“Our country is falling apart….never mind, let’s party!” ran a headline in one of the United Kingdom (UK)’s daily tabloids and one of its most read newspapers.
The headline was, of course, about the party Zimbabweans in the diaspora and the contingent that accompanied President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the COP26 summit were having to welcome His Excellency to the UK.
This was the first time in a quarter of a century a Zimbabwean leader was able to set foot in its former colonial master’s backyard because of sanctions.
Pictures of Zimbabweans pushing trollies full of bottles of whisky, wine, beer and crisps at a Costco store in Glasgow, Scotland, went viral, thanks in part to their being shared by government spokesperson, Ndavaningi Mangwana on social media.
Sporting the scarfs made famous by the President himself, the party starters told the world: “COP26 we are ready!”
And in that moment, whatever message Mnangagwa had to share with the world simply became secondary. He had an important message too: Zimbabwe was battling the effects of climate change, which had resulted in severe droughts and cyclone-induced floods.
“It is most unfortunate that the impact of climate change is disproportionately borne by vulnerable communities that have contributed the least to the current stock of atmospheric carbon,” he said.
“Vulnerable countries must, therefore, be capacitated to mitigate, adapt and build resilience to climate change. The expectation is that the major emitters will scale up mitigation action and show greater interest in adaptation. Decisions at this COP26 should strengthen the implementation of current nationally-determined contributions.”
He obviously understood what the global leaders needed to do and actions Zimbabwe as a country should take.
“It is further imperative that the set emission reduction targets are anchored on supporting, financing and equipping countries to gradually and sustainably migrate from fossil to renewable energy,” he said.
“Notwithstanding that as a country we are ‘a net sink’, I am pleased to highlight that Zimbabwe has revised its nationally-determined contributions, a committed conditional 40% per capita greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030. Comprehensive strategies are being implemented towards mainstreaming climate change adaptation and resilience across all sectors of our economy.”
It was very important that world leaders hear his message; including the part where sanctions were hurting ordinary Zimbabweans and that they should be lifted.
But the dominating thread instead became that party. So, Mnangagwa’s painting of Zimbabwe and the backdrop of a country at the mercy of the global vicissitudes was never going to square off.
Whatever message Mnangagwa was hoping to share, was simply lost in wonderment at the party thrown for his welcome, from one of the poorest nations on earth.
With no outcome of note to talk about COP26, Zimbabweans are left with Mnangagwa’s own questionable account of what actually happened in the Scottish capital.