British parliamentarians are pushing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government to withdraw an invitation to Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa to attend the coronation of King Charles III, citing alleged human rights violations in the Southern African country.
If he attends the coronation next week, Mnangagwa will be the first Zimbabwean leader to visit London in over two decades after UK sanctioned Harare during Mugabe’s rule.
However, the legislators said inviting Mnangagwa will send a wrong signal that the UK condones bad governance.
UK MPs raised the issue of Zimbabwean opposition legislator Job Sikhala, who was arrested nearly a year ago.
UK was still part of the EU when Brussels first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 following a disputed presidential election.
President Mnangagwa was quoted last week by the Zimbabwean state media that he was “excited” to receive an invite to attend the royal event on May 6.
But a letter written to British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly that was signed by the chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Zimbabwe (APPG) in the House of Commons, Navendu Mishra, urged the UK government to advise Buckingham Palace to reconsider the invitation of the Zimbabwean leader.
“To summarise, political violence and human rights abuses are widespread with opposition members of parliament and party members [being] harassed, beaten, imprisoned and murdered,” the APPG said.
“Corruption is rife, extending to the highest levels of government, destroying the economy and impoverishing the Zimbabwe people and the judiciary as well as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and all institutions of the state have been suborned to the ruling party,” it added.
“The main opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa is habitually denied permission to hold rallies and his political activities are frequently disrupted by violent Zanu-PF supporters and the police,” the legislators added.
“The ZEC appointees are overwhelmingly Zanu-PF supporters, including the sons and daughters of key Zanu-PF officials,” they added.
They also raised the issue of opposition legislator Job Sikhala, who was arrested nearly a year ago for speaking on behalf of the family of a slain opposition activist.
“It is more than 300 days since Zimbabwe’s Citizens Coalition for Change Deputy Chairperson Job Sikhala was detained after providing legal representation to the family of murdered opposition campaigner Moreblessing Ali,” the APPG said.
“Since then, he has been held without trial at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and denied his constitutional right to bail,” they added.
The legislators said inviting Mnangagwa, who took over from Mugabe in 2017 following a military coup, will send the wrong signal that the UK condones bad governance.
“The coronation invitation will inevitably be used by Mnangagwa as tacit acceptance by the UK of publicly evidenced political violence and repression in the run up to the forthcoming election and will be deeply demoralising to ordinary Zimbabweans in their struggle for democracy,” the MPs said.
“We, therefore, urge the government to withdraw President Mnangagwa’s invitation until Sikhala and other political prisoners are granted their constitutional right to bail and concrete actions are taken to address human rights abuses and guarantee free and fair elections,” the MPs said.
After Brexit, London imposed a set of targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean security chiefs for their alleged involvement in human rights violations.
“To summarise, political violence and human rights abuses are widespread with opposition members of parliament and party members [being] harassed, beaten, imprisoned and murdered,”All-Party Parliamentary Group Zimbabwe