ZIMBABWE is now most likely to be readmitted into the Commonwealth following positive recommendations from a fact-finding team that visited the country last year, with politicians from influential Western countries such as Britain and Canada conceding its readmission is inevitable.
A Commonwealth delegation led by the organisation’s Assistant Secretary-General, Professor Luis Franceschi, that visited Zimbabwe in November last year, acknowledged that Harare has made tremendous progress in laying the desired foundation for re-admittance into the club of mainly former British colonies.
And recently, debate has been raging in the British Parliament with lawmakers in that country now embracing the notion that Zimbabwe could soon be readmitted.
The same feeling is shared in Canada where the country’s spokesperson for global affairs, Mr James Emmanuel Wanki, earlier this week told The Globe and Mail, the country’s most widely read newspaper, that Canada is aware of Zimbabwe’s plans to rejoin the Commonwealth.
“Canada is aware of Zimbabwe’s interest in rejoining the Commonwealth,” said Mr Wanki, declining to shut the door on Zimbabwe when pressed on his country’s position.
“Commonwealth member states would only be asked about Zimbabwe’s membership after the fact-finding mission delivers its report and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth issues a recommendation.”
In the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, a sitting in January that was initiated by Liberal Democrats member Lord Jonathan Oates, the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe (APPGZ) committee, left politicians drawn from the Conservative and Labour parties acknowledging the inevitability of Zimbabwe’s readmission into the Commonwealth group.
The hour-long debate also exposed the double standards in the selective application of conditions for admission or readmission into the organisation from one country to another and compliance with “values” of the group.
However, in discussing the possibility of Zimbabwe’s readmission, House members reminded each other that “all is not perfect within the Commonwealth” and that should not make members “blind to the flaws and inconsistencies of the organisation and of its constituent nations”.
Some of the noted inconsistencies are on the issue of capital punishment, where only 37 percent of Commonwealth members have abolished the death penalty in law, compared with 57 percent of all countries internationally, with several Commonwealth nations defending their sovereign right to retain it.
During the debate, Lord Oates, one of Zimbabwe’s most strident critics, admitted that “the UK government is not minded to oppose readmission because they do not want to be seen as isolated on the issue”.
While admitting the inevitability of Zimbabwe’s readmission into the 56-member-bloc, the co-chair of the APPGZ committee went on “to ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to work with other Commonwealth nations to block Zimbabwe’s readmission into the Commonwealth”.
In his submissions and criticism of the Zimbabwean Government, Lord Oates misled the House that Zimbabwe “gazetted the Patriotic Bill” and that the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, which last week passed through Senate, is meant to designate “NGOs as high risk”.
Conservative politician Lord Hugo Swire told the House that Lord Oates’ views were “at odds with the findings from the most recent visit of the Assistant Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Professor Luis Franceschi, in November 2022 and the subsequent statements from the Secretary General”.
Lord Swire reminded Lord Oates that notable steps like having ZimTrade joining the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council in November 2022 and its participation during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) business forum in Rwanda in June last year were part and parcel of Zimbabwe’s eventual rehabilitation.
He urged British politicians to stop turning a blind eye to the progress and commitments that have been made under the Second Republic, including the signing of the Global Compensation Deed between Government and the white former farmers as represented by the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) in July 2020.
“We are beginning to see greater co-operation between white former farmers and farmers who got land to increase productivity. That is also something that should be welcomed. All is not perfect within the Commonwealth. Some countries get expelled when they fall short of Commonwealth values, most recently Fiji, the Maldives and so forth.
“Membership of the Commonwealth is a huge prize for any country, particularly one seeking to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the international community. It is not a prize that we should give away lightly, but where there is willingness and hope we should be there to encourage, not to always criticise,” said Lord Swire.
Last December, after meeting President Mnangagwa in Luanda, Angola, Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, said Zimbabwe was putting a “great deal of energy and commitment” to be readmitted back into the Commonwealth.
Her statements corroborated those made by then former UK Foreign Secretary Mr Boris Johnson in 2018 concerning Zimbabwe-Britain relations and prospects of re-joining the Commonwealth.
“We must remember democracies are not made in one day. The UK stands ready in friendship to support a Zimbabwe that fully embraces the rule of law, human rights and economic reform,” said Mr Johnson who is also a former British Prime Minister.
During the House of Lords debate, Labour politician Lord Sonny Leong cautioned against intransigence, saying that risked driving Zimbabwe to look elsewhere for international allies noting that “democracy is not a destination but a journey”.
He said the core values of democracy, rule of law and human rights that the Commonwealth wants from Zimbabwe are enshrined and reflected in the country’s 2013 Constitution.
“Let us be wary of making demands of a country that, sadly, some current members would themselves not meet. Do we think that the lives of Zimbabweans will be improved, or their human rights better protected, if the country becomes dependent on powerful countries that are extending their influence in the region?” asked Lord Leong. – Herald