Baroness Park of Monmouth CMG, OBE
On: Zimbabwe: The Future
29 November 2006
“Many might query my title, Zimbabwe: the Future, and until recently I should have felt hard put to justify that title.
Zimbabwe was, until six years ago, one of the most prosperous African countries, the breadbasket of Southern Africa, and enjoyed a highly
Professional, economic, social, commercial and legal infrastructure. This system included both black and white, excellent health and educational systems, and a respected and impartial judiciary. Zimbabwe had emerged from 13 years of UDI and internal war with a virtually self-sufficient economy. There was, however, one danger signal in the first few years, when the new regime, using the North Korean trained 5th Brigade, took violent and tragic vengeance on the Metabele lands from which ZAPU and Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe’s original rival, had drawn their support. Apart from this, the country was peaceful, stable and prosperous. Under the Lancaster House Agreement, Britain and others had agreed to provide funds for the orderly and willing transfer of land owned by white farmers, so that the it could be farmed by black settlers from tribal lands. This was done on the basis of free negotiation between the government and the farmer through fair recompense, which included the cost of expensive and sophisticated infrastructures.
Six years ago, Mugabe decided on a wholesale expropriation of land without compensation. Even those (80% of the total) who had bought their land freely from the state after Independence had their farms seized together with the valuable infrastructure. This was done without compensation and with considerable violence carried out by the so called ‘veterans’, a new and brutal youth militia. The police took no action and the courts proved powerless to implement the law and provide redress.
Zimbabwe enjoyed, and still enjoys, good race relations. To this day, Zimbabweans are Zimbabweans first rather than whites and blacks. This is reflected in their excellent newspaper, the Zimbabwean, published in Britain since the destruction of the Daily News in Zimbabwe. It is still smuggled successfully into the country, and still the represents the authentic voice of that country.
In the last six years, however, since the so called ‘fast track’ land reform programme, and the total manipulation of elections, compounded with the greed, arrogance and lust for power of Robert Mugabe and his ministers, Zimbabwe has become a disaster area. It has been looted systematically by its political leaders, and categorized by the UN this year as a Least Developed Country. GDP has dropped by 50% since 1998, factory output is down by 45.6%, and agricultural production has dropped60-70% since 2000. Inflation was 1,184% in June 2006 and 90% of the remaining population (4 million of which have fled the country) are living in poverty, and in many cases are starving. Many are only kept live by remittances sent back to them from family members in the diaspora. Pensioners, some of whom fought in World War II (one of which was a VC), have also seen their monthly pensions depreciate, so much so that, they are only able to afford a postage stamp or an aspirin.
To quote from the admirable Crisis Group Report of June this year, unemployment is over 85%, poverty over 90%, and foreign reserves are almost depleted. Over 4 million persons are in desperate need of food. HIV/AIDS has left thousands of families headed by a child. Almost one in three children are orphans. Of the over 3 million people infected with AIDS, 3000 a week are dying. Doctors are leaving the country because they no longer have essential drugs or instruments, or indeed electricity or water supplies in the hospitals. The cemeteries are full.
So what, you might say, is the point of talking about the future of Zimbabwe? The chief point is the courage, patience and steadfast will that could yet save the country. At present, thanks to a series of draconian laws, it is virtually impossible to meet in a group of more than 3 without police permission. The police are there not to protect the public, as they once were, but to enforce the will of a dictatorship. The law can no longer protect citizens. There is no freedom of the press or of neither assembly, nor access to the media. There is no way to reach many of the people with a central call for action, even in terms of peaceful demonstrations. Because of the collapse of the economy, corruption, and state terror, political parties and civil society can barely operate. There is no petrol to travel, no money for publishing party, or civil liberty material, no money for teachers, no money to pay for children to go to school, no money for the most basic things, such as painkillers. With virtually no public transportation, because of lack of both petrol and vehicles, public gatherings are difficult to arrange, and attract violent interventions by the police, army, and/or the CIO—the hated security service. Once people could look to the courts for justice, and, while there are still honest judges and brave magistrates, they cannot prevent the state from carrying out arbitrary imprisonment and laying false charges. The police are so badly paid that even the money which should go to feeding prisoners is misappropriated. Families, even if they had food to bring, cannot make the long journey to a prison on foot. Activists involved with the trade unions or the brave women’s movement, WOZA, are regularly beaten and threatened that a daughter, for instance, will be arrested and raped if they continue to demonstrate. While they are in jail, their medicines are withheld.
