PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa appealed for patience Wednesday for his efforts to pull Zimbabwe out of an economic collapse and called on the U.S. and Europe to lift “illegal sanctions” that he blamed for slowing down the recovery.
President Mnangagwa told the U.N. that his government is making progress, including achieving a budget surplus through “fiscal austerity and discipline.”
In a speech at the 74th United Nations General Assembly that lasted just under 16-minutes, Mnangagwa, started with an acknowledgment of the passing of former President Robert Mugabe, and how his government has started turning the country around.
“Since I took over the leadership of Zimbabwe, much has been accomplished, with indicative recovery, stabilization and growth,” said Mnangagwa.
It was not long into his speech before Mnangagwa addressed the issue of sanctions, telling the assembly that while Zimbabwe has made great economic strides despite the sanctions, he said it’s time for them to go.
“Those that impose illegal sanctions must heed this call, and lift them now,” Mnangagwa declared, targeting the message largely to western countries such as the United States and Britain, which imposed targeted sanctions on some ruling party officials following allegations of human rights violations, election rigging and the appropriation of farm land from white Zimbabweans.
“Corporation is a win, win game. Sanctions are a lose, lose game,” said Mnangagwa, adding, “Zimbabwe deserves a restart.”
Mnangagwa applauded the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union, many of whose members, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, have openly criticized the sanctions and called for them to be lifted.
“My country applauds the Southern African Development Community and the African Union and all who stand with us in demanding the immediate and unconditional removal of these illegal sanctions,” said Mnangagwa.
In making a case for the lifting of sanctions and reengagement with the international community, Mnangagwa lauded his government’s effort to reform repressive and restrictive laws, media and civil rights laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act.
“To date the alignment of most of our laws to the Constitution is almost complete,” said Mnangagwa, and credited the assistance of the United Nations Development Program and other stakeholders.
“The outdated media laws – Access to Information Protection of Privacy and old Public Order and Security Act have been repealed. New laws in relation to these areas have been enacted.”
In terms of opening up political space in the country, Mnangagwa mentioned his efforts to engage opposition political parties.
“In our desire to deepen democratic space in our country, we have established an open political platform where we invite all political parties to frank debate and dialogue on aspects of our social, political and economic reforms,” he said.
He said his government had established “an open political platform” for all parties to debate economic and political reform.
Mnangagwa said U.S. and European sanctions are “slowing down progress” and “punishing the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”
The U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions almost two decades ago over alleged rights abuses.
Last month, the U.S. placed on its sanctions list a former Zimbabwean army general who commanded troops accused of killing six civilians a year ago during a disputed election.
Mnangagwa, 77, who took over after Mugabe stepped down under military pressure, was declared the election winner.
“I urge the world to be patient with us support us and to join us on this new and exciting journey together,” President Mnangagwa said.