This is the biggest exhibition that ZITF has achieved. It is a result of the Second Republic’s policy of engagement and re-engagement. After 20 years, countries like Great Britain are exhibiting”: Ministry of Information

During the latest ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) held in Bulawayo, Information Ministry led by Monica Mutsvangwa paid tributes to the success of the ZITF to the Second Republic’s efforts in image building, re-engagement and engagement.

However, these are just half-truths if not disinformation as the arguments were based on unfounded facts. Si nce the birth of the Second Republic, its efforts on image building had been waning, worse regarding engagement and re-engagement ones.

This article will look at the government’s failed efforts in 2021 to unlock the global community for new lines of credit, lure in investors and remove sanctions against what the Information Ministry said in a Twitter post.  

The second republic led by President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa made a commitment in 2017 to break the shackles that had been imprisoning Zimbabwe’s international engagement efforts. In 2017 after removing his former gaffer through a coup de tat, Mnangagwa made a wave of promises to revive the country’s relations with the international community, particularly the West through a busload of reforms within the economic and political parameters in particular. These are what the Information Ministry said the government have achieved.

But, what was the born of contention between Harare, UK, Washington and the European Union? What really propped up the rivalry between the Southern African nation and the Western Powers?

When it started

The rivalry between the West and Zimbabwe which the government of Mnangagwa battles to unshackle dates back to the 2000s when former president Robert Mugabe was the President of the country. It was propped up by the Land Reform Programme (LRP) implemented by his government in an effort to bring back the soil to the natives. Before, Mugabe had assured the White farm owners a grace period to pack their bags and go, but however, Mugabe failed to commit to his words and in 2001, his government waged a land reform battle which displaced thousands of them, devoiding them of their land and property rights they enjoyed before.  

The move attracted popularity among many Zimbabweans, especially the war veterans but, the methods employed to correct land ownership imbalances were condemned by the global community particularly Britain and the United States of America.

According to the Consequential Theory by Jeremy Bentham, the goodness or badness of an act is justified by the end goal, which is the result or outcome. If the outcome brings more good to the greatest number of people, the act is considered ethical. The goal of the LRP according to the philosophers who believe in this school of that was correct, restoring land to the rightful people which were more from the minority White farmers.

However, theorists who believe in Aristotle’s ethical laws of Rights believe the means qualify an action as good or bad despite how good the outcome is. The ethical approach stipulates that the best ethical action is that which protects the ethical rights of those who are affected by the action. It emphasizes the belief that all humans have a right to dignity thus calls for the right way to carry out actions irrespective of numbers. According to this theory, a wrong working cannot bring a right answer. Even if the answer might seem satisfying in the short term, in the long run, there will be repercussions. This theory is supported by the concept of Ubuntu in the African society which demands the people to carry out rightful actions.

In African society, doing the wrong thing to gain possession is cowardice. Against these philosophical schools of thought, the government of Robert Mugabe ripped the White farmers of their rights, hence, the Western Powers took decisive action.

In African culture, every rightful action demands a reward and a wrong action attracts a curse as a result of the aggressive LRP, the Western powers imposed targeted economic sanctions on Zimbabwe’s elite government members and companies. Sanctions were led particularly by the United States and Britain as they have the largest number of farmers who were affected. 

Since then, relations between the West and Zimbabwe started frosting which forced the Mugabe’s Administration to initiate the Look East Policy (LEP).

What was the Look East Policy?

The dilemma is that China itself looks to the West for its economic growth while also continued isolation of Zimbabwe was detrimental to its economic growth and development. 

Look East initiative were trade and political agreements with Asian countries considered friendly to Zimbabwe, China in particular rather than traditional western partners who have been critical of human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

Initiated by former president Mugabe. Zimbabwe came up with an LEP centred on renewed, broader engagement with China and other Asian countries, which President Mugabe said could be an alternative economic and political cooperation development partner to replace Western governments, which collectively isolated the country through smart economic sanctions against the ruling party leadership and associated companies. The policy targeted luring in Chinese investors, credit lines and commitments to the development of Zimbabwe. 

However, China’s commercial approach and engagement in Zimbabwe had been not ad hoc and without a clear policy to regulate and guide the bilateral relationship. Ever since Zimbabwe adopted LEP, there had been insignificant improvement in the country’s social and economic development, especially in the welfare of the ordinary people. The LEP only worked as a strategy by Robert Mugabe to frame his leadership as a victim of Western governments and international donours while providing the government with enough policy space to blame Western governments for leadership failure to properly manage and administer the country’s social, economic and political affairs. 

