April 3, 2008
Jan Raath in Harare
At a meeting in Harare on Sunday election officials had some bad news for
Zimbabwe’s generals: President Mugabe was likely to lose.
The generals, members of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), digested this
information and are said to have been the ones to tell Mr Mugabe that the
vote against him was so overwhelming that any attempt to rig the results
would not succeed.
The top generals in Zimbabwe have always been political animals and are at
the heart of the Zanu (PF) party. As such they have enjoyed the choicest
fruits of the President’s patronage: they are given the best farms, drive
the newest and largest Mercedes and 4X4s, live in mansions and send their
children to school abroad. The JOC, which was adapted from the
counter-insurgency agency of the old, white minority Rhodesian Government,
includes the head of the spy service and has its tentacles at all levels. It
exists, or has existed, purely to prolong the rule of Mr Mugabe.
One group, however, led by Solomon Mujuru, a former army commander, has been
at the head of efforts to replace Mr Mugabe with a younger leadership for
Other members of this powerful group are intensely loyal to Mr Mugabe. These
include General Constan-tine Chiwenga, the defence forces commander, who
declared that he would not salute Morgan Tsvangirai if he came to power, and
Augustine Chihu-ri, the police commissioner, who called the MDC leader a
Many observers believe that the MDC has got so close to victory because it
has been allowed to and that it is the internal struggle at the top levels
of the military that has stayed the generals’ hands.
Since the first signs of an effective opposition in the late 1990s Mr Mugabe
has filled senior positions in the civil service with former top officers.
The first assault by Mr Mugabe on the MDC, in the 2000 elections, was led by
the war veterans’ militia – men and women with experience of the guerrilla
tactics of intimidation. In the election two years later it was the turn of
another semi-military unit he had founded – the National Youth Training
In the past the JOC has used all means to beat the MDC: sabotage,
propaganda, surveillance, arrest, torture and, of course, fixing elections.
But as one Western military attaché put it: “The economic disaster became so
bad in Zimbabwe that even the generals have been forced to look
realistically at their future.”
April 3, 2008
Catherine Philp in Harare
He has seen once-trusted friends desert him, disappeared from public view,
lost control of parliament and according to his opponents, his presidency
too. But last night, speculation mounted that Robert Mugabe would yet drag
out his endgame with one last desperate attempt to stay in power.
Yesterday, after four days of waiting for official results, the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) unveiled figures handing outright
victory to their leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. They threw down the gauntlet to
Mr Mugabe, vowing that they would take the contest to a run-off if the
official results were rigged to deny Mr Tsvangirai his victory.
The question is now whether Mr Mugabe can resist the challenge to go down
fighting in a run-off, which promises to be a humiliating and protracted
defeat, or accept the inevitable and stand down. Pressure is mounting on Mr
Mugabe from within his own inner circle to secure a dignified exit from
State House, so that they can avoid going down with him should he try to
fight to the death.
Yesterday’s official announcement that his ruling Zanu(PF) party had lost
control of the once compliant parliament only added to the gloom in his
inner circle. Official results for 198 of the 210 seats gave the opposition
105 and Mr Mugabe’s ruling party 93.
But the agonising wait for the release of the presidential results, which
enters its fifth day today, has only fuelled fears that Mr Mugabe is still
trying to fix the outcome in his favour.
Even Zanu (PF) have conceded that Mr Tsvangirai won the race, as announced
through their party poll projections, and in yesterday’s Herald newspaper,
the ruling party’s mouthpiece. But both still said neither candidate won
more than 50 percent of the vote, paving the way for a run-off.
Using official vote counts publicly posted outside polling stations after
polls closed on Saturday night, the MDC declared Mr Tsvangirai “Zimbabwe’s
next president” with 50.3 per cent of the vote. The count gave Mr Mugabe a
distant 43.8 per cent. The remaining six per cent went to the Zanu (PF)
defector Simba Makoni, who has already pledged his votes in a run-off to the
Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary-general, said the results made a second
round run-off unnecessary but said that they would accept one “under
protest” rather than challenge the official results should they indicate a
But Mr Biti appealed to Mr Mugabe to concede defeat, avoiding
“embarrassment” and a prolonged political crisis for the country.
The words were carefully chosen. Mr Mugabe’s pride is rivalled only by his
hunger for power, and insiders have described the prospect of a run-off as
“deeply humiliating.” The intelligence and security hierarchy who have
propped him up for nearly three decades were said to have talked the
election commission into delaying and massaging the presidential results
while they sought to persuade Mr Mugabe to go to a run-off.
Mr Mugabe has not been seen or heard in public since he voted in Saturday’s
elections, fuelling speculation in a febrile postelection Harare. But
yesterday the official line remained defiant. “President Mugabe is going
nowhere,” Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said yesterday. “No one
He dismissed the MDC victory claim as “mischievous”, adding: “We are not
going to be rushed by anybody. They can make statements left right and
centre, but they are merely wasting their time.”Riot police and soldiers
continued to patrol opposition areas of Harare and Bulawayo yesterday, but
their presence was less obvious than a day earlier when they closed down
beer halls and bottle shops.
By law, any run-off must be held within three weeks, raising fears that
tensions could rise and lead to violence between opposition supporters and
security forces. Should he cling on, Mr Mugabe could be expected to deploy
his political shock troops – independence war veterans and his “green
bombers” youth militia – to intimidate voters. But the opposition’s
extraordinary momentum would be hard to halt. Mr Biti reminded reporters
that violent disorder was all but alien to Zimbabwe and dismissed fears that
frustration would lead to violence. “We are not worried,” he said. “There is
a lot of goodwill among the Zimbabwean people. Violence is not their way.”
Last Updated: 11:18pm BST 02/04/2008
Robert Mugabe is unlikely to flee from Zimbabwe for fear of being
prosecuted for war crimes, the head of the African programme at Chatham
House, the foreign affairs think tank, has said.
The President, who is facing the possible end of 28 years in power, is
likely to see out his days in luxury after a dignified exit, Alex Vines
The Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, was
unlikely to push for Mr Mugabe to be prosecuted, instead opting to allow him
to leave peacefully in exchange for a smooth transition of power, he added.
"Mr Mugabe would be looking for a dignified exit strategy, he sees
himself as the father of the nation, the liberation leader," Mr Vines said.
"I would expect him to stay in the country for the time being."
The President has reportedly said he feared being tried for war crimes
committed during his rule.
If the 84-year-old did leave Zimbabwe, he would be unlikely to move to
another African state, instead heading for Malaysia, where he is thought to
have stashed much of his wealth.
David Blair, the author of Degrees in Violence: Robert Mugabe and the
Struggle for Power in Zimbabwe, describes how Mr Mugabe has ruled his
country with violence for almost three decades.
Robert Mugabe never showed any compunction about using violence
against his opponents. When he faced general strikes in Zimbabwe a decade
ago, it was entirely natural for him to appear on state television and warn:
"I have many degrees in violence."
In the 1970s, he commanded a rebel army that murdered thousands of
innocent civilians, singling out black villagers as often as white farmers.
Dozens of his own commanders were also jailed and tortured on suspicion of
Yet his greatest crimes came after he won power in 1980. The massacres
which took place in the Matabeleland region of south-west Zimbabwe between
1982 and 1987 form an indelible scar on Mr Mugabe's rule.
The violence began when he tried to secure his grip on power by
crushing his black opponents. Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zapu party,
was the key rival. Using the presence of armed dissidents as an excuse, Mr
Mugabe deployed a new military unit, the Fifth Brigade, to Zapu's stronghold
This arid area is the home of Zimbabwe's minority Ndebele people.
