UNDER fire British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, has insisted that her government is committed to “supporting the people of Zimbabwe achieve a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future”.
The UK’s Harare envoy has lately angered the opposition and anti-government activists by appearing to back heavy-handed police action against demonstrations which has seen water cannons, teargas and truncheons used to disperse protestors.
She has also been accused of working to help the cash-strapped Mugabe regime secure a much-needed $1.8billion bailout after facilitating former British business secretary Lord Mandelson’s meetings finance minister Patrick Chinamasa during a secret visit to Harare earlier this year.
Angry #Tajamuka protest group activists besieged the British Embassy offices in Mt Pleasant on Tuesday demanding Ambassador Laing’s, accusing her of interfering in local politics amid reports she backs vice president Emerson Mnangagwa as successor to President Mugabe.
“She is the main proponent of the anti-people Lima (debt clearance) process whose agenda is to reintegrate the Zanu PF government which has shown, beyond reasonable doubt, that it is incapable of reform and change,” the activists said.
“She engineered the nocturnal visit of Lord Mandelson to meet the aforementioned (Mnangagwa) Zanu PF faction for discussions centred on advancing dictatorship in Zimbabwe.”
Responding, Ambassador Laing said her Government made a manifesto commitment in 2015 to stand up for human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
“It means that we continue to invest in civil society programmes that aim to improve transparency, advocacy and human rights,” she explained in a statement Wednesday.
“It means that Zimbabwe remains one of the 30 UK Human Rights Priority Countries, where we monitor and report regularly on human rights abuses, and support programmes designed to make abuses less likely.
“And it means engaging in meaningful political dialogue with the incumbent government in order to encourage policy which is consistent with these goals.”
The envoy rejected State media reports claiming she backed police violence against anti-government protest.
“When combined with the ongoing failure of the police to enforce court orders around illegal land invasions, this paints a worrying picture,” she said.
“The UK continues to reiterate to the government of Zimbabwe the importance of substantial improvement in these areas and we look forward to hearing how the government intends to address these issues and to deliver positive outcomes for the people of Zimbabwe.”
Regarding the succession to Mugabe, who is now 92 years old, ambassador Catriona said the UK does not “and will not support any particular candidate, faction or political party”.
“We will however, continue to encourage Zimbabweans of all political persuasions to exercise their democratic rights, under the protection of the 2013 Constitution and international human rights law.”-Newzimbabwe