By Tererai Karimakwenda
09 January 2013
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has been in Canada this week, where he made headlines after appealing to the Canadian government to remove the targeted sanctions in place against members of the Mugabe regime.
Speaking after a presentation at Carleton University on Tuesday night, Biti called on the international community to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe’s officials, saying “they are not serving anyone.”
The Minister is quoted as saying: “Canada is such an important country, and has been an important country over the years, that it must be engaged in Africa and in the difficult places over the world.”
He added: “The use of sanctions and isolation, I think they’ve outlived their usefulness.”
Some Zimbabweans in Canada responded very negatively to online reports of Biti’s comments. Many said they were surprised an MDC-T official would support removing these restrictive measures on officials whose political thugs abused their supporters.
One commentator said: “The reasons for those travel restrictions have not gone away and here we have a senior leader in the MDC-T telling the Canadians to remove them because they are “not serving anyone”. Really? I sincerely hope that the Canadians stand resolute with the people of Zimbabwe on this one.”
But political and economic analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga agreed with Biti that the restrictive measures are no longer effective, because Zimbabwe is seen as having moved forward with the constitutional reform exercise. He insisted that removing them would take away ZANU PF’s excuse for its abusive behaviour.
Mhlanga also explained that it is up to the MDC-T to be clear that the restrictive measures are on specific individuals, when they speak about them publicly, so that there is no confusion.
Biti was reportedly due to meet with Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, in a private session on Wednesday. Reports said Biti was to update the Canadians on Zimbabwe’s economic and political reforms.
Rick Roth, a spokesman for Baird, said the Foreign Affairs Minister would use the meeting to express Canada’s position regarding the need for continued political reforms in Zimbabwe. This includes completion of the constitutional reform process, free and fair elections, and the respect for human rights.