Zimbabwe Debate

During a debate on the political situation in Zimbabwe, Neil Parish recounts his experiences as an election observer in the 2000 election and calls for election observers sent to observe the anticipated national elections this year to be in place well before the election takes place.Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I thank the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) for securing this debate, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) and others for their contributions. I believe that Zimbabwe has a place in all our hearts. I am a former farmer. I visited Zimbabwe as an election observer for the European Union in 2000 and fell in love with the country. Its politics are a disaster. It is not about race or creed; it is about politics-and the man, basically a madman, who is destroying the country. I find it amazing that over the years the people of Zimbabwe have been able to stand the pressure, yet there is still some semblance of what is right and wrong, of what is law, despite all that ZANU-PF and Mugabe have done.I emphasise the need for election observers to be in Zimbabwe quite early in the process. I was in Zimbabwe in 2000, when MDC first came to the fore; it would have won the election, no two ways about it, had it not been for the fear and intimidation. We should not forget the re-education camps out in the countryside; basically, they get hold of a population and re-educate them to ensure that they vote for ZANU-PF. They dig trenches and put coffins in them, and then make the people walk across them saying, \\If you don't vote for ZANU-PF, that's where you'll land up-in that coffin.\\ The guys that have been doing all this beating up and intimidation are then found sitting in the polling stations on election day, watching people come in to vote. I cannot believe what the people of Zimbabwe have to go through.I remember that one of the returning officers in Harare in 2000 was a school headmistress. She went along to the polling station and hoiked out all the ZANU-PF polling agents. In those days she would have had the power and audacity to do that, but ever since, of course, it is being broken down. That is why we have to get election observers in there, and we have to get them in reasonably early so that we can see what is going on.The electoral roll will be completely manipulated, as it was back in 2000. Then it had been worked out that most of those who would vote for the MDC were more educated and moved around Zimbabwe a lot, so no one was allowed to re-register. In that way, they managed to exclude an awful lot of the population. Not only were 25% or 30% unable to vote, but they found reasons to exclude anyone that they thought would vote for the MDC.We are rightly giving aid to Zimbabwe, but we must put some conditions on that aid. There must be some form of governance. We in the UK are in a coalition, are we not; but how on earth would a coalition work in Zimbabwe? We in the Conservative party might think, \\Right, we don't like what the Liberal Democrats are doing, so we'll arrest them all and put them in jail, especially if there's a vote and we think we're likely to lose it in Parliament. Let's lock 'em all up. It's a very good form of democracy, isn't it? You make sure you win the vote by arresting the opposition.\\ It is not any form of coalition or democratic Government as we know it. That is where things are going horribly wrong in Zimbabwe.Then there are all the farms in Zimbabwe that are being given to the so-called \\war veterans\\. Some of them look remarkably young if they are war veterans from the 1970s. Most of them are probably in their 30s or 40s-there is no way that they are war veterans. I will be quite blunt: they are a bunch of thugs, basically, hired by Mugabe to go round and destroy these farms. Of course, once they get the farms, there is another problem. They drive off not only the farmers themselves but the farm workers, and we should not forget that these farms are homesteads that include a school and a medical centre. These farms are communities in themselves and everyone is driven off them, leaving nobody to farm them. The machinery is destroyed and the cattle are killed, and the whole process just brings about a degradation of agriculture. Instead of Zimbabwe being the bread basket of Africa, it is now receiving food aid. That is just impossible to believe.I know the Minister will say how difficult the situation is, and it is very difficult. I am fairly hawkish about these matters. Let me be blunt: if we had enough armed forces I would be quite happy to see some of them sent to Zimbabwe, but that is not going to happen and I am a realist in that respect. Nevertheless, we must face up to the fact that the Chinese are going into Zimbabwe with their own work force. If they want to take out minerals, they take away the hill that the minerals are in and it just disappears from Zimbabwe and goes back to China. That is what the Chinese are about. They are not investing in Zimbabwe for the right reasons and we must be clear about that, because what we need is investment-good international investment-in Zimbabwe. However, who will provide that investment while the farms are being repossessed? In fact, the thugs are now fed up because there is not enough wealth to find on the farms, so they go into the cities, such as Harare and Bulawayo, and that is the problem. They are destroying the businesses that people should be investing in.I say to the Minister with all sincerity that, however difficult it is to do so, when we give support to Zimbabwe let us actually try to bring about a democratic change, because when we can get some form of reasonable governance in Zimbabwe the people of Zimbabwe will be more than ready for it. They will work together. That country, which is a highly educated country, will prosper. Perhaps in some way, that is where Mugabe went wrong: he educated people in Zimbabwe, and they could then find out that there was a better way to run and rule their country. I urge the Minister to bring about genuine change in Zimbabwe, and we will give him all the help we can.| Hansard