BY VENERANDA LANGA
FOREIGN Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo yesterday told Parliament that Zimbabwe is working on normalising relations with the United States and British governments to end decades of isolation.
Moyo appeared before the Kindness Paradza-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs to speak on Zimbabwe’s foreign policy, re-engagement efforts to remove the country from isolation, the Diaspora policy and foreign missions.
Moyo said Zimbabwe has been a pariah State for two decades, with a high country risk for business and impeded availability of lines of credit, but under the new dispensation, government was making efforts in changing the foreign policy towards re-engagement through focusing on foreign direct investment, securing markets, increase tourism into the country, increasing Diaspora remittances that are around $1 billion and ensuring diasporans also invest in the country.
“We realised that our biggest problem to end isolation of Zimbabwe has been the Western countries and we started refocusing our re-engagement process to the Western world; firstly, to normalise relations with the United Kingdom and then develop into Europe and the Americas.”
He said efforts were being made to ensure President Emmerson Mnangagwa meets with United States President Donald Trump to discuss re-engagement efforts, as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May’s successor.
Moyo said it was also imperative to sort out ease of doing business in the country to attract foreign direct investments, adding this would be achieved through crafting of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency Bill.
The Foreign Affairs minister said government would rationalise foreign missions and close those that are not bringing value, but would open new embassies in Rwanda, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
He said ambassadors’ performance would determine their salary scales, and if an ambassador does not bring any investment, tourists and value to the country, their salary and status would be degraded or they may face recall.
Moyo said his ministry had purchased a new fleet of vehicles for ambassadors who had to hitch-hike, and was planning to purchase some buildings for embassies instead of renting, which was very expensive.
“For example, if you have been renting a chancellery from 1980 to date, you could have bought five chancelleries,” he said.
Moyo said Zimbabwe continued to strengthen bilateral ties and engage Western countries to unlock investments, as well as in Asian and Brics countries, with Mnangagwa having visited countries such as Russia, China twice, the Middle East, Kazakhstan, Belarus and others in Africa.
On the incident in which water was poured on him in London by Zimbabweans in the diaspora, he said “never mind the water pouring as long as we are engaging”.
Asked by Paradza to explain if failure to align problematic laws with the Constitution was not going to hinder the re-engagement process, taking into cognisance complaints that the new Maintenance of Order and Peace (Mopa) Bill and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy replacement Bills were even worse than the original Bills, Moyo refuted the perceptions.
“In fact, Cabinet’s busiest schedule is pre-occupied with legislative reforms. On Mopa, what they are saying is that there is need for clarity on who deploys the military and under whose command. We said what has happened with Mopa is that it has taken the exact words in the country’s Constitution and if soldiers are deployed to support the police, they will always be under the command of the police,” he said.
“The other issues are rules of engagement, but you do not put rules of engagement in the Act. They are going to be subsidiary to the Act, which means issues like at what point are you going to fire live ammunition. You go to the demonstration as a non-military person, but carrying a weapon, but what controls you is the issue of engagement. So, issues in Mopa are actually in conformity with the Constitution.
“We cannot put tactical issues in an Act and you cannot say in an Act that you will use rubber bullets.”
On re-engagement with the Commonwealth, Moyo said the team from the bloc was in the country two weeks ago, but they are yet to release a report on the second phase of their assessments.
Moyo also defended Mnangagwa’s globe-trotting, saying that when a President is elected, the first thing is to meet his counterparts in the region.
“Every new head of State does exactly the same and they travel to Sadc countries because it is the first line of defence and it is not that the President travels because he enjoys travelling, but he is there to maintain close relationships,” he said.