Thu 19 Jul 2007, 14:45 GMT
By Cris Chinaka
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe has scrapped a scheme allowing fuel purchases
with foreign currency, removing one of the few remaining ways for people to
acquire petrol in a country struggling with a crumbling economy.
The facility is also used by foreign diplomats and officials working for
international aid organisations, and the move, along with the government's
hostile reaction to a new offer of U.S. food aid, underlined President
Robert Mugabe's hardline stance.
Zimbabwe has experienced several years of acute fuel shortages as an
economic crisis many blame on Mugabe's government has left the country with
no foreign currency reserves and the highest inflation rate in the world.
Three weeks ago, Mugabe ordered a blitz to slash prices by half after the
cost of some basic foodstuffs rose three-fold within a week, saying
businesses were doing this as part of a Western-sponsored plot to oust his
The price freeze has sparked a wave of panic buying that has emptied
Zimbabwean shops of basic commodities, and critics say the formal economy is
tottering on the brink of total collapse.
In a statement broadcast by state media on Thursday, a committee enforcing
the price cuts said the government had banned foreign currency coupons
allowing people to get scarce fuel from private oil companies or individual
"The Task Force is giving all coupon holders two weeks from today, within
which to acquit their coupons. No new fuel coupon sales should be made
forthwith," it said.
No reasons were given for the move, and both government and private oil
companies were not immediately available for comment. In the past the
government has accused fuel coupon holders of selling fuel on the black
market at highly inflated prices.
WALK TO WORK
Fuel costs about $1 a litre through the foreign currency coupons, but the
equivalent of about $4.50 on a black market thriving on lack of consistent
fuel supplies in the economy.
Zimbabwe's chronic fuel shortages have at times spurred public transport
operators to pull vehicles off the road, forcing thousands of urban
commuters to walk to work.
Mugabe, who has been isolated by the West over his policies, has also failed
to secure concrete fuel supply deals from "friendly" countries such as Libya
and Equatorial Guinea.
The veteran leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980 and
seeking victory in elections due in March next year, rejects criticism he
has run down a once-vibrant economy.
He says Zimbabwe has been sabotaged by opponents of his seizures of
white-owned commercial farms for landless blacks and charges that opposition
figures have been trying to overthrow his ZANU-PF government for years.
On Thursday Zimbabwe's main labour movement said its Secretary-General
Wellington Chibebe had been summoned by the police for questioning over a
public statement he made on Labour Day suggesting he wanted to see a "regime
change". Chibebe and police officials were not available for further
On Thursday, state media also reported that Mugabe's Information Minister
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu had branded Washington's offer of 47,400 tonnes of food
aid to Zimbabwe "reparations" for what Harare sees as American sins towards
"That they are giving us food to last until the next harvest is just a
gimmick to support the opposition as far as we are concerned," Ndlovu said.
"This is a measure to soothe themselves of their guilt."
By Lance Guma
19 July 2007
Zimbabweans in the diaspora who had been sending money, fuel and groceries
home, woke up to a new reality Thursday when government announced a ban on
the sale of fuel coupons. Up until now the coupons allowed Zimbabwean exiles
to send fuel to their loved ones, while helping to beat perennial fuel
shortages. The new directive adds to the ban on the importation of groceries
that begins on the 1st August. As the country edges closer to the brink
almost everyone from students, the opposition, informal and formal business
sectors and now the diaspora are being affected by government policies that
are putting a stranglehold on everything.
Industry and International Trade Minister Obert Mpofu announced that the
sale of fuel coupons has been banned and those already issued must be
redeemed within two weeks. Authorities say fuel should be accessed 'through
approved sites.' Various companies serving the diaspora have started
informing their customers of the cancellation of the service while advising
those who have placed and paid for orders, to collect their coupons as soon
as possible. Many people who spoke to Newsreel asked 'what are we to do for
our families now?' They accused Mugabe's regime of trying to starve people,
by taking away basic things like food and petrol.
Economic analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga said Mugabe's regime was determined to
control the market and force everyone to trade within its structures. He
said the country is being run by the Joint Operations Command (JOC) a
grouping of military and security organisations. 'They thrive on
instructions and commands,' Mhlanga added. He says the regime has put in
place an 8-month strategy to control the economy until elections in 2008.
Once the elections are over, they will then begin to deal with the
consequences of their actions.
Some believe Mugabe is targeting the business community because he claims
they are trying to push him out of power by hiking prices and in the process
make him lose the 2008 election. There are suggestions that a prediction of
Zimbabwe's economic collapse made by outgoing US ambassador Christopher Dell
has been seized on by Mugabe, to justify a crackdown on the business sector.
But there is consensus that bad political decisions and corruption have
combined to drive the country under. A violent land grab that began in 2000,
after Mugabe lost a constitutional referendum, was the final nail in the
coffin as the agriculturally based economy collapsed.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
The Trust is gravely concerned over the most recent attempt by the
Zimbabwean state to bring into disrepute the reputation and moral standing
of Archbishop Pius Ncube. It notes the accusation of adultery that has been
made against the Archbishop, and regardless of the truth or falsity , stands
by him during this very difficult ordeal.
Archbishop Ncube has over several years taken a strong moral stand against
the repression and political and human rights abuses of the Zimbabwean
state, and for his efforts the Mugabe regime has continuously tried to smear
his good character. The actions of the Mugabe Regime and its Central
Intelligence Organisation is reminiscent of the Apartheid Security Police
during the dying days of apartheid in its efforts to cling to power.
The Trust affirms the Archbishop's continued stand for the principle of
speaking the truth to power, and no manner of intimidation, dirty tricks and
divisionary tactics carried out by the state will turn him away from his
course. The Archbishop feels confident in his faith and will stand by the
positions he has taken.
Solidarity Peace Trust
Thu, 19 Jul 2007 08:16:20 GMT
Harare/Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme was
chaotic, Vice President Joseph Msika has admitted in a rare criticism of the
campaign by a government official. "The implementation was chaotic," Msika
said in comments carried by the state-controlled Herald daily on Thursday.
In 2000, President Robert Mugabe's government launched a programme under
which land owned by whites was seized, to loud Western condemnation.
Many Western countries, including former colonial power Britain, said they
did not disagree with the principle of redistributing Zimbabwe's farmland to
But they disagreed with the manner in which it was done. In many cases,
bands of veterans of Zimbabwe's struggle for independence invaded farms,
terrorized farmers and their families, looted property and forced them to
Around 13 white farmers were killed at the height of the takeovers. Seven
years later, less than 300 of more than 4,000 white farmers on land in
Zimbabwe still remain.
Mugabe and his ministers usually fiercely defend the controversial farm
But in an unusual departure from the official line, Msika on Thursday
criticized some of those involved in the programme.
"We did not say chase them (the farmers)," he said, speaking in the eastern
district of Nyanga.
"I am not saying whites are mad (sic) but there are also blacks that are
mad," he was quoted as saying.
The vice president was comparing the manner in which land reform was
implemented to the behaviour of some of those appointed to monitor adherence
to price controls in an ongoing government blitz against high prices in
"These youngsters, we give them terms of reference but they do things their
own ways," Msika said.
There have been reports some that some monitors and police have connived
with relatives and friends to force shopowners to sell goods, especially
valuable electrical wares, at prices way below the reduced prices stipulated
Mugabe's government recently ordered businesses to reduce their prices by 50
percent in the ailing southern African country where inflation is at more
than 4,500 per cent.
July 19 2007 at 09:57AM
Harare - Zimbabwean police summoned a leader of the country's main
union organisation to answer charges on Thursday that he called for
President Robert Mugabe's overthrow in a May Day speech, the movement said.
While there was no immediate comment from the police, a spokesperson
for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions confirmed its secretary general
Wellington Chibebe had gone with his lawyer to Harare's main police station.
"He has been called in connection with utterances he made at this
year's May Day. According to the police the utterances were meant to press
for regime change," the spokesperson Khumbulani Ndlovu told AFP.
Chibebe and the ZCTU have been some of the harshest critics of Mugabe
and his handling of the economy which is grappling with the effects of the
world's highest rate of inflation and an unemployment rate of around 80
Mugabe has accused the ZCTU of being an appendage to the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change whose leader Morgan Tsvangirai is
a former head of the labour body.
July 19 2007 at 03:20PM
By Thabo Mabaso and Henri Du Plessis
Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis has resulted in the
decimation of 83 percent of the country's wildlife on privately owned game
farms and conservancies, a study by an animal rights body has found.
The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) study has revealed
startling findings that show a sharp rise in poaching and the near complete
obliteration of wildlife in the country.
It shows that of the 62 private game farms studied between January
2001 and July 1, 2007, 59 reported wildlife losses of 42 236.
Impala and warthogs suffered the worst fate during this period, with 9
562 and 6 762 respectively being killed.
The study says of the 62 game farms that were operational in 2001,
only 17 are fully functional currently.
"Many of the farmers have left the country. Some of them gave us
statistics in 2002, for example, and we are not able to contact them in
order to update their figures.
"It could be assumed that having left the country due to the land
reform exercise, there would be no animals left on their farms. However, we
have not assumed this," the report said.
"We have used the last figures they gave us, in the absence of any
up-to-date data being available."
Other wildlife that has suffered huge losses includes kudu, 4 969;
tssessebe, 1 532; and steenbok, 1 236. Over 7 000 could not be identified
because of their advanced stage of decomposition.
Before the land invasions, the 17 fully functionional private game
farms had a total wildlife population of 16 772. Between the years 2000 and
2007 the 17 farms reported a total loss of 15 704 animals.
The losses were mainly due to poaching and a drought that has gripped
Zimbabwe for the past few years.
Of the 15 animal conservancies in the country before the land
invasions, the report said only one was still operating fully. The study
said calculations indicated that wildlife lost on private game farms and
conservancies since the land invasions in 2001 was 83 percent.
The study estimates that about 10 percent of animals at the country's
national parks have also been lost.
"In view of the fact that since the collapse of the economy, National
Parks has not been in a position to carry out anti-poaching patrols
effectively, we don't believe that 10 percent is an unreasonable
estimation," the report said.
"Although wildlife is still fairly abundant in Hwange National Park
and Mana Pools, we receive regular reports from tourists that there is
hardly any game in Gonarezhou and Chisarira," the report added.
