Mukudzei Chingwere-Herald Reporter
A FEW years ago relations between Zimbabwe and the Western world were at the lowest ebb but now a new chapter has been opened, thanks to President Mnangagwa’s policies espoused by re-engagement and engagement, where once shut diplomatic frontiers are being opened.
Because of the foreign policy thrust of the Second Republic, the European Union has removed most of the sanctions that were imposed on the country at the instigation of the United Kingdom, following the historic land reform programme that redressed colonial land inequities.
The engagement and re-engagement policy and the thawing relations between Zimbabwe and the EU have not only resulted in improved diplomatic ties but also comes with increased trade, with the country now benefiting from financial streams that had been closed for more than two decades.
Writing in his weekly column in The Sunday Mail, the President said there is now increased goodwill and business missions from different corners of the globe, like the EU.
“Particularly noteworthy is the remarkable diplomatic warmth now between us and the European Union (EU), achieved in so short a time.
“Only last week, the EU bloc launched its ‘Team Europe’, a new rubric under which the 27 countries comprising the bloc will coordinate and consolidate relations with us, this time through Government, and in line with, and in support of our priorities under Government’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1),” said the President.
“This is the first time that the EU has disbursed directly to Zimbabwe through structures of our Government.
“All along, relations were being conducted asymmetrically and unconventionally through non-governmental organisations.
“The bloc has already announced a €400 million facility to run for the next couple of years, including to the private sector through its European Investment Bank (EIB).
“Over and above releasing US$47 million to our Ministry of Health and Child Care, and to our Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) only last week, the EU has pledged to support our programmes under NDS1, focusing on two critical areas of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, and that of Greener and Climate Smart Agriculture.”
Zimbabwe has made it very clear that it was willing to walk the reform agenda as a way of bolstering the comfort of its citizens and conforming to the dictates of the international community.
President Mnangagwa noted that the diplomatic forays the country has penetrated is beyond anybody’s imagination.
“I want to acknowledge and applaud the salutary role played by the new EU Ambassador, His Excellency Jobst von Kirchmann.
“We must build on this to ensure that this newly forged amity deepens and consolidates irrevocably,” said President Mnangagwa.
But despite the progress made by the Second Republic, Zimbabwe continues to be under the yoke of the illegal sanctions, which all progressive nations say must be removed unconditionally.
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe will however, not stop from using diplomatic channels to get the ear of the countries still hostile to Zimbabwe.
“In a couple of weeks, in early December, our Foreign Minister, Frederick Shava, will represent our country at the forthcoming United States-Africa Summit, which takes place in Washington, and to which Zimbabwe is being invited for the first time.
“It is my hope that the United States government will look ahead and to the future, rather than looking behind to our troubled and divided past, at this Summit.
“Hurtful, illegal sanctions do not pass for diplomacy; if anything, they negate and fail it,” said President Mnangagwa.
“We must use all channels and avenues available between our two nations to re-engage, to break new ground and to embrace each other.”
International relations expert Mr Gibson Nyikadzino yesterday said he was encouraged by the improvement in relations between Zimbabwe and the EU since the coming in of the Second Republic in 2017.
“The gestures of cooperation and cordiality from the EU show that the bloc has also been freed from the shadow of British influences through Brexit (the withdrawal process of the United Kingdom from the EU),” he said.
Turning to the possibility of Zimbabwe joining the grouping that involves Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, commonly known as BRICS, Mr Nyikadzino said the grouping was opening “a new multilateral platform for nations that share the same values and are finding alternatives to the unilateral behaviour of the West led by the USA”.
“Signals by Zimbabwe that it wants to join BRICS point to the belief of fair cooperation with the organisation, but that does not mean Zimbabwe will stop engaging the West, it continues,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Mr Mike Kamungeremu said he hopes the improvement in Zimbabwe-EU relations would help unlock some opportunities for businesspeople to access funding.
“You find that in Europe, the (borrowing) rates are very favourable. When we talk to our counterparts in other countries, they are getting very good lines of credit but all along it was very difficult as Zimbabwe to get that,” said Mr Kamungeremu.
“So our expectation is that after the agreements were signed and the relations that seem to be improving, then we should be able to get more lines of credit at favourable rates.
“When relations are good, as businesspeople we are always looking for funding, for partners who can come and work with us. We are looking for markets for our products. So where there are improved relations, it means there are better opportunities for all that to happen. So we are hopeful as businesses that as relations continue to improve, then we are going to see more improvement on the economic front.”
Mr Kamungeremu also wants the improved relations between Zimbabwe and the EU to result in local banks getting back some correspondent banking relationships that they had lost due to sanctions.
This would enable smooth processing of payments for businesses that intend to import machinery and raw materials.
Presently, there are challenges as some banks are not able to remit certain currencies to certain countries after losing correspondent relationships.