UK punishing Zimbabwe for using Covid-19 to stop by-elections?




Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State

LONDON – The United Kingdom is using sanctions to ensure that those who commit human rights abuses are held to account.

This was said by a junior Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon in the House of Lords yesterday after he had been asked whether the British government will condemn Zimbabwe for using Covid to stop by –elections and the normal democratic process.

Zimbabwe has set aside $3.25 billion to hold the by-elections in the first quarter of next year.

There are 133 parliamentary and council seats to be filled.

Q & A:

Baroness Hoey Non-affiliated: My Lords, the rule of law must apply in a democratic country, along with the freedom of the press. That does not happen in Zimbabwe. Will the Minister and the Government condemn the fact that Covid is being deliberately used in many countries, particularly Zimbabwe, to stop by-elections and the normal democratic process?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office): My Lords, I absolutely condemn such actions. The use of the Covid pandemic as an excuse to suppress human rights and democratic rights around the world is all too apparent. That is why we need the kind of alliances that I have just talked about and that my right honourable friend illustrated in her recent speech.

Specific to Zimbabwe, as the noble Baroness will be aware, we have also used our new, autonomous sanctions regime to ensure that those who commit egregious abuses of human rights are held to account.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has accused the United Kingdom of interfering in his country’s internal affairs after London voiced concern over human rights violations and persecution of government critics in the southern African country.

In its Human Rights Priority Countries’ ministerial statement for the period January to June, 2021, published late last month, the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office said Zimbabwe remained a major source of concern because of the worsening human rights situation.

Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, UK minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, also told the House of Lords that London was leaning on Zimbabwe’s neighbours such as South Africa and Botswana to push for a resolution of the crisis in the country.

President Mnangagwa hit back in a televised address on Tuesday saying the debate in the House of Lords and Lord Ahmad’s statements amounted to “unwarranted and blatant interference in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs.”

“Only last week, our country Zimbabwe became a subject of unmerited focus and debate in the British House of Lords,” he said.

“In the ensuing debate by that foreign legislative body with no jurisdiction over our country, a junior minister of Her Majesty’s government in charge of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, one Mister Tariq Mahmood, revealed that her Majesty’s government has been meeting in Harare with various (trade) unions, including teaching unions, most recently in September 2021 on salaries and the impact of Covid-19.”