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U.S.-Zimbabwe Relations Not Yet Back to Normal, Says Wharton

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton.

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton.

Outgoing United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, says relations between Harare and Washington remain frosty though things have somewhat improved over the last three years.

Mr. Wharton, who is bidding Zimbabwe goodbye as his term in the country comes to an end, was quoted by the State-controlled Herald newspaper as saying though relations have slightly improved, the targeted sanctions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle will remain in place until Harare has addressed the issues that saw the U.S. imposing the measures.

“The relationship is not yet back to normal,” Mr. Wharton said in a twitter chat about U.S.-Zimbabwe.

“Despite engagements and the continued aid that Zimbabwe receives from the United States, affairs between the countries are still acerbic with Government of Zimbabwe still contending that sanctions were the main cause of the economic meltdown.”

“The frequency of dialogue with President Mugabe has rapidly, improved which is a positive step in darning the fragmented relationship.”

The ambassador on Tuesday officially said goodbye to Zimbabwe through deputy president Phelekhezela Mphoko. He later had a twitter town hall with ordinary Zimbabweans where he said his government was in 2003 forced to impose sanctions on Harare for undermining democratic institutions and processes.

Mr. Wharton said Harare’s inconsistent policies, for instance the indigenization law, are to blame for the country’s failure to attract foreign direct investment.

“At one point I was approached by senior government officials, who wanted me to aid them by luring potential investors to the banking sector,” he said. “I told them about the arduous indigenous policy and they said we can be flexible. That’s a clear example of policy inconsistency.”

“No investor would devote their money in an environment with such policy discordance.”

He said sanctions were not the reason for Zimbabwe’s economic decay.

“Zimbabwean policy decisions are at the core of determining the current economic woes,” said Mr. Wharton, adding there are still loopholes in the system of governance in Zimbabwe.

He said the United States still believed that the 2013 elections that saw Zanu PF regaining an upper hand in parliament were not credible.

Joy Mabenge of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says President Mugabe's government knows what needs to be done for the United States to remove the sanctions that were introduced under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA).

"Many of the things that gave rise to ZIDERA are still happening, for instance, journalist cum activist Itai Dzamara has been missing for about seven months now and up to now he has not been found," said Mabenge.