Here, the Fifth Brigade promptly unleashed a brutal terror campaign, burying
their victims in mass graves or flinging their decomposing bodies down mine
Investigators later compiled a meticulous report, Breaking the
Silence, that recorded atrocities of mind-numbing horror.
One pregnant woman described her ordeal: "They hit me in the stomach
with the butt of the gun. The unborn child broke in pieces in my stomach. It
was God's desire that I did not die too. The child was born afterwards,
piece by piece."
Mr Mugabe's culpability for the reign of terror is clear. In order to
be guilty of crimes against humanity, international law specifies that an
individual must hold "command responsibility" for the forces carrying out
The Fifth Brigade was placed outside the army's formal command
structure and its soldiers answered directly to him. Mr Nkomo publicly
described this unit as Mr Mugabe's "private army", while the unit's
commander, Perence Shiri, was a former guerrilla fighter chosen for his
Moreover, he cannot plead ignorance of the atrocities. Instead, Mr
Mugabe publicly endorsed Fifth Brigade's murder of civilians.
"Where men and women provide food for dissidents, when we get there,
we eradicate them," he said. "We don't differentiate when we fight because
we can't tell who is a dissident and who is not."
An official inquiry appointed by the government in 1983 heard scores
of witnesses describe mass shootings, beatings and the burning to death of
people in huts. When it handed its report to Mr Mugabe, he immediately
suppressed it. Releasing this vital document might be on the agenda of
Zimbabwe's new parliament.
The death toll in the Matabeleland massacres has never been
established. Breaking the Silence records 3,750 murders but states that the
true figure was probably twice as high. Tens of thousands more suffered
torture, abduction, rape or assault.
Nothing in Mr Mugabe's later rule compared with the brutality of his
actions in Matabeleland, but in their callous, random brutality, the
township demolitions of 2005 come close.
In the middle of winter, Mr Mugabe decided to "clean up Zimbabwe's
cities". Bulldozers were sent into the poorest townships of Harare, Bulawayo
and every other urban centre and ordered to destroy "illegal structures". In
practice, they flattened a random selection of houses, shacks, factories,
shops, garages and businesses.
Some had been constructed illegally - but many had not. Within a few
weeks, large areas were razed to the ground and hundreds of thousands of
people left homeless and destitute.
Mr Mugabe pledged to provide new and improved accommodation, but only
a few thousand houses were built - and many were immediately appropriated by
senior figures in the ruling Zanu-PF party.
A UN investigation found that 700,000 people lost their homes or
livelihoods during this "disastrous" campaign, which had been inflicted with
"indifference to human suffering".
Mr Mugabe disputed these findings but conceded in a television
interview that 100,000 might have been made homeless.
Coming in the midst of an economic crisis, the township demolitions
showed Mr Mugabe's utter contempt for Zimbabwe's urban poor. Most of them
supported the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. By wrecking their
homes and livelihoods, he took his pitiless revenge.
But there is virtually no chance of Mr Mugabe ever facing justice for
his many crimes.
Any new government is likely to pledge him a quiet retirement as part
of deal for a peaceful transition of power. In any case, there is simply no
court in which he could be tried.
Charles Taylor, the former Liberian warlord, is presently on trial in
The Hague. But he is appearing before a special UN court whose only function
is to bring to justice those responsible for the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Similarly, Slobodan Milosevic died while standing trial before another
special court established to try those responsible for the conflicts in the
wake of Yugoslavia's collapse.
Only the International Criminal Court could conceivably hear a case,
but it has no jurisdiction over crimes committed before its foundation in
While the Matabeleland massacres would be firmly outside its remit,
the township demolitions would not. But nobody has yet suggested these
amounted to crimes against humanity. After all, no one was killed by the
So Mr Mugabe will almost certainly die without having spent any time
in the dock.
Last updated at 23:09pm on 2nd April 2008
It could be only days or weeks - or, God forbid, there's still an outside
chance it could be years - before Robert Mugabe finally loses his fingertip
grip on power in the country he has brought to ruin.
But one thing is already certain after Saturday's elections: from this
moment on, the dictator is living on borrowed time in a Zimbabwe that yearns
to see him go.
With patient dignity, voters queued at the polling stations in their
hundreds of thousands - many of them weak with hunger and disease - to
express their views of the monster from whom they have endured so much.
Their message - despite all Mugabe's efforts to distort it - is now
Yes, it remains possible that by vote-rigging, political bartering, bullying
and bribery the president will cling on. But no amount of cheating will
disguise the truth that the last, tattered shreds of his authority have been
All that is left to him now is the hope that, when the end comes, he will
escape justice for his 28 years of unspeakable crimes. That must not happen.
When Mugabe came to power in 1980, feted by the British Left, the country he
inherited on its independence from Britain was bursting with promise.
It was rich in minerals, with efficient farms producing enough food for
export and a growing industrial sector.
But today? After 26 years of Mugabe's genocide, torture, corruption and the
seizure of land from white farmers, the breadbasket of Africa has become an
Inflation is running at more than 100,000 per cent and some 80 per cent of
the population are without jobs and hungry.
Yet, incredibly, the West in general (and Britain in particular) has
indulged this tyrant. We even sold him Land Rovers for his brutal police
force - and, outrageously, in 1994 gave him an honorary knighthood.
No. When Mugabe finally yields to the will of Zimbabwe, he cannot be allowed
to enjoy his ill-gotten assets, stashed in hundreds of bank accounts. After
years of shamefully turning a blind eye, the world must make its revulsion
At the very least, Mugabe must be stripped of his knighthood. And is there
any reason why he shouldn't stand trial at the International Court in the
Why do we stay?
As the Desert Rats prepare for another tour of duty in Basra next month, the
end of Britain's involvement in the shambles of Iraq looks as far away as
Only six months ago, Gordon Brown promised that by May he would cut our
troop numbers in Iraq to 2,500. Yet now we are told that because of
deteriorating security, some 4,000 must remain for the foreseeable future.
The somewhat shameful reality is our soldiers are holed up at Basra airport,
providing target practice for insurgents and provoking the irritation of
Americans for not being meaningfully involved.
Is our heroic young soldiers' role really worth the risk to their lives? Our
troops should either be properly involved or, if under-resourced, pulled
This token presence is the worst of all worlds.
A private matter
With breathtaking impertinence, the Arts Council is asking artists seeking
funding for their work to disclose their sexuality on the application forms.
What on Earth does it matter if applicants are "bisexual, gay, heterosexual
or lesbian" - as long as their work is worth supporting?
Painter Maggi Hambling, who describes herself as "queer", calls the question
"insidious, insulting and quite outrageous".
We couldn't put it better ourselves.
April 3, 2008
The world must stand ready to rebuild the country's ruined economy
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission at last announced yesterday that the
ruling Zanu (PF) party had lost its parliamentary majority. The Movement for
Democratic Change and other opposition parties have defeated dozens of
politicians loyal to Robert Mugabe. That result is a triumph, and testament
to the courage, patience and determination of millions of Zimbabweans in
defying intimidation to vote against the pampered clique that has been party
to their country's ruin. But the commission remained silent on the fate of
the President himself. And although the ageing despot may desperately be
seeking ways of clinging to power, it is clear to everyone except him that
the long and obscene dictatorship of Mr Mugabe has come to an end.
What matters now is how he can be removed from power as swiftly and with as
little bloodshed as possible. This cannot be done without help from outside.
Zimbabwe today is a country broken in spirit, its people scattered, hungry
and desperately trying to protect their families and their jobs. With every
passing day, tensions rise and suspicion grows that Mr Mugabe and his
dwindling number of diehard supports are plotting scenarios to thwart the
overwhelming victory of Morgan Tsvangirai: a second run-off vote with
massive new attempts at manipulation; a series of staged provocations and
violent incidents giving a pretext for a state of emergency and the
annulment of the results; or a straightforward military coup, with the
arrest of Mr Tsvangirai and opposition politicians.
