Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa speaks. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg – The UK is turning up the heat on Zimbabwe to take concrete steps towards political and economic reform and has sent a fact-finding mission to the southern Africa country, according to local media reports on Thursday/

The director for Africa at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Harriet Mathews and Debbie Palmer, the director for West and southern Africa in the Department for International Development (DFID), together with British ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson, told the media after meeting President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday that they would report on their fact-finding mission to Prime Minister Boris Johnson upon returning to London. 

“We are doing this on the political, economic and humanitarian front. The first issue of concern, I think, is a call for a real step towards change and for government to step up in terms of political and economic reforms,” said Mathews.

“The government also needs to step up and address issues to do with human rights abuses and corruption."

While the pressure might chafe Harare, it is desperately trying to mend its relations with the West after years of sanctions over human rights abuses, which turned Zimbabwe into a political pariah, contributing significantly to its moribund economy.

Zimbabwe is also pushing for readmission into the Commonwealth and the UK has a huge say in the matter.

African News Agency/ANA