Donnelly to quit in July


Dumisani Muleya

BRITISH ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sir Brian Donnelly, frequently accused of political subversion by government, will be leaving in July, it has been confirmed.



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Sir Brian is set to leave after completing his stormy three-year tour of duty in a country that has been locked in a major dispute with its former colonial master. London and Harare have been feuding over repression and human rights abuses, as well as the chaotic land reform in Zimbabwe.



British embassy spokesperson Sophie Honey said Sir Brian was expected to “move on” after his tenure expired.


“The ambassador is due to complete his three-year posting in July and will be expected to move on shortly afterwards,” Honey said this week.

The crack British diplomat came to Zimbabwe in 2001 from Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia where he served at the height of the 1999 Kosovo war with a difficult assignment to improve prickly relations between London and Harare.


No sooner had he settled into his office than he found himself in confrontation with the belligerent regime of Robert Mugabe that had just won a bitterly fought parliamentary election against the newly-formed labour-backed Movement for Democratic Change.


Sir Brian, who took over from an equally combative Peter Longworth, became a subject of regular attack in the state media where he was branded an MI6 operative.


Last June, Mugabe threatened him with expulsion claiming he had collaborated with the opposition MDC to organise rolling mass action against government.


“We know that the British have been behind it. They are giving them money, we know that,” Mugabe said. “This guy called Mr Donnelly (sic), if he continues doing it, we will kick him out of this country.”


Despite endless official hissing, Sir Brian remained defiant. Last August he said Britain would continue to speak out against oppression and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe regardless of colonial and other forms of blackmail against London.


Donnelly said since he came to Zimbabwe the political and economic situation had dramatically deteriorated.


“Two years have now passed since I arrived in Zimbabwe. It has been a roller-coaster ride, with plenty of ups and downs and with seatbelts fastened most of the time,” he said last August.


“Among the ups: prices – of almost everything, the number of people needing food assistance, political violence and polarisation, violations of human rights.”


Sir Brian said the downs included “economic growth, maize, wheat and tobacco production, fuel supplies, foreign trade and investment, the value of the Zim dollar, standards of healthcare and education, and tolerance.


“In short, by almost any measure, Zimbabwe is much worse off now than when I arrived,” he said.