THE United Kingdom has threatened to slap President Emmerson Mnangagwa with a new sanctions regime over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and failure by the administration to deal with graft in high offices.
The decision, disclosed in the UK Parliament on Wednesday, has been triggered by the arrest of Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya on Monday at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport while attempting to smuggle about 6kg of processed gold worth about US$333 000 to Dubai.
But Harare yesterday reacted angrily to the proposal for further sanctions, with Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo saying Britain, Zimbabwe’s former imperial power, should stop treating the southern African nation as its colony.
Speaking during the question-and-answer session in the House of Lords on Wednesday, UK Minister of State for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development Baroness Elizabeth Sugg said the UK was contemplating a new round of sanctions against its former colony.
She was responding to a question raised by British MP and former anti-apartheid campaigner, Lord Peter Hain who asked what specific steps the UK government was taking to sanction Zimbabwe for gross human rights abuses.
In response, Sugg said the UK was seeking to impose an autonomous sanctions regime separate from those imposed by the US and EU.
The UK is no longer a member of the EU, but according to the Zimbabwe (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, certain restrictive measures relating to Zimbabwe, currently in force in the UK under EU legislation and related UK regulations will remain in place.
“My Lords, the UK remains aligned to the EU’s restrictive measures on Zimbabwe,” Sugg said.
“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 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.”
Debate on Zimbabwe was triggered by Lord Andrew St John of Bletso, who speaks on African affairs and is an expert on southern Africa.
Bletso had asked what the UK intends to do with Zimbabwe following reports of continued human rights violations and corruption involving Mnangagwa and his relatives, in apparent reference to Rushwaya’s gold smuggling case.
Bletso raised concern over human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and lack of judicial independence.He also proposed using the political and economic leverage of South Africa on Zimbabwe to solve the deepening crisis in Harare.
Reacting to the UK’s proposal to impose more sanctions a week after Mnangagwa hosted a Sadc anti-sanctions solidarity e-gala to force the removal of US and EU sanctions, Moyo went for the jugular, accusing the UK of treating Zimbabwe as its colony, despite that she is now an independent State.
“It is more than 40 years ago that the Union Jack (flag) was lowered and yet, it seems, our friends in London still regard Zimbabwe as part of their extended family requiring constant supervision, correction and even punishment when, in their own assessment, we stray from the path they and others have chosen for us,” he said in a statement.
Moyo said it was unfortunate that the UK was considering more sanctions against Zimbabwe and even lobbying the region and continent to isolate the country.
“We note, as deeply unfortunate, the implied threat of more sanctions from the UK and the assurance given to the Lords that such measures are currently under active consideration in London.
Equally unfortunate is the clear acknowledgement by the British government that it is actively engaging others, including the African Union, the European Union, the Commonwealth, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and South Africa – with a view to further intensifying pressure upon Zimbabwe,” he said.
Moyo accused the UK of trying to tarnish Mnangagwa’s name by linking him to the gold smuggling case involving Rushwaya, who is believed to be his niece.
Zanu PF through its Makonde MP Kindness Paradza, who chairs the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, also hit back at the UK Parliament, claiming the proposal was a reflection of nostalgia for an empire already lost.
“The fascination with Zimbabwe continues, reflecting sadly their Lordships lingering nostalgia for an empire forever lost and perhaps, their frustration with the inescapable truth of ever dwindling British influence across the swathes of territory where it was once said that the sun never set,” he said.
Paradza said Britain itself was failing on the human rights front and violating Press freedom, therefore, its hands were dirty. He said the British government was failing to meet its obligations in the UN convention against torture.
He said Britain was behaving in a distractive manner and its criticism of Mnangagwa’s government was not well meant.
Mnangagwa’s government has blamed sanctions for causing an economic meltdown, but the US has insisted that corruption, not sanctions, was the elephant in the room in Harare.