'Relations will never be normal'

HARARE - After over a decade of frosty relations, Western delegations have made proposals to re-engage Zimbabwe, but Zimbabwean authorities are insisting that relations can only normalise if “Britain removes the first family from sanctions “imposed” by London.

Last week saw about three Western delegations visit various government ministers with various conditions for re-engagement and aid provision.

While the Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa promised a Denmark envoy that government was going to “speak with one voice,” sections in government claim relations will never be normal.

“Our view is that they are saying they want to normalise relations with the State of Zimbabwe but not the head of state, which is pure sophistry.

“In the past they have viewed us as a State without a government and have implemented aid through Non-Governmental Organisations, now they want to engage us, servants of the head of state but leave out the head, viewing us as a government without a head, now you see this is ridiculous,” a source who attended one of the closed door meetings with the delegations said.

Most sections feel Chinamasa was only making verbal promises to the Danish envoy, which government has no intention of keeping if Mugabe is not removed from the sanctions.

The sanctions were imposed in 2002 with the West accusing Zanu PF of rigging elections and engaging human rights abuses, charges the former liberation party dismisses saying the main reason of the — targeted measures — was the land reform programme.

The Danish minister of Trade and Development Morgens Jensen said Denmark was prepared to give financial assistance to Zimbabwe for debt relief and other development programmes on the condition that the cash-strapped country meets three main obligations.

He told Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa that Zimbabwe had to honour the rule of law, clarify its position on the Indigenisation Law and honour its promise to compensate displaced white farmers under the land reform programme.

“Challenges are still there because a good framework for investors should be created. Denmark is prepared to work to find a solution for debt relief… Land reform compensation is an important part of the deal,” he said.

“A promise has already been made in regards to the clarification of the Indigenisation Law, these promises have been to clarify the policy, the Danish government feels these areas are important and need to be clarified for financial assistance,” Jensen said.

The law in question is a 2008 black economic empowerment act that requires foreign-owned firms to sell majority stakes to locals.

This law has been fingered as the main reason foreign investors have been shunning Zimbabwe.

However, Chinamasa promised Jensen that government was going to clarify its position on the Indigenisation Law.

“It is our role as a government to clarify the policy. Today I give you assurance that the position will be clarified and we will speak with one voice as government,” he said.

Chinamasa also said Zimbabwe was committed to compensating displaced white farmers but it was not financially ready to effect the compensation, after over a decade of silence on the matter.

“We are fully aware of the obligation we have to the white farmers as it is enshrined in our Constitution. However the failure is not because we do not want to service the debt but due to a lack of resources to compensate them,” he said.

But political analysts told the Daily News on Sunday that the Zanu PF led government was pushing for the sanctions lift on President Robert Mugabe and his family as they were afraid of a more hostile government coming into power in London next year.

Britain is holding elections next year in May and according to sources the British ambassador even confessed the sanctions will not be lifted in a hurry as London is weary of upsetting perception on the eve of elections.

Britain’s new ambassador to Harare, Catriona Laing, told reporters in the capital on Friday after a courtesy call to Information minister Jonathan Moyo that despite the willingness to engage Zimbabwe, the Western country felt Zimbabwe’s “bashing” of the Western country had to stop.

“In the meeting we discussed the recent trade mission from the UK which went very well… the Chevenning scholarship which is a confidence building measure… We also reflected on the steps both sides need to take to make the relationship better. However, we feel certain statements made by different players affect the relationship…” Laing said.

The British envoy also disclosed the two counterparts discussed the black empowerment law at length and the new Constitution.

“We looked at the importance of the government explaining to investors about the rule of law, issues around the Indigenisation Law and the full alignment of laws in the Constitution, which happens to be a good Constitution,” she said.

Britain joined the European Union (EU) in maintaining sanctions against Mugabe and his wife but recently scrapped Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement which prevented the channelling of EU aid directly through government.

Jensen and Laing’s remarks come in the wake of similar remarks during the same week by the new European Union ambassador Phillipe van Damme that Zimbabwe needs to fix its legal framework to attract investors and direct financial aid.

Van Damme said while the EU is ready to assume direct financial aid to Zimbabwe, the country still needs to fix its legal framework around investment laws.

He said that apart from perception surrounding the country as an investment destination, the legal framework was a more pressing problem.

“We never stopped economic engagement… Zimbabwe has had complete access to free markets but of course you had an environment which created maybe some perceptions which hampered economic development,” he said.

“Beyond perceptions we have other concerns, real concerns in the form of the legal framework which has to be clarified and which should create more conducive environment for private investment…,” van Damme added.

The EU is set to advance Zimbabwe $300 million in funding support after the bloc lifted its 12-year suspension of direct aid to government and trade restrictions on the southern African country.

Last week, the EU indicated that it would, from 2015, start a $300 million five-year funding programme to support Zimbabwe’s health, agriculture and governance initiatives.

Zimbabwe requires approximately $27 billion, more than double the size of its economy, to fund an ambitious five-year economic plan, ZimAsset — targeted at improving basic services, food security and infrastructure rehabilitation.

 

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.