Britain feels heat over Chamisa

HARARE - Britain has been forced to come clean on allegations that it is backing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to win the forthcoming polls a week after MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa had broken with diplomatic etiquette by cautioning Number 10 Downing Street against cosying-up with the ruling Zanu PF party.

Chamisa, who was on an official visit to the United Kingdom last week, used his address at Chatham House in London to express his concern over what appears to be the former colonial master’s pre-occupation with achieving stability in Zimbabwe at the expense of ensuring its adherence with democratic tenets.

“But that is a false narrative, you can never have stability without democracy,” he was quoted saying.

“We expect Britain and the European Union to speak for free and fair elections. There’s a very disturbing trend in the context of the British government in Zimbabwe. We’re seeing the inclination to align with one political party against another.

“That is disturbing, particularly in terms of the issue of just setting the basic standard for free and fair elections,” he added.

But in a statement issued on Tuesday, Britain, through its embassy in Harare, said it does not support any faction or political party in Zimbabwe and has actually been supportive to democratic and human rights initiatives in the country.

“We have 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 and 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,” reads part of the statement.

This comes as Britain’s influential envoy in Harare Catriona Laing — who has caused a social media frenzy after being pictured outside 10 Downing Street adorned in Mnangagwa’s trademark scarf — has come under mounting pressure over her alleged support for Mnangagwa, and has been forced to issue a statement clarifying that she was in “frank engagement” with all political protagonists in Zimbabwe and denied “engaging with only one side”.

Britain’s extraordinary interest in the Mnangagwa administration has also been seen in the record number of ministers dispatched to Harare since the 76-yar-old politician ascended the throne in November, a record three ministers so far.

First to visit Zimbabwe was Britain’s Africa minister then, Rory Stewart, who attended Mnangagwa’s inauguration on November 24, followed by permanent under-secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Simon McDonald. Then the new British minister of State for Africa, Harriet Baldwin, made Zimbabwe her first destination soon after her appointment as minister in February.

That sentiment has not been helped by a BBC HARDtalk interview by Stephen Sackur during which the interviewer used judgmental or foul words like “alarmist”, “partisan”, “stalking flames”, “raising temperatures”, and described the 40-year-old MDC Alliance presidential candidate’s campaign stumps as “Alice in wonderland”, “nonsense”.

So bad was the interview that the UK embassy in Harare has been forced to apologise.

“In the last few days, we’ve seen a fair amount of confusion regarding opposition leader ...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 government may have inspired some of the journalist’s questions. We’ve made it clear on Twitter that the UK government has absolutely no say in how BBC journalists conduct this sort of interview. We can’t dictate journalists’ questions.

“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,” reads the statement from Laing’s office.

Exiled former Cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo has alleged Laing was shamelessly pushing for Mnangagwa to win this election.

Chamisa told the Daily News yesterday that he had pressured top UK officials he met in Britain over a couple of issues.

The first issue was that Zimbabwe must return to legitimacy following the soft coup of November last year; secondly that the UK must help in defending good governance and democratic practices, which also entails staging free and fair elections.

Thirdly, he requested London to “chaperone and superintend the transition in Zimbabwe”.

“There is a chasm between the rhetoric and the delivery. There is a huge gap between the word and the deed. There is a huge, huge, huge and yawning gap. In fact, a gulf between what is said and what is done,” he said.

“Let there be a closure of that chasm and you are the bridge.”

Chamisa added that he also told British establishment officials that “we want you to help us”.

“What is the infrastructure you are putting in place for peace? What is the peace infrastructure because our colleagues have a tendency to go bonkers and turn wild at the slightest of opposition, at the slightest credible alternative? We are a credible alternative. They will surely go wild. Do you have the pill to tame them?” he asked rhetorically.

Mnangagwa’s spokesperson and permanent secretary in the Media, Information and Broadcasting Services ministry, George Charamba, told journalists last week that the forthcoming election was not a contest between Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance but a ritual for the Mnangagwa administration to gain international recognition.

“There is no reckoning in this dispensation that this election is about Zanu PF and the MDC or whatever party. This election is about restoring international engagement and legitimacy, that is where we are. It must be honest, it must be transparent, it must be free, it must be fair, it must meet international standards, it must be violence-free and therefore it must be universally endorsed because it is an instrument of our international policy,” Charamba said.

