Finally. The evil despot Robert Mugabe has been deposed and the scenes of joy on display in Zimbabwe have been truly heart warming. Gone is the man who drove his country to have starving trillionaires and 95% unemployment. Gone is the man who drove his country to have the world’s lowest life expectancy after previously being the bread basket of Africa. Today, for the first time in decades, a new dawn begins for the long suffering Zimbabwean people to shape their country and their own destiny.
Will the Zimbabwean people seize the opportunity to build a better future for themselves? That remains to be seen. The likely new President, Emmerson Mnangagwa (“The Crocodile”), has a checkered past and his Zanu-PF party is still the party Mugabe led for decades- even though they did, ultimately, depose him. There are reports Mr. Mnangagwa supports pro-business reforms, which is welcome. Whatever Mr. Mnangagwa’s views however, hopefully elections scheduled for next summer get brought forward as to give the people an open and free vote as soon as possible after the Mugabe era.
Zimbabwe could potentially have a very bright economic future due to its abundance of natural resources and fertile farm land. Hopefully, Zimbabwe can take advantage of the opportunities. Nevertheless, even if they can make some reforms, the country was driven to such ruin by Mugabe that they will likely need some help to “get on their feet”.
The Commonwealth and Britain have a natural connection to Zimbabwe due to Rhodesia being a former British colony. Unfortunately, that relationship has been distant lately, as Rhodesia had 15 years of independent isolated white minority rule and Zimbabwe became a rogue state under Mugabe. That relationship could be improved if Zimbabwe is willing to enact systematic reforms to improve its citizen’s lives, such as political and economic rights- such as can be seen so successfully implemented in their neighbour Botswana. If Zimbabwe is willing to throw off despotism and corruption, Britain and the Commonwealth should be willing to embrace the nation with open arms- both in private and public investment. Surely, money out of the statutory target foreign aid budget is better spent on strengthening the Commonwealth rather than paying for Ethiopian spice girls or paying the corrupt EU for the privilege of trade talks? Encouragingly, the Foreign Secretary has signaled his support for Zimbabwe rejoining the Commonwealth if Zimbabwe reforms.
There is once again a future in Zimbabwe. Let us rejoice. However, the future will not build itself. Hopefully a post-Brexit global Britain and Commonwealth can help in the shaping of this country’s future for the better.