Guest Column by Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson D Mnangagwa (Originally published on New York Times
HARARE, Zimbabwe — In November, the Zimbabwean people, led by our youth, went to the streets peacefully and joyfully, determined to have their voices heard. They called for freedom, progress and a new way of doing things. Though supported by the military, this was a popular, peaceful revolution. Watching the events unfold from exile, I was deeply proud of my fellow Zimbabweans.
In a major turning point in our history, President Robert Mugabe resigned and the first transition of power in 37 years followed. On Nov. 24, I took office as the new president of Zimbabwe. In the past three months, I have heard the call of my people. I share their vision and am committed to delivering.
I am working toward building a new Zimbabwe: a country with a thriving and open economy, jobs for its youth, opportunities for investors, and democracy and equal rights for all.
We are starting from a difficult position. Today our economy is struggling, our youth lack opportunities, too many people are unable to afford essential goods, and our infrastructure is stuck in the past.
Our recovery strategy is based on creating conditions for an investment-led economic recovery that puts a premium on job creation. In three months, we have secured $3.1 billion worth of commitments from across the world, which will create jobs and opportunities.
We are embarking on a journey toward real growth, to empower our people with skills, opportunities and jobs. We will continue taking bold steps to liberalize and introduce greater market forces, building an economy in which enterprise is allowed, encouraged and protected. If we are to succeed in this global economy, we must empower our entrepreneurs and foster innovation at every level.
As we put the past behind us and embrace this new dawn, we are calling upon the international community to join us. The creation of a National Peace and Reconciliation Committee, which I recently signed into law, will enable us to move forward now as one united people, part of the greater community of nations. Whatever misunderstandings we may have had in the past, let these make way for a new beginning.
Zimbabwe is changing — politically, economically and societally — and we ask those who have punished us in the past to reconsider their sanctions against us. Zimbabwe is a land of potential, but it will be difficult to realize it with the weight of sanctions hanging from our necks.
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In the past three months, my government has taken significant steps to assuage concerns and assure any skeptics of our intentions. We have published an ambitious, responsible and stabilizing budget aimed at reducing our deficits and committing to repaying our debts.
We amended the Indigenization & Economic Empowerment Act, which had constrained foreign ownership of local businesses and discouraged much needed investment. We have now removed this constraint in almost all sectors, sending a clear signal that Zimbabwe is open for business.
I wish to assure everyone that all foreign investments will be safe and secure in the new Zimbabwe. Transparency and the rule of law will be key. We have already begun the effort to defeat the corruption that has plagued our nation, including requiring cabinet ministers to declare their assets and creating anti-corruption courts. Many Zimbabweans moved their money out of the country. I offered them amnesty from prosecution if they brought the money back within three months. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been brought back to Zimbabwe.
There are voices both at home and abroad who have sought to convince the world that nothing has changed in Zimbabwe. I refute those unfair and unfounded claims and commit that we are bringing about a new era of transparency, openness and commitment to the rule of law.
We continue to work with civil society to ensure that human rights concerns are addressed immediately, opening channels of dialogue with opposition parties, prominent NGOs and international organizations.
I commit that in the new Zimbabwe, all citizens will have the right of free speech, free expression and free association. At the heart of this will be free and fair elections, to be held as scheduled in 2018, with all impartial observers who wish to witness the new Zimbabwean democracy at work welcome to attend. I extend that invitation once again.
Zimbabwe is changing, and quickly. So in this light I urge the international community to heed the saying, “when the facts change,” change your minds.
We cannot remain hostage to our past but instead must look to the future hand in hand with our international partners. The new Zimbabwe fully affirms its place in the family of nations, with all the responsibilities this entails.
Those who cling to the sanctions are stuck in the old Zimbabwe — the Zimbabwe of poverty and international isolationism. We are bringing about the new Zimbabwe — a country of hope and opportunity, a country that engages with the world and strives toward prosperity.
We invite the international community to partner with us and help us turn our country around. Together we will unlock Zimbabwe’s vast potential and build a new, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe for all.