UK envoy seeks to build bridges with Zim

VISITING newly-appointed British minister for Africa and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development Harriett Baldwin is expected to discuss currency stabilisation, re-engagement and other macro-economic issues with senior government officials as Harare steps up a diplomatic offensive to revive a floundering economy, it has been established.

By Bernard Mpofu

Baldwin arrived in Harare yesterday around midday in her first visit to Africa under her new portfolio. The visit came barely two months after her predecessor Rory Stewart jetted in and met President Emmerson Mnangagwa following the ouster of long-time leader Robert Mugabe who resigned in November following a military intervention.

Baldwin said she would have a series of meetings with different groups.

“The past few months have seen momentous change in Zimbabwe and it is a privilege to visit at such a pivotal time,” she said.

“I am looking forward to meeting a wide range of Zimbabweans and hearing from them about the huge potential their country holds and the challenges that must be faced ahead of elections later this year.”

Diplomatic sources said Baldwin will meet high-level government officials, including Mnangagwa, Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya.

The UK minister will also engage civic organisations, business representatives, politicians and human rights activists.

“Issues relating to re-engagement with the international community and macro-economic stabilisation in line with the Lima principles are some of the key issues that are going to be discussed during the meetings,” a senior government official familiar with the developments said.

The US, which has also been calling for the freeing up of democratic space in Zimbabwe, on Wednesday said it would scale-up its engagement with Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe fell out with Western countries at the turn of the millennium after it embarked on the chaotic land reform exercise, which resulted in white commercial farmers losing arable land to indigenous people.

In November, Britain announced it would take steps to stabilise Zimbabwe’s currency system and extend a bridging loan to clear World Bank and African Development Bank arrears.

However, critics say despite the diplomatic momentum which gathered pace since Mugabe’s fall, Zimbabwe should carry out far-reaching democratic reforms before this year’s general elections.

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