SLOWLY but surely Zimbabwe is regaining acceptance in the community of nations and could soon record major foreign policy breakthroughs thanks to the valiant efforts of the new dispensation. For the first time since the country withdrew from the Commonwealth in December 2003 after the group voted to extend its indefinite suspension from the club of former British colonies, Zimbabwe has been invited to CHOGM which opened in London yesterday.
The invitation marks the latest high level sign of thawing of relations between Zimbabwe and Britain which have been frosty since the turn of the millennium.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Dr Sibusiso Moyo, leads Zimbabwe’s delegation to the CHOGM where the country will have observer status ahead of its planned re-admission into the bloc before year end. Before heading to London, Dr Moyo will meet senior United States of America officials in that country where he is accompanied by among other officials, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr John Mangudya.
Zimbabwe is working towards normalising relations with countries that were hostile to it because of the policies of the previous regime led by former President Robert Mugabe. It is also keen to shed off its pariah status and woo international investors who have already shown an appetite for the country.
The charm offensive in the United States began yesterday with Dr Mangudya being interviewed by Bloomberg TV where he called for investors from the US, France, Germany and the United Kingdom to come into the country.
Zimbabwe, he said, was looking at the whole global economy, particularly Western countries, to invest in Zimbabwe. “We expect the whole global economy to invest . . . Not only China. Yes, China has been involved in a number of projects that are there, we are also talking about Western countries, UK, Germany, France, they have a number of companies there. We know about the Totals of this world,” Dr Mangudya said.
Allaying fears that investors could find it difficult to move their money in and out of Zimbabwe due to the prevailing foreign currency shortages, the RBZ Governor said the banking system was stable and secure. “Right now you all know that Zimbabwe is going through foreign currency shortages . . . and therefore if we open up the economy we are saying that we need more people coming into this country. And others will come in and others will be going out and therefore that’s why we are saying that Zimbabwe is open for business. The economy is open, so at the end of the day, companies can take money out,” he said.
Since November last year, Zimbabwe has received $7 billion worth of investment commitments and once these are fulfilled, the country will witness a boom in economic activity unprecedented in its history. The planned re-admission into the Commonwealth will expedite the country’s economic recovery as it will open up new markets while repairing Zimbabwe’s battered image abroad.
Speaking at the weekend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Joey Bimha, said the Commonwealth invitation was an indication of reciprocity to Zimbabwe’s re-engagement efforts. “The minister has been invited by his British counterpart for a visit. He is going to attend the (Commonwealth) meeting, but he will not participate,” he said.
“We are not privy to the agenda of the Summit since we are not participants . . . But this shows that our re-engagement exercise is working,” he said. After London, Dr Moyo heads to Brussels where he is scheduled to meet European Union head of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Federica Mogherini.
Ambassador Bimha said Zimbabwe’s re-engagement missions had been going well. “The President has been on record saying we should make overtures to woo the West again following a long period of isolation. I think the exercise is going on well, we have been to Japan, UK, Portugal, China and Spain.
“To signal the level of reciprocity Zimbabwe has been enjoying from the West, delegations have visited the country from the European Union, the UK, the US and other countries,” he said.
President Mnangagwa’s first foreign visitor following his inauguration was then British Minister for Africa, Mr Rory Stewart. UK minister for Africa in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development, Mr Harriet Bladwin also visited him in February. Last month, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa was in Britain where he met Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.
A fortnight ago, a five-member delegation of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee visited Zimbabwe and met President Mnangagwa; and last week EU International Development Commissioner Mr Nevin Mimica also paid him a visit. Zimbabwe is indeed open for business and the latest diplomatic offensive by the Government is likely to consolidate the good work that has been done since the end of Operation Restore Legacy that culminated in the resignation of former President Mugabe and the ushering in of a new dispensation.