Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to speed up reforms in Zimbabwe and advance democratic principles during a brief meeting on Friday.
The two leaders met for 15 minutes on the sidelines of the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement.
“At the outset, Prime Minister Abe mentioned the importance of institutional reforms for promoting business, as discussed at the TICAD7, and stated that, ‘We hope that reform will be promoted and democratisation will be advanced in Zimbabwe under the leadership of President Mnangagwa,” the foreign ministry said.
Mnangagwa arrived in Japan on August 27 with international condemnation still ringing in his ears after security forces banned opposition protests and fired teargas to break up a demonstration in the capital, Harare. Rights groups also report growing incidents of abductions and arrests of rights activists on flimsy political charges.
Japan has traditionally pursued a diplomatic path of non-condemnation on Zimbabwe, but Abe’s pointed remarks on reforms and democracy on which much of Western diplomacy towards Zimbabwe is anchored, would have surprised Mnangagwa and his delegation.
Abe also expressed his condolences to the people of Zimbabwe who have been affected by Cyclone Idai and said Japan was providing assistance, while expressing Japan’s intention to support early reconstruction.
“In addition, Prime Minister Abe announced Japan’s intention to support the improvement of hospital facilities and food security, notified that Japan will dispatch an experienced agricultural expert to Zimbabwe, and requested an improvement of the business environment for the promotion of trade and investments between Japan and Zimbabwe,” the foreign ministry added.
Mnangagwa “expressed his gratitude for Japan’s support in elections, infrastructure, and health. He also expressed Zimbabwe’s intention to promote activities for strengthening economic relations between the two countries.”
“I appreciate the invitation to the TICAD. The TICAD process initiated by Japan is the first common platform to discuss African development,” Mnangagwa was quoted as having said.
Abe and Mnangagwa also exchanged views regarding cooperation in the international arena, including United Nations Security Council reform, and the North Korea crisis, the Japanese foreign ministry said.