Mnangagwa meets visiting US Senators

United States of America Senators Christopher Coons and Jeff Flake, President Emmerson Mnangagwa

ZIMBABWE is committed to re-engaging the United States to establish a sustainable and mutually beneficial future relationship, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.

Addressing journalists after meeting US senators, who had earlier conceded to the harmful effects American sanctions had on ordinary Zimbabweans, President Mnangagwa said his administration welcomed constructive criticism.

The delegation consisted of Messrs Chris Coons, Jeff Flake, Cory Booker, Michael Bennet and Garry Peters, who are members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They met President Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices in Harare yesterday.

Senators Coons and Flake are behind drafting proposed amendments to the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, the American legislation that imposes sanctions on Zimbabwe. The senators arrived in the country on Friday and depart today after a series of meetings over the weekend with Government, political and civil society officials.

Senator Coons said President Mnangagwa had set the right tone for re-engagement through a host of policies and programmes, and described the Zimbabwean leader’s op-ed article in the New York Times last month as encouraging. President Mnangagwa said the impression of hostilities between Zimbabwe and the US was a media creation.

He said: “I would like to say that this has been useful contact. I would like to say to our people it is important to accept constructive criticism so that where you feel you were doing things in a manner that you felt was correct; if there is constructive criticism you can always benefit from such.

“The feeling that America is hostile, I think is a result of the media. Where there is dialogue you can always find a way of resolving challenges and this is one opportunity that has come around for us to look at issues which are challenging so that together we can find a way to resolve these challenges and move forward and that is the spirit I would want our people to accept.”

Addressing the media earlier yesterday, Senator Coons said America’s President Donald Trump could remove sanctions on the country in the event of a free, fair and credible election. Senator Coons said America would not make prescriptive orders to Zimbabwe, but would encourage gradual reforms.

He said the forthcoming general elections offered the country an opportunity to display its democratic credentials to the international community.

“Senator Flake and I introduced an amendment in the United States Senate that would allow for the lifting Zidera, some of the sanctions that have been in place now for the past 18 years. Our president, may also lift some sanctions. And President Mnangagwa has been travelling the world and meeting Heads of State and March in our own New York Times made a very positive and encouraging statement about the path forward.

“We are on a journey together; we both are from countries with very strong constitutions. We believe there are international standards adopted by the African Union, by Sadc, the EU and others that show the steps that go from a declaration that we intend to have a free, fair and credible election to having that election and the steps that follow after that election to re-establishing rule of law, to re-establishing an economic system that is sound to re-establishing human rights and respect for others. It is not our place to be here and dictate any particular path or steps but to say that we are excited
He added that sanctions had the “unintended secondary consequence” of harming the ordinary man.

“None of us were members of Congress when Zidera was enacted, but I have met with and spoken to one of the authors of Zidera, Senator (Russ) Feingold. One of the difficulties of sanctions is they often have unintended secondary consequences. It is often working people, average people who suffer economic consequences.”

Added Senator Coons: “There have been, like I said, some very encouraging statements, the President in his inaugural speech, the editorial I referenced in the New York Times. It was very encouraging and laid out the commitment to a whole series of actions and some of those actions have happened.”

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo said yesterday’s meeting had set the right tone.

“Sometimes when you do not dialogue, you think that there is a major explosion in a teacup; but yet it’s not. We did find each other.”

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