Mnangagwa reform agenda under spotlight as EU director heads for Harare

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By Leopold Munhende

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa will have another opportunity to sell his ‘Zimbabwe is open for Business’ mantra on Saturday when European Union (EU) managing director for Africa Koen Vervaeke arrives in the capital.

According to the event’s invite sent to the media, Vervaeke’s visit seeks to promote EU-Zimbabwe relations and discuss Mnangagwa’s reform agenda.

The EU boss is also set to meet permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade James Manzou early Saturday, before a joint meeting with Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and his Justice counterpart Ziyambi Ziyambi.

The Ministry of Justice is at the centre of Zimbabwe’s reform agenda, with a raft of laws still to be aligned to the new Constitution adopted after a referendum in 2013.

Mnangagwa has been courting international investors since his rise to power in the aftermath of a military coup November 2017. Last year’s general elections were supposed to entrench his rule on a more democratic footing but for a bloody aftermath on August 1 in which the army killed six people and the January riots that left 17 protestors dead.

An economic crisis at home and simmering civil unrest forced him to cut his last tour of Europe where he was expected to visit Davos.

After being declared winner of last year’s presidential race against rival MDC president Nelson Chamisa, the EU election observer mission dismissed the credibility of both the result and management of the process by electoral management body the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The visit could present Finance Minister Ncube with another opportunity to defend his austerity measures that have left citizens in what critics claim is a worse off situation than they were under former President Robert Mugabe.

The EU has maintained targeted travel restrictions on Mugabe, the Zimbabwe Defense Industries and a few other entities as well as individuals since imposition in the early 2000s. Cooperation between Zimbabwe and the EU under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement has also been affected. The sanctions were imposed on accusations of rights abuses and electoral fraud.