With President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts continuing, the United Kingdom MPs feel that they made a mistake by warming up to him too early. Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Chairperson of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe Kate Hoey said that the atrocities that are happening in Zimbabwe should not be ignored. She called on the UK to enforce a raft of measures to remedy the situation.
Soldiers should leave the streets
MP Kate Hoey says, “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 make a very strong statement on the rule of law. We need to call for an independent investigation of human rights violations led by the African Union or United Nations.” It is important to note that Hoey was part of the delegation of British politicians who visited Zimbabwe to assess the situation in the country just before the 2018 elections. Back then, the environment was calm and promising. Months later, two violent protests have left more than 10 people dead with hundreds injured and property damaged. The soldiers patrol the streets daily and reports of civilians being assaulted are coming out.
Debt and investment
On international debt and investment, Kaye Hoey suggested that all initiatives for re-engagement which include debt restructuring should be suspended. She added that talk of investing in Zimbabwe should be shelved until military deployment ends. Zimbabwe desperately needs to settle its debt with international institutions in order to access new lines of credit. Foreign direct investment is also needed to drive economic activity and capacitate dying industries.
Speaking on the sensitive issue of sanctions, Hoey said while not necessarily advocating for more sanctions, because they had not done much, it was necessary to send a clear message to Zimbabwe. In her view, solutions like travel bans for the President would be ideal. She bases that suggestion on claims that President Mnangagwa and his delegation hired a very expensive plane for his recent Eurasian trip while millions are struggling to make ends meet at home. She admitted however, that sanctions may be used as an excuse by the government to cover up for their failures.
The other solution, according to Kate Hoey is to influence South Africa and Botswana to castigate what is happening in Zimbabwe. She said at the moment, South Africa had not been vocal on Zimbabwean problems. Other MPs, John Howell and Nicholas Soames weighed in on the issue. MP Soames lamented South Africa’s failure to treat the Zimbabwean situation with the seriousness it deserves while John Howell said the Zimbabwean judiciary system was not independent. Last week lawyers marched on the streets of Harare to petition the Chief Justice to be more independent and to fairly and expeditiously deal with hundreds of court cases emanating from the protests.
The new stance by UK MPs will put a dent on President Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts. The much-needed foreign direct investment may remain a pipe dream for now. Unless things change drastically, the upcoming African Union Summit may present a stage for our neighbours and colleagues in Africa to whip us into line. Not many of our neighbours do though.