British government criticised for hosting businessmen linked to Mugabe regime
Zimbabwean trade delegation is said to include vocal supporters of indigenisation laws and violence
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Monday 27 January 2014
The British government today came under fire for playing host to a delegation of Zimbabwean businessmen, some of whom are closely linked to the regime of Robert Mugabe.
Wealthy tycoons from the country will meet with officials and British businesses at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this afternoon to discuss ways of improving trade with British investors.
Sanctions still apply to Mr Mugabe, his wife Grace and a number of other top Zimbabweans due to corruption and human rights abuses.
Meanwhile, British farmers in the country – many of whom were invited by the Mugabe regime in happier times – continue to have their farms forcibly possessed under the so-called “indigenisation” laws. This allows for white-owned businesses to be seized by local black Africans and is now said to be extending to smaller firms and smallholdings.
Opposition activists argue Charles Msipa, one of the delegates in London, is connected to some of the Mugabe regime’s most notorious members including Saviour Kasukuwere, previous minister for indigenisation, who is alleged to have been involved in the violent repossession of white farms. The son of Mr Mugabe’s friend and former Zanu PF provincial governor Cephas Msipa, Mr Msipa is also said to be linked to the feared Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former head of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation. Mr Mnangagwa was widely blamed for the brutality during the 2008 presidential election.
Mr Msipa runs Schweppes Zimbabwe after reportedly being handed the position following the company’s seizure by Mr Mnangagwa’s faction.
Another delegate, Kumbirayi Katsande, the manager of Nestle Zimbabwe, is the brother of Colonel Christian Katsande. Shingai Mutasa, also due in London today, has been a loud and vocal advocate of the seizure of assets from whites, declaring last year: “Indigenisation has removed the biggest barriers for empowerment and we should all be part of it.”
Mike Johnson, a 52-year-old white farmer in Zimbabwe warned new investors of his experiences: “Anyone can take a pot-shot at you, from the local MP, to brigadier so-and-so, to your employees.” A representative of white British farmers in Zimbabwe said: “Since the invasion of white-owned farms in 2000, Zimbabwe has become, and remains, one of the most hostile countries for business in the world.”
White farmers feel their experiences should serve as a warning to new potential British investors. One pointed out that the country had been ranked 170 out of 189 in the World Bank’s assessment in 2014, Ease of Doing Business.
“From the constitution down,” said Roy Bennett, a senior member of the Zimbabwean opposition, “Zimbabwean law is blatantly and flagrantly racist.”
However, the west has rapidly unwound many of the sanctions on the country in the past year due to a constitutional referendum, followed by a general election, which Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF won amid opposition claims of vote rigging.
The Zimbabwean businessmen are in London as part of a tour of EU capitals. A British foreign and commonwealth office spokesman said: “We have made clear to senior members of Zanu-PF that whilst economic empowerment is important, the manner in which indigenisation is implemented in Zimbabwe may act as a deterrent to much-needed foreign investment.”
However, he added that promoting trade with the outside world would benefit the lives of Zimbabwe’s citizens by offering employment and business taxes.
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Iain Duncan Smith's expenses credit card is suspended after he runs up £1,000 debt to taxpayer
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 5 Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck to divorce and end their 10-year marriage
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
Tunisia beach attack: How can British Muslims respond to the latest outrages?
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...
£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...