British Group seeks dialogue

Tichaona Zindoga

A British grouping known as the All Party Parliamentary Group for Zimbabwe, comprising individuals with interests and “friendship” with Zimbabwe, has decried that President Mnangagwa’s administration has snubbed its overtures for dialogue that could see the thawing of relations between London and Harare.

In the United Kingdom’s parliamentary system, All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament but are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords.

They may choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities. 

According to its mandate, the APPGZ was formed to “support democratic governance in Zimbabwe and to foster good relations between Zimbabwe and the UK”.

The vice chairman of the group, Lord Johnny Oates of the Liberal Democrats, who has lately become a vocal commentator on political developments in Zimbabwe, exclusively told Review & Mail that he believed the UK and Zimbabwe could close ranks if they dialogued.

Relations between Zimbabwe, which had showed lots of promise when there was transition from former President Robert Mugabe’s rule in 2017, have stalled as the two governments have not found common ground that could see normalization of relations that soured at the turn of the millennium.

It was hoped that Zimbabwe, under President Mnangagwa who took over from Mugabe in a soft coup, would speedily mend fences with the UK – which was widely believed to have backed the coup.

The crowning moment would be Zimbabwe’s rejoining the Commonwealth, a “club” of former British colonies from which Zimbabwe acrimoniously exited in 2003.

The failure, so far, of mainstream diplomacy has piqued observers and thrown a shade at President Mnangagwa’s “engagement and reengagement” policy.

However, informal channels have also failed, apparently.

“The APPG seeks to gain an understanding of the situation in Zimbabwe and to that purpose we seek the views from across the spectrum in Zimbabwe,” Lord Oates said.

“Regrettably, despite requesting meetings with the Zimbabwe Ambassador to the UK, he has to date not been willing or able to do so.”

Zimbabwe’s envoy to the UK is Christian Katsande.

Lord Oates says his group seeks to “facilitate positive relationship with the Government of Zimbabwe”.

“Our desire remains to see better relations between the UK and a prosperous Zimbabwe in which Zimbabweans are free to choose their own leaders and in which the government is focused on securing a better life for all,” he said.

Recounting how Britain appeared to embrace Zimbabwe during the transition, Lord Oates explained that the cause of the stillbirth in resetting relations was because the so-called Second republic was not too dissimilar to the first.

Said he: “I think the UK government was extremely keen to reset its relationship with the Zimbabwe government following the military coup. However, I was always skeptical that a change of government that took place by force and not through the ballot box, would bring much good to Zimbabwe. The breakthrough in relations that the UK government had hoped for, following the new government, did not ultimately emerge because the new Zimbabwe government acted in a similar way to the old government.”

He also told Review & Mail: “I firmly believe that Zimbabwe and the UK could have a mutually beneficial partnership in future but that requires a Zimbabwe government that respects the rule of law and free elections and a UK that honestly acknowledge its history and the injustices which that history inflicted on the Zimbabwe people.”

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