US, Swiss ambassadors clash

Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Reporter
Switzerland and the United States yesterday differed sharply on how the international community should deal with Zimbabwe, the former arguing it was time the world accords the country its rightful position.

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Bruce David Wharton and Swiss counterpart Mr Luciano Lavizzari, expressed differing sentiments to The Herald in separate interviews yesterday at the American Colleges Fair held at Harare International School.

Although Mr Wharton admitted that there was need for Zimbabwe and the US to mend frosty relations between them, he said illegal sanctions imposed on 106 individuals and companies, including the First Family, would remain in place.

Mr Lavizzari said Zimbabwe should be given equal opportunities in trade and business engagements at the international forum.

He said it was time that efforts were made to treat Zimbabwe as a “normal country.”

Said Mr Lavizzari: “We are interested in the changes going on here especially the lifting of the European sanctions. We want to work directly with the Government and make use of the country’s systems but sometimes people are impatient.”

Mr Wharton said his country and Zimbabwe were working towards building stronger relations, but insisted the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) of 2001 would remain in place.

The US enacted ZIDERA, a law that prohibits Americans with positions of influence in multilateral lending institutions, to block any form of assistance to Zimbabwe.

“Both Governments are in agreement that we want to find ways to build stronger relationships and we are continuing to work on that . . .

“We are one of the first countries to recognise Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 and we never left and we have contributed about US$2 billion worth of assistance in the last 34 years,” said Mr Wharton.

Washington keeps reiterating that it wants to normalise relations with Harare, but has maintained 106 Zimbabweans and companies, including President Mugabe, on its sanctions list.

Under ZIDERA, Zimbabwe cannot access cheaper finance arrangements and credit facilities.

“The United States and Zimbabwe have never been disengaged. We are engaged in all sorts of ways, as we are seeing today, in education.

“Government to government relations, economic development, health care, business and health care” said Mr Wharton.

“ZIDERA has never come into play, it is the instruction by the American Congress to our representatives at the World Bank and IMF not to vote in favour of debt relief or new loans, but Zimbabwe gave up its right to debt relief and new loans in 1999, two years before ZIDERA because it stopped paying on its existing loans,” he said.

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