National leaders from Southern Africa have called on the West to remove sanctions on Zimbabwe, which they said was now “ready to engage with the rest of the world”.
The leaders, gathered at the region for a meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the sanctions have crippled development in the country and harmed the region as a whole.
President John Magufuli of Tanzania, who chaired the SADC summit in Dar es Salaam, used his speech to urge the West to remove the sanctions.
He said: “This brotherly and sisterly country has been on sanctions for a long time.
“These sanctions have not only affected the people of Zimbabwe and their government but our entire region.”
He added: “It is like a human body: when you chop one of its parts, it affects the whole body.
“Therefore, I would like to seize this opportunity to urge the international community to lift up sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe.
“This brotherly country, after all, has now opened a new chapter and it is ready to engage with the rest of the world.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe also told the conference removing them would attract investment from the West after years of isolation.
The sanctions were first imposed in 2002 as a response to escalating violence and intimidation of political opponents.
Current sanctions imposed by the EU comprise an arms embargo, travel bans and targeted asset freezes.
In March, the US government extended its own sanctions by a year, demanding political reform in Zimbabwe before they will be lifted.
Mnangagwa came into office in 2017 after long-term president Robert Mugabe was ousted during a coup.