in our own media of this very important story. I am glad to say that on this point and in this country, I do not expect the Minister to have any influence.

My Lords, I, too, express my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his initiative in securing this very timely debate.

I pay tribute to the thousands of brave Zimbabweans who remain committed and in the front line of the struggle for democracy and human rights. I have had the honour of meeting some of them when they have visited us here at Westminster. There are countless others in towns and villages across that country whose dedication compels them to risk imprisonment, torture and even death in order to bring freedom to their people. Many of them are women. I think particularly of the courageous trade union leaders: Lucia Matibenga, General Secretary of the Commercial Workers Union; Gertrude Hambira of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union, who is now forced into hiding and exile in fear of her life for exposing the way that members of her union were persecuted by Mugabe's regime; and Thoko Khupe of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Union, now Deputy Prime Minister.

It is heart-warming to see the solidarity with these heroes shown by the international trade union movement. The Confederation of South African Trade Unions has been staunch in its support, and in this country individual unions have mobilised support for their affiliated unions in Zimbabwe—the CWU with the Communications and Allied Services Workers Union, and the NUJ with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists. Practical support such as this directly aimed at those working with people at the grass roots is enormously helpful, and I hope that more such links will be promoted.

Not long ago I had the pleasure of giving tea in this House to a member of the rather small union that I used to belong to, the Speaker of the Zimbabwean House of Assembly, Mr Lovemore Moyo. As well as being pleased to meet Speaker Moyo, I was delighted that the assistant accompanying him, Mr Zitha, has spent time studying at the University of Leeds, close to my home town. That reinforced for me the relationship between Zimbabwe, which has been spoken about earlier in this debate, and the United Kingdom. There are many deep and personal links at all levels of society between our two countries, so this debate and the many occasions when we can raise issues regarding Zimbabwe are most valuable.

At my meeting with Speaker Moyo I discussed some of the important protocols that protect Parliament. They have to be fiercely guarded if parliamentarians are to be free to conduct thoroughly and without hindrance the tasks entrusted to them by the electorate. I gave Speaker Moyo copies of our sessional orders, which I used as Speaker and which were agreed at the beginning of each new Session of Parliament. They protect Members of Parliament from obstruction or interference in the conduct of their parliamentary duties. These rights are vital to parliamentary democracy, by whatever mechanism they are enacted and however they are enshrined, and I am very disappointed by recent reports from Zimbabwe that show that they are not being upheld.

I make no apology for deviating for a moment. Only a few minutes ago, I had a note handed to me that comes from a very reliable source. It tells me that a court ruling in Zimbabwe today says that the conduct of the secret ballot by which Speaker Moyo was elected was improper. This is a very worrying development and a serious situation. It is another example of the way in which the judiciary is often used to undermine democracy. A re-election could of course be used as a shoo-in for a new Speaker sympathetic to the Mugabe regime. That could be the case if enough of the MDC MPs are kept locked up in jail. Although there is not much longer to go in this debate, I hope that the Minister will have something to tell us about that devastating news when he winds up.

Six years ago yesterday, on 9 March 2005, I raised the case of the Member of Parliament Roy Bennett. My concern then was the imprisonment of Mr Bennett as a result of an altercation in Parliament. The penalty imposed was out of all proportion to the misdemeanour for which he had unreservedly apologised. Mr Bennett was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour in the most inhuman conditions. Six years on, Mr Bennett is in exile but continues to devote himself to fighting for the rights and dignity of his fellow citizens.

The arrest of any Member of Parliament is a serious matter. A few weeks ago I learnt of the arrest of Mr Douglas Mwonzora. Mr Mwonzora is co-chairman of the parliamentary constitutional select committee, as was mentioned earlier, and is jointly overseeing the process of consultation on a new constitution for Zimbabwe. He simply lodged a complaint with the police about the violent disruption by Zanu-PF militia of a meeting that he was holding in his constituency. In what seems an utterly bizarre turn of events but sadly is not at all unusual, Mr Mwonzora himself was subsequently arrested by the police outside Parliament in Harare.

As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has mentioned, we got the news that Elton Mangoma, MDC Minister for Development and a member of the MDC negotiating team on the global political agreement, was picked up from his government office by police. The reasons for the arrest are unknown to me. Perhaps the Minister will have some news of this latest arrest in his wind-up.

Politically motivated arrests affect other citizens too. Vexation charges are brought but time and money that can ill be afforded are then needed to mount a defence. Court proceedings are deliberately delayed, leading to protracted uncertainty. There seems to be a calculated process by which key people like Mr Mangoma and Mr Mwonzora are diverted from their duties and important responsibilities, and it inevitably means that the vital reforms so desperately needed in Zimbabwe are delayed or derailed altogether. Arrests of this nature have become far too commonplace. It is what that brave lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has called “rule by law rather than rule of law”.

I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us when next there might be an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary or the Minister for Africa to discuss these matters with the South African authorities. After all, the current political dispensation in Zimbabwe was imposed by South Africa. Robert Mugabe was able to engineer his so-called “victory” in the presidential elections only because he manipulated the figures in the first round and managed to deny Morgan Tsvangirai an outright win. In the second round, Mugabe unleashed such a wave of violence that Morgan Tsvangirai felt compelled to withdraw from the race to prevent further bloodshed. As we know, the former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa then used his powerful position within the region to manoeuvre for a settlement that propped up Mugabe and allowed him to remain in office. It was not a good development for democracy. It never is when the will of the people, democratically expressed, is denied, subverted or overridden. The way in which deals have been brokered allowing presidents to remain in office, just because they want to stay put despite losing an election, is to me a very worrying development.

We have to deal with the world as it is today. We have heard much about the global political agreement signed in 2008 by Mugabe and Tsvangirai. It is supposed to be guaranteed by South Africa as well as by the AU and SADC. Furthermore, it has been incorporated into the constitution of Zimbabwe. What is shameful is the continuing contempt with which Mugabe treats the obligations to which he solemnly signed his name. He has continued to take unilateral action on key appointments, and has threatened to call elections unilaterally without consultation with Prime Minister Tsvangirai and without waiting for the approval and implementation of the new constitution.

Surely the Minister would agree that such action is in contravention of the global political agreement. I feel very strongly that these issues need to be raised with Ministers from SADC countries. But I ask whether they are raised. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell us.

Surely we can negotiate with SADC countries. I do not need to remind your Lordships that we grant substantial sums of aid to them in our budget. We have good relations with them and most are members of the Commonwealth. Can we not use that leverage for the benefit of Zimbabwe? I hope the Minister will agree, after all, that political progress in Zimbabwe will help the progress of the whole region.

The government statement on priorities for UK overseas aid made it clear that we want to see value for money. I agree with that. Surely an important aspect of this, in the context of Zimbabwe, is that we need to deal with the causes of the crisis and not simply with the symptoms. The causes are political and the symptoms affect the whole of southern Africa. In footing the bill, should we not make it clear that we need the partnership of the region to overcome the political obstacles that are holding back development of SADC as a whole?

Last week I was encouraged to read the comments on these issues made by Marius Fransman—

I am so sorry; I will bring my remarks to an end—as important and fascinating as they are. As a former Speaker I must do that.

I look forward to hearing from the Minister what steps the Government will take to impress upon members of the AU and SADC the gravity of the commitments they have made. I particularly look forward to his comments on the possible Speakership in Zimbabwe that I spoke about in my comments.

