Zimbabwe is putting the national interest first in its diplomatic engagements and will not be distracted by “diplomatic snobbery” or ideological baggage.Government spokesperson Mr Nick Mangwana, who is also the Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, explained this yesterday ahead President Mnangagwa’s visit to Europe next week.
President Mnangagwa will visit Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan before proceeding to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum.
But questions have been raised on the quality of his former engagements with some quarters pointing that the countries are not “big enough” or would be compared to second-tier European football.
“I think what we are dealing with here is what some may call ‘diplomatic snobbery’,” shot back Mr Mangwana.
“I presume you are not referring to Russia. She is part of the G8 economies of this world. It is miles a very big country by any measure one may choose. Let’s talk of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. You may recall we had two high-level visits from the Republic of Belarus in February and September 2018. Belarus has a lot of strengths which Zimbabwe is leveraging,” he said.
He explained that there were proposals for a joint commission between the two countries and that the two would strengthen bilateral relations in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, education and trade sector.
Explained Mr Mangwana: “Let’s talk about Azerbaijan: This is a country with the very large sovereign wealth fund and has shown interest in having Africa as its investment destination. If something good has to happen in Africa then let it be in Zimbabwe. That’s why the President says that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’. You are not going to start being snooty when it comes to trade and investment.
“It is this same kind of thinking that explains why President Mnangagwa is going to visit other countries in the same region like Kazakhstan. This is a country from which Zimbabwe can learn a lot. There are also trade opportunities with Zimbabwe potentially exporting fruit, coffee, tea and tobacco for the benefit of our economy. Zimbabwe has to benefit from its mineral wealth and, surely, countries which have already been there like Kazakhstan can impart a lot of knowledge through skills sharing and transfer with Zimbabwe.”
The Government spokesperson batted away insinuations that it was not good doing business with countries that were not “model democracies”.
“Democracy is a highly contextual term,” he said.
“In 2017 the UK imported goods worth £45,2 billion from China and it exported goods worth £22,3 billion to the same country. Look at how different their perception of democracy is.
“In 2018 the United States imported goods worth $296,8 billion from China and exported goods worth $74,3 billion to China. You wouldn’t get two countries lying on different ends of an ideological spectrum. But they trade and they transact.
“That’s the way modern diplomacy is. It’s more about putting national interest ahead of ideological frameworks.”
He said Government would pursue various memoranda of understanding so that they would be translated into ventures.
Regarding the much-vaunted Davos meeting, Mr Mangwana said Zimbabwe would build on its attendance last year.
He said: “The 48th annual session that took place last year was the first one Zimbabwe was represented at the level of Head of State. This was Zimbabwe at its best in pursuit of the policy of engagement andee-engagement. Zimbabwe is going to Davos in a better position than last year.”