SWEDISH envoy to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander, on Wednesday said President Robert Mugabe should deal decisively with his party’s turbulent succession issue which is “complicating” possibilities of an immediate
turnaround of the country’s sluggish economy.
Rylander, who was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference where his embassy announced a US$500 000 donation to the World Food Programme (WFP), vowed “not to give up” on Mugabe in making him see reason through “building bridges” with the international community.
He said it was imperative for the ruling party to have clarity on the hotly contested succession issue because the people of Zimbabwe and potential foreign investors wanted to know Mugabe’s successor.
Rylander said everybody expected to see stability and normalcy return to the country. Zimbabwe boasted a robust economy at Independence in 1980 before being run down by Mugabe’s botched land reform exercise 20 years later.
The power clash for the presidency pitting those aligned to retired army general Solomon Mujuru against Rural Amenities minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has left the ruling party divided and at its weakest due to the deep infighting.
Rylander becomes the first envoy to speak out on the succession issue, revealing what appears to be the general feeling among diplomats who have distanced themselves from the issue preferring to remain tightlipped.
“The whole debate about a transitional government and Zanu PF succession is complicating the possibilities to turn around the economy,” said Rylander.
“People are waiting to see who is coming in as the new leader, particularly foreign investors. The sooner there is clarity on the succession debate the better.”
He added: “It’s up to the ruling party to resolve the issue and I don’t want to interfere. It is very important to know what is going to happen, people are looking for stability and a return to normalcy.”
The envoy said contrary to media reports that he had thrown in the towel on Mugabe, he was going to soldier on with his current diplomatic initiative to promote dialogue as the Zimbabwe crisis is of concern to him.
“There’s no such thing as giving up on Mugabe because I’m concerned about the social and economic situation in Zimbabwe. I only said I was now less optimistic than when I first came here. Efforts of building dialogue suffered a major setback following the beating up of trade unionists by the police.”
Rylander said his government, as a committed humanitarian actor, would continue prioritising food aid to the “poorest groups of the population”.
“This county used to be the breadbasket of the region. In order to come back to that state there is need for government to restore the rule of law, stop these land invasions and build confidence with foreign investors,” he said.
“These are the big questions for us the international community.”
Rylander said although Stockholm had a new government, Sweden’s foreign policy on Zimbabwe was unlikely to change.