Hon Kindness Paradza
I rise to inform this House that, on 27 October, the British House of Lords, conducted yet another of their meandering debates on the situation in Zimbabwe.
The fascination with Zimbabwe continues — reflecting, sadly, Their Lordships lingering nostalgia for an Empire forever lost and, perhaps, their frustration with the inescapable truth of ever-dwindling British influence across the swathes of territory where, it was once said, that the sun never set.
This was yet another manifestation of the mindset illustrated by Lord Adrian Palmer, in 2019, when he advocated that Zimbabwe’s problems could only be resolved by way of British re-colonisation.
No doubt, having delivered this gem of policy advice to his fellow peers — all unelected by the way — the Venerable Lord must have returned to the members’ bar where, one assumes, he had already spent a large portion of his day.
Even sadder, Mr Speaker, is the evident disdain, condescension and ill-will their lordships harbour towards the Government of Zimbabwe: and the deep-rooted ignorance of our situation reflected in many of their questions and observations.
Note how the UK — and others — always speak of their support for the people of Zimbabwe — they never speak of their support for the Government of Zimbabwe. They always profile the millions of dollars of humanitarian assistance they dispense in Zimbabwe.
British assistance is a fact and we are grateful for it. But, none of it is channelled through Government.
One assumes that, somewhere along the line, the funds are audited and accounted-for. As Government, we are not privy to that information.
Their message, though, is that we, the British, are assisting you, the people of Zimbabwe, because your own Government is failing to do so. . .
So, whilst they subtly seek to drive wedges between the people and the Government, they also seek to intensify the pressure on Government by way of sanctions or what they call “restrictive measures”.
In this approach, they are mirroring the sentiment reflected in the now-infamous utterances of the former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr Chester Crocker when he testified before the US Senate, advocating the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
He said: “To separate the Zimbabwean people from ZANU PF, we are going to have to make their economy scream, and I hope you, senators, have the stomach for what you have to do.”
The platitudinous and largely repetitive responses from Baroness Sugg — Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the British Foreign Office — to comments and questions from Their lordships, reflect, also, the distance which the British government deliberately maintains towards the New Dispensation; and their stubborn refusal to acknowledge or recognise any of the progress achieved by Government since it assumed office in November, 2017.
Of note is that the baroness chose to inform the venerable house that the UK is currently in the process of considering future sanctions on Zimbabwe — once it departs from the European Union and now that it has armed itself with its own “Sanctions and Money-Laundering Act”.
Notably, one of the principal items of interest in the debate was the arrest of Henrietta Rushwaya. But their lordships’ focus was more on the fact that the lady-in-question is said to be a relative of His Excellency the President than on the swift and commendable actions of law-enforcement agencies to arrest, detain and arraign her before the courts on serious charges of corruption, fraud and smuggling.
Their lordships spent quite some time on the issue of corruption in Zimbabwe. One eminent peer, Lord St John of Bletso, stated that there have been “no prosecutions for corruption” in Zimbabwe and even asked what measures the British government was taking to get South Africa to get involved in Zimbabwean affairs.
It is this kind of ignorance, served up with characteristic British arrogance and condescension which, I believe, Mr Speaker, all Zimbabweans — from whatever political persuasion they might hail — should find deeply offensive, intrusive and completely unacceptable.
We note — without comment, Mr Speaker — serious and, to our knowledge, as yet unresolved allegations of gross corruption with regard to the award of Covid-19-related contracts to companies “closely linked to senior figures in the (UK) Government”: with at least two multi-million pound contracts being awarded to “dormant companies”.
Let me also point out, Mr Speaker, that the Corporate Tax Haven Index published by the Tax Justice Network shows that the three countries that have done the most to facilitate tax fraud, tax avoidance and tax-related grand theft are the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands — all of them British territories.
Jersey, a British dependency, comes seventh on the list. All are satellites of the city of London: astonishingly, the city of London is “exempt” from the UK’s freedom of information laws — creating further layers of secrecy and opportunities for all manner of nefarious activity.
Their lordships and the baroness spent time, as well, on the issue of human rights in Zimbabwe — and on the issue of “people being held accountable for their actions”.
We note — without comment, Mr Speaker — the UN’s criticism of the British government’s “continuing failure” to meet obligations in the UN Convention against Torture. We note — also without comment — the UK’s reversal of its previous promise to establish an independent inquiry into allegations of complicity, torture and ill-treatment of detainees held by other countries in counter-terrorism operations.
Finally, Mr Speaker, we note — without comment — the fact that the UK has yet to conduct a human-rights compliant inquiry or to introduce other accountability measures for alleged abuses perpetrated by the British armed forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.
Mr Speaker, the British government continually criticises our Government on issues to do with media freedoms and so on.
Not a single word was heard from their local embassy, or indeed from London, when AIPPA was repealed and replaced with the Freedom of Information Act.
And yet the honourable lords have always had lots to say about media freedom in Zimbabwe. We note — without comment, Mr Speaker — the recent formal warning issued by the Council of Europe to the British government for threatening press freedom, “after it blacklisted a group of investigative journalists and denied them access to information”.
We note also, that the UK has slipped to 35th place in the World Press Freedom Index — down 2 places since 2019: and below countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Costa Rica.
What we are saying, Mr Speaker, is that whilst the UK is wallowing in its own problems to do with Brexit, their Covid-19 response, economic decline and so on, their lordships might well be advised to direct their attention and their opinions to their own internal problems — and to keep out of our affairs in Zimbabwe.
We have no problem with criticism : but let it be constructive NOT destructive in nature. Let it be evidence-based and factual, NOT based on social-media hype and fabrication.
And let it be conveyed on the basis of mutual respect and courtesy, NOT in the form of prescription and dictation, from a master to an underling.
Sadly for their lordships and their rule Britannia mind-set, that ship not only sailed long, long ago, but it has completely vanished from view and will never return to these shores.
The above is a statement presented on Thursday to the House of Assembly by Cde kindness Paradza, chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio on Foreign Affairs and International Trade