LONDON, UK – Zac Goldsmith, the Commonwealth Minister of State for the United Kingdom, has dismissed the possibility of Zimbabwe re-joining the Commonwealth of Nations on human rights grounds, ending the country’s hopes of competing at this year’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The House of Lords member told Britain’s second parliamentary chamber that Zimbabwe does not “meet the principles set out in the Commonwealth Charter” but recognised that Commonwealth members will make the decision together.
The Commonwealth of Nations and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), the organisation responsible for the direction of the event, are separate institutions but countries must be a member of the Commonwealth of Nations to participate at the competition.
Insidethegames has contacted the CGF for comment on the prospect of Zimbabwe re-joining the event.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched a re-engagement policy with western countries in 2017 after succeeding Robert Mugabe through a military coup d’état.
He cited that the two decades of hostility under the Mugabe regime was not beneficial to any party.
Zimbabwe initially had its membership suspended in 2002 on allegations that Mugabe, who came to power in 1980, rigged his re-election in 2002 and persecuted opponents.
Mugabe withdrew his country’s membership the following year after the suspension was renewed.
Mnangagwa formally applied to re-join the Commonwealth of Nations in 2018 and consultations are reportedly ongoing among the 54 member nations with Zimbabwe hoping to gain the support of Rwanda – the hosts of this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June.
Goldsmith has poured cold water on the chances of Zimbabwe making their return to the Commonwealth Games following 20 years since their previous appearance.
“Indeed, respect for democratic principles, alongside human rights, the rule of law and civil society space, is central to Zimbabwe’s stated desire to see the UK sanctions regime lifted and to re-join the Commonwealth,” Goldsmith said in the House of Lords during a debate on Zimbabwe’s by-elections on May 26.
“As noble Lords are aware, the decision about whether Zimbabwe re-joins the Commonwealth is for all Commonwealth members.
“In due course, we would, of course, like nothing more than to see Zimbabwe re-join.
“However, Zimbabwe cannot yet credibly be said to meet the principles set out in the Commonwealth Charter.”
While he added that the elections was held in a “largely peaceful manner”, he explained several concerns which involved the freedom of assembly and using language that attributed to inciting violence in the run-up to the elections.
He claimed the State attempted to disrupt opposition campaigning, with one example being the police banning two proposed rallies from the Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC) party on security grounds even though the CCC requested for the necessary party clearances.
According to the House of Lords member, the CCC held 10 rallies during the pre-election period.
Goldsmith condemned vice-president Constantine Chiwenga’s call for the CCC to be “crushed like ice.”
The Commonwealth Minister also commented on the problematic death of Mboneni Ncube at a CCC rally, which was allegedly committed by supporters of the ZANU-PF – the ruling party of Zimbabwe.
The by-elections resulted in the CCC winning 19 of the 28 National Assembly seats on offer.
The CGF insists that it is committed to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Zimbabwe’s last Commonwealth Games appearance came at Manchester 2002 where Kirsty Coventry secured golds in the women’s 200 metres individual medley swimming, and Constance Sibanda claimed silver in the women’s lawn bowls Para singles visually impaired event.
The country first competed at the Games in 1934 when the British colony was named Southern Rhodesia before later participating as Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
The African nation was one of 32 Commonwealth countries to boycott the 1986 edition in protest against apartheid in sports.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is due to take place between July 28 and August 8.