PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-engagement process will stall if his government does not implement critical political reforms and bring to account securocrats accused of fronting an assault on human rights in Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom government has said.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The UK, a critical partner in unlocking debt relief, investment and Mnangagwa’s re-engagement policy with the West, has adopted a tough stance against Zimbabwe, saying if the reforms were not implemented, the support would not come.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, UK Minister of Africa Andrew Stephenson said he had told Mnangagwa that human rights violations must end, and perpetrators brought to book and political reforms implemented for support to come.
“We are gravely concerned at the heavy-handed response to protests in Harare on August 16 and the recent arrest and abductions of opposition figures. President Mnangagwa must hold to account those responsible for human rights violations. We have made our position clear to the Zimbabwe government that UK support depends on fundamental political and economic reform. Zimbabwe must now translate its commitment into actions,” Stephenson said.
In a show that gloves are off, British MP, Sir Nicholas Soames, during a question and answer session, described Mnangagwa as a disappointment, who allegedly runs the country with the help of a “gang of thugs”.
“Does my honourable friend agree that President Mnangagwa and his administration have been a grave disappointment to this country and, indeed, to their own countrymen? Does he, nevertheless, also agree that the aid we give to Zimbabwe, particularly the DFID aid that goes into education, is absolutely vital and plays an extraordinarily good role in Zimbabwean education? Will he assure me that at the same time as keeping up the pressure on human
rights and making absolutely clear our horror at the behaviour of President Mnangagwa and his gang of thugs, we will continue to support the education system in Zimbabwe?” Soames asked.
The UK government has since last year provided close to £100 million in humanitarian aid, but mostly through non-governmental organisations which Stephenson said would depend on how Mnangagwa’s government behaved.
“The UK provided £94 million of aid to Zimbabwe in 2018-19. None of that money is channelled through the Zimbabwe government. I reiterate the point that the UK’s ongoing support through our DFID work depends on fundamental political and economic reform in Zimbabwe,” he said.
The UK said it would not rest until the human rights violations in Zimbabwe were arrested and those behind them brought to justice.
“We are very concerned about the current human rights issues in that country. The violations, such as those seen in January and August 2019, have no place in a democratic society. We will continue to work with all international partners to ensure that those responsible are held to account,” Stephenson said.
The European Union and the United States have also adopted a tough stance on Zimbabwe, saying relations would not change unless there was respect for human rights, justice for victims of State-sponsored violence and political reforms.
Unable to get new lines of credit and facing high inflation, critical shortages of fuel, power and other basics, Zimbabwe is edging on the brink of collapse without help.
Mnangagwa is, however, enjoying the support of Sadc and the African Union which has joined hands with him in demanding the West to unconditionally remove sanctions against Zimbabwe.