Zimbabwe returns to Commonwealth

February 4, 2018
| Report Focus News

Zimbabwe will rejoin the Commonwealth this year, and President Mnangagwa has formally informed the British government of this position

The President has also — on top of undertaking to dispatch technical teams to London to kickstart comprehensive talks — reminded Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration of its colonial obligation to provide compensation to white farmers affected by Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Programme

Senior Government last week said President Mnangagwa expressed commitment to re-engagement when he met PM May’s special envoy, Mrs Harriet Baldwin, in Harare last Friday.

That this was Mrs Baldwin’s first overseas engagement as Britain’s Minister for Africa speaks volumes about President Mnangagwa’s drive to normalise Zimbabwe’s relations with the entire international community.

Officials on Friday also said President Mnangagwa had expressed his readiness to meet PM May.

Mrs Baldwin was in Zimbabwe to explore restoration of diplomatic relations between the two governments.

Her predecessor, Mr Rory Stewart, met President Mnangagwa soon after his inauguration in Harare on November 24, 2017 to discuss the same subject.

An official told this paper, “President Mnangagwa articulated the land issue at length, affirming that while the programme was irreversible, Government was committed to bringing finality to the matter which sparked the fallout between the two countries spanning nearly two decades.

“Minister Baldwin listened attentively as President Mnangagwa explained the position on the land issue and she promised to deliver the message to her principals in London. The meeting went well and yes, the President declared Zimbabwe’s intention to rejoin the Commonwealth.

“It was significant that the Head of State himself made such a commitment. Britain appreciates that this will go a long way in mending relations between the two countries.”

Another said, “It is our intention to join the Commonwealth, but this is something that is not going to take place immediately. It is definitely going to happen at the appropriate time.

“I think for now, (Britain) are arranging their Commonwealth Summit for April. We will not be joining before then, but in the very near future. We’ll be able to set out plans of when we will start making efforts to rejoin.”

Minister Baldwin said of her visit: “I am pleased that my first overseas trip as minister has been to Zimbabwe. The historic events the country has experienced over the last few months have created an opportunity to strengthen UK-Zimbabwe relations as part of a wider process of international engagement.

“The upcoming elections are a major milestone for the people of Zimbabwe. When I met President Mnangagwa, I said my government welcomed his commitment to hold credible, peaceful, free and fair elections monitored by international observers.

“I have seen for myself that Zimbabwe is a country of enormous potential. With the right leadership, the right policy environment and a vibrant democracy and civil society, Zimbabwe can undergo the transformation it so richly deserves.”

Friday’s meeting touched on how Britain could assist Zimbabwe clear arrears to the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank.

The UK Foreign Office confirmed as much, saying, “Minister Baldwin met with Finance Minister (Patrick) Chinamasa and Reserve Bank Governor John Mangudya to discuss the Government’s plans for clearing debt and normalising relations with the international financial institutions.

“Minister Baldwin welcomed the Government’s recommitment to the Lima Plan and confirmed that the UK would continue to support the Government’s reform agenda. Minister Baldwin also welcomed Government plans to attract more investment into agriculture through ensuring land tenure and compensation are tackled.

“Minister Baldwin met with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo to discuss the Zimbabwean Government’s vision for domestic transformation and international engagement through comprehensive political and economic reforms.

“As a central plank of this, they discussed the importance of the elections later this year being peaceful, credible, free and fair. Minister Baldwin welcomed the President’s commitment to invite international observers from the EU and UN as well as Sadc and AU.”

Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 at the height of diplomatic tensions between Harare and London over land reforms.

Then British PM Tony Blair refused to provide compensation for land acquired from white commercial farmers for redistribution to indigenes as agreed at the 1979 Lancaster House Conference, which formalised Zimbabwe’s Independence from British colonial rule.