Thursday, March 26, 2009

Zimbabwe News Update: Government Working Smoothly; Mutambara Slams Obama Over Sanctions

New Govt working smoothly: President

Herald Reporters

PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday met visiting Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development Mr Erik Solheim as dialogue between Zimbabwe and some European countries intensifies.

The meeting was the first high-level contact between the Presidency and an envoy from a European country since the formation of the inclusive Government in February.

Norway does not have sanctions against Zimbabwe since it is not a member of the EU. Norwegians have twice rejected treaties of accession to the EU though Oslo is a member of the European Economic Area and implements most legislation made by the EU.

Mr Solheim’s visit comes hard on the heels of a visit by the Danish Minister of Co-operation Development, Ms Ulla Tornaes, who pledged her country’s support for the inclusive Government.

Observers say the lead taken by the Scandinavian countries bodes well for the anti-sanctions drive as they are considered the conscience of a Europe that bogged Zimbabwe with the albatross of economic sanctions.

Speaking after meeting Mr Solheim, President Mugabe told journalists that although the inclusive Government was still facing some challenges, it was working smoothly.

"At the moment, we feel in partnership with those who have joined the Government. It (inclusive Government) is smoothly running, it is now in our rhythm. It’s like tradition," said President Mugabe.

The inclusive Government, President Mugabe said, was not the first time Zimbabwe has had a coalition government.

"In 1980, even though Zanu-PF had won the elections, we included four ministers from Ian Smith’s party. At the moment I am working with Prime Minister Tsvangirai as my brother," he said.

He, however, said the new Government was facing a lot of challenges especially in uniting the people.

"We face a challenge to establish peace among the people, for them to work together and avoid violence. We no longer have an opposition and we are working together towards the same goals we have set as a Government," he said.

President Mugabe said the inclusive Government needed capital investment to get the mines and industry to work again.

"The main challenge for the inclusive Government is to get the economy to improve, turning it around.

"We also want the economic sector to become viable, our factories to get moving and the mines to start producing the various minerals found in the country," he said.

He, however, said while Zimbabwe was in need of foreign aid; it must come on friendly terms.

"We have had amendments to our laws but there are still some countries that have set conditions for them to give aid.

"That is what they have always done but we would want to say if it comes, it must come in friendly terms, we must be equal in status and we do not have to go on our knees for them. We only do that for one person and that person is up there (God)," he said.

President Mugabe reiterated that land reform was irreversible, as it was a constitutional matter.

"When we were negotiating before independence, we agreed with the British that there shall be a land reform programme.

"It also has to do with the right of the people to land, a decolonisation of the country," he said.

President Mugabe said the British must respect Zimbabwe’s sovereignty even if they want to assist the Government.

"If they do not accept that we are a sovereign country, they can still go hang," he said.

In the closed-door meeting, President Mugabe is said to have brushed off claims that Zimbabwe had political prisoners.

He indicated that all persons presently before the country’s courts were facing criminal charges that required prosecution.

Officials said the President also pointed out that no farm invasions were taking place. Instead, President Mugabe said, Government was actually facing resistance from white commercial farmers who were refusing to vacate land that had legally been acquired for resettlement by the State.

"The President was very categorical on the fact that these people were in the courts on criminal charges that do not have anything to do with politics.

"He also cleared the air on the purported ‘fresh farm invasions’ as Government was actually facing resistance from white former commercial farmers who were served letters indicating that the farms had been acquired for resettlement," an official said.

Speaking to journalists after meeting the President, Mr Solheim said he had been impressed at how all the parties to the inclusive Government wanted it to work.

"We also believe it is the future and it is a positive development. We have been friends with the people of Zimbabwe for a long time. We are old friends and we are now ready to engage the Government of Zimbabwe," he said.

He urged Government to also engage the international community.

"You are in this new Government, it is a point of no return but the key issue is to break the impasse between Zimbabwe and the international community," he said.

Mr Solheim, who leaves Zimbabwe today, said Oslo was also ready to engage Zimbabwe in this process.

Mutambara slams Obama over fresh sanctions

Herald Reporters

DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara yesterday condemned US President Barack Obama’s decision to extend economic sanctions against Zimbabwe by a year while Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the international community should not put conditions on aid.

DPM Mutambara said the US decision was based on "ignorance and arrogance" and appealed to the international community to assist the inclusive Government.

The Obama administration early this month announced it was extending sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year alleging that the actions and policies of the Government ‘‘pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States."

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee last week reiterated that Zimbabwe sanctions would remain "until there were clear signs of change".

In his maiden speech in the House of Assembly, DPM Mutambara said the inclusive Government was irreversible and the only workable solution to the challenges facing the nation.

"Here is our message to the international community. Hear us on this one — Americans, British or whoever you are — we are determined to make this agreement work. It is irreversible. Please do not give us conditions like we are waiting for signs . . . if we do not get balance of payments support this Government will collapse and the people will be the victims," he said.

