Zim must play ball

THE lifting of targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe by the EU — with effect from tomorrow — will help pluck the country out of prolonged international isolation and re-integrate it into the global economy, while opening a new era of possible progressive relations.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

Since 2002, Zimbabwe has been reeling from EU measures under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement which suspend budgetary and financial aid to government.

The restrictions, triggered by expulsion of an EU electoral observer mission before the disputed 2002 presidential election, were a reaction to violations of democratic principles, rule of law and human rights.

However, humanitarian assistance had remained. The EU announced yesterday sanctions are going. This came after a British business delegation was in Harare this week to engage public and private sectors.

Other EU countries such Denmark and Netherlands have also started re-engaging with Zimbabwe. Danish Trade minister Mogens Jensen will visit Harare from November 5-7.

Dutch ambassador to Zimbabwe Gera Sneller told this paper this week investors from her country are keen to come on board but are worried about policy inconsistencies and high political risk as well as a hostile business environment.

Newly-accredited British ambassador Catriona Laing (See her op-ed on Page 12) met President Robert Mugabe on October 22 to present her credentials and held “constructive” dialogue with him. She said they agreed that even if differences between the two countries arise, they should be handled in a mature and responsible way.

Hardly a week after the meeting, the British business delegation landed in Harare after nearly 20 years of strained relations. Even if the Americans are not talking about lifting their sanctions they have at least been engaging Harare.

Laing said to improve relations between London and Harare, there must be mature and purposeful dialogue in an honest and transparent manner.

She said her mandate is to enable both sides to take steps towards normalising relations, although Britain will remain guided by governance, democracy and human rights considerations.

These confidence-building measures have laid a solid foundation for a reset of Zimbabwe’s relations with the West. So Mugabe and his government now need to play ball.

They need to sustain the dialogue to ensure restoration of good relations, not for them to gallivant again in Western capitals shopping and holidaying, but for the sake of the economy.

As Laing said if only Zimbabwe had kept pace with African average growth since 1998 its average citizen would now earn three times their current income.

She noted the World Bank has said five years of good performance in the mining sector could increase production by US$5 billion — this alone would fuel a 7% GDP growth annually.

Naturally, for this to materialise a friendly business climate, workable policies and investment incentives are needed. Dialogue alone will not unlock investment. Zimbabwe is competing with other countries in the region for investment.

Last year it only attracted US$400 million in FDI, while Zambia got US$1 billion and Mozambique US$5 billion. So authorities must play their part.

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