A British Member of Parliament who moved the debate on Zimbabwe in the United Kingdom Parliament yesterday claimed that up to 500 000 of the 1 million farm workers who were removed from white farms had died as a result of a combination of malnutrition and inadequate health services.
Andrew Selous said prior to the land reform there were only three years of national food deficit in 20 years and those three years were actually years of severe drought. But since 2000, when the farm invasions started, there had been 11 consecutive years of food deficit.
Selous also said the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front was preparing for a violent campaign in the next elections which should be held before 2013.
He said Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa had brokered a deal with China for small arms that included 20 000 AK47 rifles, uniforms, 12 to 15 trucks and about 21 000 pairs of handcuffs.
He advocated that a peacekeeping force should be deployed to Zimbabwe at least three months before the elections. The force should remain in the country after the election to prevent violence.
Selous said Zimbabwe should emulate the example of Zambia which had elected a white vice-President.
Below is Selous’s full contribution:
Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Riordan. I am extremely grateful to Mr Speaker for granting me this debate.
Zimbabwe is an independent sovereign country, but one with which the United Kingdom has strong historical ties. We therefore have a duty to work for the best outcomes for the people of Zimbabwe, because to ignore what is going on there is to condone it.
Let me give a little vignette of what life is like in Zimbabwe. Last week, I was sent the story of a Christmas lunch in Zimbabwe, which, with your permission, Mrs Riordan, I will quickly read out:
“Half way through lunch two police details came to the gathering and informed us that we had not asked for police permission to have the gathering. The member of staff at whose house we had gathered and myself were taken to the local police station where we were detained for over two hours before being released with a stern warning. We had apparently ignored a law requiring permission to have a gathering at a private house!”
That is a measure of the level to which Zimbabwe has sunk.
There are seven issues I want to address, but first let me give a little context in respect of recent events. About 4 million Zimbabweans have set up camp over the border in South Africa. They are refugees from their country because of what has gone on there. That figure represents between 20% to 30% of Zimbabwe’s entire population, including the worldwide diaspora of Zimbabweans.
There have been terrible violence and brutality. In 1983 and 1984, there were the massacres of the Ndebele people—the first major post-independence dispersion of Zimbabweans. This was black-on-black violence, and tens of thousands of people were displaced. They fled initially to the second city of Bulawayo, while others left for Botswana and South Africa. This crime against humanity was quickly forgotten by the rest of the world.
The land invasions that began in 2000 were, effectively, a Government-sanctioned looting spree and a desperate election ploy in reaction to the rapid rise of the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change. ZANU-PF was prepared to annihilate vital organs of the economy to win the election. Agricultural productivity declined by 80% between 2002 and 2008. Zimbabwe used to produce about 330,000 tonnes of wheat a year; last year, it produced 11,000 tonnes, and this year, it produced 10,000 tonnes.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) rose—
Andrew Selous: I give way to my hon. Friend, who is an expert on agriculture.
Neil Parish: I was an election observer in 2000. At that time, the farms were being overrun. It was not just the white-owned farms that were affected, but all the black workers who were driven off them. Ever since, there has been virtually no production on that land. Zimbabwe should be one of the bread baskets of Africa; instead, it has to import food. Everything we can do to bring about change and some sense in Zimbabwe would be great.
Andrew Selous: I am really grateful to my hon. Friend for getting that on the record.
There were three years of national food deficit in the 20 years from independence to the beginning of the land invasions, and those three years were actually years of severe drought. In the other years, the country maintained an export surplus. Since 2000, when the land invasions started, there have been 11 consecutive years of food deficit.
There are now 1 million AIDS orphans out of a resident population of about 11.5 million. One child in four has lost one or both parents to AIDS. Meanwhile, up to 500,000 of the 1 million farm workers who were removed from white farms have died as a result of a combination of malnutrition and inadequate health services.
Water supply and sewerage systems are wholly inadequate, and one of the largest outbreaks of cholera in world history took place in 2008, infecting 100,000 people and killing more than 4,000.
The country’s jails became concentration camps. For many people, a petty offence of false conviction became a death sentence. Indeed, in 2009, six people starved to death in their cells.
The first major issue I want to concentrate on is the prevention of violence and intimidation in the run-up to the general election. In the 2008 elections, polling station results were used to target areas of Opposition sympathy. Huge groups of militia roamed the countryside, beating, burning and killing people at random. Torture bases were established—nightmarish places where the innocent were afflicted for days at a time.
In this period, more than 200 people were killed, thousands were beaten—hundreds of them now have lifelong disabilities—and tens of thousands were displaced. This was revenge and pre-emptive action rolled into one. The message driven home was that people’s choice in the second round of the vote was literally between President Mugabe or death. Rightly or wrongly, the MDC decided to pull out of the election with a week to go, hoping to spare people further suffering.
The International Crisis Group in southern Africa warns that there is a real danger that ZANU-PF will employ violence again to force people to vote. As we know, there must be an election before 2013. Reports in the independent press and statements by Opposition parties indicate that violence is already escalating significantly across the country.
