A COMMONWEALTH committee on Zimbabwe will next week host a roundtable discussion in Johannesburg which the group of former British colonies hopes will result in the mobilisation of humanitarian aid for the country and pave way for a possible re-admission into the 54-nation club.
The three-day meeting starts on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in a huff in 2003 after the group suspended the country after a flawed 2002 presidential poll characterised by rampant intimidation and widespread violence.
But the Commonwealth remains keen to see the diplomatically isolated state, which also has fractured relations with the European Union and United States, re-engaged in the group provided democracy and rule of law are restored.
The discussion, an effort to re-engage Zimbabwe on the humanitarian front, was organised by the Commonwealth Committee on Zimbabwe amid hopes of establishing a special fund to advance humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe.
Carl Wright, chairman of Commonwealth Committee on Zimbabwe, said: â€œOur aim will be to marshal the Commonwealthâ€™s professional and other networks in support of existing aid efforts, and the medium to long-term prospects for reconstruction and development in Zimbabwe. Â
â€œWe hope that the roundtable will result in practical action plans and the identification of the necessary resources to take these forward. Furthermore we hope that the issues arising out of the roundtable will be brought to the attention of Commonwealth Heads of Government when they meet in Trinidad and Tobago later this year.â€
The Commonwealth committee says time is now ripe for an initiative to bring together Zimbabwe civil society and Commonwealth partners with three core aims to consult with Zimbabwe partners about their urgent needs to formulate concrete and coordinated plans for practical action and identifying resources for this work with a view to establishing a Special Commonwealth Fund for Zimbabwe.
According to the programme, various working groups would examine the immediate humanitarian crisis across key sectors in the country and formulate responses on a national and international level.
Regional Integration minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga would participate in the discussion.
Other notable participants at the roundtable are Moeletsi Mbeki, deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs, Cephas Zinhumwe of Zimbabwe National Association of NGOs, Christine Platt, president of the Commonwealth Association of Planners, Fanie du Toit of the Institute for Justice & Reconciliation, Jay Naidoo, chairman of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and Cyril Ramaphosa of the Commonwealth Business Council.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002 and quit the 54-nation group in December 2003 after President Thabo Mbeki failed to get the countryâ€™s suspension lifted.
BY CHRIS MURONZI