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Zimbabwe's Mutambara Tells U.S. Conference Sanctions Impeding Growth

  • Sithandekile Mhlanga

With the country's next elections expected sometime next year following a constitutional referendum, the international community is beginning to look at possible opportunities in a new Zimbabwe.

In Washington this week the National Endowment for Democracy, working with the World Movement for Democracy and the Solidarity Center hosted a conference to discuss new political dynamics obtaining in the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara called on the United States to lift the so-called targeted sanctions on Harare saying they were scaring away investors.

Mutambara said the measures, imposed by Washington and the European Union on President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF inner circle were also tarnishing the country’s image.

In a strongly-worded message to the U.S., Mutambara said it was evident the sanctions, though targeted, served Washington's interests and not those of ordinary Zimbabweans.

He added leaders from all three governing parties in Harare wanted the sanctions lifted, adding that economic reforms, and not just democratic changes, are necessary to revive the country to its former glory.

Mutambara's stance was not isolated. Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Washington, Machivenyika Mapuranga added his voice, saying it was baffling that many countries in the world backed by the U.S. do not respect human rights but are not under sanctions.

But U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs Reuben Brigety refused to back down, saying the sanctions will not be removed until Harare’s human rights record improved.

Panelist Rukudzo Murapa, chairman of Great Zimbabwe Scenarios and Chief Editor of Africa Democratic Leadership Academy, commended the government of national unity for bringing about positive changes in the country.

Another panelist, Ibbo Mandaza, director of the Southern African Political Economy Series Trust Group and editor of the Southern African Political Economic monthly, dismissed the unity government as ineffective.

Mandaza said lawmakers should not be appointed ministers as most do not have a clue how to perform their duties. He dismissed the Movement for Democratic Change as incompetent and unsuitable for running the country.

Godfrey Kanyenze, director of the Labor, Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, said corruption is rampant in the country depriving ordinary people of basic resources.

Earlier, other panelists revealed mixed feelings about the successful completion of the country’s constitution-writing process, with some doubting it would lead to free and fair elections.

What was clear from the "Re-Thinking Zimbabwe" conference was how divided Zimbabweans themselves are about processes in their country.