Zimbabwe pins hopes on Biden… as Harare seeks better relations with Washington

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Blessings Mashaya

SENIOR STAFF WRITER

mashayab@dailynews.co.zw

THE government is hopeful that United States of America (USA) president-elect, Joe Biden, pictured, will be open to mending the strained relationship between Harare and Washington, the Daily News reports.

This comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa was among the first leaders around the world to congratulate Biden — a polar opposite to the gung ho and now defeated Donald Trump — on his victory in the USA’s just declared elections.

It also comes after Washington recently reiterated its desire to see Mnangagwa and his government succeed in improving the lives of long-suffering Zimbabweans — but emphasising that the Zanu PF leader should fulfill the promises that he made upon assuming power in 2017.

In his congratulatory message to Biden, Mnangagwa said he was looking forward to Harare working well with Washington.

“On behalf of all Zimbabweans, huge congratulations to President-Elect  @JoeBiden on his election victory.

“Zimbabwe wishes you every success in leading the American people. I look forward to working with you to increase cooperation between our two nations,” Mnangagwa said on twitter.

On his part, Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo said he hoped that Biden would help improve the two countries’ rocky relationship of the past two decades.

“Congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden on his election victory. Zimbabwe hopes to continue finding common ground, worthwhile and mutual alliances with the American people,” he said.

Earlier, the Foreign Affairs ministry had expressed hope that Biden would be more open to re-engaging with Zimbabwe than the dumped Trump.

“The ministry wishes to express its heartfelt congratulations & best wishes to President-Elect @JoeBiden

“Zim looks forward to working with you in its re-engagement drive not only to normalise our relations but also to deepen them & forge closer co-operation between the countries,” it said.

Meanwhile, political analysts said Biden was likely to focus a bit more on Africa, and Zimbabwe in particular, than Trump had done.

Senior consultant at the International Crisis Group (ICG), Piers Pigou, said the government would succeed in improving its relations with the USA if it addressed issues that had been previously raised by Washington.

“There is an expectation that Biden’s administration will take a more proactive approach to policy on Africa.

“With respect to Zimbabwe, this requires Harare to step up to the plate and take a more pragmatic approach to building relations with the US. Measures will not be lifted without a clear case being made.

“Biden was one of the original sponsors of ZDERA (the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act) in 2001.

“Do not expect the new team to simply roll over on the current US position with respect to either targeted sanctions or ZDERA. There is a bi-partisan appetite in some quarters to actually ratchet up measures,” Pigou told the Daily News.

Relations between Zimbabwe and the USA have been frosty since the country embarked on chaotic and widely-criticised land reforms 20 years ago, which saw many commercial farmers losing their land at the height of the late former president Robert 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.

However, and since replacing Mugabe, Mnangagwa and his administration have embarked on a re-engagement exercise which includes mending broken relations with Western countries.

Last month, the USA said it was keen to see Zimbabwe improve the lives of its people.

Speaking to the Daily News’s sister publication, the Daily News On Sunday in an exclusive interview, USA ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said Washington remained 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.

“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.

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