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Western envoys tough with Mugabe

Choice of US and British ambassadors shows Zimbabwe still a trouble spot.

“Therefore we have no legal obligation for compensation. We’ve never accepted that and we won’t,” he said.

His replacement, Mark Canning, has been transferred from Burma. His experience in dealing with a recidivist regime is obviously thought useful by Britain’s Foreign Office. Mugabe is evicting the few remaining white farmers still on the land in a move bound to compound Zimbabwe's food shortages.

The backgrounds of the two incoming ambassadors show that their governments view Zimbabwe as a trouble spot with a dangerous leader. Both the U.S. and British governments see Mugabe as in charge of the power-sharing government and responsible for the lack of progress made in restoring the rule of law and respect for human rights.

If Mugabe had any hopes left of an entente with Obama, they would have been dashed by the U.S. president’s speech in Accra, Ghana.

He praised the work of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network which he said “braved brutal repression to stand up for the principle that a person’s vote is their sacred right.”

Two days before those remarks, Mugabe had been telling a meeting of investors that his government had honored its commitment to pay compensation to evicted white farmers for improvements on their properties, an economy with the truth that had commentators gasping at its boldness. Mugabe promised that his government would uphold property rights when it has seized farms supposedly protected by bilateral investment agreements with foreign governments.

Business people weren’t impressed either by Mugabe’s claim that his government’s Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill, requiring that investors permit Zimbabweans to take a 51 percent share in their businesses, was designed to promote the participation of “our people” in the economy.

“We all know who 'our people' are," one commentator quipped in reference to the avaricious gang around Mugabe, who have benefited from many other "indigenization" schemes.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who is from the opposition side of the unity government, took issue with the president at the same meeting. He said the government should stop blaming the West for the country’s decline. Instead it should uphold the rule of law and safeguard property rights.

“For you to be trusted, credible to investors, we must resolve outstanding matters because if we don’t we lose credibility,” Mutambara said referring to a raft of unfulfilled goals set by the parties last September. “How can we convince investors if we don’t respect our own agreement?”

Mugabe looked studiously ahead, as if none of this had anything to do with him.
So long as he remains the principal obstacle to change, Zimbabwe’s prospects of recovery remain slim.

The incoming U.S. and British ambassadors are sure to ram that point home in their dealings with Zimbabwe's recalcitrant ruler.

More GlobalPost dispatches from Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe's elderly whites return to Britain 

Zimbabwe's split personality

Mugabe is still the boss

Harare rocks with cultural festival