Behind the scenes, therefore, Zimbabwe's politicians and neighbours are
urgently discussing face-saving ways to persuade Mr Mugabe to step aside:
either to retirement in the luxury villa he has built for himself, his
immunity from prosecution guaranteed, or to an honorary position in the new
government, which would include a representative of his defeated Zanu (PF).
Already African leaders have been urged to do what they can, with Western
leaders counting on the Southern African Development Community and President
Mbeki of South Africa in particular, despite their pusillanimous record, if
only to avert violence and a new flood of refugees.
It is time for the world to take a tougher stance. David Miliband yesterday
condemned the rigged vote, the violence, repression and spiral of decline,
and said that Britain stood ready to support Zimbabwe in its “massive
rebuilding task”. Already contingency planning has begun with the World Bank
and the IMF on the priority of stabilising the economy and halting the
currency's freefall with a balance of payment support and a tripling of
total donor support from £350 million a year to more than £1 billion.
This ought to persuade even those too fearful to defy Mr Mugabe that only
his departure will save their country. A tough message is needed. President
Bush and all the Nato leaders assembled in Bucharest must issue an
unambiguous ultimatum: if Mr Mugabe leaves office, the world will offer
money, knowhow, investment and support; if he defies the voters, he faces
political and economic ruin. Britain has, at times, been too afraid of its
colonial shadow. But Zimbabwe needs its friends to act decisively and
concertedly to enable this long overdue transition. The world must help
Africans to end Zimbabwe's nightmare now.
By Sebastien Berger in Harare
Last Updated: 11:18pm BST 02/04/2008
It was Robert Mugabe's closest lieutenants who first realised the
On Sunday afternoon, as the fact and the scale of Morgan Tsvangirai's
lead in Zimbabwe's presidential race became clear, a deputation of four of
Mr Mugabe's most senior supporters went to see their leader.
According to Ibbo Mandaza, national co-ordinator of the campaign of
Simba Makoni, the former Zanu-PF stalwart who stood against Mr Mugabe, they
decided they must ask Mr Mugabe, in office for 28 years, to step down. But
while cornered, Mr Mugabe still inspires both fear and loyalty.
"They got to Mugabe's house but no-one had the guts to tell him and
they came back," said Mr Mandaza.
"He is angry," he said of the president. "First of all his guys lied
to him that he was winning. He was being told what he wanted to hear."
With votes for Mr Tsvangirai racking up across the country, the ruling
party was left with three options, Mr Mandaza said.
"One is to claim a clear win. But they forgot the results outside the
polling stations and discovered they could not.
"The second option on Sunday night was a coup."
Mr Mugabe's most trusted security chiefs were arguing for military
intervention, he said.
"The coup would have involved the sidelining of Mugabe. It was not to
save Mugabe, it was to save the establishment, including the generals
But with Zanu-PF divided at the highest level, cooler heads prevailed.
"Somebody just said: 'We can't do that, not in this day and age'. They
knew any attempted coup would not have been looked on kindly by the region.
It wouldn't last.
"The question is whether it would have been accepted down the rank and
file. That I doubt."
The third option, which appears to have been accepted by Zanu-PF, was
to take the election to a second round run-off by declaring that neither Mr
Mugabe nor Mr Tsvangirai had reached the 50 per cent threshold.
On Sunday night, a long meeting was held between Morgan Tsvangirai,
Simba Makoni and Arthur Mutambara, head of a dissident faction of the MDC,
to plan their strategy.
Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Makoni have been in extensive contact over recent
"Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai have been talking on the phone.
Our objective was to get Mugabe out.
"If this is the final decision by Zanu-PF it means they are up to
something," said Mr Mandaza of the re-run. "They must know they are losing
so what are they going to do in the three weeks?"
In the circumstances it would be impossible to rig the second round to
the extent needed for a Mugabe win, he said, but he expected Zanu-PF to try.
"What's important is we work together as opposition parties to control
the rigging. We are going to join up with the MDC to make sure that thing is
"They can't change anything now."
As Zimbabwe gears up for a final contest between the government and
the opposition, Mr Tsvangirai has repeated his denials of reports that the
MDC and Zanu-PF were in talks.
"There has been no contact with the Zimbabwean government," he said.
Posted 11 minutes ago
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling party has been quick to dismiss
the Opposition's claim that it has won the country's presidential election.
Official results show ZANU-PF has lost its parliamentary majority and the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says its own results show the
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has gained more than 50 per cent of the
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga says the claim is a ploy to
pressure the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission into releasing results before it
"That is wishful thinking, that is very mischievous, particularly for Morgan
Tsvangirai," he said.
"Why can't he wait for the official position?
"He hasn't won 50 per cent because we don't know what the results are. They
are still being worked out and they'll be announced as soon as they're
Earlier, frustrated at the slow work of the electoral commission since
Saturday's joint polls, the MDC's secretary-general Tendai Biti, told a
press conference Mr Tsvangirai had won 50.2 per cent of votes against 43.8
per cent for Mr Mugabe.
"Put simply he has won this election ... Morgan Richard Tsvangirai is the
next president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, without a run-off."
The latest results from the electoral commission show Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF
party had lost its majority in the 210-seat parliament.
The two MDC factions now have a combined total of 105 seats while an
independent candidate, Mr Mugabe's former information minister Jonathan
Moyo, also retained his seat. ZANU-PF's total currently stands at 93.
"The new parliament, with us in the majority, is going to give the people
power and freedom through legislation," said Mr Tsvangirai's senior aide
Meanwhile the reaction of Mr Mugabe's ministers' to the MDC announcement was
notable for its restraint.
"Let's let the electoral commission complete its job then we can start
talking from there," Information Minister Ndlovu Sikhoanyiso said.
2nd Apr 2008 23:22 GMT
By a Correspondent
House of Commons
Wednesday 2 April 2008
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David
Miliband): The whole world is watching events unfold in Zimbabwe, and with
your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the situation as
we understand it. I hope and believe that the people of Zimbabwe will hear
one message from this House today: we stand with them at this moment of
opportunity for their country and we share their demand for a democratic
For obvious reasons the fragility of the current situation means that I and,
I am sure, all hon. Members will want to choose our words carefully, given
the risk that what we say will be distorted. That does not mean that there
are not some fundamental truths that need to be expressed.
I have within the last 30 minutes spoken to our ambassador in Harare. The
situation is obviously fluid and a Movement for Democratic Change press
conference is in train as we speak. Zimbabwe’s political, civic and economic
leaders are clearly considering their next moves and each others’ next
moves. The full results of the parliamentary elections are still unclear.
The latest tally, as of 10 minutes ago, is that 189 seats have been declared
and 80 remain to be declared. The two main parties are running neck and
neck, at least according to the official figures.
There is still no formal announcement about the presidential election. Many
hon. Members will have seen the comments made by Opposition Leader
Tsvangirai last night. His comments and demeanour were statesmanlike. He
committed himself to following Zimbabwean law, providing all the more reason
for the results to be announced promptly.
Although the situation in Harare is tense, there is no suggestion of crowds
massing and no reports of violence. But it is not business as usual: many
schools are still closed and people are watching and waiting to see what
will happen. Let me assure the House that through both political and
official channels there has been a high degree of contact and consultation
between the UK Government and our international partners. The Prime
Minister, Lord Malloch-Brown and I have been in touch with Presidents, Prime
Ministers and Foreign Ministers in southern Africa and around the world.
