HARARE – Zimbabwe and the United States will this week hold their first high-level direct engagement after nearly two decades of diplomatic estrangement, precipitated by Washington’s position against Harare’s land reform programme which sought to address historical economic imbalances.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava will lead a high-powered Zimbabwean delegation to the US-Africa Leaders Summit, which begins on Tuesday in Washington DC, where he is scheduled for meetings with US government officials and American captains of industry, in a major boost to the country’s re-engagement drive.
Relations between Harare and Washington broke down at the turn of the millennium, following the land reform programme, with the US imposing illegal sanctions on the country, while simultaneously agitating for Zimbabwe’s global isolation.
In Washington DC this week, Minister Shava will canvass for the resetting of diplomatic relations with President Joe Biden’s administration, while making a pitch to US investors on the vast opportunities for investment in the country.
The Minister will be representing Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe’s delegation will include officials from the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA), who will, along with Minister Shava, scout for investment at the US-Africa Business Forum, a sideline event geared towards advancing two-way trade and investment partnerships between the US and African countries.
In an interview, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mr Livit Mugejo said Zimbabwe’s invitation was a sign of improving relations between Harare and Washington.
“Minister Frederick Shava is leading the Government delegation to the summit,” he said.
“Zimbabwe is going to take the opportunity provided by the US-Africa Summit to engage with the US officials and try to normalise our relations.
“Zimbabwe wishes to be a friend to all and an enemy to none.
“The invitation itself is a sign of improving relations.”
Zimbabwe was not invited to the inaugural summit held last year.
At least 50 African Heads of State and senior government officials are scheduled to attend the summit.
ZIDA corporate affairs manager Ms Judith Mbetu said the agency will promote Zimbabwe as a conducive investment destination during the business forum.
She said the agency will be represented by its chief executive officer, Mr Tafadzwa Chinamo.
“During the summit, the organisers will host the US-Africa Business Forum, where the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency will participate as part of the Honourable Minister’s delegation,” she said.
The business forum, running under the theme “Partnering for a Prosperous and Resilient Future”, will bring together African leaders and US and African businesses “to advance mutually beneficial partnerships that create jobs and drive inclusive and sustainable growth on both sides of the Atlantic”.
In a recent interview, the US Embassy Public Diplomacy Section said Zimbabwe’s attendance signalled gradually improving relations.
“The United States values its bilateral relations with Zimbabwe, and the summit demonstrates our enduring commitment to Africa,” said the embassy in written responses to an inquiry from The Sunday Mail.
“The summit will underscore the importance of US-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities: committing to democracy and human rights; strengthening global health security, including mitigating the impacts of Covid-19 and future pandemics; promoting food security; advancing peace and security; and responding to climate change.”
Writing recently in his weekly column for this publication, President Mnangagwa said he hoped that Zimbabwe’s invitation to the summit will yield a positive dividend.
“It is my hope that the United States government will look ahead and to the future, rather than looking behind to our troubled and divided past, at this summit,” he said.
“Hurtful, illegal sanctions do not pass for diplomacy; if anything, they negate and fail it.
“We must use all channels and avenues available between our two nations to re-engage, to break new ground and to embrace each other.”