UK government policy on Zimbabwe now incoherent and inconsistent

ACTSA press release, 15 October

The announcement on 14 October that the UK government plans to resume the enforced return of Zimbabweans makes UK policy on Zimbabwe inconsistent and incoherent, and could add weight to calls for the European Union to lift targeted measures against the country.

The Home Office Minister states that the change has come about as a result of improvements on the ground since the formation in of the Inclusive Government in September 2008.

Conversely, in talks with NGOs the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has many times expressed its view that there has been no significant improvement in the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. This view is supported by many other reports from within the country.

The truth is that violence, intimidation and human rights abuses are still very much a reality for Zimbabweans. Trade unionists and civil society activists have had to leave the country, and have been arrested for exposing what some in power wanted kept from public knowledge. Violence and intimidation has marred the current constitutional consultation process, and the Inclusive Government is currently at an impasse as Prime Minister Tsvangirai seeks to countermand unilateral decisions of President Mugabe.

ACTSA contends that if the UK government's position is now that the situation has improved in Zimbabwe, governments in the region and perhaps even some in the European Union will question the UK's support for the retention of the EU's targeted measures against the country. Member states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have in the past called for the measures to be lifted, and this new stance from the British government could strengthen their argument.