Britain is finding itself in a dilemma as it struggles to balance between taking a robust position against Zimbabwe and its desire to access valuable natural resources in the country.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner in the 23 August election with 52.6% against the opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change leader, Nelson Chamisa’s 44%.
However, in an unprecedented move, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Election Observer Mission condemned the poll, saying it did not meet the benchmarks in the country’s constitution, the Electoral Act and Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
Other observer missions also castigated the conduct of the election and its outcome.
Chamisa and his CCC party have refused to recognise Mnangagwa’s victory, saying they are on a diplomatic offensive to force fresh elections.
There are reports suggesting Sadc is set to meet over the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe stoked by the shambolic manner in which the poll was conducted.
The British government has endorsed the preliminary assessment of the Sadc Election Observer Mission, with its minister for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, saying: “We share the view of the Election Observation Missions’ preliminary statements that the pre-election environment and election day fell short of regional and international standards. Issues included limited transparency from the electoral commission, the lack of level playing field, the passing of repressive legislation, long delays in the opening of some polling stations, and reports of intimidation of voters. The UK takes note of the announcement by the Chair of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of results on 26 August. However, we are concerned by a lack of transparency in the tallying of results, as well as the arrests of domestic observers.”
But some lawmakers in the House of Commons have urged the British government to tread with caution, considering that Zimbabwe is endowed with vast natural resources which Britain would want to exploit.
This came after Baroness Kate Hoey (pictured) questioned the State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development minister Tariq Ahmad on how Zimbabwe’s post-election crisis could be best dealt with.
“My lords, it was obvious to every independent observer that those elections were not free and fair. In the words of Nelson Chamisa himself, they were a ‘blatant and gigantic fraud’, but the hard-hitting Sadc report questioned the credibility of the elections and the breaches of its own standards,” Hoey said.
“Does the noble lord agree that now is the time for full support by His Majesty’s Government for Sadc’s efforts to resolve the crisis, and in particular for our newly arrived ambassador to re-evaluate all facets of our relationship with a Zimbabwean Government who flout their own laws through acts of violence and torture, and to give some hope even in the darkest days to the perseverance and courage of the Zimbabwean people?”
However, Hoey’s submissions got an unexpected response from Lord Howell of Guildford who said: “My Lords, I am sure that the Government’s present concerns and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, are quite correct, but will the Minister accept that Zimbabwe is a vast country of potentially great wealth?
“Will he accept that, in the longer term, we will need its markets, its raw materials, and its support in keeping the Russians and Chinese from dominating the whole of Africa?
“Despite the present difficulties — and remembering that Zimbabwe was once a member of the Commonwealth and could be again, although clearly not now — will the Minister accept that these things should be kept in the back of our minds?”
Meanwhile, buttressing Howell’s point, Britain’s Minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell this week said his country was focused on supporting Zimbabwe exports of horticultural products such as blueberries and peas.
Responding to a question from the shadow minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Ruth Jones, on what Britain was doing to promote economic cooperation with Zimbabwe, Mitchell said they are actively working to open up markets for agricultural products from Zimbabwe.
“The UK is working to increase trade and investment with Zimbabwe to help drive economic growth, create jobs and reduce poverty. Through our Economic Partnership Agreement, Zimbabwean companies have duty-free and quota-free access to the UK market, and we are particularly focused on supporting Zimbabwean exports of horticulture produce like blueberries and peas, increasing choices for UK consumers.”
He added: “We are also working to reduce barriers to UK investment in renewable energy and our technical assistance to strengthen the policy environment is unlocking new investment into independent solar power projects.”
It has also emerged that a UK-headquartered metals miner, Premier African Minerals (Premier), has finished installing a RHA ball mill at its Zulu Lithium and Tantalum Mine in Insiza, Matabeleland South province, paving the way for resumption of spodumene production at the asset.
Spodumene is an important lithium mineral that is used in the production of ceramics, enamel and glass.
Premier, which is listed on AIM, suspended production in June after it detected a defect on its newly-built plant. AIM is a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange.
Premier chief executive George Roach said in an update on 21 September that the completion of the installation of the mill includes all necessary feeds and discharge components, pumps, control circuitry and grinding media requirements that is expected to support planned production of up to 1 000 tonnes monthly of spodumene from November 2023 at the Zulu mine.
“The commissioning phase is now planned to commence from today with first material expected to be fed through the mill on Monday [25 September],” he said.
“Open pit mining operations at Zulu are expected to resume next week and while there is already substantial material on the run-of-mine pad, it remains critical that the plant has sufficient ore for current processing.”
Zimbabwe boasts a highly diversified mineral resource base, featuring close to 40 exploitable minerals that include platinum group metals, chromium, gold, coal, diamonds, lithium, manganese, iron ore, copper, nickel, cobalt, and rare earth metals, among many others.Post published in: Featured