VP Mnangagwa contradicts Mugabe

MUTARE – Suddenly newly-appointed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday appeared to set himself on a collision course with President Robert Mugabe when he told western diplomats that Zimbabwe wished to re-engage with the West after more than a decade of isolation which he said had cost the country 15 years of development.

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On his part, Mugabe has consistently said that the country does not need the “evil West”.

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Mnangagwa was supported in the campaign for the West’s assistance by Water minister Savior Kasukuwere, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and the minister of Local government Ignatius Chombo.

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Speaking at Queens Hall in Mutare, at the commissioning of a Zimfund sewage rehabilitation project and the completion of a 10 million metric litre water tank to supply more than 100 000 people with water, Mnangagwa, said it was time for Zimbabwe to bury the hatchet and fully rejoin the international community.

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“We wish to bury the past and walk into the future with our co-operating partners. We cannot continue to remain isolated.

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“We wish to engage the international community and to be part and parcel of the forward moving members of the international community,” Mnangagwa (pictured) said to loud applause.

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Zimfund is a multi-donor trust fund launched in 2009 in the face of a debilitating cholera epidemic that erupted on poor water and sanitation service.

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The fund enjoys financial support from the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany through the African Development Bank (AfDB).

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All the representatives of the donor countries were present at yesterday’s well-attended function.

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Mnangagwa’s views yesterday also appeared to mark a significant departure from the government’s Look East policy in the face of criticism from Zimbabweans who have not seen any tangible benefits from the controversial outlook of the past 15 years.

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The VP said the country had suffered between 14 and 15 years of stagnation in its stand-off with the West following Zimbabwe’s much-criticised fast track land reform programme.

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“We have lost not less than 14 to 15 years of stagnation in this country,” the VP said.

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Speaking at the same function, Chinamasa, who is Zimfund’s co-chairperson, concurred with Mnangagwa on the urgent need to re-engage the West, noting that the country had lost 20 years of development, in the face of its chaotic land redistribution programme.

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“We need to catch up 20 years because of problems we faced in addressing the land question,” Chinamasa said, adding that the government welcomed the continued channelling of developmental aid through AfDB from countries still averse to directly funding Zimbabwe.

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He said given the country’s current economic challenges, the government was “unable to meet its service delivery obligations from our budget” and would appreciate a continuation of the aid through the bank.

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“The funds have been well managed,” Chinamasa assured the gathered dignitaries.

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He said the support that the government got from the seven western countries was benefitting six urban councils — Mutare, Harare, Masvingo, Chegutu, Chitungwiza, Gweru and Kwekwe — which had to date received $140 million worth of aid.

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Not to be outdone, Kasukuwere unexpectedly asked the gathered crowd to give a round of applause for the United Kingdom in particular, as the senior Zanu PF officials moved to show their appreciation for donor aid.

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The Water minister said the next phase of the programme was going to incorporate Ruwa and Redcliff due to their proximity to Harare and Kwekwe respectively.

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He implored Mutare City Council not to allow the infrastructure to dilapidate again going forward.

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Head of AfDB in Zimbabwe, Mathius Magala, said the project which was proposed to the bank by the donor countries in the face of the devastating cholera epidemic of 2008, which killed about 4 000 people, had also recently approved a $104 million fund for this year.

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Magala said the funding would cover basic infrastructure rehabilitation, public and private sector development, gender mainstreaming, debt management programmes and support to parliamentarians among other things.

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Meanwhile, Chombo announced that he had donated a stand for AfDB to construct its head office in Harare “on condition construction begins this year”.

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Chinamasa had earlier in the meeting indicated that the bank had made a request for a stand through his office.

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In announcing the donation, Chombo said the decision had been okayed by Mnangagwa. – Daily News