France, Zim relations thaw
Mukudzei Chingwere-Herald Reporter
France is slowly moving away from its position adopted after land reform and is leaning towards normal diplomatic and economic relations with Zimbabwe as Government’s engagement and re-engagement drive continues to bear fruit.
Zimbabwe has since the turn of the millennium, been unjustly isolated by some western countries, including those in the European Union through the imposition of illegal economic sanctions following political differences, especially the hugely successful land reform.
French Ambassador to Zimbabwe Laurent Chevallier yesterday paid a courtesy call on Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga and expressed his country’s willingness to increase investment by French nationals in Zimbabwe as well as improve bilateral and multilateral relations with Zimbabwe.
He was accompanied by the Regional Counsellor for Global Health Southern Africa, Dr Thomas Mourez, who also expressed his organisation’s commitment to assist in Zimbabwe meeting its health targets as prescribed under Vision 2030 and through the international conventions which Zimbabwe has signed.
Ambassador Chevallier’s assertions come on the back of President Mnangagwa on Thursday having reiterated the importance of Zimbabwe reaffirming its diplomatic stance on being a friend to all and an enemy to none in its quest to meet its national economic development goals.
Speaking after the courtesy call, VP Chiwenga said the economy was at the centre of his discussions with the two.
“With the Ambassador our discussion was based on our economic diplomacy,” said VP Chiwenga after the meeting.
Yesterday, the President was talking about our cooperation with the European Union and France has played a major role.
We have discussed quite a lot in terms of our relationship between France and Zimbabwe.
“(With Dr Mourez) we were discussing what we are going to be doing with the US$504 million which Global Fund has allocated to Zimbabwe of for the period 2024–2026.
“This fund was specifically for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria but we are trying to see whether the funders can be flexible and look into the other sector challenges,” said VP Chiwenga.
Ambassador Chevallier said France was keen to strengthen its relationship with Zimbabwe.
“France is really committed to strengthening its support to Zimbabwe in many sectors especially in the health sector where France is active bilaterally but also through its multilateral support through the European Union and through the multilateral Health Fund,” said Ambassador Chevallier.
“The discussion with the Honourable Vice President was the opportunity for us to discuss about the support of France in the health sector but more generally about the relationship between France and Zimbabwe.
“France is active in Zimbabwe in many sectors. So it was really an opportunity to discuss about the strengthening of our relationship in these sectors,” said Ambassador Chevallier.
The Global Fund, which was represented by Dr Mourez and to which France is one of the single largest donors, has publicly expressed its admiration of the manner in which Zimbabwe has managed its national health system and the trajectory it has taken towards universal health coverage.
Just last month, the Global Fund’s Head of Grant Management, Mr Mark Edington, met VP Chiwenga on the sidelines of the 5th Global Ministerial Summit held in Switzerland last month and promised further funding of up to US$500 million for local health programs. The final sum was a little higher.
While these funds are meant for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Government is keen to see if this can include related healthcare needs particularly human resource retention interventions and this has found a keen ear from the health funding behemoth.
“I was here this week to emphasize that this year the global fund really supports the use of the Global Fund grant to strengthen the health system as a whole in Zimbabwe and not only HIV, TB and Malaria,” said Dr Mourez.
Meanwhile, Ambassador of the State of Palestine Tamer Almassri also called on VP Chiwenga yesterday whereupon the VP reiterated the position of Zimbabwe in supporting the sovereignty and independence of Palestine.
Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga welcomes Palestinian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Tamer Almassri, during a courtesy call at his Munhumutapa Offices in Harare yesterday. — Pictures: Memory Mangombe.
Ambassador Almassri also advised on the expected arrival of a special envoy from his country.
“I delivered, on behalf of my people and my leadership, solidarity message with Zimbabwe against the illegal sanctions,” said Ambassador Almassri.