HARARE - Zimbabwe's President says the Trump administration is easing enforcement of sanctions on the southern African country. The president spoke Thursday in Gweru town, about 350 kilometers south of Harare, a day after setting July 30 as the date for the next election.
In an hour-long speech Thursday to his ZANU-PF party supporters, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said relations with Western countries are warming up since he came to power last November, after his predecessor Robert Mugabe resigned under pressure from the military.
He said the U.S. is overlooking sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe in the early 2000s following reports of human rights abuses and election rigging by the Mugabe regime.
According to Mnangawa, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, known as ZIDERA, has been hurting the southern African country since it was passed nearly 20 years ago.
He said in recent months, his administration has secured billions of dollars in commitments to addressing Zimbabwe's moribund economy.
"I must say this to you: Americans have ZIDERA which forbids U.S. companies to invest in Zimbabwe," he said. "But we have big U.S. company which came and wants to do Batoka Gorge Hydroelectricity project at $5.2 billion. We asked them how they would do it when there is ZIDERA and they said, Trump's administration is giving us a blind eye. So things are changing."
Mnangagwa said he had already written to his Zambian counterpart President Edgar Lungu about the project, which is supposed to take place on the Zambezi River, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
U.S. embassy officials in Harare could not be immediately reached if indeed Trump's administration was now overlooking ZIDERA, a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 2001.
Turning to Zimbabwe's elections set for July 30, Mnangagwa said he was already planning beyond them.
"We have agreed that five years after this election, we have programs we have put down to improve housing," he said. "We are saying: 1.2 million houses to be built. We are attracting foreign companies who are willing to invest in houses. As industries are recovering, as electricity is being produced, we believe that in the next five years according to our program, [we have] over 2,000 mega watts of electricity that will come on board."
Mnangagwa pleaded for unity in ZANU-PF, which has experienced internal strains since Mugabe resigned last November.
In the coming election, Mnangagwa is face challenges from several opponents including 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa of the country's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.