Long road for Zim-UK rapprochement

By John Kachembere

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government faces a herculean task to restore economic and political relations between Zimbabwe and its erstwhile coloniser, the United Kingdom.

Catriona Laing with Mnangagwa
The then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa shares a lighter moment with the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Catriona Laing when she paid a courtesy call at his Munhumutapa offices in Harare in May 2016. – (Picture by Believe Nyakudjara)

Trade relations between the two countries are at an all-time low.

In the 10 months to October this year Zimbabwe imported goods worth $100 million from the UK and exported products valued at a paltry $1,175 million to the former world super power, according to figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.

For a country that imports more than 50 percent of its food and spent about $625 billion in imports last year alone, Zimbabwe is barely scratching the surface on what it can gain by increasing trade with the UK.

The two countries enjoyed cordial relations in the two decades after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, but things came to a head at the turn of the millennium when the southern African country embarked on a controversial land reform programme to address colonial land imbalances.

The UK — together with the European Union — suspended direct financial aid to Zimbabwe citing human rights abuses by former president Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF-led government.

Several British companies such as Tesco, BP and Shell and Waitrose, among others, stopped trading with Zimbabwe — sparking a diplomatic tiff between London and Harare.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has, however, hinted that his country was ready to offer support to Zimbabwe’s new government as long as Mnangagwa lives up to his promises of crucial socio-economic reforms.

“Recent events in Zimbabwe offer a moment of hope for the country and its people. This is a time to look to the future and to make clear that Britain shares the common vision of a prosperous, peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe,” he said.

Nonetheless, market watchers said the southern African country has to prove itself before trade with Britain starts to grow again.

“If Zimbabwe had kept pace with African average growth since 1998, it would produce three times its current output,” economic analyst Francis Mukora opined.

“To realise its potential government needs to do more to improve the business environment. Investors are keen to support empowerment, but need assurances that their assets are secure, and that profits can be repatriated,” he said, adding that the promised clarification of the indigenisation policy is welcome and if handled properly it could help attract investment.

Philip Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, said Zimbabwe’s decision to engage the UK to be readmitted to the Commonwealth, as the new government attempts to burnish its international reputation, was a step in the right direction.

“It doesn’t involve them in any real commitments except agreeing to the principles of the Commonwealth. For a lot of States, it’s a kitemark of respectability,” he said.

Commonwealth membership brings both economic and political support.

For example, the Commonwealth secretariat assists member States with election monitoring, and there are immigration privileges to the UK.

Zimbabwe hopes that the membership would open the way to more trade and investment, especially loans.

Commonwealth countries — most but not all of which were once British colonies ­— each have an equal say at the heads of government meetings, which takes place every two to three years.

The 52 Commonwealth States would all have to endorse an application for Zimbabwe to be readmitted.

Three other members have re-entered in the past three decades— Pakistan in 1989, South Africa in 1994 and Fiji in 1997. The Financial Gazette

  • Long live your Excellency The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Commander in Chief of the Zim… https://t.co/hhobNQ52EG

  • Go go our President

  • IF you do this, suspect early better changes

  • moving in good direction

  • That’s a vry good move mr president!!!

  • British ne America ndokuneupenyu hwe ma African

  • Free and fair elections first

    • Iwe stop thinking of elections wish fr better economy not elections

    • Do yu eat elections

    • U do not think.Zanu can not fix that economy.They need the help of the West and the West are saying free and fair elections first

    • Nw zimbabwe needs to be restored thats why they removed Mugabe ..we need a difference in zimbabwe lets …

    • Even if it means to sell zim to whites let it be …. Varume we are tired of suffering..taneta kugara kunze kwezimbabwe….

    • Nhamo nhamo nhamo tinokuponda chete

    • Phiri ma opposition ngaarongeke aurikutemba nawo nekti haahwine akaita confusion dzavo ivo

    • No no no.That is where u get it wrong.Chinodyiwa vanhu nekuti ndivo vanotambudzika.Opposition leaders are doing well on a personal level.Asingahwine ndiwe uri kushaya basa.U need them in power more than they need u

  • RAPPROCHEMENT Defined for English Language Learners
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  • wilbert

    The UK and the rest of the West have lost a lot of economic ground to the Chinese in Africa and they will be tempted to ditch demands for democratic reforms and open up trade. Zimbabwe’s economic recovery will depend on the country biting the bullet and implement the democratic reforms. Nothing of any substance will ever be accomplished as long as we have this corrupt and tyrannical Zanu PF dictatorship in power.

    It is up to us, ordinary Zimbabweans, to make sure countries like UK, USA and other Western countries do not give up on democratic reforms. And by the same token, it will be up to us to make sure nations like Chinese know we are aware they have propped up the Zanu PF dictatorship all these last 37 years and they are already spending billions of dollars to ensure there are no reforms and the Zanu PF dictatorship remain in power at all cost.

    Thanks to China’s past influence Zanu PF has enjoyed absolute power these last 37 years at the price to the nation of 90% unemployment rate, 72.3% living on US$ 1.00 or less a day, etc. This cannot go on and if China thinks we are going to sit back whilst this madness continues then it has something coming!

  • Ummm

    Immigration privileges ?? , murikutamba imi. Ndezvakudhara….what do u offer , 20yrs murimo hapana zvaitwa ?

    Dai zvakadaro muchinzwa chi xosa ne chizulu ku south end. Makabirira , the majority of u makajamba bhodha.

  • Ummm

    Ozz , NZ, ne Canada ndo ma commonwealth countries – vanhu vanobva kunyika idzi chero vakagaro vasina mavhiza haizi mosva mapurisa havasungi…vamwe mese murikungozvifadza.

    1) Hamuwani mavhiza , 2) Kana wapinda rikapera hunge wariwana….kumana or else imhosva.

    Dzidzai kudanana nevekwenyu ma African countries. Takurirako all three continents hapana zvinoshamisira havazi vanhu venyu.

  • Ambassador i civil servant yatinokwanisa kubvisa any time ndosaka takamushedza back.

    Munofanira kuita ma elections ndokuti zvigofamba.

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