'DURING my trip to London, I had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with the UK (United Kingdom) minister for Africa, Rt Hon @AndrewmitchMP understanding what steps the UK thinks we must take and developing the relationship between the UK and Zimbabwe is an exciting opportunity for all of us,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa tweeted on Monday upon his return from the Coronation of King Charles III in London.
Zimbabwe has been isolated from the West for more than two decades now, with the country facing a range of sanctions from the European Union (EU), the United States (US) and other Western countries.
The isolation of Zimbabwe has been largely due to human rights abuses and undemocratic practices by the government of former president Robert Mugabe. However, since Mugabe's ouster in 2017, the new government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has embarked on a reengagement drive with the West in an effort to end the country's isolation and attract much-needed foreign investment.
The reengagement drive has seen Mnangagwa’s administration undertake several high-level diplomatic visits to Western countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France.
The visits have been aimed at repairing relations and attracting foreign investment to help revive Zimbabwe's struggling economy. However, the reengagement drive has not yielded the desired results, with the country still facing sanctions and not being allowed to join organisations such as the Commonwealth.
But Mnangagwa said “the signals are positive” for Zimbabwe to re-join the Commonwealth after meeting with its chairperson President Paul Kagame and secretary general Patricia Scotland .
However, for Zimbabwe's isolation to end, the country needs to implement a range of reforms.
Former foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi tweeted on Sunday that: “14 years as a public servant, I paid 10 courtesy calls on different British ministers on Africa (2009-2017), at the FCO, met Gordon Brown, David Cameron, several House of Lords members. Their message: Please strengthen our hand with reforms to help you”.
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Zimbabwe needs to implement several key reforms, one of which includes electoral. The country has a history of disputed elections, with the opposition and civil society accusing the ruling party of electoral fraud and rigging. The government needs to implement reforms that will ensure free, fair and credible elections, which will be accepted by all stakeholders, including foreign nations. With the harmonised elections beckoning in August, all eyes are on Zimbabwe.
The government cannot afford to miss this opportunity to show the world that it is committed to implementing the necessary reforms that ensure that the polls are free and fair.
Another key reform that Zimbabwe needs to implement is to ensure that the judiciary is independent and that the rule of law is respected. The government also needs to respect human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association. The government needs to allow civil society organisations and the media to operate freely without fear of persecution.
Zimbabwe must also address the issue of corruption, which is a major problem in the country, with reports of high-level corruption involving government officials. This entails taking concrete steps to address corruption, including investigating and prosecuting corrupt officials.
At least Mnangagwa rescinded Tuesday’s proclamation declaring the procurement of certain goods and services as national interest, stating that they would not be publicly disclosed. This was after a public outcry. We were told that it was issued without authorisation. We wait to see if heads will roll!
The government should also implement economic reforms that will attract foreign investment and revive the economy. Zimbabwe has been facing an economic crisis for several years now, with high inflation, a shortage of foreign currency and high levels of unemployment. This includes addressing issues such as land reform, which has been a contentious issue for several years.
The Bona (nee Mugabe) and Simba Chikore saga has exposed the grand looting of land.
For the reengagement drive to be successful, Zimbabwe needs to implement a range of reforms, some of which are stated above. If Zimbabwe implements these reforms, the chances become higher of thawing relations with the UK, EU and US, which will help revive the country's struggling economy and improve the lives of ordinary citizens.