The newly appointed United States ambassador in Zimbabwe Brian Nichols says he looks like Zimbabwe is returning to the powerhouse it once was, once it's on its way to revitalize its economy through agriculture, tourism and the use of its resources.
In an interview on Friday at the headquarters of the Voice of America in Washington, Nichols (BN) told Marvelous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Zimbabwe Service that the newly elected government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa would receive full US support as it abides by the constitution and implements the reforms it promised during the election campaign, such as respecting the rule of law, and granting its citizens such freedoms, such as access to information and freedom of expression.
On the removal of sanctions and the controversial Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018 (Zidera), Nichols said that Zimbabwe must comply with the requirements of its 2013 Constitution for President Donald Trump's US Congress and Board to reopen Zidera's demolition to visit.
Nichols also reiterated that the US only has targeted sanctions against some individuals and entities, but not the entire country, and that US companies are not limited in investing or doing business in Zimbabwe.
MN: Ambassador, everyone has that question about Zidera (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018) and sanctions. What is the difference? No matter how simple it sounds, people still want to know.
BN: Thank you for having me. The American policy with regard to Zimbabwe has a number of elements, but one of those elements is legal and that is Zidera. Simply put, if Zimbabwe meets the requirements of the constitution of 2013, it will meet the requirements of Zidera.
Zidera relates to the granting of loans by international organizations to Zimbabwe and the forgiveness of Zimbabwe's debt to those organizations and countries in the Paris Club.
The penalties that exist are sanctions of executive industries on 154 persons and entities and it prevents people from the United States or through the economic system of the United States from generating economic benefits for those people, or it can prevent them from travel the United States.
So there are two different areas, but the progress of Zimbabwe in building a democracy that respects the basic principles of the 2013 Constitution is the most important thing to do.
MN: And we only saw yesterday that the US said they will not lift sanctions against Zimbabwe until there are reforms. Which reforms do the US look at?
BN: Well, there is legislation that does not comply with the constitution of 2013, Aippa (access to information and protection of the privacy law), those laws pertaining to the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), or freedom of speech.
These are things that President Mnangagwa said during the campaign he wished to withdraw or review, and I think that if he repealed those laws in concert with the legislature, that would be an important step in meeting the requirements of the legislation. . .
MN: And as far as health is concerned, we know that the US is really involved with Pepfar (the emergency plan of the president for Aids Aid), but we currently have a cholera epidemic in Harare and Zimbabwe. Will the US take action and help?
BN: Well, actually I was visiting the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta and I had the opportunity to discuss this problem with them.
We have an excellent relationship with Zimbabwe about health issues and I was very impressed by the close coordination and work done.
Cholera is a preventable disease and one of the most important interventions is dealing with water and access to clean water.
So we absolutely want to work with the people of Zimbabwe to promote access to clean drinking water.
There is also a vaccine, an oral vaccine, that can help prevent cholera. Now it is not 100% effective, but it helps people to prevent infections or recover more quickly, if they are infected, and we are working together with the government of Zimbabwe on a vaccination program that hopefully will cover 300,000 people.
MN: Thank you. Also more on the social, the Diversity Visa. Many Zimbabweans have asked: what is the current situation about this?
BN: Well, the United States is a country that is interested in immigration and welcomes it, but it must be legal immigration.
The diversity visa is one of the ways in which people have access to legal, permanent migration to the United States.
MN: And what kind of help in other programs do you look like the new ambassador coming to Zimbabwe? In which areas will you concentrate?
BN: Well, so many areas, but education and exchanges are very important, so hopefully people will join us with the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which is a great exchange program.
We have other cultural and educational exchanges, bring artists and athletes to Zimbabwe and send Zimbabweans to the United States to learn more about our country.
Cultural preservation is an area I am very passionate about, and we have some exciting things that we are going to do, and some of the most important cultural sites in Zimbabwe, in the future.
MN: You also talked about a number of areas where Zimbabwe can promote more, such as tourism. Tell us about it.
BN: Well, Zimbabwe has so much economic potential. If you look at the area of tourism, Zimbabwe is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
It has amazing nature, amazing natural vistas, Victoria Falls is world famous and Zimbabwe should catch more tourists and offer them a world-class experience.
Hopefully we will see more investments in that area.
In addition, Zimbabwe has been a power plant in the agricultural sector over time and hopefully the reforms that both candidates were talking about will be carried out during the presidential campaign to help build a more resilient and successful agricultural sector.
And then the mining industry in the mining industry is of course one of the places where Zimbabwe has a huge potential – 40 different valuable minerals in Zimbabwe which, I think, if properly managed, can offer huge opportunities for both employment and foreign revenues.
MN: Back in the elections, you said you met President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa (MDC Alliance). What are you taking?
BN: Well, I think they are both people who love their country and are committed to improving Zimbabwe and changing many of the problems of the past.
I look forward to working with both of them, both of whom were very gracious in receiving me on several occasions.
I look forward to returning to Harare next week, to talk to both of them shortly after my arrival and to help find a way forward for cooperation and engagement between Zimbabwe and the United States.
MN: This is my last question, I will go back to sanctions. People in Zimbabwe generally believe that sanctions hurt the ordinary person on the street, not the ones on the target list. What can you say about that?
BN: Well, Zimbabwe has a chance of growth and the sanctions really apply to specific individuals.
Decisions on investments in Zimbabwe are driven by the economic conditions in Zimbabwe, the rule of law, the guarantees that people's investments are protected, that they have the right to have majority interests in their companies.
These are the things that the private sector is interested in.
There is a lot of interest in investments in Zimbabwe, but investors want to see reforms that have been discussed and implemented.
We need to see the implementation and action of the reforms, not just a list of reforms being proposed.