SIR Nicholas Soames who is also Winston Churchill’s grandson has defended holding a personal meeting with dictator Robert Mugabe while on a visit to Zimbabwe.
The veteran Conservative MP, who has held the Mid Sussex seat since 1997, met Mugabe, above, last week.
He said he arranged the meeting so he could reminisce about his father’s role as the last governor of Southern Rhodesia.
He said they met for old times’ sake, adding: “It was purely for Auld Lang Syne and I’m glad I did it.”
The politician has come in for criticism for the meeting. Mugabe is regarded as a dictator and has been responsible for human rights abuses, economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, anti-white racial discrimination and crimes against humanity.
Labour MP Kate Hoey called Sir Nicholas’s visit a “body blow” to people who had suffered under the Mugabe regime.
The 93-year-old president has been quoted in Zimbabwean press reports saying Sir Nicholas’s visit showed the British wanted dialogue with his country.
Ms Hoey, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, said it had given him a “huge fillip”. She said “You can’t have a private visit which is then front page of the newspapers in Zimbabwe.”
She said she would urge ministers to make clear Sir Nicholas had not been visiting on their behalf.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Nicholas said his father Christopher Soames would not have forgiven him had not tried to “call on” the president. The late Lord Soames oversaw transition to the independent state of Zimbabwe in 1979 and 1980.
Sir Nicholas said the UK had “terrible unresolved issues” with Zimbabwe, but described the meeting as “a historic moment for me and my family”.
To Ms Hoey’s criticism it would “pander to the vanity of a wily and ruthless dictator”, he said: “I met him purely and entirely in a personal capacity.” – The Argus