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Bob Moon: President Robert Mugabe is pressing ahead with tomorrow’s runoff election in Zimbabwe, never mind near universal calls for a delay.
The opposition MDC party has pulled out because of widespread violence and Western leaders don’t seem to know what to do next about Zimbabwe. The U.S. banned American companies from doing business there seven years ago. Britain and the European Union have imposed limited sanctions against the Harare government.
But as Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports from London, some British businesses are still propping up the regime.
Stephen Beard: Three big British companies still provide a financial lifeline for the Mugabe government. One of them, Barclays Bank, owns a subsidiary in Zimbabwe.
Ed Davey of the U.K.’s Liberal Democrat Party:
Ed Davey: This subsidiary lends money to the ZANU-PF elite, to members of Mugabe’s own cabinet. They are contributing to keeping this regime going.
Barclays says 100,000 customers in Zimbabwe depend on its subsidiary. Shutting the operation would cause further hardship. But Davey says Barclays and the other British groups are keeping Mugabe afloat by providing hard currency.
Davey: If we could starve this regime of foreign exchange, we can pull the plug on it far more quickly than people might realize.
Critics point to other financial links between Britain and Mugabe. Patrick Smith is with Africa Confidential magazine in London. He says the close ally of a key figure in the regime runs a business openly in the U.K.
Patrick Smith: Emerson Malangagwa’s business partner operates a conglomerate in this country. His company is an agency for British Aerospace, the weapons manufacturer.
Zimbabwean journalist Innocent Sithole says the British government is clearly reluctant to sever its business links with a resource-rich country like Zimbabwe.
Innocent Sithole: I do not think that the British would want to rock their fundamental economic interests and open the way for the entry of competition from other sources.
Beard: Like China?
Sithole: Yes, exactly.
Yesterday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on companies still doing business with Zimbabwe to “reconsider their position.”
In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.