As a new era begins in Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom has dispatched a top official, Rory Stewart, who is the Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to explore opportunities for cooperation between the two countries. Stewart flew into the country yesterday.
His arrival coincides with the swearing-in ceremony of President-designate, Emmerson Mnangagwa, which is scheduled for today.
Zimbabwe’s former coloniser, Britain, believes the seismic political developments of the last few days – which culminated in the resignation of President Robert Mugabe – offers a window of opportunity for the country to turnaround its economic fortunes.
In a statement, Stewart said: “This is an absolutely critical moment in Zimbabwe’s history.
“Zimbabweans suffered for too long as a result of Mugabe’s ruinous rule. The events of the last few days have given people here real hope that Zimbabwe can be set on a different, more democratic and more prosperous path.
“What comes next must be driven by Zimbabweans – it must be in line with the Zimbabwean constitution and will be impossible without clear resolve from the incoming government.
“That is what my visit here is all about. Britain wants to be a genuine partner for Zimbabweans as they forge a new future.”
During his stay in the country, Stewart is expected to hold a plethora of meetings with a range of leaders from various political parties, business representatives, human rights groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society.
The meetings are expected to focus on areas of cooperation between Harare and London, as Zimbabwe seeks to chat a new path under a different leader.
Stewart is also expected to tour some of the important development work being carried out in the country by the UK.
The arrival of Stewart in Harare comes hard on the heels of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement on November 21 that the recent political dynamics present “an opportunity to forge a new path” for the country.
Prime Minister May pledged to work closely with Zimbabwe in its road to economic recovery.
“In recent days we have seen the desire of the Zimbabwean people for free and fair elections and the opportunity to rebuild the country’s economy under a legitimate government.
“As Zimbabwe’s oldest friend we will do all we can to support this, working with our international and regional partners to help the country achieve the brighter future it so deserves,” said Prime Minister May.
In his first brief remarks following his arrival from a 16-day self-imposed exile in South Africa, President-designate Mnangagwa said several other countries have hinted their willingness to assist Zimbabwe’s economy to recover.