Zimbabwe: China, EU speak on Robert Mugabe’s exit

President of Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe, former President of Zimbabwe

China said on Wednesday that it respects Robert Mugabe’s decision to resign as Zimbabwe’s president, a week after the African country’s army and Mugabe’s former political allies moved to end his four decades of rule.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, made the remark during a news conference, adding that China’s policy toward Zimbabwe would not change.

The 93-year-old Mr. Mugabe finally resigned on Tuesday, moments after parliament began an impeachment process, prompting dancing in the streets of the capital, Harare.

China has close ties with Zimbabwe and traditionally also with Mr. Mugabe himself, who is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, told a news conference that China was happy to see Zimbabwe peacefully and appropriately resolve the issue via talks, and that its policy toward the country would not change.

“China respects Mr Mugabe’s decision to resign. He remains a good friend of the Chinese people,” Lu said, adding that Mr. Mugabe had made “historic contribution to Zimbabwe’s independence and liberation”.

Zimbabwe’s army seized power after Mr. Mugabe sacked his former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was a favorite to succeed him.

Mr. Mugabe’s move was an apparent bid to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as “Gucci Grace” for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.

Mr. Mnangagwa is expected to be sworn in within days and serve the remainder of Mugabe’s term until the next election, which must be held by September 2018.

Asked about a U.S. call for free elections in Zimbabwe, Lu said China believed it could handle its own affairs and China hoped other countries would not interfere.

China and Zimbabwe have a close diplomatic and economic relationship, and China had stood with Mr. Mugabe’s government in the face of Western economic sanctions, investing in auto, diamond, tobacco and power-station projects.

In August, Zimbabwe said a Chinese company planned to invest up to two billion dollars to revive operations at Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, which ceased production in 2008 at the height of an economic meltdown.

That year, China vetoed a proposed Western-backed UN resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel restrictions on Mr. Mugabe and 13 other officials, saying it would “complicate”, rather than ease, conflict.

Also, the European Union said it is ready to assist Zimbabwe in its transition to democratic elections and inclusive dialogue after Mr. Mugabe’s resignation.

The EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said this in a statement.

On Tuesday, Jacob Mudenda, speaker of Zimbabwe’s parliament, read out Mr. Mugabe’s letter announcing his immediate resignation as a president.

The announcement ended Mr. Mugabe’s 37-year rule of the African nation.

“An orderly and irreversible transition towards genuinely democratic elections is our shared objective.

“It is important now that an inclusive dialogue is established that respects the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe for a more prosperous and democratic future, and which encourages the acceleration of key reforms.

“The EU stands ready to accompany this process in cooperation with the African Union and SADC, and to assist the Zimbabwean people with all instruments at its disposal in order to meet that objective,” Mogherini said in a statement.

Mr. Mugabe’s resignation followed an impeachment motion adopted by Zimbabwe’s parliament on Tuesday.

Media reported on Wednesday that Mr. Mnangagwa would be sworn in as the country’s president later in the day.

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