Zimbabwe's PM asks investors, donors to return

Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:06pm EST
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By Martin Howell

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he believed the process that led to creation of a unity government last February is irreversible and that it is time for Western donors and investors to return to the country.

Speaking to a small group of journalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Tsvangirai said he expects a referendum on a new constitution around October of this year, leading to elections in 2011.

"I believe that the inclusive government process is a process which is irreversible," he said.

He stressed that foreign investors should be reassured that the country was not sliding backward. "Certainly the country is moving forward, and this is a time to look at the country in a more positive light."

His optimistic comments were in contrast to news last week that Zimbabwe had suspended moves to draw up a new constitution due to political bickering over funding. That was seen as dealing a blow to hopes for free and fair elections next year after the intended adoption of the charter.

Tsvangirai and his arch rival President Robert Mugabe signed a power-sharing agreement in September 2008, which led to formation of the unity government last February and an agreement to write a new constitution within 18 months.

Western donors, expected to provide the bulk of what Zimbabwe needs to revive its severely distressed economy, are reluctant to release aid without broad political reforms.

Tsvangirai said he had been told by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a bilateral meeting at the WEF that the perception will remain "very negative" as long as Mugabe remains in power. Canadian government officials traveling with Harper were not immediately available for comment.   Continued...