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HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s national airline has resumed flights to South Africa, the company said on Monday, after a halt last week when South Africa’s state-run airports management firm barred the airline from using the country’s airports over unpaid fees.

Air Zimbabwe’s sole aircraft in operation was grounded last week by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which said the airline had failed to pay landing and parking fees, passenger service charges and an undisclosed amount towards clearing its arrears.

“There were negotiations that were held, and we were given clearance to take off and land on Friday. It (Air Zimbabwe’s plane) did take off for South Africa today as scheduled,” Air Zimbabwe spokesman Tafadzwa Mazonde told Reuters.

He declined to say whether Air Zimbabwe had cleared its debt or come to another arrangement, such as a part payment.

An ACSA spokeswoman was not available for comment.

Air Zimbabwe owes foreign and domestic creditors more than $300 million. The Zimbabwe government put the airline under administration last year and later invited bids from potential investors as it seeks to privatise it. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Mark Potter)

Tibor Nagy (VOA/Charly Kasereka)

The United States says failed economic policies and corruption, and not sanctions, continue to hinder Zimbabwe’s economic growth.

Tibo Nagy, Assistant Secretary for the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, says the country is losing large sums of money due to corruption and poor economic policies.

Responding to questions on targeted sanctions following the so-called anti-sanctions protests by Zanu PF and the Southern African nation in Zimbabwe and other nations, Nagy said, “… Billions of dollars have been lost to the Zimbabwean people due to decades of corruption and harmful economic policies which have culminated in the current economic crisis. Zimbabwe has had both prosperous and difficult years during the life of the targeted sanctions program.

“Implementation of economic and political reforms are – and have always been – the key to improving Zimbabwe’s trajectory. The Zimbabwean government is responsible for the country’s current economic woes. This includes the continued systematic and massive corrupt activities by Zimbabwean government officials and others.”

Nagy says the country, which is ranked 160 out of 175 nations on Transparency International’s corruption list, loses more than $1 billion per year to corruption.

He says that’s huge compared to the size of Zimbabwe’s entire economy - around $26 billion.

“There is a false narrative pushed by the government of Zimbabwe that the United States maintains sanctions on the entire country of Zimbabwe. This is not true. The sanctions program targets those who engage in corruption, abuse human rights, or undermine democratic institutions or processes in Zimbabwe.”

He says 141 individuals and companies, in a country of 16 million, are specifically targeted by the Zimbabwe sanctions program.

Nagy adds that targeted sanctions restrict trade and travel “for only those on the sanctions list (and any entities they own more than 50% of). Any individual or entity on the sanctions list can, at any time, petition to be removed.

“Targeted sanctions do not prohibit trade or business between the United States and Zimbabwe. U.S. companies are free to invest and sell goods in Zimbabwe. Typically however, U.S. – and all reputable foreign companies – look to invest in countries with stable economies that are free from corruption and human rights abuses and violations. Again, targeted sanctions restrict trade and travel for only those on the sanctions list.”

Nagy says the United States has communicated to the Zimbabwean government at the highest level on improving the two nations’ bilateral relationship.

“The United States, along with the international community, wants the Zimbabwean government to demonstrate clear commitment to and implementation of true political and economic reforms and to adhere to its own constitution. This means immediately ending state-sanctioned violence against Zimbabweans.

“This means implementing laws to govern free and fair elections, respect for human rights and freedom of expression, implementing transparent land reform, and prosecuting those who participate in corruption and perpetuate rent-seeking behavior. All of this would send a strong signal to the international community that Zimbabwe is ready to turn a page on its past.”

President Mnangagwa’s government could not immediately react to Nagy’s remarks as information secretary Nick Mangwana and presidential spokesperson George Charamba were not responding to calls on their mobile phones.

Zimbabwe claims that the sanctions are devastating the economy.

The United States and its allies imposed targeted sanctions on some Zanu PF officials following allegations of human rights violations and election rigging.

Benedict Nhlapho contributed to this article, edited by Gibbs Dube

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