Zimbabweans certainly made a mark at the world climate change conference in Glasgow. Not President ‘crocodile’ Mnangagwa, who kept his teeth below the surface: it was his supporters and opponents who made the news.
The Times newspaper observed: ‘While Boris Johnson struck a sombre note at the beginning of Cop26, saying the world is “one minute to midnight”, the Zimbabwean visitors to the conference were having a jollier time.’
The Times noted that the Zimbabwe government’s spokesman, Nick Mangwana, had posted a photograph on Twitter of two men buying trolley loads of supplies for a party to welcome Mnangagwa. They included 15 bottles of scotch as well as wine and beer etc.
Mangwana tweeted: ‘Tonight [Sunday] there is a massive welcome party held in honour of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Glasgow is the place to be as Zimbabweans from all corners of the UK attend this shindig and welcome the president.’
The scene was described as ‘extremely embarrassing’ by Zimbabwean environmentalist Jessie Pineau. Pedzisai Ruhanya, former news editor of the Daily News, tweeted: ‘While millions wallow in a sea of poverty in Zimbabwe, varakashi [a slang term for the president’s supporters] enjoy whisky in Scotland. Rest assured they will be drunk and won’t know anything happening at the conference: it’s a boozing trip.’ (See: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/1179-zimbabwes-boozy-cop26-party-doesnt-go-down-well-at-home.)
The Vigil used to come across Mangwana when he led Zanu PF in the UK. Sadly there have always been some Zanu PF supporters who deceitfully gained asylum in the UK on the grounds of Zanu PF misgovernance. But the majority of Zimbabweans here know the realities of life in Zanu PF Zimbabwe and they were in Glasgow to protest at Mnangagwa’s presence. Zanu PF might have guzzled the whisky but many Zimbabweans gathered outside the venue cold and sober to protest against Mnangagwa’s disregard for human rights and failure to deal with rampant corruption.
While Zambia’s new president Hakainde Hichilema arrived humbly on a commercial flight with a small delegation Mnangagwa hired a private plane from faraway Azerbaijan at a reported cost of US$415,000 for a one way trip from Harare to Glasgow. It appears that he feared that if he came on an Air Zimbabwe Boeing it might be impounded over debts (see: https://inews.co.uk/news/world/cop26-zimbabwe-president-uk-arrival-private-jet-supporters-celebrate-alcohol-1279965).
The trip would have been worth the money had it produced a good result but it appears that – contrary to the exalted reports in the Herald – there was no significant outcome.
Mnangagwa briefly met his host Boris Johnson as well as the UK’s heir apparent to the throne Prince Charles and his son William. Others included the UN Security Council Director-General Antonio Guterres and the European Council President Charles Mitchel.
His biggest fish was US President President Joe Biden. Mnangagwa excitedly said that Biden’s attitude to Zimbabwe was totally different from that of the US Embassy in Harare. The Vigil suspects Biden was merely being courteous. US policy on Zimbabwe is unlikely to change unless reforms are made by Harare (see: https://www.herald.co.zw/conduct-of-us-embassy-shocks-president/).
As for Mnangagwa’s big moment – his address at the summit – it fell flat as the auditorium was almost empty. To be fair we must explain that his slot was in the morning when most delegates, like Mnangagwa’s supporters, were sleeping off their hangovers (see: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2021/11/empty-chairs-as-ed-addresses-cop26/).
- Mnangagwa was thrilled to have a meeting with the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland, as he is keen on Zimbabwe rejoining the Commonwealth. Baroness Scotland said afterwards that Mnangagwa was ‘committed to our values and principals’. The Vigil doubts this and anyway Baroness Scotland is likely to be dumped soon as the Commonwealth is fed up with paying for the lavish refurbishments of her palatial residence in London (see: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3894586/Commonwealth-chief-Baroness-Scotland-s-338-622-renovation-Mayfair-apartment-included-new-bathroom-3-000-wallpaper-4-000-cupboard-taxpayer-expense.html).
- The Vigil’s current petition expresses our view that Zimbabwe should not be welcomed back to the Commonwealth until it observes its own constitution and the rule of law: ‘Zimbabwe wants to rejoin the Commonwealth. Although Mugabe has gone, his fascist Zanu PF party with the backing of the military remains firmly in power. Zimbabweans in exile urge the UK not to support readmission to the Commonwealth until the regime reforms and acknowledges the genocide of some 20,000 Ndebeles by the Zanu PF regime in the 1980s.’
- Alex Magaisa, a lawyer who teaches at a UK university and MDC supporter, has written an insightful article on the conference. He dismisses Mnangagwa’s boasts about his triumphs with world leaders at Cop26 (see: https://bigsr.africa/bsr-behind-the-diplomatic-veil-dynamics-of-international-trips-and-conferences/).
- We were interested to see that the lawyer accused of conning many fellow Zimbabweans out of money over asylum cases was in Glasgow to support Mnangagwa and the livelihood that he provides for dodgy lawyers in the asylum industry (see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/the-vigil-diary/733-zanu-pf-swaggers-in-uk–zimbabwe-vigil-diary-7th-november-2015 and https://fb.watch/91XQU637d3/).
- Today we met outside the Zimbabwe Embassy. For the moment we are meeting outside the Embassy every other week and our next gathering will be on 20th November 2021. On the alternate Saturdays we will continue with the virtual Vigil. To be recorded as participating in a virtual Vigil your photo, taken with a poster with a message reflecting the situation in Zimbabwe, must be taken at one of the actual Vigils. There will be a small charge to cover admin costs, the ongoing upkeep of the Vigil and our support for the human rights work of ROHR, our sister organisation in Zimbabwe. The photos will then be labelled with your name, uploaded on our website, Flickr site and Facebook pages. Thanks to those who came: Ephraim Tapa, Kevin Wheeldon, Joyce Mbairatsunga, Jonathan Kariwo, Rose Benton, Mary Muteyerwa, Philip Maponga and Margaret Munenge. Photos of today’s Vigil can be accessed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/albums/72157720117037486.
Events and Notices:
- The next Vigil. Saturday 20th November from 2 – 5 pm outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London.
- The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organisation based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organisation on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
- The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe’s work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
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