Perhaps the most wicked aspect of the state’s long and relentless persecution of all who do not conform, is the withholding of food provided by the World Food Organisation, which is distributed largely by the army. Those who do not support ZANU/PF get no food. In July 2005 the government carried out ‘Operation Murambatsvina’ in Harare, Bulawayo, and other cities, which destroyed the homes and livelihoods of 700,000 people overnight. 26,000 were aged 60 and over, over 79,000 who suffered from AIDS were displaced, 40,800 families were headed by women, as many as 300,000 children were no longer at school, and many teachers were displaced. The operation had an impact on the lived of 2.4 million people. In the Mutari alone, 50,000 people were sleeping in the eviction sites. Mugabe’s regime, pledged to rebuild and re-house those who were evicted after the report made for the UN by the admirable Anna Tibauka detailed the events. . So far, a handful of badly built homes have been allocated to the deserving ZANU/PF members, mainly in the army and the police. Meanwhile, the army has been put in charge of agriculture and of the distribution of food. This ensures the troops get fed before anyone else, but soldiers know nothing about farming, and have forced the farmers to destroy their market gardens to grow maize, which it has been a disaster for the country.
So what is the international community doing so far? The EU has imposed sanctions which consist only of preventing some 127 prominent political figures from travelling to Europe and of sequestering their assets where they can be found. Very few have any However, visits to UN sponsored events cannot be prevented, consequently Mugabe attended an FAO meeting in Rome last year while his people starved, and the food donated through the UN was being largely distributed as political largesse to ZANU/PF, which operates a calculated policy for food distribution directed against any possible opposition. There are no economic sanctions and there never have been. However, neither the IMF nor the World Bank will lend to Zimbabwe any more, and there is currently no prospect of commercial investment , given raging inflation and the breakdown of law. Zimbabwe nevertheless is building a special relationship with China, which has sold Mugabe military aircraft and buses, and is intent on acquiring platinum, cobalt and other precious metals in the mining sector.
The African Union has thus far refused to recognize that successive elections in Zimbabwe have been neither free nor fair. Until Zimbabwe accepts the Union’s voluntary peer review mechanism, the AU is unable to intervene, even in the face of the adverse economic and social consequences for the SADC countries as a result of what is happening in Zimbabwe. The AU has preferred to mandate South Africa to negotiate through so-called ‘quiet diplomacy’, first by Nigeria and South Africa, and latterly by South Africa alone, to persuade the Zimbabwe regime to rescind deeply repressive legislation and allow free elections. The AU’s own humanitarian commission visited the country in 2002, and reported adversely on human rights. The judiciary, it said, had been tainted. Tthe government had failed to act against those guilty of gross criminal acts and new laws had been passed to unfairly control and manipulate public opinion and to limit civil liberties. Zimbabwe repeatedly failed to answer these charges. At the last AU summit this year, the AU Commission’s report on the Murambatsvina was withdrawn. In the wake of the UN rapporteur’s visit, the AU Commission’s representative was expelled from Zimbabwe before he could make any observations.
There are real problems surrounding any intervention, even those made by other African states. In the affairs of Zimbabwe there are problems because of Mugabe’s status as the last so-called ‘Liberation Hero’ in Africa. South Africa has indeed quietly accepted brutal public rebuffs to COSATU (the South African trade unions) and to other tentative approaches, and indeed, no one believes there has been any but the most perfunctory quiet diplomacy until recently.. This political imperative in South Africa has been allowed to override the growing threat to the economy of both South Africa, and the SADC countries which Zimbabwe represents. Even though many consider the true Libertarian Hero to be Nelson Mandela, (who did not hesitate to call Mugabe a tyrant in the days before Mbeki succeeded him in South Africa), Mugabe is nonetheless invested with a peculiar status as the last Libertarian Hero, and is so regarded even by his victims. Thus, Mugabe continues to have strong support in the AU, where he has been urging that Africademand two seats on the Security Council with veto power, and two non-permanent seats. He will undoubtedly claim to be speaking for Africa.
