By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
The net is closing in on self-exiled ex-Zimbabwe ministers who fled the country in the wake of a military intervention last November as the new government has already started engaging officials in the countries that they are domiciled in.
In an exclusive wide-ranging interview, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Lieutenant General (Retired) Sibusiso Moyo said the government was engaging officials in the countries that the ex-ministers are domiciled with a view of reviewing their refugee status.
The trio of ex-ministers - Professor Jonathan Moyo (Higher and Tertiary Education), Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government) and Patrick Zhuwao (Public Service) fled the country in November when the military launched Operation Restore Legacy which led to the resignation of then President Robert Mugabe.
Moyo and Zhuwao have continued to issue disparaging statements on social media against the new government while Kasukuwere has remained mum.
Minister Moyo said it was unfortunate some Zimbabwean nationals were making it a pastime to denigrate their own country.
“We are currently engaging the governments of those countries where these ex-ministers are domiciled. We expect that any criminals who are out there as refugees must abide by their refugee status. You can’t be a refugee and denigrate the country you have run away from,” said Minister Moyo.
He said the new government was an advocate of free dialogue and discussion of any national issues but would not be lenient to some criminal elements that fled the country in fear of arrest.
On what have been his priority areas since assuming the Foreign Affairs and International Trade portfolio, Moyo said his immediate task was to engage in economic diplomacy and re-engage the international community.
“Basically, my task was to undertake an outreach within the SADC bloc, then the pan-African area. We do need re-engagement and re-assure our friends and deepen relationships with those who have stood by us over the years,” Moyo said.
He said the response from the regional bloc, the continent and the international community to Zimbabwe’s re-engagements efforts has been excellent.
On the issue of existing economic sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States, Moyo said Zimbabwe had engaged and was still engaging Britain.
He said the sanctions came on the back of bilateral differences between Zimbabwe and Britain and thus it was critical to engage the former colonial power first.
“In our engagements with British envoys, we have managed to make it clear that most of the issues that soured our relationship are now behind us and there is need to look forward to more cooperation and ensuring that the land (which was the major bone of contention) can be productive.
He said Britain’s concerns were mainly to do with honouring bilateral agreements that were signed with regards to land.
“We assured that white commercial farmers whose land was acquired for resettlement would be compensated in terms of our law but that is a process which is dependant on the availability of funds.”
He said Zimbabwe was keen on normalising relations with Britain. Moyo said Zimbabwe was on a process of rebranding and the existence of sanctions was negatively impacting on the government’s initiatives to open a new page.
Britain, he said, is insisting that the sanctions were targeted and barely affect the business of government. Moyo said the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government was optimistic that the EU would change its stance on sanctions but the process was likely to take a much longer time when it comes to the United States.
“With United States, the process is not an easy one.
It needs discussion with all the parties but the journey has already started and we are hopeful that we will eventually find common ground.”
On Zimbabwe’s prospects of re-joining the Commonwealth, Moyo said this was dependant on the governing Zanu-PF party’s supporters who after the country was suspended demanded that the country leaves the club.
“The people chose to have their land back instead of being members of the Commonwealth. But we are now past that issue and there should not be any impediments that can prevent use from re-joining,” Moyo said.
He said the ruling Zanu-PF needed to undertake a consultation process of all the country’s 10 provinces before a decision is reached on whether to re-join or remain outside the Commonwealth.