My Lords, the role of a Whip is a painful one during debates. We are very tight on time. It would be very helpful if noble Lords could manage to bring their remarks to a close before “10” appears on the clock.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for this timely debate. I rise to speak in it because of an association with Zimbabwe over some 20 years. I have had the privilege of both employing and training some of the Bishops who now lead the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, and I attended most recently the consecration of the present Bishop of Harare, the Reverend Chad Gandiya.

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is undergoing a sustained and brutal persecution with its origins in a dispute over church properties and the non re-election of Dr. Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare and someone widely regarded as a plant of the Mugabe regime. When Kunonga lost the election in 2007, instead of stepping down he went on to form a rival faction. The police have consistently failed to protect Anglican congregations and clergy. This is something that I have witnessed, all too painfully, for myself in a number of places.

Police claim to be acting on orders from above. This persecution is evident across the country, most evidently in Masvingo and Matabeleland. Members of your Lordships' House will recall that in the 1980s, shortly after independence, the Mugabe Government recruited the North Korean Fifth Brigade with the specific intention of subjugating Matabeleland through a series of well documented atrocities, amounting to what has been described since as ethnic cleansing.

The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths mentioned the current death threats which have been made against the Bishops of Harare and Manicaland, and both men have recently escaped through warnings from friends when attackers have been on the way. All the congregations in Harare and Manicaland are prevented from entering their churches, or being within 200 metres of them, each Sunday, and this has been the situation since 2008. Policing this situation requires the use of hundreds of officers every Sunday. There are weekly arrests of clergy without charge.

Most recently, an 89 year-old woman, Mrs Jessica Mendeya, was killed defending the church. The Bishop of Harare described the circumstances surrounding her death, and I warn your Lordships that the description is shocking. Gandiya said:

“People came on Friday night. They raped her, they cut her mouth and genitals and pierced various parts of her body”.

Those who did this said it was something to do with the fact that she belonged to the Anglican Church. Following this killing, Gandiya said that he hoped that the police would step in this time to offer them help. He said:

“My hope is that they will do their work in terms of protecting all the citizens of Zimbabwe without singling us out as people not to be protected”.

The Bishop has also spoken of the resilience of the people, again something I have personally witnessed on a number of occasions. Reporting on a meeting a week or so ago, Gandiya spoke of another elderly woman beaten by Kunonga's supporters who had lost the use of one of her arms. She said:

“They can come and beat me and render my other arm useless but I will never give up my faith”.

Your Lordships cannot fail to notice how both the murder and the attack that I have reported signal a move to targeting the old and defenceless, indicating new levels of violence and human rights abuses.

The Anglican tradition is strong in Zimbabwe. The church has been active in peacemaking and reconciliation. Bishop Gandiya in his enthronement sermon in Harare Cathedral, an occasion itself marked by the locking and barring of the cathedral, offered an olive branch to those who supported Dr Kunonga. Bishop Gandiya is a valued member of the Archbishops international visitor programme, which I have the privilege of chairing, a body which seeks to keep conversations going across the divisions of the communion.

The oppression of the Anglican Church must be seen in the context of the wider oppression of civil society in Zimbabwe, of those perceived to be, or in fact in, opposition to ZANU-PF. Freedom of association has long been strictly limited in Zimbabwe and this has extended into restrictions on freedom of worship for many Pentecostal and Methodist groups, as well as other Anglican groups. As other noble Lords have mentioned, human rights groups—most particularly Amnesty International, of which I am a member—and Human Rights Watch, have recorded the extent of those abuses over the past few years and are due to present these at the international human rights review of Zimbabwe, which will happen in November. But November is a long time away, and things are pressing.

The prerequisites for new elections outlined in the global peace agreement have not been met, as we have heard. We also know that ZANU-PF is gearing up for a brutal election campaign of propaganda, intimidation and violence which will be funded through misused government funds, illegal diamond sales and sympathetic foreign regimes.

The persecution of Anglican Christians in Zimbabwe involves one of the most serious and sustained violations of human rights and religious freedom and demands international advocacy. The most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the head of the All Africa Council of Churches and the Archbishop of Cape Town, have supported the need to develop a regional advocacy strategy. The international human rights review will not take place until November, as I have said, but discussion needs to take place. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has said, there is an opportunity surely for the representatives of SADC to enable something of this kind to happen in the meanwhile. The support of your Lordships' House in this regard would send a strong signal to all those who are seeking an end to violence and intimidation. I hope that this debate will contribute to a better and more peaceful outcome in the beautiful country of Zimbabwe.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate. The recent developments in Zimbabwe do not reflect the aims stipulated in the historic global political agreement. Progress has been painfully slow with fears of a return to the old regime. There is speculation that Mr Mugabe has sent serving and retired Zimbabwean military personnel to Libya in support of Colonel Gaddafi. The 46 people who were arrested in Zimbabwe for watching footage of the uprising in north Africa are to be charged with treason—an offence that carries the death penalty in Zimbabwe. The former MP and Labour activist, Mr Gwisai, is among those to be charged. A magistrate in Harare has since halted the proceedings against these individuals and ordered that they undergo examination for torture. Most worrying is the revelation that among the 46 arrested is a woman who has had three operations for a brain tumour yet was assaulted by prison guards and refused treatment.

These actions have resulted in widespread condemnation, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concerns about civil society in Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe is such that there is hunger, poverty and unemployment among the majority of citizens but wealth is enjoyed by a select few. The combination of low incomes and a shortage of food have exposed Zimbabwe, among other nations, to fluctuating market prices. The average citizen spends a large portion of his wages on food supplies. A meteoric rise in the cost of provisions has the potential to trigger protests in Zimbabwe as seen in north Africa. The decision by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority to increase tariffs by 30 per cent puts further pressure on the cost of living, especially for citizens on the lowest incomes. Although economic activity has increased over the past two years, Zimbabwe’s headline rate of inflation was still high for January despite the monetary policy statement of the Bank of Zimbabwe warning against the effects of rising inflation on the economy. Zimbabwe caught the world’s attention at the end of 2007 with hyperinflation which led to price increases of more than 60,000 per cent.

The rise in political violence is a cause for concern. Amnesty International has reported that supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change Party have been targeted by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF for a campaign of prolonged violence and intimidation. It has been just over two years since the historic power-sharing agreement was signed by the two parties. Shopkeepers who stock and sell independent newspapers are being harassed and intimidated by people suspected of being members of ZANU-PF. A new organisation, Wealth to the Youth, which is linked to ZANU-PF, has been looting shops owned by foreigners. I support the decision of the European Union and the United States to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe until February 2012. This is the correct approach to dealing with a nation that does not reflect and does not respect its citizen’s human rights, democracy or the rule of law. These requirements were stipulated under the global political agreement but have not been implemented.

Britain is one of the largest donors to the Zimbabwean state and last year gave the biggest aid package to date. The Government have pledged to increase aid to Zimbabwe over the next four years provided that it holds free and fair elections and successfully implements reforms. I am in favour of this decision as Britain’s development aid reaches the people of Zimbabwe through the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.

I welcome the Southern African Development Community’s efforts to encourage the political parties in Zimbabwe to work towards achieving social and political reforms. The SADC is also playing an important role by investing in projects aimed at improving the infrastructure in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe has accused Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank of profiting to the detriment of Zimbabwe’s economy and has threatened to bring them under state control. I should be grateful if the Minister could inform your Lordships’ House as to the steps Her Majesty's Government will take in response to this overt warning.

