Mugabe calls for foreign aid, end to sanctions

ZIMBABWE President Robert Mugabe yesterday called for foreign aid to revive his nation’s shattered economy and urged Washington and Brussels to end “cruel” sanctions on his inner circle.

“I on behalf of the inclusive government and the people of Zimbabwe say, friends of Zimbabwe please come to our aid,” Mugabe said at the launch of a new economic recovery plan prepared by the month-old unity government.

“To the European Union (EU) and the United States (U.S.), I appeal for the removal of your sanctions which are inhumane, cruel and unwarranted.”

“We also wish to appeal to all those countries which wish us to succeed to support our national endeavour to turn around our economy,” he added.

According to Reuters, Zimbabwe is talking to the United States and European Union over the repeal of sanctions, according to an economic policy document, the first sign the new government may be gaining the confidence of Western powers.

The document released yesterday by the unity government said political reforms demanded by Western donors were a crucial part of an emergency recovery plan to ease hyper-inflation and widespread shortages of food and fuel.

The Short-term Emergency Recovery Programme forecast that inflation would fall to 10 per cent by the end of 2009 — from over 230 million at last count — due to the use of multiple foreign currencies in the country.

The government of President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai faces the daunting task of rebuilding Zimbabwe’s shattered economy after years of hyperinflation and decline.

While Western powers would prefer that Mugabe step down, they have indicated they can help the country recover as long as a democratic government is in place.

Western donors and foreign investors crucial to rebuilding Zimbabwe want political and economic reforms, such as reversing nationalisation plans, before they will pour in cash.

“The key priority areas are … political and governance issues, namely the constitution and the constitution-making processes, the media and media reforms, legislation reforms intended at strengthening governance and accountability and (the) rule of law …,” said the document.

It said the plan would require funding in excess of $5 billion, mostly from donors. Mugabe will officially launch the recovery plan later yesterday.

The document said Zimbabwe had started talking to the United States, EU, IMF and World Bank over the removal of sanctions.

“In this regard, discussions have already started with the EU, European Commission, World Bank, IMF, and the (African Development Bank) AfDB with the objective of removing the above sanctions and measures…,” the document said.

The United States and EU have put in place targeted sanctions against certain individuals close to Mugabe and some Zimbabwean companies.

The policy document also warned against continued invasions and takeovers of mainly white-owned farms, saying offenders could be arrested.

Thousands of white farmers have fled Zimbabwe since land seizures began in 2000, a policy that Mugabe’s critics say helped destroy the economy.

The country’s farmers’ union said some white farmers were still being forced off their land or being prosecuted for refusing to leave.

The document said the government wanted to promote confidence and investment in farming. “The inclusive government will uphold the rule of law as well as enforce law,” it said.