ZCTF chairperson Johnny Rodrigues said that while the compilers of the
report could not be truly certain about the state of wildlife, he believed
they had drafted an honest and fair assessment of the dire state of wildlife
"We are not claiming to know how much wildlife has been lost. We have
just tried to make the most accurate estimate possible with very limited
data to work with. If anyone has reason to believe we have overestimated the
losses, we would be very grateful for further information so we can update
or correct our records," Rodrigues said.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe's political and economic troubles have hit
large-scale cement producer PPC, but imports of cement and clinker continue.
"We are having a few problems and we are not producing as much as we
could there, but we still have a fair amount of cement coming from our plant
in Zimbabwe," said PPC chief operating officer Orrie Fenn.
Fenn said reports that the company's Zimbabwe plant was having
difficulty performing proper maintenance and repairs due to a dearth of
foreign exchange in the country were not accurate.
"We are doing what we have to and production continues, even if it may
have slowed a bit," he said in an interview on Wednesday.
Fenn said the PPC team in Zimbabwe was "doing a great job".
This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Argus on July
HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATE ON ZIMBABWE - 19th July 2007
About a dozen Vigil supporters attended a House of Commons four-hour debate
on Zimbabwe on Thursday. There were some well-informed speeches from both
sides of the House. One question addressed by several speakers was the
possibility of Mugabe attending the EU / AU Summit in Lisbon in December.
The speakers referred to a Sunday newspaper report that the Prime Minister
had said he would refuse to attend the summit if Mugabe was there. The
government declined to confirm this report, saying that invitations had not
yet been sent out. The former Conservative Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm
Rifkind, demanded an assurance that the United Kingdom would object to
Mugabe attending and demand an EU vote on the matter. It should make it
clear right away that the UK would not attend the Summit if Mugabe took
part. "If the AU will not champion the people of Zimbabwe, the EU must."
Sir Malcolm said there had been no AU / EU Summit for seven years because of
the Zimbabwe issue and, if necessary, this situation could continue for a
few more years. It would be Africa's loss.
During the debate President Mbeki came in for strong criticism for what was
seen as his years of inaction over Zimbabwe. The Chair of the All-Party
Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, Kate Hoey, said Zimbabwe's neighbours were
turning a blind eye to the humanitarian disaster if they were not actually
cheerleaders. She and several other MPs supported the possible suspension
of government to government aid to Southern African countries supporting
Mugabe (along the lines of our current petition: "A PETITION TO EUROPEAN
UNION GOVERNMENTS. We record our dismay at the failure of the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) to help the desperate people of
Zimbabwe at their time of trial. We urge the UK government, and the European
Union in general, to suspend government to government aid to all 14 SADC
countries until they abide by their joint commitment to uphold human rights
in the region").
MPs welcomed a recent American move to ban children of Zanu-PF bigwigs from
studying or visiting the United States and urged that Britain and the
European Union should do the same. As one MP said "It is essential that
Zanu-PF start to feel personally the cost of their actions". The MPs said
that the Zimbabwe Central Bank Governor, Gideon Gono, should be added to the
list of people refused entry to the European Union. The government said he
would not be welcome if he tried to visit the UK.
There was strong support during the debate for the decision of the
Australian Prime Minister to order a cricket boycott of Zimbabwe. The
general message was that African leaders were acting shamefully in not
facing up to the Zimbabwe problem and that pressure must be stepped up to
oust Mugabe. But while some MPs urged a deal to allow for Mugabe's
departure others insisted that he face trial before an international court.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
You are receiving this because you have attended the Vigil or contacted the
website. Please advise us if you wish to be removed from this list.
United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)
Date: 18 Jul 2007
Giving her maiden speech in the House of Lords, the day before a House of
Commons debate on Zimbabwe, International Development Minister Shriti Vadera
today announced a UK commitment of £50 million over five years to help more
than 2 million of Zimbabwe's poorest people in the midst of a humanitarian
Zimbabwe has again failed to produce sufficient food to meet the needs of
its people. Economic collapse means that 80% of the population are without
jobs and almost 60% are living on less than $1 a day. A quarter of children
have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. A baby girl born in Zimbabwe
today has a life expectancy of only 34, the lowest in the whole world.
Shriti Vadera said:
"The people of Zimbabwe face a humanitarian crisis. A quarter of the
population have fled to neighbouring countries, and half those remaining
urgently need food aid. Each week over 3,000 people die of HIV/AIDS.
"To help those immediately at risk I would like to announce that DFID is
today committing £50 million to extend the Protracted Relief Programme for
the next five years. The programme will be delivered entirely through NGOs
to provide seeds, fertilisers, livestock and access to HIV/AIDS care to
assist 2 million of the most vulnerable Zimbabweans."
As with all DFID programmes in Zimbabwe, no funding goes directly to the
government. The programme is closely monitored to ensure that there is no
political interference before the support reaches the intended
beneficiaries, who include former farm workers and families forced to leave
The Protracted Relief Programme (PRP) builds on an existing successful
programme and will enable poor families to begin to provide for themselves.
The £50 million announced today brings the total UK humanitarian commitment
to Zimbabwe since 2001 to over £200 million.
Mrs Anna Muchema lives in Zaka district and is one of the many people who
has already benefited from the PRP. She said:
"I thought bee-keeping was an activity for people who could trap bees by
climbing tall trees; however, I decided to take part in the bee-keeping
training workshops. After the training, I set up my bee-keeping project. I
currently harvest about 36 kgs of honey per year. Last year, I made $US 278.
I used the money to buy food, medicines and also to pay school fees for my
Notes to Editors
DFID's annual contribution to Zimbabwe is £30 million per year. Our
priorities are to tackle HIV and AIDS and reduce food insecurity. DFID has
provided over £35 million to tackling HIV/AIDS and health priorities since
2002 and will provide a further £47 million over the next three years. We
are helping to support approximately 50,000 people on treatment.
DFID has also provided £25 million support for orphans and vulnerable
children to help keep them in school and protect them from abuse.
Australian Aid will be co-funding this programme and has already made an
initial contribution of $1 million Australian dollars.
Shriti Vadera is giving her maiden speech in the House of Lords on 18th
For further information, contact Sarah Saxton on 020 7023 0600, e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Public Enquiries Point on 0845 300 4100.
By Violet Gonda
19 July 2007
At least two people were seriously injured in Bulawayo during a stampede by
desperate residents, who tried to seize much needed mealie meal from a truck
on Thursday. Food stores are completely empty of basic commodities as a
result of disastrous price reductions imposed by the government recently.
An eyewitness said about 300 people were queuing for sugar at TM hypermarket
in the city centre. They had been told that the scarce commodity would be
available in the afternoon. The eyewitness said: "As they were queuing a
lorry laden with bags of maize meal passed by. People started abandoning the
sugar queue, running after the lorry."
It is reported the vehicle stopped at a traffic light resulting in some
people trying to jump on the truck. Some people fell off when the vehicle
started moving. This resulted in a woman losing her front teeth and a man
sustaining a fractured hand.
Our Bulawayo contact said the maize meal was later delivered at a downtown
supermarket and police had to be called in to maintain order.
The government is continuing with these ruinous economic policies despite
the negative impact they are having on the country as a whole. Many
businesses have lost billions of dollars and workers are being laid off as
businesses are not even covering their costs. There is no meat for the
majority of the population as 90 percent of butcheries in the country have
closed down. Power and water cuts have become part of a daily life of misery
in Zimbabwe. The joke is that 'ZESA has switched off the light at the end of
the tunnel, to save power.'
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
From The Cape Argus (SA), 18 July
By Thabo Mabaso
For the past four days, Zimbabwe has been hit by an electricity blackout
that has plunged the country into darkness and exacerbated the suffering of
people already reeling from an ever-deepening economic and political crisis.
A source from Zimbabwe, speaking to the Cape Argus on condition of
anonymity, said power availability had been very intermittent since the
weekend and was mostly accessible for periods of four hours in the evenings.
"It is difficult for the man in the street. We can't afford to run a
generator, but running one is quite useless anyway because there is no fuel
throughout the country," said the source, who feared identification could
result in retribution from Zimbabwe's feared security police. Critics of
President Robert Mugabe's government have reported routine assaults by
supporters of the ruling Zanu PF and members of the security services over
the last few years. The source said the current blackouts were the worst to
hit Zimbabwe in a long time. On previous occasions the outages would, for
instance, affect the country once a week. This time, the blackouts had
continued unabated for four consecutive days. "It is horrible. We can't
cook; there is no electricity, no gas. And when you get to work you can't do
anything, because there is no electricity," she said. "All we have been told
is that the power cuts are due to load-shedding to irrigate wheat." Kumbirai
Mafunda, the acting political editor of Zimbabwe's independently owned
Financial Gazette, said the electricity cuts had mainly affected high
density areas. He added that the cuts could be the result of a shortage of
coal to fire up the country's power utility company.
The lack of foreign currency reserves has also impacted on the importation
of spare parts and equipment to repair outdated machinery at the power
utility. Last week Zimbabwe announced that it would import coal from
Botswana. The Financial Gazette has speculated that the persistent power
outages could affect the irrigation of the country's much-needed wheat crop.
"The power cuts have forced families to use firewood to cook. The cost of
firewood is, however, beyond the means of most families. "The consequence of
these cuts to families has been devastating. What is worse is that there is
no indication of when the problem will be sorted or power restored," Mafunda
said. Meanwhile, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has cited
Zimbabwe as one of 28 countries in the world facing food shortages over the
coming year. In a statement yesterday, the FAO estimated that the production
of maize, a staple of many households, was expected to decline by 43% in
Zimbabwe. "Lower food production and rising domestic and regional prices are
expected to adversely affect the food security of more than 4 million
vulnerable people in Zimbabwe," the FAO said. Yesterday, the US also
announced that it would donate 47 400 tons of food aid to Zimbabwe. The US
government said its food aid efforts would feed about 1.4m people until the
next harvest, in early 2008.
By Tererai Karimakwenda
19 July, 2007
The Democratic Alliance, South Africa's main opposition party, has announced
they will be visiting the Beitbridge border crossing in order to assess the
situation with regard to Zimbabwean refugees crossing into South Africa. The
DA has been critical of the South African government and its policy towards
the millions of Zimbabweans now living there. They have also spoken strongly
against President Thabo Mbeki's refusal to publicly acknowledge the abuses
of the Mugabe regime.
