The UK has made repeated flawed approaches to Zimbabwe over the years. At the heart of these has been a failure to apply history to diplomacy.
This was most evident after the farm seizures in 2000, when the old colonial power openly sided with beleaguered white farmers, allowing Mugabe to construct UK intervention as neo-colonial.
And it has been a clear factor in its recent misguided strategy for re-engaging the Mugabe government and its costly miscalculations over Mnangagwa.
There have been some exceptions to this rule. Mark Canning, the UK’s Ambassador in Harare from 2009–2011, first engaged in Zimbabwean affairs in 1988 and applied his appreciation of the country’s historical and political dynamics to his actions.
But his successors have lacked this depth of understanding.
Mnangagwa’s sudden dismissal from Zimbabwe’s political scene will require the UK to come up with a new strategy.
This is necessary but also desirable.
Ambassador Laing made a fatal mistake by openly siding with the subordinate of a president who is extremely sensitive to perceived colonial intrusion.
Moreover, the UK’s support for Mnangagwa – a serial human rights violator – alienated domestic constituencies that seek to uphold the sanctity of human rights.
In making its next calculations, a deeper understanding of Zimbabwean history and of the UK’s past role in it would go a long way towards alleviating London’s ongoing problems with Harare.
By Blessing- Miles Tendi. This article first appeared on African Arguments