The African countries have successfully prevented any discussion of Zimbabwe in the General Assembly of the UN and through their allies, notably China and Russia, have blocked all efforts for a resolution in the Security Council. The UN organs in Zimbabwe act only with the express permission of the government. For example, the morning after the Murambatsvina, a friend of mine, who had worked with her husband among the people, attempted to take food and blankets to some families. They were turned back and beaten by the police. She telephoned each UN body in Zimbabwe to ask what they were doing. They unanimously replied that they could not act unless asked to do so by the government; the same government which refused offers of tents, food and medical help.
The AU is also determined that NEPAD, the G8, the Commission for Africa and all international institutions, e.g. the IMF, the World Bank and the UN, shall not have any right to determine African policies, and shall not therefore have any standing in determining the course of events in Zimbabwe. The Commission for Africa went so far as to pander to this caveat. The 461 pages of the Commission for Africa report do not once mention Zimbabwe neither does the report on implementation. Nor do either mention possible human rights violations. In March 2006, the G8 brought itself to recognise that there was a possible human rights problem in Zimbabwe.
Equally, since Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth after the Abuja meeting in 2003, it seems to have gone off the map. This is in strong contrast to the regular and proper raising of the issue of South Africa in Commonwealth meetings during apartheid. Individual members, such as Australia and New Zealand, are fortunately supportive of the Zimbabwean’s struggle. Our own government has largely, until recently, allowed Mugabe’s to lie about sanctions. His rejection of every initiative by the UK, however low key, as a colonialist, imperialist interference, is to be taken as true. The immediate political effect of this position has been that Mugabe has been allowed to dictate the agenda.
HMG, however, has given more aid to Zimbabwe through the UN agencies which can operate on the ground better than the rest of the world put together. A recent list of donors to the UN agencies which includes WHO, UNICEF, WFP, FAO and a few NGO’s, shows that so far this year over US$221 million was given by the world, (US $73 of which was contributed by HMG). That is over one third of the world total, including the US, and it has also contributed separately through the EU. Of £38 million spent by DIFD in Zimbabwe 2005-06 most of the money contributed went to HIV/AIDS, food aid and the support of orphans and vulnerable children. All this money, however, has to be channelled through the UN agencies and NGOs, and not directly to the Zimbabwe government. It is wrong that there has been a deafening official silence about what Britain is doing to help them. For the first time this year our giving has been publicized inside Zimbabwe, and that is the right course of action. The people, whose ties with Britain are extensive, are entitled to know they are not forgotten. I believe we should go further, and allow Zimbabwean exiles who are doctors, teachers and other professionals living in Britain to work, and and thus to keep their skills so that they can contribute to Britain’s needs. Someday they can return and help rebuild their country . The people of Zimbabwe have not been able to look for help from the EU, the UN and until now, could not turn to the African Union. The situation is becoming more explosive daily. Even though these forces have been heavily politicized, we cannot rule out a military takeover by the armed forces.. Ispent there years in the Congo, where most senior officers acquired valuable mining concessions and the various militias and paramilitary forces which the army encountered were both brutal and corrupt. These soldiers, given the choice, are not likely to promote free elections.
Nevertheless, civil society in Zimbabwe is becoming more effective every day and is attracting more support for peaceful protest and real elections. The MDC, though it has split into two wings, is a legitimate political party and attracts real support in the face of intimidation. The trade unions have already begun to act. Although their entirely peaceful demonstrations have brought arrest and brutal beatings upon them , they are working with the MDC and with the National Constitutional Assembly. The women’s movement, WOZA, has gained a formidable reputation for peaceful but persistent protest on social, practical, and political issues. WOZA has paid for their actions through beatings, imprisonment(often with babies on their backs) and constant harassment. I have met a number of brave, principled, and articulate women from every walk of life who are protesting the ZANU/PF regime. Tabitha Khumalo, a vice-president of the ZCTU, was recently honoured in England as Woman of the Year for her bravery. Guguleto Moyo, and Beatrice Mtetwa,–both courageous lawyers—fought many cases in court, including that of the Daily Newsin the face of brutal intimidation. Lucia Mutibenga, another courageous vice president of the ZCTU, was badly assaulted sustaining a perforated eardrum only recently while in police custody for demonstrating. She says, rightly, that women bear the brunt of oppression and must play a major part in political reform.
