Outgoing French envoy denies Mawarire ties
FRANCE is prepared to continue working on improving economic and political relations with Zimbabwe, outgoing French Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Laurent Delahousse, said yesterday.
He said this after bidding farewell to Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices.
Mr Delahousse has been in Zimbabwe for three years.
He said he enjoyed working with Zimbabweans from different sectors and distanced himself from instigating violent demonstrations.
“I’ll be leaving Zimbabwe in three days time, and it is the end of my three year term in this country. It has been a happy term; it has been a very busy term and, I think it has also been an efficient term at a time when lots of things have happened in Zimbabwe in terms of politics, economic reform and evolutions in the society of Zimbabwe.
“We’ve worked hard to improve our economic relations and, we’ve doubled the number of French companies operating in Zimbabwe. France is now the second largest investor in Zimbabwe.
“We’ve also worked very hard to improve political relations. Three members of Government have been invited to France in the last year.
“We’ve restarted out political bilateral dialogue and, we’ll continue working on that and, the French minister is expected to visit Zimbabwe in the coming month,” Mr Delahousse said.
The French envoy and United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Harry Thomas Jr, were accused of engineering civil disturbances in Harare and Bulawayo, which resulted in property destruction and looting.
The two were accused of working through dodgy groups and leveraging on social media to foment civil disobedience and ultimately destabilise Zimbabwe.
Mr Delahousse said although he worked closely with the civil society, he was wrongly criticised by the media for causing demonstrations.
He admitted to engaging some people and meeting them.
“I had occasions with some of these people privately and not on social media. We’ve also worked hard with the civil society in all aspects and all stakeholders in Zimbabwe. I’ve made a lot of friends and have also angered some people. I’ve been wrongly criticised and, accused in the media.
“I don’t understand the accusations. They’re ridiculous. As other diplomats, we support the implementation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which provides for the rights of demonstrations and we’ve confidence in the institutions of Zimbabwe to make these provisions of the Constitution”.
Mr Delahousse admitted that the demonstrations were violent but said the violence was of a lesser magnitude than those in France.
“We’ve seen acts of violence have been committed by both sides, both demonstrators and some of the reactionary forces have shown excessive violence. We call for restraint, for peacefulness.
“Zimbabwe is a peaceful country and in France we’ve seen much more violence in demonstrations than we’ve seen in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mr Delahousse said his engagements with the civil society was transparent.
“I had never met or talked to Pastor Evan Mawarire. I’ve been accused of meeting him and funding him. I’ve never written to him or talked to him. These accusations are stupid,” he said.
Mr Delahousse, however, said he intended to meet Mawarire although he could not get the opportunity.
“After these accusations, my intention was to meet Pastor Mawarire in public, but I couldn’t because he wasn’t there. I deny these ridiculous accusations in strongest terms and I fear that they’re inspired by a vision of the engagement policy started by his Excellency the President that some people don’t share. Some people prefer disengagement, discooperation with the rest of the world so that opening of Zimbabwe does not happen.
“I’ve had very positive business and professional relationships with Cabinet ministers. I didn’t have friendly relations with Cabinet. I think in Government as everywhere there’s a host of good people, very educated, very efficient people and I’ve immense hope for Zimbabwe. I’m hopeful and positive on the future of this country as I was when I arrived three years ago. I think what is necessary for Zimbabwe in a very short term is a strong, courageous and visionary leadership,” he said.