Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told the country's parliament Wednesday that the international community should lift sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and other top figures of the former administration to help Zimbabwe rebuild its economy, though he simultaneously demanded the restoration of the rule of law and other reforms.
Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from parliament that Mr. Tsvangirai issued his appeal to the United States, Europe and others during his maiden speech to the House of Assembly one day after being sworn in as an ex officio member.
The former opposition leader, now commanding a parliamentary majority, said the national unity government which his Movement for Democratic Change has formed with President Robert Mugabe and the long-ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, will promote democracy and and abide by treaties to gain international acceptance.
Mr. Tsvangirai criticized the latest wave of farm takeovers and attempted seizures of white owned properties, encouraged by Mr. Mugabe in a speech on the weekend, calling them “wanton disruptions of productive farming activities that are continuing as I speak.”
Though his government won't attempt to reverse the land reform program launched in 2000, he said, it will conduct a transparent, non-partisan land audit to eliminate the ownership of multiple farms, an oblique shot at top figures in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
Mr. Tsvangirai said his government would ensure security of tenure for all land holders, compensate displaced former owners and support new farmers.
In a speech outlining his legislative vision as head of government, Mr. Tsvangirai said he will fight political corruption by obliging legislators to declare their assets.
Turning to the media, he said the government must immediately process all applications for the re-registration or registration of media organizations, adding that those desiring to practice the profession of journalism must not face restrictions.
Mr. Tsvangirai underscored the need for the government to respect personal freedoms and rights, arguing that international donors will not be willing to fund the country’s recovery if Zimbabwe continues to pile up a negative record on human rights.
The reaction from MDC legislators was positive. MP Settlement Chikwinya of Mbizo said Mr. Tsvangirai indicated clearly how the unity government would conduct business.
Most ZANU-PF legislators refused to share their views of his speech. But Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa of the former ruling party called the speech “comprehensive.”
Mr. Tsvangirai said his government will work with all stakeholders to rebuild the economy and would form a national economic council representing all sectors, including civil society.
In an interview with VOA reporter Blessing Zulu, human rights lawyer Theressa Mugadza of Harare lauded Mr. Tsvangirai’s speech and endorsed his call for the removal of sanctions on the condition that the rule of law is restored in Zimbabwe.