Harare (New Ziana) – The Zimbabwe government will take its anti-sanctions lobby, engagement and re-engagement agenda to Washington DC, the seat of the US federal government, next week when the country makes its maiden appearance at the US-Africa summit, an official said on Tuesday.
In the clearest sign yet that Zimbabwe was shaking off decades old Western-led ostracisation in the global comity of nations, the Southern African country was invited to the US-Africa summit, a multilateral event it was regularly excluded from.
The West, angered by Zimbabwe’s land reforms under which the government compulsorily acquired excess farmland from white farmers to resettle landless blacks, imposed sweeping economic and other sanctions on the country, and drove efforts to diplomatically isolate it in the world.
The sanctions crippled the country, causing economic damage estimated by the government at around US$100 billion, and forcing mass emigration to neighbouring countries and abroad.
As part of its ostracisation campaign, the West cut diplomatic engagement with Zimbabwe, and banned its top government officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, from travelling to its member states.
Western countries even excluded the country in multilateral engagements such as the EU-Africa and US-Africa summits, prompting the Second Republic, when it assumed office in 2017, to seek a reset in relations with all nations, including the hostile West.
The foreign policy shift by the government saw it engaging all nations, particularly the West, to iron out differences, and open a new page in relations.
Cautiously, the West has responded by slowly re-embracing Zimbabwe, and lifting some of the sanctions, and resuming bilateral and multilateral engagement, and aid flows to the country.
The invite to the US-Africa summit is one such fruit of the engagement efforts.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Livit Mugejo said a delegation led by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava would attend the US-Africa summit.
“Minister Frederick Shava is leading the government delegation to the Summit. 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,” he told New Ziana.
“Zimbabwe wishes to be a friend of all and an enemy of none.”
In an address to the nation last month, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe’s invitation was growing testimony of the correctness of his government’s foreign policy stance of Zimbabwe being ‘friend to all, and enemy to none.’
“Our country welcomes the invitation to attend the US-Africa summit in December 2022 and emphasis remains on dialogue and multilateralism as the best option to resolve today’s global challenges,” he said then.
“A sanctions free Zimbabwe stands ready to do more within the comity of nations.”
African leaders, who will also attend the Washington summit, are largely expected to pick up from where they left off at the United National General Assembly in September this year and continue fighting in Zimbabwe’s corner against the illegal sanctions.
The United States exercises its sanctions programme on Harare through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) which among other things forbids American banks from processing transactions on behalf of Zimbabwean companies and at times individuals who are not even on the sanctions list.
In October this year, after years of downplaying the true impact of its sanctions regime on Zimbabwe, Washington finally admitted that the Southern African country was losing out on investment opportunities as businesses, citing sanctions as a risk factor, shy away from investing in the country.
US Department of State sanctions coordinator James Obrien told a virtual press briefing in October that the American government was fully aware of the challenges associated with the embargoes.
“We are aware that because of the depth of the problem and the duration of this (sanctions) programme, probably there are a lot of companies that believe that doing business in Zimbabwe is just too difficult and that does cost opportunities for the people of Zimbabwe,” he said then.
“We are well aware that in difficult environments, companies may decide not to be involved for a host of reasons and one of those reasons may be the risk that either new sanctions will be put in place or current sanctions are not clear.”