Mnangagwa escalates efforts to befriend USA, Europe

 Mnangagwa escalates efforts to befriend USA, Europe
Published: 22 July 2019 (149 Views)
PRESIDENT Donald Trump, pictured, says his government continues to keep a beady eye on developments in Zimbabwe, as Washington is being lobbied to review its long-standing targeted sanctions on Harare, the Daily News can report.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government said yesterday that it was hopeful that its lukewarm relations with Washington and Europe would soon improve further, as Harare starts implementing much-needed political and economic reforms.

It also comes as the government has recently engaged two American lobby firms to help improve Zimbabwe's relations with Trump and his administration — who have consistently demanded that Harare scraps its repressive laws and also prosecutes soldiers accused of killings civilians in August last year and during January's fuel riots.

Addressing the media at the weekend, a tight-lipped Trump would only say that his government was seized with the Zimbabwean issue.

"We are looking into Zimbabwe right now," he said after he was quizzed on Washington's sanctions on Mnangagwa and other senior government officials.

The government recently hired two American reputation management firms, for more than US$1 million, to lobby Trump and his government over the restrictive sanctions that were imposed on Zimbabwe more than 15 years ago.

On its part, Harare said yesterday that it was hopeful its current strategy of choosing "dialogue over confrontation" would help restore normal relations with the US and other Western countries.

"The government's foreign engagements are working and we look forward to the removal of the sanctions in the near future. Unlike in the past, government realises that confrontation does not work, but dialogue ... The new policy is to open Zimbabwe to global business, even if it means engaging those states that have been hostile and are … responsible for ruining our economy through sanctions.

"We are confident that President Trump will soon lift these sanctions and allow a new chapter of cordial diplomatic relations to emerge," deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi told the Daily News.

Mnangagwa's government has previously said that it is committed to implementing both political and economic reforms, as part of its broader plan of re-engaging America and other Western powers.

During his visit to the United Kingdom recently, Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo reinforced this commitment, outlining what Harare had done thus far in terms of implementing the much-needed reforms.

"My visit here has only strengthened our commitment to re-engagement. We thus remain committed to economic and political reforms in our nation … and mending fences with all those who wish to engage with us.

"Three separate bills that are meant to repeal Aippa and bring within constitutional parameters the disseminating of public information ... that are meant to guarantee press freedom, are currently before Parliament. Similarly the amendment of the Public Order Security and Maintenance Act, is underway.

"We hope that there will be sincere and concerted engagement with these amendments both in Parliament and in public consultations, as these are laws that have toxified the relationship between government and its critics, both in and outside the country," Moyo said.

"Other key political reforms include the restructuring of the security sector, partly by way of implementation of recommendations put forward by the Montlanthe Commission in the wake of post-election violence, further compounded by the January 14 and 15 violence. The process of consultation on this exercise is well-advanced," Moyo added.

Trump's administration has been cranking up the heat on Harare over the past few months, to implement sweeping political and economic reforms — including holding political talks involving opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, to rescue the country from its worsening economic rot.

Recently Washington also released a not-so-flattering report on Zimbabwe in which Trump's government said Mnangagwa's administration continued to fail to capitalise on the goodwill that was presented to the country following the ouster from power of former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

As a result, the report observed, investor optimism had weakened significantly as Harare dithered about implementing the much-needed political and economic reforms.
The damning report also came days after the US government had warned Mnangagwa that he had to make an urgent choice between effecting the reforms or let the country sink into oblivion.
"On August 1, 2018, the army used live ammunition to disperse people demonstrating against the delay in announcing official presidential election results, leaving six people dead.

"Following demonstrations against a 140 percent increase in fuel prices on January 14, 2019, security forces responded with excessive violence and human rights abuses, including the use of live ammunition, arbitrary beatings and arrests, resulting in 17 deaths and hundreds injured over the course of weeks. The crackdown targeted members of the opposition political party, civil society groups, and labour leaders," the latest US government report said.

It added that political uncertainty remained high in the country, amid rising cases of violent crime and armed robberies which it said police were struggling to deal with due to "lack of resources".

Trump renewed America's targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year in March — accusing Mnangagwa and his government of not doing enough to improve Harare's democratic credentials since Mugabe was dramatically ousted from power in November 2017.

In May, America also said, apart from dealing with killer soldiers, Mnangagwa's government should bin Aippa and Posa, as these were seen as shackling journalists, opposition and pro-democracy groups.

Addressing the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Matthew Harrington said then that while Harare had been saying all the right things regarding human rights and the pursuit of genuine democracy in the country, its real efforts towards achieving that were negligible.

"The government is saying some of the right things but it is falling short when it comes to concrete actions. It could repeal Posa and Aippa, two laws long emblematic of a repressive regime.

"It could stop using the army to harass and intimidate citizens who exercise their fundamental right to free speech, and it could hold accountable those members of the security services who have abused their fellow citizens. We welcome a better relationship with Zimbabwe, but the ball is very much in the … government's court.

"If there's real, concrete progress in the areas laid out in the Zidera legislation, Zimbabwe will find a committed partner in the United States," Harrington said.
Relations between Harare and Washington have been frosty for nearly two decades 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 agricultural sector. It also saw Zimbabwe's critical credit lines and trade facilities being blocked, following the imposition of sanctions on the country — amid widespread criticism of the country's human rights record.

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

- dailynews

Tags: Mnangagwa,
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