Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa Tuesday met with the UK’s former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is also known for campaigning for the imposition of sanctions on the southern African country.
After the meeting Mnangagwa said it was time to let bygones be bygones to allow Zimbabwe to reengage with the international community, to flourish. He said:
For Zimbabwe to flourish, we cannot let history hold us back. It was a pleasure to meet Tony Blair (@InstituteGC) and Baroness Scotland, Secretary General for the Commonwealth (@PScotlandCSG).
The meeting attracted varying responses with some slamming Mnangagwa for double standards after his party, the ruling ZANU PF has over the years railed against Blair and labelled everyone who associated with the UK as a sellout.
ZANU PF posted on Twitter following the meeting praising Mnangagwa. Said the party:
If this is not Breaking News, then what is? Land Reform, Sanctions, regime change plots, name-calling, international isolation, Re-engagement and then the handshake all in #Kigali2022! A Statesman will always be the ultimate Man. Zim is a friend to all & enemy to no one.
Jealousy Mawarire, a founding member and spokesperson for the National Patriotic Front the meeting was a taboo, in the Zimbabwean context. He said:
In the context of Zimbabwean politics, it’s a huge issue, a political gaffe, a miscalculation of gigantic proportions. Zvakafana nekutorwa pikicha uchizhinya nemhondi yakaponda baba vako. [It’s like taking a picture of yourself smiling to your parents’ assassin].
Hopewell Chin’ono, an award-winning Zimbabwean journalist, said ZANU PF was doing exactly what it was criticising other parties for. He said:
So if @nelsonchamisa meets with the British ambassador to Zimbabwe, ZANU PF calls him a sell-out. But if Mnangagwa meets with Tony Blair who imposed sanctions on the ZANU PF elites and invaded Iraqi based on lies, they spent the whole day celebrating about it! ZANU PF is empty
In 2018, Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa who were still members of the opposition MDC were criticised for meeting American officials who were considered as campaigners for the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Ali Naka, a political activist and Pan Africanist who is allegedly working with the Rwanda government recalled that ZANU PF criticised Tanzania in 2021 for seeking Tony Blair’s services. Back then, ZANU PF said:
Tony Blair once plotted military invasion of Zimbabwe! Today he is an advisor for a SADC member country.
Naka posted a screenshot of a post by ZANU PF which read:
Dear CCC, go for Tony Blair, he interacted with Cde ED, attack him. 1, 2, 3 attack him.
Rufaz–Jerera King @Mavhure suggested that the meeting was business for Blair. He said:
In Sales & Marketing, if you attend event or conference, make sure you rush to greet all target clients& potential clients. That’s the game. Tony Blair did that. Now he can submit a Consultancy proposal to Teapot (Zimbabwe). Don’t be surprised if he wins. Muchasvinura [you’ll wake up]
Kate Hoey@CatharineHoey, an MP for Vauxhall 1989-2019 who is now Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in the County of Antrim, expressed shock over the meeting. Hoey who was in 2021 appointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ghana said:
What on earth was Tony Blair doing being so close up and personal with the human rights abuser @edmnangagwa Zimbabwean people need help to ensure free and fair election next year not support for a neo dictator.
Responding to Hoey, Moses Kweche @KwecheMoses said:
Should read: “What on God’s earth is Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa doing smiling at a war-monger and racist Tony Blair?” But then, you are Brishit
We have a clown who gets excitable over Tony Blair handshakes, Boris smiles and Biden courteous greetings. He actually thinks that it is an actual foreign policy strategy and re-engagement. His peers are unlocking lines of credit and diplomatic moves. Pathetic!
Hanzi nemaCcc our president @edmnangagwa vaifanira kukanda Tony Blair chibhakera kuratidza kuti havawirirane neBritain.We have serious problem in Zimbabwe. Opposition leaders blind their followers blind. They don’t even know that ED and Blair met at a diplomatic platform.
The Zimbabwe Institute for Accountability@ZimInstit4Dem said by ZANU PF standards, Mnangagwa was a sellout adding that ZANU PF acts like a colony when meeting China or Britain.