ZIMBABWE’S elections in the next four months will decide the country’s chances of being readmitted into the Commonwealth, University of London professor of world politics Stephen Chan has said.
Zimbabwe has been under the international spotlight over human rights abuses, electoral fraud and failure to respect the rule of law, which soil the grouping’s values and keep denting Harare's chances of being re-admitted 20 years after exiting the body.
Chan told NewsDay that the July or August elections will determine whether Zimbabwe is re-admitted into the Commonwealth or not.
He said a Commonwealth assessment team was also a victim of State-sponsored violence during its mission in Zimbabwe and this would likely jeopardise the country’s chances of being readmitted.
“Commonwealth membership for Zimbabwe remains on hold probably until a verdict of approval is available after this year’s election,” said Chan.
“I do think that the conduct of the election will be critical to Zimbabwe’s chances for readmission. The Commonwealth observer group’s reports on the last elections found several points that required improvement for the next elections.
“This year’s Commonwealth observer group will look closely at all those points — which all concern one aspect or another of transparency and violence.
“The group was itself besieged by tear-gas armed riot police in the Bronte Hotel (Harare) at one point. This did not impress the group. This year’s group will certainly be briefed about that by members of the last group.”
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Chan’s sentiments were echoed by Harare-based political analysts, who expressed doubts over Zimbabwe’s re-admission as the country’s human rights situation had worsened.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said Zimbabwe’s readmission into the Commonwealth was uncertain as the situation that resulted in it being booted out had worsened.
“The human rights situation in the country has actually worsened since (the late former President Robert) Mugabe’s leadership,” Ngwenya said.
“When a leader incarcerates opposition members, it shows high levels of intolerance. This is against the principle of fairness for a credible election.”
Ngwenya added: “So, when the ratings on all human rights indices have gone down further, it becomes difficult for one to be hopeful for readmission into the Commonwealth whose values do not match with those on the ground.”
Another analyst Eldred Masunungure said President Emmerson Mnangagwa could ride on his latest trip to the United Kingdom where he attended King Charles III’s coronation.
“The invitation to the coronation had significance because Zimbabwe is being recognised after decades without any invitation. But what is important is the action towards addressing all the human rights issues raised that will make the country admissible to the grouping,” he said.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba claimed that Zimbabwe was on the verge of being re-admitted into the Commonwealth following the President’s meeting with its secretary-general, Patricia Scotland, during the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday.
But Scotland insisted that Zimbabwe’s adherence to Commonwealth values were key for re-admission.
“Pleased to welcome the President of Zimbabwe, @edmnangagwa to Marlborough House for a courtesy call,” Scotland said on her Twitter handle.
“The President and I discussed a range of issues, including Zimbabwe’s ongoing application to re-join @commonwealthsec and reaffirmed the commitment to the values of the Commonwealth,” she wrote.
Mnangagwa told journalists in London, UK, before his trip back home that indications for Zimbabwe to be readmitted into the Commonwealth were “positive” after his meeting with Scotland.
“We were able to meet the Minister for Development, and Africa (Andrew Mitchell). We had a very long chat and I think the indications are that there is a spirit of co-operation developing between London and Harare, which we shall continue to pursue.
“Last night, I met the secretary-general of the Commonwealth, there was a Commonwealth summit held. I also met the chairman of the Commonwealth President (Paul) Kagame and the indications are that the signals are positive,” he said.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002 over alleged human rights abuses before the late Mugabe withdrew the country’s club membership.
A Commonwealth team was in the country for the third time last year following an application for readmission by Mnangagwa in 2018.
Mnangagwa arrived back in Zimbabwe yesterday.