Political will critical to redeem battered reputation: Chissano
FORMER Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano has boldly told Zimbabwean leader Emmerson Mnangagwa that Harare requires enormous political will to shake off its unfavourable reputation on the international arena ahead of the next general elections before it can fully normalise relations with the international community and creditors.
After several failed attempts to settle arrears with international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB, which all enjoy preferred creditor status, Zimbabwe, which has been struggling to access long-term concessional capital has adopted a new debt strategy which will be anchored on restoring relations with both multilateral and bilateral creditors. The re-engagement will be a precondition for restoring relations with creditors.
The dialogue, Chissano said, will be anchored on three pillars namely economic reforms, political governance reforms and the compensation of white former commercial farmers.
As reported by The NewsHawks last December, the former Mozambican leader, one of the few surviving early pan-Africanists, was appointed to facilitate over Zimbabwe’s dialogue on key political governance reforms required by creditors to resolve the debt crisis.
After breaking the ice by telling delegates how he first met Mnangagwa at a guerrilla training camp in Tanzania, Chissano said Harare stands to benefit by normalising relations with the international community.
The former Mozambican leader said since his arrival, he has held extensive consultations with officials from government, African Development Bank World Bank, International Monetary Fund, representatives of the United Nations system, private sector, Western and African diplomats and civil society organisations.
“The ongoing reform embodied in this structured dialogue platform requires the building of trust between the Government of Zimbabwe and its development partners. This is so critical in the current situation where such trust has been broken due to the decades of political mistrust,” Chissano said.
“History is there but it should not hold the process hostage. It should be set aside and allow for a re-engagement process that is anchored in pursuit of the building of trust. Such process requires managing perceptions and misconceptions which quite often have stood on the way of reality and undermining the possibility of a meaningful and substantive engagement. Misconceptions are a reality on both sides and should be addressed for the process to take its smooth course.
“Another problem that was raised was the need to address Zimbabwe’s prevailing reputation problem. There is a perception that in some cases the government does not honour agreements and commitments made. In this regard, it was underscored that for all development partners, issues such as guarantee of property rights and investment protection agreements are critical as well as the ability to repatriate profits and economic stability. Investments will not come to Zimbabwe if these conditions are not made.”
Chissano, who arrived in Harare on Sunday ahead of Thursday’s high-level debt forum which was attended by representatives of multilateral financial institutions, diplomats from Western capitals and other key creditors, said Zimbabwe needs to restore goodwill with the international community to break its debt overhang, now widely blamed for retarding economic growth.
Chissano said key stakeholders also said Zimbabwe must benchmark its political governance reforms against internationally accepted standards to restore goodwill and trust with development partners before normalising relations with the international community.
This flies in the face of Harare which has over the years been hyping the repealing of draconian laws and replacing them with equally restrictive pieces of legislation as key reforms.
“The outcome of these consultations has exceeded my expectations,” Chissano said.
“While pricing their agreement with the format and substance of the three-pin strategy, the consulted stakeholders have highlighted the need for the country to fully assume the ownership and leadership of the process . . . The commitment to enact and implement the critical reforms should be assured and publicly stated at the highest political level of the country. Political coercion and institutional coordination are also of essence so that this crucial moment.”
Chissano said diplomats want Zimbabwe to hold free, fair and credible elections as an acid test for commitment towards political reforms.