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Zim could slide back to crisis: UK MPs

HARARE- Zimbabwe’s political transition remains fragile and the country could slide back into crisis, a British parliamentary delegation has said, adding that only free and fair elections to choose a new government could secure long-term stability in London’s former colony. 

In a report presented to the House of Commons on Thursday the British parliamentarians, who were in Zimbabwe for the past two weeks, called for more humanitarian support for the country but said Western visa and financial restrictions on President Robert Mugabe and his allies should stay until the unity government moves to uphold human rights and democracy. 

“Until free and fair elections can take place, without intimidation and violence, progress will be limited and could be halted or reversed at any time,” the report said. 

The United Kingdom (UK) parliamentarians welcomed the year-old coalition governmentâ’s success in stabilising the economy after a decade-long meltdown but decried continued violence in the country which has seen white commercial farmers continue to lose their land to supporters of Mugabe’s ZANU PF party. 

“We welcome the global political agreement which, although far from perfect, created the basis for formation of the government of national unity. However, violence and intimidation, bad government and destruction of the economy have forced millions of people to leave Zimbabwe. 

Many others have been displaced from their homes and are now refugees in their own country. There have been welcome signs of economic recovery under the inclusive government,” the committee chaired by Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce said in its report. 

According to the report, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) is a leading donor in Zimbabwe as it has to date allocated £60 million for humanitarian and development assistance in the country in 2009-10. 

The legislator’s report concluded that the international community’s longer-term focus should be on strengthening the capacity of the government of national unity so that it is better placed to determine its own development priorities and to deliver them. 

“The inclusive government needs to move to a position where it can meet the needs of the Zimbabwean people. All elements within the government must demonstrate that their main aim is to ensure people receive basic services like health and education and are allowed to earn a living. 

“The continuing political violence and harassment is not compatible with this. The global political agreement must be fully implemented and all parties must be allowed to function without intimidation. We also believe that progress on human rights and democracy must be demonstrated before all the EU’s restrictive measures placed on named individuals and organisations in Zimbabwe can be lifted.” 

Former political enemies Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing agreement in September 2008 following an inconclusive election. Under the pact – also known as the global political agreement – that led to formation of the unity government last year, a new election should be held after the drafting of a new democratic constitution to ensure a free and fair vote. 

But the constitutional reform process is lagging behind schedule which could mean that the new vote that was initially expected in 2011 will have to be delayed to probably 2012 or 2013. 

The unity government’s economic success has also been tainted by a dispute between Tsvangirai and Mugabe over how to share executive power, senior appointments and security sector reforms which is holding back the administration and threatening to render it ineffective. 

The unity government’s failure to win financial support from Western powers and multilateral institutions has also crippled its efforts to rebuild an economy shattered by a decade of political strife and acute recession. ZimOnline