With the BBC and all print media banned, however, we only know what is being done on the rare occasions when these leaders come to the UK, or where brave members of our own Parliament, like Kate Hoey, take the serious risk of entering the country under cover. Kate Hoey went to Zimbabwe last year, and filmed the devastation aweek after Murambatsvina, which was later shown on Newsnight. She took the grave risk of another undercover visit last month, and was able to meet the trade union leaders to see their condition soon after Mugabe boasted that the police were right to deal sternly with the ZCTU leaders. Kate also met with lawyers, human rights campaigners and many other active members of civil society. Churches and humanitarian NGOs are playing a major role in succouring, inspiring,, sheltering and feeding the people, and trying to bring these disastrous events to the world’s attention. There is, of course, one great man who fears nothing; who has spoken for the people in the face of every threat. He is the Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, who has recently been here and is an inspiration to all.
The TUC is now actively engaging in support for the trade unionists in Zimbabwe, and links are also being forged with trade unions in Europe
A BBC interviewer asked the archbishop why the Zimbabweans did not do more for themselves. We need to understand that Zimbabwe is a vacuum flask: there are no foreign journalists, no BBC, an ever-present CIO, state terror ruthlessly exercised. Yet the women, the workers, the churches, the lawyers, are working together and keeping the flame of hope alive. There have been individual cases of successful intervention when, for instance, one of the last honest judges, after an energetic campaign by many members of the House of Lords and by the Bar Council to support him when he sought asylum here (which has however refused) was given asylum by New Zealand without question, and is now established in the University of Auckland with his family.
All these largely unknown, but energetic and courageous people need only a very little practical help—bicycles, paper and printing facilities, a little money to keep key workers alive and mobile (Lucia Mutibenga can move about the country, for instance, only by hitch-hiking since no one has either petrol or vehicles) in order to succeed. They need to know they have friends on the outside. We did this for the ANC exiles; we should do it for Zimbabwe, where civil society remains multi-racial. For example, Roy Bennett was elected to parliament by his farm workers, despite orders to elect a ZANU/PF candidate by the government. Bennett was imprisoned for a year after pushing a ZANU/PF MP in parliament and, while in prison, his wife stood for the constituency, making them just two examples of many multi-racial unity in the face of tyranny (Bennet is now in South Africa because of trumped-up charges conspiring to kill Mugabe)., (Another of the many quiet but effective multi-racial initiatives in Blackfordby College, busily training young black farmers-to-be. I could list many more).
The great Ghanaian, Robert Gardiner, once told me that Britain gave two great gifts to Africa: the English language, which crossed all tribal frontiers, and the rule of law. We should not allow cheap and baseless accusations of colonialism and racism to prevent us from letting the people of Zimbabwe know they have our wholehearted support, and from recognizing that black and white stand together. I am glad to say that important message is beginning to go out from the TUC, where there have been successful meetings, and from civil society in the United Kingdom. There is, , also new and hopeful sign from the African Union. The SADC countries (notably South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana and Lesotho) have, at long last, recognized the damage that an implosion in Zimbabwe would do to the stability of the whole region, to its economy, and to its hopes of international investment. The Prime Minister of Lesotho, the new SADC chairman, has decided to send an action group to Harare (which will include South Africa, and has South African support) to report on the crisis there. SADC now recognises the severe economic damage already done to the region (most recently to the Rand) and these practical considerations may at last move the log-jam and persuade the AU to intervene where it has always refused to do so.
I think that what you said in the end was perhaps the only encouraging part of a pretty discouraging talk. The realization by three or four of Zimbabwe’s neighbour’s of the damage that’s being done to the region. . Mozambique is a neighbor of Zimbabwe and, although a Portuguese territory before independence, elected to join the Commonwealth. I was told the other day by the Commonwealth Secretary General, that Mozambique is playing a very lively, and effective part in Commonwealth discussions. And I wonder to what extent one can hope that Mozambique, could enhance the pressure on this little group you were referring to, in order to bring about a measure of change. I personally don’t believe that until the Grim Reaper does his work on Mugabe, there will be much change. But there can be pressure and change of various kinds. What do you think?”