During a recent visit, the Chinese Foreign Minister called for the withdrawal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. China has signed a deal to provide Zimbabwe with a grant of $7.6 million. It is important to remember that in 2008 China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that sought sanctions against Zimbabwe for violating human rights. Having an ally with the economic prowess of China provides the Zimbabwean Government with limited incentives to implement reforms.

It is not only irresponsible but incorrect for Robert Mugabe to blame the sanctions placed on his country for Zimbabwe’s ailing economy. It is more accurate to place a significant part of the responsibility for the nation’s suffering on the violent land-distribution programme that has almost destroyed the agriculture industry. The way that the white farmers have been treated by Robert Mugabe reminds me of how the assets of my family and other Asians were seized by General Amin when we were expelled from Uganda.

The concerns of foreign investors in Zimbabwe are compounded by Mugabe’s Economic Empowerment Act that states that black Zimbabweans should own 51 per cent of companies worth more than £307 million. Any form of discrimination is wholly unwelcome. It does not serve the best interests of Zimbabwe’s economy or society to implement such a blatantly odious piece of legislation that gives rise to racism. I should be grateful if my noble friend could provide up-to-date details of British companies and individuals affected by this law.

The recent direction taken by the President of Zimbabwe is hugely disappointing in the light of notable successes. The nation appears to have made progress, given its participation in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The Carlyle Group intends to launch a fund for investment in Africa, with a presence in three African countries, including Zimbabwe. The power-sharing agreement brought a great deal of optimism to Zimbabweans. However, it appears that ZANU-PF is still behaving in a manner that was rejected by the electorate two years ago.

Mugabe’s continued defiance of pressure from the international community is a constant concern. We have an historic duty to engage with partners in the region to work towards achieving the social and political reforms that the people of Zimbabwe greatly deserve.

Finally, I am a great believer in the Commonwealth and would like to see its countries, particularly the African states, do more to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe. I have spoken previously in your Lordships’ House on the Commonwealth. It should do more on conflict resolution and promoting trade among its various countries.

My Lords, the great privilege of being invited to join your Lordships' House has been exceeded in the past six weeks by the kindness and courtesy that everyone within this House has extended to me since 24 January, when I took my seat. My only sorrow is that my long-time friend and colleague, Lieutenant General Sir Freddie Viggers, was not able to lead me into your Lordships’ Chamber. I know that your Lordships have paid generous tributes to him for his time as Black Rod, which was curtailed only by his wretched illness. While I was the Chief of the General Staff, General Freddie was my No. 2 as the Adjutant General. Nothing would have given both of us greater pleasure than serving our nation together in your Lordships’ House; but it was not to be.

However, I thank my two, or really three, supporters who guided me in my early days, and I hope they will continue to do so, given that map-reading is not my strong suit. I am most grateful to my senior supporter, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. He was the undoubted father of the modern British Army and I could have turned to no one else than he to stand beside me. Field-Marshal Dwin had won a Military Cross in battle five years before I was born. The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, has been a friend for many years. We share a common background in our military antecedents. As a Christian on the one hand and a Zoroastrian Parsi on the other, we share a common desire to do the very best for and with those around us. My third supporter, who was unavoidably detained elsewhere on the day of my introduction, was my former commanding officer and mentor, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge. Having been his adjutant and principal staff officer many years ago, I am delighted to be standing by his side in your Lordships’ House today.

Before entering your Lordships' House, it was my privilege to serve for 40 years in the Regular Army— 40 years that naturally divide into four decades, each with very different characteristics. Those decades resonate soundly with this afternoon's timely and important debate secured by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, whom I thank for providing this opportunity. Perhaps noble Lords will permit me to reflect briefly on those decades to make the association with today’s debate.

For me, the 1970s were characterised by service in Northern Ireland; 1977 was the only year in that decade when I did not serve in the Province. The 1980s was the final decade of the Cold War, and of course included the Falklands conflict. The two are connected, because I believe it was not lost on the Kremlin that a democracy such as ours was prepared to send a task force 8,000 miles to fight for a principle. My third decade was that of the so-called new world order, when Francis Fukuyama announced the end of history—but we discovered the Balkans, East Timor and Sierra Leone, not to mention the deserts of Kuwait and southern Iraq in the first Gulf War. Then 9/11 ushered in my final decade as a soldier, propelling the Army, which it was my privilege to lead for three years from 2006 to 2009, back into Afghanistan and Iraq—countries well known to our grandfathers and great-uncles, and those of previous generations.

The conflicts that I took part in, or which formed the backdrop to my professional career, were all about people: their rights, their hopes and their future. That is all that the people of Zimbabwe are asking for. Like the people of Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the Falklands in the 1980s, the Balkans in the 1990s and Iraq and Afghanistan in this decade, all they want is to live free from intimidation in a secure environment that is conducive to freedom and prosperity. Is that too much to aspire to after the first decade of the 21st century?

It was as a schoolboy in 1965 that I heard that the then Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith, had unilaterally declared independence from the United Kingdom. To a teenager at the time, it seemed preposterous that this should have happened, and therefore it was with some relief that one heard in 1979 that, after a vicious and bloody civil war, there was the prospect of peace, perhaps reconciliation, and a better future for Zimbabwe. In the years that followed, I visited Zimbabwe several times, noting with a degree of professional pride the staff college that the British Army had established in Harare to underpin the professional development of the post-UDI army. I often reflect that there must be a generation of Zimbabwean army officers who were trained by us in the 1980s and who know that there is a better way than that of the repressive dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. Will they, I wonder, find the moral courage to stand up and do the right thing? They know what that is; we taught them.

On my third day in your Lordships' House, we had a debate on the military covenant. I was too much of a new boy to take part, but the debate highlighted what is really at the heart of the people issue that I am talking about today. In general terms, the covenant touches on the unwritten contract, or bond, between those who govern and those who are governed. In specific terms, it sets out the relationship between an elected Government, who decide what military operations are to be carried out, and those of their citizens in uniform, and their families, who are to carry out those operations. When the covenant is in balance, much can be achieved: when it is out of balance, the sparks fly. In a mature democracy such as ours we can debate these things, imbalances can be rectified and the scales brought into equilibrium: but in a brutish and nasty society such as Zimbabwe’s today, the imbalances are perpetuated, injustices go unchallenged and the poor get poorer while the rich get what passes in Zimbabwe for richer. It is therefore no surprise that decent people around the world say that enough is enough and that the regime of Robert Mugabe has more than had its day.

In closing, I pay tribute to those who, despite the repression and opposition, have continued to try to do what is right for the people of Zimbabwe. I declare an interest as a periodic contributor to the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for choosing the charity ZANE— or, to give it its full name, Zimbabwe A National Emergency—as one of the charities for its 2010 national Christmas appeal. The £350,000 raised will go a long way to making the lives of former service and civilian pensioners just that little bit more bearable. However, in a country such as Zimbabwe, rich with agricultural and mineral potential, it should not be like this. The people of Zimbabwe deserve a chance, just as the people of Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan have deserved a chance—a chance being given to them, by our nation, as I have witnessed over the 40 years of my military service, but there is more to do. I am grateful to have been given the chance to continue to serve people here in your Lordships’ House.

