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UK presses ED over reforms



A UNITED Kingdom (UK) special envoy yesterday challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to introduce genuine economic and political reforms in order to turn around its stuttering economy.

Harriet Matthews, director for Africa in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Debbie Palmer, director for West and Southern Africa in the UK Department for International Development, yesterday delivered a special message to Mnangagwa from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Addressing journalists after meeting Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa Offices, Matthews said Harare should also urgently tackle corruption in the country.

“The government needs to implement genuine reforms, (that is) economic and political reforms. (It also needs) to address human rights issues and corruption,” she said.

Hope that Mnangagwa would arrest Zimbabwe’s economic decline after succeeding long-time ruler, the late Robert Mugabe, who was removed by the army in a coup in November 2017, disappeared after the killing of six civilians in the post-election violence of August 1 last year.

In January, 17 civilians were killed and thousands others injured by gunfire as State security agents crushed public protests after Mnangagwa increased fuel prices by 150%, raising fears that the country was sliding back into the dark days reminiscent of the Mugabe regime. None of the perpetrators have been held accountable despite international pressure.

Recently, there has been an increase in reports of abductions of civil leaders and political opponents, including Tatenda Mombeyarara and Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association leader Peter Magombeyi as government clamps down on dissent.

Mnangagwa and the Zanu PF party have blamed Western sanctions for the economic and social crises facing Zimbabwe, which has seen prices of basic commodities skyrocketing while the local currency continues to lose value against stronger currencies amid a serious cash shortage.

The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee rural livelihood assessment estimated 59% (5 529 000 people) of the population to be food insecure, with limited access to food at the peak hunger period (January-March 2020).

Matthews said the UK government was going to increase its humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe.

“The deteriorating humanitarian situation is concerning. For example, 50% of the population is going to need food assistance by 2020,” she said.

The two British envoys were also expected to meet civic groups and other political players.

Foreign Affairs permanent secretary James Manzou said the government was grateful for the humanitarian assistance being extended by the UK to Zimbabwe.

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