19 January 2018

Zimbabwe: UK-Zim Relations - Mnangagwa Exploits Brexit Chance

Photo: The Namibian
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is looking to exploit the opportunity presented by Brexit to push for a rapid mending of broken political ties with Zimbabwe's former coloniser Britain.

In an interview with the Financial Times this week, his first with international media since taking over power last year, Mnangagwa said; "what they (UK) have lost with Brexit they can come and recover from Zimbabwe".

London also seems keen to re-kindle the romance, with a government minister attending Mnangagwa's inauguration last November and a senior government official subsequently visting Harare this year.

Brexit refers to Britain's prospective withdrawal from the European Union (EU) through which London pushed for the imposition of sanctions against Harare nearly two decades ago.

Former president Robert Mugabe, a knighted ex-favourite of the British establishment, drew censure from the West over allegations gross human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

He however, dismissed the charges, claiming instead that Harare was being punished for its land reforms which saw around 4,000 white farmers being forced off their properties.

Political ties between the countries then went into the freezer, with Mugabe personally banned from travelling to London, a favourite shopping destination for his then shopaholic young wife, Grace.

However, Mugabe was ousted from power last November and the new government under Mnangagwa is looking to re-build ties with the West, including the UK.

And it so happens that London is also looking for new friends as it exits the EU.

Mnangagwa said Brexit was a "good thing" as he reckons that "they (UK) will need us, and we will make sure we become very close to them."

Re-joining the Commonwealth

He also said his he was open to seeking re-admission of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth after Harare quit the organisation in anger following the collapse of relations with the UK.

"When we have engagement, they [Britain] want to raise the issue about us joining the Commonwealth. I said I'll be happy to deal with that ... I personally have nothing against the Commonwealth club."

Again, and in another key departure from the policies of his predecessor, Mnangagwa said the West was welcome to observe elections due this year, promising that the vote would be free and fair.

"We want fair free credible elections," he said.

"In the past those who had pronounced themselves against us; who pre-determined that our elections would not be free and fair, were not allowed to come in. But now with this new dispensation I don't feel threatened by anything.

"I would want that the United Nations should come; the EU should come. If the Commonwealth [the club of Britain's former colonies] were requesting to come I am disposed to consider their application."

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