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Mnangagwa Takes Message of No Crisis in Zimbabwe to UN General Assembly Despite Brewing Tensions

Zimbabwe President and VP Chiwenga 2
Zimbabwe President and VP Chiwenga 2

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday called for the lifting of “illegal economic sanctions” imposed by the West on his nation, and appealed to the United Nations to help bring an end to them, saying they are seriously affecting the country’s development.

“These are a breach of international law and compromise Zimbabwe’s capacity to implement and achieve Sustainable Development (Goals) especially SDGs 2, 3, 8, 9 and 17,” said Mnangagwa, referring to the global commitment to end hunger, improve health and well-being, create jobs, develop industry, innovation and infrastructure, as well as build partnerships.

In a pre-recorded speech delivered virtually to the 75th United Nations General Assembly due to the global coronavirus pandemic that has restricted public gatherings, Mnangagwa said like other nations, COVID-19 has had an adverse effect on Zimbabwe, which have been compounded by the sanctions.

“Like other nations in the region, we are facing humanitarian challenges which in our case have been worsened by the illegal sanctions, the negative impact of climate change and compounded by the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic,” said Mnangagwa in his 14-minute speech.

Zimbabwe has registered just under 8,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 226 deaths. In March, the government took measures to contain the spread of the virus but imposing several statutory instruments to allow for lockdown and other restrictive measures. During this time, nurses and many health care professionals went on strike for close to five months, citing poor working conditions, including shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) such as masks and gloves, as well poor salaries.

Mnangagwa, however, assured the Assembly that Zimbabwe is closely following the World Health Organization’s recommendations on containing the spread of the virus, and providing adequately for its citizens, health institutions and its health workers and facility health care and protective clothing.

“Let me assure you that Zimbabwe continues to implement measures to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Over and above instituting phased lockdowns following World Health Organization guidelines, my Government has also provided ZWL$18 billion (approximately US$720 million) economic stimulus package.”

Despite the impact of sanctions and COVID-19, Mnangagwa however said his country has registered “notable achievements” toward reaching the SDG, as far as improving the lives of its citizens.

“Our macro-economic stabilization reforms have seen the reduction of our budget deficit to a single digit, as well as a positive balance of our current account, coupled with foreign exchange rate and price stability.

Many economists have, however, disputed the government’s account of stabilization or ease of doing business, saying, with year on year inflation as recorded by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe at close to 800% and cost of living continuing to increase, the country is far from showing signs of improvement.

Political and economic commentator, Nokuthula Adonsi, says, “It is surprising that the government is saying all this yet it can’t raise money to compensate white commercial farmers whose land was seized by the government. At the same time, people are living from hand to mouth in a country where it is difficult to set up businesses due to stringent regulations.”

Sticking to his government’s position that there is no crisis in the country, despite the outcry by human rights groups of violations of citizens civil rights as demonstrated by the mass arrests of journalists, opposition members and activists, Mnangagwa told the General Assembly that Zimbabwe is respecting the constitution and the rule of law.

He also said Zimbabwe is respecting property rights, referring to the government’s recent pledge to compensate white farmers stripped of their land, $US3.5 billion.

“It is in this spirit and in line with our Constitution that in July this year, my Government concluded the landmark Global Compensation Deed, with former farm owners.”

Dismissing accusations from opposition parties like the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa of stifling democratic space and not fostering an environment of peace and unity through dialogue, Mnangagwa, who recently entertained two delegations from South Africa sent to investigate reports of various violations in the country, said his government has accommodated all voices.

“The culture of dialogue across all sectors is taking root, with activities and programmes under the auspices of our homegrown Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD), gaining momentum.”

On gender, Mnangagwa said in keeping with the Beijing Declaration of 1995 and the upcoming anniversary on October 1st, his government has ensured the advancement of women in his country.

“These include the adoption of a gender-responsive Constitution, establishment of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, enactment of several pieces of legislation to outlaw all practices that infringe on the rights of women and girls, such as forced and child marriages and discrimination against women in inheritance matters,” said Mnangagwa, adding that his government had also ensured access to capital for women through the establishment of the Women’s Bank.

Moving on to issues outside his country, Mnangagwa picked up from his predecessor, former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, called for an end to the occupation of Western Sahara, and also for the inclusion of Africa in the UN Security Council.

“We cannot continue with a situation where over 16% of the world’s population does not have a voice in decision making. This is a serious indictment to our avowed commitment to multilateralism and the basic principles of natural justice, fairness and equity.”

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and the ongoing sessions which end Saturday, are taking place under the theme, “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitments to multilateralism-confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action.”