Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe again blasted the West for maintaining sanctions on him and his inner circle, charging that the restrictive measures were keeping the country mired in poverty.
Mr. Mugabe’s U.N. broadside coincided with the arrival of a Zimbabwean delegation representing all three political parties in Harare's national unity government, which was to take up the sanctions question with U.S. officials in keeping with an ongoing bilateral re-engagement process, official Zimbabwean sources said.
President Mugabe told world leaders that “the debilitating sanctions” were hindering Zimbabwean progress toward U.N Millennium Development goals on poverty and hunger, among others.
But he said that despite the sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe and others, Harare had made great progress fighting HIV/Aids and maintaining quality basic education. He said Zimbabwe as in the past continues to have the highest literacy rate in Africa.
With him in New York was a so-called "re-engagement delegation” comprising Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa of ZANU-PF, Energy Minister Elton Mangoma of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and International Cooperation Minister Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of the MDC wing of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
The three arrived in New York early Tuesday for the bilateral discussions.
Misihairambwi-Mushonga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the trio will open talks Wednesday with U.S. officials led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johhny Carson.
But political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said the Zimbabwean delegation should not expect much in the way of concessions from Washington on sanctions as Harare has not implemented a range of political and economic reforms urged by the U.S. administration.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mugabe has come under fire for spending more than US$2 million on his trip to the U.S., from which he was scheduled to travel on to Ecuador. He was accompanied to New York by an entourage of 80 officials, according to the U.S. Embassy in Harare. Sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a request for two million in funding went to the Treasury.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Mr. Mugabe’s travel budget shows insensitivity to the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans struggling to survive.
U.S. Embassy spokesperson Sharon Hudson Dean said that contrary to Zimbabwean press reports saying that visas had been denied to Central Intelligence Organization head Happyton Bonyongwe and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. reporter Reuben Barwe, both of those individuals were in fact granted U.S. visas.
From New York Mr. Mugabe is to head to Ecuador to accept an honorary doctorate from that country's Anglican Church in recognition of 30 years of "outstanding leadership."