Harare (New Ziana) –The re-engagement agenda, a major policy thrust of the government, continues to gather pace with the latest sign of warming relations between Harare and London being the visit by a special envoy who paid a courtesy call on President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday.
Since the coming in of the new dispensation in 2017, Zimbabwe has received massive international goodwill as the global community continues to re-embrace the Southern African country, whose relations with the West in particular had soured due to differences over the land reform program.
The differences led to, among other things, the imposition of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe by countries from whose kith and kin the government had expropriated prime agricultural land for redistribution to the previously marginalised black majority.
But, in a swing in attitudes towards the new administration, many Western countries have re-opened avenues to rekindle the long lost relationship with Zimbabwe.
In June this year, Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) launched a formal political dialogue framework as a direct result of the re-engagement agenda following years of informal engagements between the two sides.
The dialogue framework is based on Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries which outlines the specific modalities for regular, comprehensive and balanced political dialogue between the two sides.
In a further sign that the West was also committed to the re-engagement agenda, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who assumed office in July this year, dispatched his first special envoy to Zimbabwe to deliver a special message to President Mnangagwa.
“We have just had a very important visit by the special envoy of the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson coming to deliver a special message to His Excellency the President. Ms Harriet Matthews is one among a number of envoys who have come to Zimbabwe since we started the re-engagement process and it is an indication of the continued re-engagement between Zimbabwe and the UK,” Foreign Affairs and International Trade permanent secretary James Manzou told the media after the courtesy call.
“Such engagements are very important because they help both sides understand one another and therefore we do value this special visit.”
Former British Prime Minister Theresa May also sent in numerous envoys in pursuit of the re-engagement agenda as relations between the two sides thawed.
The keenness of London to engage with Harare has also seen it backing plans by Zimbabwe to re-join the Commonwealth group of nations which it exited at the height of the dispute between the two countries.
Matthews, who is Director for Africa in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said her visit to Zimbabwe was meant to assess the economic and political reforms being pursued by the government.
She said she held candid talks with President Mnangagwa, whose government is spearheading deep political and economic reforms, noting that the reforms were crucial and that there was also need to escalate the fight against corruption.
“We have really tried to get a sense of what is happening on the ground in Zimbabwe so the first thing I think is a call for a step up in the reforms,” she said.
“I want to stress that the UK is a very close friend of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean people and we want the country and the people to succeed.”
Meanwhile, Matthews added that the UK would step up its humanitarian work in Zimbabwe.
“The UK is going to step up its work in that area and obviously we are also calling on the government to step up its response to that situation,” she said.