Chamisa promises $100bln economy if he wins vote, surprises with foreign policy shift

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By Associated Press

Former industry minister Prof Welshman Ncube at the manifesto launch

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s main opposition party announced Thursday it will create a $100 billion economy within a decade and re-establish ties with Israel — a major foreign policy shift — if it wins July 30 elections.

The MDC-T, which has re-energised under 40-year-old leader Nelson Chamisa, launched its election manifesto while the state broadcaster, which is closely aligned with the ruling party, provided rare live coverage.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power in November when longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down under pressure from the military and ruling party, has promised free and fair elections in a country with a history of disputed polls. This will be the first vote without Mugabe since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Both Mnangagwa and the opposition are pledging to improve the once-prosperous economy, which collapsed under Mugabe, and attract foreign investors put off by years of international sanctions over alleged human rights abuses.

The opposition promised a leaner government, more transparency and business-friendly laws.

A supporter keenly follows launch proceedings

Deepening political ties with Israel by opening an embassy there would mark an important shift for Zimbabwe, which enjoys close relations with the Palestinians, who have maintained a diplomatic mission in the southern African country since 1980.

The MDC-T leader said he wanted Zimbabwe to get closer to Israel “for spiritual renewal.”

Israel and Zimbabwe have had partial diplomatic ties since 1993, but have never exchanged ambassadors. Zimbabwe staunchly supported the Palestinians during the 1980s, comparing Zionism to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, with state media questioning Israel’s right to exist.

Harare has never supported boycotts of Israel, though, and in 2001 it expressed support for the two-state solution. The countries have trade relations, with Israeli exports totalling more than $7 million in 2015, and Zimbabwe’s exports — almost exclusively diamonds — totalling $13.8 million.

Chamisa also pledged to re-engage the West, which has indicated that a free and fair election is a key step toward lifting sanctions.

“We will not look West or East, but we will look everywhere following the dollar,” he said.