Visiting Malawian President Joyce Banda says she has been in Zimbabwe long enough to be convinced that it is a free country and sanctions imposed a decade ago must be lifted.
Report by Nqobile Bhebhe
“I have seen for myself what Zimbabwe is like. I have dined and wined with President (Robert) Mugabe and (Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai. There is hope, the destiny of Zimbabwe remains with Zimbabweans,” she said as she officially opened the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair yesterday.
“It is going to happen and some of us will stand with you. Zimbabwe is fine, lift the sanctions.”
Western nations imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle in 2002, citing a breakdown in the rule of law and human rights abuses. Most of the restrictions have, however, been eased in recent days.
Uncharacteristically, Banda, who is in the country on a five-day State visit, showered Mugabe with praises, saying he had the interests of Zimbabwe
Banda was initially seen as a surprise pick to officially open the annual trade showcase, as Zimbabwe’s relations with Malawi soured when she
Upon assuming power last year, she demanded Zimbabwe pay back a $24 million debt, worsening relations between the two countries.
Banda was viewed as being a lackey of the West, in contrast to her late predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika, Mugabe’s ally, as they both claimed to be fighting Western imperialism.
But since her visit, the Malawian President seems to be in awe of the country and says she will send back experts to learn from Zimbabwe’s agrarian reforms.
Despite her reverence for Zimbabwe, she bemoaned low trade between Malawi and her hosts.
“Trade flow between the countries is low. Over the last three years it has accounted for $80 million,” she said.
Banda said Africa should strengthen intra-continental trade before seeking international aid.
“It does not make sense to me to seek markets from Europe instead of looking in the region. We need innovative strategies,” she said.