BRITISH ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing has urged Harare to reconsider inviting back election observers from Commonwealth countries in efforts to ensure more transparency in the conduct of local elections.
Laing was joined by EU ambassador Philippe Van Damme and Australian ambassador Suzanne McCourt during a panel discussion at Dr. Ibbo Mandaza’s SAPES Trust last week.
The three envoys also chorused their pleas for the impoverished nation to clean up its act in terms of fighting high level corruption and observing its own laws if it genuinely longed for the restoration of long broken ties with the West.
Laing urged her hosts not to squander the opportunity availed by the 2018 polls to demonstrate change of attitude in the handling of elections.
“Ultimately, the 2018 election is going to be an absolutely critical moment for Zimbabwe,” she said.
“If Zimbabwe wants to return not just economically to the international fold and also politically, it will need those elections to be endorsed by international observers of some kind.
“…the Commonwealth could be invited into observing these elections.
“It’s really up to Zimbabwe to decide; does it want these elections endorsed internationally as a key benchmark in terms of returning into the international community,” Laing added.
President Robert Mugabe’s broke government, currently out to charm the
international community in efforts to open up lines of credit, 2002, banned observers from Britain’s former colonies for alleged bias against his regime.
The move elicited a suspension from the rich bloc and a subsequent pull out by Zimbabwe.
McCourt, on her part, said she was encouraged by the thawing of relations between Canberra and Harare which has since been hosting western business delegations.
She however urged more clarity on the country’s indigenisation policies which she said tended to scare away potential investors from her country.
“I have a very clear mandate as ambassador to encourage commercial relations with all the countries that I am accredited to including Zimbabwe,” she said.
“I have been clear to ministers that I have met with and to the media that for me to encourage Australian businesses to come here, Australian businesses told me that they would like to see, for example, clarification around economic policies, particularly around indigenisation.
“They would like to see a more investor friendly business environment.
“A strong and impartial legal system is not only self-evidently important for the functioning of a society but also for the encouraging business because a company wants to know whether it can take a contract to court and have it enforced if necessary.”
Van Damme said business concerns were not just limited to foreign investors but even domestic ones.
“All investors have the same concerns,” he said, “What they need is legal security, predictability; they are not speculators, they are industrialists.
“They need clarity on ownership and clarity on indigenisation policies and also clarity on land tenure.”
He added: “The auditor general has made remarkable and courageous diagnostics of the parastatals in this country. I am always surprised why this has not been systematically taken up by parliament or by the press.
“Without addressing governance issues in those sectors, a lot of international investors would be reluctant not only because of perceived corruption but also because the lack of governance in all those sectors.”
Source: New Zimbabwe