Harare, March 25, 2013 – The British and Foreign Commonwealth office in Zimbabwe while not advising against the visiting of Zimbabwe, it has issued a travel alert to British nationals travelling to the country warning them against engaging in political discussions in public places or criticising President Robert Mugabe.
“Avoid political activity, or in activities which could be construed as such, including political discussions in public places, or criticism of the President,” said the alert.
“It is an offence to make derogatory or insulting comments about President Mugabe or to carry material considered to be offensive to the President’s office. An open hand is the political symbol of the former opposition, now the party of the Prime Minister, MDC-Tsvangirai, and a friendly wave may therefore be misinterpreted,” said the alert.
Zimbabwe is due to hold an election this year following the holding of a successful referendum to choose a new constitution of the country.
European Union measures remain in place against 91 individuals and 10 entities.
“The issue remains highly charged politically and retaliation against British and European companies can’t be ruled out,” noted a travel summary for Zimbabwe.
“Monitor local media and avoid areas where demonstrations or rallies may be held, or where there are large gatherings of people. In the past the authorities have used force to suppress demonstrations. The police have told some British nationals that they will not respond to politically motivated crime.”
British nationals were also cautioned against holding a Zimbabwean and a foreign passport at the same time as this was prohibited.
The British Embassy said it was not able to provide the full range of services to people with dual British and Zimbabwean nationality.
The embassy also reminded its nationals that homosexuality was illegal in Zimbabwe.
Other cautions included warning against possession of of illegal drugs, carrying of precious or semi-precious stones without the correct paperwork and the wearing of any form of clothing made from camouflage material.
It also said the provision of health care was unreliable.
“There is a shortage of drugs and trained medical staff in hospitals, making it difficult for hospitals to treat certain illnesses including accidents and trauma cases.”
“There are frequent power cuts that affect the whole country, sometimes for days at a time, as well as occasional fuel and water shortages.”
It also said the Zimbabwean mobile phone network and land lines were unreliable.
British nationals were also advised to take care when visiting farming areas and to be wary of deep potholes in the roads and non-functional traffic lights.
“Avoid driving outside the main towns at night, as vehicles are often poorly lit and roads badly marked. Abandoned unlit heavy goods vehicles, cyclists without lights, pedestrians and stray livestock are particular hazards,” noted the alert.
“Emergency services can provide only limited help in the event of an accident and ambulances are often severely delayed by a lack of fuel. Be careful about stopping in lay-bys, particularly in the Beitbridge area, as there have been incidents of cars being robbed and occupants attacked.”
The alert also warned that it was an offence to continue driving when the President’s motorcade goes past, no matter which side of the road one was on.
“If you see the motorcade, pull off the road or onto the side of the road if this is not possible. There have been a number of incidents where people have been assaulted by the security forces for stopping in the wrong place or for not stopping soon enough.”
“Buses are often overcrowded, inadequately maintained, uninsured, and recklessly driven. You should avoid them if possible. There have been incidents of assault on tourists hitch hiking and travelling in unlicensed buses.”
“The rail system is underdeveloped and very poorly maintained, resulting in numerous accidents. There have been a number of fatal train crashes.”
Air Zimbabwe was operating domestic flights only but the embassy said it was not able to advise on the safety of individual airlines in Zimbabwe.
“It is not known whether safety procedures on all aircraft used for internal and regional flights meet international standards.
Zimbabwe’s airports suffer from a lack of electricity. Harare International Airport relies on a generator during power cuts. This has an impact on the airport’s ability to light the runway and provide air traffic control facilities. This can result in considerable delays, especially at night.”