Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
Britain is looking forward to working closely with Zimbabwe’s new administration led by President Mnangagwa in various areas, including opening a new page where investments beneficial to both countries can be made.
British Minister of State for Africa Harriet Baldwin said this after meeting Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Moyo (Retired) in Harare yesterday. She is scheduled to meet the President today.
Minister Baldwin is here as a special envoy of British Prime Minister Theresa May to explore ways of normalising relations that soured at the turn of the millennium over the land issue in the wake of the refusal by the Labour administration of Tony Blair to honour obligations entered into with the Tory administration of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
She comes to Zimbabwe as her first African destination since her appointment as Minister of State for Africa in a Cabinet reshuffle last month. After her meeting with Lt-Gen Moyo (Rtd) that lasted over an hour, Minister Baldwin said they had a fruitful engagement focusing on various issues, including sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the European and Zimbabwe’s possible return to the Commonwealth.
“I just want to say that it is a great pleasure for me to be having my first visit as new Minister for Africa to Zimbabwe and I have had a very long and interesting discussion with the Foreign Minister Moyo,” she said.
“We touched on a number of different areas, and of course my visit follows closely on the visit of my predecessor, who was out here for the inauguration (of President Emmerson Mnangagwa).”
Ms Baldwin’s predecessor, Mr Rory Stewart, attended President Mnangagwa’s inauguration on November 24 last year.
“During my visit here, I am meeting with a wide range of people from Zimbabwe seeing some of the many activities that the UK Department for International Development is funding within Zimbabwe. I am very impressed by the wide ranging nature of discussions and we are looking forward to working closely with the people of Zimbabwe at this historic time.”
Minister Baldwin said officials from the British arm of international investment, the Commonwealth Development Corporation, also visited Zimbabwe recently, opening a new page where investments beneficial to the two countries could be made.
On sanctions, Minister Baldwin said: “There are a range of different countries, including the EU, which we are still part of where there are some measures (sanctions) in place and of course there are some processes to go through as far as these are concerned and that is one of the topics that we have been able to cover in our discussions.”
Minister Baldwin said London welcomed the statement made by President Mnangagwa in his inauguration speech on compensating white former commercial farmers. She said the same sentiments were reiterated by Lt Gen Moyo (Rtd) during their meeting. Minister Baldwin said her visit to Zimbabwe was aimed at understanding issues at hand and see where the UK could assist.
Another British envoy, who also visited Zimbabwe since President Mnangagwa’s inauguration, was Sir Simon Gerard McDonald, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service.
Said Minister Baldwin: “By coming to Zimbabwe at an important time of this historic change here in Zimbabwe, I look forward to hearing views of a wide range of different people in Zimbabwe.
“The UK obviously has a different range of activities that we are taking part here, but also I have been listening to different Zimbabwean organisations about what are the issues here and how the UK can strengthen and deepen the partnership that we have as one of the long standing relationship between the UK and Zimbabwe.”
Minister Baldwin, who is the Member of Parliament for West Worcestershire in the UK, was accompanied by British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing and head of DFID Zimbabwe Mr Annabel Gerry during the meeting with Lt-Gen Moyo (Rtd).