My Lords, it is a great privilege to be the first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Dannatt on his interesting and compelling maiden speech. We have all followed his recent career both as a soldier and, for a time, as a party politician, and I hope and expect that it is with great relief that he has arrived on the Cross Benches, where he will feel among friends both gallant and otherwise. As my noble friend told us, he completed 40 years’ service in the Army. He held many prominent positions, including Commander, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, 2003-05, Commander-in-Chief Land Command, 2005-06, and Chief of the General Staff, 2006-09. He also told us very movingly of his personal experience of and service to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans. I reassure him that his map-reading in the House can only improve. In the mean time, we will greatly look forward to his contributions to our debates.

We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for securing this debate at a time when we need to be more watchful than ever of events in Zimbabwe, which, again, are taking an unpleasant turn. It seems that the violence that we saw three years ago leading up to the elections is returning in a similar form. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury—as he does so well—and others have given us details of this rise in violence and human rights abuse. Inevitably, the MDC is being targeted, as are the churches, the trade unions and civil society—in fact, anyone, for whatever trivial reason, who falls foul of the authorities. The most ludicrous example was the video of the news the other day, and most recently there have been gruesome attacks on those attending International Women’s Day and other events in Bulawayo.

There is a new determination by ZANU-PF to block constitutional change, remove or intimidate the opposition, and threaten more violence in preparation for possible elections later this year, no doubt assisted by the diamond money which is being pocketed by officials. I strongly support those who call for a firmer intervention from SADC and the African Union. They could be selecting observers and getting ready for these elections now. What can the Minister tell us about the UK’s contribution, including technical support for the Electoral Commission, the need for voter education and making better use of civil society organisations, churches and trade unions in spreading awareness? Some of us have direct experience of the elections in South Africa, where this was so effective. It seems that history is repeating itself. It may therefore help to look back at what happened after the 2008 elections and to examine the EU’s and the UK’s diplomatic role at that time.

During the summer when Mr Mugabe had clearly lost all legitimacy and credibility, in the June 2008 elections, could the UK and other EU members have played a cleverer game? In retrospect, we now see that, three months later, he got ahead of us by entering this agreement which led to a coalition the following spring. Surely we can now admit that the coalition, which left the opposition with almost only the junior portfolios, was a considerable coup for the president and a major deception for the rest of us, as my noble friend Lady Boothroyd said. It simply became a prop to perpetuate Mr Mugabe’s regime.

Secondly, I wonder whether the sanctions, strengthened in February 2009 and relaxed since then, have really had any effect on Mr Mugabe, or whether in some perverse way they have actually boosted his morale. If we look at the Ivory Coast, we see President Gbagbo grandstanding against the French colonial power in order to boost his post-election position, echoing Mr Mugabe's performance three years earlier. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya is playing a similar game of one-upmanship by baiting foreigners. Clearly, the Zimbabwean dictator has attracted other African leaders, or should I say gangsters, to his master class. Interestingly, Jeune Afrique magazine left him out of its list of contemporary political arch-criminals from Salazar to Saddam last week. Is it possible that we in the UK have exaggerated the importance of Mr Mugabe and, thereby, contributed to his platform?

Having recently spent two weeks in Africa, I am certain that in both African and European Union eyes we in the UK still seem to feel over-responsible for Zimbabwe and are still his outstanding critics. I am not sure that that is a good thing. Is it perhaps time for us to lower our profile and join forces with the European Union in reaching a more convincing EU foreign policy? I recognise that that is controversial, but in a sense the process is inexorable and it might be a more effective and pragmatic diplomatic policy. We already have positive examples of close EU co-operation. At the time of the coalition—the Minister may confirm this—some EU members were understandably reluctant to work with the ministries held by ZANU-PF but since then there has been a more general engagement with the Government as a whole which has undoubtedly been a more productive way of working.

Another example has been the success of the EU’s partnership with the NGOs, which kept many families out of poverty during the harsh times of inflation and the collapse of social services. We can be very proud of the EU aid programme, and our own, and of the work of UK aid agencies over the past 10 years, also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh. With the restoration of most services, NGOs, rather than being purely service providers, are beginning to adapt to a more traditional development role, albeit under a humanitarian banner. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, about the need to support skilled Zimbabweans in the UK and the organisations which are behind them.

With the positive changes in the economy, thanks largely to the excellent Finance Minister, there is a new investment climate. There has also been an improvement in food supply and health performance mainly in urban areas and a decline in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, but some of the figures for maternal mortality, as my noble friend Lord Crisp will probably say, are still among the worst in Africa. I could speak of the conditions of farm workers, but I have spoken about them in these debates before.

In conclusion, I am not suggesting that sanctions should be further relaxed, but I feel that we are stuck where we are and that we should press much harder for the rule of law, fairer elections, constitutional change and a great deal more commitment from SADC, the African Union and Zimbabwe’s African neighbours.

It is always a privilege to follow the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in his contributions to this House. I say for the record how much I enjoyed his company and his wisdom in Sudan a couple of weeks ago. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his first speech to the House. I am sure that the definitive words that he gave us will be the first of many such contributions, to which we look forward. I also thank my noble friend Lord Avebury for bringing the debate to us today. His contributions over many years have always stimulated this House into making its views known on important issues of the day.

The debate comes at a time when there are developments inside Zimbabwe that give us some cause for pessimism, as many speakers have said. However, they are balanced by encouraging signs of more robust engagement within the region, which gives us slight cause for optimism, to which I shall come later.

Let me deal first with the threat to regional investment in Zimbabwe. The political and economic sabre-rattling by Mugabe will do nothing to encourage re-engagement by the international community. Conferences and initiatives to encourage investment in Zimbabwe, such as those in Harare in the past week or so, take place against a backdrop of a renewed threat by Mugabe, as set out in his recent birthday speech, to seize foreign businesses in the country. He was not talking only about EU or American investments in Zimbabwe. As Newsday, an independent newspaper in Zimbabwe, commented:

“Hardly a week after the ministerial statement on the Bippa with Botswana, birthday-boy President Robert Mugabe drove horses and chariots through the positive development on the signing of the Bippa … He also made threatening noises against South African-owned platinum miner Zimplats, accusing the giant mining firm of squirrelling profits across the Limpopo. He said Zimplats had ‘never given us any substantial money’”.

It is against that background that we can see that patience with Mugabe within the SADC region is wearing somewhat thin.

As for South Africa’s approach, Mugabe’s claim that he could call snap elections and bring an end to the power-sharing inclusive Government was countered by Deputy President Motlanthe of South Africa. He said that, when elections eventually take place, there will need to be international monitoring on the same scale as happened at the end of the liberation war when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. He said:

“There would be a need for an international presence of the same scale, to ensure a bridge with the past”.

He said that the next elections were viewed by all parties as watershed elections and therefore they had to prepare for them thoroughly to ensure that there would not be any more violence and intimidation during the course of the election campaign. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned, there is now a real window of opportunity. The European Union, the Commonwealth and UN institutions need to set in train the plans, preparations and funding arrangements for election monitoring. To be effective, that monitoring would need to be longer term than the normal election observer missions—both before polling and afterwards. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us what we in the UK are doing to make sure that plans for such monitoring are put in hand. What budgetary planning is there for such an intensive programme? It will be expensive, but it will be money well spent. The recent announcement of a 15 per cent increase in the UK aid programme to Zimbabwe, which several noble Lords have mentioned, from £70 million to £80 million in the next financial year, is good news and I welcome it, but what resources are specifically set aside to ensure that a countrywide network of international monitors can be adequately resourced in staff and infrastructure?

