Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth in 2003, and since then there has been little contact with it for ordinary Zimbabweans. In 2009, to celebrate its 60th anniversary, a “Commonwealth Conversation” was held in many member countries. The British Council organised the Commonwealth Conversation in Harare, at the University of Zimbabwe, so that for the first time since their country left, several hundred young Zimbabweans could talk openly about what the Commonwealth means to them.
Below are some FAQs with the British Council Office in Zimbabwe:
Why does the British Council continue to work in Zimbabwe?
The purpose of the British Council in Zimbabwe is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and Zimbabwe. Our cultural relations work in Zimbabwe, as in all the countries where we operate, is about building relationships at a people-to-people level to increase global trust and understanding. It is during such times of political uncertainty that we believe it is absolutely essential to keeping the lines of communication and opportunity open to ordinary people in isolated countries such as Zimbabwe.
The British Council is firmly committed to working in Zimbabwe and provides a cultural and educational lifeline to the UK and outside world for Zimbabweans. The focus of our programmes is to give Zimbabweans access to a free flow of ideas, creativity and information, and to reduce the isolation felt by educated, talented and aspiring individuals and groups.
Is the British Council effectively supporting President Mugabe’s regime by continuing to operate in Zimbabwe and helping to maintain a semblance of civility/normality?
No. The British Council is committed to working in Zimbabwe because we provide a cultural and educational lifeline to the UK and outside world for the Zimbabweans, especially in the face of severe hardship. It is during times of political uncertainty that we believe it is absolutely essential to keeping the lines of communication and opportunity open to ordinary people in isolated countries such as Zimbabwe.
The British Council runs programmes in governance and leadership – is this not deemed politically contentious particularly for a supposedly non-political organisation?
No. Our programmes in governance and leadership stress general skills and capacity enhancement, and are strictly non-political and non-partisan. Participants have included people from a range of sectors, from within and outside government. The British Council runs the Strategic Leadership Programme across Africa, including in Zimbabwe, inviting young professional Zimbabweans to develop leadership skills to take back to their community and networking skills to enable them to build links for future collaborative working which benefits both Africa and the UK.
Does the British Council have serious plans to take advantage of continuing positive changes in Zimbabwe?
Yes. The British Council has carefully reviewed its operations in the light of the current political and economic positive change, matching increased demands (e.g. for examinations, school links) with our own resources and available budgets. We have very positive plans in place for long term, supportive partnerships with Zimbabwe’s emerging “successor generation”.