The DA spokesperson for Home Affairs, MP Mark Lowe, said they believe that
the government of South Africa is in fact violating its own law regarding
refugees and should try to accommodate Zimbabwean refugees fleeing from the
crisis back home. He said the Department of Home Affairs was misinterpreting
the Refugees Act (1998), taking it read that refugees should be incorporated
into communities. But Lowe explained that the Act states that the Department
of Home Affairs is obligated to set up refugee camps for those coming into
South Africa in large numbers. This applies to the 3 million Zimbabwean
refugees estimated to be in South Africa.
MP Lowe said he was going to assess the situation for himself since
thousands were crossing into South Africa daily and yet nothing was being
done to accommodate them. He vowed to put pressure on the Home Affairs
minister to respect the law because she has not been visible at all on this
issue. Lowe described the Zimbabwean refugee crisis as a humanitarian
crisis, not a political one. He stressed that we are all Africans and it was
quite tragic Home Affairs was acting this way.
A statement released by the DA said in part: "This is a major humanitarian
crisis happening right now. Not next month, not next year, but right now. We
appeal to Minister Mapisa-Nqakula to act before it is too late and South
Africa looks like the country that didn't care."
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Financial Gazette (Harare)
18 July 2007
Posted to the web 19 July 2007
RETAIL outlets have suspended credit sales on merchandise following a
government blitz on private companies to force prices down, The Financial
Gazette established this week.
Others kept the facilities open but raised the deposit on purchases.
Credit sales are merchandise or services sold on the promise to pay later.
This allows customers to buy without having to save up the lump sum required
to buy the products.
Many of the retail operators had started charging interest on credit sales
due to the harsh operational environment.
Greatermans, Meikles and Barbours shops last week "temporarily" suspended
Although officials said this was due to a review of operations, The
Financial Gazette is reliably informed that this had been triggered by a
clampdown on businesses, mainly retailers, to force prices down.
Greatermans, Barbours and Meikles are part of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange
(ZSE)-listed industrial conglomerate, Meikles Africa, which has significant
interests in the supermarket, hotel and retail sectors.
Edgars Stores, also listed on the ZSE, did not suspend credit sales but
raised the deposit threshold for new purchases.
"We've not suspended credit sales but increased the deposit for credit
purchases from 25 percent to 50 percent," an official said.
Edgars, majority-owned by South Africa's Edcon, is involved in the chain
retailing of clothing, footwear, textiles and accessories mainly through
South Africa's Business Report last week quoted Edcon head of investor
relations, Tessa Christelis, saying that the group had no intention of
selling its shares in the Zimbabwean operation despite the government blitz
Financial Gazette (Harare)
18 July 2007
Posted to the web 19 July 2007
Reports from the Multi-country Aids Programme conference - held in Rwanda
recently - are that Zimbabwe received kudos from certain quarters for
recording a significant drop in HIV and AIDS prevalence.
The question that many are asking of course is: how do they measure this
rise or drop in prevalence anyway?
Prevalence rates for most countries - as is the case for Zimbabwe - are
generally based on tests of pregnant women at antenatal clinics. It is these
figures, which are constantly monitored, that show whether or not the
prevalence rates in the country are going down. This means the actual
prevalence figure may be very different from antenatal indications.
Take a country like Swaziland for example. After a prevalence survey, based
on tests of pregnant women at antenatal clinics, had found a 38.6 percent
HIV infection rate, the government of that country decided to embark on
their first Demographic Health Survey. PlusNews recently reported that
results from that survey showed that 26 percent of sexually active Swazis
were infected with HIV.
The new figure was derived from a house-to-house survey by the Central
Statistics Office for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Men and
women living at selected households in that country were questioned, and
their blood taken for anonymous testing.
This, therefore, is where the experts are coming from when they say the
figures are likely to be lower. They mean that if the survey sample was more
demographically representative -- drawing its participants from both genders
and the different age groups -- it would likely produce a lower figure than
that which is currently being reported.
The flip side of this story, of course, would be if the forecasts are wrong
and HIV is actually spreading faster than estimated. Antenatal testing and
counseling have been a success, but policy makers need to move beyond that
to counseling and testing the spouse and perhaps children as well. The
reason is simple: oftentimes, because of traditional gender roles, a
pregnant woman who has tested positive may find it very difficult to inform
her husband of her status. Fear of stigma and victimisation may drive the
woman to remain silent (not inform partner of status) and, meantime, the
husband may be seeking the consort of other partners - possibly infecting
them as well. This, among other factors, would account for HIV spreading
faster than the forecasts.
As UNFPA executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said on World Population
Day, "Men can make a tremendous contribution by using their power for
positive change. Men have power in wide-ranging situations from personal and
family decisions to policy and programme decisions taken at all levels of
One such contribution would be for men to join their pregnant spouses in
antenatal testing and counselling. With government policy and the support of
the various HIV stakeholders, it can be done.
By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Jul 19 (IPS) - Priscilla Ndlovu feels like she has seen it all.
She works as a member of one of myriad community home-based care groups, the
prevalence of which shows the extent of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, highlighting
the country's struggle to control the pandemic.
''The way things are going and the poverty that people are living with here,
it is sad that the list of patients seeking our services keeps on
increasing,'' Ndlovu (43) told IPS. Families that were previously reluctant
to have strangers in their homes tending to an ailing relative are
increasingly asking for these services.
''There is still reluctance by some people to come out in the open. We have
not seen much change in behaviour as we are tending to people as young as 15
years,'' Ndlovu said.
She is one of many women in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, who
have become community heroines as they struggle against the country's worst
ever social and health crisis.
They run errands of mercy at a time when the government is hard-pressed for
resources and hundreds of health professionals leave the country to seek
When nurses and doctors go on strike, Ndlovu and her group of home-based
caregivers are the ones who for years now have stepped into the breach. The
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said last year that it
was making the improvement of the quality of home-based care and counselling
for people living with HIV one of its priorities.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are around 1,3 million children in
Zimbabwe who have been orphaned by AIDS.
These figures are emerging at a time when there are growing concerns that
sub-Saharan African countries such as neighbouring Botswana and South Africa
will not reduce HIV prevalence in line with Millennium Development Goal six,
which is also aimed at reducing the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis by
Bulawayo's home-based caregivers help people in desperate situations. The
growing economic crisis has eroded incomes, with the media reporting a
growing sex trade in the country's border towns and major cities.
Local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) fear certain towns and cities
have become a breeding ground for HIV/AIDS.
Gifford Hlatshwayo, a peer educator with the National Aids Council, says the
continued hardships have forced especially young girls into early sexual
activity as a means to earn a living.
''We are living in difficult times. It is sad that they are being introduced
to this at a time when there are so many risks involved. We are seeing a
growing number of people who come here saying they want to end their lives
because they discovered they are positive.''
In rural Plumtree, a few kilometres from the Botswana border, young women
can be seen at night openly propositioning clients believed to be carrying
the much coveted and stronger Botswana currency, the pula, which has traded
at one pula to 10,000 Zimbabwean dollars on the parallel market.
In Bulawayo's government-owned Mpilo Hospital, relatives bringing ill family
members on wheelbarrows are not an unusual sight. As fuel shortages
continue, there are no ambulances to ferry the sick.
HIV/AIDS NGOs are concerned about the accuracy of government statistics.
Zimbabwe's crumbling health sector, health workers say, has made it
difficult to track new infections.
A doctor working with Doctors Without Borders at Mpilo hospital told IPS on
condition of anonymity that it has become virtually impossible to track new
''At the opportunistic infections clinic we do get a few people who want to
be on the list for people receiving anti-retroviral drugs but my experience
here is that these numbers do not reflect the extent of the infections in
''Many patients are still in the closet and die anonymously. So it is
extremely difficult to see if this fight is being won at all,'' the doctor
However, Joshua Chigodora of the Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Information
Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS) points out that Zimbabwe ''is one of the few
countries in Africa that have seen a decrease in the prevalence rate of HIV''.
Antenatal clinic data shows that prevalence among pregnant women dropped
from 30-32 percent in the early 2000s to 24 percent by 2004, according to
Overall, according to UNAIDS, the figure has dropped to about 20 percent
among adults in 2006.
Meanwhile, the Bulawayo City Council says it is running out of burial space
because of the high number of deaths due to AIDS-related causes.
A council spokesperson says it has become difficult for the local authority
to document HIV infections because surveillance is being compromised by lack
''The work being done by home-based caregivers reflects the extent of the
pandemic. Council has always said we do not know how government makes its
calculations but our experience here is that the numbers are not going down,''
the spokesperson told IPS.
Bulawayo is one of the country's major local authorities which are under the
control of the opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic
Change. It has clashed with the ZANU-PF-controlled central government after
reporting in its regular analysis of the food situation in the city that
there had been some deaths in the city due to hunger.
US President George W Bush last month excluded Zimbabwe from an African
HIV/AIDS funding package, a move which is likely to further constrain
efforts to meet the MDGs on HIV/AIDS. (END/2007)
Thursday, 19 July 2007
After what seemed to have been a conflicting position on Zimbabwe by various
organs of the BNF, the president of the opposition Botswana National Front
(BNF), Otsweletse Moupo has broken ranks and condemned Zimbabwean President,
Robert Mugabe for turning himself into a monster against his own people.
Recently, the BNF youth endorsed Mugabe's land re-distribution policies
saying he was only a victim of the west.
Making his remarks during a BNF conference in Serowe, Moupo said it pained
to see Mugabe committing atrocities against his own people.
"We were all behind Zimbabwe under ZANU-PF because they were pursuing
people-centred policies of the left.
Today we do not know whether to call Mugabe a comrade or not. Prices in
Zimbabwe change by the minute and the economy is in shambles," he said.
The BNF president said he did not agree with people who purely on sentiments
or race would want to place the Zimbabwean problems at the doorstep of the
"Zimbabwe is independent. It is not President Bush or former British Prime
Minister Tony Blair that are causing problems in Zimbabwe," said Moupo.
He said as the BNF, they couldn't support a government that is terrorising
workers and governing by repression.
He said the BNF used to have fraternal relations with ZANU-PF but it can
longer support a movement that has gone off the rails.
His next port of call was the leadership of the party which he criticised
for putting its affairs above those of the party.
