ZANU PF activists in UK ‘misrepresenting’ policy on political activity
By Tererai Karimakwenda
LONDON – Political activists representing ZANU PF in the UK have been accused of ‘misusing’ statements from the Foreign Office to promote a positive image of the disputed July 31st elections, as well as lobby for the removal of targeted sanctions.
The allegations followed comments made over the weekend by ZANU PF activist Nick Mangwana in London, reassuring their party followers in the UK that they had been “cleared” to conduct political activity without fear of being victimised.
A report on the New Zimbabwe website quoted Mangwana as saying: “After many years of threats, covert and overt retributive actions against people who were perceived to be ZANU PF supporters and cadres, the British government has now given its assurance for their protection.”
Mangwana was referring to letter that was sent to him by Mark Simmonds, Britain’s Minister for Africa, in response to questions submitted by ZANU PF, asking “whether there would be any objections to ZANU PF activity here in the UK”.
Simmonds replied: “There would be no bar on your activities here in the UK, providing they do not contravene UK law, as is the case for any political party.”
Despite this very clear statement, Mangwana is quoted as saying: “The steering committee wishes to extend this assurance to cadres that they don’t need to operate under the radar. It’s okay to join the very fashionable ZANU PF UK openly.”
But according to Rose Benton from the Zimbabwe Vigil pressure group in London,
ZANU PF was never banned or barred from conducting their political activities openly in the country. Like any other party, they have been allowed to do so as long as they do not violate the country’s laws.
Benton told SW Radio Africa that she sees the comments as part of ZANU PF propaganda, saying: “I think this is a move by ZANU PF in this country to make it seem as if the British government is validating the election and the results. I don’t think there has been any change in British government policy at all on this.”
Benton said that ZANU PF supporters have been targeted for breaking UK laws as individuals, and not for their political affiliation. She explained that some supporters of that party have been prosecuted for being fraudulent asylum seekers, or for their known violent political history back home in Zimbabwe. She said The Vigil group campaigned against some of the cases, leading to deportations or prosecution.
But Mangwana’s comments are making some MDC-T supporters uneasy, Benton said, because they live near ZANU PF activists who may now feel encouraged to act out against opposition supporters. The Vigil group is now drafting a letter to the Foreign Office in an effort to clarify their position.
ZANU PF has recently gone to great lengths to lobby for the removal of targeted sanctions still in place against Robert Mugabe and at least nine other close allies, who are restricted from travel to western nations and Europe where their assets are also frozen. But the party falsely blames all of Zimbabwe’s problems on these restrictive measures. SW Radio Africa