It’s been an extraordinary week in the UK with the country plunged into deep mourning following the passing of much-loved Queen Elizabeth. Her death came as a hammer blow coming only two days after she had a meeting with the country’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss. The Queen was 96 and had been reigning for 70 years – so long that people seemed to assume she would last forever.
The whole world seems to be mourning Elizabeth II. US President Biden has ordered flags to be flown at half mast. Even President Putin of Russia and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping have expressed their condolences. Commonwealth countries are sharing the grief of the British people.
The Queen learnt that she had succeeded to the throne in 1952 when she and her husband were staying in a safari lodge, Treetops, perched in a tree in a Kenyan national park. Amos Ndegwa, whose father cooked for the Queen during her visit, said that he was lighting a candle to join the world in mourning. ‘She was very good, she was very kind. She was very welcoming and very humble.’
Although Zimbabwe was pulled out of the Commonwealth by Robert Mugabe, President Mnangagwa was one of the first leaders to offer his ‘deepest condolences’. Mnangagwa has made it clear that he would like Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth. This could be further encouraged by the new cabinet announced by Truss.
For the first time the 4 leading positions in the cabinet do not include a white man. In fact, apart from Truss herself, the other 3 positions, Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister), Home Secretary (Interior Minister) and the Foreign Minister are taken by people of immigrant backgrounds. Apart from them, there are a number of other non-white people in the cabinet with origins in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Although the Vigil would of course celebrate Zimbabwe rejoining the Commonwealth, we would hope to have guarantees first that the Zanu PF government would allow free and fair elections. Unfortunately there is no indication that these would be forthcoming.
Human rights activists are calling for mass protests against the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. They complain of a clampdown on the opposition and the pretrial incarceration of political activists such as the CCC’s Job Sikhala.
Prison officials are accused of poisoning Sikhala. At a brief hearing in court on Monday Sikhala shouted: ‘You wanted to kill me on Saturday. I won’t die, God will protect me until I liberate this country from Zanu PF.’