British envoy bids president farewell

by Tawanda Musariri

British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing bade farewell to President Mnangagwa at State House yesterday evening concluding a four year tour of duty following her reassignment to Abuja, Nigeria by Her Majesty the Queen of England. Ambassador Laing will be replaced by Ms Melanie Robinson.

Ambassador Laing pioneered a new path of doing business between Harare and London following the arrival of the New Dispensation, a clear show of acceptance of the legitimacy of President Mnangagwa following democratic elections which Zanu PF won with a clear majority.

Mrs Laing proved to be an outstanding diplomat who stood above testy relations between Zimbabwe and Britain following the land reform program where the Zimbabwe Government took land from British settler farmers and gave it back to the rightful native owners.

The British settler farmers had laid siege on the Zimbabwean farmland for at least a century.

Emerging from the closed door farewell meeting, Mrs Laing told journalists that there was nothing uncommon about her ‘new’ way of doing business, saying if anything, her style was the way matters should be in the diplomatic industry. She said she has paved a working relationship with the confidence she has developed in the new Zanu PF Government.  

“I think we built a professional working relationship based on trust with the Government, which is what we need on both sides in order to listen to each other. We need to have that trust so that I can have frank conversations and use that access to have influence. That’s what diplomats do all over the world, it’s nothing unusual in Zimbabwe and that’s what my fellow ambassadors do,” said the British envoy.

Commenting on her relationship with the opposition MDC, Ambassador Laing said she had developed a cordial working relationship with the party, which she said was normal under the political circumstances. She pointed out that she respected the opposition for what it was and went on to say that had the opposition won the election; she could have engaged Nelson Chamisa in the same fashion accorded to a sitting president.

“To the opposition I have been very clear with them that the pathway that we have set out for Zimbabwe is to return to normal international relations and we would be open to any Government in Zimbabwe,” she said.