‘Zim-UK relations thawing’
Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday said relations between Zimbabwe and Britain were thawing as evidenced by his three meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week.
He said he used his UK visit to mount a diplomatic offensive aimed at strengthening the re-engagement drive while calling for the removal of sanctions.
The President returned home on Thursday from a successful trip to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) which was held in Glasgow, Scotland where he met other global leaders to tackle issues to do with climate change.
It was the first time for a Zimbabwean leader to visit the UK after relations between the two nations were strained after Zimbabwe embarked on the corrective land reform programme in the early 2000s.
The land reform exercise saw Britain, America and their allies imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe including travel restrictions on the country’s leaders.
After landing at Somhlolo Stadium in Lupane, Matabeleland North on his way to Lupane State University where he officiated at the institution’s 12th graduation ceremony, the President addressed Zanu-PF supporters at stadium who had come to welcome him.
He said he used the UK conference to push for the country to join the community of nations.
He said he met several world leaders including the United States President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President of the European Union Council Charles Michel among other global leaders.
“That (meeting with Boris) was the breaking of the ice between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom. We then spoke twice after the engagements. I was also invited to a dinner for heads of state organised by Queen Elizabeth. I went with my young brother Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenyan President), although the Queen (Elizabeth) did not come as she was said to be not feeling well. However, she sent her son Prince Charles and grandson Prince Williams,” said President Mnangagwa.
“So, I went to Prince Charles to say in 1980 you were the one who removed the British Union Jack confirming Zimbabwe’s independence. So, I asked him that for 41 years, why haven’t you returned to see how advanced the country you gave independence was? He failed to answer the question. So, I extended an invitation to him to come and see how the country was progressing.”
He said he invited Prince William to also visit the Victoria Falls among other natural wonders that the country has.
President Mnangagwa said he asked President Biden why the US had unjustly imposed sanctions on the country.
“I told him that there is no crime that we committed against America and why are you imposing sanctions on us? I reminded him that America calls itself the biggest democracy; why imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe. He said ‘Mr President kindly wait.’ He then called his staffer and held my hand and said ‘This is the Zimbabwean President, and
I want that when we return home, we revisit this issue. I would like to talk to him.’ That is what Biden said,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said after engaging the Canadian Prime Minister, he invited him to visit Zimbabwe and the Prime Minister said he would first send one of his ministers.
President Mnangagwa said he also spoke with the European Union representative who expressed readiness to re-engage with Zimbabwe.
He said Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Frederick Shava has already started talks with EU representatives on cooperation areas.
The President said he also met with the business community from the UK and the country’s diasporans in a bid to strengthen the reengagement mantra.
Earlier in the morning, the President also addressed multitudes that came to welcome him when he landed at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo. He also spoke about his diplomatic offensive and the leaders he met.
Welcoming the President at Somhlolo, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo, who is also Zanu-PF provincial chairman, said the province will continue to rally behind the President’s developmental agenda.
“Following your trip to Glasgow as a province we are more than elated to host you as your administration pushes ahead with developmental projects and uplifting the standards of living of people. Your Excellency, we warmly welcome you to Lupane District. The people of Matabeleland North will remain indebted to your office,” said Cde Moyo.
“We continue to solidly rally behind your developmental agenda until we reach the desired goal of transforming Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy by 2030. We are also grateful for your efforts in containing the Covid-19 pandemic in the country in particular through the vaccination programme.” – @nqotshili.