Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 00:00
Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
Britain has come under fire for raising petty issues, including an arms deal executed in the 1980s, to undermine the Zimbabwe-EU dialogue. The arms deal was done before the November 1997 fallout with the New Labour government of former premier Tony Blair.
The Zimbabwe-EU dialogue seeks to find ways of thawing relations that became frosty after the bloc imposed illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002. The British government loaned Zimbabwe 35 million pounds to buy Hawk fighter jets between 1989 and 1992.
Although Zimbabwe has since repaid the loan, Britain wants companies involved in the deal to explain why British taxpayers’ funds ended up helping Zimbabwe buy the jets. Zimbabwe bought five Hawk fighter jets and 1 030 police Land-Rovers, and Britain claims these were used to suppress dissent.
A story published in the British newspaper, The Guardian, says managers of BAE Systems and BP would be asked to account for hundreds of millions of pounds used to help “military dictators” build up their arsenal. The Guardian said an official all-party inquiry into the British government Export Credits Guarantee
Department’s underwriting of the loans would begin to call witnesses next week.
The all-party parliamentary group on International Corporate Responsibility would investigate more than 40 years of the government’s involvement in what it termed as “supporting dubious practices overseas”.
Other deals said to be under investigation include those with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
However, Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba yesterday said the issue had been raised to spoil discussions between Zimbabwe and the EU.
“It (Britain) wants to spoil the meetings by raising political temperatures. In the 1980s, Zimbabwe was eyeing Chinese and Russian fighter aircraft for purchase. This was abandoned following fervent pleas from Margaret Thatcher who persuaded the President to buy a squadron of Hawk fighter jets. The same also went for the Defender vehicles used by our police force,” he said.
“The matter is being raised now on the eve of the Zimbabwe-EU dialogue and a good three decades after the transaction which, by the way, has been fully paid for with usurious interest.”
Mr Charamba said the exorbitant money for the Hawk fighter jets was already used in the British economy.
He added: “The idea is to try and suggest that the British and trade policy are conscience-led. This coming from a slaver nation, a colonising power and a capitalist country, it is breath-taking hypocrisy.
“Who fought the opium wars in China in the 19th century? Was not the idea to force-smoke the Chinese dagga.
“Now that they are so worried to interact with Zimbabwe, it is time for Zimbabwe to help them clear their conscience and businesses by getting them out of our mines.”
Mr Charamba said interestingly the British government was keen to exhume fully paid deals of history yet British ordinance was being used against the Afghans.