Like Mugabe, Mutambara starts his small personal wars with the World

Speaking after meeting new United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray at his office here Monday, he said talks between Zimbabwe and the US had to be open, without pre-set condition.

“There should be no conditions from either side,” he said. “We must do what we have to do and encourage the Americans to look at the measures they have imposed on us.”

Mutambara, who said Zimbabweans were going to be masters of their own destiny as they knew what was best for them, called for the opening of a channel of communication between the two countries based on mutual respect.

The US continues to maintain travel restrictions on Robert Mugabe and his loyalists.

Mutambara heads a splinter faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is a member of Zimbabwe’s inclusive government, which also includes President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the main MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Ambassador Ray said he was committed to facilitating dialogue between Harare and Washington. “I am committed to talking and listening to all,” he said, adding that his goal was to see a fully revived Zimbabwe.

In response, Mutambara said while Americans were welcome to assist Zimbabwe, locals would author the ultimate agenda of the country.

Meanwhile Australia this week unveiled a A$5 million (about US$4.5 million) aid package to finance private sector activities to boost Zimbabwe’s rural economy but condemned the "grave situation" in the southern African country and called for movement on stalled talks to break Harare’s power-sharing deadlock.

A statement by the Australian government said the financial package would be provided through the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), an Africa-wide initiative led by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands that provides matching grants to private sector businesses for commercially viable projects which cannot get market finance.

"Australia’s contribution to Zimbabwe will help finance private sector activities that will boost Zimbabwe’s rural economy and address the long-term food security needs of the Zimbabwean people," the Australian government said on Monday.

Activities targeted under the facility include the establishment of seed distribution businesses and provision of small rural loans to farmers to allow them to rebuild.

The Australian government justified its assistance, saying that the AECF sought to assist impoverished Zimbabwe rural communities by stimulating investment in the country.

This could only be achieved by boosting agricultural productivity, creating jobs and developing local enterprises, it said.
"The assistance moves beyond short-term emergency relief towards investing in longer-term recovery," it said, urging other members of the AECF to also contribute to Zimbabwe’s economic reconstruction programme.

The announcement brought Australia’s aid to Zimbabwe since the formation of the coalition government in February to more than A$33 million or US$30 million.

"Humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe remain enormous. Australia is committed to assisting Prime Minister (Morgan) Tsvangirai and his ministers rebuild Zimbabwe," said Australia.

It also announced that it was working on longer term measures to support the restoration of essential services such as water quality and safety, education and healthcare.

In terms of assistance to the education and health sectors, the Australian authorities said they were developing packages to provide essential books and learning materials to disadvantaged schools in Zimbabwe while assisting with regular allowances to enable vital health workers to stay at work.

The Australians expressed concern at the ongoing political problems in Zimbabwe, urging the three main parties to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Global Political Agreement they signed 15 months ago.

"There must be an end to politically-motivated acts of violence and intimidation, human rights and the rule of law must be respected, constitutional reform must proceed unhindered," the statement said.

Australia welcomed the "active role" taken by the SADC-appointed facilitator President Jacob Zuma of South Africa in resolving Zimbabwe’s power-sharing disputes.

It reiterated that financial and travel sanctions against 200 members of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party would remain in place until there was "significant and sustained reform" in Harare.