§ 17. Mr. Bellingham
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the President of Zimbabwe to discuss bilateral relations.
§ Mr. Baldry
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met President Mugabe in May and in November last year. There are at present no plans for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to do so.
§ Mr. Bellingham
Does my hon. Friend agree that the transition of Zimbabwe to independence has been a huge success and that the country's stability is encouraging investment? Does he agree also that there are great opportunities for British firms in Zimbabwe?
To sound a note of caution, however, does my hon. Friend agree that the Zimbabwean Government must adhere to the rule of law at all times, and above all not compulsorily purchase farms without proper compensation?
§ Mr. Baldry
My hon. Friend is right. Since independence, Zimbabwe has set an example of what can be achieved by promoting reconciliation. Indeed, it has shown what can be achieved in Africa. President Mugabe has abandoned the policy of a one-party state for one of multi-party democracy, thereby liberalising the economy. That has led to greater investment in Zimbabwe. There are more than 400 companies with British connections and a book value of British investment of about £400 million. I am glad to say that Zimbabwe is well on the way to economic recovery and sustainable growth.