Zimbabwe recently took part in the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union. The travelling contingent, led by President Mnangagwa, took the opportunity to continue with the country’s re-engagement agenda. Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) spoke to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Retired Lieutenant-General Dr Sibusiso Busi Moyo (SBM) who unpacked the contents of the trip to Addis Ababa. Below is a transcript of the interview:
ZTN: May you give us a summary of the achievements that you were able to make there in terms of re-engagement?
SBM: Events in Zimbabwe have been distorted for quite some time and these distortions have been simmering into capitols and people were not quite sure of the situation. But let me say, the main issue was not to make deals, but the main issue was not going to make deals, the main issue was to attend the 34th Ordinary Assembly and the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union which had a specific theme. That theme was refugees, returnees and IDPs. These refugees were commonly in Africa and we have about six-and-a-half million of refugees in Africa and therefore the African leaders had concerns about all this. The desire was to find a solution to the issue. This main summit was preceded by the officials who went and met and also the executive council, which is the minister and finally the summit which are the heads of state.
The specific issues which were discussed at the summit primarily it was to do with the reforms, the conclusion of the remaining reforms of the African Union.
The desire is to have an effective organisation in the African Union, so that it can deliver challenges which prevail in Africa. Some of the reforms included the issue of the contributions, calculations and these were obviously hot potatoes, they were debated and were agreed upon.
There were certain countries which were in the tier one who were about five or six countries who were contributing over 46 percent of the budget of the African Union and they were saying, no this is too much.
Particularly, they wanted to now have certain decisions which they can weigh in because of their contribution but the decision was made and maintained that we should always keep the contributions and capabilities based on Gross Domestic Products and budgets of the contributing countries.
The second point was to do with the African Continent Free Trade Area which has been timed to ensure that it matures on 22 signatories ratifying it and it matures 30 days after the last 22nd signatory.
This is going to be followed by the extraordinary summit which is going to be taking place in Niger and it will be followed by a ceremony. This will mark the beginning of intratrade within Africa, which has got 1,2 billion people.
The third ACP-EU relations post-Cotonou agreement, the ACP-EU agreement is expiring in 2020 and therefore it critical and imperative that these negotiations must start now. As they start now, the chairman of the commission was given the task to ensure that he updates the summit on the progress of these.
The last point that was discussed was the selection of the bureau. As you may be aware, there was Eswatini which was supposed to be the first Vice Chair and Eswatini withdrew and we then appointed South Africa. In this case, South Africa is going to be the next chair of the African Union.
On the other side of the peace and security council there was an issue of the African Crises Response Initiative which has been a bother competing with the African standby force, was then decided that it must die a natural death. The African standby force should then prevail, so that we have one organisation which deals with issues of interventions and peacekeeping in Africa. So, these are the major issues which were discussed at the African Union summit.
The other segment of this visit or conference were the side meetings. The sidelines and the anxiety or desire by a lot of countries to want to clarify what exactly is happening in Zimbabwe. There was also interest in countries which were trying to see if the economic and re-engagement programme is still on course. In that regard, President Mnangagwa met a number of leaders which include the Prime Minister of Norway, the President of Estonia, the European Union Commissioner at the African Union and other leaders who had bilateral talks with the President. I also had a number of discussions with a lot of journalists and personalities.
First, I met the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of the People`s Repiblic of China who was pursuing the issue of bilateral cooperation. I also met the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Mr Moussa Faki who I briefed in detail about the situation in Zimbabwe and that things are moving normally and that we are progressing economically and that the people in Zimbabwe are handling the situation on their own as we move forward.
I also had meetings with my South African counterpart and I also had a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Vietnam who are also expressing quite a lot of desire to come into Zimbabwe and establish relations with Zimbabwe.
ZTN: Maybe to take you back a bit, you spoke about countries contributing towards the African Union, where does Zimbabwe stand in terms of contributions.
SBM: Zimbabwe is paid up, Zimbabwe is usually the first country to pay up.
ZTN: In terms of retelling the Zimbabwean story which seems to be distorted at the moment, what was the buy-in like of the several delegates that you met with?
SBM: Because of the misunderstanding which was there, there was a lot of work which we did in order to explain the Zimbabwean story. For example, I met the assistant secretary of the United States and spent about two hours with him trying to articulate exactly the situation in Zimbabwe. I assure you that at the end if he was at minus ten, he is now probably at minus one, there is serious problems in terms of our re-engagement and there are actually welcoming us to come into the United States and then preach the same story so that the US should understand what is going in Zimbabwe. I said it is critical that the US must remove sanctions, we must be part of AGOA so that we can trade and export our goods, and these impediments are what is causing difficulties on our economies. Although he would not fully agree, the message was fully sent?
ZTN: What economic dividends can be drawn from some of the sideline meetings that President Mnangagwa held with his counterparts as well as other delegates?
SBM: I can tell you that for example, the European economic commissioner who actually facilitated the funding of about $234 million has made a commitment to make a top-up of that money so that he can facilitate the reforms and a lot of other economic development programmes.
He has made a commitment to convince the EU that they must separate politics from economics and from that perspective we believe the EU is going to come on board.