On the contributions from the AU and SADC, President Khama of Botswana has consistently adopted a closely engaged and constructive stance on supporting political and economic progress in Zimbabwe. It is good that others from the region, such as Georges Chikoti, the Angolan Foreign Minister, are demonstrating support for the democratic aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.

I hope that this debate will help the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Africa to demonstrate the support that there is at Westminster and among the people of the United Kingdom for the people of Zimbabwe. The DfID aid budget has shown that over many years and, as I and others have said, it is still rising. The fact that we have a large Zimbabwean diaspora living in towns and cities throughout the UK also strengthens our ties with their families and friends in towns and villages across Zimbabwe. I hope that Ministers stress that financial commitment and those close personal ties when engaging with the AU and SADC on Zimbabwe.

In mid-February, the EU announced the rollover of restrictive measures on Zimbabwe for a further 12 months, with the arms embargo, the travel ban and the asset freeze remaining in place, as noble Lords have mentioned. At the time, the Foreign Secretary said:

“This rollover … reflects the fact that the economic progress that has been made since 2008 has not been matched by progress in key political areas such as the rule of law, democratic reforms and the creation of an environment conducive to free and fair elections”.

I am particularly concerned that the upsurge of political violence and intimidation that we are seeing now suggests that a pre-election intimidation campaign is gathering momentum. Can the Minister confirm that the United Kingdom remains committed to supporting the people of Zimbabwe? Last year, the UK gave its largest ever aid package to that country. With free and fair elections and a reforming Government in place, is it the case that the UK would significantly increase its aid to Zimbabwe over the next four years?

When we here at Westminster call for a greater sense of urgency from the AU and SADC in implementing the reforms set out in the global political agreement, it is because we want to see no delay in efforts to improve the lives of the millions of Zimbabweans who suffer hardship and poverty as a result of corruption and political repression.

In this context, it is important that the vexed question of security sector reform is tackled. It is quite possible to conceive a well run election with a proper voters roll taking place only for the process of transition to be thwarted by an intransigent military high command. All the indications are that support for ZANU-PF has fallen to a very low level right across the country, probably below 20 per cent. This poses a serious threat to senior officers in the army, the air force, the police and the intelligence services, who have vowed never to recognise Morgan Tsvangirai as President of Zimbabwe even if he wins elections. According to recent reports on ZimOnline, more than 80,000 youth militia, war veterans and soldiers will be deployed across the country in an army-led drive to ensure victory for Robert Mugabe in the next elections, which, according to the investigations, look set to be the bloodiest ever witnessed in Zimbabwe.

The investigations, which include interviews with Cabinet Ministers, senior military officers and ZANU-PF functionaries, revealed a desperate determination by the hard-line generals to thwart Tsvangirai even if he should somehow triumph against the planned violence. They plan to continue to wield a de facto veto over the country’s troubled transformation process. Serious thought, planning and financial resources must be put into reform of these sectors. It is not an easy area to tackle, but it is futile to plough resources into the development of Zimbabwe while the military continues to believe that it can thwart the democratic will of the people. A military veto of the transfer of power would not only be disastrous for Zimbabwe but have a serious impact on future development across the whole region.

The Joint Operations Command in Zimbabwe is made up of the top military commanders in that country. With the introduction of the inclusive Government, the JOC was supposed to be disbanded and replaced by the National Security Council. In fact, the JOC continues to operate as a political high command. Unless security sector reform is tackled urgently, the JOC poses a real threat to further progress towards reform and democratic government in Zimbabwe. I hope that in this, as in other areas, the Minister will be able to reassure not only this House but the people of Zimbabwe and the region that the UK stands ready as a friend and ally to support the aspirations of the people for political and economic progress.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on his powerful introduction to this debate, which sparked many other powerful speeches, including the remarkable maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Dannatt. I want to speak briefly about health in Zimbabwe. Our main discussion today is naturally about the political situation, rights and the rule of law, but I know that noble Lords will well understand the relationship of health in the short term and, perhaps more importantly, in the long term to the condition of the country. The reduction in health status that we have seen in recent years is as significant a deficit in the country as any other problem.

A healthy population is strongly connected to the economy, to well-being, to civil society and eventually to the rehabilitation and rebuilding of a healthy society. There have been some improvements over the past two years, but they follow a desperate decade of deterioration. Everywhere we can see chronic shortages in the supply of drugs and of staff, many people having fled the country, some of them coming here but a significant number going to their neighbours, poor morale and—that indicator of difficulties in the future—a reduction of and other problems in the education and training of health workers.

The result, as my noble friend Lord Sandwich said, is predictably awful. Over the past 18 years, maternal mortality has more than doubled, from 380 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990 to 810 per 100,000 in 2008. Translated into terms that are easier to understand, it means that one mother dies in every 120 births. The equivalent would be a mother dying every week in St Thomas’s Hospital across the river. These are awful figures. Over the past 15 years, life expectancy has dropped from the mid-60s to 44 years. The health status of the country has deteriorated very quickly.

As I said, there has been some improvement over the past two years, which can be linked to economic improvements in the country, but there is more to do. What I want to draw attention to in my remarks is the work and role of diaspora organisations and the many links that we have between the UK and Zimbabwe. From time to time, I am approached by groups of Zimbabweans who ask how civil society, as much as government, can help to support the rehabilitation and improvement of health in the country both now and, crucially, in the longer term.

Let me talk about one such group, Zimbabwe Health Training Support. Founded in 2006, the group comprises health professionals who are almost all from Zimbabwe, the others having strong links with the country although they come from the UK. Its role is to leverage the talent of the diaspora and to create sustainable links between this country and people in Zimbabwean organisations in order to support improvements in health.

Currently the group is supporting 10 Zimbabwean institutions across all parts of the country, regardless of politics, and working with organisations such as the Zimbabwe Association of Church-related Hospitals. Zimbabwe Health Training Support responds to need. Over the past four years it has trained 100 midwives with partners in the UK, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and by drawing strongly on British talent has trained 16 people in emergency obstetrics The organisation is grateful for the support that it gets from the UK, recognising that some element of DfID money allocated to the country is going towards maternal and child health, as well as towards water and sanitation improvements. The group recognises that at the moment it can receive only a small grant from DfID to support its work but urges the department to pay more attention to helping it to support the training and education of future health workers in Zimbabwe, because that is what will be vital in the years to come.

I conclude my brief remarks with two questions. First, thinking forward and at the right time, do the Government plan to provide specific support for rebuilding and revitalising the health sector in Zimbabwe? Secondly, in the short term, what support will they give to diaspora organisations, such as the one that I have talked about, which are working in the healthcare sector?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for giving us an opportunity to debate this extremely important subject. It is vital that Zimbabwe is kept high on the political agenda. I am also delighted that my noble friend Lord Dannatt was able to make his maiden speech. He did not mention it, but he and his son have been very involved in the charitable sector, particularly the protection of street children in Sierra Leone.

While much has been achieved on the economic front since I initiated a similar debate on Zimbabwe in June last year, sadly that cannot be matched by developments on the political front. Rather than repeat the many achievements of the coalition Government since the signing of the GPA, I shall address some of my concerns about current developments in that country.

