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From: Catriona Laing CB, HM Ambassador to Zimbabwe

To: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe

Chair: Kate Hoey MP


Vice Chair: Oliver Colville MP
Secretary: Lord Hughes of Woodside

CC: Chris Dain, John Culley, FCO

18 April 2017
Harare

Dear Kate

Since we last met, I believe we have made good progress here in Zimbabwe and in the UK in explaining
the approach of the UK government and calming the rumour mill that caused so much unhelpful distraction
in 2016.

To keep the APPG briefed, I thought it would be useful to drop you a note summarising the lines we take on
various positions that have been attributed incorrectly to the UK government or to me personally.

1. "UK is bailing out Mugabe"


We are not bailing out the President, the Party or the Government of Zimbabwe - or anyone else. Our
development support is focussed on three areas: social welfare including health and education, livelihoods
and good governance via support for civil society organisations in Zimbabwe. The last two years of
drought have meant we have directed more funds to humanitarian assistance. For more information, see
the DFID Development Tracker. We do not provide any funds directly to the government.

We do want the Government of Zimbabwe to clear its arrears to the international financial institutions
(IFIs). Arrears clearance is necessary but not sufficient for Zimbabwe to re-engage with the IFIs. As
shareholders in these institutions, we will also consider the situation in relation to human rights, rule of law
and sound governance. When the government, whoever that is, is ready for meaningful and
comprehensive reform, we stand ready to help Zimbabwe find its way back into the international
community. Our general approach is set out in a couple interviews I did with Zimbabwe newspapers:

A statement on United Kingdom's support to the people of Zimbabwe (July 2016)

Hope for Zimbabwe but big changes needed (October 2016)

2. "UK is working on behalf of Lazard"


We support the clearance of IFI arrears by Government of Zimbabwe on sustainable financial terms. We
understand that the government has now secured a loan that would allow it to clear its arrears to the World
Bank Group. We understand that the African Export-Import Bank ("Afrexim") has played he lead role in
syndicating this loan, and the syndicate may include the investment bank, Lazard. We have absolutely no
involvement in this transaction, either as a participant or facilitator, and it was not raised when Lord
Mandelson visited Harare in February 2016. If the transaction goes ahead, we understand it may be
secured against future mineral revenue, so it will consume part of the government's future income and
therefore add to the pressure on Zimbabwe's public finances - it is unclear whether this arrangement would
be sustainable. However, it would be anything but a bailout. It would be part of Zimbabwe's efforts to
renormalise relations with the IFs, which, as discussed above, is also contingent on human rights, rule of
law and good governance. Our approach to Zimbabwe's re-engagement with the IFs is discussed in this
interview in greater depth:

Zim to sweat for new cash - British envoy (December 2016)

3. "UK is backing Mnangagwa"


We are persistently accused by some factions or parties of supporting their opponents, and occasionally
people boast that they have our support. I have been accused of supporting most parties, factions or
people vying for high political office at some time, including people I have never met or do not know. UK
government has a very clear position here in Zimbabwe: we support free and fair elections, we talk to
everyone, but we do not take sides. Engagement does not equate to support. I meet regularly with
representatives of the main parties, businesses, communities and civil society - and I have recently seen
representatives of MDC-T, MDC, Joice Mujuru's new party, Zapu and PDP. It is my job to talk to the
government, but I have only met Vice President Mnangagwa twice in more than two and a half years here.
He is certainly one of the main contenders to take over within Zanu-PF should President Mugabe die or
stand down, but that is an objective statement of fact, not a preference or statement of intent.

4. "UK supports stability over human rights"


We do not accept this trade off. Our approach is to use the leverage we have as diplomats to stand up for
human rights, rule of law and good governance. This will ultimately lead to greater stability and prosperity.
Since the protests erupted last summer we have repeatedly stood up for activists who have been treated
unfairly or unlawfully and we will continue to do just that. A couple of weeks ago, I went on the radio to
raise UK concerns about the government's approach to biometric voter registration. We believe this
encouraged a government rethink, but it also drew an angry reaction from the President's spokesman:

The Herald: Govt blasts meddling UK - 30 March 2017

The diaspora group Zim Vigil has noted our intervention:

o The Vigil notes that the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, has come under fierce criticism in
the government press for questioning the handling of the biometric vote issue. It described her remarks as
reckless and unsubstantiated. We believe that Ms Laing has every justification for expressing doubts on this key
issue affecting the legitimacy of next years elections. (The Zimbabwean - 3 April 2017)

As always, we value the work of the APPG and its role as a centre of expertise in parliament and I look
forward to seeing the group when I am in London in early May.

Yours sincerely

Catriona Laing CB
HM Ambassador to Zimbabwe
Harare

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