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by: UK Bureau I The Telegraph
FORMER UK business minister Peter Mandelson will be asked by British MPs to explain his February visit to Zimbabwe during which he met the country’s finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa.
Revelation of the visit by the UK’s Telegraph newspaper comes at a time London has angered the opposition in Zimbabwe by helping prop-up President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
“The British approach of appeasing Mugabe’s regime is wrong and unforgivable,” Vice Musewe, economic affairs spokesman for the People’s Democratic Party said recently.
“There is no firm decision by the British to fight on the right side of history in partnership with the people of Zimbabwe who continue to suffer violence and lack because of Mugabe’s greed and love for power.
“They think that Zanu PF can reform. That is a joke.”
Chinamasa is seeking a $1.1 billion rescue package for the battered Harare regime which is now struggling to pay government workers and has recently reacted with brute force against protesting citizens.
Lord Mandelson was part of the Tony Blair labour government dismissed by Mugabe as “gay gangsters”. The British peer is now involved with an investment bank said to be helping arrange to rescue deal for Harare.
After Mandelson’s Harare visit, Chinamasa then travelled to Paris and London where he held talks with the investment bank as well as UK government officials.
Kate Hoey, the Labour MP who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, told the Telegraph that Mandelson will be asked to explain his involvement with the Harare regime.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa met Peter Mandelson in Harare
“We will be asking Lord Mandelson to come and speak to us about his visit to Zimbabwe as soon as the House returns,” Hoey told the Telegraph.
“I think it is important for the Foreign Office to be open and transparent about who paid for Lord Mandelson’s trip and what involvement they had in making it happen.
“They should also explain why the British Ambassador arranged for him to see the Zimbabwean finance minister and accompanied him to his meeting.
“In particular, there should be openness about why and in what capacity Lord Mandelson met the finance minister – and what, if anything, came out of that meeting.”
Said to be playing a key role in the Harare-London re-engagement process is the UK’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing.
Laing however told the Telegraph that it was “normal diplomatic practice to arrange meetings for senior visitors to press case for reform”. There was “nothing unusual” about Lord Mandelson’s presence in Zimbabwe, she added.
The British government, she continued, wanted to encourage reform in the country. “Lord Mandelson visited to pursue [the] same aims,” she said. His visit had “nothing to do with finance or loans”.
A Foreign Office spokesman is quoted saying: “Our overseas embassies only provide assistance for visits of former ministers when they support UK Government objectives.
“This was the case during Lord Mandelson’s visit to Zimbabwe in February 2016 when the British Embassy arranged a meeting with the finance minister as it supported UK objectives of improved economic management and governance, rule of law and human rights.”
Mugabe has been buffeted by pressure on a number of fronts lately. Fed-up citizens have staged protests around the country demanding his resignation over the failing economy.
Meanwhile, war veterans have also turned on the 92-year-old leader and told him to step down, while his ruling Zanu PF party is at war over his succession.