Long road for Zim-UK rapprochement

Long road for Zim-UK rapprochement
President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government faces a herculean task to restore economic and political relations between Zimbabwe and its erstwhile coloniser, the United Kingdom.
Trade relations between the two countries are at an all-time low.
In the 10 months to October this year Zimbabwe imported goods worth $100 million from the UK and exported products valued at a paltry $1,175 million to the former world super power, according to figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.
For a country that imports more than 50 percent of its food and spent about $625 billion in imports last year alone, Zimbabwe is barely scratching the surface on what it can gain by increasing trade with the UK.
The two countries enjoyed cordial relations in the two decades after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, but things came to a head at the turn of the millennium when the southern African country embarked on a controversial land reform programme to address colonial land imbalances.
The UK — together with the European Union — suspended direct financial aid to Zimbabwe citing human rights abuses by former president Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF-led government.
Several British companies such as Tesco, BP and Shell and Waitrose, among others, stopped trading with Zimbabwe — sparking a diplomatic tiff between London and Harare.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has, however, hinted that his country was ready to offer support to Zimbabwe’s new government as long as Mnangagwa lives up to his promises of crucial socio-economic reforms.
“Recent events in Zimbabwe offer a moment of hope for the country and its people. This is a time to look to the future and to make clear that Britain shares the common vision of a prosperous, peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe,” he said. Nonetheless, market watchers said the southern African country has to prove itself before trade with Britain starts to grow again.
“If Zimbabwe had kept pace with African average growth since 1998, it would produce three times its current output,” economic analyst Francis Mukora opined.
“To realise its potential government needs to do more to improve the business environment. Investors are keen to support empowerment, but need assurances that their assets are secure, and that profits can be repatriated,” he said, adding that the promised clarification of the indigenisation policy is welcome and if handled properly it could help attract investment.
Philip Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, said Zimbabwe’s decision to engage the UK to be readmitted to the Commonwealth, as the new government attempts to burnish its international reputation, was a step in the right direction.
“It doesn’t involve them in any real commitments except agreeing to the principles of the Commonwealth. For a lot of States, it’s a kitemark of respectability,” he said.
Commonwealth membership brings both economic and political support.
For example, the Commonwealth secretariat assists member States with election monitoring, and there are immigration privileges to the UK.
Zimbabwe hopes that the membership would open the way to more trade and investment, especially loans.
Commonwealth countries — most but not all of which were once British colonies ­— each have an equal say at the heads of government meetings, which takes place every two to three years.
The 52 Commonwealth States would all have to endorse an application for Zimbabwe to be readmitted. Three other members have re-entered in the past three decades— Pakistan in 1989, South Africa in 1994 and Fiji in 1997.
newsdesk@fingaz.co.zw

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  • RICHARD WILEY

    If, and I quote, “the southern African country embarked on a controversial land reform programme to address colonial land imbalances,” why should the exercise have been “controversial”? Addressing the land imbalance was a cover for what turned out to be a vindictive and destructive land grab that triggered the slide into an economic abyss. The “controversy” has nothing to do with re-distribution of land per se but everything to do with the methodology employed! I’m sorry but I’ve never heard of a “land reform” programme that sees productive tenants and/or owners evicted for the land to then lie fallow.

    • Mavambo Dawn

      This exercise was chaotic and not done with the country’s economy and food production as heart. It was done in reaction to the rejection of the draft constitution. Sad we lost our status of bread basket of southern Africa

    • Marcus Gondo

      Well said Richard, love your analysis, thought u were only so much into cars only.

  • Lawrence Gumbo

    Britain’s relationship with Zimbabwe has always been complex.

  • Kelvin Mpofu

    A former imperial power can feel torn between a responsibility towards its ex-colony and a reluctance to interfere in what is now an independent state. And a freshly minted nation can feel resentment towards its former ruler while also hoping to maintain longstanding trade and cultural links.
    Thus it has been for London and Harare.
    Take, for example, President Mugabe. For years, he has railed against Britain and its political leaders as they opposed his disastrous land reforms, his persecution of white farmers and his calamitous management of Zimbabwe’s economy.
    But Mr Mugabe is also an Anglophile who loves cricket, the Royal Family and Savile Row suits.
    He developed a surprising friendship with Lord Soames, the last British governor of what was then Rhodesia.

  • Owen Mudzimwa

    Zimbabwe’s relations with Britain, has been fraught since 2000, when Whitehall spearheaded sanctions against the Mugabe government over allegations of election violence and fraud as well as violent land seizures.

  • Patrick

    Mnangagwa has undertaken to mend Zimbabwe’s relations with the international community. Let see how he will do it

  • chegorts

    If the trade imbalance is to be addressed the first thing to do is
    1) Stop importing Rolls Royce’s and Aston Martin’s
    2) Auction them off as soon as possible and get some return on the stolen monies.

  • Stavo Jean

    Its a long walk to freedom

  • Cde Tawonga

    The British should shut up, and should never be compensated unless for those who bought the land. They also took the land by force and violence and the same happened to them

  • James King

    “So Blair keep your England and I will keep my Zimbabwe”.

  • Moses Agung

    Why does UK want to be compensated for the land reform program?

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