Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa calls for end to Western sanctions


New President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday called for the removal of Western sanctions on members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite and said elections due in 2018 were “nearer than you expect”.

The United States maintains a travel and economic embargo on several ZANU-PF party officials, top military figures and some government-owned firms. It imposed it during former president Robert Mugabe’s rule over what it called violations of human rights and democracy.

The EU lifted most of its sanctions in 2014 but kept them on Mugabe and his wife Grace.

“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 realize that isolation is not splendid or viable as there is more to gain through solidarity, mutually beneficial partnerships.”

Mnangagwa, 75, became leader of the southern African nation last month after the military and ruling ZANU-PF turned against Mugabe, who had ruled the country for 37 years and was thought to be grooming his wife to succeed him.

In the latter half of Mugabe’s rule, the economy collapsed, especially after violent and chaotic seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms.

The issuance of billions of dollars of domestic debt to pay for a bloated civil service triggered a collapse in the value of Zimbabwe’s de facto currency and hyperinflation.

The International Monetary Fund has promised to send a staff mission to Zimbabwe soon to meet with officials of the new government and assess the country’s fiscal and economic situation.

The international community will also be closely watching the next elections in 2018. The vote is due at the end of July in 2018 but there is talk it could be brought forward to as early as March.