LADIES and gentlemen, we have been going through the world, and we are doing a marathon. We have been to the United States, and we are now here in the United Kingdom.
The whole purpose of our existence here is to re-engage the world so that Zimbabwe can become a member of the family of nations again.
We are going around the world, re-engaging the world so that we can change the narrative about our country. And the narrative which is very crucial is the economic narrative.
You may have come here and you are here for different reasons. Some of you, it was because you were highly skilled and your skills were in demand internationally.
And some of you, probably as a result of certain economic fundamentals which could not balance off, you decided to come into this territory.
But whichever reason has brought you here, the fundamental reason which is key and very important is that you are a Zimbabwean.
And whilst you are going around the world, it has been a precedent which has been set by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa, that we must take care, we must look after, and we must mobilise our people out in the Diaspora: one, so that you understand what is really going on in your country, secondly so you can feel part and parcel as stakeholders of your nation and thirdly so that you can also be part and parcel of the rebuilding of your country.
It is not the responsibility of the current administration to rebuild the nation, it is the responsibility of all Zimbabweans.
And I said on the 18th of April here, when we celebrated our Independence Day, I actually commended the role which our Zimbabweans, who are in the Diaspora, are playing through the remittance of funds which are going back into the country to educate our own, to look after the health of our own, and even to basically develop the economy of Zimbabwe. But having done that we are saying we are going around so it was important that we should take this opportunity to address and meet, not really to address, but to interact with you and discuss. So this is really an interactive process rather than an address.
I prefer to deal with the issues which you have, but let me give the abstract.
There is a new dispensation now. A new era in our country was born and that era was born out of the people’s spontaneous demand for change for the better on the 18th of November 2017, which gave birth to a new head of State, President E.D. Mnangagwa, who was sworn into office on the 24th of November 2017.
I know you have read and you have gone through what is called the modern battlefield of social media, and you have read everything and you are probably well informed about what transpired, you are hearing it from the horse’s mouth. I will elaborate later.
All I can say is that there is a new dispensation now in Zimbabwe. We are more worried about the future and we have said, and His Excellency the President has said, on the day of his inauguration that let bygones be bygones. We do not want to be prisoners of our past, but let us look at the future of the country, and the future of the country is nothing else, but the economic interests of the nation.
So since the 24th of November, all the people of Zimbabwe have expectations, obviously expectations of a better future.
All the races of Zimbabwe demanded change, it was a mixed race affair. It was the old and the young, the educated and uneducated or the less educated.
The white and the darkened skin, all the other different races.
It was a total combination of everybody who calls himself a Zimbabwean who peacefully, and I am saying peacefully because in terms of the crime rate throughout, from the early 60s, that day experienced the lowest crime rate without the police force on the streets.
I know it was not only in Zimbabwe, it was in Kensington, whatever, and all other areas here in London, and it was harmoniously conducted and I would like to congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for that.
The armed forces merely assured peace throughout the country, and it is the people who caused the change.
So whatever dissertations you are writing about and theses that is the conclusion.
So economic and political refocus in Zimbabwe is really translating it into a destination for investment. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs particularly International Trade, our responsibility is to manage the external environment. And as we manage the external environment, we must project the foreign policy of Zimbabwe. The foreign policy of any nation is an extension of the country’s domestic policy. So it was critical that we had to naturally ensure that a number of reforms which were needed had to be undertaken in order to attract FDI into the country. So all we are saying is all are welcome to protracted economic activities in our country. And we are saying we are now a nation of policy consistency. We are now a nation that respects the Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements, we are saying we are now a nation that embraces particularly its people to come back to Zimbabwe, not just to be employees but to come and invest in Zimbabwe.
Our Constitution now allows dual citizenship but whilst it does, it’s important that there should be appropriate re-alignment of laws to ensure that the necessary provisions of the Constitution can be effected, and these are issues, it’s a lot of work which we are undertaking at the moment and I can assure you that the Government of Zimbabwe will not contribute to the rendering of statelessness for a bona fide citizen
So the young Zimbabweans who are in London, in UK, they are still Zimbabweans. I am aware that somebody asked a question and said, we appreciate when you talk about the ease of doing business, how about the ease of being a Zimbabwean? It was a matter which we heard, and we heard clearly because we listen very much.
The Constitution further guarantees the right to vote to citizens who reside outside our borders, but unfortunately the Constitution goes further to say that the election, for example, which is forthcoming, is polling station-based. Secondly, it is constituency-based, and thirdly it further stipulates that the President can proclaim an election within Zimbabwe.
So what it means basically is that whilst there is that provision for you to vote, and it is actually the desire of the current administration to ensure that you vote, naturally there are these impediments. And I know specifically that even within the mission itself here, it is only the ambassador and his wife.
Otherwise if you have registered you are allowed to come, if you have not registered come and register and if you have registered come home and vote on the necessary day. It’s a sacrifice for one’s country.
It’s important that you should exercise, and sacrifice and support this watershed election that is forthcoming. The electoral law is currently under amendment so that it can be compliant with the Constitution and already the outreach voter registration programme which was taking place in Zimbabwe came to an end, and now although you can still register, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is busy remapping and trying to produce the draft voters roll so that it can be subjected to an inspection and after the inspection it can be corrected. When it’s corrected then there can be a proclamation. About the elections themselves, it is the desire and in fact the determination of the current dispensation that we should have free, fair, transparent and credible elections. And I am saying free, fair, transparent and credible elections, first and foremost these elections must satisfy the people of Zimbabwe.
