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Massive Blow to Commonwealth Return Lobby

By Nyasha Chingono and Bridget Mananavire

Zimbabwe’s bid to rejoin the Commonwealth suffered a major blow this week after a British parliamentary caucus resolved to throw out the country’s application for readmission into the club of largely former colonies.

This comes after last week’s bloody security crackdown on protesters which left a dozen dead and scores critically injured.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, desperate to re-engage the world following years of isolation, has been at the receiving end of a global backlash over the deadly crackdown on protesters.

Zimbabwe was looking to rejoin the Commonwealth this year. Former president Robert Mugabe pulled the country out of the bloc in 2003 when its bilateral relations with Zimbabwe soured.

Gross human rights violations that occurred during the unpopular internet blackout have also put the country’s re-engagement drive on the edge.

As soon as he assumed office after the November 2017 military coup, Mnangagwa set out to take Zimbabwe back into the organisation; but the Commonwealth set a raft of preconditions, spelling out the reforms which the country was to embrace.

The violent crackdown on protesters has since thrown the Commonwealth bid off track.

Lord Hayward told the House of Commons this week that Zimbabwe’s Commonwealth request should be treated with caution.

“Many soldiers in the Commonwealth signed the government commitment to encourage among other partners the new Zimbabwe for membership. Clearly the events that have unfolded recently put that into question and of cause, it’s a matter for the UK, it’s a matter for the Commonwealth as a whole,” Hayward said.

The United States government has also questioned Harare’s political will to reform, while the European Union also blasted human rights violations, among them the switching off of internet connectivity — which has since been declared illegal by the High Court.

“As I see it, the root cause of all of this is Zanu PF’s unwillingness to listen to, trust, and honour the will of the people of Zimbabwe,” former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton said this week.

EU head of delegation in Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen said government should put an end to the wanton beatings and general violence perpetrated by members of the security forces on civilians.

“The violence has to stop. @euinzim is engaging the authorities to urgently take action to restore respect to human rights,” Olkkonen tweeted yesterday morning.

The UK government is also under pressure to cut foreign aid and support to Zimbabwe.

UK Time party leader Robert Kimbell this week urged the British government to suspend foreign aid to Zimbabwe until good governance is restored, following violent protests that took place in the country last week.

Britain had emerged as Zimbabwe’s hope for re-engagement with Europe when Mnangagwa took over power but there has been a discernible shift in bilateral relations, with Whitehall demanding time-bound reforms.

Source : Zimbabwe Independent

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