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Will Zimbabwe Succeed in Normalizing Ties With West?

International relations expert Clifford Mashiri says it is too early for Zimbabwe to celebrate.
President Robert Mugabe and the country’s finance minister are leading efforts by Zimbabwe to normalise ties with western countries after years of isolation.

Zimbabwe and Switzerland recently endorsed plans to sign a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening bilateral investment and economic ties.
The development comes as Harare is showing growing signs of frustration with China. But normalising ties with the west still has hiccups.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa this week met with Swiss officials in an effort to normalize ties with Geneva. Swiss officials and Harare agreed to hammer out a memorandum of understanding before the end of the year.

Swiss Agency for Development deputy head, Willi Graf, who visited Harare recently, told the media that he hopes Harare and Geneva will endorse the plan. Delegations from the European Union have also been to Harare in recent months.

Addressing the 50th anniversary summit of the Group of 77+China in Bolivia last Sunday, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe was ready to partner both developing and developed countries to ensure successful implementation of its economic policies.

But international relations expert, Clifford Mashiri, says it is too early for Zimbabwe to celebrate.

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell Arricia, says the organization is also expected to hold a meeting in November to reconsider resuming direct aid to Harare.

But despite the moves to normalise ties, Harare is still suing the 28-member EU for imposing sanctions on President Mugabe and his inner circle.

Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga says this does not make sense.

After cutting ties with the West, Zimbabwe embarked on what it called the Look East policy of strengthening ties with China. But this did not yield results as China has been reluctant to extend foreign direct investment to Zimbabwe without guarantees that Zimbabwe will be able to repay the loans.

Mr. Mugabe's officials have steadily downgraded the size of China’s support – from $30 billion to $10 billion, to $3 billion, and then in February to $400 million. But even that has not materialized.

Mavhinga says it is better for Zimbabwe to engage the West as China has not shown keen interest in investing in Zimbabwe.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute, concurs with Mavhinga

The EU and its member states say they have provided approximately E1.5 billion in development assistance to Zimbabwe since 2002. But in contrast, Mr. Mugabe, in a keynote address on Independence Day in April, accused the Chinese of flooding the country with cheap labour.

A week later, Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa took a swipe at China for failing to come on board and help the country revive the economy.

But former Chinese Economic and Commercial Counsellor to Zimbabwe, Han Bing, said trade volumes between Beijing and Harare doubled between 2010 and 2013 to one point one billion dollars.

Many international relations experts agree that it is time for Mr. Mugabe’s government to double its effort to mend ties with the east, west, north and south to rescue the country from economic recession.