Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Government’s drive to bolster ties with other nations and international organisations received a boost yesterday when 10 diplomats presented their credentials to President Mnangagwa at State House and pledged to improve economic relations with Zimbabwe. The nine national ambassadors — the 10th was from the United Nations (UN) — stressed their desire to work more closely with Zimbabwe, both in economic affairs and in other areas although business ties tended to take the limelight among almost all.
Incoming UN Resident Coordinator Ms Maria Ribeiro said she sought to build on the long-standing engagement in Zimbabwe based on a relationship of trust and mutual respect with all stakeholders, together with the UN Country Team in Zimbabwe.
“I look forward to supporting the Government and the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe to build a peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development and inclusive economic growth,” she said.
“Having just arrived, it is immediately clear to me that there is a need to help change the narrative of Zimbabwe, recognising the need for reforms, but also the progress made that we can continue to build upon.”
As a result of unprecedented climate and economic shocks, Ms Riberio said, the humanitarian needs had unfortunately increased in Zimbabwe.
She said the UN was working closely with the Government and humanitarian partners to meet the priority life-saving multi-sectoral needs of the most vulnerable people affected by the humanitarian situation.
“The development partners have demonstrated great solidarity, and the Revised Humanitarian Appeal is 51 percent funded with US$240 million mobilised to date.
“Equally important is to continue building the necessary linkages between humanitarian and development support in which the UN has been delivering over US$400 million annually, representing over 60 percent of official development assistance to the country, under the 2016-2021 Zimbabwe UN Development Assistance Framework in the form of various development projects in social services, HIV, food and nutrition security, gender equality, good governance, and poverty reduction.”
Other ambassadors who presented their credentials were from Russia, Angola, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Norway, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Finland, Sri Lanka and Burkina Faso.
Zimbabwe’s business and economic ties with the nine nations vary from strong to needing significant upgrade, but there was a general call to move from rhetoric to action to do this.
First to present his credentials was the new Russian Ambassador, Nikolai Vladimirovich Krasilnikov.
He said his duty was to deepen relations with Zimbabwe.
“Russia and Zimbabwe have close, cordial and deep-rooted bilateral relations,” he said. “During my tour of duty, I will do my best to promote further the cooperation between our two nations in various fields.
“At the moment we concentrate on mining, agriculture and military cooperation and I am sure in the course of my tour of duty and together with our partners in the Government of Zimbabwe and business community, we will identify and promote projects in other fields for the mutual benefit of our nations.”
Ambassador Krasilnikov commended Zimbabwe for participating in the recently held Russia-Africa Summit, held in Sochi, which he described as a “great success”.
Angola’s Ambassador Agostinho Tavares da Silva Neto said he spoke to President Mnangagwa about relations between the two countries and the potential that exists.
He called for togetherness to explore the opportunities “in areas like agriculture, tourism and industry”.
“So we talked of reactivating our Joint Commission,” he said.
“The only Joint Commission we had was in 1992, so we need to reactivate it and maybe in the future, to create Angola-Zimbabwe Chamber of Commerce to facilitate trade and investment because we have great potential, we must work together.”
The new UN Resident Coordinator Ms Ribeiro added that the UN has been working in Zimbabwe for a long time and has “an important and strong partnership with the people of Zimbabwe and the different authorities”.
She said the UN engaged in humanitarian work and has been working with various institutions to build greater resilience and address the challenges Zimbabwe is facing.
“We are here to work with Zimbabwe on their path to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda,” said Ms Ribeiro.
Venezuela’s Ambassador Omar Paredes said he had brought a message of solidarity to President Mnangagwa.
“It’s an honour to be appointed as a representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and I am bringing a message from the only President of Venezuela, President (Nicolas) Maduro, a message of solidarity because our countries are at the centre of aggressions with the illegal sanctions, so I am bringing this message to President Mnangagwa,” he said.
“Also, we are proposing to Zimbabwe to cooperate in different areas because it’s time we deepen our bilateral ties.”
Swedish Ambassador Ms Asa Pehrson said her country was one of the largest bilateral donors to Zimbabwe, adding that she was keen to assist in reforms and to deepen democracy.
“I will focus my work on continuing with the work of my predecessor of promoting my Government’s feminist foreign policy,” she said.
Finnish ambassador, Ms Pirjo Chowdhoury, said she had “an excellent discussion” with President Mnangagwa on the two countries’ relations, and the mutual wish to “further develop those relations, particularly given the opportunities of increasing business relations in the future”.
“That’s where I believe real development is based on, so it’s important to grow business relations and I also mentioned the reforms and how important it is for Zimbabwe to implement political and economic reforms.”
Sri Lankan envoy, Anuruddha Mih, said his country could be an important market for Zimbabwe’s minerals, especially diamonds and gold.
Norway’s Ambassador Ms Astride Helle said Harare and Oslo had “a long history of friendship” which dates back to the days of the liberation struggle.
“So, we find that we have a good basis with Zimbabwe and we also commend Zimbabwe for the role they are playing in the region and for taking up responsibility within Sadc and on a global level, we believe it’s now important to work together more and not less,” she said.
“There are very few things that we can solve alone, but a lot more if we can work together.”
Burkina Faso’s Ambassador Mr Oumarou Maiga said he discussed with President Mnangagwa the “friendly cooperation” between the two countries and the need to improve relations in trade, agriculture and mining.
UAE Ambassador Mr Jassim Al Qasemi said his country was looking forward to President Mnangagwa’s visit to his country next month.
“We have to cooperate in areas of mining, tourism and we have to work together from now to deepen our relationship and we are looking forward now for His Excellency’s visit to UAE next month,” he said.