Mr. President, it’s great to be loved by the Brits, isn’t it!

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I can not help finding it thoroughly amusing how the ZANU PF regime is always so excited over the supposedly ‘warming relationship’ between Harare and London.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

We witnessed this with the embarrassing frenzy over the one-minute-welcome by then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow (Scotland) in October 2021.

Social media was awash with pictures posted by thrilled ruling ZANU PF party fanatics and government mouthpieces – who viewed this handshake as ‘groundbreaking’ – as if Mnangagwa had met God Himself.

On his return home, he was greeted by hundreds of exhilarated supporters – where he took the opportunity to further hail or trumpet his newfound ‘friendships’ – even claiming to have met US President Joe Biden, who ostensibly promised to reconsider targeted sanctions on some individuals and entities in Zimbabwe.

Of course, not a single piece of evidence to back this Biden meeting was ever proffered, nor the targeted restrictive measures by the US lifted

Instead, more names have actually been added to the list, ever since that claim.

In fact, this ecstasy had began a few months earlier, as soon as the invitation to COP26 was delivered – with the Zimbabwe government never wasting any moment to glorify the ‘first visit to the UK by a Zimbabwean leader in two decades’.

Not to be outdone, was another few-seconds-handshake between Mnangagwa and former British Premier Tony Blair – this time in Rwanda, where they bumped into each other in September 2022, at the Africa Green Revolution Forum.

This was, again, heralded as ‘marking the thawing of a frosty relationship’, which Mnangagwa excitedly declared would ‘make bygones be bygones’ – after the land reform program at the turn of the millennium, which led to hostilities between the two countries.

As I pen this piece, Mnangagwa is in the UK for the coronation of King Charles III this Saturday – whose invitation, as has now become the norm, was met with unbridled jubilation and joy.

This, despite the fact that, every country that has diplomatic relationships with London was invited for the royal occasion.

What is extremely troubling, though, is that all this excitement is only one-sided.

Even the UK ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson – whilst speaking in an interview with local television channel 3kTV, during their ‘Vantage’ program – sought to bring some soberness to the whole affair, by making it clear that relations between the two countries could not be defined by some invitation to a coronation.

So, why all this desperation by the Mnangagwa administration to be so loved and accepted by the British?

We never observe nearly the same excitement when Mnangagwa is invited by fellow African leaders.

Is this some legacy of colonialism – whereby, those who grew up during that epoch are still mesmerized and awed by their former masters – and, feel that their love and acceptance is a major sign of achievement and status symbol?

Surely, what else are we to think?

In spite of all the preaching and high-sounding nothingness about pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism – facts on the ground prove that our leaders in Zimbabwe actually crave the attention and endearment of these same countries they pretend to castigate – more so, who colonized us.

Any such criticism is more in the mould of ‘sour grapes’ – which is more inspired by the bitterness of being rejected – as what transpired in the early 2000s, after the imposition of targeted sanctions by Britain and her allies, after the violent land reform program.

Before that, the ZANU PF regime had been the darlings and blue-eyed boys of the West – who were preferred over a more radical Soviet-sponsored ZAPU.

In fact, ZAPU’s downing of the two Air Rhodesia planes, killing over a hundred civilians during the late stages of the liberation struggle, was the straw that eventually broke the proverbial camel’s back.

That is why, as the new post-colonial government was busy massacring tens of thousands of innocent unarmed civilians in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces – believed to be ZAPU’s support base – Western countries as the UK were looking aside, never making any noise about human rights abuses.

If anything, then dictator Robert Gabriel Mugabe was being warmly welcome in London, Washington and other capitals – where he was lovingly bestowed with endless accolades for his ‘exemplary and exceptional leadership’, including knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.

It would appear that ZANU PF was being rewarded for successfully doing the angry Brits’ dirty work, by avenging ZAPU’s downing of the planes and killing of civilians.

