Like most Zimbabweans living in the UK, I was baffled by the UK Government’s ill-timed decision to consider forced removals to Zimbabwe. I find it ironic that the Government claims its decision reflects the new reality in Zimbabwe following the formation of a new government in the country last year. If anything, it revealed to me just how out of step the UK Government is with the fast-paced political developments in Zimbabwe.
For starters, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Cabinet Ministers from his MDC party have begun boycotting the power sharing arrangement. They’re protesting at the escalation of state-sanctioned intimidation and violence against their party officials and supporters, and against Mugabe’s resistance to political reforms. In characteristic fashion, Mugabe’s party has responded by doing more of the same. Amnesty International warned this week that Zimbabwe is on the brink of sliding back into the post-election violence that marred the country last year.
On top of that, to demonstrate its cavalier attitude to the international community, Mugabe’s government barred the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Novak from entering the country even though he had been invited by Prime Minister Tsvangirai. This incident made it clear where real power still lies in Zimbabwe. And as the Novak himself observed, there were clearly parts of the government who did not want him to assess “the current conditions of torture”.
With internecine conflict wrecking the power sharing arrangement amidst reports of rising repression across the country, it is a great shock to many Zimbabweans here that the UK Government should decide to reinstate its returns policy. The enhancements to the voluntary returns package available to Zimbabweans are of course welcome. However, it is important to allow people to choose to return freely without the implicit stick of forced removal hovering above them.