We are not blind to Zimbabwe’s difficult past- UK embassy

MDC President Nelson Chamisa and British Ambassador Laing Catriona

THE United Kingdom embassy in Harare today said it is not blind to Zimbabwe’s difficult past or to the many governance challenges that the country is currently facing but it does not support any particular faction, party or individual in the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe.

It said this is response to various accusations following the appearance of Movement for Democratic Change Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa on the British broadcasting Corporation programme Hardtalk last week.

There were allegations that Britain was taking sides and was supporting Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Former Higher Education Minister Jonathan, one of Mnangagwa’s fiercest critics, said Britain was making the same mistake it made in 1980 by supporting Muzorewa who ended up losing the elections dismally.

“We have made it very clear that the UK does not support any particular faction, party or individual in the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe,” the embassy said in a statement.

“Our only interest is in seeing that these elections are free and fair. We’ve put our money where our mouth is: between 2014 and 2019 the UK will have spent approximately £24 million on strengthening civil society’s support for transparency, accountability, human rights and citizen engagement around the polls.

“We’re certainly not blind to Zimbabwe’s difficult past – or to many of the governance challenges that continue to be present today.

“It’s totally up to Zimbabweans to decide who they want to govern them. We and our partners want to see that happen through a free and fair election so that Zimbabwe can get back on the path to having its relations with the international community normalised. That surely is the bright future that Zimbabweans fully deserve.”

Full Statement

UK in Zimbabwe

UK in Zimbabwe on allegations around a recent BBC Hardtalk interview

In the last few days we’ve seen a fair amount of confusion regarding Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s recent appearance on the BBC’s Hard Talk programme. In particular, Zimbabweans have been upset by a suggestion from the presenter that ballot papers for Zimbabwe’s forthcoming elections have already been printed. Some have even suggested the UK government may have inspired some of the interviewer’s questions.

We have made it clear on social media that the UK government has absolutely no say in how BBC journalists conduct this sort of interview. We cannot and would not wish to dictate the journalists’ questions or their interviewing style. Sometimes journalists deliberately seek to be provocative in their questioning, in order to put their interviewees under pressure. People who have seen Hard Talk will know that their style is particularly robust WHOEVER is being interviewed – the clue is in the title of the show!

Journalists on programmes like this frame their questions based on their own, and their team’s, research. That’s how it should be. But sometimes that research is not accurate. As far as the UK embassy in Harare is aware, the ballot papers have not yet been printed. We are not privy to any information to the contrary.

We have made it very clear that the UK does not support any particular faction, party or individual in the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe. Our only interest is in seeing that these elections are free and fair. We’ve put our money where our mouth is: between 2014 and 2019 the UK will have spent approximately £24 million on strengthening civil society’s support for transparency, accountability, human rights and citizen engagement around the polls.

Our ambassador and senior members of the embassy team engage as often as is possible with officials from all main political parties in Zimbabwe. Our priority is to promote human rights and democratic gains for the Zimbabwean people. We believe that respectful, frank engagement with both the ruling party and the opposition is far more likely to succeed than public grandstanding or engaging with only one side. That’s what we’re doing.

We’re certainly not blind to Zimbabwe’s difficult past – or to many of the governance challenges that continue to be present today. It’s totally up to Zimbabweans to decide who they want to govern them. We and our partners want to see that happen through a free and fair election so that Zimbabwe can get back on the path to having its relations with the international community normalised. That surely is the bright future that Zimbabweans fully deserve.