By UK Correspondent
ALL of the 21 African members of the Commonwealth are backing Zimbabwe’s return to the 54-nation grouping, the Harare government has indicated.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa met Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland during his recent London visit for the coronation of King Charles III.
Addressing a post-Cabinet media briefing Tuesday, information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said, “Baroness Scotland indicated that 21 African members of the Commonwealth were supportive of Zimbabwe’s re-admittance into the grouping.”
Zimbabwe angrily quit the group, which largely comprises of former British colonies, in 2003 at the height of then President Robert Mugabe’s fallout with the West over his violent land reforms, as well as concerns over political repression and rights abuses.
After taking over from Mugabe following the 2017 coup, Mnangagwa sought re-admission to the group as part of a so-called ‘engagement and re-engagement’ policy with western countries.
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Pleased to welcome the President of #Zimbabwe, @edmnangagwa to Marlborough House for a courtesy call. The President & I discussed a range of issues, including Zimbabwe’s ongoing application to re-join @commonwealthsec & reaffirmed the commitment to the values of the #Commonwealth pic.twitter.com/jYIW5dZQuS
— Patricia Scotland KC (@PScotlandCSG) May 6, 2023
The process has however dragged on with little apparent progress since Zimbabwe submitted its reapplication bid in 2018.
During their meeting in London, sources said Baroness Scotland told Mnangagwa that continued repression in Harare was not being helpful including the arrests of opposition politicians such as Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume.
The Commonwealth is, meanwhile, finalising its report on Zimbabwe’s re-admission application.
“Baroness Scotland reported that the Secretariat was finalising the Report on Zimbabwe before submission to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Chairperson, His Excellency President Paul Kagame,” said Mutsvangwa in her Tuesday statement.
She also indicated that the UK is keen to continue strengthening relations with Zimbabwe.
“In line with the Second Republic’s re-engagement and engagement thrust (President Mnangagwa) met with the United Kingdom Minister of State for Development and Africa, the Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell,” she said.
“The President noted the progress that has been made in strengthening bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom as evidenced by the increase in exchange visits, and renewed interest in promoting trade, investment and tourism opportunities across Zimbabwe’s major economic sectors.
“The Right Honourable Mitchell highlighted his interest in mending Zimbabwe/UK relations and elevating these to a higher level.”