Saturday, June 25, 2016

June 25, 2016
Zimbabwe Herald

The world is still coming to grips with the results of the referendum on whether Britain must leave the European Union bloc or stay, which, as is now common knowledge, went the way of leaving the bloc. As the British electorate clearly showed their preference to exiting the 28-member bloc, the world has been assailed by a tsunami of ramifications which first and foremost have claimed the scalp of Prime Minister David Cameron who offered to resign after being stunned by the result and sent the pound sterling tumbling to a 31 year low while markets from London to Johannesburg reeled.

In all the political, social and economic implications of Brexit — as the decision is dubbed — stands Zimbabwe, a country that is thousands of kilometres away, but which has been affected by decisions made in London, largely for adverse ends.

Zimbabwe is a former colony of Britain and we won our independence in 1980 although in the true imperial tradition, the former colonial master nostalgically held onto Zimbabwe for nostalgic and geopolitical reasons, among other motivations.

When the year 2000 arrived and Zimbabwe decided to redistribute land from minority whites of largely British stock, numbering no more than 6 000, to hundreds of thousands of black families, relations between Zimbabwe and Britain soured.

In fact the relations had began to sour when, in 1997, the New Labour government in Britain reneged on the decolonisation promises of funding land reform programmes in Zimbabwe. We all recall Clare Short’s infamous letter to Zimbabwe renouncing any obligation Britain signed up for regarding land reform.

That set a train of events that have led to where Zimbabwe and the West stand diplomatically and other areas of endeavour.

It is a matter of historical record that when Zimbabwe embarked on the land reform programme so miffed was Britain that it rallied the whole of the Western world to punish Zimbabwe for daring to reverse the legacy of colonialism and the continued plunder of resources.

Hence, Britain, under Tony Blair internationalised its dispute with Zimbabwe roping in the US led by George W Bush, the whole of the European Union and other countries like Canada and Australia.

All these countries were supposed to gang on Zimbabwe and see the reversal of the land reform and they responded to the call of Britain by imposing ruinous economic sanctions on the small country of ours and other measures meant to see our capitulation.

Zimbabwe never picked a fight with any of those countries. Zimbabwe did not fight the European Union. In fact, within the bloc there have been pockets of sympathy which have, however, been smothered by the desire to please and act in solidarity with Britain, often at the detriment of individual countries.

The example of Belgium, which was so pained by the EU restrictions barring it from trading in Zimbabwean diamonds, that it forced a relook quickly comes to mind.

Many other European countries individually have lost out on vast opportunities offered by a Zimbabwe rich in natural and human resources. Britain’s exit from the EU is thus set to fundamentally change the dynamics of the bloc.

This most probably will mean better relations between Zimbabwe and European countries individually and as a 27 member bloc. Big Brother Britain is gone — with all its fine airs of imperial nostalgia as well as its undue influence in matters such as Zimbabwe.

It is conceivable that countries such as France and Portugal and even Germany which have in the past dark period shown willingness to work with Zimbabwe will be at hand to review their policies towards Zimbabwe.

And, to be honest, this will not be out of benevolence on their part, but for mutual benefit of our countries. Zimbabwe has always shown readiness to build bridges with the West.

That offer still stands.

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