Britain not moved by sanctions petition

Britain is committed to European Union sanctions on Zimbabwe and will not be “shifted by coerced signatures on a partisan petition”, the Minister for Europe David Liddington told the House of Commons.

Responding to issues raised during the debate on Zimbabwe Liddington reiterated that the sanctions were on targeted individuals and therefore did not hurt the average Zimbabwean.

“On behalf of the government, I make it clear again that we need to lay to rest the delusional nonsense that the EU targeted measures, which apply to 163 individuals and 31 entities in Zimbabwe, are somehow responsible for the widespread deprivation and suffering endured by the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“The right way to help with the economic plight of the people in Zimbabwe is for Zimbabwe's leaders to pursue the kinds of economic policy and give the commitments to good governance that will attract investment and add to Zimbabwe's trade relationships with the region and the rest of the world.”

There has, however, been several cases of double standards in the application of the sanctions with some people on the list openly doing business with major European banks while their colleagues and innocent farmers not even on the list have fallen victim.

The minister acknowledged that there had been tremendous progress since the formation of the inclusive government but added that this progress could be halted by those who were prepared to sacrifice the country’s prosperity in order to hang on to power and the opportunity to plunder.

There was therefore need for greater courage and commitment from the reformers and Zimbabwe’s neighbours to make sure that Zimbabwe had free, fair and credible elections.

 

Contribution in full.

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): I thank the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) for initiating the debate and for giving the House the opportunity to express views upon Zimbabwe this morning, and I also thank all those who have taken part: the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) and for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). All of their contributions spoke from a mixture of heart and head. What came through to me was the profound commitment, and love-I do not think that too strong a word-on the part of those Members for Zimbabwe and its people, coupled with an appreciation of the complexity and difficulty of the challenges that the country faces, and of the efforts by successive United Kingdom Governments to do what is best to try to make it possible for the people of Zimbabwe to decide upon the destiny of their own country. I thank the hon. Lady also for her kind words about the Minister for Africa, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham), and about our ambassador to Zimbabwe and the head of the DFID team in that country.

In discussing Zimbabwe, it is right to focus on not only the deep-rooted and abiding problems that afflict the country, but, as the hon. Lady did in her opening speech, on the progress that has been made in the face of difficult odds, since the formation of the inclusive Government in 2008. There has been a marked economic recovery, illustrated by a robust 8% growth rate in 2010, although it is also fair to remind ourselves, as has been said, that some sectors, most notably agriculture, are failing to perform at anything like their full potential because of the disastrous economic policies pursued by Zimbabwean leaders.

Reports of human rights abuses since the formation of the inclusive Government have fallen well below the peak, but there has been a worrying trend in the early months of this year of a reverse in those promising signals. There has been greater freedom for the print media, and the constitutional review process, despite its frailties, has helped to open up democratic space. The important point to note is that those achievements, both economic and political, are a tribute to the courage, dedication and persistence of reformers of all stripes in Zimbabwe. I pay tribute to all the reformist politicians, civil society groups, free trade unionists, churches and others in Zimbabwe who express their hopes for and work their utmost towards a better future for their country. Those people and organisations are not the creatures of any foreign power; they are the authentic expressions and voices of the people of Zimbabwe.

However, those efforts by many in Zimbabwe risk being undermined by a few who wish to sacrifice their own country's prosperity and political development in order to hang on to power and the opportunity for plunder. Resisting those efforts and reinforcing Zimbabwe's progress with a process for free, fair and credible elections will demand still greater courage and commitment from reformers in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe's neighbours in the region and those members of the wider international community in Africa and elsewhere, including the United Kingdom, that support Zimbabwe's transition to full democratic freedom.

Rightly, much of this debate has focused on the great concerns about the increase in reports of politically motivated violence since the new year. The Government share that concern. The high-profile arrests and threatened arrests of senior members of the inclusive Government in March and April signalled a stepping up of the partisan politicisation of the legal process. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham was right to pay tribute to the courage and endurance of leading democratic politicians in Zimbabwe in the face of such treatment. We remain equally concerned by ongoing reports of rising intimidation targeting civil society groups and political activists.

