Britain has been forced to come clean on allegations that it is backing President Mnangagwa’s administration to win the forthcoming elections a week after MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa had broken with diplomatic etiquette by cautioning Number 10 Downing Street against cosying-up with the ruling party.
Britain’s alleged staunch support for Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pushed it into an increasingly acrimonious corner, with opposition and diplomats warning that the former colonial power is taking a huge gamble.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition conglomerate, the MDC Alliance, sought a common strategy to force Britain to drop its perceived support for Mnangagwa, with its presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa ratcheting up his criticism of London during his visit there last week in key forums such as Chatham House, warning that the UK government was overlooking crucial democratic reforms in favour of managing political stability in Zimbabwe and that could lead to post-election instability.
The British Embassy in Zimbabwe has sought to distance itself from allegations that it is backing President Emmerson Mnangagwa to win in the upcoming 2018 harmonised elections.
Britain’s influential envoy in Harare, Catriona Laing – who has long been whispered that she favours Mnangagwa – has come under renewed pressure over this, but has repeatedly insisted the UK does not back any party, candidate, faction or coalition in Zimbabwe.
Laing has also sent social media into meltdown after being pictured outside 10 Downing Street adorned in Mnangagwa’s trademark scarf.
Britain has dispatched a record three ministers to Zimbabwe since Mnangagwa ascended the throne in November.
Harare-based Western diplomats claim Laing, a development expert rather than career diplomat, tacitly supports Mnangagwa believing he is a steadying hand and his continued rule is key to maintain Zimbabwe’s stability.
That sentiment has been cemented by the “shamelessly partisan” BBC HARDtalk interview by Stephen Sackur with opposition leader Chamisa, where Sackur “unprofessionally” used judgmental or foul words like “silly” and “nonsense” during the interview, what has been interpreted by media watchers as well beyond polemics – a trademark of the programme.
Exiled former Cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo alleged Laing was shamelessly pushing for Mnangagwa to win this election.