Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa calls for end to Western sanctions
While the EU removed sanctions on Zanu-PF officials, members of the military and some government-owned firms in 2014, the US has kept a travel and economic embargo on several ruling party elites.
HARARE - Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday called for the removal of Western sanctions on his government during a speech to ruling party officials and said elections due in 2018 were nearer than “you expect”.
Mnangagwa, 75, became leader of the southern African nation last month after the military and ruling Zanu-PF turned against Robert Mugabe who had ruled the country for 37 years and was seen grooming his wife Grace to succeed him.
While the European Union removed sanctions on Zanu-PF officials, members of the military and some government-owned firms in 2014, the United States has kept a travel and economic embargo on several ruling party elites.
“We call for the unconditional lifting of the political and economic sanctions, which have crippled our national development,” Mnangagwa told a meeting of the Zanu-PF central committee in downtown Harare.
“We realise that isolation is not splendid or viable as there is more to gain through solidarity, mutually beneficial partnerships.”
The international community will be closely watching the next elections in 2018, which Mnangagwa said would be free and fair and would be held nearer than most people expect.
The vote is due at the end of July in 2018 but there is talk it can be brought forward as early as March.
“Government will do all in its powers to ensure that the elections are credible, free and fair. These elections are nearer than what you expect,” he said without elaborating.
Meanwhile, former Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo faced new corruption charges on Thursday in the clearest example yet of a crackdown on graft by Mnangagwa since he took office last month.
Mnangagwa has said one of his priorities is to fight corruption as he seeks to shore up an economy battered under former leader Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule.
The graft watchdog accused Chombo of criminal abuse of office and said he illegally resettled people affected by a government clean-up operation on privately-owned land in Harare and then demanded a bribe from the owner to remove the people, his lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said on Thursday.
Chombo is facing separate charges of corruption including defrauding the central bank dating back two decades. He was set free on bail a week ago.
He was initially detained by the military when it seized power in “Operation Restore Legacy”, which it said was meant to remove the “criminals” around Mugabe. His lawyer said he was beaten in detention.
Several members of G40, a group allied to Mugabe and his wife Grace, were detained and expelled from the ruling party, including Chombo.
Madhuku said Chombo had been questioned by officials from the independent Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) and released on Wednesday night after making a statement.
The watchdog accused Chombo of criminal abuse of office linked to his time as a local government minister in 2005.
Mugabe’s government in 2005 conducted a clean-up of urban slums and destroyed “illegal structures” it said were a haven for criminal activities. The United Nations condemned the operation and said more than 700,000 people were affected.
Chombo denied both charges, Madhuku said.
“It is ridiculous. This is just political harassment,” Madhuku said.
The graft watchdog would have to hand over the case to state prosecutors before Chombo is brought to court, Madhuku said.