During his speech only four MPs, Isaac Mabiletsa, Olebile Gaborone, Gordon
Mokgwathi and Omphithetse Maswabi were in attendance. The party has 12 MPs.
Moupo said wherever he goes, he is given a sobering assessment of the BNF
when people reminisce about the times of Maitshwarelo Dabutha, Joseph
Kavindama and Kenneth Koma.
"This could only mean that there is something wrong with what we are doing,"
he said, suggesting that the wrong thing that the current leadership was
doing is that it does not put the party first.
18 July 2007
Lord Luce rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will clarify
their policy towards the Commonwealth ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting in Uganda in November 2007.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted to have this opportunity-at
long last, I might say-to explore the Government's approach to the
Commonwealth and to test whether this Government and this Administration
will be more positive than previous Administrations on this subject. I am
delighted at the number of noble Lords taking part and I regret that, due to
this hour and other commitments, a number of those who put their names down
have had to withdraw. It is a great pleasure to welcome to the debate the
noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, the new Minister responsible for development
matters, who will be making her maiden speech. She could not be better
qualified to speak on the Commonwealth, because she was born in Uganda,
educated partly in India and, after the age of 15, has lived and worked in
this country as a British citizen.
Within my 10 minutes, I wish to focus on the strategy that should be adopted
for the Commonwealth. In the past 60 years, we have seen the most remarkable
transformation from the British Empire to the Commonwealth of equal nations.
Throughout this period, the Queen has provided a common link in her capacity
as head of the Commonwealth. Coupled with this change has been a substantial
migration of people within the Commonwealth, thus contributing to today's
multi-cultural and multi-faith community in the United Kingdom. All this is
essential history for any schoolchild to understand today's British society.
What of today's Commonwealth? What is its composition? It is a total
cross-representation of the world-the world through a microscope-with 53
nations making up a quarter of the government of the world, a third or 2
billion of the world's population and a fifth of the world's trade. The
Commonwealth ranges from the smallest nations-some 32 of them-to the
largest. It ranges from the poorest-a third of its people live on less than
a dollar a day-to the wealthiest, and it has fast-emerging states, such as
India, which is the fourth largest economy in the world today. It represents
almost all faiths and cultures in the world. For example, there are 500
million Muslims living in the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth faces all the problems that the world as a whole faces:
international terrorism; illicit migration; drugs and crime; climate change;
multi-faith and multi-cultural issues; fragile democracies; poverty; and
education and health issues. We share common aspirations and values, as well
as the commitment that we have made at summit meetings to democracy, the
rule of law, freedom of press and expression and the important role of civil
society. We share a common language in English and we have many common
institutions, legal systems and business practices.
The Commonwealth is a vast network of contact-of Governments, people,
professional bodies and non-government organisations. There are over 80
professional bodies of the Commonwealth, ranging from the universities and
architects to magistrates, nurses and the press. The Commonwealth work is
supported by a range of other bodies: the Secretariat; the Commonwealth Fund
for Technical Co-operation; the Commonwealth Youth Fund; the Commonwealth
Foundation, of which I had the privilege of being chairman for five years
and which focuses on the non-government of the work of the Commonwealth
civil society, culture and so on; the Commonwealth of Learning, which
facilitates distance learning throughout the Commonwealth; and the
Commonwealth Business Council, which deals with the private sector and
economic development. I will also mention a new organisation, which I
welcome: the Ramphal Centre for Commonwealth Policy Studies. All those and
many other bodies are supplemented by other activities, not least the
Commonwealth Games and the usual Government-to-Government contact.
What is the Government's attitude to all that? Successive Governments in
this country have paid lip service to the Commonwealth. We have tended to
turn our backs on the Commonwealth. The result is a remarkable lack of
interest and knowledge in the United Kingdom of the Commonwealth. We have
concentrated, of course, on the European Union and NATO and relations with
the United States.
There still lingers in this country a measure of guilt complex about the
past and sometimes we still see things in rather colonial and patronising
ways. Equally, other Commonwealth countries are still inclined to blame the
United Kingdom, as their former colonial power, as a diversion from their
own problems. I need only cite Mr Mugabe to make the point. Now is the time
to make a psychological adjustment in our attitude to the Commonwealth. To
get rid of these outdated concepts and cobwebs of the past, we must, of
course, know our past, but we must also recognise that a gem has now emerged
that can bring great benefits to all its members, including the United
This is the age of multilateralism and here is a unique forum for
confronting and helping us all to solve international problems and for the
United Kingdom to benefit from membership. The Commonwealth complements
other groupings, such as the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, as
well as bilateral relations with other countries. It is not a substitute; it
simply complements. As Sir Shridath Ramphal, the former Secretary-General of
the Commonwealth, said once:
"The Commonwealth cannot negotiate for the world, but it can help the world
It seems to me that policy has evolved over decades from the summit meetings
in Singapore to the summit in Harare. The policy of the Commonwealth that
has evolved reflects the view that democracy and good governance on the one
hand and development on the other are interdependent-the two must develop
hand in hand to help to create more prosperous and coherent societies.
Let us look for a moment at these two issues. First, on democracy, we have
organisations now such as the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which
plays a vital role in monitoring persistent violation of democratic
principles. It has looked at a number of countries, from Nigeria and
Pakistan to Fiji.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Zimbabwe. It was suspended in 2003
by Mugabe-the decision was taken by him and not by the people of Zimbabwe.
Others will no doubt speak about Zimbabwe in this debate but the test case
here involves the credibility of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth was
active in trying to help to end apartheid in South Africa and return her to
the Commonwealth, and the same must happen with Zimbabwe. The Royal
Commonwealth Society, of which my noble friend Lady Prashar is chairman, has
taken an admirable lead in discussing ways in which the Commonwealth can
start to hold out hope for the people once Mugabe has gone.
The Commonwealth needs to establish links with civil society. The
Commonwealth Foundation is a very good organisation for taking the lead on
that. We need to work with moderate nations in Africa, such as South Africa,
Botswana, Ghana and Tanzania, to help the people of Zimbabwe to move towards
a better solution. The Commonwealth Heads of Government need to stand ready
with contingency plans to rehabilitate that failed state. There are many
other ways in which democracy is supported in the Commonwealth, not least
through the admirable work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
The other aspect in this regard is development. It is interesting to note
that trade within the Commonwealth has increased from US$2 trillion to $3
trillion in the past 10 years. Economic development is crucial to stability
in these countries and the Commonwealth is equipped to promote favourable
trade terms, to help small and developing nations and to help work for the
liberalisation of trade. The Commonwealth provides an ideal forum to develop
integrated and realistic approaches to economic expansion and wealth
creation in each of those countries. I hope that the Minister will feel able
to say something about the role of the Department for International
Development in this area and the priority that it gives to the Commonwealth.
I conclude by saying that I would like Her Majesty's Government to commit
the United Kingdom to adopting a positive, imaginative and vigorous approach
to the Commonwealth in a non-paternalistic spirit and as an equal partner.
To achieve that, the Prime Minister needs to show personal leadership on
this issue and secure the commitment of Ministers, supported by a proper
Whitehall machinery, to implementing the Commonwealth's multilateral
policies. This would benefit the Commonwealth and serve Britain's own
Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Luce,
for introducing this timely debate and for his thorough introduction.
I speak to you as a child of the British Commonwealth and as someone who has
lived her adult life as a citizen of the Commonwealth. Many would say that
that is not much of a difference, but appearances can be deceptive.
The transition in the title highlights the ever-changing nature of the
institution as history has buffeted its boundaries, structure and
procedures. Its status as successor to the British Empire similarly reflects
a long historical process as conquered territories sought to assert their
independence from the metropolitan hub. It is no secret that countries that
were initially the most successful in this process contained a large settler
class drawn from the metropolitan country. It was only after the Second
World War that other imperial territories were able to seriously challenge
the iron grip exerted from the centre on the conduct of their affairs. The
relaxation of that grip was achieved after inhabitants of lands scattered
throughout the globe struggled valiantly for the freedom to exert control
over their destinies. Many did so after returning from battlefields where
they had fought-some had died-to protect the freedoms enjoyed by the
citizens of the metropolis.
The past 50 years have witnessed the arrival of a variety of settler classes
into this country from the countries once conquered by it. This apparent
historical inversion masks the wholly different nature of the relationship
enjoyed by the outgoing settlers with those among whom they settled from
that which greeted incoming settlers with those in this country. The role of
the latter was to repair, invariably at a menial or minor level, the
infrastructure, to man the often shattered remains of the country's
industrial base and to oil the wheels of what we now call our service
This they have done, and many look back in their retirement with pride at
their achievement, against considerable odds, in assisting in Britain's
revival of its status in the world. However many also look with alarm, as
Britain seeks to realign itself with other groups of nations, such as the
European Union, at the effects that these associations will have on the
I would like to draw noble Lords' attention to that arc of islands which
form the Caribbean membership of the Commonwealth, among which is the
country of my birth, Grenada. As with so many Caribbean islands, many of its
citizens are scattered among the populations of nations that dwarf them in
both geographic and economic size. Those who are here, and their children,
feel that their mother countries have become at best the home of hazy
memories of golden beaches and eternal sunshine and at worst almost
forgotten specks in a far distant ocean.
People do not starve in the Caribbean. Coups are not a feature of our recent
memories. As we do not have large mineral resources, we are not subject to
the mass excavation of our soil for what lies underneath it. However, we do
have some real problems that deserve far more attention than they attract.
I realise that the clock has beaten me. I will end quickly by saying that I
would like to enter a plea that Britain should not, in its rush to join new
families of nations, forget its obligation to that family that ensured its
economic pre-eminence for so long.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, I, too, thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord
Luce, for securing this debate. Now that that has been done from both sides
of the House, may I suggest humbly that that should be enough because it
will save everybody else doing it and thus save us time.
I too will talk about Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth, as the noble Lord, Lord
Luce, has done. If noble Lords have doubts about the propriety of doing so
in a Commonwealth debate, because Zimbabwe is no longer in it, they can be
reassured. All that they have to do is look at section B of the 1995
Millbrook declaration, made in New Zealand, when it was head of the
Commonwealth. That will reassure them of the propriety of not only talking
about Zimbabwe but doing things-but that is another question.