Baroness Park: . “Unfortunately, I absolutely agree with you. I think we only have a very small glimmer of hope to change the current conditions in Zimbabwe But it is a major glimmer, because for all these years the African countries have been obsessed by the need to support Mugabe . And they have been completely, even despite their own commissions, unable to bring themselves to appear critical and, as they see it, to be siding with the colonialists. I quite agree with you that, until Mugabe moves on to other pastures, the prospects are not good. But what is good, is that within the last year or so we have noticed a growing determination in the country to survive. In a sense it’s not even a very political determination, it’s ordinary people saying ‘I’m not going to be done,’ and that’s true of white, and black alike. And the longer the small events can take place that give the Zimbabweans hope, the more they are likely to get together. But it is extraordinary difficult. Currently, conditions are worse than the in Soviet Union and that’s something.”
Robert Side, E-AG: “Thank you very much indeed. Lady Park, when, against all standards of natural justice, this man needs a safe exit, , have you any suggestions as to where we might put him? Or send him?
What I hope is that, by universal consent of the African countries, Mugabe will be let into great state, China or Malaysia, both of which would probably happily receive him, particularly the latter. I think sadly we will have to gracefully fall back and see him fly off in the utmost comfort because it would set back any hope of regional reorganization, if it could be said that Mugabe was being punished for being the Great War hero. Everyone will grind their teeth, including the people who have suffered. But I suspect that will have to happen, but nothing will be done by the African countries unless it can be assured that he will retire in the greatest honour and comfort. Sometimes it even seems that he thinks he’s going to go on doing it in Harare. But I think we have got to face the fact that so long as he is alive, the chances are that he won’t move away, but that if he were to move, it would have to be in great grandeur and respect.”
Dick Wallis, RN retired: “Amongst the eight key challenges identified in the recent UK defence technology study, ‘Be Safe’ (Fostering a stable international environment, reducing the threat from failed and a failing states, operating within a sound legal framework) to what extent is UK government reflecting this strategy in Zimbabwe? Do you think we should be more overtly or even covertly proactive?”
Baroness Park: “I’ll answer that one first, because it is the most complicated one. First of all, I am absolutely clear that it would be wholly wrong, let alone stupid, to do anything covert at all. It will play into Mugabe’s hands, and it would be the wrong thing to do. Also, now that HMG has started to say we are going to take action and we are not going to be frightened off by accusations of colonialism, is a big step forward.”
**All three questions are inaudible. **
Baroness Park: “China in Africa is doing extremely well. The Chinese ares setting up missions everywhere, while we are closing ours. It approaches things from a point of view which African leaders like very much—they deal with the leaders on a straight business basis, and don’t make any pretence about helping the people, or any sort of benevolent work. It’s a perfectly straightforward: we want your oil, or we would like to sell you this or that. And the reason we are held up in Darfur is because the Chinese have strong relations with the Sudanese over oil, and the Russians have ties in sending aircraft to the Sudan. Neither China nor Russia is going to do anything that is going to upset the Sudanese. And the same would probably be true with a lot of countries in Africa. China is moving in a very effective way, totally unsentimentally, and from the point of view of relations with African leaders probably successfully.”
Audience: “About Zimbabwe and the projection”
Baroness Park: “Yes. Well you are absolutely right, we do our damnedest on that, but we did manage to have this coup with Newsweek and Kate’s program. I know Jeremy Paxton and he was very lucky to get this program, and I’m glad to say he agreed with me.We do our best to put articles in Kate ___’s visit is the difference, and we managed to get a certain amount of coverage for that. But we have to face the fact that there is a kind of weariness. This has been going on for a long time. Darfur has happened, and people are also very preoccupied with terror in this country as well. So I’m afraid we just , when i was writing the speech, I thought to myself, these poor people I’m going to be spending twenty minutes filling their ears with the most depressing statistics, and it’s very difficult, because of course I could tell you some wonderful human stories, but it would take a long time and who has the patience nowadays. What’s the third one?”
Audience: What will happen after Mugabe?
Baroness Park: “It depends on the circumstances by which he goes. If he goes by negotiation (although I would hope that the people of Zimbabwe would accept him smartly, and arrest and punish a large part of his ministry) they’d have a general clean up of the country and start running it again. They’ve got plenty of skilled people to do it. And indeed, the more they are tempered by what’s been happening, the better they will be at doing governing when the time comes. They’ve got the capacity, but they are going to need a lot of help I just hope that when the time comes, we help them bilaterally and do not sit back and let the UN do it all. The UN has a natural talent for spending half of the money on the administrative overhead, and not getting to grassroots. . And grassroots is what the country needs.”
