FORMER United Nations (UN) secretary-general and chairperson of The Elders, an African progress panel, Mr Kofi Annan, says Zimbabwe is on the road to recovery and that ongoing national renewal processes will enable the country to reach its full potential. In a message congratulating Zimbabwe's 38th Independence anniversary commemorations on Wednesday, Mr Annan acknowledged the political and economic reform processes under President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration and encouraged Zimbabweans to work together towards restoring integrity and transparency during the whole transition process.
He said the forthcoming harmonised elections due in a few months time, which President Mnangagwa has said will be free, fair and transparent, were a crucial step towards consolidating gains achieved so far and laying a solid foundation for more significant progress.
Said Mr Annan: "Zimbabwe is on the long road to recovery. The upcoming elections are an important first step." He, however, said credible polls and restoration of democratic governance values alone "cannot be an end in themselves" but that: "Only a long-term process of national renewal will allow the country to reach its full potential."
Mr Annan said the panel of elders had stressed the need for the Government and all stakeholders to promote greater transparency and accountability in the management of the economy, in particular.
"Sustained action is needed to eradicate fraud and corruption, and establish an inclusive approach to economic recovery and development," he said.
The coming in of the new dispensation through a peaceful political transition last November has brought hope for Zimbabweans across the divide after years of stagnation.
The development has also enthused the international community. Since his inauguration about five months ago, President Mnangagwa has focused his energies on rejuvenating the economy under the "Zimbabwe is Open for Business" investment drive.
The new Government has also intensified international re-engagement in a bid to normalise diplomatic relations and attract increased foreign direct investment to aid economic growth.
Government has already declared war on corruption with a number of high profile figures being hauled to courts to answer a number of allegations. President Mnangagwa's moratorium on foreign currency externalisers has also seen scores of individuals and corporates repatriating millions of dollars back while defiant ones have been named and shamed and are awaiting legal action.
Mr Annan said The Elders were following developments in Zimbabwe and urged all political formations to work together ahead of the upcoming elections. He said the elders re-affirmed how important it was that the electoral process and subsequent actions lead to a significant strengthening of civilian authority at all levels of the state.
"The concerns of civil society around rule of law, security and a fair process of electoral registration need to be heard before, during and after the elections to help ensure legitimacy," he said in a message that was posted on the Kofi Annan Foundation website.
"The Elders encouraged the Government of Zimbabwe to foster open dialogue with opposition representatives, civil society, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union, the United Nations and the wider international community."
Mrs Graca Machel, co-founder of The Elders with Nelson Mandela, also applauded the transition in the country saying the people of Zimbabwe had "suffered for too long from autocratic rule, cronyism and economic mismanagement". She said these challenges could be overcome if the Government conducted free and fair elections and clamped down on corruption.
"The Elders affirm the people of Zimbabwe's long-deferred dream for a better country, and stand with them in the months and years ahead," said Mrs Machel.