On 10 November, Southern Africa Report, the South African Development Community’s bulletin of political and economic intelligence, announced that the Zimbabwe Defence Force had taken delivery, via an African intermediary, of the first of several consignments of Chinese small arms and equipment—a deal said to have been negotiated by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. The consignment included 20,000 AK47 automatic rifles, uniforms, 12 to 15 trucks and about 21,000 pairs of handcuffs.
Given the escalating pre-election violence and ZANU-PF’s consistent history of initiating countrywide campaigns of violence to force the electorate to vote for President Mugabe, international observers and monitors are essential, and I will press the Minister to respond to that point when he replies. Additionally, a peacekeeping force, which could be deployed in the country at least three months ahead of an election, particularly in rural areas, would help to protect the lives, livelihoods and homes of vulnerable communities. The peacekeeping force should be required to remain in place after the election to prevent violent retribution.
We need to look at reform of the security forces in Zimbabwe, because even under the multi-party Government, the armed forces remain central to all aspects of life. The Joint Operations Committee, which is a non-statutory body, is made up of President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle, and it remains antagonistic to the unity Government with Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC. It is also distrustful of non-military politicians, even in President Mugabe’s own ZANU-PF party.
The security forces’ access to economic opportunities has strengthened their bond with President Mugabe and their willingness to defend the status quo. While conventional military capacity and competence have declined massively since the 1990s, Zimbabwe’s security forces remain a major and arguably the central obstacle to the resolution of the country’s political instability. Unless the security sector is reformed, violence initiated by ZANU-PF is likely to continue, making the holding of free and fair elections problematic at the very least.
On racism, there are further steps that we can take. Is it not a pity that Zimbabwe does not look across the border to Zambia, one of whose vice-presidents, Dr Guy Scott, happens to be white and a democratically elected politician? Would it not be good if Zimbabwe had the same spirit as Zambia and took the same action?
Zimbabwe actually signed the United Nations convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination on 13 May 1991. That bound Zimbabwe to allow its people full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the right to property and protection before the law. It also condemned racial propaganda and hate speech. Unfortunately, it does not allow for individuals to activate procedures to get the UN to ensure compliance; it needs a fellow signatory United Nations state to do that.
For more than a decade, the Zimbabwe Government and ZANU-PF have been allowed to get away with demonstrably defying the treaty. No signatory state has called for an investigation. No signatory state has asked for the 18-member sitting committee of independent experts to be activated and to go to Zimbabwe. No signatory state appears to care enough about racial discrimination in Zimbabwe to do anything about it. Frankly, many people find that hypocritical.
What would the benefits be of a signatory state getting the UN committee to investigate under article 11 of the convention? The committee would undoubtedly act as a deterrent for continued acts of abuse in the land programme and the indigenisation programme, just as the habitat investigation acted as a deterrent to stop the further destruction of hundreds of thousands of homes by state bulldozers back in 2005. It would help protect the region’s judiciary, by taking the issue to an independent UN body, and it would provide the west with a defence against the fantastical charges of neo-colonialism when it raises concerns about racial issues. It would provide any future democratic Government with support to resolve the land issue in Zimbabwe. It would also help to restore much needed investor confidence in the country.
I am concerned about the Zimbabwean Government’s consistent refusal and failure to recognise international legal judgments. For example, the international and regional court of the SADC tribunal, which the SADC Heads of State suspended in May due to pressure from President Mugabe and ZANU-PF, needs international support to become a functioning court once more. Individual states must be held accountable in future, so that the rule of law and human rights can be promoted in the SADC region. Pressure needs to be exerted on policy makers, to ensure that the SADC treaty and protocol are not changed in the August 2012 SADC summit, and I hope that the United Kingdom will be active in ensuring that. Without an international regional court, there is little hope of effective accountability or economic development being able to take place in the region. Furthermore, significant economic development cannot take place without respect for property rights, human rights and the rule of law, something with which the UK Government are already properly concerned in their international development policy.
I want to turn to the Marange diamond fields. I am grateful to the hon. Members who have joined me for the debate. They may be aware that participants in the Kimberley process agreed to relax the ban on export sales last month, subject to an adequate verification regime being in place. The European Union, the United States and Canada switched from opposition to the ban to abstention. The human rights group, Global Witness, is leaving the Kimberley process in protest at that decision. It is estimated that last week’s diamond auction could raise about $300 million US dollars. Contacts that I have in Zimbabwe commented earlier this week as follows:
“The situation is worse now than it has even been, the needs are spiralling. The theft of the diamonds has sadly given ZANU-PF a new lease of life and the future looks grim. There is no reason to think that when Mugabe dies the position will improve.”
That gloomy prognosis for Zimbabwe directly relates to the sales of diamonds from the Marange mine.
Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that although the picture may look grim, as the wave of life eventually laps from Mr Mugabe, there is a significant opportunity for that country to once again re-establish and redevelop itself and put in place the democratic structures that ought to be?
