THE United States Government needs to acknowledge the immense progress that has been made under the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and desist from seeking a confrontational approach to its re-engagement efforts with Harare. Since assuming power in November last year, President Mnangagwa has not only spoken about reforms but has walked the talk by actually implementing far reaching changes to foster economic, political and social development in Zimbabwe.
His policies have received worldwide acceptance and praise with investors flocking to the country on the back of tangible action that has been taken to create a conducive investment environment. On the political front, the President has pledged to hold free, fair and credible elections later this year and already international observer teams are on the ground in preparation for the polls.
Political parties are going around the country campaigning freely with President Mnangagwa’s rallying call for peace during the pre-election period appearing to having been heeded by Zimbabweans. In January, President Mnangagwa also signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill, which gives legal underpinning to the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, whose mandate is not only to bring closure to some of the unfortunate past “abuses”, but to ensure that it creates an environment for a peaceful future for Zimbabweans.
There is nothing to suggest that the President or his party Zanu-PF intend to go back on their word to deliver a credible election hence our consternation at the negative vibes emanating from the US where some Senators have put together a revised version of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) of 2001 which is effectively a carbon copy of demands made by the MDC Alliance through its Plan and Environment for A Credible Election (PEACE) document that was launched by its presidential candidate, Mr Nelson Chamisa, last Wednesday.
In it, the Senators have proposed multiple prescriptive reforms as a precondition for re-engagement with Zimbabwe. Two US senators — Messrs Jeff Flake (Republican) and Chris Coons (Democrat) — who are members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last Thursday unveiled a proposed revised version of Zidera with the new conditions, particularly on elections, eerily similar to demands made by the MDC Alliance, raising doubts about Washington’s sincerity in dealing with the Zimbabwean issue in a fair and transparent manner.
Mr Chamisa and fellow principal in the MDC Alliance coalition, Mr Tendai Biti, including Mr Dewa Mavhinga — the director of Human Rights Watch in Southern Africa, a non-governmental organisation — appeared before the same US Senate committee on December 13 last year and urged the US government to maintain the current sanctions regime on Harare.
In a statement prefacing the “revised” sanctions legislation, the two US senators, who indicated they would soon be visiting the country to have meetings with “top officials”, said the new Bill outlines “expectations of the steps President Mnangagwa and other leaders should take” before the sanctions were lifted.
“After 37 years of suffering under the repressive rule of Robert Mugabe, the people of Zimbabwe should be excited about the possibility of a brighter future. To ensure conditions throughout the country improve, the international community should insist on concrete actions from the new government of Zimbabwe before lifting sanctions and renewing investment in the country,” said Senator Coons in the joint statement from the senators.
“This bill is intended to outline the US Senate’s expectations of the steps President Mnangagwa and other leaders should take. We look forward to visiting Zimbabwe, meeting with its top officials, and assessing the steps they are taking to hold free, fair, and credible elections as well as to advance broader economic and political reforms to improve the lives of all the citizens of Zimbabwe,” he said.
The US wants Government to release a biometric voters’ roll that will be endorsed by all political parties and “an independent electoral management body, whose members are selected by all political parties. The proposed law also says the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) “are neither permitted to actively participate in campaigning for any candidate nor to intimidate voters, and must verifiably and credibly uphold their constitutionally mandated duty to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and be non-partisan in character”.
Further, the Government is expected to acknowledge human rights abuses, including ordering “an immediate inquiry into the disappearance of prominent human rights activists, including Patrick Nabanyama, Itai Dzamara, and Paul Chizuze”. MDC Alliance presidential candidate Mr Chamisa came up with similar 10 demands outlined in the PEACE document launched last week.
Mr Chamisa said if his demands were not met, there would be no elections and threatened to lead street protests. We feel the US is being unfair on the Government of Zimbabwe by clearly taking sides through its naked support for the opposition ahead of elections.
Washington can learn one or two things from its ally, Britain, which has adopted a constructive stance in its re-engagement efforts with Zimbabwe. Right now Zimbabwe needs support not strangulation with punitive sanctions.