Charles Cavenagh-Mainwaring, E-AG member: Question Inaudible
Sir Bryan Thwaites, member E-AG: “I’m increasingly interested by the idea that the problems of Zimbabwe and many other nations are reflections in a way of the problems we have in our own country. I would like particularly to take up the point about the Zimbabwean Police acting more as the agents of the government, than as an agent of the population. I see this right here in central London every day, and I have a similar kind of fear that something like that may happen in Britain.. To give a specific example, I think our commissioner Ian Blair is taking on an inappropriate mission. In the last three or four weeks, I have had confrontations with individual police who have tried to tell me to do something which I thought to be quite inappropriate, and ignored them. One of these occasions was with a New Yorker and he said ‘My golly if I had said that in New York …’ So my question is, do we have potential problems of that sort in the United Kingdom?”
Baroness Park: “There was a question about the relationship between what is happening in South Africa on the issue of farms and what happened in Zimbabwe. The South Africans have learned lessons from Zimbabwe. One of them is when the Mugabe regime brought the black settlers from the tribal reserves, and settled them on the farms. Mugabe had split up commercial farms into little bits of ten hectares, and each person got ten hectares. But they didn’t have any seeds, they didn’t have any tools, and they didn’t have any money. You cannot run a farm without any capital. The settlers no longer farm didn’t know how to use the highly sophisticated machinery, and the farms were no longer able to support commercial growing. Therefore everything really collapsed. The South Africans learned the lesson that if they are going to bring Africans back into former tribal lands, and take the land from the present occupants, they must set up cooperatives so that there can be some economic results from the change. I think politically they will find it very difficult not to make the change, but I think they will go as gradually as they can. About the police, as a country we are not suffering from a lot of people telling us what to do, including the people who won’t let you call them ‘love’ because it’s insulting. I haven’t had the same experience with the police, and I still believe in them. I think they are as afflicted as us by the enormous number of rules that is flooding out from the mysterious courtrooms of the country. And I don’t think they like it very much, either.”
Ernest Mtubzi: “I’m from Zimbabwe, in the UK from 1983 up to this year. So I have some idea of what is going on in Zimbabwe, but at this time I’m not welcome there. But I’m here, I’m still sort of [in touch?] . The outside world can help, but the outside world needs to know just what type of help is needed. Inside Zimbabwe look at the potential pressure points where they can sort of concentrate. People talk about Zimbabwe here as if the people were homogeneous. They’re not. There are different individuals who any group classification. So you look at the situation and you observe what you can. You look at it and you see where you can put pressure that will affect Mugabe’s actions. Mugabe has divided the people so that we are fighting each other. Even ordinary people also are divided against one another and Mugabe is having his own way. What I’m saying is that the west can help, but they must look at the potential pressure points where Mugabe is vulnerable. It doesn’t help just to say what has happened to Zimbabwe. Look at what has to be done. Mugabe is weaker than he has ever been, provided people are aware of what can be done. So what I’m asking is if the outside world is aware of the potential pressure points that can be used on Mugabe?”
Baroness Park: “Frankly, the trouble is that there aren’t that many people in the outside world who actually want to press the pressure points. We’ve got Darfur, we’ve got Iraq, we’ve got Afghanistan, we’ve got terrorism, and Zimbabwe is just one part of that. Because Zimbabweans are what they are, they are behaving peacefully and quietly and they are not creating mayhem, or murdering and killing. And therefore I’m afraid, that there won’t be enough time for most of them. But I am glad to say that the government here is, at last, beginning to understand that it is right to make it clear that we care, we are helping, and we will help. But we haven’t yet gotten to the stage where there is any serious hope that, if you knew the pressure points, you could use them. At the moment, Mugabe is alive, and the AU has still not brought itself to say, ‘you’ve really got to let free elections to take place’. Until that happens I think it will be very difficult for many pressure points to be exercised, I’m sorry to say.”