When South Africa was outside the Commonwealth, the member countries treated
it in the same way because the Commonwealth did a great deal to help South
Africa to get rid of apartheid. Conditions in Zimbabwe are appalling, so bad
that I do not want to get into a discussion about them now. I think that all
noble Lords know how indescribably awful it is.
After the savage attacks on a peaceful prayer meeting about three months
ago, there was an urgent meeting of the SADC summit, which appointed
President Mbeki to facilitate dialogue between the Government and the
opposition in Zimbabwe. Almost all the SADC countries are members of the
Commonwealth. Since that proposal for dialogue, about three and a bit months
ago, no agenda has been fixed. Mugabe's representatives failed to turn up to
the latest meeting called. That shows us how President Mbeki is treating
that proposal. Therefore, the world should not expect any good news from
What else could be done? I doubt whether linking the Zimbabwean dollar to
the rand would be acceptable to South Africa. That has been suggested but it
has not been discussed publicly. However, it is an idea that is floating
about. The responsibility to protect is a subject that is being talked about
more and more, largely in United Nations terms, but such action requires UN
consent and tends to assume the use of troops, if only for peacekeeping;
therefore, I doubt whether that is relevant to Zimbabwe.
My proposal that the G8 should use its influence with Africa resulting from
its partnership for aid and debt relief in return for good governance has
received no response, so at the moment I do not see a future for that.
The Commonwealth Secretariat is said to be thinking hard about what should
be done. I hope that that is so, but I have one important point for the
secretariat. At present, Zimbabwe is not on the agenda for the CHOGM in
November this year in Kampala. Obviously, I am not calling for Zimbabwe's
presence under the current regime or anything like it, but I am sure that
Zimbabwe is important enough to be discussed in Kampala.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I shall obey the admonition of the
noble Lord, Lord Blaker, but I want to add the best wishes of these Benches
to the noble Baroness in her new position as a Minister and wish her well in
all that she undertakes.
It was as long ago as the 1926 Imperial Conference that member countries
were described as,
"autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no
way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external
The Statute of Westminster gave that some legal force, and it is in that
spirit that the Commonwealth continues to exist. It is an extraordinary
ideal to live up to, one that is not exactly easy when member states vary so
much in economic power, resources and wealth. But the value of the
Commonwealth is expressed not least in the equal dignity accorded to all
members, whatever their size, wealth, culture or religion, and, in the time
available, I want to refer to a single current threat to that.
I believe that the proposed economic partnership agreements will be
discussed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. They are in the
process of being negotiated between Europe and African, Caribbean and
Pacific countries, many of them members of the Commonwealth, and they should
be completed by the end of the year. There is real anxiety in ACP
countries-inevitably, as the EU is, overall, both the biggest trading
partner and the biggest aid giver to many of them-therefore, it is hard for
this negotiating process to be even-handed when the odds are stacked so much
on one side. The Cotonou agreement, on which all this is based, said that no
ACP country should be worse off as a result of the process, but many
Commonwealth countries fear that they will be, as EU aid will be dangled as
a carrot and waved as a stick if African countries, in particular, do not
open up their markets to European companies in the area of service provision
and government procurement.
The African Union has recently pleaded for transitional measures to
safeguard the continued entry of African exports to the EU market beyond the
end of the year. I believe that our Government's stated position is that ACP
countries should have alternatives to these partnership agreements, and I
want to know whether that is still the case. How does our part in this EU
process reflect our Commonwealth aspiration that we and other countries
"equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another",
especially if the EPA negotiations demand the opening of African markets way
beyond anything envisaged in the Cotonou agreement?
This is really an area where our commitment to the Commonwealth is a
necessary counterbalance to any misuse of the economic power that we enjoy
as part of the European Union. I know well that the teaching in the Sermon
on the Mount is that the poor are blessed, but we do not increase their
blessing by making them poorer. A high doctrine of the Commonwealth may
prevent us doing just that in this case.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, in joining in the welcome to my noble friend on
the Front Bench, perhaps I may say how fortunate we are that her expertise
and commitment will now benefit your Lordships' House as well as the
Department for International Development.
The Commonwealth is one of our best routes to global conversation. When I
used to negotiate for the UK it was a pleasure, and often something of a
relief, to find among the host of nations at the UN a group of friends who,
crucially, spanned the rich and the poor worlds, and who understood each
other better because of the common heritage so eloquently described by the
noble Lord, Lord Luce.
The Commonwealth has a particular contribution to make to development,
because of its ease in sharing expertise through the secretariat and its
myriad professional associations. This kind of partnership is all the more
important now because development is changing. It has always needed more
than aid, but now there is an urgent need for strategies to go wider, on
climate change, on fair conditions for trade, on human rights and human
Aid is still the starting point for basic standards of health and education,
so I would like to ask my noble friend first about the leading cause of
death of children under five: pneumococcal disease. I declare an interest as
vice-president of a new all-party parliamentary group to raise awareness of
it. It kills nearly 1 million children, of whom 90 per cent are in
developing countries. Those who do not die are often disabled.
There is a safe vaccine, but it needs to be developed. UNICEF-of which I am
a UK trustee-and DfID are aware of the problem, and with the advance markets
commitment system, an innovation which my noble friend has had a great deal
to do with, DfID has undertaken to get results. Can she also arrange for
this underknown dread disease to be given more prominence in DfID's public
thinking on health? In the excellent document Working Together for Better
Health, the goal of reducing child mortality mentions only measles
immunisation, which would do this by two-thirds. Successful pneumococcal
disease vaccination would probably achieve the millennium development goal
on child mortality by itself. How will this be considered in DfID's biennial
review of its health strategy?
In education, the UK has worked within the Commonwealth to ensure that more
children, especially girls, go to primary school. In Tanzania, where I was
last summer, abolishing school fees increased enrolment from 4.4 million to
8 million, about half of whom were girls. Now there is more need to support
local capacity for training teachers; and it is in the area of training and
professional education that we can work with the Commonwealth to most
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I begin by welcoming the noble
Baroness, Lady Vadera, with particular pride and pleasure. A fellow
Somervillian, she brings energy, commitment and wide experience to this
House. We are also fortunate in having the noble Lord, Lord Luce, to open
the debate. The Commonwealth needs advocates with stamina-he has certainly
shown that tonight-as well as vision.
I speak in the context of the imminent collapse of Zimbabwe, only prevented
so far by the extraordinary courage of its civil society. The UN has failed,
despite the urgent representations of Anna Tibaijuka and Jan Egeland, in its
responsibility to protect, both within the country where it was inhibited,
and still is, from any intervention, and in New York, where it has allowed
the African Union to prevent any discussion of Zimbabwe in the Security
Council, the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The
African Union's policy of peer scrutiny, because it is voluntary, has
effectively inhibited any action, and we have chosen to respect this. There
is, however, one potentially powerful and entirely legitimate source of
support for Zimbabwe's civil society, and that is civil society in the
Commonwealth. The SADC countries, Zimbabwe's neighbours, are members of that
Commonwealth. Their economies are deeply vulnerable. We do not know the
result of the economic report that they were mandated to make at the
Tanzania conference in March.
We should be encouraging the lawyers, trade unionists, teachers, doctors and
students within Zimbabwe by funding initiatives-some of which are already
contemplated-to take them to Commonwealth countries for training. Those
initiatives could be used to encourage Commonwealth leaders to move to the
next, vital step of putting Zimbabwe on the agenda in Uganda in November.
Nothing could send a clearer signal to the people of Zimbabwe, and to the
world, that we believe that their country has a future. Our country and the
US are generous givers to the many aid programmes inside Zimbabwe. Let us
now give for the future of a country well able to restore its economy and
its society by its own efforts, once it is free.
The Commonwealth, in words cited by Judith Todd, left the candle in the
window for the people of South Africa when Verwoerd took his country, but
not his people, out of the Commonwealth. As my noble friend Lord Blaker
said, both the Harare declaration and the Millbrook agreement require us to
do the same for Zimbabwe. Let us not forget that the Commonwealth countries
united could do much to secure action in and by the UN, as they did at the
time of the Falklands. I rejoice to hear that our Prime Minister has already
sent one encouraging signal by telling the Portuguese Prime Minister that if
President Mugabe is invited to the conference in November, he will not be
there. Today, a country is being destroyed from within before our eyes. The
Commonwealth must now set a bright light in the window for the people of
Zimbabwe to see.
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I want to talk about the role of the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group in safeguarding the fundamental political values of
the Commonwealth, which are democracy, development and diversity-the three
Ds. Recently, there have been problems that seem to indicate that CMAG is
becoming less effective. Many noble Lords have mentioned Zimbabwe, so I
shall not, except only to say that I entirely agree with what the noble
Lord, Lord Luce, said in his opening remarks about that country.
There was hope that President Obasanjo in Nigeria would consolidate
democracy there and tackle corruption, but the recent national election
showed serious problems in the Niger delta, which was considered too
dangerous for the Commonwealth observer group to visit. Should not the
action group of Ministers be automatically engaged when an observer group
gives a negative report following an election?
The main thing that I want to talk about in this debate is the need for the
Commonwealth to pay attention to Pakistan, which was readmitted to the
Commonwealth in 2004. That country is walking a tightrope between its own
extremists and the demands of America and is still under military rule,
which we reluctantly condone. Its close neighbour is Afghanistan and the
warlords. I was condemned by my party and many others in 2001 when I said
that we should be dropping food and aid on famine-stricken Afghanistan, not
bombs. It seemed to me then and now that bombs would make a poor country
even poorer and more dangerous, and that bombs would scatter Osama bin Laden
and his merry men all over the world, but especially to the northern
territories of Pakistan. Of course, that has happened. Pakistan is now in
Economic development and aid are the way to win hearts and minds in Pakistan
and Afghanistan. That should be the Commonwealth's greatest task in Pakistan
and it should be NATO's greatest task in Afghanistan. Properly fed and
educated people with hope for their children's future are less likely to
become extremists. A Taliban-controlled Pakistan with nuclear weapons is the
alternative, and is one of my nightmares. Urgent economic development must
go hand in hand with the steps towards democracy that we want Pakistan to
take. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group should make support for that
country its priority.
Baroness Prashar: My Lords, I begin by welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady
Vadera, to the House, because she is a true Commonwealth person. I am
delighted that she will be responding to this debate and I greatly look
forward to her speech. In making my contribution, I declare an interest. I
am the chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society, as has been mentioned by
my noble friend Lord Luce.