It is well recognised that the country has enormous potential, boasting a comparatively highly educated workforce, a reasonable infrastructure and huge potential for agriculture, mining and other industries. The country also has minimal debt, with GDP growth expected to be in excess of 9 per cent this year. However, the country will be unable to achieve its full potential until and unless there is a clearer political road map and the brain drain of Zimbabweans to all parts of the world can be reversed.

In the past 10 years, more than $100 billion of trade has flowed into sub-Saharan Africa. That is 10 times the amount of trade in the previous decade. However, trade flows into Zimbabwe have reduced by 40 per cent from 10 years ago. For Zimbabwe to achieve its much needed foreign direct investment for infrastructure, mining and other key areas, so as to create much needed jobs and to reduce poverty, not only does there need to be much more political certainty but issues arising from the Indigenization and Empowerment Act, for example, need to be resolved. The promulgation without any consultation of the MDC of that Act, which aims to give 51 per cent of all businesses to locals, is farcical and a major deterrent to international inward investment into that country.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the prickly issues of Marange diamonds, human rights violations and allegations of gross corruption. I warmly welcome the recent demand by the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, for a formal audit inquiry by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority into the diamond proceeds from that area. Not surprisingly, there has been fierce resistance to the audit from the ZMDC and others involved in Marange. I am also pleased that an amendment has been made to the Kimberley process agreement, insisting on more monitoring and transparency of the operations in Marange. There have been many varying reports on exactly how much money is unaccounted for, but I understand that it could be as much as $300 million. Many believe that the fortunes of ZANU-PF have been revived by the proceeds of Marange diamonds.

Time prevents me addressing today the sensitive issue of land reform and the Lancaster House agreement. It is clear that it needs to be addressed. Sadly, there are continuing reports of farm invasions, which have a massively destabilising effect on the revival of the agricultural sector.

There has also been a lot of speculation about the timing of the next election. President Zuma of South Africa as well as the SADC countries have made it clear that they will not support an election until and unless all the electoral conditions and the constitution have been agreed and implemented. This will be the only chance for free and fair elections. At the very earliest, it could be achieved by the last quarter of this year or early next year.

There has also been a lot of speculation about the health of President Mugabe and how long he will be able to continue in his current role. If he dies in office, one of the Vice-Presidents is obliged by the constitution to take over. There is growing support for Vice-President Joyce Mujuru to succeed him. If she were to do so, she would need to call elections within three months unless there is an agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC, as well as Jacob Zuma, to maintain the unity Government until 2013, which is the very last date by which elections can be held.

I am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, raised her concerns about the need for more freedom of speech and more freedom for the press and the media. While Jacob Zuma managed last year to negotiate for the establishment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Media Commission, these commissions appear to have been established in name but without any muscle. Can the Minister give an update on the envisaged powers and independence of these commissions?

Clearly the people’s revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have resulted in a mood of paranoia in the senior hierarchy of ZANU-PF and, as many noble Lords have mentioned, it is farcical and outrageous that 46 citizens were arrested and charged with treason for watching a programme on the uprising in Egypt. The coalition Government of ZANU-PF and the MDC could never be an effective Government of national unity while the military and the police force are controlled by ZANU-PF.

Robert Mugabe has, on several occasions, indicated his desire to engage in more proactive negotiations with the British Government, and particularly with the Conservative Government. Apart from the assistance of DfID, can the Minister elaborate on what plans there are to engage with the Zimbabwe Government on agreeing a road map for the future of the country?

Finally, can the Minister also outline the Government’s policy on the future of sanctions in Zimbabwe? While I have always supported sanctions if they can be seen to be effective, I am of the view that our sanctions policy against Zimbabwe has been singularly ineffective. It has been used as a weapon to bolster support against the West and for the poor performance of certain parts of the economy. The likes of Emerson Mnangagwa have been egging for an early election and supporting the anti-sanctions rallies and the indigenisation campaign, blaming the MDC as being puppets of the West. I am of the opinion that President Mugabe is keen for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth and that this incentive is more powerful than the current sanctions policy against the country.

I know that the likelihood of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe is a pipe dream. We live in hope.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for instigating this debate and for his continuing insights, determination and commitment to fighting against injustice wherever and whenever it occurs. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his excellent maiden speech.

There has been a great deal of discussion today around all the issues of concern. I contend that the best way forward for us would be to exert our influence and raise our concerns through stronger collaboration with fellow member states of the European Union. As Members of the House have said, we have seen a serious escalation of violence in recent weeks and it should alert us to the need for insisting on a radical improvement in human rights before any election can be contemplated or take place. We need clarity in order to oppose Mugabe’s manoeuvring to ensure that the election takes place as early as possible for him.

The EU would want to assist with the preparation for and organisation of an election, but of course the circumstances and the context—which includes freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as well as other issues—need to be right before any election observation would be worthwhile or appropriate. Of course neither the European Union nor the Carter Center nor anyone else will go to such an election unless they receive an invitation, which they would also require. I think it highly unlikely that the European Union or any international observers will receive an invitation from Mugabe, were he to have total responsibility for it. As in 2008, we could see a very complex situation in which only those who have no neutrality or independent thoughts on this matter are “observing” the election.

As other noble Lords said, the security situation is likely to continue to be deeply concerning. We have seen serious disturbances which have been proven to have been instigated by pro-Mugabe militias trucked in for that purpose. In addition, the police force remains partisan, and the MDC will take the brunt of the violence that occurs. Politically motivated violence and the lack of accountability for abuses remain serious problems. All that we see and hear poses questions about the likelihood that anything like a credible election will occur.

Under Article 96 of the Cotonou partnership agreement, which was agreed between 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Union, appropriate measures have been applied to Zimbabwe to prohibit any government-to-government co-operation. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that any such co-operation would be totally inappropriate at this time. Zimbabwe is also subject to other measures, including an arms embargo, a visa ban and asset-freezing for targeted individuals and institutions.

Despite what Mugabe says, the EU remains one of the biggest donors, and the measures in place do not affect humanitarian aid. All programmes and projects to support public health, education, micro-projects, decentralised co-operation, democratisation, support for human rights and the promotion of the rule of law are still in place and funded by the European Union. A package of €635 million is in place to assist the people of Zimbabwe. The sum of €130 million has been allocated under the EU’s development envelope, but funds from this envelope will be available only if progress is made on the political dialogue instigated in 2009.

As noble Lords will be aware, the EU has removed 36 names from the visa ban list. In the current circumstances, I trust that no further concessions will be considered. Although there is some scepticism about sanctions, it would seem an endorsement of Mugabe’s position to do anything else at this stage. We should not be seen to be bending to the blackmail on sanctions which he is endeavouring to exert on the European Union. There has to be measurable progress on justice, human rights, violence and corruption, and very serious efforts to address the issues of accountability and impunity.

Mugabe and ZANU-PF are pushing and pressing for elections before reforms because Mugabe knows that reforms will improve the MDC’s election prospects. He does not want reform because he knows that that election outcome would be a direct effect of reform implementation. As other noble Lords said, we can assume that it is unlikely that South Africa and SADC, the key arbiters of the GPA, will endorse early polls. I certainly hope that that is the case.

