Felex Share Senior Reporter—
Incoming United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Harry Thomas Jnr yesterday strugled to explain why his country has maintained an illegal sanctions regime on Zimbabwe, mumbling inaudibly each time he tried to justify the embargo.Mr Thomas, an African American diplomat who once served at the US Embassy in Harare, dithered when journalists took him to task over the illegal sanctions immediately after presenting his credentials to President Mugabe yesterday.
After being tongue-tied for some time, the envoy resorted to the usual mantra of alleged unfair elections and violation of human rights peddled by the Western media. “Our sanctions are in place because aaah aaah, certain . . . how shall we say? . . . the . . .
He continued: “There are sanctions against individuals and corporations and we discussed this with President Mugabe as our senators did last week when he met them. We were not certain about elections that were held before but what we are talking now is politics and governance. We have to look at economic management as well as governance that includes human rights. Am I right or wrong?”
Three other ambassadors from Bulgaria, Georgia and Austria also presented their credentials to President Mugabe.
Relations between Harare and Washington turned sour at the turn of the millennium after the US government imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in retaliation for a bilateral tiff between Zimbabwe and Britain over the land reform programme.
The US came up with a law, the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) to back the illegal sanctions outside the purview of the UN system.
Mr Thomas, who takes over from Mr Bruce Wharton, said relations between the US and Zimbabwe were “people to people” with the former providing developmental assistance and humanitarian aid. He said his country would continue working with Zimbabwe in combating human trafficking, HIV and Aids-related issues and education.
“I told him (President Mugabe) that we will continue to help the people of Zimbabwe to combat the effects of El Nino and drought,” said Mr Thomas. “We provide millions of dollars to Zimbabwe to go and study in the United States. We will continue to be the largest donor. I told the President that we are so excited the US government is constructing a new embassy. It will bring more than 800 jobs and $30 million into Harare. It’s the largest construction project in years.”
New Bulgaria Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Katya Deleva said there was need to restore the vibrant relations that existed between the two countries in the 1980s. “Between our countries, we had very dynamic and good relations in the 80s but after that because of the changes (in the Bulgarian system), the relations just went down a little bit,” she said.
“I am sure there are a lot of possibilities to strengthen the relations, to have exchanges between our business people. There are Bulgarian companies who have shown interest in areas like agriculture. I hope that they will do business together with Zimbabwean companies.”
Mr Beka Dvali, who is the first Georgian ambassador to Zimbabwe, said his country needed co-operation with Zimbabwe in all spheres. He said: “I am so much happy and thrilled to be the first Georgian ambassador to Zimbabwe. It was a long-waited kind of establishment of interaction between our nations. We are very much looking forward to establishing diverse relations between our two nations.
“Georgians are very open, warm as much as Zimbabweans are and we see huge potential in political dialogue, economic interaction and, most importantly, cultural exchanges.” Mr Dvali added: “In terms of education, I look forward to linking up institutions for the benefit of both nations, to expose Zimbabweans to Georgia and vice versa.
“Our economy is very diverse; there is no single area which is dominant – our concept is diversification. Agriculture, manufacturing and tourism are important, which is something Zimbabwe is also concentrating on.”
Austria’s Ms Brigitte Oppinger Walchshofer said: “Maybe we will start improving again people to people relations because in the past some people from Zimbabwe went to our diplomatic academy which trains young civil servants. This is very good for civil servants and there are also scholarships available. The other area we are going to co-operate in is tourism.”