British lawmakers are pressuring Zimbabwe to pay £25 million in pensions to its citizens who served as civil servants under Ian Smith’s colonial regime.
The money is said to be owed to about 2 000 former workers of the Southern Rhodesia government, including ex-military personnel who committed atrocities against the black majority during the liberation struggle.
Conservative Party peer Lord Alastair Robertson Goodlad has been leading the lobby to push his government to engage Harare over the pensions, which were last paid in 2003.
Lord Goodlad, who is the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association president, recently told the UK House of Lords: “The legal and moral responsibility to pay pensions to former Rhodesian and Zimbabwean public servants sits with the Government of Zimbabwe. The British government continues to remind the relevant authorities in Zimbabwe of this legal commitment.
“Following our most recent approach, the Government of Zimbabwe wrote to us on May 27. They explained that pension repayments remain affected by current financial constraints in Zimbabwe and the state of the wider economy. Nonetheless, at our prompting they committed to continuing to seek a solution.
“The UK’s pension protection arrangements in Zimbabwe are confined to those officers who were recruited by the secretary of state for the colonies to serve in Southern Rhodesia on expatriate terms.
“For those recruited on expatriate terms, the UK provides direct pension support.
“We continue to be clear that the UK does not have legal or moral responsibility for Southern Rhodesian civil service pensions. This responsibility lies solely with the Government of Zimbabwe.”
While demanding respect for colonial pension agreements, the British political establishment refuses to recognise its obligations to fund Zimbabwe’s land reforms as agreed at the 1979 Lancaster House Conference.
During decolonisation, the UK government and many newly-independent states signed Public Officers’ Agreements designed to guarantee pensions of expatriate public service officers.
The money would be remitted at the exchange rate prevailing at an agreed date before or at independence.
The British government, however, refused to make such an agreement with Zimbabwe, arguing that the civil servants were employed by the Southern Rhodesian government — and not Her Majesty’s overseas service — which had unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965.
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