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Activists Blast Barclays Bank Over Its Alleged Dealings With Harare

Human rights defenders and members of the political opposition voiced concern on Monday at a report in London's Observer newspaper on the weekend saying that three British financial firms are funding Harare’s land reform program.

The Observer, quoting newsletter Africa Confidential, said Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Old Mutual (originally a South African insurance company) were providing more than US$1 billon in direct and indirect financing to Harare.

Secretary General Tendai Biti of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai said this means the British firms are busting Western sanctions.

The European Union imposed targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe's political elite as well as their business associates in 2002. Persons on the sanctions list are barred from travel in Europe - with the exception of certain events under the United Nations umbrella - and their assets there can be frozen.

Barclays spokesman Perry Jones said his firm was not directly funding Harare. Jones said Barclays lent money to certain clients and that it was also purchasing government bonds in compliance with regulations set by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Jones declined to respond to the charge from the political opposition that the bank was busting Western sanctions against the Zimbabwean government.

Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that dealings by the three firms with Harare are a matter of concern.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...