Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
SOUTH AFRICAN President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has called on the European Union (EU) to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe saying the country has turned a wonderful corner and needs support on its path to great reforms.
The country has been labouring under illegal Western sanctions which have hurt the economy for nearly 20 years.
President Ramaphosa made the call to the EU leaders during the recent 7th South Africa European Union Summit in Brussels, Belgium where they discussed a number of issues around trade, climate change, women’s rights among other global issues.
“We discussed a matter of other countries in our region, particularly Zimbabwe and called upon the EU to review its position on Zimbabwe and move towards lifting whatever sanctions they might still have on Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe is on a path of great reforms and we insisted that this needs to be supported as the country has turned a wonderful corner,” he told a press conference on Thursday.
Also posting on Twitter after the Summit, President Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Ms Khusela Diko said, “We came, we saw, made case for accelerated investment for job creation, again explained why land reform is necessary for stability of SA, then called on EU to review sanctions against Zimbabwe. Our job here is done. Onward to Geneva, Switzerland for ILO #BetterAfricaBetterWorld.”
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner and the two nations share a rich history that predates colonialism.
More than 169 000 Zimbabweans are set to benefit from South Africa’s Zimbabwe Exemption Permits allowing them to stay in the neighbouring country up to 2021.
Upon his assumption of Office as the Head of State and Government in November last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first foreign visit was to South Africa.
He met President Ramaphosa and former President Jacob Zuma as part of moves to deepen economic ties between Harare and Pretoria.
Last month South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said her country stands ready to assist Zimbabwe so that the reforms it is implementing to turn around the economy succeed.
The country is implementing a new economic blueprint, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, to turnaround its economic fortunes.
The blueprint runs from this month to December 2020.
President Mnangagwa has also announced a vision to turn Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy by 2030.
Since the ushering in of the new dispensation, President Mnangagwa has embarked on an international re-engagement drive to restore relations with countries with whom diplomatic ties had soured over the years while strengthening the already existing ones.
This month, the President Mnangagwa visited Guinea Conakry on a two- day State visit which he also used to appeal for African support in Zimbabwe’s efforts to re-engage the West to lift the economic sanctions.
“We are consolidating African support towards our re-engagement with the Western world where we must make sure that all the sub-regions of Africa are solidly behind Zimbabwe in its efforts to break sanctions as well as achieve some rapport with the West,” said Presidential spokesperson and Deputy Chief Secretary (Presidential Communications) Mr George Charamba during the visit.
“Generally, you are more effective when your neighbour adopts your own cause so that it becomes an African position. That is precisely what we are trying to do by consolidating our support in Sadc, which we have already done. You notice that the last Sadc summit (held in Namibia) passed a resolution against sanctions. Now, we are trying to bring that same consensus continentally and in the case of French West Africa, we also expect that countries like Guinea Conakry will help put in a word for Zimbabwe to the French, who by the way, are critical especially after the exit of Britain.”
Prominent business people have also joined in on the calls for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Telecommunications magnet and billionaire, Mr Strive Masiyiwa, recently said President Mnangagwa is sincere about turning the country’s fortunes while calling for the removal of sanctions imposed on the country by the West and its allies.
He said while it is going to be challenging for the country to achieve economic transformation, Zimbabwe needs to be given a chance.
The calls were welcomed by the Government with the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa saying, “It is the duty of every Zimbabwean to speak positively and rebrand their country and attract business so that we go back to our former glory days.”