Several hon. Members asked about the Government's view of the regional approach to the political challenges facing Zimbabwe. South Africa and the Southern African Development Community more generally act as the facilitators and guarantors of the global political agreement and play the lead role in brokering an agreement on a road map to free and fair elections. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham pointed out, it is somewhat ironic that the global political agreement should have been fully implemented by now, yet Zimbabweans and the SADC are trying to agree on a path to the next round of elections before the GPA has been implemented anywhere near fully.

President Zuma of South Africa has shown in the creation of the elections road map that he is prepared to demonstrate strong and active leadership in the region. We hope that that critical document will address the many individual points raised by hon. Members during this debate, including the quality of the electoral register, the reform of the electoral commission, access to media and provision for the presence of international observers at the elections. The United Kingdom is certainly ready to support international observers in any way possible, yet it remains the case that we can send observers only in response to an invitation from the Government of Zimbabwe.

On the points made about this country's programme of bilateral aid, following the bilateral aid review, our programme of aid to Zimbabwe has been increased further to £80 million for 2011-12, the largest amount yet. That is crucial. Our aid provides vital support, in particular for primary education and basic health treatment inside Zimbabwe. For example, last year we provided essential medicines to 1,300 primary care clinics and rural hospitals. The nature of that aid and the fact that it is distributed via the United Nations and non-governmental organisations rather than through the Zimbabwean Government means that I am cautious, to put it lightly, about calls for greater conditionality in the provision of aid, although I guarantee to the hon. Member for Vauxhall and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport that I will report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development on the points they made about conditionality.

Kate Hoey: I thank the Minister. I think we are all conscious of the issues involved in aid. Our point is that it is not necessarily the Department for International Development but the agencies themselves-the big charities working in countries such as Zimbabwe-that need to be much more aware. They try so hard not to be political that they end up being political in how they operate on the ground.

Mr Lidington: The hon. Lady has made her point well. I will ensure that my right hon. Friend is made fully aware of the case that she makes.

The EU targeted measures on Zimbabwe remain in force. This Government remain committed to them, and the European Union has made clear its commitment to the continuation of those measures. We remain willing to revisit them within the year, but only if further concrete developments take place on the ground. We will not be shifted by coerced signatures on a partisan petition. On behalf of the Government, I make it clear again that we need to lay to rest the delusional nonsense that the EU targeted measures, which apply to 163 individuals and 31 entities in Zimbabwe, are somehow responsible for the widespread deprivation and suffering endured by the people of Zimbabwe. The right way to help with the economic plight of the people in Zimbabwe is for Zimbabwe's leaders to pursue the kinds of economic policy and give the commitments to good governance that will attract investment and add to Zimbabwe's trade relationships with the region and the rest of the world.

Given the time, I will write to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport about the Kimberley diamond process and Marange, and I will copy the letter to other Members who have taken part in this debate. As my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for Africa has made clear on numerous occasions, we continue to take a firm line within the EU, which acts on our behalf in the Kimberley process, insisting that Zimbabwe should comply fully with the rules laid down in the process before diamond exports are permitted.

China has an important role in the growth and development of Africa, and considerable progress has been made in areas such as infrastructure as a result of Chinese financing. Like China, we see trade as vital to helping African economies to grow and escape poverty, but one lesson of the developing world is that as countries grow and develop, they require not just physical infrastructure but skills, improved health services and, critically, better governance, better public institutions and a clear commitment to the rule of law rather than arbitrary government. We believe that it is vital that donors, including China, be open about their investments and make clear what they are spending and what results they achieve. That enables people to hold Governments to account and ensure that donors co-ordinate their work effectively.

Interestingly, some of China's recent experience, for example in Zambia or Libya, might give pause for thought to those who have assumed that China can maintain an economic relationship with African nations without regard to issues of governance and the rule of law. Where those prove lacking, investment and the safety of expatriate workers can sometimes turn out to be at considerable risk.

I express once again my gratitude to all those who have taken part in this debate. The Government remain determined to pursue the course on which we are set, and we hope to see Zimbabwe reach a more prosperous and democratic future.



Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Add comment


Security code
Refresh