Zimbabwe is on the verge of rejoining the Commonwealth and this week President Mnangagwa met the organisation’s secretary-general Ambassador Patricia Scotland on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to work on modalities for readmission.
Speaking to journalists after her final departure call on Acting President Kembo Mohadi at his Munhumutapa Offices in Harare yesterday, outgoing British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ambassador Catriona Laing confirmed the meeting, adding that the United Kingdom was supportive of Harare rejoining the international organisation.
Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth at the height of a diplomatic tiff between Harare and London in December 2003.
Asked by journalists on the prospects of Zimbabwe rejoining the club, Ambassador Laing said: “I understand the President had a meeting with Honourable (Patricia) Scotland (Commonwealth secretary-general) in New York.
“That process, as I understand it, has started but it wouldn’t formally conclude until the next Commonwealth Summit, which will be in Malaysia in 2020.
“We are very supportive of Zimbabwe rejoining the Commonwealth. There is a process to follow. It’s not automatic. It involves ensuring that the Harare Declaration, which was signed here in early 1990s is enacted and that means issues like free and fair elections, an independent Judiciary and respect for the rule of law that are very helpful for Zimbabwe to have that confidence because it will be able to demonstrate to the world that it is transparently meeting that criteria.”
Ambassador Laing said London was encouraged by improvements in Zimbabwe’s electoral processes although she said they were concerned about the tragic events of August 1 where six people were killed after violent protests by members of the opposition.
She said the UK would be following closely the work of the Commission of Inquiry set up by President Mnangagwa to investigate the matter.
“We have a very useful discussion with Acting President Mohadi reflecting on the past four years and the changes we have seen,” she said.
“There have been many positive changes but there are still some huge changes ahead. We talked about the elections and the positive steps around peaceful elections and the high turnout but also some concerns that the playing field is not completely even and the fact that the opposition has not accepted the results creates some challenges for Zimbabwe in terms of coming together as a country and moving forward.
“I urged the Acting President to try and ensure that everybody’s voice is heard in Zimbabwe. He of course has an important role to play as the person responsible for National Peace and Reconciliation Commission. He updated me on the work that is planned and we are very supportive and encouraging that process.
“We will also be following very closely the work of the Commission of Inquiry into the tragic events of August 1. We are encouraged that the Commission of Inquiry has been sworn in and there are very eminent people on that commission and we will be watching closely and look forward to seeing the results published and recommendations acted upon.”
Where possible, Ambassador Laing said, the UK was ready to give advice were necessary following the announcement by President Mnangagwa that he wanted to create an Office of the Opposition Leader.
Acting President Mohadi said Government had a good working relationship with Ambassador Laing during her four year tenure in Zimbabwe.
“She did quite a lot. She saw Zimbabwe transiting from the old Republic to the Second Republic,” said Acting President Mohadi.
“The relations between the two countries improved during her term, we now have good relations with the British. You remember that when we had the first inauguration immediately after the new dispensation the British Prime Minister sent a Minister to come and congratulate us.
“They did not send a message or write a letter. We have worked so well with her. We are going to miss her because we had become used to working with her and knocking on her doors. She is going to another posting in Africa and we will still be in contact with her.”
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