There is international consensus that the will of the Zimbabwean people must
be properly revealed and respected.
Last Saturday, the people of Zimbabwe made their choice. Outside the 9,400
polling stations, the tallies have been posted. The Zimbabwean electoral
commission knows what those results are and has a duty to announce them. The
delay in announcing the outcome can be seen only as a deliberate and
calculated tactic. It gives substance to the suspicion that the authorities
are reluctant to accept the will of the people. They have a responsibility
to do so, and Zimbabwe’s neighbours, who have borne a significant share of
the burden of Zimbabwe’s collapse, have a responsibility to do all in their
power to ensure that that occurs.
No one in the House would want me to hand ZANU-PF a propaganda coup by
endorsing one candidate or another, or by taking it on myself to announce
the result. In truth, in spite of what President Mugabe would want the world
to believe, the crisis in Zimbabwe has never been about personalities. It is
not a bilateral dispute between British and Zimbabwean politicians or anyone
else. It is, and has always been, about the policies that Robert Mugabe and
his Government have chosen to follow and the terrible destruction that has
been wreaked on the Zimbabwean people. Now the choice is between democracy
and continued chaos.
The situation preceding these elections was shocking. The conditions for
free and fair elections were certainly not in place. The playing field was
tilted heavily in favour of ZANU-PF. Up to 4 million people who had fled
Zimbabwe’s crisis could not vote. In some areas, between 18 and 20 per cent.
of those who tried to vote were frustrated by an inaccurate electoral roll.
We will probably never know how many dead people on that roll cast ghost
votes. In that context, it is worth saying that if a second round of voting
is deemed necessary, it must be held in a way that gives far greater respect
not just to our standards but to the Southern African Development Community
electoral standards. We remain in contact with our SADC partners on the
We do know, however, that in spite of those problems, millions of ordinary
Zimbabweans still queued peacefully and voted. Now they are holding their
breath: will their country reverse the spiral of decline or exacerbate it?
The facts speak for themselves: life expectancy has halved to an average of
34, nearly 2,500 AIDS-related deaths occur each week, inflation is
practically incalculable and day-to-day abuse of human rights and freedoms
Britain has always supported the Zimbabwean people through the pain of their
national trauma, and must continue to do so. We are the second largest
bilateral donor, and spent more than £40 million last year on aid. Our
support provided HIV treatment for more than 30,000 HIV/AIDS patients and
helped the World Food Programme to feed up to 3 million people, about one
quarter of Zimbabwe’s population.
We want to do more to encourage development within Zimbabwe. When there is
real and positive policy change on the ground, the House has my assurance
that Britain will play a full part in supporting recovery. We know that the
Zimbabwean people face a massive rebuilding task. We will help them to do
that, with EU and international colleagues, but that can happen only when
and if there is a return to real democracy and good governance in Zimbabwe.
We will continue to do all that we can to encourage that to happen and to
encourage other countries in the region to exert what influence they have
over the situation in Zimbabwe. Those with the greatest influence are of
course those closest to Zimbabwe, but we are clear that the situation will
not be one that Africans alone have to carry the burden of supporting.
The House will want to know that our ambassador and embassy staff are safe.
Both UK-based and local staff are working tirelessly in very difficult
circumstances. They are in very close contact with a wide range of
Zimbabweans and stand ready to offer consular assistance to the many British
nationals in Zimbabwe.
Many hon. Members in all parts of the House have been tireless advocates for
the true interests of Zimbabwe over many years. The people of Zimbabwe have
suffered for too long. Every hon. Member and every British citizen will
yearn with them for that suffering to end, and for it to end now.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): I thank the Foreign Secretary for
coming to the House to make this statement. He said that he hoped and
believed that the people of Zimbabwe would hear one message from this
House—that we stand with them at this moment of opportunity. I absolutely
support him in saying that so that they do hear that one message from this
House, and we strongly support the Government’s calls for the immediate and
full release of the results of the election.
This is obviously a crucial but dangerous time for Zimbabwe. As we saw
recently in Kenya, contested election results in highly charged
circumstances can lead to a very dangerous situation. In Zimbabwe, the
combination of brutality and repression for many years, a desperate
humanitarian crisis and decades-long stifling of political opposition create
the circumstances of a political pressure cooker.
As the Foreign Secretary said, it is not about personalities. Mugabe is the
author of Zimbabwe’s catastrophe, but it will no doubt take much more than
his departure for the country to recover. However, there is now hope for
change: the Mugabe Government may attempt to cling to power, but they may
just be unable to resist the force of an overwhelming public rejection—if
that is what has happened in the election.
I turn now to some specific questions. Is the Foreign Secretary aware of
whether President Mugabe has spoken to any of the leaders of neighbouring
countries? It does not seem so, but has he given those leaders any
indication of his intentions?
There have been reports of negotiations between the Zimbabwean Government
and Opposition leaders. Has the Foreign Secretary been able to confirm any
of those reports? He rightly referred to our very hard working embassy
officials, but have they been able to speak to Morgan Tsvangirai or his
senior colleagues? What assessment has he made of the threat to Opposition
figures, many of whom are reportedly in hiding in anticipation of a
One of our immediate concerns, of course, is the safety of British citizens
in Zimbabwe in the event of an outbreak of violence. The Foreign Secretary
touched on that in his statement, but will he assure the House that our
ambassador in Harare has well developed contingency plans if the situation
suddenly deteriorates? Even before the crisis, it took Z$10 million to buy a
loaf of bread, and 4 million people were dependent on food aid. Are the
British Government liaising with the UN about preparations for emergency
food and medical support, as well as for coping with a sudden outflow of
refugees into neighbouring countries?
The Foreign Secretary mentioned continuing British support for the people of
Zimbabwe. Does he agree that we must prepare actively now for the
rehabilitation of Zimbabwe at the appropriate time—that is, when it is set
on a clear course towards the rule of law and democracy? Whenever that
happens, does he accept that Britain, with the international community, must
be preparing a major programme of assistance now?
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that such a programme could include holding
a donor conference, under the auspices of the European Union and the African
Union, to develop a programme of assistance that is tailored to Zimbabwe’s
needs? The programme could include setting up a contact group to provide
sustained diplomatic support, and an offer to assist Zimbabwe in the move
from being a culture of violence to one governed by the rule of law. That
could be achieved by supporting thorough reform of the security sector,
training officials in civilian policing and human rights, and assisting with
the orderly return of the Zimbabwean refugees to whom the right hon.
Gentleman referred. Could not that programme of assistance, in the event of
a major deterioration in the situation in Zimbabwe, also include making
preparations for an international observer mission or over-the-horizon
humanitarian force, under the auspices of the AU and backed by the major
powers in the world?
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that there might be something of a golden
hour—a window of opportunity—when the international community ought to be
prepared to take rapid and decisive steps to help the people of Zimbabwe in
rebuilding their country’s economy and society? To succeed, that country
will need support from its neighbours, international organisations and its
friends. Will he do his utmost to ensure that all of those stand ready to
David Miliband: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his words
today, not least because the speed of change in the situation in Zimbabwe
has made it difficult to give him as much advance notice of the contents of
my statement as would normally be the case. A number of his questions would
be very interesting to discuss, although probably not in the full glare of
publicity in the House of Commons, so I hope that he will accept the
I think that the right thing to say about President Mugabe is that he has
been conspicuous by his absence from the air and telephone waves. The right
hon. Gentleman mentioned reports of negotiations, and we have seen them as
well. In my statement, I said that senior figures in Zimbabwe were watching
and waiting, and it is clear that discussions have been taking place both
within and between parties.
