Zimbabwe, UK talks security cooperation

President Mnangagwa meets Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, while Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube looks on in New York yesterday. — (Picture by Presidential Photographer Joseph Nyadzayo)

NEW YORK – Zimbabwe and Britain could soon restore security cooperation agreements that fell through after diplomatic ties nosedived nearly two decades ago, while the United Kingdom is open to supporting Harare’s debt clearance plan.

At the same time, Brussels is open to facilitating efforts by Government to attract private sector investment from Belgium in addition to its long-standing interests in Zimbabwe’s diamonds.

Further, Government will also explore the possibility of learning from Estonia’s highly successful IT-based public health and education infrastructure and modelling.

This emerged from meetings that President Mnangagwa held with UK Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin and Estonian Prime Minister Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on Monday, and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel in New York yesterday.

Yesterday, President Mnangagwa also met United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy. Details of that engagement are yet to be confirmed.

President Mnangagwa is in the United States for the 73rd Ordinary Session of the United Nations, where he will today deliver his maiden statement to the world’s largest international organisation.

In the meeting with Minister Baldwin, the UK official congratulated President Mnangagwa on his July 30 Presidential election victory and asked for Zimbabwe’s support on a new immigration plan whose details will be unveiled in due course.

She also requested support for a UK candidate for deputy head of the International Telecommunications Union, where Zimbabwean, Dr Cosmas Zavazava, is director — something Harare is amenable to.

President Mnangagwa briefed Minister Baldwin on Zimbabwe’s economic prospects and discussed support for the country’s economic stabilisation programme, which Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube is presently crafting.

Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (Presidential Communications) Mr George Charamba said, “The second aspect that arose was support for the Lima process, which is quite key to us as it means we can open credit lines one more.

“In this aspect, the UK is actually involved by way of sending assessment missions to check we are geared to interact with multilateral financial institutions. There is a Lima meeting in Bali (Indonesia) soon and the expectation is that the UK will play a positive role and hitherto closed doors will open.

“Madam Baldwin made an undertaking to brief British officials to ensure that Zimbabwe gets the maximum support that it deserves.”

Mr Charamba said President Mnangagwa encouraged Minister Baldwin to assist the British private sector to take advantage of Zimbabwe’s openness for business by way of seizing investment opportunities related to retooling and modernisation of industry.

“The resumption of security and military co-operation also came up. You will recall that after Independence in 1980, the British military was involved in integrating the three fighting forces (ZANLA, ZIPRA and Rhodesian troops).

“After that we had what was called BMATT (British Military Advisory Training Team, but that went south when our relations took a turn for the worse. Now both sides are interested in reviving this co-operation  . . . We are trying to restore a sense of normalcy in security co-operation.”

President Mnangagwa and Minister Baldwin discussed access to scholarships for Zimbabweans, as well as Harare’s intention to create an International Advisory Council that would act as a think-tank and outreach tool for Government in its mission to engage and re-engage with the international community, attract investment and engender goodwill.

“We might have two characters drawn from the British establishment so it was only courteous for the President to inform the UK government that we may be making an approach. Of course there will be Zimbabweans at home and abroad and others from the US, China and Germany among others. This is still an idea that is being incubated.”

Meanwhile, in President Mnangagwa’s meeting with Belgian PM Michel, Brussels expressed readiness to support Zimbabwe’s global economic outreach.

Belgium is the seat of the European Union.

“Belgium has always been interested in Zimbabwe’s diamonds,” Mr Charamba said, “and the President wants Belgium to get more interested in our economy recovery programme and the opportunities it presents to investors.

“The Prime Minister suggested that Zimbabwe send a mission to make pitches to the private sector in Belgium and this is something that we are going to follow through.”

The meeting with Estonia’s PM Ratas was to curry support for Tallinn’s 2019 bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

In the course of discussions, President Mnangagwa became interested in Estonia’s IT sector, and his administration will explore how it can learn from that country’s e-government approach, with particular emphasis on education, health and  e-voting. – Herald