The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE continues to accelerate its re-engagements efforts aimed at normalising relations with the West and the wider community of nations. The year 2021 offers an opportunity to consolidate progress made thus far.
Since the advent of the New Dispensation in November 2017, President Mnangagwa’s administration has made giant strides in seeking to smoothen relations with the United States of America, the United Kingdom, European Union and the Commonwealth while strengthening already existing and cordial ties with global economic giants — China, Russia and the developing world.
The re-engagement drive is the plank upon which the Government’s foreign policy is anchored as Zimbabwe moves to open new frontiers in trade and investment while shedding the country’s pariah status attained under the First Republic.
In 2020, immense progress was made with regards to the Zimbabwe-EU relations with the first ministerial level Political Dialogue having been held and a second one stymied by the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Readmission into the Commonwealth, which the country voluntarily withdrew from in 2003 after a breakdown in relations between Harare and the UK, is now a real possibility following steady progress in talks with the club of mainly former British colonies. If Zimbabwe is, as expected, given the nod to rejoin the Commonwealth, that will unlock international goodwill and accelerate progress in talks already underway with the EU and even the US, where a new administration under incoming Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will come into office on January 20.
It is trite to note that Zimbabwe needs to normalise relations with the West to augment giant strides made in reforming the economy which has stabilised and is set for take-off under the National Development Strategy-1 (2021-2025).
For the policies enunciated by Treasury to succeed, Zimbabwe needs the support of global financial institutions and access to cheap lines of credit to support productive sectors of the economy. Zimbabwean companies also need to access Western markets, something which is virtually impossible under the sanctions regime currently in place. We, therefore, call for the acceleration of the re-engagement process being spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and for reciprocity from the West in its dealings with Zimbabwe.
There should be recognition of the progress made since President Mnangagwa assumed office and the goodwill generated by the reforms implemented by his administration. It should be noted that Zimbabwe has, from the outset, unequivocally stated that it intends to be a friend of all and enemy of none under the New Dispensation and will pursue economic diplomacy as it bids to improve the lot of its people.
By focusing on the economy and relegating the quarrelsome brand of megaphone diplomacy of the past to the dustbin, Zimbabwe is sending a loud and clear message to the world: “We are open for business”. So far, this seems to have worked wonders as evidenced by the marginal growth in the economy and prospects for a boom this year, which are anchored on a bountiful agricultural season. We are glad that President Mnangagwa has thus far refused to be drawn into political sideshows orchestrated by regime change agents sponsored by some meddlesome Western envoys and has instead kept his eyes trained firmly on the goal of delivering an Upper Middle-Income Economy to Zimbabweans by 2030.
The actions of some agent provocateurs in civil society and so-called human rights movements are meant to drag the Government into the mud so as to derail the re-engagement efforts and we urge authorities to ignore the quislings. To them, normalisation of relations with the West means they have lost a meal ticket as their careers are intricately intertwined with the politics of regime change.
In 2021, the Government must focus on rejoining the Commonwealth which will mark its departure from pariah status and emergence into the global family of nations. It will enable Zimbabwe to host internationally accredited global events and conferences and fast-track the resolution and ratification of the outstanding Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA). Zimbabwe must up the ante in campaigning for the removal of sanctions imposed by the EU and USA with the election of President-elect Biden in Washington presenting an opportunity for a reset of relations.
Harare has always argued that the sanctions regime was the result of the internationalisation of a bi-lateral dispute between Zimbabwe and the UK over the land reform programme and we appeal to the US to wipe the slate clean and give normal relations a chance. In fact, it can be argued that concerns about democracy in Zimbabwe are a fallacy given the chaotic and ugly scenes witnessed in Washington last week, where outgoing President Donald Trump’s supporters sought to subvert the will of the people by orchestrating an insurrection.
The attack on the Capitol, seat of the US House of Representatives and Senate, was a huge blow and showed that the US has no right to hold the moral high ground and lecture other nations on democracy and good governance.
Be that as it may, Zimbabwe has always said its doors remain open and it will continue to actively engage all nations, especially on the issue of sanctions. We are encouraged by the fact that Zimbabwe and its erstwhile foes, the US and the EU (including the UK), are talking TO rather than AT each other. Such camaraderie is good for progress.
February and March are usually the months in which the sanctions regime is reviewed and the manner in which President-elect Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will deal with this matter will give an indication of the direction they want relations to proceed.
We pray that they exercise their minds on this important matter and allow for normalisation of relations taking into account the debilitating effects of these punitive measures. In his congratulatory message to President-elect Biden, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe is, as it always has been, ready to work together as friends and partners with the US for the benefit of both countries’ peoples.