The right hon. Gentleman made an important point about the security
situation and the security of Opposition figures; that is obviously a great
source of concern. There is also the issue of the security of Zimbabweans of
all backgrounds. He asked about consular planning. Of course we try to stay
in close touch with as many as possible of the 10,000 or 12,000 British
nationals in Zimbabwe. We have reached some far outlying areas, but of
course we cannot be complacent, given some of the doomsday scenarios that
have been mooted. I can assure him that there has been a serious degree of
activity on our part, and on the part of the Department for International
Development, to deal with that contingency.
The other side of the coin is, of course, a brighter future for Zimbabwe. As
I suggested in my statement, it is important that the whole international
community is ready, when it has a decent partner Government in Harare, to
take part in the sort of comprehensive economic, social, political and
security engagements that will help to rehabilitate—I think that was the
right hon. Gentleman’s word—the country. The rehabilitation will be on a
scale not seen by almost any country for a long time. I cannot remember the
exact levels of inflation in the Weimar Republic, but he mentioned that a
loaf of bread cost Z$10 million; I think that four weeks ago it was Z$1
million. That is a degree of chaos that is almost unknown. However, I can
certainly assure him that discussions are taking place.
It is incumbent on the Government to try to prepare for all eventualities.
One can never have perfect foresight, but it is important to refer to the
second round of elections that might be deemed necessary. If they are, we
want them to take place on a fairer and freer basis. The humanitarian
situation also needs to be prepared for as far as possible, and I am
grateful for the fact that on that matter, at least, there is cross-party
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): When the change in Zimbabwe comes,
there will be, as the Foreign Secretary says, 4 million people who are
outside their country. Many of them are in South Africa, but there are quite
a large number of Zimbabweans in this country. Will he have urgent
discussions with his colleagues in other Departments, including the
Department for International Development, and with the people responsible
for the Border and Immigration Agency, about providing assistance and help,
in a careful manner, to those Zimbabweans—doctors, nurses, teachers and
others—who wish to go back to Zimbabwe to help to rebuild their democratic
David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important point. We are not yet
ready to cross that bridge, but hopefully the time will soon come when we
are, and I assure him that we will seek to do so in an effective and
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): Although the House will
clearly want to debate Zimbabwe, and although I understand why the Foreign
Secretary felt that he needed to make this statement today, in doing so does
he not run the risk of being deliberately misinterpreted? Will he share with
the House the exact reasons why he decided to make the statement, and why he
did not contact the Opposition parties to see whether we would agree on
whether to delay the statement? Will he reassure the Opposition parties that
when there is something solid to comment on he will update us, especially
during the recess?
The whole House will share the great hope and excitement, expressed by many
voices coming out of Zimbabwe through blogs and other media, that we may be
about to witness historic, positive change in that wonderful country, which
was brought to its knees by misrule of the most odious kind. I therefore
agree with the Foreign Secretary that the Zimbabwean electoral commission
must publish all the election results without further delay. Is not the most
striking and fantastic aspect of the Zimbabwean general election the strong
showing of the opposition parties, despite the massive electoral fraud and
despite the political corruption? May I therefore associate my right hon.
and hon. Friends with the Foreign Secretary’s expression of solidarity with
the people of Zimbabwe? We have a shared belief that the true democratic
will of the Zimbabwean people must be heard and acted on. As I have made
clear, I understand that the Foreign Secretary wishes to tread carefully,
but will he confirm that the targeted EU sanctions will be maintained and
toughened if the current regime tries to hold on to power in the face of a
confirmed democratic verdict?
The Foreign Secretary has begun to outline some of the Government’s thinking
on the help that Britain and the international community are already
organising for a fresh Government. Will he assure the House that such
support for recovery and reconstruction will be rapid and generous? Does he
recognise that there must be no delay in providing support? Proposals such
as new World Bank support and donor conferences are of course sensible, but
assuming that those proposals go ahead, will he ensure that matters are so
organised that international pledges of help actually materialise once the
summit headlines have gone, as the record in Iraq and Afghanistan is not
Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the support that the
international community supplies also flows into Zimbabwe’s neighbours, as
their populations and economies have sheltered the vast majority of the
refugees and exiles escaping Mugabe’s tyranny?
David Miliband: I hope I may suggest, in the nicest possible way, that the
fact that the hon. Gentleman has been able to ask four or five perfectly
sensible questions shows that perhaps it was not completely ridiculous to
make a statement today. However, I do not want to fall out with him about
that. I will check with my office, but I would not want it to stand on the
record that there had been no contact with the Opposition parties over the
last two days; it is important that there is contact.
The hon. Gentleman made an important point: one reason for being here today
is the fact that the recess beckons, and I shall ensure that we stay in
touch, even if not in quite such proximity, over the next two weeks.
The hon. Gentleman tempts me into a series of perfectly legitimate
hypothetical situations, either where democratic will is frustrated and
sanctions continue or where democratic will is respected and rehabilitation
and reconstruction are necessary on a grand scale. It is important,
particularly given what he said about the danger of misrepresentation, that
we keep saying that the onus is on the Zimbabwean electoral commission to
announce the results and that the international community shoulder its
responsibilities as it does so, although we must be clear that we are
prepared for a range of eventualities. I hope he understands that to go
beyond that could be seen as not terribly helpful. The hon. Gentleman’s
point about the impact of Zimbabwe on its neighbours is important, however,
and many people will scratch their heads at how countries surrounding
Zimbabwe have had to cope with such an influx of Zimbabwean refugees and how
they have tried to manage the politics, as well as the social and economic
consequences, of that.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State for
International Development and I try to look at southern Africa regionally,
as well as nationally and locally, in relation to how our aid and other
programmes work. We will continue to do so.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab): First, may I endorse everything
the Foreign Secretary has said and, secondly, put to him the following? One
of the few things that Mr. Mugabe has been successful at is representing his
difficulties as a bilateral dispute between him and the UK and a legacy of
colonialism. He has succeeded in convincing many of his African colleagues
of that. Therefore, those who consider themselves friends of Zimbabwe
should, as my right hon. Friend said a moment ago, be cautious in what they
say at this delicate time to ensure that our position is not misrepresented,
as it will be if we put a foot wrong.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend speaks with the authority of a former
Minister for Africa, and in short I agree with him. I know that he is a true
friend of the Zimbabwean people, and in everything he has said and done he
has shown that.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): It certainly appears that the
prayers of those of us in the House who have taken an interest in Zimbabwe
over many years may finally have been answered and that, despite an election
that was clearly anything but free and fair, a majority of the people of
Zimbabwe have clearly indicated that they want change. I agree with
everything the Foreign Secretary said, as I do with what my right hon.
Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) said.
Will the Foreign Secretary give the House further information about the
immediate aid that we can give to the people, not a Government, of Zimbabwe
to reduce starvation and to help in relation to health and with AIDS, as
well as the problems associated with it? That would give them hope that what
they have done so bravely will be rewarded by a country that was in part
responsible for bringing Mr. Mugabe to power.
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman speaks with real passion, born of long
engagement with the struggles of the people of Zimbabwe, or long sympathy
with their recent struggles. He will know that the aid programme is now
almost £50 million. It is paid through the United Nations, whose role was
The best thing might be to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State
for International Development to put a note in the Library before the rise
of the House tomorrow afternoon. I hope that there will be a double purpose
in that: first, to inform hon. Members, but also to help to make it clear to
the British people what difference their tax money is making today to the
people of Zimbabwe.
Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Does the Foreign Secretary agree that one fact
is crystal clear—Mugabe has lost? First, if he had won, he would
triumphantly have proclaimed that fact, as he did on all previous occasions.
