Felex Share Senior Reporter—
The imminent exit of Britain from the European Union should see the bloc reverting to constructive multilateral engagement with Zimbabwe considering that most countries were victims of the internationalisation of a bilateral dispute between Harare and London, analysts and diplomats have said. Britain on Thursday voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the bloc, forcing Prime Minister David Cameron to announce his resignation by October, the month the Conservative party will hold its conference.
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The decision to leave after 43 years of membership, termed Brexit, came at a time when Mr Cameron had urged the country to vote for remaining in the EU. Government yesterday said it would maintain a “wait-and-see attitude” but analysts said this was an opportune time for progressive EU countries to re-engage Zimbabwe without being coerced.
Relations between Zimbabwe and members of the EU soured at the turn of the millennium when Britain internationalised its bilateral dispute with Harare over the land reform programme.
The United States also bought into the dispute and the countries have maintained illegal sanctions regimes on Zimbabwe since then, costing the country over $42 billion in potential revenue and contracting the economy by over 40 percent. Foreign Affairs secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha said what was needed was an EU policy shift on Zimbabwe.
“We will wait and see developments after this,” he said. “It is not something that we can make a judgment at this point in time. In the EU, there were a number of countries which supported it (Britain) in maintaining those sanctions and those countries remain in the bloc and can still push a policy that the sanctions remain in place. It is not anything we can celebrate about in terms of removal of sanctions. Government will for now monitor the situation.”
Progressive countries like Belgium have been at odds with other EU members, calling for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe. Brussels, the centre of the global diamond trade and home to Antwerp, the world’s leading diamond trading hub successfully pushed for the removal of sanctions on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation as it angled to tap into the country’s vast reserves.
The EU head of Delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Philippe Van Damme said it was too early to comment. “For the time being, we do not have comments to make,” he said.
“The president of the council (Martin Schulz) this morning made a preliminary comment, they are meeting now to make an assessment of the situation and comments will follow. We don’t have anything at the moment other than that stage.”
Mr Schulz, in a joint statement with Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission said the remaining 27 EU members states wanted to negotiate Britain’s exit plan “as soon as possible.” French President François Hollande echoed the same sentiments.
The Dean of African diplomats and Democratic Republic of Congo ambassador to Zimbabwe Mwanananga Mwawampanga said considering the abuse some African nations suffered at the hands of Britain, the departure was welcome.
“Briefly, I can say it might be sad for Britain and Europe, but Brexit is good for Africa, it is good for Zimbabwe.” Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa said now that Britain was leaving, Brussels should return to “unfettered” productive engagement. “Constructive multi-dimensional engagement was fettered by neo-colonial pretensions of post imperial nostalgia,” he said.
“Zimbabweans are tired of being maligned and deserve a constructive and rewarding engagement and if a self-chosen Brexit could help, so be it. Like wild dogs of the veld, London sought to hunt Zimbabwe as an EU group pack. Brussels now just have to pick up pieces of tattered and entangled diplomacy with Harare.”
He added: “Self-centred Britain belatedly joined EU on a quixotic quest to somehow replace the global halo of lost imperial grandeur. Along the way, Tony Blair (former British Prime Minister) would drag Zimbabwe into the morass of group collective retribution for a bilateral and historical dispute over justified land restitution. In denial of lost colonial lordship over plucky Zimbabwe, its principled leader President Mugabe left no stone unturned as London corralled EU into an Anglo-Saxon diplomacy of vengeful vindictiveness. No effort was spared in a drive to turn Zimbabwe into a pariah state that would then be victim of Iraq and Libya type of aggression.”
Said Midland State University lecturer Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri: “Brexit must be a revision of past relations with the EU in particular because the key influencer in the policy has moved out but in terms of economics, there might also be other things to consider for the EU on its part and for Zimbabwe on its part. It is not only politics because you might even end up benefiting from where they lose out and other players move in.”