Zimbabwe is standing tall after the signing of agreements with Belarus in what now spin-doctors claim as the results of the much talked about engagement and reengagement exercise.
The irony of this week’s deals is that it was signed with an unlikely partner from Europe.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko flew into Zimbabwe on a three-day state visit—his first trip to a sub Saharan African country.
Reviled by the West and referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Lukashenko has few friends where he comes from more so after throwing his weight behind Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the year-long Russia-Ukraine war.
The President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration could not have imagined that the re-engagement drive it has been pushing since November 2017 would have reaped rewards from Eastern Europe.
President Mnangagwa ascended the throne with a promise of making Zimbabwe a favourable investment destination under the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business”.
He would attend the World Economic Forum in Davos and other key investment platforms to lure investors, especially those from the west.
These investors had given Zimbabwe a wide berth since the turn of the millennium in protest over the seizure of land from commercial white farmers as the country sought to redress historical imbalances and give its citizens access to one of the means of production.
The Mnangagwa administration agreed to pay a US$3.5bn compensation to former farm owners. It is scouring for resources to pay compensation and has come up with a number of payment plans which the former farm owners have to accept.
The administration is burning midnight oil to be readmitted into the Commonwealth as part of the re-engagement drive under the tagline “friend to all and enemy to none”.
Despite all these overtures, the west has not moved an inch and seems to have pulled the rug from under Mnangagwa’s feet hence the administration focusing on friendly nations such as China, Russia and now Belarus. Critics say the West has been shifting goalposts on Zimbabwe.
What could be more galling for this administration is that there are far worse regimes that are embraced by the West.
The leader of country X is ruthless when dealing with critics, jailing and even killing them. Notwithstanding that, he remains a darling and a poster boy of good governance. The leader of country Y is so ruthless that politicians fear to contest him in an election. Each year, country Y gets billions of support from the West.
So predictable has been the West’s template that other global players such as Russia and China have expanded tentacles on the continent in the second scramble for Africa. Where the West preaches democracy and good governance, Russia, China emphasise non-interference in internal affairs.
This stance has gained support from African leaders, tired of being “tutored” on how to govern notwithstanding that Africa and Europe are at different stages of development.
Lukashenko this week sang from the same hymn on non-interference saying Belarus was bringing peace and science and technology and had no intention of colonizing Zimbabwe in a subtle attack at the West’s model of engagement.