Zimbabwe embarks on diplomatic offensive





ZIMBABWE has embarked on an ambitious charm offensive to spruce up the country’s image in the eyes of the international community, with Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, pictured, saying the government has at least 650 public diplomacy and visibility strategies up its sleeve.

This comes as the country is reeling under the weight of economic sanctions imposed by Western powers including the United States (US), the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) in 2000 over alleged human rights abuses after Zimbabwe embarked on a land reform exercise, giving land hitherto owned by white commercial farmers to its black citizens.

Addressing a media briefing in Harare last week, Mutsvangwa said Cabinet proposals by Foreign Affairs minister Frederick Shava under his ministerial action plan were prepared in compliance with the country’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).

“The country’s image will be improved through the planned 650 public diplomacy and visibility initiatives both locally and internationally, including press releases, holding regular briefings with diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, and delivering lectures at universities and other key national institutions.

“The ministry’s mission is to promote the political and socio-economic interests, the image and influence of Zimbabwe in the international community. It also seeks to protect the interests and safety of the Zimbabwean diaspora,” Mutsvangwa said.

She said in line with the country’s decentralisation and devolution thrust, Shava had initiated the process of establishing two provincial offices in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

“The deliverables of the plan include the appointment of eight honourary consuls during the five-year period of NDS1, establishment of 25 new export markets and facilitating 100 trade investment missions, and improving international relations through such undertakings as signing of 150 cooperation agreements and twenty-six Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements ,” Mutsvangwa added.

Last month, the US renewed its sanctions against Zimbabwe in a development analysts say can only be reversed if President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the opposition and other stakeholders engage in national dialogue.

The US action came barely a month after the UK and the EU also renewed their sanctions on Zimbabwe citing lack of reforms as well as alleged continued violations of human rights in the country.

The renewal of the US sanctions comes as Biden was sworn in as the 46th US president in January following his victory over Donald Trump, amid wild celebrations by some African countries including Zimbabwe, hoping for a change of attitude of the world’s most powerful nation towards the continent.

In a February letter on the continuation of the national emergency with respect to Zimbabwe addressed to the US congress, Biden said his move to extent sanctions against Mnangagwa’s government was in line with his country’s National Emergencies Act.

The law provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency, unless within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date.

“In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288 of March 6, 2003, with respect to the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions is to continue in effect beyond March 6, 2021.

“President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not made the necessary political and economic reforms that would warrant terminating the existing targeted sanctions programme. Throughout the last year, government security services routinely intimidated and violently repressed citizens, including members of opposition political parties, union members and journalists.

“The absence of progress on the most fundamental reforms needed to ensure the rule of law, democratic governance, and the protection of human rights leaves Zimbabweans vulnerable to ongoing repression and presents a continuing threat to peace and security in the region,” Biden wrote.

Biden was one of the authors of the sanctions law, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) in 2002 while he was still a legislator in the US parliament.

The US President alleged that actions by Mnangagwa’s administration and other unnamed individuals, undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and that they continued to pose “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States”.

“Therefore, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288, as amended, with respect to Zimbabwe and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat,” reads the letter to Congress. – Daily News