A British government minister yesterday said the United Kingdom provides “extensive financial and technical assistance” to civil society organisations in Zimbabwe that support Zimbabwean citizens in holding the state to account, raising questions as to whether it could be providing legal assistance to the seven activists that are being detained on allegations of sabotage.
George Makoni of the Centre for Community Development Trust; Nyasha Frank Mpahlo of Transparency International Zimbabwe; Tatenda Mombeyarara of the Citizens Manifesto; and Gamuchirai Mukura of Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development Trust were arrested on 20 May at the Robert Mugabe International Airport on allegations of treason.
They were returning from the Maldives where they had gone to attend a conference.
Farirai Gumbonzvanda, a girls’ rights activist and community volunteer with the Rozaria Memorial Trust was arrested on 21 May while Stabile Dewa of Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence and Rita Nyampinga of the Female Prisoners Support Trust were arrested on 27 May.
They are all currently on remand.
Asked by The Marques of Lothian in the House of Lords yesterday whether the British government had discussed the fate of the seven activists, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, responded: “We continue to raise our serious concerns regarding the arrests of civil society activists in Zimbabwe.
“Our Ambassador in Harare raised the case of the seven activists with Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Moyo on 30 May. Embassy officials have also attended court hearings.
“The UK provides extensive financial and technical assistance to civil society organisations in Zimbabwe who support Zimbabwean citizens in holding the state to account.”
Britain says it is pouring millions into Zimbabwe as aid but none of the aid is paid directly to the government including that for Cyclone Idai.
British-based Amnesty International last month suspended its local branch in Zimbabwe after uncovering “fraud and serious financial mismanagement”.