Mixed reactions over Zim Commonwealth bid

Chris Mahove

As the Commonwealth assessment delegation to Zimbabwe concluded its four-day visit to the country Zimbabweans remained divided on whether or not rejoining the grouping of mostly former British colonies will help the country.

The delegation led by Luis Franceschi was in the country to carry out an assessment on the progress made by Zimbabwe in meeting its demands following the Southern African country’s application to join the 56 member group.

Franceshi said the country had made impressive progress to ensure its Constitution was aligned to the Commonwealth Charter and the values enshrined in it.

But analysts expressed mixed feelings over the bid by Harare authorities to rejoin the group.

While others felt the move was retrogressive and perpetuated the British imperialist hegemony, others were of the view that rejoining the Commonwealth was part of Zimbabwe’s broader re-engagement drive.

Economic analyst, Victor Boroma, said it was important for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth as this would give the country access to all the countries in the bloc, thus making its engagement and re-engagement efforts much easier.

“Being in the grouping entails preferential trade agreements especially to the UK. It also ensures access to grants and bilateral loans which the local economy desperately needs. It may also benefit Zimbabwean expatriates who seek greener pastures in developed commonwealth countries such as Australia or the UK,” he said.

Another analyst, Gibson Nyikadzino, said while Zimbabwe would still be fine whether it was re-admitted into the Commonwealth or not, he was confident the country would be re-admitted one way or the other.

“Zimbabwe one way or the other is going to be accepted or readmitted into the Commonwealth. The reasons are that some countries in the Commonwealth have human rights record that are far worse than ‘what people allege against Zimbabwe’ and now the Commonwealth is also expanding.

“It used to be a grouping of former British colonies but now it’s expanding to include countries like Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, Francophone countries in the case of Gabon and even Rwanda which is a former Belgian colony. So when you look at the composition of the commonwealth it is an admixture of all colonies regardless of their former colonizers,” he said.

He said Zimbabwe’s bid to rejoin the Commonwealth should not come as a surprise because the Second Republic had, at its inception, had made foreign policy pronouncements that made it inevitable.

“Such inevitability was not because Zimbabwe was to be seen as a subservient partner, but that it was instructive for Zimbabwe to balance its interests from 2017 going forward as exhibited by how she manages her bilateral and multilateral relations,” he said. 

Nyikadzino said rejoining the Commonwealth was Zimbabwe’s open-door-policy posture to create a social contract with all multilateral groups it could reach out to in order to escape the state of nature that characterized Zimbabwe’s isolation by such groupings for nearly two decades.

Opposition leader, Linda Masarira said instead of itching to rejoin an imperialist grouping, Zimbabwe should be positioning itself for total sovereignty and the protection of its territorial integrity.

“Commonwealth is a contemporary manifestation of the British Empire, it is a vessel of former colonies with the former imperial master at the helm. British companies control more than $1 trillion worth of Africa’s key resources like gold, diamonds, gas and oil.

“What have African countries ever benefited from being commonwealth members except being countries that are further exploited in the guise of a so called commonwealth? Whose commonwealth when there hasn’t been any significant transformation of the so called commonwealth member states beside perpetuation of unending foreign debt,” Masarira said.

She said Zimbabwe, which set the pace for Africa by reclaiming its land from minority whites, should lead the way in nationalizing all economic sectors that have the potential to transform the continent.

Masarira said African countries should realize that multilateralism was a creature used to further exploit poor and vulnerable countries, adding that Africa would remain running all over the globe with begging bowls.

“In Britain’s case, the Commonwealth has served very nicely to advocate its particular shopping list: liberalised, extractor-friendly regimes, low corporate tax rates, and a creative system of tax havens predominantly located in other Commonwealth countries. As a result, Africa loses £30bn more each year than it receives in aid, loans and remittances,” she said.

Masarira said Zimbabwe had no  business joining the Commonwealth as it was a ‘mere post-colonial club’ which only served to bolster Britain’s sense of importance in the world ‘and to make it appear that its outdated stiff upper lipped monarch still has a role in the modern world.’

Lawyer and Writer, Petina Gappa said should Zimbabwe be re-admitted into the Commonwealth, it would not be some sort of reward and an embrace by the “international community” as suggested in some quarters.

“It really isn’t. Zimbabwe has excellent diplomatic relations with individual Commonwealth members as they’re mainly ex colonies,” she tweeted.

She said the re-admission bid was a tactical move pushed by the Second Republic for largely symbolic reasons to indicate that the quarrel with Britain over land was over.

“The one Commonwealth member who was largely opposed to Zimbabwe joining was the UK. African, Asian and Caribbean countries have no objection to Zimbabwe rejoining.  They too are part of the international community. Resistance from the UK may be thawing. After Brexit, the UK needs the Commonwealth more than ever as projection of its soft power in the world,” she said.

Gappa said the re-admission would benefit both the UK and Zimbabwe as they would create a strategic relationship of symbolic rather than actual value.

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