Secondly, for the first time we have an aggregation by independent monitors
of results posted up outside local polling stations, and they show that he
has lost. That being the case, it is vital that the international community
stand together with the UN, the European Union and the southern African
countries to ensure that an orderly transition of power takes place, and
that there is an end to the prevarication and, frankly, the complicity with
Mugabe’s murderous rule, which there has been from Beijing to southern
Africa for far too long. Mugabe has shown consistently that he will not go
unless he has no alternative but to go. Quiet diplomacy has never worked
David Miliband: My right hon. Friend, I am sure, is right about the
significance of international unity, and seeking that international unity
across the EU and the southern African countries is important. I very much
concur about the significance and stress that he placed on the role of the
civil society organisation ZENS—the Zimbabwe Election Support Network—and
the highly innovative mobile phone-based photography it has produced of
results posted outside polling stations, under quite some threat to the
individual security of its members. I choose my words carefully: like my
right hon. Friend, I have seen the results that came out of the sample—540
of 9,400—that the civil society organisation chose.
There will be time for a post mortem on how we got here, and no doubt there
will be different views on which countries played what role. At the moment,
however, I would prefer to stick with the importance that my right hon.
Friend placed on unity and the role of civil society organisations.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): I commend the Foreign Secretary
for his restraint. Does he accept that although we here may feel a sense of
responsibility, the harsh truth is that our influence is necessarily limited
by the fact that we are the former colonial power? Is it not therefore the
case that these events are a test for Zimbabwe and its people, but that, in
a political sense, they are a real test for the countries of southern
Africa—in particular, South Africa? Will he assure us that he has taken
every opportunity to communicate our views to the Government of that country
and, in particular, to Mr. Mbeki?
David Miliband: The right hon. and learned Gentleman raises an important
point. As I think the Leader of the House said at Prime Minister’s questions
today, our Prime Minister spoke to President Mbeki on Monday. I am sure that
the right hon. and learned Gentleman would agree that that conversation is
about not only communicating our views, which is the phrase he used, but
trying to discuss with President Mbeki how both our countries can play an
appropriate role in addressing this situation. I am sure the right hon. and
learned Gentleman agrees with that.
As I said in my statement, the people who have suffered most are those in
Zimbabwe. Those who know best the need for change are in Zimbabwe, but of
course the neighbours close to Zimbabwe are greatly affected by these
In respect of our own role, it is important that we do not in any way—I know
that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not do this—fall into the
trap that was highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South
(Mr. Mullin). We should not say things that play in the wrong way.
Equally, we should not be at all ashamed of the aid and other programmes
that we have sent to Zimbabwe over the last 28 years, destined to help the
people of that country. In fact, we should try to be proud and to stand up
for the fundamental truths that we have tried to express in the actions that
we have taken. That is a difficult balance to strike, and I know that that
is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman was referring to. Certainly, it
is the balance that we are trying to strike. We are concerned about the
situation in Zimbabwe because of the wrongs that are being done to people
who deserve better.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I welcome the statement. This is an opportunity
for us to send a simple message of support to the people of Zimbabwe without
getting into any of the details that might be awkward. I also welcome the
fact that both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have spent a
great deal of time over the past few days on the telephone doing the work
necessary to keep the international community and the European Union
together on the issue. Does he agree—this follows on a little from the
previous question—that the role of South Africa in the next couple of days
will be crucial, and can he assure me and all those in this country who have
supported South Africa and who have links with South Africa and President
Mbeki that this is the opportunity for President Mbeki to show that he is a
true world statesman?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend, like the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir
Nicholas Winterton), has played a valiant role in highlighting the situation
in Zimbabwe and campaigning for effective international action on the issue.
The international unity to which she refers was brought home to me at the
meeting that I held in Paris on Monday. When I suggested to my six EU
colleagues that we should interrupt a meeting about the French European
presidency to talk about the situation in Zimbabwe, they wanted that to be
the first item on the agenda because they saw the importance of it. I took
heart from that that the matter is not seen just as a bilateral issue. Of
course my hon. Friend is right that South Africa has the opportunity to be a
powerhouse, economically and politically, for the whole of southern Africa,
and the partnership with South Africa is extremely important. It is
important to register the fact that many South Africans would say that the
elections would not have happened at all without their intervention.
Hopefully, those elections will allow the democratic will of the Zimbabwean
people to be expressed.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s
statement. Although we must indeed be cautious about what we say today,
those many of us in the House who have campaigned over the years for the
democratic rights of the Zimbabwean people must hope and pray that this is
the end of the long dark night of Zimbabwe and the breaking of a new
democratic dawn. The lesson of history is that democracy can very quickly be
undermined by chaos, and that the only way that can be avoided, as we have
learned painfully in another area, is by having a comprehensive plan for
reconstruction and aid in place, to be put into action immediately. While we
wait for the result, can the Foreign Secretary, along with his international
colleagues, begin to put that plan together so that once democracy is
restored in Zimbabwe, as I hope it will be, there is no delay before that
plan goes into action?
David Miliband: The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important
point. I think he agrees with me that it is possible to be diplomatic in
what one says without obscuring the fundamental truths that need to be
expressed. He has expressed them in his own way. I have expressed the same
sentiment. The shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Richmond,
Yorks (Mr. Hague), referred earlier to Kenya. We want to try and avoid a
Kenya situation. We are in a pre-Kenya situation in one way, which could
easily become a Kenya situation, with the violence to which the right hon.
and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was referring. That is a huge
challenge. Every time we describe the chaos that has taken place in Zimbabwe
over the past few years, we dramatise the difficulties of precisely the sort
of operation that he mentioned, but he can be assured that although we are
trying to engage on the immediate issue, we have an eye on tomorrow as well
as on today. We will do our best in that respect.
Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): I thank the Foreign Secretary
for his sensitive approach to the matter. I agree with my right hon. Friend
the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) that had President Mugabe won, we would have
known about it by now. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary may not be
able to answer this question exactly, but I hope he will understand what I
am trying to say. Mugabe has had five days to move his money, resources,
diamonds and the oil that he owns outside the country. Can my right hon.
Friend reassure us that all the international banks will have a letter from
us if not today, then tomorrow, asking them to search the electronic records
to make sure that no money is moved in any of the hundreds of accounts that
Mugabe owns, especially those in Cairo?
David Miliband: The important thing to say is that our focus is on the
interests of the people of Zimbabwe. That is the foundation of what we are
doing. It is better if I just say that.
Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Can the Foreign Secretary
outline further what the Government will do to help the development of
proper democracy in Zimbabwe and a move away from the corruption that has
been endemic in that nation? Will he indicate what steps we can take to try
and ensure that the 4 million refugees who had to leave Zimbabwe are allowed
to return to help democracy flourish in that benighted land?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. It is worth
remarking just how deep the democratic spirit is in Zimbabwe. Despite
everything that has been thrown at them, far from forgetting how to vote or
dispensing with their democratic rights, millions of people were determined
Sir Menzies Campbell: They were queuing.
David Miliband: The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir
Menzies Campbell) is right. The Zimbabwean people’s faith in the ballot box
has, remarkably, been undimmed by the traumas and travails that they have
been through. In some ways, the nurturing of the democratic spirit is far
ahead of the nurturing of democratic institutions in that country. In
respect of democratic institutions, I know that the hon. Member for East
Londonderry (Mr. Campbell) is committed to the work of the Westminster
Foundation and other party-to-party links, which are important in building a
decent civil society. That will be very important in the difficult task of
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I warmly welcome the statement made by
the Foreign Secretary today and the fact that he and the Prime Minister have
telephoned so many African leaders. May I press the point made by the
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee? Will the Foreign Secretary speak
to the Home Secretary about the Zimbabwean citizens in this country, many of
whom do not wish to go back until the situation is secure? Will he ensure
that there is no change in Government policy and there will be no removals
until the situation is secure?
