Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 14 MAY 2002
100. Could I perhaps talk about land reform.
I think there is a case for land reform accepted by all sides,
particularly last September's Commonwealth-brokered Abuja Declaration
which set out a way forward on this. They were fine words but
they have not been observed by the Government of Zimbabwe, and
forcible seizures of land still continue. Is that agreement now
dead? If it is dead, what else can we do before complete anarchy
starts to rule?
(Baroness Amos) There is no doubt that Abuja has been
overtaken by events since we visited last year. I think when the
Foreign Secretary and I came away from Abuja we felt we had worked
extremely hard to get an agreement that was credible and doable,
if the Government of Zimbabwe actually adhered to the commitments
that were made within the Abuja agreement. Within days of leaving
Nigeria the agreement was being broken. It is very hard to see
where we can go next on land reform without some of the critical
areas in terms of economic policy and human rights actually being
put in place. Part of the Abuja agreement was that UNDP would
go in and do an assessment and come out with proposals in terms
of the next steps, which the UK and other donors would then look
to support. UNDP went in; they did a report; and basically they
said that the land reform programming in Zimbabwe is unsustainable,
but they had difficulty actually making suggestions about the
next steps because of the nature of the political environment
in Zimbabwe. It is very, very difficult to see where we can go
from here. In addition to that, the Zimbabwe Government has recently
passed the Land Acquisition Act which basically means that the
farmers can be informed that their land has been taken and they
have to move within three months. So they have made law something
they were doing by presidential decree before the elections. So
fast track, which has been deemed to be unsustainable and which
has led to some of the problems that we are now seeing with respect
to food shortages, continues.
101. How much do you think of Zimbabwe's catastrophic
fall in agricultural production is due to the drought conditions
that prevail over there now, and how much is due to the illegal
occupation of farms?
(Baroness Amos) Some of it undoubtedly is due to the
drought. We have seen the situation in the region as a whole.
Maize production this year is down 60 per cent on last year. The
percentage is much lower in other countries in the region. Of
course, some of it is due to drought; but I would say that the
majority of it is due to mis-management of the economy.
102. Have we got evidence at all that the farms
that have been resettled are less well managed now?
(Baroness Amos) There is some evidence of that. A
UN assessment mission will be going in to look at the humanitarian
situation. I think that further evidence will emerge from that.
Of course, once that report is available I will send it to the
103. I think one of the sadnesses is, you said
virtually hours after the ink was dried on the Commonwealth-brokered
Abuja Declaration it was broken. Is there anything that can be
put on the table which the Zimbabwe Government will pick up and
run with, or is all lost?
(Baroness Amos) I would certainly not want to say
that all was lost, but I think that we are very, very dependent
on the role which is being played by countries in the region,
particularly by South Africa and Nigeria, in terms of them facilitating
some kind of process that might lead to an agreement of next steps.
What we need is for the Government of Zimbabwe and the Opposition
to actually agree that the welfare and the needs of the people
of Zimbabwe come first; and to then think about the kinds of economic
and political policies that would deliver that.
104. Baroness Amos, I have been to the tobacco
auctions in Harare, and I think tobacco used to amount to 40 per
cent or so of foreign exchange earnings. What can you say about
the current state of the those earnings from tobacco and planting?
Who is likely to plant if they are on three months' notice?
(Baroness Amos) It is highly unlikely that anyone
will plant on the basis of three months' notice. We have already
seen problems with the wheat crop where, because of what has been
happening in terms of fast track, little or no planting has happened,
which will have a further impact on food shortages; and the same
will apply to tobacco farming which has historically contributed
so much to the economy.
105. Really we have got a terrible combination
of three things: we have got the drought; we have got an economic
downturn, which is partly due to the incompetence of the government;
and we have got the land seizures which are leading to people
not planting for next year. You have already told us, a little
while ago, that people are short of food, and some people are
queuing for up to a week for food. There must be a real possibility
that by early next year people will be starving to death and there
will be famine in Zimbabwe. What can the UK Government do to prevent
famine taking place; what assistance can we provide?
(Baroness Amos) At the moment we are talking about
a situation as being a crisis, rather than a famine. I think it
is very important that we use our words carefully, obviously.
