Britain says it strongly supports Zimbabwe’s re-entry to the Commonwealth and praised President Emmerson Mnangagwa for impressive progress since Robert Mugabe was toppled in a military coup.
“The UK would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry and a new Zimbabwe that is committed to political and economic reform that works for all its people,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
As Harare looks to rebuild its international ties, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met his Zimbabwean counterpart Sibusiso Moyo and ministers from other nations over breakfast on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.
Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth network of 53 mostly former territories of the British Empire in 2003 after Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe from its independence in 1980, was criticised over disputed elections and land seizures from white farmers.
Mugabe cast himself as a liberation hero but opponents said he turned Zimbabwe into an economic basket case and international pariah. He was forced to step down in November during a coup and Mnangagwa is now president.
But those backing Zimbabwe’s re-entry say July’s election is critical if the country wishes to be taken seriously on the international stage.
“The Zimbabwe government must deliver the free and fair elections the people of Zimbabwe deserve and which it has promised,” Johnson said.
So far, Zimbabwe appears open to doing that and has invited Western powers to monitor its national elections for the first time in more than 15 years.
“President Mnangagwa has been in power for 150 days and while Zimbabwe has made impressive progress, there is still much to do,” Johnson said. “That’s why Britain, the Commonwealth and the wider international community will do everything it can in supporting Zimbabwe on its path of reform.”
The election will pit Mnangagwa against a clutch of opponents including 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
It will be the first time that Mugabe has not been on the ballot since independence from Britain in 1980.