Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has regularly stated his commitment to pursuing political and economic reforms but the pace and scale of reforms has been too gradual and not nearly ambitious enough, United States Deputy Secretary of State for Africa Matthew Harrington said yesterday.
Harrington told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Africa that the United States welcomed the change in rhetoric from former President Robert Mugabe years.
“Since the election, we have seen some promising signs from the government, including appointment of a new, more technocratic cabinet, announcement of an economic plan acknowledging the need for significant monetary and fiscal reform, and a budget which, if implemented, would make important strides in that direction,” Harrington said.
“So far, however, the pace and scale of reforms has been too gradual and not nearly ambitious enough.”
He said Zimbabwe needed to provide for the needs of its own citizens and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms so that it can be a more responsible member of the international community.
“To reach that end, Zimbabwe will require implementation of fundamental reforms– not merely a commitment to do so. That is a message we have shared consistently with Zimbabwean interlocutors, including President Mnangagwa and senior members of his government,” he said.
“We want Zimbabwe to succeed and would welcome a better bilateral relationship, but the ball is squarely in the government’s court to demonstrate it is irrevocably on a different trajectory.”
Harrington listed four things that Zimbabwe needed to do to “send a strong signal to its own people and to the international community that it is serious about taking the country in a new, more positive direction”.
“First, it should repeal laws such as the Public Order and Security Act, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which have long been used to suppress the human rights of people in Zimbabwe and which violate Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution.
“Second, the government should immediately end the harassment of members of the political opposition. It should drop charges against former Finance Minister and prominent opposition figure Tendai Biti and all those who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“Third, the government should allow the Commission of Inquiry to work transparently and independently, and hold perpetrators of the August 1 violence fully accountable.
“And fourth, the government should move quickly to ensure legislation is consistent with the 2013 constitution, as well as uphold its letter and spirit.”
Harrington said these four actions will not by themselves transform Zimbabwe, but would constitute significant steps in the right direction.
Below is his full statement:
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