I have mentioned the UN assessment before; that is going to be
absolutely critical in terms of giving us the facts and evidence
we need that will let us know whether or not the situation has
gone beyond being a crisis in the south and east, to becoming
something that is a great deal more serious in terms of famine.
We are working with the World Food Programme. There is a group
of donors who have formed themselves into a humanitarian group
which includes the UN organisation and ourselves, which is dealing
with the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. We have a monitoring
process as well to ensure that the money we give for emergency
feeding and food aid is being used properly and is not being diverted.
We will continue to do that, and we will continue to work with
our international partners. There is a possibility that after
the UN assessment mission they will launch a further appeal on
Zimbabwe. There is a concern that an appeal might be launched
and the amount of money that is required may not be met because
of concerns about the divergence of money. One of the things we
absolutely have to be clear about is that food aid goes on food
and that it is available to all people in Zimbabwe who require
it. We and other donors are absolutely firm about that. Last year
there was some talk by the Government of Zimbabwe that urgent
humanitarian assistance could only be channelled through the Government.
All donors challenged that, and that situation did not occur.
106. It is interesting you say that, when the
respected journalist Fergal Keane came before the Committee recently
he suggested that the only organisation which could practically
deliver aid to prevent a famine and ensure that it was delivered
fairly was the South African army. I was rather sceptical about
that but it was an interesting view. The question I wanted to
ask was about the state of disaster which Mr Mugabe declared on
30 April. Are the practical consequences of that, that it makes
it easier for international organisations to get aid into the
country? Does it make any difference at all in practical terms
that there is a state of disaster announced?
(Baroness Amos) I am not sure. What is difficult at
the moment is that there is a regional problem. We have a problem
in Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia as well as Zimbabwe. The
real problem is partly the possibility of shortages across the
region as a whole, and difficulties with distribution, which are
more general problems, rather than problems associated with getting
the food to the right places, rather than problems associated
with the Government of Zimbabwe itself. We have not in the work
that we have been doing, and that the World Food Programme has
been doing, faced difficulties in terms of getting the food to
the right place. This is something we continue to monitor.
107. Baroness Amos, you have graphically talked
about the crisis of week long queues for food in some parts of
Zimbabwe. The World Food Programme has estimated half a million
people facing acute food shortages; yet you have also said it
is the case that food aid is not being diverted. I find that very
interesting. I hope it is true. I would like to know a little
more from you. Given the chaotic situation that clearly exists
in Zimbabweand there are many parallels one can draw with
other parts of the world, we have seen in Afghanistan food aid
being divertedcan you tell us, have you any reports at
all of food aid being diverted by military means, or whatever
criminal activities? What, in all honesty, can the British Government
do in that situation, apart from withdrawing food aid if it is
in fact stolen?
(Baroness Amos) In terms of our own NGO supplementary
feeding programme, which comes to about £4 million, this
is a programme which is directly monitored by our DFID team, we
are absolutely confident that it is reaching its beneficiaries.
We have had absolutely no reports of humanitarian aid being seized.
Where there is a concern, where we have to continually look at
the situation, is in respect of the World Food Programme. They
are also distributing through NGOs. The Government of Zimbabwe
have guaranteed distribution will not be manipulated; but beneficiaries
for that programme are selected by committees at the ward and
village levels, and this includes local chiefs and headmen, but
it also includes NGOs and other civil society representatives.
Because of that involvement of people at a more local level, there
is clearly a greater possibility of divergence. WFP have made
it absolutely clear that they will investigate any problems, and
they will suspend distribution if there are problems, if those
problems are reported, and the Government of Zimbabwe fail to
act. Incidents have been reported from two of the 19 districts
so far. Those have been investigated and have been dealt with.
We are confident with the money we are giving for our emergency
feeding programmes that there are no problems with that, but we
will continue to monitor. We continue to have a residual concernI
will not put it any more highly than thatabout the World
Food Programme. They are absolutely clear they do not want their
food to be diverted; that they will deal very, very quickly with
any complaint. I think we also have to remember that when we are
dealing with small communities like this, if a family is in urgent
need of food and they do not get it because the local chief or
headman says that family can get it rather than another, it is
absolutely obvious in a small community and we expect to know
108. One can imagine tremendous difficulties
in distribution of food aid given circumstances in Zimbabwe. I
am sure there is a huge petrol shortage, for example, let alone
having the transport there to distribute the food to rural and
often remote villages. How confident are the British Government
that there is adequate infrastructure, and there are adequate
transport facilities to make sure that food aid is distributed
to those in the most need?
