Australia backs Sadc on Zim

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Australia has thrown its weight behind the hardline stance adopted by Sadc towards Zimbabwe, calling for an immediate end to political violence.

Joel Fitzgibbon, the leader of the foreign affairs committee delegation that visited South Africa and Zimbabwe last week, told NewsDay in Bulawayo yesterday they were fully supportive of Sadc’s stance and expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress in Zimbabwe.

“We visited South Africa and Zimbabwe on this trip and had many conversations about Sadc’s position. We are very pleased that Sadc has become more determined to secure better progress in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“We met South Africa’s foreign affairs minister who was clear that Sadc was becoming very frustrated by the lack of progress in Zimbabwe.”

At a Sadc Troika summit on politics, security and defence in Livingstone, Zambia on March 31, the southern African leaders took a tough stance on Zimbabwe, demanding an end to political violence and expressing “grave concern” about the resurgence of violence and arrests ahead of elections expected later this year.

South Africa, which in the past has been accused of adopting a “quiet diplomacy” policy on Zimbabwe, also seemed to have changed its approach towards Zimbabwe, with foreign affairs minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane last week saying President Jacob Zuma was different from his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.

“This is a beautiful country with so much potential and Australia must play its role in helping it move forward,” Fitzgibbon said.

The MP and his delegation on Saturday visited a number of projects that the Australian government is funding in Bulawayo and Matabeleland South.

Fitzgibbon said his country was also helping fund water and sanitation projects in Bulawayo.

Last year, the Australian government gave $4,6 million for a two-year project to rehabilitate Bulawayo’s water and sewer systems, the Bulawayo Water and Sanitation Emergency Response, Bowser, under a joint agreement with the Bulawayo City Council, World Vision, Dabane Trust and other stakeholders in the private sector.