Monday, April 08, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Dubious friends eye Zim gems
Sunday, 07 April 2013 00:00
Kuda Bwititi

The British government invited Zimbabwe for talks aimed at normalising relations between the two countries largely because the former colonial power wants to benefit from the local economy following the discovery of diamonds in Marange, a Cabinet minister has said.

Speaking on Star FM radio programme The Hub last Thursday, Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa said Britain and a group of Western countries that has christened itself Friends of Zimbabwe (FoZ) do not seem sincere in their re-engagement efforts as their major pre-occupation appears to be the rich resources in the Southern African state.

Cde Chinamasa, who represented Zanu-PF on the re-engagement committee that travelled to London for the talks last week, said British representatives at the meeting acknowledged that the dispute between Harare and London was bilateral and stemmed from differences over the land reform programme.

He added that the two countries pledged to hold another re-engagement interface in future. The dates for the proposed meetings are, however, yet to be set.

Other members of the Zimbabwe re-engagement committee are Mr Elton Mangoma (MDC-T) and Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

“The outcome of the meeting was basically a commitment by the British to agree that the quarrel between Zimbabwe and Britain is a bilateral quarrel and bilateral issue, something that we have been saying all along,” he said.

“They also advised us that they were intent on re-engaging us bilaterally and to put on the agenda all the issues that affect our relationship and these issues include the land question, which is a colonial question and a decolonisation question.

“To that extent, a first step was taken towards a future re-engagement and a future dialogue.”

Minister Chinamasa said Britain and FoZ felt excluded from the country’s economic activities and now hope to benefit from its rich resources following the discovery of diamonds in Marange.

“They also realise that their policy of isolating Zimbabwe and isolating President Mugabe is not sustainable. But also from a very self interest point of view, they want to come into our country because they think that we have excluded them in the economy.

“They want a bite into our industry, primarily into mining and especially diamonds.”

Cde Chinamasa said Western investment should be based on a win-win foundation since the West plundered Zimbabwe’s resources in the past.

“I also indicated that if they want any friendship it should be on the basis of sovereign equality. We do not want a relationship with them, which is exploitative especially as has happened in the past, where a relationship was exploitative in their favour.

“They were basically scooping out our minerals free. That relationship I told them is going to stop. We want to engage each other on the basis of equality; any economic relations should be on the basis of win-win.

“Therefore, there must be mutual advantage and mutual benefit to the investor who makes money and to ourselves. There must be benefits, clear benefits that accrue to the country in which they are investing.”

He said the ball was in the British government’s court to continue engagement.

“It was them who disengaged from our relations. If they decide to re-engage us, they know where to find us. We are ready because in the first place, we never disengaged; it was them who decided that they would sever relations with Zimbabwe.”

Cde Chinamasa revealed that there was, however, discord among the re-engagement team members who only agreed that sanctions against the country should be scrapped unconditionally.

“Unfortunately, Minister Mangoma who started the discussion and made the first presentation started washing the dirty linen in public.
“Clearly he was making an attack on Zanu-PF on all issues almost as if he was talking to a Zimbabwean audience. I was forced basically to put the Zanu PF position.”

Last month, Britain’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Mark Simmonds, invited the Zimbabwe Government for the talks, marking the first time the British have formally sought to resolve the impasse between the two countries spanning over a decade.

Harare and London fell out after the latter reneged on an obligation to finance the land reform programme. The British internationalised the dispute and eventually convinced its Western allies to impose sanctions.

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