In the same vein, the Zimbabwe regime used this opportunity to rid the country of the threat of a rebellion by former ZPRA forces – who had been better-trained, with superior equipment, all geared for conventional warfare – as opposed to ZANLA’s poor guerilla training and pathetic weaponry.

As a matter of fact, this more sophisticated Soviet military training made the entire post-independence integration of former ZPRA, ZANLA and Rhodesian forces extremely tricky – since, this would have meant those from the ZAPU wing being better qualified for more senior command positions than their ZANU counterparts in the new ZNA (Zimbabwe National Army).

This was also a big ‘no no’ for the Brits – who could not have their bitter Cold War rivals having an upper hand in Zimbabwe.

As such, ever since Zimbabwe gained independence, the ZANU administration has been willing poodles of the British – effectively favored by Lord Peter Carrington as best suited to protecting and safeguarding their interests in the country.

This is a task Harare did quite well until the late 1990s – when veterans of the struggle for independence had had enough of the delays in any genuine land redistribution – who began invading farms around the Mashonaland East province.

Although, initially, they were arrested and forced off these farms, regarded as illegal squatters – when ZANU PF realized the real potential of losing the June 2000 parliamentary elections – this led to the panicked and unplanned chaotic land program, with the deaths of many white farmers.

This panicked response to the possibility of losing power nonetheless had unintended consequences – that of damaging the relationship between the British and Zimbabwe ruling elite – who had gone back on their obligations of safeguarding the former colonial masters’ interests.

The coming on board of a new darling, in the form of the opposition MDC (led by Morgan Richard Tsvangirai), attracted bitter hatred from ZANU PF – which was driven more by jealousy than any real political ideological differences.

Let us remember that what the MDC only sought to do, was what ZANU PF had already been doing since 1980.

As such, this toxic rivalry between these two parties was akin to two people fighting over the affections of a lover – who now prefers a younger one, and having jilted the older.

That is why, after the November 2017 coup d’état that ousted Mugabe – the so-called ‘new dispensation’, consisting his former henchmen and lackeys – jumped straight into its ‘engagement and re-engagement policy’.

This was nothing more than an attempt to win back the affections of the ‘lost lover’, by taking the British back from the opposition.

And, it appears to be working!

This is why all, but only three individuals and entities, have been removed from the targeted sanctions’ list, whilst Mnangagwa is now being invited to the UK.

The question then is, how exactly did the ZANU PF regime get back into the good books of the Brits?

Of course, the logical thing would be to ‘fix’ what soured the relationship in the first place – the land question.

We witnessed the signing of the Global Compensation Deed in 2020 – in which, the Zimbabwe government agreed to pay dispossessed white farmers for any investments made on the farms.

As much as no meaningful compensation is yet to be received by these former farmers – the Harare administration keeps making promises.

Fast forward to today, Mnangagwa is in the UK to witness the coronation of King Charles III – signaling the reestablishment of the previous relationship from the 1980s.

Ordinary Zimbabweans can now forget to hear all the talk about ‘human rights, democracy, as well as free, fair and credible elections’ from the British – since these were never the real issues between the two countries.

We can now expect a reverting to the 1980 scenario – where the ZANU PF regime can wantonly massacre civilians – with the Brits looking the other way, or at best, issuing some flimsy empty condemnation.

As long as Mnangagwa guarantees to safeguard and protect British interests – everything else means absolutely nothing to the European nation.

More and more opposition and human rights activists will be persecuted – through the weaponization of the law (lawfare), whilst others killed, and elections stolen – but, it will be business as usual with the Brits.

Mnangagwa will make sure never to repeat Mugabe’s ‘mistake’ of touching sacred British interests – in so doing, his position will also be secure.

That is the reality of global geopolitics, to which Zimbabweans need to open their eyes.

We are now all alone, and unless we stand for ourselves – there is no one else who will come and do it for us.

There are no permanent friends (or enemies) in politics – but, simply permanent interests.

…and, Mnangagwa is feeling great for being loved by the Brits again!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: