British MPs say they regret that their government took a quick stance to cosy up to the Zimbabwean administration soon after President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over power from former president Robert Mugabe in the November 2017 coup.
Kate Hoey, a Labour Party MP, moved a motion in Parliament for the MPs to debate on the situation in Zimbabwe and the country’s efforts to reengage and be readmitted into the Commonwealth.
Hoey was part of the British politicians that visited Zimbabwe before last year’s elections to assess the situation in the country and to report back to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Their assessment was based on the country’s possibility to conduct a free and fair election in the post Mugabe era.
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, Hoey, bemoaned the British stance of sending back some Zimbabweans who had been staying in that country running away from political persecution from Mugabe’s regime, claiming nothing had significantly changed.
“Will the minister confirm that to Her Majesty’s government, and particularly the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have learnt a lesson from what I would call the ill-advised cosying-up to the Zimbabwean leadership, which owed its position, power and loyalty to the military and political machine that manoeuvred to install it and not to the people of Zimbabwe through a free and fair electoral process?
“I will not go into more detail; the minister knows what I am talking about. There is no doubt that our embassy in Zimbabwe had become too identified, rightly or wrongly — I think wrongly — with Zanu PF,” Hoey said.
She further said many Zimbabweans who suffered at the hands of Zanu PF’s brutality were shocked at Britain embassy’s positive stance on Zimbabwe, following Mugabe’s departure.
“I want to make sure that the minister realises that those of us who urged caution, particularly Zimbabweans who have long had to cope with the machinations of Zanu PF brutality and the manipulation of international opinion, were rebuffed by some officials in our embassy who thought that they knew better. I hope that we have learnt that lesson. I pay tribute to all the people in Zimbabwe who have continued to work for democracy, and all the members of the all-party group and everyone in this House who will not let Zimbabwe be forgotten,” she said.
Hoey also spoke about the deteriorating economic situation in the country, as the security forces continue to arbitrarily attack civilians.
“Of course, since the election, the economy has got even worse. Mnangagwa made a great issue of the fact that Zimbabwe was open for business — the world could come and invest again; there was going to be this absolute change. That did not actually happen. There are huge shortages of food and other important goods.
“More recently, on 12 January this year, Mnangagwa announced a huge — 200 percent — increase in the price of fuel. That was in a country in which very few people could afford the fuel price as it was, and it led to Zimbabwe, of all countries in the world, having the highest fuel prices. It was just not tenable, and people reacted.
“The trade unions, which have shown great courage throughout all of this, called for a countrywide ‘stay away’ in protest, and there were demonstrations. There is no doubt that some of the younger people, unemployed people, were very angry, and probably some looting did go on in parts of Bulawayo and Harare, but what the army and the government did was to respond immediately with huge, excessive force, which left 12 people dead and up to 100 with gunshot wounds, and hundreds of people were lifted in the middle of the night, imprisoned and denied bail,” Hoey said.
One of the Conservative MPs Nicholas Soames, chipped in, stating South Africa was failing to take the Zimbabwean situation seriously.
Another MP John Howell, also spoke about the problems in the country, claiming the judiciary was not independent, an aspect further explained by Hoey, who claimed the country’s rule of law is now broken.
“We have to be clear that we are calling for the end of the deployment of the military. They have to go back into their barracks. We have to get the United Nations to say that and to make a strong statement on the rule of law,” Hoey said.