Britain changes Zimbabwe policy? – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary

Britain is reported to have adopted a radical new approach to Zimbabwe at odds with United States policy. A London-based fortnightly newsletter Africa Confidential says Britain is now promoting the idea of a write-off of Zimbabwe’s debts in exchange for a commitment to reform.

Until now Britain, like the United States, has insisted that new loans to Zimbabwe should be contingent on Zimbabwe settling overdue payments on its $9.4 billion debt to international financial institutions. This, however, is beyond Zimbabwe’s current means because of its massive government budget deficit.

Britain has been backing the so-called Lima plan as a way forward. This would involve new loans to Zimbabwe to repay the overdue money so that Zimbabwe would once again qualify for more loans. But for this to happen Zimbabwe would be required to make deep cuts in government expenditure, including the civil service payroll. President Mnangagwa has made only faltering movements in this direction and, with an election on the horizon, is unlikely to risk unpopularity, hence Britain’s reported support for a debt write-off.

It will probably be prepared to stump up a large part of this itself from the £14 billion (nearly $20 billion) a year it is currently distributing in foreign aid. But whether other donors would be willing to trust Mnangagwa’s promise of reform must be doubtful.

Africa Confidential says Britain’s proposal is not motivated solely by altruism. It says London would like to include Zimbabwe in plans to broker trade deals with African members of the Commonwealth when it leaves the European Union next year. It is encouraging Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth.

There has been no confirmation of the report from British government sources, which have denied accusations that Britain is biased towards President Mnangagwa.

For its part, the United States has taken a much more robust line towards Zimbabwe, extending sanctions and demanding extensive electoral reforms, including the reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the prohibition of soldiers from campaigning for Zanu PF.

Other points

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  • Swaziland Protest. Thursday 19th April from 11.30 – 1.30 pm. Venue: outside the Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX. King Mswati III is likely to be in the UK for the Commonwealth Summit (19th April is Mswati’s 50th birthday). It is an opportunity to protest about human rights problems in Swaziland and the Commonwealth’s failings when it comes to dealing with the country. The protest is organized by Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) and they ask that members of the Zimbabwe and Swaziland Vigils join them. For more information, check:
  • ROHR Central London branch meeting. Saturday 21st April from 11.30 am – 1.30 pm. Venue: Royal Festival Hall, Contact: Daisy Fabian 07708653640, Maxmus Savanhu 07397809056, Sipho Ndlovu 07400566013.
  • ROHR Reading branch outreach and general meeting. Saturday 21st April. Community outreach from 11:30-1:30pm. Venue: Broad Street, Reading. Awareness campaign on human rights in Zimbabwe, General meeting from 2-5pm: Venue: The RISC 35-39 London Street, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4PS.Contact Josh 07877246251, Nicodimus 07877386792, Josephine 07455166668, Shylette 07828929806
  • The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
  • The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded over the past 15 years as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil for £10. All proceeds will go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe’s work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
  • Zimbabwe Action Forum meets regularly after the Vigil to discuss ways to help those back in Zimbabwe to fight oppression and achieve true democracy.
  • Zimbabwe Yes We Can Movement holds meetings in London as the political face of ROHR and the Vigil.
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  1. Nomusa Garikai

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