Tony Blair warms up to Pres­i­dent

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Lin­coln Towindo Se­nior Re­porter

FORMER Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair is pre­pared to meet Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa to lend sup­port to Harare’s po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­form pro­gramme.

Re­la­tions be­tween Zim­babwe and its former coloniser col­lapsed dur­ing Mr Blair’s ten­ure as head of the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment af­ter Zim­babwe em­barked on the Fast-Track Land Re­form Pro­gramme at the turn of the mil­len­nium.

Mr Blair then led an in­ter­na­tional cru­sade against Harare, re­sult­ing in the im­po­si­tion of eco­nomic sanc­tions by the Euro­pean Union (EU), the United States (US) and much of the Western world.

The sanc­tions ru­ined the coun­try’s econ­omy.

Diplo­matic ties be­tween Zim­babwe and Bri­tain have, how­ever, pro­gres­sively im­proved fol­low­ing the change of ad­min­is­tra­tion in Harare, with in­creased ex­changes now tak­ing place be­tween the two.

In a stun­ning about-turn, Mr Blair, who now heads the Tony Blair In­sti­tute for Global Change, told CNBC Africa re­cently of his wish for the Zim­babwe Gov­ern­ment’s re­form agenda to suc­ceed.

He said he was pre­pared to meet Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa pri­vately to help fa­cil­i­tate the mend­ing of re­la­tions.

Last week, a spokesper­son for the Tony Blair In­sti­tute for Global Change told The Sun­day Mail that Mr Blair would be “happy” to meet with Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa.

In an in­ter­view with CNBC Africa, Mr Blair, who re­signed from the Bri­tish premiershi­p in 2007, was asked how ac­ri­mo­nious his re­la­tion­ship with Zim­babwe was.

“I think ac­ri­mo­nious was prob­a­bly an un­der­state­ment,” said Mr Blair, adding, “I am happy to speak to (Pres­i­dent) Mnan­gagwa, but these things are best done in a pri­vate way.

“I was ac­tu­ally think­ing about Zim­babwe the other day. I think, at cer­tain points, there were mis­un­der­stand­ings, not gen­uine dis­agree­ments. If Zim­babwe were to get its act to­gether, it would be an ex­cit­ing place to be.”

This is not the first time Mr Blair has made over­tures aimed at meet­ing the Zim­bab­wean Head of State.

Last year, he for­mally re­quested a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa when he at­tended the Rwanda Lib­er­a­tion Cel­e­bra­tion Day in Ki­gali.

The meet­ing, how­ever, failed to ma­te­ri­alise af­ter a sched­ul­ing mix up.

Speak­ing to jour­nal­ists ahead of his de­par­ture at Ki­gali In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the Pres­i­dent said he had no prob­lems sit­ting with Mr Blair.

“Yes, ac­tu­ally I re­ceived com­mu­ni­ca­tion from New Zealand (yesterday morn­ing) that Mr Tony Blair wants to meet me here in Ki­gali, and I said that I had no ob­jec­tion. But, I un­der­stand he has not ar­rived, and we are leav­ing. If he had ar­rived on time, I would have met him.”

Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s Gov­ern­ment has, since as­sum­ing of­fice, been im­ple­ment­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­forms out­lined in the Tran­si­tional Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Pro­gramme (TSP).

The re­forms have in­cluded re­peal­ing leg­is­la­tion con­sid­ered anti-demo­cratic in­clud­ing the Pub­lic Or­der and Se­cu­rity Act (POSA), and the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act (AIPPA).

Gov­ern­ment is also re­form­ing elec­toral laws to en­sure that fu­ture elec­tions do not end in dis­pute.

Re­forms to the econ­omy have seen a re­peal of in­di­geni­sa­tion laws, prop­ping up of the coun­try’s in­vest­ment pro­file

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