GNU reforms key to credible elections — UK Ambassador
ZIMBABWE’S relations with the United Kingdom have been strained since
Britain refused to fund the government’s chaotic land reform programme from
2000 which saw thousands of white commercial farmers being displaced and the
country’s agricultural output plummeting.
The relations have also been tense due to London’s forceful condemnation of
Harare over political repression, human rights abuses and disputed election
results which led to the imposition of sanctions by the European Union.
Zimbabwe Independent senior reporter Owen Gagare (OG) spoke to the British
Ambassador to Zimbabwe Deborah Bronnert (DB) about Zimbabwe-UK relations,
the current political situation in the country and elections, among other
OG: You arrived at a time (last year) when relations between Zimbabwe and
Britain were strained. What have you done to normalise the situation?
DB: Britain has a very strong commitment to Zimbabwe and our development
programme (which stood at US$140 million last year) is part of that
evidence. There are clearly problems at the political level, although this
isn’t just a UK-Zimbabwe issue but goes much wider, and our views are shared
Part of my job is to try and ensure there is good communication between both
sides. I want to ensure the UK has an up-to-date view of Zimbabwe. For
example, when I was in London (recently) I spoke to a number of audiences in
the British parliament, business and civil society about what is happening
in Zimbabwe now.
OG: What is your assessment of the country’s political situation? Is
Zimbabwe on the right path? What is your country’s view on the
implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA)?
DB: I have heard lots of frustration about the lack of progress on full
implementation of the GPA, but I think the inclusive government remains the
most credible means of taking forward reforms and transforming Zimbabwe’s
prospects until the next elections. The inclusive government has a lot to be
proud of — the economy has grown, inflation is stable and basic education
and health services have been pulled back from the brink of collapse. There
has also been some political reform and reports of human rights abuses seem
to have fallen. Of course, we hope that reforms which have started will be
OG: What is your assessment of Sadc and South African President Jacob Zuma’s
mediation efforts in Zimbabwe?
DB: We very much welcome his personal leadership and the work to produce an
election roadmap and we fully support him and Sadc in their efforts to
create the conditions for credible and properly monitored elections in
OG: How do you relate with Zimbabwe’s political players across the divide?
DB: I talk to everybody and I’ve generally found that ministers from across
the political divide have been very happy to talk to me and exchange
views. We obviously don’t always agree but all exchanges have been
OG: Most European countries have been sceptical about Zimbabwe’s
indigenisation programme; what is Britain’s position?
DB: I’d start of by saying it’s really important ordinary people in Zimbabwe
benefit from investment and economic growth. So the idea of sustainable and
inclusive economic growth has to be right and has to be particularly
important in the context such as Zimbabwe’s. I’m concerned, and I have said
this to the relevant ministers, about the way the indigenisation policy is
being implemented and reports that I’ve heard from business that it’s
undermining the business confidence and deterring investment that the
country clearly needs.
OG: Would you say the policy has stopped British investment from flowing to
the Zimbabwean economy and to what extent?
DB: It’s up to individual companies to make their own decisions, but recent
figures (from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development World
Investment Report 2011) suggest the Sadc region (excluding Angola) attracted
some US$10 billion in foreign direct investment in 2010. Some neighbouring
countries apparently received nearly US$1 billion each compared to just over
US$100 million in Zimbabwe. This may be an indication that the Zimbabwean
government needs to work harder to improve the business climate, including
implementation of its indigenisation policy.
OG: There have been reports that Britain and the EU are desperate to
re-engage Zimbabwe so that they benefit from its rich resources which
include diamonds, in the face of massive movement by the Chinese, hence the
removal of travel restrictions on Zanu PF ministers who are part of the
re-engagement team. Is this the case?
DB: No. The UK and the rest of the EU want to see a stable and prosperous
Zimbabwe. Of course, we’d like the political relationship to improve. On
China, we welcome investment from China in the UK and China is playing an
important role in the growth and development of Africa. Like China, we see
trade as vital in helping African economies grow and exit poverty. But for
countries to grow and develop, they require not just infrastructure but
skills, improved health and better governance and institutions.
OG: Zimbabwe is likely to hold elections by the end of next year. Given what
is going on in the country, do you think the country is ready?
DB: This is really for Zimbabweans to decide, but clearly in terms of what
the rest of the world thinks, we would be looking at implementation of the
GPA, and clearly the prospects for credible elections will be greater if
sufficient time is allowed for important reforms.
OG: Does Britain see itself playing any role in these elections?
DB: We are ready to assist in monitoring efforts in Zimbabwe, including
through multilateral partners such as the Commonwealth, but the UK will only
come at the invitation of the government of Zimbabwe. I should just say in
the UK when we have national elections we have a lot of international
observers and the reason we do that is that we think it’s a good part of the
democratic process. It’s important for countries to demonstrate both
to their own systems and to the rest of the world that they are open and are
proud of their democratic process and, therefore, they are comfortable with
other people looking at what they are doing.
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