“That is where we are. What young Chamisa has done and done inadvertently, but in a way that is nationally helpful, is to show that he can walk the length and breath of this country uninhibited, which means it is going to be difficult for him to turn around and say ‘it wasn’t free, it was fair’, then people will say, ‘comrade’ we saw you all over the country’, and we will be singing ‘hero sadza garwe swedera, hero sadza garwe swedera’, so he is making the point for us.

“And thank you police, secure him, let him convene as many meetings as he wants, but then budget for some kind of infantile proposition with every meeting. Southern Africa has a new Nelson he says, but that is the whole story, it is about legitimacy, that is where we are, we are playing a very high level game,” Charamba told reporters at an election reporting workshop in Kariba.


Comments (11)

The british have a right to take whatever side they want as long as it is not called interference;they may support whatever side they want less it amounting to interference;the USA did it when Mavhinga.Chamisa &Biti visted them,Ordinga of kenya did it as well,the Botswana gvt did;so what?

addmore gudo - 17 May 2018

You are absolutely right addmore gudo. Most, if not all, western govts have been solidly supporting the MDC party for the past 19 years and imposed sanctions on ZANU PF leaders at the instigation of Biti et al. The grilling that Wamba dia Wamba got on HARDtalk was also lekker. Why are these MDC hoodlums whingeing?

Headman Moyo - 17 May 2018

Chamisa and Biti want sanctions and the suffering of the people on the ground to continue unabated. While these hoodlums of the political elite ride around in luxury cars they want the masses to continue to grovel and beg for bread. If they cared just a bit for the ordinary people why are they busy calling for sanctions under that veiled talk of the British taking sides. Ivai nenyadzi vanhuwe.

Order - 17 May 2018


John Gwizo - 18 May 2018

Chamisa uri duzvi, nhasi Zanu pf support neBritain yavekukushatirai, during your tym of their support muchiti isai masanctions zvaikufairai kaaa...nhasi makusiwa naiwo mabhururu enyu wotinyangadza...wamama..hautomborina kana friend outside the country saka unomama...ende hausi kuzopatonga..uri benzi..too childish..u dont deserve to lead a country mhani..nhema nenhema uchinyepera vanhu

yowe zvangu - 18 May 2018

All we are hearing are Chamisa's fears but what is his plan once he gets into the president's office if he does. I think all these accusations against ZANU are a bit out of place in this election.

Bianca - 18 May 2018

Biti and Chamisa want sanctions to continue. These two are hypocrites. They are getting their monthly salaries from the current government yet they want sanctions to continue. They are stupid.

Ndiani Ndiani - 18 May 2018

We are fed up of the animal or thieves called Zanu PF , I wonder were the commentators here are living , every street in towns , growthpoints , township are full of vendors , what does that mean , the answers you know , we have a lot of sacks in the so called new stands , what that does that mean , you have the answers , we had a coup de'tat and the junta is in power , what does that mean , you have the answers , George Charamba has been the permanent secretary and the presidential spokes person for the past three decades plus , why , the answer you know .There was restore legacy and clearing the thieves around Mugabe but there is no one person charged and convicted ' so what is what and can we trust these thieves who don't walk the talk , please we need to change the system not the faces , ZANU PF has failed they should just swallow the pride and let CHAMISA lead this country for the better of our young generation . ICHO

Mudhara - 18 May 2018


Mudhara - 18 May 2018

The U.K, U.S.A, Canada, Australia, EU, Japan etc used to support MDC wth passion and to Chamisa and his goonies, that was good. Now that these Western countries have made sudden u-turns and are now supporting ZANU - PF, MDC supporters are crying foul!!! The whole world now supports ZANU - PF, Chamisa and MDC wake up and smell the coffee. Botswana has also deserted you. Yes, the whole world now wants stability in Zimbabwe; the MDC destabilised Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was stable before 2000 because there was no opposition to ZANU PF. In Africa, opposition parties bring nothing but instability.

B. Maricho - 20 May 2018

B. Maricho, how come all the countries you mentioned, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, , EU,Japan, Botswana are multi-party? You are the one who needs to wake up!

Jonso - 21 May 2018

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