Zim Commonwealth bid facing hurdles

Harare (New Ziana) – Zimbabwe’s bid for re-admission into the Commonwealth, which it left in 2003, is being blocked by some Western countries which might still be angry with the Southern African country for embarking on the historic land reform programme at the turn of the millennium, a Cabinet Minister said on Wednesday.

Under its agrarian reforms, the government acquired excess farmland compulsorily from white farmers, who owned the bulk of the country’s arable land, to resettle landless blacks.

This was meant to redress colonial land ownership imbalances skewed in favour of whites, and also to economically empower the country’s majority blacks.

But the noble move, which was the biggest motivation for waging the bitter armed struggle against the brutal white settlers, angered Western countries who in turn-imposed punishing sanctions on the country over two decades ago, which they still maintain to date.

In protest over the sanctions, Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth grouping.

But, the Second Republic has sought re-admission, on the basis of its engagement and re-engagement policy while also maintaining the stance that the land reform was irreversible and that the issue of land should not be used as a pre-condition for Zimbabwe’s re-entry into the grouping made up of mostly former British colonies.

It is this stance that has seemingly angered unnamed Western countries, who are scuppering Zimbabwe’s chances of re-entering the Commonwealth.

“I will not say explicitly at this point whom, just suffice to say that there may be some countries who might not be happy with our land reform programme which has been very successful and which we are not going to reverse. Any condition of re-admission has to agree with this fact,” acting Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Professor Amon Murwira said during a question-and-answer session of the post Cabinet briefing.

“This might be one of the problems which we are facing when we are going back, but Just to re-emphasise that we have a solid policy of engagement and re-engagement and that Zimbabwe is a friend to all and enemy to none.”

Meanwhile, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Rwanda, which recently took up the chairmanship of the grouping had pledged to get Zimbabwe across the line and re-join the Commonwealth.

She said the pledge was made by Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta when he visited Zimbabwe last month to open his country’s embassy.

Zimbabwe applied to re-join the Commonwealth in 2018 and to show its commitment to the grouping, invited the bloc of former British colonies to observe that year’s general elections, which were resoundingly won by the ruling Zanu PF party.

Since his ascension to power in 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been making concerted efforts to re-engage and get the country readmitted into the Commonwealth.

The sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe as a result of the land reform programme precipitated tough economic challenges, forcing an estimated three million highly skilled Zimbabweans to emigrate to neighboring countries and beyond.

The sanctions, which target the economy and individuals seen as central to decision-making in Zimbabwe, are estimated to have cost the economy up to US$100 billion over the last two decades.

Under the sanctions, American and western companies in general are barred from investing and trading with Zimbabwe, while multilateral lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have also stopped advancing loans to the country.
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