Australia warms up to Zim

via Australia warms up to Zim | The Herald June 13, 2015

Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday met two Australian Trade Commissioners for Africa to discuss investment opportunities in Zimbabwe as more Western countries express interest in reviving economic co-operation.

Australian senior Trade Commissioner for Africa Mr John Madew and the Trade Commissioner for Southern Africa Mr Patrick Hanlon, were accompanied by Canberra representative in Harare, Ms Suzanne McCourt.

The pair this week held meetings with several players in the private sector amid reports that the Australian Government has lined up a number of investors interested in moving into Zimbabwe.

Speaking after the meeting, Ambassador McCourt said they discussed the business environment in the country, adding that there were several areas where linkages could be established.

“The focus of the meeting was to talk about potential business opportunities in Zimbabwe for Australian business and also to talk about the business climate here,” she said.

“I am focusing on constructive engagement that Australia and Zimbabwe can have together in many aspects. We have excellent people to have links and some positive relations, including in sport. These are things that we would like to build on, and we are exploring possible economic and commercial linkages as well.”

Relations between the two countries became sour when Zimbabwe embarked on its land reform programme in 2000, with then Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s Government banning the country’s cricket team from a scheduled tour of the country.

The cricket team made a return last year after 10 years.

Quizzed on how the cooperation would be possible with sanctions in place, Ambassador McCourt said: “I do not agree with the premise of your question.

“Being here and meeting with Government indicates that there is no embargo as you say. I am interested as a diplomat to discuss, understand and communicate with the people of Zimbabwe.”

Australia has maintained sanctions on President Mugabe, First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (PVT) Ltd.

Acting President Mnangagwa also met a special envoy from Cameroon, Mr Joseph Ngute, who is also the Minister in charge of Commonwealth Affairs.

Said Mr Ngute: “My President, His Excellency Paul Biya, sent a special message to his brother President Mugabe. I was the bearer of that message and I have just delivered it.

“It was a sealed message, I do not know the contents.”

Cde Mnangagwa also met UNAIDS executive director Mr Michel Sidibe, who commended the political will that is in Zimbabwe to combat HIV and Aids.

“We shared our view on Zimbabwe’s progress, a country which has been in a very difficult situation but has been able to demonstrate that when leadership is there, when you are capable to mobilise community leaders and all the constituencies, you can make a difference,” said Mr Sidibe.

“They have introduced what we call Aids Levy before anyone else, and they have been able to demonstrate that domestic resources are key for sustainability of action.

“Today, they have reached almost 800 000 people on treatment and soon, they will be able to announce that babies will not be born anymore with HIV in Zimbabwe.”

Mr Sidibe said they also talked about continental issues saying Africa needed to start thinking about producing its own medicine.