Although there are huge tensions within the power-sharing Government, these tensions have not received much mention this afternoon, and they are increasing. Tendai Biti has made progress in stabilising the economy but the economy remains fragile. This progress will not be enough without the necessary constitutional reform and a credible election process. Twenty-four items of dispute have been identified between the two parties, and these items remain largely unresolved. An electoral commission and human rights commission have been appointed but they lack adequate financing and continue to argue about their respective remits. Critically, there is little confidence that bodies aligned with ZANU-PF, notably the security forces, will in any case respect anything that those commissions do. I trust that the EU will monitor the constitutional reform process and make it clear that such a process must be in place before any election is contemplated.

Just last week, I think, Finance Minister Tendai Biti predicted that Zimbabwe risks experiencing a repeat of the 2008 election, in which 253 people were killed. He said:

“So yes to an election”—

not a boycott—

“but no to a bloodbath ... It’s an African challenge. What has happened in Ivory Coast, what has happened in Kenya … is unacceptable”.

He knows that more than 80,000 militia, war veterans and soldiers are already being deployed across Zimbabwe in order to ensure victory for President Mugabe. This week, we have seen the response to the peaceful International Women’s Day demonstrations. In both Bulawayo and Harare, women were arrested, imprisoned and report being tortured. Efforts to intimidate and silence political opponents and stifle open debate are evidenced everywhere you look at this time—efforts which are consistently backed by politically motivated violence. Women have memories of terrible sexual violence in the last election and actually fear another election taking place because of how vulnerable they will be.

Meanwhile, as reports of instability and violence continue, I was surprised to read that at the African Union summit in Addis in January, Zimbabwe did not feature in the discussions on crisis countries. The focus was entirely on Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia and Tunisia. Incredibly, the AU’s commissioner responsible for democracy and human rights said that the view was that the situation in Zimbabwe had improved and therefore Zimbabwe was not on the AU radar at this time. Has anyone told the African Union about the widespread state-sponsored violence that exists in that country? Two years after the power-sharing agreements meant to end human rights violations and restore the rule of law in Zimbabwe, we see, sadly and tragically, that the terrible suffering and misery goes on.

My Lords, we all owe a debt of thanks to my noble friend Lord Avebury for returning to this issue, which the House has debated many times in great depth and with great concern. He is right to bring our thoughts back to it when so many other turbulent events are occurring round the world. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his excellent maiden speech. He brought his immense military experience to bear and applied it both to this issue and to the many issues round the world that we have to face. We all listened with the greatest interest to what he said and look forward to hearing much more of his vast supply—his hinterland—of expertise applied to the many issues of international affairs which we have to deal with in the House.

I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, for a number of things that she said. I shall come back to some of them in a moment. She hit the nail very much on the head in pointing out that the sanctions measures that the EU are taking do not affect humanitarian aid. All the propaganda that has been put to the contrary is of course propaganda and no more than that. That cannot be said too strongly, and I will come back to that point a little more in a moment.

This debate has brought out one matter that gives the Government growing concern: the marked recent increase in politically motivated intimidation and violence after a period of relative stability. This point was made by my noble friend Lord Avebury, the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, and the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, and was amplified when the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, focused on the media restrictions that are also closing down parts of Zimbabwean life instead of opening it up. There is no doubt that the whole pattern is one of ratcheting up the pressures on the reformers and generally closing down Zimbabwe’s society.

The particular issue to which the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, drew attention is a very telling indicator of particular issues. First, there was the arrest of Minister Mangoma, to which my noble friend Lord Avebury also drew our attention. Then there was the declaration that the election of Lovemore Moyo as Speaker is to be declared null and void. These are both highly sinister developments, marking a significant increase in pressures. The Government are urgently seeking further clarification, and we will have no hesitation at all in voicing our concerns with the appropriate interlocutors, and in every way we can. These are clear evidence of a development that we do not like, which might herald the start of pre-election intimidation campaigns, although there is no certainty yet about the date of elections. Obviously, a longer timeframe would permit more of the building blocks for free and fair elections to be put in place, instead of all these counterpressures. If the elections take place later this year, which is one suggestion, those attempts to build conditions for free and fair elections will be curtailed. So our aim is to do whatever we can to help prevent a repeat of the violence that marred the elections back in 2008. That must be the right way forward.

We continue to work closely with our international partners in support of the work being undertaken by SADC and the South Africans on developing a road map towards credible and properly monitored elections. The role of SADC as guarantors of the global political agreement will be key to the future of Zimbabwe—a point that my noble friends Lord Sheikh and Lord Chidgey made graphically. It is in SADC’s interests to have a neighbour that is politically stable and economically thriving, and it has a regional mandate to take concrete action when the UK or EU does not. We are encouraged by the recent increased diplomatic activity in working to create an environment conducive to holding free and fair elections, and fully support it in its continuing efforts.

In our view, an election is the only route by which Zimbabwe will be able to move forward sustainably. The key determinants for a credible election are political will in Zimbabwe and the SADC region, but development assistance can provide much needed technical expertise and funding for checks and balances to help level the playing field. We will assess carefully any requests made by the inclusive Government for support to a credible election process, taking into account the changing political context and, particularly, the anticipated South African-sponsored road map to elections that we want to see.

Noble Lords will be aware that we have recently engaged in extensive discussion with our EU partners over the future of our restrictive and appropriate measures in Zimbabwe. The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, asked about this point. The outcome, as stated by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in his Written Ministerial Statement of 16 February, a month ago, was the right one. We have acknowledged the continuing economic progress in Zimbabwe, but we have noted our strong concern at the lack of equivalent political and democratic progress by keeping the measures in place for a further 12 months. The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, addressed that point. We have removed a modest number of individuals from the target list and have left the door open by announcing our willingness to revisit the measures in a year in response to concrete developments on the ground, in particular in relation to creating the right environment for free and fair elections. I hope that that meets the point that a number of your Lordships raised.

Perhaps I might come to some specific, additional points that were raised before I develop one or two broader themes. The important issue of diamonds was again raised by my noble friend Lord Avebury. We call on Zimbabwe to maintain a firm commitment to the Kimberley process and to continue to take action to bring all mining operations in the Marange diamond fields into compliance with the KP requirements. In that way, diamonds can contribute to Zimbabwe’s economic development instead of distorting it in the way that some of the proceeds appear to be doing now.

The UK remains fully committed to the Kimberley process, which is of course an EU matter. The EU is the body representing the UK in the process. We play an active role in and through the EU in pushing for Zimbabwean compliance with KP minimum standards. We have persistently called for a robust EU response to Zimbabwe's failure to comply with the aspects of the joint work plan agreed at the 2009 Kimberley process plenary. That plan clearly sets out the improvements that Zimbabwe needs to make to ensure compliance with the Kimberley process minimum standards, so that is the position and the stand we have taken. Exports of diamonds cannot take place from Marange until resolution of the KP negotiations with Zimbabwe and we will go on fighting for a robust solution on that matter.

I wanted a word on the interesting theme that my noble friend Lord Sheikh touched upon: the role of the Chinese. Their role throughout Africa, and indeed throughout the Indian Ocean area, is a matter of great interest. Some people have mixed feelings on the involvement of China—even in north Africa, as we have seen in recent days—but we think China has an important role to play in the growth and development of Africa. There has been progress where there has been infrastructure development as a result of China’s financing. That can only be for the good.

