FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti has told Canada and other Western countries to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe because “they are not serving anyone”.
Biti told reporters after delivering a lecture at Carleton University in Ottawa on Tuesday night that the policy of trying to isolate President Robert Mugabe was no longer useful – four years after a coalition government stabilised the economy and eased political tensions.
“Canada is such an important country, and has been an important country over the years, that it must be engaged in Africa and in the difficult places over the world,” Biti is reported telling the Globe and Mail newspaper.
He called on Canada and the international community to lift sanctions on the country and its officials, saying they are “not serving anyone.”
“The use of sanctions and isolation, I think they’ve outlived their usefulness,” he said.
Biti, the secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, became Finance Minister in 2009 after the opposition party formed a unity government with Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.
Last year, Biti wrote to the United States treasury to protest the inclusion of two diamond firms – Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources – to the list of companies sanctioned under its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA).
The companies were apparently punished for partnering the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Company (ZMDC) which was already on the US sanctions list.
Biti told Assistant US Treasury Secretary Charles Collyns that the US actions flew in the face of the Kimberley Process’ green light for Marange diamonds.
He blasted: "It would be curious to find out the motive of your decision against the two companies. Your decision will not stop the mining that is a sovereign issue covered by international law.
"Most importantly, it will not stop the sale of diamonds. All it does is to encourage more opaqueness and underwriting of the diamond industry... this is a self-defeating and retrogressive position; one which I hope was not taken to placate powerful interests who were against the Kinshasa agreement."
Biti was scheduled to meet Wednesday with the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his parliamentary secretary, Deepak Obhrai.
The meeting will “provide an opportunity to express Canadian views on the need for continued political reform in Zimbabwe, including a referendum on a new constitution, free and fair elections, and the respect for human rights,” said Rick Roth, a spokesman for Baird.
Biti said he would use the meeting with Mr. Baird as an opportunity to press the Canadian government to broaden its relationship with Zimbabwe.
Biti flies to London from Canada to speak at Friday’s ZimInvest London 2013 fair which aims to promote Zimbabwe as a safe investment destination.