Andrew Selous: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for attending the debate and intervening. Like him, I am an optimist; I think that Zimbabwe can have a fantastic future, given its agricultural productivity, the resources of its people and its natural advantages in the region. The challenge for us is to help the political process to allow that to happen, so I agree with the point that he made.
On the treatment of Zimbabwean Anglicans, hon. Members may know that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was recently accompanied in Zimbabwe by bishops, not only from Zimbabwe, but from South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Malawi, all of whom were absolutely horrified at what has been happening to Zimbabwe’s Anglicans. Since 2007, Anglican congregations have suffered systematic harassment and persecution at the hands of the police, often in direct contravention of court rulings. A report, which was handed to President Robert Mugabe, outlined details of that litany of abuses, which include false imprisonment, violence and denial of access to churches, schools, clinics and mission stations.
In the dioceses of Harare and Manicaland, properties belonging to the Anglican province have been misappropriated. It is a matter of the greatest sadness that Zimbabwean Anglicans are being prevented from continuing their work supporting local and often very needy communities with health care and education. Their priests and people are being denied access to their own clinics and schools. Many such institutions have been taken from Zimbabwe’s Anglicans, and are now under corrupt or poor management, being rapidly run into the ground and stripped of their assets. Details of that unwarranted activity and its impact on local communities were presented to President Mugabe in a report by Archbishop Rowan Williams. Every week, tens of thousands of Anglicans are denied their basic right to worship, because of the lies and falsifications propagated by the now excommunicated former bishop, Dr Kunonga, and his associates.
I have concerns about how the sanctions might be being evaded in Zimbabwe, and I ask that the Minister looks into that. A glaring issue is that nationals of countries, including the UK, that have applied the sanctions—both individuals and companies—have continued to support the regime and nothing has been done about them. The British Government and others punish ZANU-PF, but fail to police their own citizens and, according to my sources, that includes companies such Old Mutual.
ZANU-PF officials have been able to externalise huge quantities of funds through share swaps between the Zimbabwean and London stock exchanges. Old Mutual has joint ventures with the Government of Zimbabwe that started before the formation of the unity Government, yet nothing is done. Moreover, those investments are directly connected to gross human rights abuses. Old Mutual has shares in a joint venture on the diamond fields where more than 200 panners in rags were gunned down from helicopters to clear the decks for investors. There are numerous reports of ongoing abuses. I understand that Old Mutual claims that any regrettable events predate its involvement.
The Central African Mining and Exploration Company purchased land from the Zimbabwean Government believed to have been extorted from another mining company and, in doing so, poured tens of millions into the pockets of the regime at a time when it needed election resources. What action can the British Government take on those issues?
The final words of my contribution should come from two black Africans, not a white Englishman.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. Before he concludes, will he say something more about sanctions and restricted measures? He understands, as does the Minister, that the EU will decide what will happen with sanctions in February. Does he agree that it must be handled incredibly carefully and that we must not rush into removing any of those restricted measures, unless there is real evidence that it will make a difference to the political framework of getting a peaceful resolution and a free and fair election?
Andrew Selous: I welcome the comments of the hon. Lady, who is chair of the all-party group on Zimbabwe. She is right; the current regime has concerns about the sanctions. I think that they are partially effective. Her comments are wise, and I hope that the Minister will head her words.
Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Does he recognise that South Africa is vital to getting a political solution in that part of southern Africa? A very big problem for President Zuma is that President Mugabe is still seen as a war hero and as the last war hero from the great struggle in the first place. That has made life difficult for President Zuma in trying to deliver.
Andrew Selous: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and on hearing the remarks of former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with which I intend to conclude, he will hear that he is also in agreement with him on that point.
Our own Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was born in Uganda in 1949. A former lawyer, he incurred the wrath of the dictator, Idi Amin, because of his judicial independence, and was locked up for 90 days three weeks after his marriage. In a speech in 2007, he described how he had been
“kicked around like a football and beaten terribly”.
He is a man who has suffered in a similar way to many Zimbabweans. He went on countless marches to campaign for the end of the unilateral declaration of independence of Ian Smith and calls Zimbabwe
“a scourge on the conscience of the entire world”.
He is disappointed by the African Union’s response to Zimbabwe. He calls for the UN to make Zimbabwe a priority, saying:
“If it does not, the blood that is spilled will also be on their hands.”
He has also called for President Mugabe and his officials to be brought before the International Criminal Court.
Desmond Tutu is Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa. He said that the incomprehensible greed, appalling lack of compassion and unspeakable cruelty demonstrated by the Zimbabwean elite contradict the classical African concept of ubuntu—the essence of being human. He described the
“state-orchestrated crimes against humanity on a massive scale countrywide”
and said that Zimbabwe’s plight is all our plight and that
“to ignore its suffering is to condone it.”
I look forward to hearing what action the UK Government will take, particularly on election observers, the outstanding SADC legal judgements, action in the United Nations, the integrity of the sanctions regime and the Marange diamond fields.