UK issues travel warning to Zimbabwe ahead of anti-sanctions march

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (Image: Daily Express)

LONDON – The United Kingdom government on Thursday issued a travel warning to Zimbabwe ahead of the country’s government backed anti-sanctions match on Friday.

Zimbabwe has declared a new public holiday to protest U.S sanctions it says are hurting its economy — and the day comes with a state-sponsored festival.

Anti-Sanctions Day will be commemorated on Oct. 25, acting information minister Amon Murwira said Monday, calling it a chance to “further amplify the importance of this day to the economic emancipation and well-being of Zimbabwe.”

Tens of thousands of people are expected to be bused to the capital, Harare, where they will march, watch a soccer match between the country’s two biggest teams and attend an all-night concert.

In a statement issued by the Foreign Office, the statement read; “There is a planned anti-sanctions march in Harare on 25 October. The government has declared the day a public holiday and large crowds are expected around the Central Business District and National Sports Stadium.

“You should avoid any political gatherings or demonstrations. These can be unpredictable, can turn violent without notice and the response from the security forces may be disproportionate. You should exercise a high degree of caution and monitor local media and this travel advice for updates.

Taking photographs of members of police and armed forces personnel and of demonstrations and protests is not permitted. You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places. Ensure you carry identification, so that you can produce it if required to do so by the security forces. See Political situation.”

“Zimbabwe’s economic situation remains unpredictable. As of 24 June 2019, the only legal tender in Zimbabwe is the “Zimbabwe Dollar”. There is a shortage of physical cash and it’s currently not possible to make cash withdrawals using an international bank card. You should check with your tour operator or hotel what payment methods will be accepted. See Money”

“Zimbabwe is currently experiencing severe electricity shortages resulting in extended periods without power. During blackouts, you should exercise a high degree of caution when driving as traffic lights may not be operational. Water rationing is being experienced in certain parts of the country. Contact your tour operator or hotel for latest updates.”

Availability of fuel is sporadic and queues are common. You are advised to check in advance if you can make payment with an international payment card. See Road travel

“Tropical Cyclone Idai caused significant flooding and mud slides across many parts of eastern Zimbabwe in March 2019. Whilst the access situation has improved, many roads and bridges in the affected areas are still impassable. Electricity, water, and telecommunications networks have been impacted. If travelling to affected regions, take extra care and follow any advice given by the local authorities. Contact your hotel prior to travel to check that the hotel is still accessible and open.

On 6 September 2018, a cholera outbreak was declared in Harare by the Ministry of Health of Zimbabwe. See Health

There’s a moderate level of crime in Zimbabwe. Remain vigilant, especially after dark, and make sure accommodation and vehicles are secure. See Safety and security”

Always carry identity documentation or a copy of your passport. See Local laws and customs

Holiday and business visas are available at the port of entry. Don’t violate the conditions of your visa. See Visas

Dual British-Zimbabwean nationals who travel to Zimbabwe must have a valid travel document to re-enter the United Kingdom. It’s not possible to re-enter the UK using a Zimbabwean passport or emergency travel document without a visa or entry clearance endorsed. See Dual nationals

Air Zimbabwe has been refused permission to operate flights to the EU because the airline has been unable to demonstrate that it complies with international air safety standards. British government employees travelling to and within Zimbabwe have been advised to use carriers that aren’t subject to the EU operating ban. See Air travel

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Zimbabwe, attacks can’t be ruled out. See Terrorism

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Dozens of Zimbabwean officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, have faced years of U.S. sanctions over alleged human rights violations amid troubled elections and the seizures of white-owned land.

Mnangagwa, who took office after longtime leader Robert Mugabe was forced out in late 2017, at first urged the country to “stop mourning” about the sanctions. But he has since turned them into a rallying cry like his predecessor and blamed them for the collapsing economy as hopes fade that he will revive the country’s fortunes.

The U.S. says the sanctions are not against Zimbabwe’s government at large and do not affect business between the countries. The U.S also says it is the biggest provider of humanitarian assistance to the southern African nation, whose 300% inflation is the second highest in the world after Venezuela’s.

Zimbabwe has tried to rally regional countries to speak out against the sanctions and earlier this week even held a tearful anti-sanctions prayer meeting organized by the president’s wife and attended by the president, his cabinet and dozens of others.

Some in the capital struggled to comprehend the rationale behind such events by a government that is failing to pay doctors and buy medicines, but they said they wouldn’t mind the holiday.

“We march, watch soccer, eat, drink and dance the night away … then what next?” asked Chengetedzo Mbundure, an office worker in Harare. “It is unnecessary but it is welcome. Who doesn’t love a holiday?”