President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration could be staring a fresh dosage of British sanctions after recent cases of human gross human rights violations and corruption got attention from the former colonial master’s parliament.
British Under Secretary of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Elizabeth Sugg said Number 10 Downing Street was seriously considering imposing more sanctions on Zimbabwe.
She said this in response to Labour Party politician Peter Hain who had asked him to explain specific steps the British government was taking to sanction those responsible for brutality on civilians in Zimbabwe.
This was during a heated discussion in the House of Lords, the upper house of the highly influential bicameral British parliament.
“My Lords, what specific steps have the government taken to sanction those responsible, including government Ministers, for massive human rights violations in Zimbabwe, such as the abduction and torture of Joana Mamombe and her colleagues in June?
“She continues to be viciously harassed through the criminal justice system, and police brutality is continuing with impunity: for example, throwing tear gas into a crowded bus on 12 October,” Hain asked.
Sugg responded: “The UK remains aligned to the EU’s restrictive measures on Zimbabwe. Suspended targeted measures are in place against three current and former security sector chiefs, and (former first lady) Grace Mugabe.
“The sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2018 now provides the legal basis for the UK to impose autonomous sanctions and we are in the process of considering our approach to the future sanctions regime in Zimbabwe.”
The policy position by the former colonial master comes just after Zimbabwe, supported by allies within the SADC bloc, commemorated the first anniversary of the Anti-Sanctions Day on Sunday.
The commemorations included an anti-sanctions musical show held virtually and aired on ZBC TV.
October 25 was set aside by SADC countries in Tanzania last year as the day to lobby for the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The sanctions were first imposed by the United States in 2001 over human rights abuses and poll theft under the Zanu PF led administration.
The European Union also placed its former colony under sanctions, but these have been significantly relaxed.
Hain continued, “My Lords, last weekend an extravaganza in Zimbabwe to launch a people’s protest against sanctions resulted in demonstrations outside German embassies and 14 likes on Facebook. More telling, I think, was the action, led by South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, calling for their unconditional removal, which received the robust UK response that corruption has driven investors away, not sanctions, leaving Zimbabweans struggling in poverty. Will the minister recognise that eminent Africans such as the past President of Botswana are calling for a special SADC summit to address poverty and human rights abuses in the region, and will the Government work with other donors to support this initiative?”
In response, Sugg said London would continue to work “alongside the international community, to help support good governance, respect for human rights and genuine political and economic reform in Zimbabwe”.
She said government noted the signing of a recent US$3,5 billion compensation deal between the Zimbabwean government and farmers for improvements to land but remained concerned that the agreement is not underpinned by the finance necessary to deliver the agreement.
“Officials at the British embassy in Harare speak regularly with a full range of stakeholders, who are interested in reaching an agreement on compensation,” Sugg said.
The Viscount of Hanworth, David Pillock, then proposed that the British government give asylum to journalists and clergyman from Zimbabwe who are under threat from Mnangagwa’s government.
My Lords, the Zimbabweans are a people of truly democratic spirit who are ruled by a venal and vicious mob of soldiers and policemen who have survived the demise of (the late former President) Robert Mugabe, to whom they owe their positions. Now they are systematically robbing and suppressing the nation,” he said.
“Will the Government acknowledge this debt and give sanctuary to those such as journalists, authors and churchmen who now find themselves in peril?”
Sugg responded by pointing out that they have been clear that a lack of meaningful economic and political reform, as well as the ongoing human rights violations, means that the Government of Zimbabwe are far from achieving the level of reform they need to see.
“We will work closely with like-minded partners to continue to raise concerns, press for respect of the constitution and see the sustained implementation of the reforms that have been committed to,” Sugg said.