Zimbabwe is inching closer to readmission into the Commonwealth ahead of the grouping’s biennial meeting slated for Kigali, Rwanda, in June.
The Sunday Mail has gathered that Commonwealth Secretary-General Mrs Patricia Scotland will soon share with all 53 member states of the group an assessment report on Zimbabwe’s eligibility to rejoin following two high- level visits to the Southern African country.
The Commonwealth also observed the 2018 harmonised elections as part of the evaluation.
This follows the pledge made by Mrs Scotland to “accelerate” Zimbabwe’s readmission when she met President Mnangagwa in New York, United States, on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly last year.
It is understood that following the assessment mission, a report will be produced before the findings are shared with the group’s 53 member states.
The secretary-general will then consult all member states before Zimbabwe’s fate is decided by a majority consensus at the next Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM).
In emailed responses to an inquiry by The Sunday Mail, Commonwealth spokesperson Mr Snober Abbasi said: “Zimbabwe’s expression of interest to rejoin the Commonwealth came in a letter dated 9 May 2018 to Secretary-General Patricia Scotland from Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, triggering the first step of the membership process, which is an assessment of the country’s adherence to the Commonwealth’s values.
“Zimbabwe’s application to rejoin the Commonwealth is ongoing and is currently at the first stage: the Secretary-General’s informal assessment of the country’s commitment to Commonwealth values.
“It is not a time-bound process, as it is tailored to every applicant’s context.
“As part of this process, the Commonwealth has undertaken two membership assessments in the country to date and also observed the 2018 elections in July.
“Once the informal assessment concludes, the Commonwealth Secretary-General will provide a report to Heads of Government on her key findings and who will then decide whether Zimbabwe should be invited to submit a formal application to rejoin the Commonwealth.”
In May 2018, President Mnangagwa wrote to Mrs Scotland expressing Zimbabwe’s willingness to return to the group after nearly a decade and half of estrangement.
The Commonwealth then initiated a four-step process to assess the Southern African nation’s eligibility to regain its membership.
Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003 at the height of tension between Harare and London over the land reform programme.
Former president Mr Robert Mugabe announced Zimbabwe’s withdrawal from the group after the Commonwealth summit in Nigeria that suspended the country indefinitely.
To rejoin, Zimbabwe must demonstrate that it complies with the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including democracy and rule of law plus protection of human rights such as freedom of expression.
Speaking to journalists after meeting the President in New York, Mrs Scotland said their meeting centred on how Zimbabwe’s return to the Commonwealth could be expedited.
“We had a very good discussion,” she said.
“We were looking at issues that were still outstanding, you know there is a process and the process is underway.
“It is by no means complete; there are really interesting areas that we will continue to discuss. It was really a good meeting.
“There is no case of postponing.
“What happens is the Commonwealth has laid-down a process that any applicant has to go through.
“It is that process that is being accelerated as quickly as possible.
“If you look at our process, it is step-by-step.
“Zimbabwe is going through all those steps just like any other country.
“I think there are a number of areas where Zimbabwe has made real reforms.
“No one is perfect and it is a journey.”
Zimbabwe has maintained that its readmission efforts are buoyed by the fact that the country was not expelled from the Club of former British colonies.