There is now increasing recognition that the modern Commonwealth is ideally
suited to meeting some of the challenges of the 21st century. The noble
Lord, Lord Howell, recently argued that the Commonwealth,
"should shed its past diffidence and prepare itself to take a lead in
setting the global agenda".
In a visionary speech on e-connectivity, the President of India said that,
through the integrated evolution of the Commonwealth knowledge grid, we can
address many common challenges of development. Lastly, the noble Lord, Lord
Freeman, in a debate in this House two years ago, said that we as a nation
were in great danger of missing a great opportunity to continue "to champion
the Commonwealth". Champion the Commonwealth we must, but we must also be an
active catalyst for change within the Commonwealth, because we are well
placed to help to revitalise it, to rebuild its capacity to contribute to
multilateral diplomacy and trade, and to develop new and imaginative ways of
dealing with some development issues.
Change in the leadership of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the forthcoming
publication of the Sen commission report and the report on the new
membership rules for the Commonwealth, and of course our new leadership in
the UK under Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as the upcoming 60th
anniversary in 2009 of the London declaration, all provide an excellent
opportunity to consider the future role of the Commonwealth and that of the
UK within it, particularly in the context of our own international
priorities. This is an opportunity to make an unsentimental assessment of
where the Commonwealth can make a difference. It is an opportunity to review
the factors that may stand in the way of a better understanding of its
benefits and potential, and its relevance to our internal, national
concerns, because these overlap with our external concerns.
There are several areas in which the Commonwealth can make a difference. The
first is as a consensus builder. As my noble friend Lord Luce said, this was
very well put by the former Secretary-General, Shridath Ramphal, when he
"The Commonwealth cannot negotiate for the world, but it can help the world
The Commonwealth's diversity is an advantage. It provides energy and
dynamism not just in the international context but also nationally, because
it provides a healthy framework for complex societies grappling to work with
difference. Its core values and attitudes provide the ability to develop
consensus through dialogue and ideas rather than a quest for power politics.
The Commonwealth is unrivalled among international organisations because it
can realistically aspire to be a Commonwealth of democracies. Time is
running out. We have heard about the Commonwealth's economic advantage in
the sense that it has within it the 13 fastest-growing economies along with
the poorest 14. It can make a difference in these areas, as it can in
development. I would like to suggest that we in the UK should take steps to
make a realistic assessment of the potential and develop an agenda for
meaningful engagement with the Commonwealth. To that end, I should like to
know whether Her Majesty's Government would consider undertaking such an
assessment through a process of wide consultation in preparation for the
60th anniversary in 2009.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Luce,
for the debate. It is altogether good to see the Minister on the Front
Bench. Previous Ministers have set a big challenge to meet with their
powerful contributions. My noble friend brings with her great qualifications
and very useful experience, not least-if I may say so as a former
director-her effective role as a trustee of Oxfam.
The Government are firmly committed to multilateralism. The Commonwealth has
considerable potential as a catalyst for building global consensus. It is
globally representative and culturally and ethnically diverse, but its
effectiveness depends on the will of its member Governments to use it and
support it. It needs not only a strong secretary-general but one with a
clear mandate to lead proactively and imaginatively.
To generate the international understanding and global solidarity that is so
essential to security, education at all levels is vital. That includes
informal education. On this, there has been a recent, very exciting
development. It emerged at the Commonwealth People's Forum in Malta in 2005,
was taken up by the Commonwealth Education Ministers meeting in 2006 and is
to be developed further at the next People's Forum in Kampala, where it is
hoped that it will cover inter-faith work. It is led by a new British
inter-organisational NGO called BUILD. It promotes effective partnerships
between schools, professional organisations, hospitals and medical schools,
with great mutual support in both directions.
Recently, I was privileged to chair a BUILD meeting at Marlborough House at
which Archbishop Tutu was a keen participant. It was deeply impressive,
especially to hear the proven evidence of what is already being achieved. I
hope that this and similar practical initiatives, not only at ministerial
level but at grass-roots level, will attract all the priority and attention
Baroness Verma: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Luce, for the
debate. There are some very positive cases of how the Commonwealth has among
its membership some of the most influential countries in the world, such as
Canada, India, Australia and New Zealand. These countries have sustained
economic growth and have established long-standing democratic processes.
While it is true that these are the success stories, unfortunately the cases
of countries not succeeding should and must remain a worry to the United
Can the Minister tell the House what plans the Government have to strengthen
the voice of the Commonwealth? It is time that we considered aiding the
poorest of our Commonwealth members by looking beyond monetary aid as the
solution. It clearly is not working, as we are told that there are still
over 660 million people in the Commonwealth who are living on less than a
dollar a day. Life expectancy for the poorest of the world in the
Commonwealth is in decline, and fewer than 35 per cent of children are
receiving complete primary education. The millennium development goals are
becoming distant dreams, as the targets for halving poverty and eliminating
preventable infant deaths are unlikely to be met by 2015, as previously
The obsession with setting and meeting targets is failing. The restructuring
and empowerment of these failing countries must be in local development by
local organisations, supported fully with structures, leadership and
accountable systems. Corruption is rife in many of the sub-Saharan
Commonwealth countries, and we must act carefully and in a measured way when
we offer assistance to our Commonwealth friends in helping them to overcome
the challenges that they face.
Africa has suffered particularly from a lack of good governance and is
continually subjected to corruption, with the people in power abusing the
status that they hold and taking advantage of the weak and crumbling states
that they govern. We need to ask how we assist Africa with aid programmes
that reach its people and how we support the restructuring of the
infrastructure and ensure that we do not tolerate dictators who take
advantage of the poverty and chaos that is prevailing in these countries.
As mentioned, Zimbabwe presented a defining moment for the Commonwealth, as
it was left grievously wounded and unable to deliver the principles on which
it rests. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has sunk his country and its people
into atrocious inflation and desperation. The aid that we provide needs to
be tracked. Development and accountability are key factors that should be
linked with aid. Capital flight should be curbed, and powerful individuals
in Africa should be prevented from transferring money into foreign bank
accounts. Keeping money in Africa is crucial in assisting funding with local
investment and development and health and education programmes. As it
stands, preventing capital flight is a key part of achieving some of the
millennium development goals on reducing poverty.
The Commonwealth has a duty to ensure that measures are in place to prevent
further debt and human loss in Africa. While there are obvious difficulties,
would the Minister assure the House that the Commonwealth will be given
greater recognition for the contribution that it makes and can make to the
rest of the world?
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, CHOGM has a lively website, which is already
predicting the weather forecast for Uganda in November. What it cannot
forecast is the precise agenda. I am one of those who would like to see a
Commonwealth initiative on Zimbabwe.
Today, I join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich in expressing
the concerns of many ACP countries about the effects of the new EPAs under
the revised Cotonou agreement. They fear unfair competition from
globalisation, displacing local producers and capping industrial
development. They expect a loss of revenue from the removal of import taxes,
inevitably leading to cuts in public services. Article 1 of the Cotonou
"The partnership shall be centred on the objective of reducing and
eventually eradicating poverty".
It is an unequal partnership. The EU is not only the biggest trading partner
but the biggest aid donor. That was recognised by DfID last time we debated
this. As I recall, it was an uphill struggle for the UK to remind the
Commission of its stated objectives. However, it may be that, since then,
DfID has had to give way to other foreign policy considerations. I am
therefore much looking forward to hearing in due course about the UK's
latest position. Meanwhile, I welcome the Minister to the House and to the
debate, for which I also thank my noble friend Lord Luce.
According to the NGOs, the European Commission is negotiating the EPAs in a
way that fundamentally breaks the letter and spirit of Cotonou. The
Commission has dismissed pro-development proposals, forced the Singapore
issues back on to the negotiating table and linked future development
assistance to concessions made by the ACP, in direct contravention of the EC's
obligations to provide at least equivalent market access on 1 January 2008.
These are serious charges, which show the degree of exasperation on both
sides. These concerns have been voiced by ACP officials on numerous
occasions; the Commonwealth Secretariat has provided legal advice in their
favour. The African Union, in Accra on 29 June, urged the EC to consider
putting in place transitional measures that would safeguard the continued
entry of African exports beyond December 2007. Would the UK, therefore, in
view of its previous support for the ACP, now support the latest appeal of
the AU heads of state and put in place transitional measures? That would
also be in line with the UK's own position in 2005, which was that the ACP
should have alternatives available if requested.
These are matters of great concern to Commonwealth countries, which include
the least developed countries among their number. The CFTC, which my noble
friend mentioned, is especially involved through its hubs-and-spokes
project, its trade facilitation and its export development strategies. This
is all likely to come up in Uganda in November.
Lord Jay of Ewelme: My Lords, I join others in welcoming the noble Baroness,
Lady Vadera, to this House and to her ministerial job. We worked closely
together in preparing the G8 summit at Gleneagles, particularly on poverty
reduction in Africa and on development issues more generally, to which I
know she is deeply committed. I welcome her to this House.
In my last appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee in another place,
before I left the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I was rightly taken to
task for agreeing an annual report of the FCO that made no mention of the
Commonwealth. I pleaded guilty with genuine contrition, because I share
others' views that the Commonwealth has a crucial role to play and that its
role is frequently and usually underestimated.
I want to make three short points, one political and two developmental. The
political point echoes the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, about
the role of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, CMAG. I was very
struck, upon attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in
Brisbane in 2002, by the number of Commonwealth countries, often small and
isolated, which showed huge appreciation of the peer group pressure put on
them for good governance by the Commonwealth Secretary-General and by CMAG.
Britain is a member of CMAG, and I share the hope of the noble Baroness,
Lady Tonge, that the Government, both in the run-up to and after the
Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Uganda, will give real impetus
to CMAG's work.
The first of my two development points is as follows. Last week I was in
South Africa and Zambia, two Commonwealth countries in which the positive
effects of good governance, effective economic management and economic
growth are clear to see. I would welcome the views of the Minister and of
DfID on the importance they attach, as I do, to economic growth as a
necessary, if not sufficient, condition for poverty reduction in the third
world, and to the need for Government, business and civil society to work
together to meet the millennium development goals. In that context I should
declare an interest as chairman of the trustees of Merlin, the NGO that
provides essential medical help to many of the poorest people in the world,
including in Commonwealth countries.
