British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said embattled President Robert Mugabe will be remembered for “the brutal litany of his 37 years in office”.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Johnson was on Wednesday asked in the House of Commons by Labour Party MP Kate Hoey to make an urgent statement on the situation in Zimbabwe.
Johnson’s statement to Parliament was followed by an address by British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday, where she described the situation in Zimbabwe as “still fluid”, while urging restraint on all sides in
“The events of the last 24 hours are the latest escalation of months of brutal infighting within the ruling Zanu PF party, including the sacking of a vice-president, the purging of his followers and the apparent positioning of Grace Mugabe as a contender to replace 93-year-old husband,” Johnson said.
“Honourable Members on all sides of the House have taken a deep interest in Zimbabwe for many years — and I pay tribute to the courage and persistence of the Honourable Member for Vauxhall, who has tirelessly exposed the crimes of the Mugabe regime, visiting the country herself during some of its worst moments.”
Johnson said the House could not tell how developments in Zimbabwe would play out in the days ahead and whether this marked the downfall of Mugabe or not.
“In that spirit, all that Britain has ever wanted is for Zimbabweans to be able to decide their own future in free and fair elections. Mugabe’s consuming ambition was always to deny them that choice,” he said.
“The House will remember the brutal litany of his 37 years in office: the elections he rigged and stole, the murder and torture of his opponents, the illegal seizure of land, leading to the worst hyperinflation in recorded history — measured in billions of percentage points — and forcing the abolition of the Zimbabwean dollar.”
The British Foreign Affairs secretary accused Mugabe’s followers of looting and plundering the richly endowed country.
“Zimbabweans today are, per capita, poorer than they were at independence in 1980, leaving many dependent on the health care, education and food aid provided by the Department for International Development,” he said.
Johnson said the British Embassy in Harare had been monitoring the situation carefully throughout the night (of the disturbances), supported by staff in the Foreign Office, adding that about 20 000 Britons live in Zimbabwe and so far, they were all safe.
He said he would do everything to ensure Zimbabweans decide their own future.
Hoey then asked Johnson to explain to the House if it was not a coup to ensure that former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa takes over.
“Although it is not a coup to ensure that the military want to run the country, it is a coup to ensure that former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa takes over. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that changing from one ruthless leader to another ruthless leader will not help to create the conditions that can lead to genuinely free and fair elections in the coming year, and will not solve a dire economic situation in which thousands of people are destitute and food is scarce?” Hoey queried.
Johnson said it was too early to comment on the outcome of the events in Zimbabwe, or to be sure how things would unfold.