President Mnangagwa speaks on meeting with Blair
Harare (New Ziana) –President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday said his interaction with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Kigali, Rwanda, yielded positive outcomes as he is now striking a conciliatory tone and is more inclined to seeing the two countries mend relations.
President Mnangagwa and Blair had an interaction at the Presidential summit of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), and a picture of them shaking hands went viral on social media, drawing mixed reactions.
During the interaction, Blair also applauded President Mnangagwa’s efforts in ensuring food security in Zimbabwe and the continent at large.
Speaking at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport soon after arriving from Kigali, President Mnangagwa narrated his meeting with Blair.
It was the first time a Zimbabwean leader met Blair, since Harare and London fell out at the turn of the millennium when the former PM orchestrated sanctions against Zimbabwe.
“In the course of events, we then met Tony Blair, I think initially the chemistry between me and him was not excellent but after some contact the chemistry improved and we have agreed that we should further the discussions in Egypt,” he said.
“He accepts that the past is the past, we cannot live in the past, we should now look to the future and see how we can move better into the future. I was anxious to show him that despite sanctions, we are solid and I think on his part he was anxious to show that despite the past mistakes, he is still willing to reconcile for the future.”
Blair is an infamous figure in Zimbabwe’s history as it was during his tenure as British PM that sanctions against Zimbabwe came into force.
The European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in solidarity with Britain, which had sought to use the collective EU economic pressure to force Zimbabwe to abandon its land reforms in which excess white-owned farmland was compulsorily acquired to resettle landless blacks.
The sanctions, targeting 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.
Also, according to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, Blair at one-point, pressured Pretoria into supporting a military invasion of Zimbabwe, a proposal which Mbeki flatly rejected.
The Second Republic has launched an engagement and re-engagement agenda under which it aims to restore ties with the Western world, in particular Britain and America, who have led the charge in punishing Zimbabwe for its sovereign decisions.
Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe’s strides in the agriculture sector had been widely acknowledged at the Kigali summit, which had focused on ways to guarantee food security on the continent.
For example, Zimbabwe is poised to record a bumper wheat harvest this year following a robust winter programme meant to shield the country from the effects of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.
To mitigate the impact of climate change, the government has also embarked on a massive dam construction programme, and is also rehabilitating broken down irrigation schemes while new ones are being established.
Plans are in place to open at least 50 000 hectares of land per year under an accelerated irrigation development programme, as the government ramps up the pursuit of measures to mitigate effects of climate change.
Development of irrigation schemes country-wide is part of the government’s overall aim to ensure the country’s food security through reducing reliance on rain fed agriculture.
It is such strides that impressed participants at the Kigali summit, with countries such as Niger eager to tap into Zimbabwe’s success.
“We had various engagements, with Rwanda on our own bilateral relations and of course Niger. Niger is anxious to learn more deeply about how we have turned around our agriculture, they would want the same for themselves,” President Mnangagwa said.