The Herald (Harare)

7 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Non-Existent Assets Frozen - Blair Admits

Photo: The Herald
National assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda.

THE British government admitted to selling the world a dummy by claiming that the illegal economic sanctions regime imposed on Zimbabwe by the European Union was an "asset freeze on President Mugabe and his inner circle" even though prior to the imposition of the sanctions - by their own admission - the Blair regime had failed to locate any bank accounts or assets owned by President Mugabe in Europe.

Britain, the European Union and the United States and their allies have passed the raft of economic sanctions they imposed on Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium as travel bans and asset freezes on top government officials even though the sanctions cut Zimbabwe's lines of credit from multilateral lending institutions, and have seeen the US Office of Foreign Assets Control seize millions of dollars in revenue belonging to Zimbabwean companies.

The illegal sanctions regimes are estimated to have cost Zimbabwe over US$42billion in revenue over the past 14 years prompting Government to launch a lawsuit against the EU to which Britain has failed to make representations.

The revelations, that are likely to leave London with egg streaming down the face, are contained in an article titled "Robert Mugabe's 2013 Presidential Election Campaign" that was published in the Journal of African Studies, 2013, Vol 39 on Monday last week.

The article, quoting former South African president Thabo Mbeki, revealed that Britain had "frozen" non-existent assets and that the then British prime minister, Mr Tony Blair, had in 2000 exerted pressure on South Africa in a bid to establish a military base to attack Zimbabwe and depose President Mugabe.

"Britain began saying to us (South Africans) that Bob Mugabe had a castle in Scotland, money in British banks, and these were the things they were going to freeze. We said we cannot stop you. We can stop you (from) invading Zimbabwe from here (South Africa) but we cannot do anything about your sanctions.

"After about three months, Tony's people came to say to us that we have looked high and low. Bob Mugabe has no assets in Britain but we are going to impose sanctions anyway. So they froze assets that did not exist," Mr Mbeki is quoted as saying in the journal published online on Monday.

President Mugabe is on record insisting that he does not own any properties abroad and has challenged the West to confiscate anything they might find including his "needle".

The British embassy this week declined to respond to all the questions sent to it even after spending three days mulling over the questions, asking The Herald to contact Mr Blair or his spokesman in London.

"Thank you for your inquiry. You are advised to get in touch directly with Tony Blair's spokesperson if you would like to pursue this matter further."

Added the embassy: "Meanwhile, find below a brief statement from the British Embassy that you may use in your article. The United Kingdom respects the sovereignty of Zimbabwe. We will do all we can to support the aspirations of the Zimbabwean people for a more democratic, stable and prosperous Zimbabwe."

Mr Blair's office did not respond to questions sent to them over the weekend.

According to the Guardian newspaper the European Union ordered the search for President Mugabe's assets in different parts of the world in 2002 as part of efforts to tighten the illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe and its leadership.

Some British officials thought President Mugabe had money in foreign banks including the Bank of England and some assets in Scotland.

In November last year Cde Mbeki revealed that he came under pressure from Blair to help in a military invasion of Zimbabwe.

Mr Blair denied the allegation only to have former British chief of staff Retired Field Marshal Charles Guthrie refute Mr Blair's claims saying he was asked by the British government if he could look into the possibility of invading Zimbabwe.

He, however, was against the idea saying it would be "a very difficult military operation" given the military might of Zimbabwe and that the operations would be extremely dangerous since the British farmers were all over the country.

Zimbabwe came under attack from Britain's allies among them the US and some members of the European Union bloc, after the former coloniser managed to internationalise its bilateral dispute with Zimbabwe over land reform.

However, some countries in the EU, among them Belgium, have since mellowed their stance and have started campaigning for the removal of the sanctions and some embargoes slapped on Zimbabwean Government officials.

So far the EU has removed all Zanu-PF officials, Government ministers, service chiefs and some companies from the sanctions list except for President Mugabe and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe.

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National assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda.

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