My third and last point is on Zimbabwe. The contrast between South Africa
and Zambia, which I saw last week, and the situation in Zimbabwe could not
be more striking. Others have spoken about the politics of Zimbabwe. I hope
that DfID will, albeit discreetly, be making the necessary preparations to
work with others, particularly Commonwealth neighbours of Zimbabwe and the
Commonwealth Secretariat, to ensure that, when the Mugabe regime finally
ends, that country can realise its economic potential and we can end the
wholly unjustified and unnecessary misery of its people.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I also warmly welcome the Minister. I
congratulate the noble Lord on his initiative, and thank him particularly
for mentioning the sterling work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary
Association, the UK branch of which I had the privilege to chair for four
Time permits only to mention some of the leftovers from the Valletta CHOGM
two years ago and to ask what new initiatives Her Majesty's Government
propose for that. The consensus is that Valletta was very positive on the
political agenda and on good governance and democracy, as well as in trade
and development, but questions still arise from it. First, we think of the
Commonwealth as a wonderfully informal organisation, yet at Valletta we had
the longest communiqué ever: 103 clauses. Who bothers to read those? Is it
worth the effort? I hope we can bear that in mind.
Secondly, the Commonwealth is not just about governance but about peoples.
The 85 Commonwealth civil society organisations have already been mentioned.
What further proposals do the Government have at Kampala to engage civil
society, remembering that civil society has been increasingly mainstreamed?
One of the excellent initiatives at Valletta was the valuable meeting
between the Foreign Ministers and the business and civil society forums.
Three matters were leftovers for the Secretary-General. One was paragraph 26
of the communiqué, asking the Secretary-General to explore initiatives to
provide mutual understanding and respect among all faiths. We look forward
to the Sen commission report on that. Another of those matters was paragraph
101, on future membership. CMAG has been something of a disappointment. Do
the Government now see that there should be limits on new members? Lastly,
with regard to paragraph 17 of the Valletta statement strengthening
intra-Commonwealth dialogue and networking collaboration on trade and
economic issues, what progress has been made and what input has there been
from the Government?
Brave promises were made about increasing the contributions to the
Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-Operation by 6 per cent per annum in real
terms over the next five years. Has anything happened further to those
One postscript: at Kampala, the Commonwealth will be saying goodbye to Don
McKinnon, the Secretary-General. Someone at least should pay tribute to the
sterling work he has done in his term.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, while I was waiting rather impatiently for this
great debate tonight I was having a pea and ham soup with Martha in the
Bishop's Bar and we were saying that it is funny that the Ethiopian flag and
the Jamaican flag are the same. I got out my book of flags and I had a look.
I then said that it is strange that military power is becoming less and less
important in the world, absolute wealth is becoming less and less important,
and the most important thing is influence-that strange, mystical, airy bit
that no one knows how to put together. If you are too strong, you have
So I thought we would look at the Commonwealth again. I have always been
brought up on the Statute of Westminster, I have roamed the world around the
Commonwealth and I said let us see what we have got now. We have 53
countries, which represent roughly 25 per cent of the world; add to that 20
dependent or overseas territories and the odd island here or there and we
are pretty important. We have 2 billion people, which is a very significant
30 per cent of the world. We have roughly 12 million square miles of land,
and if you add to that the territorial rights of 12 miles out to sea and
airspace we are again pretty influential. And of course we have Her Majesty
the Queen, probably one of our greatest assets, who is head of state in 19
It does not stop there. We still control 90 per cent of the cricket in the
world. While people may suggest that it was the Commonwealth that
effectively brought South Africa to heel, I can tell you it was the
Gleneagles agreement. I remember sitting with President Bush-he was not
president then-in Jamaica, talking about boycotting Grenada, when suddenly
Eddie Seaga turned to me and said, "Is it true that Boycott is going to play
cricket in South Africa?" That was a momentous occasion.
Now we are losing out on the rugby side. We have only 70 per cent of the
rugby in the world, but what have the Americans got besides baseball and
American football? Hardly any sporting influence. If you look further, you
realise that it was effectively Cuban music that helped develop the
Caribbean and you see that rap and other music has spread right across the
world to create that form of culture.
This adds up to the observation that the Commonwealth has greater value than
any of us appreciate-and probably more than it appreciates itself. It is a
remarkable collection of people who have taken over from when the sun never
set on the British Empire. They are probably playing rugby in some of the
Pacific Islands even at this minute.
We could then look at some of the strange joint ventures, including the
joint claims on Antarctica, and involving Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Australia,
New Zealand and ourselves. It is how we put it together. I have always felt
that the House of Lords should set out to represent the Commonwealth. No
greater leader could we have than the noble Lord, Lord Luce, who was one of
the best and most honourable Foreign Office Ministers that we have ever had.
So I sit down saying: we have influence; let us use it.
Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, I remember well from my childhood in India the
ambivalence that many felt towards the British Empire. As a recently
independent former colony such feelings were of course completely
understandable. However, through the Commonwealth, India chose to remain
connected with Britain along with many other former colonial countries. The
British Empire-the largest empire the world had ever known, larger than the
ancient Persian, Greek or Roman empires-was no more. Yet the vast majority
of the countries of the empire that demanded their independence also chose
to retain their links with Britain and with each other. That is amazing. It
speaks so much to the strength of the common ideals, values and principles
that the diverse members of the Commonwealth share: the English language,
respect for democracy, human rights, institutions, legal systems, the rule
of law, dedication to trade and solid business practices. These qualities,
which have often been referred to as the Commonwealth factor, are a major
advantage in our globally competitive world.
As my noble friend Lord Luce mentioned in his superb speech, there is
significant trade between Commonwealth members. However, this is happening
in the absence of a major trade agreement like those behind the North
American Free Trade Agreement, the South Asian Association for Regional
Co-operation and the Association of South-East Asian Nations. We could be
doing so much more to encourage trade between member nations and the
Commonwealth on top of, and supplementing, the existing regional trade blocs
to which many members of the Commonwealth already belong, such as the EU, in
Britain's case. Questions are being asked around the globe about the
effectiveness in today's world of multilateral institutions such as the UN,
the World Bank and the IMF. The WTO Doha development round is at a
I welcome our new Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera. I say to her
and to the Government: would it not be wonderful if a Commonwealth trading
bloc, with a free trade agreement, existed? The more nations trade, the more
stable and peaceful their relations with other countries. I believe that if
an effective Commonwealth FTA trading bloc existed, it would attract
prospective new members, such as the former British territories in the
Middle East. Just look at the European Union. Who would have thought 60
years ago that France and Germany would be the best of friends today?
The Commonwealth already has such a great role in development, but it can do
so much more to aid its members, particularly those with smaller economies.
Through economic liberalisation, we can also have economic empowerment. In
developing this vast as yet untapped potential, we can accomplish so much in
truly unleashing the common wealth in the Commonwealth.
Lord Joffe: My Lords, noble Lords will see that I am speaking from the
Labour Benches for the first time. I take this opportunity to thank the
Convenors of the Cross Benches, first the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig
of Radley, and now the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, and their
colleagues for their kindness and support while I sat on their Benches.
I welcome the Minister, my noble friend Lady Vadera, and very much look
forward to her maiden speech. I had the pleasure of working with her when we
were both trustees of Oxfam. There I developed a great respect for her
incisive intellect and the purposeful contribution she made, not only to
Oxfam but, more importantly, in her years at the heart of the Treasury. She
will surely make a significant contribution to this House and to DfID.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an independent international NGO,
reported in its spring newsletter that President Museveni's Black Mamba
Squad, which operates in secrecy at the behest of the president, raided the
Uganda High Court in Kampala on 1 March this year. There they arrested five
members of the opposition, who had just been released by the court on bail
after being charged with treason and terrorism. In the process, they
brutalised not only the suspects but their lawyers as well.
This is not an isolated incident and it seems increasingly clear that the
Ugandan Government are using the police and military to crack down on
political dissent and opposition. Bearing in mind the Commonwealth's aim to
promote democracy, good government, human rights and economic development,
it is ironic that its Heads of Government meeting in November is to be held
in Uganda, where the opposite of all these objectives appears to be taking
place. It will be interesting to see whether the abuses of human rights in
Uganda are raised at this meeting or whether they will be papered over. It
will be a sad day for the Commonwealth if President Museveni follows in the
path of Robert Mugabe and the Commonwealth ignores this because of pressure
from some African leaders.
If I had the time, I would talk about education. As I do not, however, I
simply ask my noble friend what her policy, and that of the Government, will
be on education.
Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, I reiterate the thanks of the House to
the noble Lord, Lord Luce, for introducing this subject. Here we are,
compressing the mighty subject of the Commonwealth into three minutes. That
might have depressed me until I heard the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, whose
capacity to compress so much into three minutes is remarkable and a tribute
to this House. I also welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, to the Front
Bench. We are all looking forward to her maiden speech.
I declare an interest as chairman of the Council of Commonwealth Societies.
One of that council's tasks is to be involved in the organisation of the
Commonwealth Day Observance service in the abbey just across the road from
here in March each year. That service illustrates something extremely
important about the Commonwealth: that it has a unique ability to create an
inter-faith dialogue. Although the service is within the abbey, it is not
Anglican; it is an inter-faith dialogue. I hope that the Minister will tell
us that the Sen commission report on respect and understanding will take us
forward at CHOGM-that it will not just be a report, but that there will be
action subsequent to it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, mentioned Nigeria, albeit briefly. The
Commonwealth observer group report on the elections in Nigeria this year was
gloomy reading. That report has gone to the Secretary-General of the
Commonwealth, but will CMAG do anything about it? These reports on failures
of democracy in the Commonwealth seem somehow to vanish into the air.
Something has to happen as a consequence of them. I would be grateful for
anything that the Minister could tell us about that.
The right reverend Prelate made a point about trade issues at CHOGM. I know
that the agenda is not yet fixed, but there is great concern among the
Africa group in the WTO that trade should be high on the agenda and not
trailing down below. Important issues such as the EU partnership agreements
need to be discussed. Will the Minister reassure us that trade will be at
the top of the agenda? If we do not discuss trade, all that will be left for
us to discuss is aid.
I raised with the Government a couple of weeks ago the unfortunate and ill
judged closure of our embassy in Madagascar. We wait to see what will
happen, but the idea that the best interests of this country and Madagascar
can be looked after part-time from 1,000 miles away in Mauritius is frankly
nonsense. Will the Minister assure us that the closure in Madagascar is not
the beginning of a long list of others?