David Miliband: I am happy to speak to my right hon. Friend the Home
Secretary about the matter in due course. It has been a pervading aspect of
all our discussions that no one should do anything precipitate. That is the
approach that we will take.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): There will be a great welcome when
Zimbabwe again becomes a full member of the Commonwealth. When the election
results come, may I commend to the Foreign Secretary two quick words? The
first is from Kenneth Kaunda, who said when he stopped being President of
Zambia, “You win some, you lose some,” and secondly, the words of the Lord
Privy Seal twenty-six years ago who, when criticised for the result of the
elections after Lancaster house, said, “With free and fair elections, you
can’t always predict the result.”
David Miliband: Those are good points. An hon. Member referred earlier to
the result that we had produced in the first elections of Zimbabwe. The
result was produced by the Zimbabwean people, but the democratic spirit has
lived on. Although I have been lucky enough in my political lifetime only to
win some, I take the hon. Gentleman’s point that one wins some and loses
some. Hopefully, we will not be able to enjoy that experience in the near
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): During 2004 the House of Commons
Foreign Affairs Committee was somewhat surprised, during a visit to South
Africa, at the level of support for President Mugabe and the criticism of
the United Kingdom for the comments that we were making at the time in
criticising his regime. African leaders have acquiesced in Mugabe’s tenure
of office over the past few years. It is crucial—I echo calls from other
Members around the House—that my right hon. Friend does all he can to engage
those leaders and, if there is a result that represents the return of
democracy to Zimbabwe, to ensure that it is implemented. That is the key. At
present, democracy no longer exists in Zimbabwe.
David Miliband: My hon. Friend leads me towards an important point. The
temptations of the megaphone are very large indeed, especially where
terrible things are being done, but sometimes the megaphone is not the best
tool of diplomacy. Equally, to be timid is not right. To be silent is
therefore to become complicit. The challenge for us all is to find a way to
be effective without resorting to the megaphone which, in the end, becomes
ineffective. We all need to recognise my hon. Friend’s point about the
striking support that continues or previously continued to exist for Robert
Mugabe. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain),
there will come a time for analysis. One of the things that will come out of
that is that the megaphone that plays well here does not necessarily play
well in the place that really matters. The challenge for us all is to make
sure that we find the right implement.
Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford) (LD): In his discussions, has the Foreign
Secretary had time to speak to President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who was
sworn in as President of Botswana only yesterday? I know that the President
is a close personal friend of the Secretary of State for International
Development. Will the Foreign Secretary be specific about the Commonwealth?
If and when Zimbabwe returns to the road of democracy, as the Foreign
Secretary describes it, will it be welcomed back into the Commonwealth
immediately? That is one organisation to which the front-line states do
belong and it could really participate in the rebuilding of civil society in
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. In answering
the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley), I did not give due
attention to that issue. This is an opportunity for the Commonwealth to show
its real worth in the modern age. I will certainly be in touch with the new
Commonwealth secretary-general, who started yesterday, at the appropriate
I believe in the Commonwealth. An organisation that covers a quarter of the
world’s population—north, east, south and west, and all races and
religions—has the opportunity to show what it means for different countries
to work together and make the phrase “the international community” mean
something. This situation is a good example.
I think that I am right in saying that it was Zimbabwe that pulled out of
the Commonwealth, rather than the Commonwealth that kicked out Zimbabwe in
the beginning. But I very much hope that, first, a new Government in
Zimbabwe would want to rejoin the Commonwealth, and secondly, that the
Commonwealth would give the country a very warm embrace.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s
statement. Although I recognise the need for caution, does he not agree that
the international community has a key role to play in standing absolutely
firm and sending a clear message to the authorities in Zimbabwe that we
recognise that this is a defining moment in the country’s history, and it is
inconceivable that there cannot be change of some sort? There is also a role
for us to step up to the plate with the funds and the support for
development. I am sure that, with those, the many extremely able and
talented Zimbabweans will more than succeed in rebuilding their country.
David Miliband: I agree with my hon. Friend, who knows a lot about these
issues. She is absolutely right about the potential of the country. It is a
tragedy for any country to do as badly as Zimbabwe; it is a double tragedy
when it has the natural resources and people to make a great success of
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): Will the Foreign Secretary
confirm that there is enormous good will between the ordinary people of the
United Kingdom and the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, no matter how they
voted? Will he also agree that the front-line Southern African Development
Community states have an important role to play, in particular in reversing
the brain drain—to encourage ordinary hard-working people to go back to
Zimbabwe and build the country back to its former success?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes good points. As I said, we do not
want to do anything precipitate. However, the outflux of refugees to the
neighbouring countries has certainly been a huge drain on Zimbabwe and a
huge burden for South Africa and other neighbouring countries. It is
important that Zimbabwe returns to the equilibrium that it deserves.
Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): What direct contacts has the Foreign
Secretary had with his opposite numbers in the front-line states at this
critical time before the election results are formally announced, so that
they may encourage recognition of the wish of the Zimbabwean people for the
rule of law and democracy?
David Miliband: I am happy to give one of a number of examples. The first
call that I had was with the Foreign Minister of Tanzania. Our conversation
was precisely about the respective responsibilities of the states closest to
Zimbabwe. The Minister’s President was deeply engaged on the issue. I shared
with the Minister our hopes for the resolution of the situation, and we had
a strong measure of agreement about the respective responsibilities of the
different countries concerned.
Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): In the past few days,
constituents of mine with strong connections to the rural areas of Zimbabwe
have brought me accounts of orphanages and elderly people’s homes in dire
distress. In some cases, staff have already left and elderly people, often
with serious geriatric conditions, are left wandering around to try to feed
themselves. The children in the orphanages are left untended and, in many
May I echo the plea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks
(Mr. Hague) to the Government? When the will of the people of Zimbabwe is
known and, as we all hope, Mugabe is removed, a programme of emergency
relief must be immediately available from this country and we must not
forget the elderly people’s homes and orphanages, particularly in the often
forgotten rural areas.
David Miliband: My earlier comment to the shadow Foreign Secretary about the
particular needs of British—as it happens—nationals in far-flung areas was a
reference precisely to the issue of children and, especially, elderly
people. I would prefer not to wait in respect of elderly or young people who
are in the situation that the hon. and learned Gentleman describes; if he
gets the details of those cases to my office, I will forward them to the
embassy in Harare straight away. There is already a food aid programme with
significant British taxpayers’ money behind it. It is administered through
the UN. We need to know who the people whom the hon. and learned Gentleman
mentions are, and find out why they are not part of the humanitarian support
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Some of us warned many years ago that
Mr. Mugabe was not a fit person to be entrusted with the governance of
Zimbabwe. We have looked on with increasing dismay and horror as he has
systematically gone about destroying his country—almost with the connivance
of the South African Government, as the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr.
May I ask the Foreign Secretary a specific question about what he said about
aid? Will he ensure that the British taxpayer, having already contributed a
substantial amount of money to Zimbabwe, does not contribute more aid unless
it is specifically linked to good governance in Zimbabwe in future?
David Miliband: The position that my right hon. Friend the International
Development Secretary and I have taken consistently is that the amount of
aid should be governed by the situation of the people of Zimbabwe and our
ability to make a difference with that aid. As the hon. and learned Member
for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Cox) suggested in the previous question, we
would not want to stand aside if pressing needs could be met through
As I keep on referring to the UN, I should say that we are not paying money
through the Zimbabwean Government. If the concern of the hon. Member for
Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) is that our money is being used for illegal or
corrupt purposes, I should tell him that significant measures are taken to
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Although nothing that we say or do today
in the House should in any way endanger attempts to persuade Mugabe to
retire peacefully, will the Foreign Secretary reassure the House that the
Government will not condone any deal that would eventually put Mugabe beyond
the reach of The Hague?
