Zimbabwe Strengthens Non-Western Trade Alliances

Zimbabwe Strengthens Non-Western Trade Alliances

Faced with continued Western sanctions following Robert Mugabe’s disputed re-election, the Zimbabwe president said he plans to seek friends in other places, according to a Reuters report.

Mugabe, 89, won his fifth Zimbabwe presidential election July 31. Opponents say the election was rigged.

In August, Mugabe threatened “tit-for-tat” retaliation against companies from Britain and the U.S. if those Western nations persisted in pressuring his government with sanctions and what he called “harassment,” the report said.

Western governments including the U.S. say there were flaws in the election cited by domestic vote observers. Other African election observers endorsed the voting and its result as peaceful and free. The U.S. questions the credibility of the outcome and is considering whether to prolong sanctions against Mugabe, the report said.

Mugabe swore in his new cabinet Wednesday including Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

Chinamasa told Reuters the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front or ZANU-PF accepts the reality that the West will not remove financial and travel sanctions on Mugabe and his senior allies and will not release any direct financial assistance.

“Because the doors have been closed by those who used to be our traditional partners, we have to intensify new economic relationships and friendships. That means every country that is friendly to Zimbabwe, including China,” he said.

Western countries imposed sanctions a decade ago against Mugabe over alleged violations of democracy and rights abuses in the former British colony he has ruled for 33 years. China emerged as a major investor.

It built the largest alluvial diamond mine in the east of the country and runs the largest ferrochrome producer.

Chinese-backed companies will start mining coal in Western Zimbabwe and build a 600-megawatt coal-fired power station next year. The government has also given $1.7 billion in contracts to Chinese companies to expand the country’s two largest power plants.

The International Monetary Fund said in June it agreed to monitor economic programs until the end of 2013, paving the way to clear billions of dollars of Zimbabwe’s debt arrears.

Chinamasa said the economy faces enormous challenges.

While the U.S. made clear it intends to maintain U.S. sanctions, Belgium, the center of the global diamond trade, is demanding that the European Union lift sanctions on one Zimbabwean mining firm, the report said.