Felex Share Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe did not experience a coup, and the world should respect the country’s decision, as the new political leadership is implementing reforms that are giving people more freedom and democracy, the African Union (AU) has said.
Addressing journalists at the end of his three-day visit to Harare yesterday, AU Commission chairperson Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat said his delegation had been satisfied with the peaceful situation on the ground. The AU, he said, would help Zimbabwe overcome the sanctions-induced economic challenges it was facing.
“Zimbabweans have been asking for more freedom and more democracy and the authorities of the transition have responded positively,” said Mr Faki.
“You are aware that this country has been subjected to two decades of sanctions, so we need to work together so that this country can really harness the potential it has for economic development and so that Zimbabwe can play its role, not only at the regional level, but at continental level.
“I am satisfied with the visit we have had and together with the authorities of Zimbabwe we have taken stock of the situation that obtains.”
Mr Faki added: “The authorities of Zimbabwe have committed themselves to various actions and opening up the political and democratic space so that free and fair elections are conducted in the country.”
He said Zimbabwe’s decision to undergo a transition should be respected by everyone, as no laws were violated.
“Everybody has noted that the transition has been peaceful, according to the laws of the land. It is the responsibility of the AU to support and accompany countries in such situations to ensure there is peace and stability,” said Mr Faki.
“All others have to respect the sovereignty and decisions of the country. If there is any unconstitutional change of Government then we also have our instruments. We have our rules that apply in that case. We are here to support the country in transition, a transition that has been publicly supported by the people of Zimbabwe.”
Mr Faki said the AU would work with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure the forthcoming harmonised elections are free and fair. He said the continental bloc would chip-in with technical support.
“We have experts sent by the (AU) political affairs department, and normally a team is sent some 30 to 45 days before the election to work with the organ in charge of conducting elections,” said Mr Faki.
He said the impending polls would give Zimbabwe “a greater space for democracy and development.”
Mr Faki held a private meeting with former President Cde Robert Mugabe on Monday, whom he said told him that he resigned for the development of the country.
“Since it was the first time I was visiting the country, I had to go and meet him,” he said. “He forms part of the heroes who fought for the liberation of the continent, it is a common heritage for us.
“This is even recognised by the authorities of the country. We exchanged views and he also explained why he had resigned. It is for peace and development of the country. We appreciated and discussed very much at ease.”
Mr Faki toured the National Internet Exchange Point in the company of Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security Minister Supa Mandiwanzira and TelOne managing director Mrs Chipo Mtasa.
The AU supported Zimbabwe with a $200 000 grant for the development of the regional centre. Said Minister Mandiwanzira: “About $80 000 has been used. There was a bidding process to set up a regional internet exchange point. Zimbabwe put in a bid and in Southern Africa it was Zimbabwe that won.
“A regional internet exchange point allows for internet traffic within the region to pass through Zimbabwe and not outside Africa or through other internet exchange points. Before November last year, we had to go through Europe which increases the costs.”
Mr Faki visited the African Centre for Fertiliser Development and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) before touring the National Heroes Acre.
At ACBF, he signed an agreement with the organisation’s executive secretary Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, which would see the foundation becoming a specialised agency of the AU.
On Monday, Mr Faki met President Mnangagwa who briefed him on the measures Government was taking to ensure free and fair elections. Foreign Affairs Minister Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Moyo (Retired) described the AU Commission’s visit as a success.
“He (Mr Faki) concurred with the new administration that conducting a free and fair election will end the country’s isolation,” he said.
“The AU Commission pledged to support Government’s political and economic reforms in accordance with the AU Constitutive Act. He welcomed Government’s re-engagement efforts with a view of normalising strained relations. He called on the international community to support Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and development efforts.”
Mr Faki left Zimbabwe yesterday.