In a statement yesterday, the British embassy said president Robert Mugabe’s party bused-in protesters to a mission hospital in the east of the country where the diplomat, second secretary Sarah Bennett, was handing over British-funded hospital equipment.
Demonstrators mobbed local officials and visiting dignitaries, demanding the lifting of western sanctions targeted at Mugabe and his ruling elite. It was “deeply depressing” the project was subjected to party propaganda, the statement said.
No violence was reported, but the incident came amid rising tensions and a new upsurge in political violence across Zimbabwe ahead of elections due later this year.
Ms Bennett was in the remote Mutasa rural district on Wednesday to donate mortuary equipment the area had long lacked.
Rowdy demonstrators carried placards describing the prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai as a “puppet” of the West.
British ambassador Mark Canning said that Britain had spent more than $100 million (£60m) in aid for local communities in Zimbabwe last year.
And he dismissed claims that visa, business and banking sanctions on Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party by Britain and the European Union had hurt Zimbabweans as a whole.
Last Sunday, human rights activists reported that political tension and violence rose markedly in January ahead of proposed elections this year, even though a date for the vote has not been set.Mob attacks, threats, assaults, questionable arrests by police and at least one shooting were reported in clashes between rival party supporters in Harare and its suburbs.
Zimbabwe’s state-run radio has accused the prime minister of trying to spark anti-government uprisings similar to those seen in Tunisia and Egypt.
An independent doctors’ group said on Thursday it had evidence from witness accounts that at least 70 Mugabe militants were brought by truck to the western Mbare township, the centre of new clashes this week that left nine people injured, three of them in hospital.Zanu (PF) leaders have accused Tsvangirai of instigating the Mbare township violence in a bid to incite the Egypt style uprising.