PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s planned visit to the United Kingdom for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change next month has generated a lot of excitement in the corridors of power.
The visit is being touted as a game-changer in terms of improving bi-relations between Zimbabwe and its former colonial master following two decades of acrimony over worsening human rights abuses by Harare during the reign of the late former President Robert Mugabe and lately his successor, Mnangagwa.
The removal of Mugabe in 2017 through a coup and the ushering into power of Mnangagwa brought about hope that cordial relations between Harare and London could be restored. However these hopes were dashed when six people were gunned down at point-blank range by soldiers on August 1 2018 following protests over delayed election results.
The setting up of a commission of inquiry by Mnangagwa led by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to investigate the shooting failed to thaw the frosty relations between Harare and London. This is because Mnangagwa has not implemented the commission’s recommendations, chief among them, to bring the culprits to book as well as to compensate those who were maimed during the shooting.
This was worsened by the further killing of at least a dozen more people in January 2019 after protests over a 150% hike in the price of fuel. The democratic space in the country has since shrunk significantly under the Second Republic as Mnangagwa continues to clamp down on protests with scores of civil rights activists and opposition members and even comedians being arrested or abducted for protesting against his regime.
The excitement over the trip to the United Kingdom is, therefore, premature given that only this year the then United Kingdom foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced that the country had slapped sanctions on four top Zimbabwean securocrats, the first since UK’s exit from the European Union.
Despite glowing reports by the State media of Mnangagwa’s meeting with the Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly to help lift Zimbabwe’s suspension from the grouping, the country still remains suspended two years later.
The message is clear. No amount of trips by the Zanu-PF leader to the United Kingdom or talks with British officials will end the sanctions unless Mnangagwa’s government implements concrete reforms. We have no doubt that Mnangagwa will be told the same during his UK visit next month. All he has to do is to implement key electoral and economic reforms demanded by the international community, and everything else will fall in line.
Source – Newsday