Britain pledged £5 million to Zimbabwe yesterday but made clear more reforms were needed before it would start large-scale development aid to the shattered country.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told visiting Zimbabwean counterpart Morgan Tsvangirai there were “great signs of progress” in Zimbabwe, but the power-sharing government still had to meet a number of tests on the road to democracy.
Brown announced £4 million of food aid and £1 million for school textbooks, bringing total British “transitional support” for the Zimbabwean government this year to £60 million, reports Reuters.
He held out the prospect of more aid if the government, in which Tsvangirai uneasily shares power with President Robert Mugabe, pressed ahead with economic and political reforms.
“We are prepared to go further in offering more transitional support if the reform programme on the ground gains momentum,” Brown said after the first meeting of British and Zimbabwean leaders at 10 Downing Street in more than 10 years.
Tsvangirai is on the final leg of a tour of Europe and the United States designed to drum up cash from donors, but the trip has yielded few contributions towards the $10 billion Zimbabwe says it needs to rebuild the economy.
Most donors, like Britain, are choosing to channel money to Zimbabwe through charities or U.N. agencies rather than give it to a government where Mugabe still wields influence.
U.S. President Barack Obama promised $73 million in new aid for fighting HIV-AIDS and promoting good governance.
Germany pledged €20 million to a World Bank fund for promoting democracy in Zimbabwe and another €5 million for manure and seed. Sweden offered no aid.
Britain’s Africa Minister Mark Malloch-Brown recently said it was too early to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai formed a coalition government with Mugabe in February. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 and has often clashed with London.
Brown said he wanted to see “further rapid steps forward” in Zimbabwe in economic reform including implementation of International Monetary Fund recommendations and reform of the central bank and progress on human rights, freedom of the media and the repeal of repressive legislation.
He called for a new constitution within 18 months and elections as soon as possible afterwards, as well as an immediate halt to the seizure of white-owned farms.
“Our support for reform in Zimbabwe does not mean we will turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, corruption and bad governance. We will continue to speak up for those who are intimidated, threatened and exploited,” Brown said.
Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe had embarked on irreversible change, noting inflation had been brought down to about 3 %. He said he would work hard to ensure the power-sharing government met its objectives.
Tsvangirai told a BBC interviewer that the British state-run broadcaster, banned from operating in Zimbabwe, should be able to send reporters there by July.