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My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and my honourable friend Mr Hain have been vigorous in the moves they have taken and the conversations they have had in relation to our partners within the Commonwealth. We approached a plethora of people at the same time and if it has been inferred that the Commonwealth was the last to be approached, I regret to say that that is the wrong inference; it was not.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the British Military Advisory Training Team is based in Harare. It focuses on regional peacekeeping training within the southern African development community countries. The training strengthens African forces' capacity to participate in all aspects of peacekeeping operations. Courses include modules on conflict prevention and dispute resolution; human rights and international humanitarian law; the rights of the child; democratic control of armed forces; the structure of the UN and civil/military co-ordination; for example, with the ICRC. The modules also include training in democratic policing. The courses have been held across southern Africa and are of great value.
Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, I join in welcoming the Statement repeated by the Minister and, more particularly, the Commonwealth's statement yesterday. On the subject of land reform, is the Minister aware of why the land that has already been bought by the Zimbabwean Government for redistribution to the peasant farmers has so far been distributed to President Mugabe's personal friends and senior civil servants?
The Minister said that Zimbabwe has received in excess of £500 million in aid. My understanding is that Her Majesty's Government have so far given in excess of £45 million for land reform since independence. Is the Minister aware of where that money has gone? Is there any way in which President Robert Mugabe's foreign assets can be frozen?
Finally, there is no doubt that the current instability in Zimbabwe has had a knock-on effect on the entire region of southern Africa. Are any measures being taken to appoint an African leader to mediate in this crisis?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, perhaps I may deal with the last point first. It is right to tell your Lordships that that position is being looked at. We have been warmed by the whole-hearted support that we received from our African colleagues. It is essential that they are part of the lead in responding to Zimbabwe's need.
It is right also that to date we have contributed £44 million to a land reform programme. One of the hot issues currently between Mr Mugabe and ourselves is how that money has been expended and who now occupies that land. There are pressing questions about why members of his government and others seem to have acquired a lot of the land. This Government have been absolutely clear that no more money will be given until we have a transparent system that guarantees that the land goes to those who most need and deserve it. That is one of the challenges with which Her Majesty's Government and all our international partners who are joining with us are faced and now have to deal.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I should like warmly to welcome the Statement repeated by my noble friend and to do so without the rather grudging, carping criticism that was attached to the welcome extended by the noble Lord, Lord Shore. Does my noble friend agree with me that the response is necessarily proportionate to the indolence of President Mugabe in the face of the deteriorating circumstances and that, therefore, having tried reasonable argument, the Government are quite right proportionately to increase their response?
I turn briefly to the question of elections. Is my noble friend aware that a number of Members on this side of the House will be predisposed to agree with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, regarding the necessary pre-conditions for free and fair elections? It is all very well having the incantation of free and fair elections, but if there has already been so much intimidation, is my noble friend satisfied that the Commonwealth Secretary General will be able to establish whether we are in a state to have those free and fair elections? Is she equally satisfied that the necessary steps for getting constituencies and registers to enable those elections to take place have been finalised? When my noble friend last repeated a Statement a few weeks ago, that was an issue upon which she was not able to assure the House absolutely.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I welcome everything said by my noble friend and understand his concerns. Of course, we need to establish what the facts are on the ground. I should not like to pre-judge what the Secretary-General, Mr McKinnon, will find when he visits the area. However, I can say that he and
We have not been advised of a final position in relation to those elections. However, we are receiving a clear steer from the Opposition, who are in agreement with the process that we are adopting. They are also in agreement with the strategy that has been adopted in the Commonwealth and elsewhere and have given their assent to this being the most appropriate way forward. That lead is something upon which we seek to rely.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the deployment of the Commonwealth resource at this stage is extremely welcome, although, in my view, a little belated? I cannot help but share the view of my noble friend Lady Rawlings that the involvement of the EU is not perhaps so appropriate and that we would be wiser to listen to the advice of those who say that this matter should be settled in an African context. Indeed, wise voices are saying so. I believe that we should listen to them most carefully.
Does the Minister also agree that, after the farmers and the poor, tragic state of Zimbabwe, the worst loser in this whole tragedy could be South Africa; indeed, the whole of southern Africa and its development? We could see such a situation because, first, global investors are rushing to take their money out of the whole region; and, secondly, the habit of land reform by violence could spread to neighbouring countries. Therefore, can the noble Baroness reassure us that the Secretary of State is in constant and continuous dialogue with leaders like Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders, but particularly those in South Africa, to bring home the point that, whatever the divided opinions on land reform may be, the rule of law is their friend and the rule of anarchy is their deadly enemy?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. As was said in the Statement, I should emphasise that the major reason for our receiving support yesterday was the recognition that Britain had taken every reasonable step to find agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe on a fair programme of land reform. That was very important with our African colleagues. They recognised that we had behaved absolutely properly and with integrity.
Our African colleagues also understand the possibilities of the ricochet effect of things happening in Zimbabwe adversely affecting the rest of Africa. That has led to real understanding. It is of course important that this matter should be settled in an African context. However, I should emphasise that that must happen with the help and support of their international friends, including the EU, ourselves, America and anyone else who will support them in this
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, on the timing issues, does the Minister agree that one of the important aspects of a Commonwealth observer group is the in-depth analysis and pointers for the future which make an independent opinion so vital under all circumstances? Having said that, is the Minister aware that the army's absentee vote is already being placed into urban constituencies where the greatest opposition lies?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I understand the noble Viscount's concerns. It is important for the observers to have an in-depth, independent view in relation to this matter. We are fortunate in knowing that there are many people who have a great deal of experience in this regard. We are hoping that they will join us and help to fashion the most appropriate observer group. As my right honourable friend said when delivering the Statement in another place, we are also looking to the EU and others to send observers. We hope that we will garner enough support and strength to ensure that the observers are able to do their job properly.
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