THE United Kingdom (UK) has once again called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to have meaningful progress on reforms, respect for human rights and the rule of law, stop corruption, and farm invasions.

The call was made by the UK’s Ambassador to the WTO and UN in Geneva, Julian Braithwaite, delivered this statement on the WTO Trade Policy Review of Zimbabwe.

The meeting was also attended by Zimbabwe deputy foreign minister David Musabayana.

“Meaningful progress on reforms, along with respect for human rights and the rule of law, are the only way to sustainably deal with Zimbabwe’s underlying challenges, unlock significant investment and bring about a better future for Zimbabwe and its people,” Braithwaite said.

“As noted in the reports prepared for this Review, corruption continues to hamper Zimbabwe’s development by capturing public and private resources, distorting economic decision making and undermining governance and accountability.

“We continue to urge Zimbabwe to guarantee the independence of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the courts and to take the necessary steps to address corruption and tackle entrenched vested interests and illicit financial flows.

“Within the mining sector, signing up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, restarting efforts to digitise mining licenses and ensuring compliance with environmental impact assessment requirements, would go some way to restoring the confidence of international investors.”

Braithwaite said the UK was committed to supporting a more prosperous, peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe, adding the country had significant economic potential and high human capital.

“We welcomed the Government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to economic and political reforms and hope to see more trade and investment with Zimbabwe in the future. We believe there is notable potential in the renewable energy, agriculture and financial services sectors, sectors with the potential to improve livelihoods and financial inclusion.

“Whilst we recognise the challenges caused by external shocks such as Cyclone Idai and now Covid-19, we continue to be deeply concerned by the lack of fundamental reforms. This is leading to the economic crisis that most Zimbabweans are facing today. Inflation has continued rising, with the year on year inflation rate for the month of July 2020 standing at 838%. Extreme poverty has increased and humanitarian needs are rising.

“With these challenges in mind the UK, as Zimbabwe’s second largest bilateral development partner, is providing £74m this year of bilateral development assistance to support Zimbabwe’s people, focusing on poverty reduction, humanitarian assistance, standing up for human rights and the rule of law. In addition, the UK has rapidly reprogrammed £21.24m to respond to the outbreak of Covid-19 to ensure vital health services can continue.”

Braithwaite also called for an end to ongoing farm invasions.

“We welcome the Zimbabwe Government’s commitments to resolving outstanding land issues. We encourage Zimbabwe to take credible steps to ensure the viability and security of tenure in the 99-year leases, stop further farm invasions, ensure continued progress on compensation and guarantee respect for court decisions on property rights disputes.

“Taking these actions on land is critical to unlocking international investment in the agriculture sector in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Braithwaite said there was a need for Zimbabwe market-based exchange rate to remove distortions and rent-seeking behaviour.

“We hope that this can help remove exchange rate distortions that enable rent‑seeking behaviour in the economy and create barriers to international investors repatriating their returns on investment. It is also crucial that Zimbabwe guarantees transparency and fairness in addressing and resolving all legacy debts resulting from the previous exchange policy.”