‘Zimbabwe finding its feet in the world again’

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FOREIGN Affairs and International Trade minister Sibusiso Moyo says Zimbabwe remains committed to repairing decades of frosty relations with Western countries, the Daily New On Sunday reports.
In addition, the retired military bigwig who became an instant celebrity when he announced live on State television the popular November 2017 military coup which led to the ouster from power of the late president Robert Mugabe said the government had almost completed all needed reforms.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said that he is keen to mend Zimbabwe’s broken relations of the past two decades with Western powers.

Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday yesterday in a rare interview, the affable and articulate former senior military officer — who earned the moniker “General Bae” among his admirers in 2017 — said sanctions were inhibiting the government from fulfilling the promises that it made upon the fall of Mugabe.

“Our most vocal critics over the past 20 years or so, and those who in the early 2000s opted to go the
punitive sanctions route, are mainly Western countries and their associated financial institutions.

“Re-engagement with these countries and institutions, specifically the United States of America,
the United Kingdom and the European Union more broadly, is a critically important element of the new dispensation’s foreign policy.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

“In all cases, doors have been opened to us and we are actively and cordially engaged. Of course, divergence remains, especially on the issue of sanctions and continuing punitive measures imposed on Zimbabwe.

“But the mere fact that we are talking to, rather than at the US, UK and EU administrations represents
a very significant advance on where Zimbabwe stood prior to November 2017,” Moyo told the Daily News
On Sunday.

“My recent follow-up virtual meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Tibor Nagy — whose children, by the way, were born in Zimbabwe — could not have been more cordial
or constructive.

“A similarly recent Zoom meeting with the UK’s Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, was equally cordial and productive. “With regard to the European Union, had it not been for Covid-19, we would already have held our
second ministerial-level political dialogue, recently elevated from the level of senior officials.

“Probably, the biggest challenges to that progress are sanctions, and related to that, the lingering deeprooted scepticism among western capitals regarding the sincerity of the new dispensation’s commitment to reform,” Moyo said further.

“Whereas it is true that the US, the UK, the EU and indeed others have been vocal about the need for political, economic and legislative reform, it is important to understand that the reform agenda we are pursuing, as outlined by the president in November 2017, is a fully homegrown agenda.

“In terms of political and legislative reform, both Posa (the Public Order and Security Act) and AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) have been repealed and replaced with legislation completely aligned to the 2013 Constitution,” Moyo told the Daily News on Sunday.

“Elsewhere, the alignment of all statutes with the constitution is ongoing, with probably less than 20 laws still requiring attention.

“The Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2 is still awaiting Parliamentary approval. It will further clarify and simplify key aspects of the electoral process.

“Attention is also being given to a raft of further electoral law reforms, many of which arise from the recommendations made in the reports submitted by various election observer missions.

“The recent signing of the Global Compensation Deed and subsequent policy pronouncements confirming government’s commitment to honouring its obligations with regard to BIPPAs (Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements) and protected land acquired under the land reform programme, further reinforces the new dispensation’s commitment to full respect for property rights, the rule of law and constitutionalism,” Moyo also told
the Daily News On Sunday.

This comes as the USA has reiterated its desire to see Mnangagwa and his government succeed in improving the lives of long-suffering Zimbabweans.

Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday in an exclusive interview last week, USA ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, said Washington was ready to assist the country — as long as Mnangagwa and the government fulfilled the promises that were made after the dramatic fall from power of Mugabe.

“The United States shares the desires of the people of Zimbabwe who want to see a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe that provides for its people and contributes to regional stability.

“To realise these goals, we strongly believe it is important that government and non-governmental entities alike promote our shared values and work in areas of common concern.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga

“Whenever we may differ on the best means of achieving these goals, we will seek to engage in a dialogue that is respectful and that seeks to uphold the universal values and rights that Zimbabweans fought so hard to gain 40 years ago,” Nichols told the Daily News On Sunday.

However, he also said the USA government was keen to see Mnangagwa fulfilling the promises that were made when he replaced Mugabe.

This comes as Mnangagwa and his administration have been accused of blowing away the international goodwill which followed the fall of Mugabe, via a stunning and widely-supported military coup. Despite making a number of
promises, including that he would carry out broad-based economic and political reforms, Mnangagwa stands accused of failing to fulfil most of them.

However, his government has been credited with expunging some repressive laws from the statute books, that were routinely used by Mugabe’s regime to punish political opponents and independent media
like the Daily News.

Moyo further told the Daily News On Sunday that progress was also being made towards greater transparency with regard to land tenure and utilisation, including the regularisation of farm sizes and instances of multiple farm-ownership.

As part of seeking to foster national healing and unity in the country, Moyo said Mnangagwa was “deeply committed and continues his personal engagement to ensure progress with regard to bringing closure to those communities affected by Gukurahundi in the mid-1980s”.

“The process of national political dialogue launched by His Excellency in the wake of the 2018 harmonised elections continues to provide guidance and to make useful input towards the search for sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the country.

“The fact that some leaders have opted to remain aloof from that forum does not detract from its importance or usefulness,” Moyo told the Daily News On Sunday, in apparent reference to calls for much-needed dialogue between Mnangagwa and key national stakeholders in the
country.

Moyo also told the Daily News On Sunday that authorities were committed to upholding freedoms, but would brook no nonsense “when political motives ride on that to destabilise the government”

“The government believes that the protection of human rights is an ideal that is shared by all. “Mindful of the need to place human rights at the core of its governance, the Second Republic has made strenuous efforts to ensure
that there is respect for human rights in general, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression as articulated
in the 2013 Constitution.

“Whereas those freedoms might appear to have been curtailed, and I refer specifically to past instances where mass protests and demonstrations have been disallowed by the civil authority, it is due, invariably, to the reckless, irresponsible character of elements of the opposition and their ever-present, underlying determination to bring chaos to our streets, the last such occasion being July 31, in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic, with the stated
intention of bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets in order to ‘bring down Mnangagwa’s government,’” Moyo said.

“When one sees now what is happening in the US, the UK and throughout much of the developed world as Covid-19 has re-grouped and is returning with a vengeance, one perhaps appreciates the wisdom of the government’s approach in preventing such reckless behaviour on our streets.

“Those who criticise Zimbabwe on these issues of human rights tend to do so in a very uneven-handed manner, immediately taking as gospel truth whatever comes from opposition and civil society activists and immediately attributing guilt and blame to the government, even before any investigation is carried out or before any evidence has been scrutinised in a court of law.

“For many in the West, we are guilty until proven innocent. And when we are proved innocent, they say it is our judicial system which is corrupt or biased in favour of the government,” Moyo added.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the West have been frosty since the country embarked on chaotic and widely-criticised land reforms, which saw many commercial farmers losing their land at the height of Mugabe’s ruinous rule.

The move proved disastrous for the country and its long-suffering citizens, as this resulted in Zimbabwe’s isolation from the rest of the international community, while also destroying the critical agricultural sector.

It also saw Zimbabwe’s credit lines and trade facilities being blocked following the imposition of sanctions on the country — amid widespread criticism of Harare’s human rights record.

This subsequently resulted in Zimbabwe hitting rock bottom economically a decade ago, which left most citizens dirt poor and living on less than a dollar a day — with many companies closing down and investors pulling out.

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