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South African Leader Calls for Lifting of Zimbabwe Sanctions

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and International Labour Organization Director-General Guy Ryder launch the report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work at a news conference held at ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2019.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is calling for sanctions on Zimbabwe to be lifted, saying this action would help the country’s shattered economy recover.

Ramaphosa, who is to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, made a stopover in Geneva to attend the centennial celebration of the International Labor Organization.

Six months after presidential elections were held in Zimbabwe, that country finds itself in a very difficult, dangerous place. The euphoria that gripped the country after former president Robert Mugabe was ousted from power is gone.

Food shortages and skyrocketing fuel prices have triggered mass protests. These have been met with deadly force by Zimbabwe’s security forces, which reportedly have killed at least 12 people and wounded hundreds more.

Ramaphosa says his government is in serious talks with Zimbabwe on how to help it emerge from its economic crisis. He says this will not be easy to resolve. But he believes Zimbabwe’s economy could begin to recover if the world would lift the sanctions it has imposed.

“It is no longer necessary to have sanctions against Zimbabwe right now because they have embarked on a path of democracy and on a path of real recovery and we will help them best by lifting those sanctions because that in many ways would relieve the tension that is currently in the country,” Ramaphosa said.

During the Mugabe regime, the U.S. and European Union imposed travel and asset restrictions on top ruling party officials, top military figures and some government-owned firms in response to election rigging and human rights abuses. The sanctions do not apply to the country as a whole.

Dodges human rights question

VOA asked if lifting sanctions now would rob countries of the leverage they have to try to persuade Zimbabwe to improve its human rights record and to govern in a more democratic way.

The South African president, who was participating in a news conference on a different subject, told VOA he was unable to respond to the question.

“I have been directed and instructed not to say anything further on Zimbabwe. And, as a law-abiding person and member of this Commission, I shall duly do so. So, my mouth is closed about Zimbabwe.”

Ramaphosa is co-chair of the International Labor Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. He is in Geneva for the launch of the report.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has decided to skip the World Economic Forum to attend to problems back home. But no such constraints are keeping the South African president away. He says he is bringing assurances to the elite Davos gathering that South Africa is no longer tethered to the unethical practices of the past nine years.

That was an apparent reference to his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, who stepped down last year while mired in corruption scandals.

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