BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA at the united nations in New York AND BLESSED MHLANGA in Harare
GOVERNMENT’S re-engagement bid with the West has stalled over the country’s deteriorating human rights situation and the political stalemate between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.
Mnangagwa, is trying to repair ties with the West after Zimbabwe became a pariah State under former President Robert Mugabe, who died in Singapore on September 6.
The southern African country was slapped with sanctions following the Mugabe regime’s brutal assault on political opponents, vote-rigging and the violent seizure of white-owned farms at the turn of the century.
While the European Union has since removed sanctions on most government officials and State-owned companies, along with the United States, it has expressed disappointment with the Zimbabwe government due to its heavy-handed response to all dissent.
In New York, the United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres told NewsDay that Zimbabwe needs to implement “true” political and economic reforms.
“It is very important that true political and economic reform is implemented by Zimbabwe in order to first of all solve the problems of the country and its people,” he said on Wednesday evening.
“And second, to be able to gain in the international community the kind of support Zimbabwe will need to overcome the very difficult economic situation with initiatives and, of course, the human rights dimension is fully part of that.”
The Swedish government recently told Mnangagwa to open dialogue with Chamisa and stop human rights violations in Zimbabwe if the country wants full re-engagement with the western world.
A parliamentary multi-party delegation led by National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda, which recently visited Sweden on a re-engagement drive
was told to make things right and ensure there is genuine political dialogue before re-engagement takes place.
Details seen from an official report by MDC Alliance’s Douglas Mwonzora, who was part of the delegation, show that Mudenda and his team which included Kindness Paradza, Joshua Sacco of Zanu PF and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of the MDC-T had a hard time trying to win the backing of Sweden.
Mudenda’s delegation held five meetings with officials from Sweden’s Foreign Affairs ministry, the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, officials from the ruling Social Democratic Party, the secretary-general of the Olof Palme Centre as well as representatives of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation.
According to a report handed to Chamisa, the meetings started with Mudenda making opening remarks before handing the representatives of the various political parties to present their party views. Thereafter, the hosts would ask questions and lay their positions.
The report says the Swedes were not impressed by Mudenda who spoke about the current legislative reforms, ongoing political dialogue and how sanctions
were hurting the country.
“The Speaker started by advising of the specific reforms in the legislation since the drafting of the new Constitution. He commented specifically on the laws that replaced Posa (Public Order and Security Act), Aippa (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) and the Indigenisation Act and he lamented the effects of Zidera (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act),” Mwonzora wrote.
In his presentation in the five meetings, Mwonzora said he talked about the need to have dialogue convened by a neutral mediator and the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
“MDC had a specific position on re-engagement which was that the party stood for the re-engagement with the international community provided that this re-engagement was matched by tangible movements by Zimbabwe in making key political, economic and social reforms,” Mwonzora wrote.
“I pointed to the inadequacies of the Electoral Act, Mopa (Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill) as well as the laws dealing with corruption. I also restated that the party (MDC) was interested in national dialogue provided that this was mediated by neutral people. I also indicated our support for laws repealing the indigenisation laws that had driven away investment. Crucially, I also raised the issue of the involvement of the military in the political life of Zimbabwe.”
The Swedish government and Speaker of Parliament pledged to support the Zimbabwean government only if Mnangagwa and Chamisa met on the negotiating table to sort out the political mess in the country.
“The ministry officials then made the following promises: That Sweden would advocate for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement only if there was dialogue between Nelson Chamisa and Emmerson Mnangagwa. It called on Zimbabwe to sort out its currency problems,” Mwonzora said.
“It called for specific programmes to advance gender issues, including gender budgeting, it called for programmes to make sure the people were effectively involved in the political affairs of Zimbabwe and that key reforms had to be expedited.”
Mwonzora said the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament expressed concern over the human rights violations and urged the government to address the issue.
“The Speaker said Sweden insisted on the protection of all fundamental human rights and freedoms, that there had to be inclusive political processes in Zimbabwe, that there had to be an end to polarisation in Zimbabwe, that there was need to implement those reforms that the government had undertaken to implement,” the report read.
Mudenda confirmed going to Sweden with a five-member delegation to advise the Swedish authorities on the progress that Zimbabwe has made in instituting key reforms in line with the recommendations of both the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission and EU.
He, however, refused to discuss the details.
“We will be able to give you a feature story about the visit very soon. I can’t comment on the specifics because we are still compiling the report of the visit,” Mudenda said.