PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday met China’s assistant foreign affairs minister, Chen Xiaodong, dispatched as a special envoy by Beijing days after Zimbabwe’s new leader assumed office.
Although details of the meeting were not immediately available, multiple government sources this week indicated that China had expressed its willingness to support Zimbabwe’s reconstruction under Mnangagwa, an avowed admirer of the Chinese economic system.
Beijing has emerged as one of Zimbabwe’s most important economic partners, but ties had grown a little frosty during former president Robert Mugabe’s last years, with China growing frustrated by Harare’s inability to service its debts.
Zimbabwe’s relations with Britain, meanwhile, have been fraught since 2000, when Whitehall spearheaded sanctions against the Mugabe government over allegations of election violence and fraud as well as violent land seizures.
Mnangagwa has undertaken to mend Zimbabwe’s relations with the international community.
The Chinese envoy’s visit follows last week’s trip to Harare by the United Kingdom’s Africa Minister, Rory Stewart.
The UK minister met Mnangagwa after his inauguration as president last Friday. Stewart also met several opposition and civil society figures.
Upon his return to the UK, Stewart expressed hope for the mending of relations between Britain and her former colony.
“We’re now at a situation in Zimbabwe where there could be an opportunity for progress, so I went to listen and to learn,” Stewart said in a statement issued by the FCO.
“If we’re patient and if we’re careful, this can be a moment of change where Zimbabwe becomes the country its people and its many international friends want it to be.”
Stewart’s visit followed last week’s statement by Theresa May, saying Mugabe’s exit presents an opportunity for Zimbabwe to “forge a new path”.
May also offered Zimbabwe unspecified support.
Yesterday, British foreign secretary Boris Jsohnson weighed in, tweeting along with a picture with Zimbabwean diplomat Tadeous Chifamba: “Encouraging discussion with Zimbabwean delegation at the #AUEUSummit. They are committed to building on the positive momentum of (the) last few weeks and to take the democratic path to prosperity and stability.”