Monday, April 6, 2009
Zimbabwe government sets plan to end isolation
By Nelson Banya HARARE, April 5 - Zimbabwe's power-sharing administration will relax media laws and strive in the next 100 days to end the country's international isolation, a government minister said on Sunday. 'Re-engagement of the broader international community including the U.S. and multilateral institutions, will be a priority of the government in the next 100 days,' said Gorden Moyo, minister of state in the office of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He told Reuters the government would also form a cabinet committee to tackle relations with the European Union. The United States and European Union maintain visa bans and asset freezes on individuals and companies linked to rights abuses in Zimbabwe, as well as embargoes on arms and equipment which could be used for internal repression. Before halting the sanctions and unblocking aid, they are waiting to see whether President Robert Mugabe is serious about sharing power with Tsvangirai in the unity government that took office in February. The re-engagement plan was agreed at a government meeting in Victoria Falls which also resolved to settle all outstanding issues in the power-sharing accord within the 100-day framework, Moyo said. This included appointing senior government officials, the central bank governor and the attorney general, he said. Western donors see the removal of central bank chief Gideon Gono as a key condition for resuming aid. MEDIA LAWS On Saturday, the government said it aimed to produce results within the same 100-day timeframe on its economic recovery plan -- an attempt to tackle food and fuel shortages. Moyo said greater focus would be given to repairing the country's run-down communications, water and energy infrastructure. Steps would also be taken on press freedom. 'It was resolved that the media laws be reformed and that space be provided for more players,' he said. 'We are expecting that we will have a new media commission which will oversee serious steps towards freeing the airwaves in terms of licensing TV and radio stations and allowing other players from outside to come and broadcast from Zimbabwe.' The administration has said its short-term emergency recovery programme STERP will require $8.5 billion over the next two to three years. It will depend heavily on help from Western donors and Harare wants financial assistance from countries in the regional grouping SADC.