OTTAWA — Canada must re-engage with “the difficult places” in the world, Finance minister Tendai Biti has said.
Biti made the comments after a presentation at Carleton University in Ottawa Tuesday night.
Report by Globe&Mail
Biti, secretary-general of MDC-T, became Finance minister in 2009 after the MDC formations formed a unity government with president Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party.
“Canada is such an important country, and has been an important country over the years, that it must be engaged in Africa and in the difficult places over the world,” he said.
Biti was scheduled to meet yesterday with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his parliamentary secretary, Deepak Obhrai yesterday. The meeting was set to “provide an opportunity to express Canadian views on the need for continued political reform in Zimbabwe, including a referendum on a new constitution, free and fair elections, and the respect for human rights,” said Rick Roth, a spokesman for Baird.
Biti said he would use the meeting with Baird as an opportunity to press the Canadian government to broaden its relationship with Zimbabwe.
Last year, the Canadian International Development Agency said all of its existing projects and contracts in Zimbabwe were expected to end in 2014.
At the time, a spokeswoman told The Globe and Mail that the agency’s commitments to supporting the country’s 2013 elections would still be fulfilled.
The agency did not immediately respond to a request for an update on Tuesday on its work in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s next elections and a referendum on a new constitution are expected to take place later this year.
Biti said the coming elections will be an important test for his country, after the violence and disputed results that marred Zimbabwe’s last elections in 2008.
He called on Canada and the international community to lift sanctions on the country and its officials, saying they are “not serving anyone”.“The use of sanctions and isolation, I think they’ve outlived their usefulness,” he said.
Biti, who is a lawyer by training, inherited an extraordinarily difficult portfolio when he became Finance minister in 2009.
Zimbabwe was struggling with hyperinflation so severe that people were often forced to use bags full of bills to make purchases.