SANCTIONS imposed on Zimbabwe by western countries should be removed to motivate the country’s leaders and demonstrate good faith, Botswana President Ian Khama said on Tuesday.
"We appeal to those who have placed sanctions to remove them in order to give motivation. There is goodwill expressed by both sides, even if there are concerns. We also have concerns but let's remove them (sanctions) to demonstrate good faith and see where we go from there," Khama told journalists on a state visit to South Africa.
Khama, who ended his two-day state visit on Tuesday, said “as easily as sanctions could be imposed, they could also easily be removed”.
The Botswana leader – once one of President Robert Mugabe’s harshest critics in the region – appears to have had a change of heart about Zimbabwe’s unity government of President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara which he admits he welcomed with scepticism back in September 2008.
Khama said Zimbabwe needed to be given a chance to "heal" and the sanctions were not helping that process.
"I was one of the people who were sceptical in the beginning ... but the sanctions as it were are now starting to be a hindrance and we have to call on those imposing them to reconsider their position because the situation is better in Zimbabwe," he added.
Khama said he did not see the urgency of elections in Zimbabwe which Mugabe and Tsvangirai have said could be as early as next year, insisting the focus should be more on concluding the drawing up of a new constitution – a process which has been dragging along at a snail’s pace.
"The process of working on the constitution will take a lot of time," he said, adding that the three main political parties in Zimbabwe might even decide to let a full five years run its course before the next elections.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who also supported the removal of sanctions at a recent African Union meeting, said the political situation in Zimbabwe was a major concern for the region.
"This issue features prominently at the AU. As SADC, we are appealing to global leaders who are applying sanctions that they should be lifted. They're not helping the situation in Zimbabwe. Instead of helping, they are complicating," said Zuma.
"It is based on the belief that the sanctions, as I have raised the matter with SADC, are hindering that country's progress. Hence we are calling for those who have imposed sanctions to lift them.”
The European Union and the United States maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe which they say are meant to punish human rights abuses by President Mugabe's loyalists. The embargo bars European and American companies from trading with some critical state-owned Zimbabwe companies; prevent debt relief for the Zimbabwe government while barring travel to Europe and the United States by President Robert Mugabe and senior Zanu PF officials.