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British MP says Britain should not allow Zimbabwe to replace one dictator with another

Kate Hoey: I thank the Foreign Secretary for his deep and passionate response to what is a very fluid situation. This is clearly a significant tipping point for the power balance in Zimbabwe, and although it is not a coup in the sense that the military want to run the country, it is a coup to ensure that former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa takes over.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that changing from one ruthless leader to another ruthless leader will not help to create the conditions that can lead to genuinely free and fair elections in the coming year, and will not solve a dire economic situation in which thousands of people are destitute and food is scarce? Many people in Zimbabwe and the international community will welcome the removal of the Mugabes if that is the outcome, but does the Foreign Secretary recognise that the former vice-president is probably the one person in Zimbabwe who inspires even greater terror than Mugabe, and that he was responsible for the massacres of at least 20 000 people in Matabeleland shortly after Mugabe took power in 1980? Does he recognise that Mnangagwa, as head of Joint Operations Command, is widely viewed to have co-ordinated ZANU-PF’s campaign of torture, murder and repression in the lead-up to the rigged run-off in the 2008 election?

Will the Foreign Secretary make clear that Her Majesty’s Government’s policy on Zimbabwe will not change overnight, and that we will not jump in to welcome Mnangagwa should he take over right away? What more will the Government do to help ensure that free and fair elections take place and to give warm support to those who are struggling inside Zimbabwe to raise the flag of true freedom? Will the Foreign Secretary make representations to the African Union, the Southern African Development Community and South Africa to press ZANU-PF to allow genuinely free elections, and not just to accept another strongman dictator?

Finally, will the Foreign Secretary recognise the importance of listening to the voices of the huge Zimbabwean diaspora here in the United Kingdom, many of whom sought political asylum, but want nothing more than to see their once prosperous country flourishing and free?

Boris Johnson: I renew my tribute to the campaigning of the hon. Lady. She has been tireless over many, many years and has spoken passionately, accurately and perceptively about this subject, as she has again today.

It is too early to comment on the outcome of these events, or to be sure exactly how things will unfold. The situation is fluid, and I think it would be wrong for us at this stage to comment specifically on any personalities that may be involved, save perhaps to say that this is obviously not a particularly promising development in the political career of Robert Mugabe. The important point is that we—including, I think, everyone in the House—want the people of Zimbabwe to have a choice about their future through free and fair elections. That is the consensus that we are building up with our friends and partners, and I shall be having a discussion with the vice-president of South Africa to that effect later today.

 

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