However, we think it vital that donors such as China are open about their investments and make it clear what they are spending and what the results will be. That empowers people to hold Governments to account and ensures that donors can co-ordinate their work effectively and avoid building up contingent liabilities, which may be difficult for future Governments to meet. We have no evidence that China is willing to commit, as one report suggested, $10 billion to development in Zimbabwe. That was a press report which we cannot confirm, but it could be that Chinese authorities will come to understand that a stance of saying, “We’re involved commercially but have no interest in political developments”, is not possible. They, as they have perhaps found out in Libya, find themselves drawn into the political process as well. That is an interesting and important theme to which this House will no doubt return its attention.

My noble friend Lord Sheikh also mentioned the Commonwealth. I am one of the strong believers—hopers is perhaps the word—that the Commonwealth can, in due course and at the right stage, play a valuable and leading part along with SADC in the recovery of that great country, Zimbabwe. I hope so. I do not think we are yet at that point but we want to get there and, when it comes, there can be a very constructive role for Commonwealth leaders. I hope that this will be discussed at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, at the end of October.

The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, made an interesting contribution on health aspects. Our observation is that the whole health service structure in Zimbabwe is close to collapse. DfID has provided critical health sector support to tackle the staffing crisis, provide essential medicines and address HIV/AIDS. We will continue to support this in future with a particular focus on reducing maternal mortality rates, which I think the noble Lord specifically referred to.

I am advised that DfID has funding mechanisms to support civil society and diaspora groups in Africa, and I invite Zimbabwe Health Training Support to contact DfID to see whether it would be eligible to access these mechanisms.

I shall say a further word about the European Union, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, made several references. I have already said that our rollover to the package of measures as a whole recognises the huge shortfalls in matching progress with political reform. There has been some progress, particularly on the economic side, but on the political side there is a long way to go. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in his Written Ministerial Statement the other day that we, along with the EU, have emphasised that we are willing to revisit the measures should there be concrete developments on the ground. I think that that covers a number of the specific questions. If I have not covered them all, I will write to noble Lords about them.

I shall summarise how we see the situation. This debate has been enormously valuable in reminding the wider world—I hope that it will get noticed outside—that human rights abuses, cruelties and brutalities continue. This is not a country that is quietly improving; a vicious regime is still at work and anti-freedom and anti-democracy measures are growing, as is personal brutality of the kind so vividly described by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells. That is an unpleasant and worrying atmosphere.

We note, as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, rightly noted, the remarkable economic progress since the formation of the inclusive Government, and we will continue to support those who are driving that reform. I repeat, however, that we share the strong concern at the lack of real inclusivity in that Government when we consider the lack of progress on the real sharing of power. There has been a bit of opening up regarding the written media, although I was struck by what the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, had to say, and the constitutional review process has helped a little to open up the democratic space. However, that window, which we hoped would open wider, now appears to be closing in anticipation of the right of people to give their verdict on the Government’s progress.

Your Lordships have rightly focused in this debate on the need for the next elections in Zimbabwe to be freer and fairer than those of 2008, and have stressed the need for effective observation and monitoring, including by the UK, the EU and, as I have suggested, the Commonwealth. In fact, I think that the Commonwealth can play a significant part in that aspect too. That is what we want to see, but it is not within our gift. Observers have to be invited by the host Government, and it is not inconceivable that objections might be raised on the grounds of perceived political bias. That is why the role of SADC is key; it has the mandate for ensuring full implementation of the global political agreement, and we will continue to give it our full support as it works to create an environment conducive to credible elections.

This afternoon we have heard expressed, again and again, concern about human rights abuses. I have said that we share that fully, and we urge the Government and police in Zimbabwe to act impartially in punishing perpetrators. Whether our urgings are heard is in question, of course, given the pattern of events. We urge the Government and the authorities to respect the rule of law, whether it applies to the freedom to express political views or to freely enjoy property rights, whether to a farm or to a business. Respect for the rule of law will be the crucial condition if Zimbabwe hopes to attract concrete investment from many businesses now expressing an interest in the country. The potential is there, as the noble Lord, Lord St John, reminded us, and investment is ready to go into Africa. The recovery of Africa and its advance into the pattern of emerging powers and nations is one of the heartening trends of our time, but it does not apply in Zimbabwe yet.

In this context, Mugabe’s recent threats to nationalise British companies are utterly irresponsible and counterproductive. We are in contact with British companies, and have offered those who might be affected whatever support we can. In a similar vein, we also urge the Government of Zimbabwe to maintain a firm commitment to the Kimberley process, which I and my noble friend Lord Avebury mentioned, and to bring all mining operations in the Marange fields into compliance so that diamonds may benefit the people of Zimbabwe rather than just a small, corrupt clique.

In the mean time, we will continue our support to the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, recently announced in another place, we are prepared to increase our aid substantially over the next four years in response—and this is important; it is the condition—to credible elections and the creation of a reforming government in Zimbabwe.

I am grateful to all those who have spoken for their lively and informed contributions to this debate. It is important that we have these debates, and I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Avebury, as I said. The Government share the goal expressed by your Lordships of a better, more prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. There is sadly a long way to go on the political side, but I believe—as we all do—that it is a brilliant country, a potentially prosperous and admirable country that could rise again from its dark period and escape the grip of a once trusted man who has sadly been transmogrified into a twisted tyrant. That day, for Zimbabwe, will come.

My Lords, it only remains for me to congratulate, as all your Lordships have done, the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, on his brilliant maiden speech based on 40 years of experience, much of which was concerned with the rights of people and how they obtain them. He gave several examples from Northern Ireland and more came from East Timor where, ultimately, the people were successful. The same can happen in Zimbabwe. We hope to hear from the noble Lord again, not only on this subject but on the many other conflicts that plague the world.

I also thank my noble friend the Minister for giving his usual thorough and careful reply to the many speeches that your Lordships have made. I endorse the picture that has been presented almost unanimously of a state of affairs where there is an increasing degree of violence, which stems from the top. It comes from ZANU-PF, and not only from the militias but from the security forces of the state which they control. If one message comes out from this debate, it is that we must insist on security sector reform as one of the earliest things that you do before you get to the rest of the conditions that are laid down in the GPA, such as the rights to freedom of expression and assembly mentioned by my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter.

It is horrifying to think—as my noble friend Lord Chidgey and the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, said—that they are already deploying tens of thousands of militia all over the country in preparation for attacks on the MDC and disruption of the preparations that the opposition are making for the election. Once this process is on site and working, we can never expect people to be able to cast their vote in a free and fair election. I, too, join the Minister in hoping that what your Lordships have said this afternoon will gain a wider audience.

I make the more general point that we as a country need to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe know that we are definitely committed to a much higher level of aid over the years—the Minister mentioned this—which is conditional on the performance of the undertakings which the parties have already agreed. All they have to do is to go forward on that basis and large amounts of help will come, certainly from Britain, and from the European Union and the United States. Zimbabwe can look forward to a rosy future not only with the aid that she will get from the rest of the world but with the regularisation of the sale of Marange diamonds. I am not so sure that I share my noble friend’s optimism on this because the Minister of Mines has ruled out any commitment by Zimbabwe to taking part in the KP. That is a separate issue which will have to be tackled very seriously by those who are in charge, including the EU chair of the monitoring process.

However, faint signs of hope have been identified. The parties have agreed to enter the timed programme for implementation of the GPA. We shall know in a few weeks whether it is possible for progress to be made that will enable the European Union and other friends of Zimbabwe to play a much larger role in promoting and arriving at the democratic elections that they all want to see. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.