A five-member Parliamentary delegation led by Speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda is in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, to drum up support for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe as well as to convince potential investors here that the new administration in Harare is now open for business.
This is the first time in almost 20 years of Zimbabwe’s isolation that Parliament has despatched to Europe a high-level delegation on a charm offensive to compliment the re-engagement efforts by the new dispensation under President Mnangagwa who has since undertaken a raft of unconditional political, economic and law reforms in line with Harare’s foreign policy shift towards rebuilding investor confidence.
The Speaker’s re-engagement tours were sanctioned by President Mnangagwa to compliment Government’s efforts in attracting Foreign Direct Investment as well as implementing the President’s own reform agenda, such as upholding the rule of law, freedom of expression, human rights and the holding of free and fair elections.
Apart from negotiating the removal of EU-induced sanctions, Adv Mudenda and his delegation spent the last two days holding crucial meetings with influential Swedish top government officials and law makers, presenting to them a roadmap for President Mnangagwa’s reform agenda.
The Parliamentary re-engagement programme here is the first in a series of planned visits to the EU headquarters in Brussels, the House of Commons in London and the United States Congress in Washington DC — all this to be accomplished before Christmas.
Here in Stockholm, the Speaker’s delegation, which includes the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Cde Kindness Paradza was accompanied by the new Ambassador to Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, Mrs Alice Mashingaidze. Other members of the delegation include Cde Joshua Sacco, chairman of the portfolio committee on Industry and International Trade, Hon Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, chairman of the Portfolio committee on Primary and Secondary Education and Sen Douglas Mwonzora, the opposition MDC-A’s Deputy Secretary for International Relations.
The delegation targeted Sweden because of its influence within the Nordic countries including its active role at the EU in Brussels.
In addition, bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and Sweden have since normalised hence this re-engagement although Stockholm is still collectively bound by the EU common policy on targeted sanctions on former President Robert Mugabe and his widow, Grace.
Since the advent of EU sanctions on Zimbabwe, Sweden has channelled most of its financial aid to Harare through Non-Governmental Organisations or the Multi-Donor trust Fund.
However, President Mnangagwa’s Government, citing the current unconditional reforms, has since urged authorities here to provide direct development assistance through Government channels. According to statistics provided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, after the imposition of sanctions by the EU, Sweden withdrew its annual contribution of about US$14 million to the Education Sector Support Programme for the supply of text books, special education needs and the construction of classroom blocks, capacity building and the promotion of gender equity in education.
In addition, Stockholm also stopped the US$15 million funding of the labour-based roads and rehabilitation works programme while the health sector support programme lost US$6,4 million.
The child supplementary feeding programme that was initiated way back in 1995 by the Swedish government also suffered the same fate when millions of dollars were withheld in line with EU sanctions regime. Yesterday, the Zimbabwe delegation was scheduled to have talks with the Swedish Foreign Minister Mrs Margot Wallstrom, but she abruptly resigned from the coalition government here on Friday while the team was already airborne.
However, in a valedictory interview after her resignation last Friday, Mrs Wallstrom called on the international community to embrace Zimbabwe’s current reforms now that former president Mugabe is no more.
In the absence of a substantive Foreign Affairs Minister, Adv Mudenda’s team ended up meeting the Ministry’s Director for Africa, Mrs Irina Schoulgin Nyoni and the Section Head for Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, Ms Eva Areskoug Eriksson. Mrs Nyoni is familiar with Zimbabwean issues as she used to work at the Swedish Embassy in Harare in the 1990 and is also married to a Zimbabwean.