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Comical diplomacy won’t cut it

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IN years gone by, the annual World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland, were a useful platform bringing together the big hitters on the international stage to brainstorm for the good of mankind.

Or at least it felt that way. Back in the day, billionaires rubbed shoulders with presidents, providing journalists with an endless stream of exciting soundbites.

How times have changed! In January 2020, at the last Davos gathering before the world was turned upside-down by what initially appeared to be an inconsequential respiratory disease outbreak in China, the priorities were markedly different. There was no physical meeting last year. In May 2022, the world is barely recognisable, thanks to the devastating impact of Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

And so Davos in 2022 was quite a bizarre spectacle. It did not offer much in terms of the big international story. There were certainly no A-listers of international gravitas in attendance.

The end result, inevitably,  was a hodgepodge of underwhelming discussions that no serious person really paid attention to.

The world is in flux. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa was among the coterie of bland participants at this week’s Davos Forum.

He hightailed it to Switzerland aboard a posh US$30 000-per-hour chartered jetliner. It was always going to be a herculean task for his clueless band of propagandists to justify such mindless expenditure in the face of immense corruption-induced suffering back home. The money blown on this curious trip could have instead bought a cancer machine, saving the lives of many vulnerable citizens.

But no level-headed observer would begrudge Mnangagwa his Davos trip just for the sake of malice. Far from it. The brutal reality is that Zimbabwe has not benefitted anything tangible from his visit.

The last time Mnangagwa went to Davos, the international community was expectant: he had succeeded an authoritarian ruler who had clung on to power for 37 years. The world expected and wanted Mnangagwa to reform Zimbabwe. There was an outpouring of international goodwill.

What happened? He flattered to deceive. Even the most vocal cheerleaders of the military coup which swept him to power are crying foul. The British political class comes to mind; just a fortnight ago, the House of Lords tore into Mnangagwa’s performance, describing him as an unmitigated failure.

The Zimbabwean rulers have spent millions of US dollars hiring Western public relations firms and lobbyists–to no avail. The overwhelming verdict on the world stage is that the regime in Harare has squandered a glorious opportunity to change Zimbabwe’s political, economic and social trajectory in the national interest for posterity.

Zimbabwe’s clueless rulers put up a Mickey Mouse spectacle in front of international media cameras. Whoever formulated the hare-brained idea of hiring a scrum of lumpen elements to don Mnangagwa’s multi-coloured scarf and hold aloft lame placards denouncing “Western sanctions” is a hopeless schemer.

The world is not fooled. The Zanu PF government’s performance will be measured in line with its delivery record on the ground. Anything else is wishful thinking.

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