Instead of carrying out meaningful investments, the LEP largely served the commercial interests of China at the expense of the national economy of Zimbabwe. The influx of Chinese goods over the past decade, deprived competitiveness of the locally produced goods as Chinese imports were more than cheap. Despite being cheap, Chinese goods were also sub-standard. 

The only tangible thing LEP did was to put Zimbabwe in a debt trap. 

With the LEP failing to make any efforts to integrate with ordinary Zimbabweans not only through employment creation and fair business practices but also through culture, language and work, the Second Republic started a wave to rejuvenate relations with the West through promising wave of political and economic reforms. By his Mantra, Zimbabwe is open for business, Mnangagwa was trying to sway the Western Investors.

Western demands from Mnangagwa’s Administration

From their end, the Western Powers called on for the upholding of human rights, free and fair elections which are undisputed, rule of law, political tolerance implement security sector reforms and compensation to the white farmers. these, Mugabe’s government gave a deaf ear and also cast a blind eye.

By so doing, Zimbabwe intends to re-engage with the West, to tap into their investors, renegotiate debt terms and open up new credit lines. 

To ensure viability, the Second Republic set the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP)which laid a foundation for the National Development Strategy 1(NDS1)

NDS1 was operational since 2021 January and it set targets which were aimed to be achieved by December 2021.

It is these targets that will send corrections to the lying Ministry

Image Building

Key priority areas on engagement, re-engagement and image building highlights

In 2021, the government targeted to improve the image of the country, re-engage and engage the global community by improving the Good Country Index (GCI), Country Brand Ranking and improve Global Travel and Tourism, Competitiveness Ranking and Global Happiness Index. 

 The GCI which was at 100 in 2019 out of 153 targeted number 98 in 2021. The Good Country Index measures how much countries contribute to the planet, and to the human race, through employed policies and behaviours. Second Republic’s efforts fell short as the country get the worst performance by ranking, missing the 98th targeted position to score 111 in 2021, worse than 2019 performance. 

On Competitiveness ranking, the country also registered a failure by ranking 127 out of 140 instead of the targeted 114. The Global Competitiveness Index assesses the microeconomic and macroeconomic foundations of national competitiveness, which is defined as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country.

The GHI for Zimbabwe was also off-route in 2021. The Happiness Index measures life satisfaction, the feeling of happiness in domains such as psychological well-being, health, time balance, community, social support, education, arts. and culture, environment, governance, material well-being, and work and these are answered by the public. The GHI set at 136 in 2021 out of 191 also fell short to hit number 148. 

International engagement and re-engagement

The government failed to improve international engagement and re-engagement in 2021 dismally. The Country Risk Index which targeted to attain a grade CC in 2021, which was a medium risk flopped, only to score Grade E which is the highest risk political and economic situation. The baseline target was grade CCC which is a high risk while the target was CC which is medium risk.

The CRI quantifies the risk of a shock, such as an economic crisis or a sudden change in the political environment that would affect those conducting business within a country, territory, or special administrative region.

Before the Index, the EU, UK and USA labelled Zimbabwe as a minefield for investments due to human rights violations and political toxicity. 

Regarding the removal of sanctions, no sanctions were removed. Rather, the Biden Administration and the United Kingdom renewed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2021, a clear testimony of a failed state to re-engage. The baseline for the sanctions was 30% and in 2021, the government expected the removal of sanctions by 100%. However, 0% was attained. 

The competitive ranking was also unfounded. From a baseline of 114 out of 140, Zimbabwe targeted to score 113 out of 140. However, a dismal 127 was attained. 

What went wrong

The failure of the Second Republic to attain and build a good image is largely due to the image diplomacy approach which is elite-oriented based on hiring lobbyists to change the perception of the international community that there are reforms in Zimbabwe yet nothing is materialising. 

This approach is a failure as it is not based on transformations, but misinformation and the propagating of propaganda. These include hiring white men, lobbying for an anti-sanctions day and spreading propaganda through the mainstream media.

Corruption also continues to be unchecked. Criminals are walking scot-free in town and this scares away potential investors. Research shows that Zimbabwe losses billions of dollars annually due to corruption.

Dirty politics, police brutality and lack of separation of powers continues to hinder the country’s engagement efforts.


Instead of wasting state resources on hiring lobbyists to spread propaganda, these resources should be channelled towards quality services delivery, healthy and energy to improve Zimbabwe’s happiness index as citizens are responsible for answering survey questions. 

Political reforms and burial of corruption through getting the culprits behind the bars are critical in servicing debts. This is critical to open up new lines of credit currently and in the future. 

Rule of law (there should not be sacred cows) and rejuvenating public service delivery including social amenities help to improve the nation’s image.