Dennis Walker, Formerly Cabinet Minister in Rhodesia, then Deputy Chairman of Committees for the Parliament under Mugabe: “I have been involved with Zimbabwe for the last thirty-seven years. And I don’t think I have ever seen the facts drawn together as well as you have done. There are about 20,000 Chinese in Zimbabwe today, and it is right that they are mainly interested in any minerals that may be available. Zimbabwe has about twenty-three different minerals that can be exported, and most of them were exported until 1980. The other important thing, you discussed was the future of Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe deserve infinitely better than what they’ve had for the last quarter of a century. When I was talking with Douglas Home, I asked him a number of questions. He told me that in Rhodesia, there was a better relationship between black and white, than almost anywhere in the world between two different groups of people. And as my friend Ernest Mtubzi has just mentioned, the future is so important. Important that we see exactly what is required.
The idea that Zimbabwe exactly the same throughout is not true. There are different languages, and they have different cultural motivations. One of the most important things for the future is that those people, those different groups should be given the opportunity to have their own future within their own hands. Europeans went to Africa and carved out great chunks of land, and when we left we said, ‘well that was a particular country, and a particular people,’ and that is not true. If we want to see peace and prosperity in the future of Zimbabwe, I believe it has a tremendous future. Children from Rhodesia, up until 1980, had the highest pass marks of the Cambridge certificate of the whole of the Commonwealth. Those children today are adults. They know what they want, and all that’s stopping them is the barrel of a gun from a dictator. Everything that we can do to help them in the future is absolutely paramount. For instance, in North [unclear on tape] there was enough irrigation and dams built to feed the whole nation. But without the benevolence and the expertise of the white man there is no hope for Zimbabwe. There is a partnership here that needs to continue, one which I believe will see it return to being the bread basket of Africa.”
Baroness Park: “Unfortunately I think, as far as the outside world is concerned, the only simple thing we can, and must, go for, is absolutely free and fair elections. Then let the Zimbabwe people themselves start from there. That we’ve got to achieve. But until the African Union wants to achieve it, we can’t force it to happen. And the U.S. neither can make it happen, nor wants to make it happen.”
Baroness Hooper: “I think there’s time for a story from Lady Park.”
Baroness Park: “It’s and African Story. When I was serving in Zambia, and I had to drive up to the extreme corner of the country, near Angola, in order to see what was going on there. And the Governor told me I had better take a letter to the Paraman chief. He had just been ordered an MBE. I can take it to him as a credential. But he said, ‘you will remember that you may not leave his presence until he has given you a present’. And I said yes, I had been in the Congo, same thing there. So I drove off in my little Vauxhall to the corner of Angola, and I called eventually on the Paraman chief. I delivered the message that he had to come to an investiture with her majesty and then we sat, and sat, and sat in the sun, surrounded by millions of people drinking the most appalling African beer. The time went by, and I began to get very anxious for all sorts of reasons you understand. There was no sign of a present, however, no sign of gathering breaking up, either. So just as I reached the point of real desperation, there was a sort of scuffling in the crowd, and a man wriggled his way towards the chief on his tummy and handed something up to him. The Paraman chief, with an expression of enormous relief said to me “As you know, it is the custom to give a messenger a present.” And I said “Yes, Paraman chief I did know that.” “Well,” he said, “We’ve never had a messenger who was a woman before.” So I said sternly, “the Queen is a woman, and your daughter is a chief.” “Oh yes,” he said, “That’s not the problem.” He said “How could we possibly give you any of the presents we had in store? How could we give you a spear? Or a shield? Or anything useful like that? We had to have a special present made for you, it has taken all day. But here it is.” And it was a hoe. It was the only time in my life I have ever been discriminated against.”
Baroness Hooper: “Baroness Park, thank you very much, that was brilliant, a most comprehensive survey of the appalling state of affairs in Zimbabwe. A very black picture but with a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. So this gives us an opportunity, no I imagine that they will wish to clear the tables and put down the coffee? Or we’ll wait for coffee until afterwards, alright? We’ll have the discussion first. I would ask anybody who, I’ll remain standing so that people can catch my eye, and I can see who wants to contribute to the discussion and I would be most grateful if everybody who speak would state their name and their provenance and then go ahead. But to embark upon the discussion I am very happy to be able to call on one of our long-standing and notable members, who also has great experience with Africa, Sir Michael Palliser.”
