HARARE – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose country has been isolated by former colonial master, Britain and its allies over alleged rights abuses and poll fraud, on Tuesday made the earliest advances towards incoming British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, viewed as an independent thinker on Zimbabwe and Britain’s drawn out quarrel.
Mnangagwa said via his Twitter he hoped the introduction of a new British premier who once scorned his compatriots for bungling the Zimbabwe-Britain relations, could mark a new beginning in the former allies’ relationship.
Johnson was Tuesday been elected new Conservative leader in a ballot of party members and will become the next UK prime minister.
He beat Jeremy Hunt comfortably, winning 92,153 votes to his rival’s 46,656.
Mnangagwa was quick to express his wish in a congratulatory message to the Prime Minister designate.
“Congratulations @Boris Johnson on your election as leader of the Conservative Party and on becoming Prime Minister of the UK. I wish you good for the journey ahead, and look forward to building ever closer ties between our two nations under your leadership,” Mnangagwa said via his Twitter.
Zimbabwe and Britain fell out at the turn of the century when the then Robert Mugabe led government embarked on a violent land redistribution exercise which saw white land owners of British descent thrown out of tracts of land.
Mugabe accused the now defunct Tony Blair administration of going back on Britain’s pledge to finance Zimbabwe’s efforts to reverse colonial land imbalances between native blacks and white locals.
However, despite signs of a thaw in relations during successive governments run by past British premiers Gordon Brown, David Cameron and lately Theresa May, it was still apparent the former allies were failing to rediscover their close pre-land reform ties.
With a new British Premier who has been outspoken about his country’s alleged betrayal of Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa’s optimism can be understood.
Then Mayor of London, Johnson February 2015 made a bold claim Britain was to blame for the hard attitudes displayed by Mugabe when the latter grabbed land from whites.
He also blamed Blair for wrecking the white farmers’ chance of staying on the land, or at least being compensated for it.
“This Mugabe tyranny is no accident – and Britain played a shameful part in the disaster,” Johnson said in a mournful article published in a leading British daily.
“…The British government agreed to fund the arrangement, compensating the former colonial farmers for land that they gave up. Under that arrangement the white farmers were able to survive – more or less; Zimbabwe remained economically viable – more or less.
“And then in 1997, along came Tony Blair and New Labour, and in a fit of avowed anti-colonialist fervour they unilaterally scrapped the arrangement.”
Johnson went on, “It was that betrayal of Lancaster House that gave Mugabe his pretext to launch his pogroms against the whites.”