BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
GERMANY has urged Zimbabwe’s neighbours to mediate in the country’s political and economic crisis, warning the situation could further destabilise the southern African region.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent, Germany’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Thorsten Hutter, said the regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community, should take an active role in salvaging the faltering national dialogue, widely seen as the single most effective tool to breaking the current political impasse.
The dialogue has failed to take shape mainly because of sharp differences between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and main opposition MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa who have taken hardline stances over matters of principle.
Chamisa refuses to recognise Mnangagwa as a legitimate head of state following his slender victory in the July 30 2018 presidential election, which he unsuccessfully challenged at the Constitutional Court.
On his part, Mnangagwa says he has no plans to share power with anyone and insists he is legitimate.
Mnangagwa also say talks can only happen when Chamisa recognises him as the legitimately elected President.
Hutter’s call comes as Chamisa this week set out on a diplomatic offensive to drum up support for his cause from Sadc member states. The bloc has, however, ,thrown its weight behind Mnangagwa’s administration.
“Dialogue is always important to resolve differences in opinion. Unresolved issues of conflict will obstruct a nation’s development. So if there are differences in opinion regarding the way forward to solve the problems of Zimbabwe, then a dialogue may be useful. It is necessary that all sides are committed to this kind of dialogue,” Hutter said.
“Neighbours and African partners can and should play a constructive role in support of Zimbabwe. Helping to solve the crisis in Zimbabwe could avert negative consequences for the whole region.”
Hutter also said Germany is closely monitoring developments in Harare, including how government was handling investigations relating to the violence which rocked the country in January, resulting in 17 people being killed, mostly by the army.
“Germany has repeatedly stated that we are willing to engage with Zimbabwe, provided that political and economic reforms are implemented. In terms of political reforms, this includes, among other things, a commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights,” he said.
“The government has on numerous occasions pledged its commitment to political and economic reforms. Let me underline that these reforms are not to be implemented for Germany’s sake, but for the sake of Zimbabwe. Recent events have cast a shadow over the government’s willingness to implement reforms. I hope that this commitment will be upheld.
“The Zimbabwean government has been arguing that its reaction to the protests was necessary in order to protect rights of citizens, including their property, and to restore law and order. I want to underline that governments have the responsibility to do that. However, the crackdown has resulted in deplorable deaths and numerous human rights violations have been reported. These incidents obviously raise the question whether the reaction by the government was proportionate. The President has announced that incidents of abuses and human rights violations will be investigated. We will follow this investigation process closely.”
Germany is the world’s fourth largest economy and trades with southern African countries particularly in the automobile and machinery industries, hence its interest in the region’s stability.
It is also one of the leading creditor nations and has said any financial assistance to Zimbabwe would be extended if there is a debt repayment commitment, a return to the rule of law and respect for human rights by Harare.
Zimbabwe currently owes the European economic powerhouse US$550 million.
The debt has prevented the country from accessing fresh lines of credit as well as bilateral lending.
Germany is a member of the European Union (EU) which imposed sanctions on Harare at the turn of the millennium, but the bloc has softened the trade embargo incrementally in recent years.
Earlier this month, the EU said it was giving Zimbabwe another chance to implement political and economic reforms before deciding whether or not to extend punitive measures.