The British Embassy in Harare has commented on statements made by BBC Hardtalk Interviewer Stephen Sackur in an interview with Nelson Chamisa.
Sackur claimed that ballot papers for the 2018 harmonised election had already been printed. The Embassy said that it had no knowledge of the printing of ballot papers and suggested that Sackur may have been wrong in his research. In a statement, the Embassy said,
In the last few days, we’ve seen a fair amount of confusion regarding opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s appearance on BBC HardTalk. In particular, Zimbabweans have been upset by a suggestion from the presenter that ballot papers for the forthcoming polls have already been printed.
Some have even suggested the UK govt may have inspired some of the journalist’s questions. We’ve made it clear on Twitter that the UK govt has absolutely no say in how BBC journalists conduct this sort of interview. We can’t dictate 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 aren’t privy to any information to the contrary. We’ve made it very clear that the UK does not support any particular faction, party or individual in the forthcoming Zimbabwe elections.
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 & 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.