UK raises alarm over human rights violations in Zimbabwe

Wednesday November 24 2021
Police disperse protesters in Zimbabwe's capital Harare.

Police disperse protesters in Zimbabwe's capital Harare. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The United Kingdom is concerned about human rights violations in Zimbabwe, which include the targeting of prominent opposition and civil society leaders, a new report says.

In its Human Rights Priority Countries’ ministerial statement for the period January to June 2021 published on Tuesday, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office said Zimbabwe remains a major source of concern.

“We remain concerned by the human rights situation in Zimbabwe with no notable improvement between January and June 2021,” the report says.

“We continue to be concerned by the pattern of harassment of prominent opposition and civil society figures, as well as journalists.

“We were yet to see accountability for the abduction and multiple arrests of opposition MDC Alliance members Joana Mamombe MP, Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, as well as the repeated arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono.”

Read: Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono denied bail


Read: US raises red flag over human rights violations in Zimbabwe

Critics arrested

Several critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government have been arrested for organising protests or posting critical comments on social media.

The southern African country’s security forces have also ruthlessly clamped down on protests against the government and arrested the leaders.

In February this year, the UK slapped sanctions on four Zimbabwean security chiefs that it said were responsible for some of “Zimbabwe’s worst human rights violations under the Mnangagwa regime.”

Read: UK announces sanctions on Zimbabwe president's advisor

“These restrictive measures are not targeted at, nor intended to impact, the wider economy and the people of Zimbabwe,” the new report says.

“In the first half of 2021, the UK continued to support civil society in Zimbabwe to hold the government to account.”

Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, UK minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, also on Tuesday told the House of Lords that political situation in Zimbabwe remained a source of concern.

“My Lords, the UK remains concerned about the political situation in Zimbabwe,” Lord Ahmad said in response to questions about what London was doing to solve the crisis in its former colony.

“We regularly urge the Zimbabwean government to live up to their own constitution by ensuring that the opposition, civil society and journalists are allowed to operate without harassment, and that due legal process is respected,” he added.

Lord Ahmad said the UK was lobbying Zimbabwe’s neighbours, such as South Africa, to lean on President Mnangagwa’s regime to end the human rights abuses.

“In this regard, we have engaged directly at the highest level with the South African government and we continue to engage with other regional partners, as well as regional associations, including the African Union, on this priority,” he said.

“We are engaged very much with South Africa and yes, it wants to see a progressive, inclusive Zimbabwe as part of the region and the wider world.

“Zimbabwe holds ambitions to join the Commonwealth as well. It is a collective effort.

“I do not think that one country alone can influence the progression and inclusiveness of democracy. It is, therefore, important that we, together with key partner, continue to play this role.”

The House of Lords also debated Zimbabwe’s moves to introduce laws punishing citizens that hold discussions with foreign governments and to tighten controls over the operations of non-governmental organisations.

President Mnangagwa is accused of going back on his promises to return Zimbabwe into a democracy after taking over power from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in the 2017 military coup.