We need from the Government a statement of their commitment to the
Commonwealth. Not only do we in this country have a great return on that
vision, commitment and investment of imagination, but those things are also
in the interests of global understanding, dialogue and a better future for
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Luce, for
introducing this important debate. It gives me great pleasure to welcome the
noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, whose maiden speech I very much look forward to
hearing. She has had a most distinguished career, well qualifying her for
this new position. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Luce, she was born
in Uganda and, having lived her early life in India, went on to read PPE at
Oxford. She became a highly successful banker with SG Warburg before joining
the Treasury in 1999 and becoming a trustee of Oxfam. I have no doubt that,
with this formidable background, her maiden speech on this particularly
relevant topic will be both informative and interesting. We look forward,
too, to her future contributions to this House.
Earlier this year, the Prime Minister identified the Commonwealth as one
part of a new, three-pronged foreign policy, complementing our American
alliance and our strong links with Europe. On these Benches, we have always
supported such an approach, yet the latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office
departmental annual report makes only one passing mention of the
Commonwealth in more than 150 pages. Can the Minister explain that? The
summit is a great opportunity for the Government to set out their proposals
on how to support democracy and good governance throughout the Commonwealth.
How are the Government helping Uganda to hold free and fair elections in
December? What support are they giving the Ugandan Government in the peace
talks in south Sudan and with the Lord's Resistance Army?
There is great potential, too, for economic development. The Aga Khan Fund
for Economic Development has proven how successful the use of informal
international networks-in this case, "international" is merely Muslim
communities-can be in setting up small businesses in the developing world.
What encouragement are the Government giving to the business community to
exploit similar networks between different Commonwealth members?
I fear that, in three minutes, I have barely covered this huge subject and
do not expect the Minister in her short time to answer all the questions
tonight. However, I look forward to her response and her maiden speech and
hope that the Government will soon back up their enthusiastic words with
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International
Development (Baroness Vadera): My Lords, I start by expressing my gratitude
to Members from all parts of the House for the warmth of their welcome since
I have joined and their kind words during this debate. Your Lordships'
advice and support has helped me immensely, as I continue to adjust to my
new role in government. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Luce, for securing this
important debate. I will endeavour to reply to a few questions, given the
time constraints. If noble Lords will permit, I shall write to them on the
remainder that I have noted.
Today's debate takes me back to my earliest memories at primary school in
Jinja, Uganda. My mother tongue was Gujarati, and I struggled with English.
I was about to leave for India because of the Idi Amin repression. The last
place that I, a stateless child between Asia and Africa, could ever have
expected to be was standing before your Lordships as the newest member of
the House of Lords. The daughter of a Kenyan mother and Ugandan father, of
Indian origin, educated in Jinja, Bangalore, Bombay and finally Britain,
like my noble friend Lady Howells, I feel a true child of the Commonwealth.
I am one of its most fortunate. The tolerance and generosity of British
society and the ties that bind the Commonwealth together gave me my life
chances, most recently to work eight years at the Treasury, arguing its case
against the insistent and sometimes unreasonable pleadings of other
departments, and now three weeks at DfID, arguing its case against the
insistent and sometimes unreasonable parsimony of the Treasury.
As noble Lords from all sides of the House have said, the Commonwealth
brings together countries not because of what they want but because of what
they are. The Commonwealth's unique and underestimated strength but also in
part its limitation is the fact that it is not an exclusive club of the most
powerful like the G8. Nor does it generate tension between developing and
developed countries, as sometimes occurs in the IMF and World Bank. Nor,
like the UN, does it have regional groups competing to advance their
agendas. Its members speak for themselves with an equal voice, whether they
are small island states or global players. I am intrigued by the suggestion
from the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, that we should have an unsentimental
assessment of the Commonwealth, and I will investigate that.
In response to the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings,
I can say that the importance that we place on the use of this rare forum
will be illustrated by the seriousness of the agenda and the breadth of our
team attending CHOGM in November. My life will have come full circle as I
join the British delegation going to my birthplace, Uganda. I welcome the
theme of the meetings, transforming Commonwealth societies for political,
economic and social development. There are new challenges facing this
development, not least climate change, which we have helped to secure on the
CHOGM agenda in the run-up to Bali in December. But the old challenges
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, rightly emphasises economic development
and business formation. The Commonwealth Business Council creates very
similar networks to those that she mentioned. I view aid not as charity or
welfare, nor as the creation of permanent dependency, but as an investment
in equitable growth and the individual's dignity of economic independence.
With reference to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, and the
noble Lord, Lord Jay, in most poor countries aid is necessary, but in no
country is it a sufficient catalyst for development. Wealth creation,
economic growth and good governance must be central to poverty eradication.
The Commonwealth has extremes of experience to learn from in this regard.
Over the last 20 years, India has saved 100 million people from poverty, and
within the next 20 is expected to become the fourth largest economy in the
world. But while its GDP is growing at 8 per cent, it is creating jobs at
only 3 per cent a year. That inequitable growth has meant nearly one-half of
all Indian children are undernourished-a far higher level than in most of
sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, India's ability to benefit from an
international services market shows the importance of trade for growth and
reducing poverty. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Watson, that trade will be
right up there at CHOGM.
In response to the concerns expressed by the right reverend Prelate the
Bishop of Norwich and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I can say that the UK
has argued its position on the flexibility of economic partnership
agreements consistently since 2005, and that has not changed for any other
strategic reason. We believe that the Commission has accepted many of our
arguments and is showing more flexibility in order to conclude negotiations
by the end of the year, but we continue to monitor these negotiations
I am delighted to see present my noble friend Lord Joffe, who introduced me
last week. In response to his question and that of my noble friend Lord
Judd, I should say that education is going to be a central agenda going
forward, both at CHOGM and generally for development. Across the
Commonwealth, 26 million children-nearly two-thirds of them girls-do not go
to school. Education is the best investment that the world can make and,
together with health, the best way to break the transmission of poverty from
one generation to the next. For every year of schooling in the poorest
countries, incomes grow by more than 10 per cent. For every extra year that
a mother went to school, the chances of her children dying fall by 8 per
cent. In large parts of the world, poverty has a woman's face; empowering
women is both a means and an end for transforming societies.
The UK has committed £8.5 billion over 10 years to get every child,
especially girls, into school. Our commitment was ground-breaking, not just
in its magnitude, but in its understanding of the need for patient capital
to get a generation into productive economic activity. The 10-year
results-based commitment gives the certainty of funding that countries need
to plan and develop sustainable education systems with the ability to train,
as well as continue to pay teachers and to make education free, and
With respect to health, I wish to assure my noble friend Lady Whitaker that
pneumococcal disease will be addressed in the reviews of our health
strategy. There is a significant market failure in research and development
for diseases that affect poor countries due to their weak purchasing power.
Only 10 per cent of global health research is devoted to conditions that
account for 90 per cent of the world's disease burden. If successful, the
advanced market commitment that we launched will result in a relevant strain
of pneumococcal vaccine, which could save up to 5 million lives over the
next 25 years.
It was disconcerting enough when the noble Baroness, Lady Park, used to
question me as principal at Somerville College. I cannot begin to tell you
how disconcerting it is to be questioned by her now, in your Lordships'
House. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her contribution to my
education and her graciously selective memory of my undergraduate years.
The noble Baroness raised the subject of Zimbabwe, as did many other noble
Lords. My family's experience of a ruthless dictator left me with no
tolerance for those who abuse their citizens and destroy nations in the name
of anti-colonialism. As will be discussed in another place tomorrow, we
agree with noble Lords that Mugabe is not going to be a part of the solution
for Zimbabwe's future. This Government will continue to work with SADC and
the Commonwealth to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe can exercise the
right to determine that future. I agree with noble Lords that the
Commonwealth has a duty of care to assist the people of Zimbabwe, as it
assisted South Africans during apartheid. This Government stand prepared to
assist in what tragically, but inevitably, will be an extremely fragile
state, with its economic base and social fabric destroyed.
In the mean time, the people of Zimbabwe face a humanitarian crisis. A
quarter of the population have fled to neighbouring countries and half those
remaining need urgent food aid. More than 3,000 people die of HIV/AIDS every
week. To help those immediately at risk, I am able to announce to the House
today that DfID is committing £50 million to extend the protracted relief
programme for the next five years. The programme will be delivered entirely
through local and international NGOs and will provide seeds, fertilisers,
livestock and access to HIV/AIDS care to assist 2 million of the country's
While the reconstruction of Zimbabwe and development in the Commonwealth are
strategic concerns to us, in the words of my right honourable friend the
Prime Minister, there are no "moral strangers" in this world. I am conscious
that many in this House share this view and have exercised much effort and
expertise toward this end. I hope that in my position as Minister for
International Development I can build on your Lordships' strong platform. I
was rather optimistically named Shriti, which means "knowledge" in Sanskrit.
To borrow the words of Herman Hesse, more than knowledge, it is the wisdom
of the distinguished Members of this House that I will seek to find, live,
and be filled and sustained by in fulfilling my duty. Thank you.
Lord Luce: My Lords, with the forbearance of the House, on behalf of your
Lordships I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, on not only an
excellent but a delightful maiden speech. Her speech and her experience show
that she is highly suited to her new ministerial job in the Department for
International Development and is very well placed to stand up for the
The noble Baroness spoke most movingly about her earlier years in Uganda and
later in India and made the point that she is devoted to the Commonwealth.
She worked for 14 years with the City investment bank SG Warburg, later
owned by UBS, and worked on many projects from banking to project finance.
She has advised Governments of poor and emerging countries on issues such as
external debt and public sector restructuring, and she has worked with many
Commonwealth countries, from South Africa and Uganda to India, Nigeria and
Kenya. Since 1999, as we all know, she has worked at Her Majesty's Treasury
as the personal adviser to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is now
Prime Minister, and was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers as a
policy expert on many issues, ranging from business and finance to
international development. As we heard from another noble Lord, she has been
a trustee of Oxfam for five years.
The noble Baroness has excellent experience of economic and developmental
issues and of the Commonwealth. On behalf of your Lordships, I congratulate
her most warmly on her maiden speech and on becoming a Minister. I wish her
well in government, where I am quite sure she will make a positive