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Harare in fresh Commonwealth bid

ZIMBABWE has again expressed interest in rejoining the Commonwealth after it sent a parliamentary delegation led by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda to lobby for readmission at the 49th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Africa Region Conference held in Gaborone, Botswana, last week.

By Wongai Zhangazha

Mudenda was accompanied by Helen Dingani, Rumbidzai Chisango, Martha Mushandinga and Robert Sibanda.

Since the toppling of former president Robert Mugabe in a military coup in November last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has been on a diplomatic offensive to re-engage the international community and restore diplomatic, trade, financial and investment relations, as well as attract investment and new funding.

In May, Mnangagwa, through Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha, wrote a letter to Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland expressing the country’s interest in rejoining the grouping.

The letter came after Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in April where he made a presentation at a breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the meeting outlining Zimbabwe’s reform agenda.

Zimbabwe had requested to attend Chogm as an observer but the request was turned down on grounds that such a status does not exist.

However, a special arrangement was made for Moyo to make a presentation on the sidelines of the meeting.

The government has followed up the overtures by sending Mudenda to meet Commonwealth parliamentarians from across Africa during their meeting between August 13 and 22, to discuss the increasing threats to national and regional security.

“Zimbabwe is not a member of the Commonwealth, but Mudenda and his team attended the official opening as observers. It’s interesting because officially such a status does not exist although Zimbabwe requested for this status at the Chogm meeting in London but was denied,” an official said.

“Basically Mudenda was lobbying for support for Zimbabwe’s bid to rejoin the Commonwealth. Most countries do not object to Harare being readmitted into the grouping because they are supportive of the re-engagement programme.”

For Zimbabwe to be readmitted into the Commonwealth it has to first write to the Commonwealth secretariat which will then refer the matter to heads of state. Zimbabwe has since written to the secretariat.

This means the earliest Zimbabwe can be readmitted is at the next Chogm in 2020.

Zimbabwe quit the Commonwealth in December 2003 after a meeting of the organisation’s heads of government extended the country’s suspension from its ranks.

The Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe in March 2002 following a presidential election marred by high levels of politically motivated violence.

Zimbabwe also has to fulfil a number of obligations in line with the Harare Declaration of 1991 which saw members of the Commonwealth pledging to ensure the protection and promotion of the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth; democracy, democratic processes and institutions which reflect national circumstances, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government; fundamental human rights, including equal rights as well as create opportunities for all citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief, among other pledges.

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