"Surely, surely, we are saying remove any type of sanctions you have imposed. When you impose sanctions, you impose them on Cde Tsvangirai. You undermine the efforts of the Prime Minister. It is not for the Americans or British to judge us."

He added: "Mr Obama has extended sanctions by a year. That decision was based on ignorance and arrogance."

To defeat the sanctions, DPM Mutambara stressed the need to "rebrand" the country’s image saying Zimbabwe should be known for its unity, business confidence, peace and prosperity.

"Let us craft a new brand for our country, a new identity for our country."

Apart from the illegal economic sanctions, DPM Mutambara cited corruption and violence among other ills as other challenges facing Zimbabwe.

He cited alleged farm invasions, and "outstanding issues" in the broad-based agreement as other challenges facing Zimbabwe.

He challenged the nation to be creative and discouraged dependency on foreigners.

"We must depend on ourselves. Ask not what other nations can do to salvage Zimbabwe. We must be creative. We must become masters of our own destiny."

DPM Mutambara called for unity, national healing and a shared vision saying Zimbabweans should never victimise each other again because they belonged to different political parties.

He said the establishment of an inclusive Government required a paradigm shift in the manner Zimbabweans conducted themselves be it in Government or Parliament.

In a related matter, Minister Biti said the international community should remove benchmarks for aid to be offered to Zimbabwe as the new Government was still in its infancy.

"This is a slow process but we want this experimental Government to be a strong democracy in Africa," he said.

He was speaking at a meeting with visiting Norwegian Environment and International Development Minister Erik Solheim.

Minister Biti said despite the fact that the parties in the new Government had come from different worlds, there was a strong commitment for its success.

"We need some breathing space so that we deal with mandate issues so the international community should not put walls through these benchmarks," he said.

Minister Biti urged the international community to help the inclusive Government succeed.

"For the good of Africa and Zimbabwe, the inclusive Government must work because the consequences of failure are drastic," he said.

Minister Biti indicated that Government was facing a budgetary deficit of US$80 million a month.

"We need about US$8 billion for infrastructure development but while we have a budgetary demand of US$100 million a month, we can only make US$20 million a month," he said.

‘Land reform irreversible’

By Isdore Guvamombe

THE land reform programme is irreversible and Zimbabweans should now concentrate on improving production and synchronising the benefits, two Cabinet Ministers said yesterday.

The land reform saw many indigenous black people getting hunting concessions that are central to the tourism industry.

Responding to questions and comments by some delegates to the inaugural Zimbabwe Tourism Stakeholders Conference yesterday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi and his Youth Development Indigenisation and Empowerment counterpart Saviour Kasukuwere said efforts should now be directed on increasing the benefits by assisting beneficiaries.

Some delegates led by one of the panelists, former Air Zimbabwe board member and managing director of Management Solutions, Mr Luxon Zembe, had blamed the land reform programme for damaging the image of the country.

But the two ministers responded by saying Zimbabweans needed to move forward.

"This continued talk about reversing the land reform and what have you should stop. Constitutional Amendment No 19 by the inclusive Government accepted the irreversibility of the land reform programme.

"This is not time for anyone to try to be an apostle of reversing the land reform programme. This is time to see how best to help beneficiaries of the land to improve production.

"Certainly, the way we took the land is not going to be the universal way but is now internationally accepted that the land reform is irreversible,’’ said Minister Mzembi.

Minister Kasukuwere said the land reform was a revolution and that there was no agreed world formula on how to pursue a revolution.

"You can talk about the land reform and the way we did it but what else could we have done to address this historical imbalance?

"That is past. Let us now unite as Zimbabweans and move forward. We should stop contradicting ourselves. If you keep people out of a process they will break in,’’ he said.

Sadc summit moved to Swaziland

Herald Reporter

The venue for the forthcoming Sadc summit of Heads of State and Government to consider an economic recovery package for Zimbabwe and discuss the political crisis in Madagascar, has now changed from Cape Town to Mbabane, Swaziland on Monday.

South Africa’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mr Ronnie Mamoepa, confirmed the venue change. Although Mr Mamoepa did not say why the summit had been moved, media reports from South Africa suggested the meeting had been moved to Mbabane because an adequate venue could not be found in the original location, Cape Town.

Mr Mamoepa said the situation in Madagascar, which was recently thrust into turmoil, would be discussed at the meeting. "The summit is convened to consider the economic recovery aid package for Zimbabwe as well as deliberate upon a report on the current situation and developments in Madagascar following the unconstitutional transfer of power last week."

The summit of Heads of State and Government will be preceded by a meeting on Sunday of the Sadc Council of Ministers chaired by South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to process reports to be considered by the Heads of State and Government.

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