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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Mugabe's opponents rebuke UK
Robert Mugabe
Mugabe is using land for politics, say his opponents
Opponents of President Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe have rebuked the UK Government for failing to do enough to help the plight of Britons in the troubled country.

The criticism from Zimbabwean campaign groups came amid reports that the first white farmers were being evicted from their land by militants.


The government has failed to understand the misery faced by Britons forced to return from Zimbabwe

John Huruva
Movement for Democratic Change
Wednesday's reprimand for UK ministers followed reports that Prince Charles had written to Tony Blair about the obstacles facing British citizens leaving Zimbabwe.

Ministers say they are giving the right help while also trying to ease problems in Zimbabwe, but the Conservatives say much more is needed to prevent an "enormous humanitarian crisis".

An estimated 2,900 white farmers should have left their houses by midnight last Thursday as part of President Mugabe's land reform programme.

Britons misery

In London, John Huruva, UK spokesman for main Zimbabwean opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change, accused UK ministers of letting down British citizens caught in the troubles.

"The government has failed to understand the misery faced by Britons forced to return from Zimbabwe," said Mr Huruva in a statement.

Michael Ancram, shadow foreign secretary
Zimbabwe faces an enormous humanitarian crisis, says Ancram
"It is not doing enough to help their own citizens rebuild their lives."

Zimbabwean human rights activist Albert Weidermann said some British citizens were getting so little help once they arrived in the UK that they had no choice but to return to Africa.

Those criticisms came after opponents of President Mugabe held talks with Conservative shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram in London.

Mr Ancram has written to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair raising concerns that the British High Commission in Harare is putting "unnecessary obstacles" in the way of people wanting to return to the UK.

Peter Hain, Foreign Office Minister
Peter Hain says the EU is putting pressure on Mugabe
President Mugabe's voting laws meant many Britons had to renounce their British citizenship, said Mr Ancram.

In the past, they had been able to reclaim their UK status even after renouncing it several times but they were now being told they could do so only once, he continued.

"If this is true, it would mean in practice that British citizenship is being forfeited under duress and that the UK Government seems on the face of it to be helping Mugabe to get his way," he said.

'Sticking to the law'

Mr Ancram is also worried that the High Commission may now be charging prices at black market exchange rates for people using its services.

A Foreign Office spokesman said there was no question of the High Commission doing anything other than applying the nationality laws.

There had been no change in policy where those laws allowed ministers' discretion, he said.

The Foreign Office says the High Commission has switched to "parallel" exchange rates for its charges after losing 400,000 in taxpayers' money last year.

Sanctions regime

Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain on Tuesday insisted help was being given to people fleeing Zimbabwe, whether they were British citizens or asylum seekers.

Mr Hain argued the focus should be on helping to change the situation in Zimbabwe itself.

Targeted sanctions against Mr Mugabe and his chief supporters were already in place and Zimbabwe had also been suspended from the Commonwealth, said Mr Hain

The issue would, however, be raised at this month's Earth Summit.

Mr Ancram said that was not good enough and a humanitarian crisis caused by Mr Mugabe's policies threatened to spill out beyond Zimbabwe.

The Earth Summit was a chance to form an international coalition to put pressure on Mr Mugabe, said Mr Ancram, although he did not specify what kind of tactics could be used.

South African backing was "key" to making the Mugabe regime let in monitors to ensure fair food distribution, as well as to hold fresh elections, he added.


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See also:

14 Aug 02 | Africa
09 Aug 02 | Africa
25 Jun 02 | Africa
11 Jul 02 | Africa
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