President Emmerson Mnangagwa has suggested as muchby Christian Westerlind Wigstrom / January 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
Britain is looking alone and bewildered. Ever since the end of World War II, its foreign policy has rested on two pillars: Europe and the “special relationship” with the US. With Trump in the White House and the convulsions of Brexit, both pillars have fallen over. But just as the old saying comforts us—that tough times reveal your true friends—so these difficulties seem to have revealed a most unlikely supporter: Zimbabwe.
In an interview last week, the new president of the Southern African country, Emmerson Mnangagwa, suggested that “what they [the UK] have lost in Brexit they can come and recover from Zimbabwe.” It is easy to dismiss this as political point scoring. An economy the size of Sheffield can hardly fill the shoes of a market absorbing 43 per cent of Britain’s exports. But there is more to it. The statement is laced with the complicated dynamics which have characterised the relationship between Britain and its former colony since independence in 1980. To dismiss it would be to miss an opportunity for both Zimbabwe and the UK.
The statement is not intended to be literal. Mnangagwa has been accused of complicity in massacres on his own people, election violence and the looting of state assets but he is not stupid. He knows that Zimbabwe is incapable of offering an export market for Britain in any meaningful way. The collapse of the economy precipitated by former President Robert Mugabe’s expropriation of the commercial agricultural sector in the early 2000s has left Zimbabwe without foreign currency. Even if the 13 million Zimbabweans developed an insatiable appetite for British goods and services, they couldn’t pay for them.