THE BRITISH government has reiterated its readiness to support President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration if they fulfil their promises of reform that were made when the late former president Robert Mugabe fell from power in 2017.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday at the weekend, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melanie Robinson, said London had taken note of the positive law reforms that had been undertaken by Harare.
However, she warned, sanctions would remain in place if Zimbabwean authorities failed to commit to the promises that Mnangagwa made when he swept into office following Mugabe’s dramatic ouster via a popular military coup in November 2017.
“For the situation to improve, Zimbabwe needs to implement the political and economic reforms set out by … Mnangagwa when he came to office.
“Central to this will be ending the use of repressive and coercive techniques which limit Zimbabweans’ fulfilment of their rights under the Zimbabwean Constitution.
“The UK continues to be concerned by the continued poor human rights environment in Zimbabwe,” Robinson told the Daily News On Sunday.
“Examples of this include the State’s response to the protests in August 2018 and January 2019, including the death of protesters and, after the fuel protests, dragnet arrests,” she said.
Other issues of concern to London were the lack of accountability for these actions, including the limited implementation of the Motlanthe Commission’s recommendations, as well as the “heavy-handed approaches in the ongoing cases against journalists and opposition political activists”.
Similarly, allegations of abductions by State agents, “with no credible evidence or follow up allowing that possibility to be dismissed” were also of major concern to the United Kingdom.
“However … as we look back on the last three years, our overriding sense is that important opportunities for deeper and longer lasting political and economic reform have been and continue to be missed.
“And that it is these reforms which will be most important to Zimbabwe’s future,” Robinson further told the Daily News On Sunday.
But she emphasised that her government remained committed to seeing Zimbabwe succeed, and in that regard, she was in constant touch with authorities to remind them about their promises to the world.
She also said her government had noted that Mnangagwa’s administration had made some positive reforms to the law.
“I continue to have frank and open conversations with … ministers and senior officials, most recently with … Foreign minister SB Moyo on December 3 and … Justice minister Ziyambi on December 10.
“They raise where progress has been made and, of course, it’s important to acknowledge that some of the most repressive laws of the past such as Posa (Public Order Security Act) have been repealed.
“The country has started to achieve a level of macro-economic stability, including through setting up a currency auction and starting to remove distorting subsidies in fuel and agriculture.
“The creation of an investment agency, ZIDA (Zimbawe Investment and Development Agency), has the potential to unlock some of Zimbabwe’s investment opportunities,” Robinson further told the Daily News On Sunday.
She, however, warned that in the absence of meaningful and tangible reforms, the British government would support the current sanctions regime on Zimbabwe.
“UK sanctions will be retained as long as the human rights situation in Zimbabwe justifies them.
“As we prepare for the end of the transition period, ministers are now considering our approach to our future sanctions regime in Zimbabwe.
“They will do so in the context of the new Magnitsky-style regime that focuses on serious human rights violations or abuses,” Robinson warned further.
In November 2017, days after Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president, British prime minister Boris Johnson also said the UK was ready to work with Harare as long as authorities lived up to their promises of reform.
“Recent events in Zimbabwe offer a moment of hope for the country and its people.
“This is a time to look to the future and to make clear that Britain shares the common vision of a prosperous, peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe.
“I am encouraged by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s words so far.
“During his inauguration speech, he promised to reform the economy and give investors the security of title they need if Zimbabwe is to fulfil its potential and create the jobs that are sorely needed.
“For as long as the president acts on his words, then Britain is willing to work alongside him and offer all the support we can,” Johnson said ahead of the European Union and Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire.
Johnson was still Foreign Secretary at the time.
This comes as Mnangagwa and his administration have been accused of blowing the international goodwill which followed the fall of Mugabe from power in November 2017, via a stunning and widely-supported military coup.
Mnangagwa stands accused of failing to fulfill most of the promises that he made when he assumed power.
However, his government has also been credited with expunging some repressive laws from the statute books that were routinely used by Mugabe’s regime to punish political opponents and independent media like the Daily News.
Among the laws that have been scrapped are the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Posa.
In addition, Mnangagawa has been praised for trying to end years of chaos in the agricultural sector by restoring farming rights that were taken away during Mugabe’s ruinous reign.
In this regard, the government recently signed a US$3,5 billion Global Compensation Agreement with white former commercial farmers, while also announcing that all farmers who lost their land protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) would either be compensated or have their land titles restored.
* Read the full interview with Robinson on Pages 8 & 9.