THE British government this week insisted that President Emmerson Mnangagwa must bring to book perpetrators of human rights violations, as well as implement substantive political and economic reforms if it is to get international support.
Armed police ruthlessly clamped down on protesters who gathered in Harare’s city centre for the banned MDC-organised peaceful protests on August 16, using teargas, water cannon and batons.
Police also blocked the planned protests in other cities. Several activists have been abducted and tortured by suspected state agents. The brutal clampdown and abductions have been condemned globally.
The United States, Australia, European Union, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania and Sweden are among the countries which have condemned the brutality.
Speaking in the British Parliament on Tuesday this week, British Minister for Africa Andrew Stephenson said London’s support depends on reforms by Mnangagwa’s government.
“We are gravely concerned at the heavy-handed response to protests in Harare on 16 August, and the recent arrest and abductions of opposition figures,” Stephenson said.
“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.”
Member of Parliament for Vauxhall and chaiperson of the all-party group on Zimbabwe, Kate Hoey, asked Stephenson what Britain is doing to get the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to condemn the clampdown on protestors.
“Does the minister agree that any semblance of the rule of law has now broken down in Zimbabwe? We saw that just last week when a peaceful protest was banned at the very last minute by Mnangagwa,” Hoey said.
“What more are Her Majesty’s Government doing to get the Southern African Development Community and the African Union on board to make their views known about the appalling way that Mnangagwa is treating the people of Zimbabwe?”
In response, Stephenson said: “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.”
MP for Mid Sussex Nicholas Soames sought assurances that the British government will continue to support education in Zimbabwe despite expressing its “horror” at the governance of Mnangagwa.
“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?” Soames asked.
“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?”
In response to Soames, Stephenson emphasised that the decision to extend support to Harare will be predicated on reforms.
“The UK provided £94 million (US$116 million) of aid to Zimbabwe in 2018-19. None of that money is channeled 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,” Stephenson told Parliament.