Since I updated the House on 15 November there have been historic developments in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule came to an end on 21 November, sparking joyous celebrations as Zimbabweans looked forward to the opportunity for a brighter future.
The UK’s objective has remained constant throughout these dramatic developments. We want to support the people of Zimbabwe in building a democratic, stable and prosperous country. The only way for Zimbabwe to achieve a legitimate Government is through free and fair elections held in accordance with the constitution. We stand ready to support a legitimate Government to rebuild their beautiful country, working alongside our international and regional partners, with whom we are already engaging in order to lead the response.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was inaugurated on 24 November, has stated that this marks the beginning of a “new unfolding democracy” in Zimbabwe. He must now demonstrate his sincerity by delivering political and economic reform. In particular, he must hold an election in which all Zimbabweans can participate without fear of intimidation or violence. A transition from one despotic ruler to another would be a tragedy for Zimbabwe and its people.
The process of democratisation and economic recovery will be led by Zimbabweans. The Minister for Africa visited Harare on 23 and 24 November and met with actors from across the political spectrum to discuss the transition to democracy. He made clear to the incoming Administration that the UK stands ready to play a key role in support Zimbabwe’s recovery, but only on the basis of genuine political and economic reforms, including respect for human rights and the rule of law. In this moment of hope for Zimbabwe, the UK will be looking for tangible indications of progress.