HL Deb 10 December 2002 vol 642 cc104-6

2.52 p.m.

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consultation they have had with the leaders of the member countries of the New Economic Programme for Africa's Development and the African Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, Ministers and officials are in regular dialogue with African and ACP leaders about the situation in Zimbabwe. During the EU/SADC meeting in Maputo on 7th and 8th November, I discussed Zimbabwe with, among others, President Chissano of Mozambique, South Africa's Foreign Minister Zuma and Mauritian Foreign Minister Gayan, More recently, during the Africa/EU ministerial meeting in Ouagadougou on 28th and 29th November, I discussed Zimbabwe with a number of other EU and African colleagues.

Lord Blaker

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness has had those discussions. Will she confirm that all three organisations mentioned in the Question have stated that they will ensure the observance of human rights, the rule of law and good governance in the member countries? Have the G8 countries made it clear to the southern African members of these organisations that, if they do not go ahead and do their best to improve the catastrophic situation in Zimbabwe which is now infecting neighbouring countries—which is within their power, if they have the will—the G8 countries will be reluctant to provide the aid and investment that is so sorely needed? If the G8 have not yet made such an approach to those countries, will Her Majesty's Government suggest that they do?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I cart confirm that human rights and good economic and political governance in a range of (Efferent ways is reflected in the principles that underpin the work done by the African Union, the ACP, SADC and the European Union.

I have just returned from a G8/NePAD meeting in Accra in Ghana. We had substantial discussions on a range of issues, including the political and economic aspects of NePAD—in particular, the peer review process. We had substantial discussions on Zimbabwe and the concern felt not only by the G8 but by African countries about the impact that the situation in Zimbabwe is having on their economies and on the perception that people have of African countries more generally.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the EU/SADC meeting was a great disappointment, in that no clear statement was made about the appalling human rights violations in Zimbabwe? Where the meeting made oblique reference to the use of food as a political weapon, it did so without mentioning Zimbabwe by name. Does the Minister accept that the failure of Zimbabwe's neighbours to do anything concrete about the human rights violations in Zimbabwe raises fears in the minds of many people outside, including in the G8 countries, about the effectiveness of the proposed African peer review mechanism? In that context, will the Minister comment on the correspondence in which M. Jean Chrétien, chairman of the G8, has tried to clear up ambiguities in statements made by President Thabo Mbeki about the application of the peer review mechanism to political matters?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, at the EU/SADC meeting we worked very hard to get an agreed statement on Zimbabwe. This was blocked by Zimbabwe within SADC. So the EU made a very strong statement that we could not agree a statement which we could make together. It is important that noble Lords understand that the EU and some southern African countries share an analysis of what is going on in Zimbabwe, particularly with respect to the humanitarian situation. But we differ on what action we believe needs to be taken. With respect to the peer review process, some 12 countries have now volunteered for peer review. The matter of political and economic governance—the issue that concerned Prime Minister Chrétien when he wrote to President Mbeki in a personal capacity—has now been resolved.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester

My Lords, what consultation are the Government having with the three groups referred to in the Question that will lead to the ending of Zimbabwe's continuing and huge-scale pillage of mineral and other resources from the DRC?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the House will be aware that the report of the UN panel on the exploitation of mineral resources in the DRC was recently published. A number of individuals and organisations are mentioned in that report, including Zimbabwean individuals. We have requested further information from the UN panel, as have other members of the Security Council. We await that information. We shall talk to our Security Council partners in deciding what further action should be taken.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I know that the noble Baroness is as keen as anyone to put pressure on Mugabe and his henchmen to prevent them poisoning and undermining development in southern Africa and the whole NePAD project. In that context, is it correct that a visa has been granted to the vice-chairman of the ZANU-PF Harare executive, Chris Pasipamire, who is a well-known and brutal activist in farm evictions in Zimbabwe and who has apparently come here to study land reform? If that is correct, will the Minister re-examine the whole matter?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I am aware of this case having been raised. Allegations were made in The Sunday Times about this individual and his activities in Zimbabwe. I understand that the allegations against him were dropped. He was granted a visitor's visa to come to the UK, not a student visa. Were he to want to study in the United Kingdom, he would need a different kind of visa.

Lord Hughes of Woodside

My Lords, is it possible to check, among some of the most lurid reporting on Zimbabwe, whether the statement attributed to Didimas Matasa that he would be content to see 6 million Zimbabweans die from starvation because it would make the handling of Zimbabwe's economy easier? Can that possibly be true?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, it is sometimes very difficult to verify some of the statements that come out of Zimbabwe. However, I think that everyone in this House recognises that Robert Mugabe and his regime bear the brunt of the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis. Seven million people will need supplementary feeding by March next year. That is extremely serious. The economy of Zimbabwe is imploding, and this is a matter for which it has to take responsibility. We will do all that we can with our international partners, and working with African colleagues, to ensure that this is recognised in Zimbabwe.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

My Lords, who dropped the allegations against the gentleman concerned? Was it the original complainant or the authorities?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I will look into that further and write to the noble Baroness. The allegations were made in the newspapers on Sunday. I have had what information I can from our High Commission in Harare, which will look into the case in more detail. I will be happy to report further.