ZIMBABWE is poised for a historic return to the Commonwealth early next year, before the group convenes its biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled for October in Samoa.
It is set to participate at that meeting as a full member.
The development will mark the attainment of a major milestone for President Mnangagwa’s signature foreign policy of engagement and re-engagement, which seeks to, among other things, reintegrate the country into the international community.
The Sunday Mail has gathered that the Commonwealth secretariat is presently finalising official formalities that will lead up to Zimbabwe’s readmission into the 56-member grouping of mostly former British colonies.
In August, Zimbabwe conducted a peaceful, free-and-fair election, clearing the last hurdle that stood in the way of its readmission.
The Commonwealth Election Observer Mission gave the polls a clean bill of health, praising the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for managing the plebiscite efficiently.
In an interview, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava said Zimbabwe’s readmission was now a foregone conclusion.
“We have been engaging with certain countries . . . re-engaging with those who were members of the Commonwealth in 2000, and engaging with others that have since joined as members,” he said.
“And we have also had a lot of meetings with the Commonwealth secretariat. They had their last visit here sometime this year.
“We are hoping that during the course of early 2024, or up to midyear, we should get an answer of what their verdict is.
“We were talking to the current chair . . . my counterpart in that country — Rwanda — the current chair. As the current chair of CHOGM, they did indicate to us that Zimbabwe may be accepted back into the Commonwealth before the next CHOGM.”
Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 at the height of tensions between Harare and London over the land reform programme.
Former President Robert Mugabe announced Zimbabwe’s withdrawal from the group following the Commonwealth summit in Nigeria that suspended the country indefinitely.
In 2018, Government submitted a formal application for readmission, marking a sharp departure from the previous Government’s policy of rancour with the group.
The Commonwealth then initiated its four-step process to assess whether the Southern African nation met the requisite membership criteria.
Since then, the Commonwealth secretariat has dispatched several missions to assess the country’s eligibility to rejoin the group following the nation’s formal expression of interest to return to the bloc.
The procedures entail an informal assessment, undertaken by the secretary-general, following an expression of interest by an aspirant country; and consultation by the secretary-general with member states.
This will then lead to the extension of an invitation to the interested country. The country then lodges a formal application, which should present evidence of functioning of democratic processes and popular support in that country for joining the body.
Commonwealth secretary-general Mrs Patricia Scotland has held several high-level meetings with President Mnangagwa to discuss the country’s impending readmission.
The two last met in May on the sidelines of the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey in London, UK.
Amb Shava said Government’s engagement and re-engagement drive had borne fruit for Zimbabwe this year.
“Starting with the SADC region, I think we have consolidated our relationship with our neighbours in the sub-region.
“This is very clearly indicated by their support of our election results, where ZANU PF won resoundingly.
“Quite a good number of them came or sent representatives to the inauguration of His Excellency, President Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa,” he said.
He said Zimbabwe had also consolidated its relations with other countries on the continent.
“With respect to Western Europe, we have seen the fight that they are having in Ukraine and it is not our fight.
“We have also seen the devastation that Israel is causing to Gaza.
“We are unhappy with that because there is a United Nations approach for a two-state solution for the people of Palestine and the people of Israel.”