By Blessed Mhlanga
The United Kingdom (UK) says it will maintain its tough stance against the administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a position it says will only change if the regime implements meaningful political and economic reforms.
UK ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melanie Robinson said Harare had not done enough to warrant any shift in policy after the European Union council voted to keep top players in Mnangagwa’s government on the suspended sanctions list, including former First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Using her Twitter account, Robinson said any changes to the measures against Zimbabwe would be informed by reforms that Mnangagwa had agreed to.
“The UK government has always been clear that we believe changes to sanctions regime against Zimbabwe should reflect progress on the political and economic reforms promised by President Mnangagwa #ActionOnReform,” she tweeted yesterday.
The UK insists that the Harare regime has to put an end to human rights violations, bring to account soldiers who shot and killed six civilians during the post-election violence on August 1, 2018.
In December last year, Robinson told Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga in a meeting that human rights violations were worsening under Mnangagwa’s new dispensation.
“I did express concern about some of the backward steps we have seen on the reforms in the past two years and asked him to see what he could take on that,” she said then.
A diplomatic source said the fresh wave of arrests of human rights defenders and anti-government protesters had evoked worries in the West and could see tightening of screws on Mnangagwa’s government, which is desperately seeking re-engagement with the international community.
“The recent reports have seen the government arrest nearly 50 pro-democracy voices and protesters and this has got Western diplomats worried. It appears the UK will be joining hands with the US [United States] to take even sterner action if nothing changes,” the source said.
UK, although still bound by the EU decision on sanctions until end of year, has signalled that it could be taking a tougher approach against Harare if Mnangagwa fails to reform.
Mnangagwa has been leading prayer vigils, diplomatic offensive missions in Africa and doling out millions in foreign currency to public relations organisations and pressure groups in the UK and US in an effort to have the sanctions removed, moves described as a waste of resources by Western officials.
Zimbabwe’s desire for readmission to the Commonwealth is in danger because of lack of reforms, with Robinson telling Chiwenga at the December meeting that readmission would only happen after economic and political reforms have been completed. NewsDay