'West can work with any democratically-elected govt'

HARARE - Western countries have encouraged Zimbabwe’s inclusive government to follow through on its agreement with the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to hold free and credible elections, saying they were prepared to work with any democratically elected government.

A delegation from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, the EU, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America met with a Zimbabwe ministerial team in London on Tuesday where the Western nations pledged more assistance to the country beyond critical humanitarian aid if it transitioned to a new, democratically elected government.

The Zimbabwe team comprised Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa, Regional Integration and International Co-operation minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma.

The meeting, convened by Mark Simmonds, the British parliamentary under-secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is the first such meeting in over a decade, in a bid to restore aid and cooperation with the African State.

The meeting, held at Chatham House in London, came as the 27-nation EU bloc announced wholesale easing of sanctions imposed on the country more than a decade ago over allegations of rights abuses and electoral fraud.

Only 10 officials, including President Robert Mugabe, security chiefs and his inner cabal, remain on the embargo.

“Where relevant, we confirmed our governments’ plans to review their targeted measures following such elections,” a communiqué from the meeting says.

The meeting follows a call by southern African heads of State to the international community to end sanctions on the impoverished country, which is buckling under the strain of economic stagnation.

The Western countries said they could work with any post-GNU regime.

“In our discussions, we reaffirmed the commitment of our governments to work with any government emerging from free and fair elections, which are credible, peaceful and transparent,” the meeting resolved.

The country stands to benefit from direct budgetary support from the EU’s European Development Fund which has been suspended since 2002.

The Western countries have given Zimbabwe $2,6 billion in transitional development support since 2009.

“We noted that aid from international donors, deployed in line with Zimbabwean priorities, has been instrumental in improving food security and agriculture, in delivering of basic services such as health, education, and water and sanitation, and in the strengthening of democratic processes,” the communiqué says.

Mugabe and long-time foe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government in 2009 as part of the so-called global political agreement (GPA), backed by the Sadc to end a political crisis that followed disputed 2008 polls.

Zimbabwe on March 16 passed a new constitution in a relatively peaceful referendum, one of the key signposts in the GPA.

“In our discussions, we strongly welcomed progress on the new constitution and the referendum that was held on March 16,” the communiqué said.

“We looked forward to the implementation of the remaining democratic reforms in the GPA and roadmap, and recognised the work of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) in supporting this.

“We welcomed calls by Zimbabwe’s political leaders for peace and non-violence and the statements by party leaders that Zimbabweans should be able to choose their own government in free and fair elections, and to be able to vote without fear or intimidation. We look to all Zimbabweans, including State institutions and the security sector, to heed these calls.”

The Western countries asked to observe the forthcoming polls.

“A wide range of international observers would contribute to building confidence and help enhance the credibility of the poll and the strength of the government elected,” the communiqué said.

The Western countries also “expressed concern about current harassment of civil society and reports of political violence and strongly urged that such incidents should cease.”

The North Atlantic bloc acknowledged the “good work” being done by the GNU to stabilise the economy and the ongoing engagement and support of the multilateral agencies and international financial institutions.

World lenders are close to a deal with Zimbabwe’s coalition government for $10 billion in debt relief, as multilateral financial institutions seek to help Harare shore up its ailing economy.

International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB) officials and negotiators for Zimbabwe’s fragile coalition government were working to finalise an agreement, according to Finance minister Tendai Biti.

“We recognised the importance of Zimbabwe tackling its external debts,” the communiqué from the London meeting says.

“We stand ready to support the GNU to discuss this further with the IMF, and welcomed progress by the GNU and IMF towards a Staff Monitored Programme.”

The Western countries also called for “transparency and integrity in economic and financial governance and extractive industry” amid concerns about leakages of cash from mining in the Marange diamond fields.


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