By TZ Business News Staff and Agencies.
A signal from Washington DC sent out Tuesday, April 18, 2017 indicates the strained relationship between Zimbabwe and the United States of America may be about to change.
Zimbabwe marked 37 years of independence on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The New US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent out a statement from Washington DC to congratulate the Sub-Saharan country on this auspicious occasion of independence.
“On behalf of the citizens of the United States, congratulations to the people of Zimbabwe who celebrate 37 years of independence on April 18,” Tillerson said in the statement.
“The United States shares common values with the Zimbabwean people, including a belief in a more democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe,” the statement added. “In the year ahead, we will remain committed to the people of Zimbabwe and their hopes for a more promising future.”
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe had indicated he preferred Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton as the US elections took place, althouth Trump did not say he liked Mugabe.
The international television station Al Jazeera says since 2003, targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his allies have been rolled over annually and despite the country’s steps towards re-engagement with the international community, relations between Zimbabwe and the US have remain strained.
Although the Zimbabwe government has expressed a preference for Trump to the extent that Mugabe has even claimed friendship, Harare has continued to represent “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to Washington’s foreign policy, according to Al Jazeera. So it was expected that there wouldn’t be an easing of travel bans or business sanctions simply because Mugabe’s preferred candidate has come to power.
Some analysts feel under Trump Zimbabwe was likely to be off the radar because it doesn’t represent an immediate economic interest to the US. So Secretary Tillerson’s statement opens an unexpected page in the two nations’ relationship.
Robert Mugabe has continued to be positive about the Trump administration after the latter’s election victory, according to the Washington Post which quotes Zimbabwe State television and the Zimbabwe Herald newspaper.
The Zimbabwe Herald quoted Mugabe making a statement in a state television interview about Trump: “I do not know him. Give him time.” In the interview, the Zimbabwean president suggested that Trump might re-examine long-standing U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe.
In the interview, Mugabe also said that he had not wanted Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 U.S. presidential election, noting that she would have probably continued the sanctions against Zimbabwe — as President Barack Obama had.
“When it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand, talking of American nationalism, well, America for America, America for Americans — on that we agree,” Mugabe added. “Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans.”
Mugabe is generally known for his fiery and sometimes remarkably inventive anti-Western rhetoric — he memorably described Britain as a “very cold and uninhabitable” country with “very small” houses. His relatively positive comments about an American president are unusual.
But the Zimbabwean president has already suggested that he viewed his unorthodox new American counterpart as a good development personally. During a meeting with U.S. lawmakers in July, Mugabe is reported to have said: “Once Trump is your president, you’ll wish you’d been friendlier to me.”
Mugabe may well hope that Trump will reconsider Zimbabwe’s status as an international pariah state, perhaps even ending the sanctions first put in place by George W. Bush after the Zimbabwean president was accused of undermining democracy and stripping property from white farmers. In 2013, it was estimated that Western sanctions on Zimbabwe had cost the country $42 billion, according to the Washington Post.