While there are regional, continental benchmarks and we are saying everybody must come and observe, we are saying everybody must come and observe the Zimbabwean elections which are going to be compliant to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Yes, we are going to be benchmarking that with the regional guidelines and the continental guidelines so that at least there is a basis upon which all those who are invited to come and observe the elections can come and observe but using the Constitution of Zimbabwe and using the satisfaction of the Zimbabweans and of course benchmarking that with the guidelines of sadc and the African Union.
We are saying the elections are going to be transparent because we are saying please those who want to come and observe our elections come.
Coincidentally, I have been here on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and I was invited by my counterpart Right Honourable Boris Johnson whom I had a session with yesterday (Friday) and I can tell you it was a superb session. It basically signified the entry of Zimbabwe into the family of nations, and as a consequence of that I also extended, in fact we had already extended an invitation to the Commonwealth to even come and observe our elections.
There are other organisations which we have invited as well and other countries in different parts of the world but what we are saying is come and assist us in ensuring that the election achieves what we want as the people of Zimbabwe and then we can then be judged after we have satisfied them in that regard.
At home, His Excellency the President, you are aware that he had actually pencilled to hold meetings with all the political stakeholders but unfortunately, initially he thought there were about 15 parties but the room which he had picked was small, only to realise there were 128 now.
All I can say is it may be an expensive way of desiring to run an election but it expresses one thing, that there is an element of freedom in the country.
It does not matter even if you are sleeping and you dream being a president, you can wake up having a political party. That is the amount of freedom which is there in Zimbabwe. No one is barred and our laws do not bar that.
The whole purpose of him meeting, he is still going to meet them, is to ensure that there is a code of conduct between the stakeholders and that code of conduct is particularly about violence both intra- or inter-party violence.
We want to introduce in Zimbabwe what we call civil politics. Why should political contestation overshadow national interests?
We are Zimbabweans, the whole world recognises us as having gone to school but why should we behave differently from where we were educated? So this is the desire of the new dispensation, we want to introduce a new kind of politics in Zimbabwe.
I have seen some people say, writing, saying until there is a new voters roll that is appropriate there is not going to be free and fair elections and I am saying no, probably it’s a lack of understanding of the whole process.
The process which we have adopted, previously we had challenges in the voters roll issues and we thought that it was appropriate to introduce the BVR system to solve this. Surely if a computer system is going to be a problem as well then I do not know what technology is all about. But of course I am saying we have used the BVR system, we do not know the problems which come with it but we expect that it is going to be a clear way of eliminating problems and issues surrounding aspects of the voters roll.
After that the voters roll is going to be published and it’s going to be inspected and its constitutionally demanded that it must be inspected by the people. So it’s only that maybe we have not communicated effectively for people to understand our own processes which are taking place.
So when that happens and we believe when there is commitment to non-violence and there is civil politics, people are going to exercise their right to vote, people are free to campaign. So far there are few political parties campaigning, is there no freedom? Everybody is allowed to campaign. Everybody is freely going to cast his vote.
Fundamentally those are the issues, then what will emerge is the people’s choice and that people’s choice will be accepted by everyone and must be accepted by everyone.
And as I said earlier on, it is you the Diasporans who have kept us going and for a very long time, probably for a period of nearly two decades. Even over and above the skills you exported here, we know that you have now gained a lot of experience in different sectors which you are in and these are now the skills which we also want back home.
We need the doctors, we need the lawyers, we need the business people, we need the financial people, and we need the pastors.
Let me say that the impact so far of our thrust of rapprochement and re-engagement which we have been undertaking as the new dispensation has produced tremendous results. In fact I have always said that it has generated serious interest in Zimbabwe from all sectors of the globe to an extent that the reason we want you is for you to be in Zimbabwe or to bring them so that you become the link between these investors and those who are expressing interest in Zimbabwe.
It is not the responsibility of Government by the way to undertake business, Government is there to provide a conducive environment so that business can flourish. And business is meant to be undertaken by yourselves.
We have and we still continue to reform a lot of economic fundamentals. The reason being that we now should ensure that we formally and properly organise ourselves to be able to receive this amount of interest which has been generated globally, but how?
It may be that we have to strengthen our institutions so that they are able to handle this amount of interest which has been generated globally. And I know that because I was on the sidelines of the Commonwealth, some people may ask — I am just pre-empting some questions here — are you joining the Commonwealth? The answer is yes.
As soon as certain steps have been finalised. And I can assure you that the meeting I had yesterday (Friday) with Honourable Boris Johnson and other foreign ministers from the Commonwealth, they actually declared a lot of solidarity, support, encouragement and actually welcomed Zimbabwe into the Commonwealth, but we are saying as the executive, as people who lead the people, we do not want to run as the executive and join the Commonwealth and then leave the people behind. We want to make sure that we are together with the people, we are in it with the people because we are a listening dispensation. What you want is what we will do.
Having said that I hope I have triggered some few questions, I thought I should highlight some of these issues which could be pertinent.
I know there are a lot of expectations, especially back home and out here but I have always said that if you are moving how do you measure progress? If you are moving from -15 and you have moved from -15 to zero, positive is that progress or no progress? So you might be saying we are not seeing visible issues but it’s a process, it’s not an event.
The best ambassadors whom I must thank for Zimbabwe especially are yourselves because it is what you say to your colleagues here in the UK, it is what you tweet, it is what you say on social media, it is what you confer in your interactions which will build perceptions about your own home and country.
So there is no better ambassador than the Zimbabwean himself or herself and also the business person who comes in to invest in Zimbabwe. So I would like to congratulate you for a job well done so far because wherever we are travelling we are getting this warm welcome.