Michael Palliser: “Thank you very much, I too propose to sit. Because it’s rather like sardines here and I think if I try to rise everybody else would rise with me. It’s a particular pleasure for me to be here to listen to Daphne Park today because she and I have been friends for seven years and we both were in Africa in the early 60’s, she in the Congo and I in West Africa. And I had hoped she wouldn’t mind my repeating a little thing that I had mentioned to her earlier, in an article written in the Observer, if I had gotten it from an article, about those who were serving in Africa. She was referred to, she was driving a Morris Minor at the time, no she wasn’t, she was referred to as a very large lady in a very little motorcar. And that has remained with me over the years as an affectionate reminder of Daphne. She of course was in a service which nowadays is greatly talked about, but in those days, didn’t exist. I was a conventional diplomat, but it didn’t prevent us from getting together and learning a great deal together. Daphne I think that what you said in the end was perhaps the only encouraging part of a pretty discouraging talk. The getting together of three or four of Zimbabwe’s neighbour’s in a realization of damage that’s being done to the region. And I think in particular of Mozambique. A neighbour, a country in which although a Portuguese territory, before independence, elected to join the Commonwealth, and I was told the other day by the Commonwealth Secretary General, is playing a very lively and effective part in Commonwealth discussions. And I wonder to what extent one can hope that Mozambique, whose President incidentally I think is going to be here quite shortly, could sort of, honestly I don’t think they’ll want to act sort of independently, but could enhance the pressure on this little group you were referring to. To try and bring about a measure of change. I personally don’t believe that until the Grim Reaper does his work on Mugabe, there will be much change. But there can be pressure and change of various kinds. What do you think?”
Baroness Park: “Oh, sorry. Well unfortunately I absolutely agree with you. I think it is only a very small glimmer of hope we have. But it is a major one, because for all these years the African countries have been obsessed by the need to support Mugabe as a human being. And they have been completely, even despite their own commissions, unable to bring themselves to appear critical. And as they see it, to be siding with the colonialists. And I quite agree with you, until Mugabe moves on to other pastures, the prospects are not good. But what is good, is that within the last year or so I think, that we have noticed a growing in the country of a determination to survive. In a sense it’s not even a very political determination, it’s ordinary people saying ‘I’m not going to be done’ and that’s true of the white ones and the black ones alike. And the longer the more small events can take place that give them hope, the more they are likely I think, to go on getting together. But it is extraordinary difficult, it’s worse than the Soviet Union was to those in the Soviet Union and that’s something.”
Baroness Hooper: “My eye has not been caught. I would like to take two or three questions at a time. If that’s possible. So the gentleman on my left and then the gentleman on my right and the third hand. If you’ll hold your hand up so that Raymond knows where to go. With the roving mike.”
Robert Side, E-AG: “Thank you very much indeed. Lady Park, when against all standards of natural justice this man needs a safe exit, as indeed does happen, have you any suggestions as to where we might put him? Or send him?”
Dick Wallis, RN retired: “Amongst the eight key challenges identified in the recently released UK defence technology study ‘Be Safe’ : Fostering a stable international environment, reducing the threat from failed and a failing states, operating within a sound legal framework, to what extent is UK government reflecting this strategy, for example in Zimbabwe? Or do you think we should be more overtly or even covertly proactive?
Baroness Park: I’ll answer that one first, because it is the most complicated one. First of all, I am absolutely clear that it would be wholly wrong, let alone stupid, to do anything covert at all. It will play into Mugabe’s hands, and it would be the wrong thing to do anyway. As well as that, quite frankly, now that HMG has started a lot to come out and say we are doing things and we are going to go on doing them and we are not going to be frightened off by accusations of colonialism. That is already a big step forward I think.
Where to go?
That’s the next point, what I hope is that by universal consent of the African countries, he will be led in great state, China or Malaysia, both of which would probably happily receive him. Malaysia particularly. And I think sadly we will have to gracefully fall back and see him fly off in the utmost comfort because I don’t think, I think it would set back any real hope of real reorganization of the region, if it could be said that Mugabe was being punished for being the great war hero. Everyone will grind their teeth, including the people who have suffered. But I suspect that will be the deal, but nothing will be done by the African countries unless it can be assured that he will retire in the greatest honour and comfort, somewhere. Sometimes it even seems that he thinks he’s going to go on doing it in Harare. That surprised me, I must say, although he has had a wonderful large house built by the Chinese. But I think we have got to face the fact that so long as he is alive, the chances are that he won’t move anyway, but that if he were to move it would have to be in great grandeur and respect. And only then would he be able to turn to and feel with his loathsome acolytes who do not enjoy the same, protection from the people.”