Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa calls for end to Western sanctions
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Harare - New President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday called for the removal of Western sanctions on members of Zimbabwe's ruling elite and said elections due in 2018 were "nearer than you expect".
The United States maintains a travel and economic embargo on several Zanu-PF party officials, top military figures and some government-owned firms. It imposed it during former president Robert Mugabe's rule over what it called violations of human rights and democracy.
The EU lifted most of its sanctions in 2014 but kept them on Mugabe and his wife Grace.
"We call for the unconditional lifting of the political and economic sanctions, which have crippled our national development," Mnangagwa told a meeting of the Zanu-PF central committee in downtown Harare.
"We realise that isolation is not splendid or viable as there is more to gain through solidarity, mutually beneficial partnerships."
Mnangagwa, 75, became leader of the southern African nation last month after the military and ruling Zanu-PF turned against Mugabe, who had ruled the country for 37 years and was thought to be grooming his wife to succeed him.
In the latter half of Mugabe's rule, the economy collapsed, especially after violent and chaotic seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms.
The issuance of billions of dollars of domestic debt to pay for a bloated civil service triggered a collapse in the value of Zimbabwe's de facto currency and hyperinflation.
The International Monetary Fund has promised to send a staff mission to Zimbabwe soon to meet with officials of the new government and assess the country's fiscal and economic situation.
The international community will also be closely watching the next elections in 2018. The vote is due at the end of July in 2018 but there is talk it could be brought forward to as early as March.
"FREE AND FAIR" ELECTIONS
"Government will do all in its powers to ensure that the elections are credible, free and fair. These elections are nearer than what you expect," Mnangagwa said without elaborating.
The ruling and opposition parties have said they will ask electoral authorities to extend next week's voter registration deadline into February after the de facto military coup last month disrupted the registration process.
Mnangagwa will be confirmed as party leader and its candidate for the presidential elections at a special one-day congress on Friday with Mugabe absent.
The 93-year-old former leader reportedly visited a hospital in Singapore for medical checks this week.
In comments suggesting he intends to draw a line under years of endemic corruption and impunity, Mnangagwa said he would name and shame those who failed to return stolen public funds after a three-month amnesty ending in February next year.
He is under pressure to deliver, especially on the economy, which is in the grip of severe foreign currency shortages.
"I have given three months for those who have taken money out of this country to bring it back," the president said.
"I didn't say that without knowledge. I have a list of who took money out, so in March when the period expires, those who have not heeded my moratorium, I will name them and shame them," he said to loud applause.
Separately, Former Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo faced new corruption charges on Thursday.