David Miliband: Our position on that issue is well known; we are very
committed to the role of the authorities at The Hague. I do not want to get
into the issue of individual negotiations and discussions, but I can
certainly say that they are not something in which I am involved.
Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): Those of us who have been involved in
this issue for many years might wish in our hearts to see a Ceausescu
moment, when the world sees fear in the eyes of a despot. However, like all
of us in the House, I recognise that such emotions are self-indulgent. Does
the Foreign Secretary agree that, looking forward, one of the most important
things that we have to do is stop the Zimbabwe central bank printing money
like confetti? To do that, we need to implement the International Monetary
Fund plan on which Mugabe reneged some time ago. Does the Foreign Secretary
agree that that will require huge will from the international community? It
is something that we really can do to bring about a rapid turnaround—I
hope—in the Zimbabwean economy.
David Miliband: The situation has got significantly worse since that plan
was rejected; I would want to be sure that the plan was appropriate to the
circumstances. However, I know that my right hon. Friend the International
Development Secretary, and the Chancellor when he goes to the IMF spring
meetings, will ensure that the issue will be on the agenda so that there is
a proper plan when the time comes.
The Prime Minister was asked—
Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for
Wednesday 2 April.
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I have been asked to
Before listing my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s engagements, I am
sure that the whole House will wish to join me in sending our profound
condolences to the family and friends of the two Royal Marines who were
killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, Lieutenant John Thornton and Marine David
Marsh. We owe them both a deep debt of gratitude. As the House will be
aware, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is today in Bucharest,
Romania, for the NATO Heads of State and Government summit meeting.
Mr. Joyce: In a few days, the all-party group on the great lakes region of
Africa will visit Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both of
which have proper, legitimate, democratically elected Governments. Does my
right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is, today, time for Mr. Robert
Mugabe to accept that the people of Zimbabwe deserve no less?
Ms Harman: I commend my hon. Friend on the work that he does in his
all-party group. He is absolutely right: the whole House will want to
express its solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and its concern that they
should have their democratic choice respected and recognised. Hon. Members
in all parts of the House have raised the plight of the people in Zimbabwe.
Four million people have been forced to flee that country. The average life
expectancy is now down to 34 and the economy is in ruins, but today the eyes
of the world are on Zimbabwe, which stands at a turning point. Robert Mugabe
must respect the decision of his people.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): I join the Leader of the House in
paying tribute to Lieutenant John Thornton and Marine David Marsh, who were
killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, and to the soldier who was killed in Iraq
last Wednesday—a further reminder of the sacrifices and service of our armed
On a lighter note, I should like to congratulate the Leader of the House on
being the first female Labour Member ever to answer Prime Minister’s
questions. She must be proud, three decades on, to be following in the
footsteps of Margaret Thatcher, whom we on the Conservative Benches, and the
Prime Minister, so much admire. I have just one question on Zimbabwe before
the Foreign Secretary’s statement at 12.30 pm. Will the Leader of the House
make it clear, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that Britain wants to send
the clearest possible signal that the world will be there to help the people
of Zimbabwe, on top of what she has just rightly said, and that there will
be a comprehensive plan to assist them, whenever they are able, to move away
from corruption and dictatorship, to the rule of law and democracy?
Ms Harman: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his congratulations, but I
would like to ask him: why he is asking the questions today? He is not the
shadow Leader of the House; the shadow Leader of the House is sitting next
to him. Is this the situation in the modern Conservative party—that women
should be seen but not heard? If I may, perhaps I could offer the shadow
Leader of the House a bit of sisterly advice: she should not let him get
away with it.
Hon. Members: More!
Ms Harman: On the question of Zimbabwe, I absolutely endorse the right hon.
Gentleman’s comments, and I do so on behalf of the Government. This
Government are the second biggest donor to Zimbabwe and we stand ready to
step up that support. We will work with the international community, but it
is also right to focus on South Africa and Africa to help find a solution to
the problem. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has spoken to Thabo
Mbeki and to Kofi Annan; he will work to make sure that pressure is put on
Robert Mugabe to respect the democratic choice of his people.
The Country's Affluent White Community Reacts to the Deadlock Following
HARARE, Zimbabwe, April 2, 2008
It is rather easy to find the latest and largest Sony high-definition
television in Harare, Zimbabwe. Or perhaps you are looking for a pair of
limited re-edition Nike tennis shoes?
Whatever you are interested in buying, a short drive to Sam Levy's Village
will do the trick. This is a sprawling outdoor mall located in the affluent
Burrowdale district of Harare, where families can spend the whole day
getting lost in the various red-brick paved pathways.
Mr. Mercer, a white employee at an audio and video store, stands in front of
his largest Sony television screen.
He does not move as he watches the report. After a moment he lowers the
volume and steps away from the television. "It's like watching a film. It's
pure fiction. All of it."
Says another store employee, also white: "The good news is that the
opposition now has control over the parliament. Everyone now knows the
numbers. Math does not lie."
Speaking of math, whites make up less than 1 percent of the total population
in Zimbabwe. And they make up more than 80 percent of Zimbabwe's upper
"Life must go on," says Beth, a thin young white woman who is the manager of
a shoe store in the outdoor mall. "I can't let it affect me."
Boxes in hand, Beth walks towards the stockroom, saying, "I will be back
tomorrow. No matter what happens."
Until a decade ago, the minority white population controlled the majority of
the once-lucrative agricultural industry. That came to an end when Robert
Mugabe enforced his infamous Land Reform Act, which, in effect, stripped the
white farmers of their property and placed it into the hands of blacks.
Yet unemployment in Zimbabwe is at an all-time high, affecting about 90
percent of the country's population.
Back in the audio and video store, another white employee explains the
situation. "Our shelves are not empty because no people are buying, they are
empty because it is very difficult for us to import the products.
"Bush says he will come to Zimbabwe if Mugabe is gone," he continues. "And
the British prime minister would love to come here, too. But instead of them
coming, all they do is send sanctions."
The widespread rumor of a possible runoff election enters the conversation
as one of the employees, who is white, reads a text message on his cell
"But what does that mean? Runoff or no runoff?" asks the other employee.
No one says anything for a moment.
Finally, the white manager of the store speaks: "So what if the opposition
wins? They may end up doing the same thing, going down the same road."
MICHAEL SETTLE April 03 2008
The UK, along with international partners, is considering a £1bn annual aid
package for Zimbabwe, a tripling of the current assistance, should Robert
Mugabe be swept from power and replaced by a responsible new government.
The Herald was told that food and medical supplies as well as a range of
experts are ready to go to help rebuild the state should the will of its
people be recognised.
However, Britain, as the former colonial ruler, will not act alone but in
partnership with the wider international community.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
02 April 2008
Some in Zimbabwe are already looking past the elections and hoping for an
economic rescue program under a new government, presumably with multilateral
In the meantime, the present government has tweaked its fiscal policy to
raise the top marginal tax rate to 60% for incomes over Z$20 billion (US$30)
a month from 47.5%. It also raised the threshold under which no tax is paid
to $300 million a month.
Economists said the move looked like an attempt to recover unbudgeted
election expenses, including the big pay increases given to civil servants.
As to the future, economist Godfrey Kanyenze told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri
that if a new government comes to power, it will need six months to
stabilize the economy.