(Baroness Amos) I think it is not so much a problem
about infrastructure in Zimbabwe; I think it is more the impact
of needing to have a distribution chain and channel across the
region as a whole, ensuring that there are enough trucks and other
things to get the food to the right places. The Southern African
Development Community and other donors will be meeting in South
Africa in early June to look specifically at regional problems,
and this will include Zimbabwe. I think one of the issues that
would be very high on the agenda is the issue of distribution.
There are other countries in southern Africa where the infrastructure
is much poorer than it is in Zimbabwe. I think the issue is really
going to be, do we have enough trucks, and do we actually have
enough food to get to the six or seven countries suffering.
109. Maybe you misunderstood but I was thinking
of the management structure and organisation.
(Baroness Amos) In terms of the management structure,
this is something the World Food Programme has dealt with not
only in southern Africa before but across the world. In addition
to that NGOs, donors and the World Food Programme have set up
a humanitarian aid response team to look at these issues as a
result of our experiences elsewhere. I think in terms of the administrative
structure we have sufficient experience of dealing with humanitarian
crises. The Committee will remember the terrible famines we saw
in Ethiopia, for example. I am confident that the administration
will be okay.
110. Finally, you mentioned in that last answer
the importance of the regional aspects and regional cooperation.
One of the issues that concern this Committee has been the impacts
of migration from Zimbabwe of the current crisis, whether it be
political or starvation. I would like to know to what extent you
and your colleagues have discussed these issues with the South
African Government and their colleagues in neighbouring countries?
How much has it been possible to impress upon the leaders in the
region the possible economic decline and collapse of local government,
whatever, because of the impact and the pressures that would be
caused by the migration on a scale that can be foreseen in the
present turbulence in Zimbabwe? What has been their reaction?
(Baroness Amos) I think the regional leaders are well
aware of the implications and possible implications of migration.
There is already an extremely large Zimbabwean community in South
Africa, for example. In addition to that, you have a large number
of farm workers in Zimbabwe who come from Mozambique and Malawi
who are second and third generation. As a result of the Act that
was passed just before the election, which stripped a number of
people of Zimbabwean citizenship if they held dual nationality,
there was a possibility that you would have farm workers trying
to get back to Malawi and Mozambique who had really no connection
with the country, apart from their grandparents having been born
there. Regional leaders are well aware of the problems. Particularly
with Mozambique and Malawi we are talking about fragile and vulnerable
economies in their own right. This is a great concern, and I know
has been something which they have discussed at length.
111. Baroness Amos, one final sweep-up question.
It is said historically the moment of truth came for the apartheid
regime in South Africa in 1986 when the Chase Manhattan Bank refused
to roll over credits to South Africa. Transposing that to Zimbabwe,
there effectively is no substantial private investment. The international
financial institutions have written off Zimbabwe. You have told
the Committee of the very limited effect of the Commonwealth and
European Union pressures. I think you began by saying how frustrated
you all were at the positionfrustrated and depressed. Is
there anything you could tell the Committee, any signs of hope
which you could give us, or is that too difficult?
(Baroness Amos) I think one of the things I said in
answer to a question is that things can change very quickly politically
in a country if one thing happens. We do not know what that one
thing might be in Zimbabwe. Whilst the situation is frustrating,
I come back to the point that we have a population which clearly
wanted to exercise its democratic right. We saw that during the
elections. We have a media that continue to try and ensure that
there is a free press in Zimbabwe. I think that there are things
which are happening in the country which could put more pressure
on. As the months go on, if the situation does not change, I think
the neighbouring governments may well have to review their strategy.
Whilst I am frustrated by it, I continue to believe that there
may well be something that happens that will make a critical difference.
We saw it in Angola recently. We have seen it in other situations
where one thing that was entirely unexpected happens and makes
a change. I continue to hope that that will happen in Zimbabwe,
because its people deserve better.
Chairman: We travel in hope. You have been extremely
helpful to us in dialogue with the Committee. I thank you, Baroness
Amos, and thank your colleagues.