Questions from four Conservative MPs regarding Zimbabwe in Parliament yesterday.
A ROLE FOR THE SAS?
Gerald Howarth MP: "Many people find it morally repugnant that the international community has fiddled so ineffectively as Zimbabwe has literally burned. Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House how many British subjects there are in Zimbabwe, and what sort of plans are in place in the event of civil war, which many correspondents are now suggesting might happen? What contingency plans are there to remove those British citizens to safety? I say to the Foreign Secretary that the Almighty is not the only person who could remove Mr. Mugabe; the Special Air Service could also do a pretty good job."
David Miliband, Foreign Secretary: "Whatever the degree of frustration that the hon. Gentleman feels, I do not think that he really wants me to pursue the latter part of his question. The best thing to say about British nationals is to refer back to my earlier statement on the issue, which recorded that there are 12,000 British nationals in Zimbabwe, many of whom are elderly, and there is no evidence of them being subject to intimidation or attack thus far. They are supported by a well-developed wardens network, and by some very brave non-governmental organisations. The best thing to say is that they remain the subject of continued engagement, and if the hon. Gentleman wants to have a word with me afterwards, I could say a bit more to him about that."
SOUTH AFRICA’S ROLE
Nicholas Soames MP: "Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House to what he attributes Mr. Mbeki’s pathetically inadequate response to this terrible tragedy?"
David Miliband: "In respect of the first question, I do not want to put myself into the mind of the leader of South Africa. As I said earlier, the burden borne by South Africa from the 2 million-plus refugees from Zimbabwe who are there is reason enough for any country—from self-interest, never mind moral interest—to speak out on the issue. We have debated before the role of President Mbeki in securing the rounds of the election. Obviously, however, the fact that those elections have not been able to take place in anything other than grotesque circumstances has rendered that null and void."
Iain Duncan Smith MP: "Like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), I served in Rhodesia, as it was called in those days, in 1979 in order to bring universal suffrage to that country. I was proud of our position then, but I am not particularly proud of ours or Europe’s right now. Does not the secret to providing a solution lie in Pretoria and Beijing? Is it not time that we said in no uncertain terms to the Chinese that if they wish to be accepted as a decent nation, they should stop supporting violent regimes such as Mugabe’s? If we also said to President Mbeki, who is almost alone in South Africa in supporting that man, that if he pulled out the stops, made Zimbabwe a pariah state, cut off all support and said to Mugabe, “Go or we will finish you”, he would be gone in a week."
The Prime Minister: "I understand the knowledge of the situation that the right hon. Gentleman has given that he was in the country many years ago. I have to say to him that the UN Security Council will meet this afternoon and I believe that there will be a presidential statement. That will require the countries that are part of the UN Security Council and that play a part in its affairs, including the ones he has mentioned, to be able to support that statement. I hope that they will support a statement that says in the strongest terms that the violence is unacceptable. What has led to the opposition leader pulling out of the election is perfectly understandable and a way forward has to be found for the Zimbabwean people, but that will be discussed by the UN Security Council later this afternoon. I talked to President Mbeki before I came to the House this afternoon and urged it upon him that there had to be a solution and a way forward found, but he, too, will in my view join the statement that will be made by the UN later this afternoon, which shows that South Africa, too, wants an end to the violence and a solution to the problems we face."
THE UN AND ZIMBABWE
Douglas Hogg MP: "The right hon. Gentleman said that the full force of international law should be felt. Does that mean to say that as a matter of principle he accepts that the International Criminal Court should have jurisdiction over what is going on in Zimbabwe? If that is his position, and it is mine, will he start taking action within the Security Council to mobilise support for a resolution that would subject Mr. Mugabe and his immediate supporters to the full rigour of the International Criminal Court?"
David Miliband: "When I said “the full force of international law” earlier, I did not say it lightly but because I believe it. However, we have been trying to mobilise support to get Zimbabwe on to the Security Council agenda. That has been the blockage, and I would fail in my duty if I pretended to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we were at a stage yet when we could start mobilising support for something greater than a standing item on the agenda. However, I assure him that, from my two conversations with our permanent representative at the UN yesterday and previous conversations, there is no lack of clarity on the part of all members of the Security Council about the importance of the issue. Its discussion last week and the fact that Burkina Faso became the ninth country to support its debate at the Security Council is significant. I hope that we can build on that—it is certainly our priority."