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Finalise political reforms: US envoy

ZIMBABWE should prioritise the full implementation of its constitution, adopted in 2013, to allow for free and fair general elections in 2018, US ambassador to Harare Harry Thomas Jr has said.

Taurai Mangudhla

United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Peter Harry Thomas Jr
United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Peter Harry Thomas Jr

Responding to questions from journalists in Harare yesterday Thomas said implementation of the constitution is critical if Zimbabwe, whose political history is tainted by disputed and violent polls, is to have free and fair elections in 2018.

“It’s a very difficult question for someone like me who just arrived here. I can only speak in generalities at this time, but we would like to see the 2013 constitution fully implemented because that is what the Zimbabwean people want to see and how they want their next election run,” the ambassador said. “I think that would be a good start and that includes an up to date voters’ roll. Clearly, we don’t want to see violence; we don’t want to see intimidation. We want to see people who are given the opportunity to campaign without fear of harassment and the start is full implementation of the 2013 constitution.”

Thomas said the embassy was looking at sustaining civil society so that they can play their full role in pushing for reforms to help improve the country’s political climate ahead of the polls.

“At the end of the day our job is to assist and not to decide. We are not picking leaders or parties, that’s for you to do and it’s not our business. We can help lay the ground work for free and fair elections and other systems, but at the end of the day people of Zimbabwe have to come through,” he said.

Thomas said the US was in support of Zimbabwe’s re-engagement process with the international financial institutions (IFIs).

“We do encourage economic reform, it’s much-needed here and we encourage Zimbabwe to pay off its debt,” he said.

“That said, our concern is that we want people to understand that just getting access to IFIs is not a panacea. What is needed is to level the playing field, once you get out of debt you have to create a level playing field for investment in infrastructure,” he added.

When asked what Zimbabwe needs to do to attract foreign capital, Thomas said: “Any country has to do the same thing and it’s pretty simple. You have to eliminate corruption; you have to create a stable business system, ensure quick approval of investment projects, and ensure the court system is reliable and that business people are able to take their investment out whenever they decide.”

He said the US remains the leading donor to Zimbabwe since 1980 having given US$42,6 billion worth of aid.

In 2016 alone, he said, the US has given Zimbabwe US$138 million worth of aid for HIV and Aids related projects and another US$55 million for drought relief.

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