Outgoing United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, said Thursday the restoration of property rights, rule of law and respect for court decisions are some of the policy changes the Zimbabwean government must undertake for America to change its sanctions policy on the southern African nation.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting with journalists, Wharton said while the situation in Zimbabwe has improved, not enough has been done to warrant the removal of the so-called targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle.
He said Harare continues to ignore court decisions, violate people's rights and has not compensated white commercial farmers whose land was expropriated more than a decade ago by the government.
Wharton said, “The law outlines our concerns about Zimbabwe, why we put targeted sanctions in place and what it is that we think Zimbabwe needs to do in order to improve its own economic and political stability and have us change our policies. The short version of it is respect for property rights, restoration of property rights and some of form of compensation for those farmers who were displaced.”
Wharton said the targeted sanctions, which affect 106 individuals and more than 60 companies in Zimbabwe, were not really an issue, adding a lot depends on the country's policies.
“Sanctions are not the central issue here, the central issues are the polices enacted by the government of Zimbabwe whether its land reform, whether it’s the way the law is enforced or intolerance for political violence, those are the things that have drove this economy up and down and sanctions are solely a sideshow.”
The outgoing ambassador said the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economy Recovery Act (ZIDERA), under which the sanctions were imposed, clearly spells out what Zimbabwe must do to have them lifted.
But he said the U.S president could use his discretion to scrap the measures if the situation improves.
ZIDERA, said Wharton, also provides for American support of Zimbabwe's debt relief efforts, adding his country has done so by supporting the International Monetary Fund Staff Monitored Program and Zimbabwe's debt relief plans with the International Monetary Fund.
“First of all we have started the Staff Monitored Program here publicly and privately and secondly at the big meeting in LIMA last month we didn't bang our shoes against the podium and say no a thousand times no we supported the deal as well.”
Wharton said Zimbabwe could boost agricultural production and revive its economy by giving title to land holders.
He said clarity on the country's indigenization laws is critical as this would help attract investment to the country.
“The implementation of the indigenization law has remained hard to predict and it seems to change from time to time and that has a chilling effect on the investors’ willingness to put money into the country,” said Wharton.
Also key in luring foreign investors is political stability, Wharton said. He noted that the U.S did not support political parties in Zimbabwe but supports processes and principles of democratic elections.
Wharton, who leaves Zimbabwe after a three-year tour of duty, said he had done a lot to improve relations between Harare and Washington, adding the number of people on targeted sanctions had gone done by 25 during his tour of duty.
“I have also been able to achieve high level meetings between both the government of Zimbabwe and U.S government officials and between private Zimbabweans as businesspeople particularly and high level Americans so I feel like there is progress and I think Washington has deeper understanding of this nation.”
Wharton said Zimbabwe has a bright future, noting that its economy could grow by 10 percent annually in the near future, with the right policies in place.
He described President Mugabe as a Lion of Africa, a leader who had liberated his people and fought apartheid through the Frontline states, now the Southern African Development Community chairman.
“Robert Mugabe is a lion of Africa, he has dedicated his life to creating a free and independent Zimbabwe. He is one of the leaders not only of Zimbabwe's liberation movement but of the Frontline states and helped bring down apartheid in South Africa.”