THERE is now incontrovertible evidence that the United States Government, through its mission in Harare, is actively involved in the ongoing attempts by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to oust the legitimately elected Government of Zimbabwe by orchestrating street protests.
US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Brian Nichols, his deputy Mr Thomas Hastings and regional security officer Mr Patrick Bellinger, including Mrs Nichols and Mrs Hastings, met MDC deputy chairperson Mr Job Sikhala last Thursday — the eve of the first planned demonstrations in Harare — at the latter’s home in St Mary’s, Chitungwiza.
During the meeting, whose photographs have emerged, the US officials encouraged the MDC to proceed with the demonstrations until their demands were met. The diplomats also assured Mr Sikhala that the US was watching the developments and would impose punitive measures should Government arrest or assault the protestors.
Reports indicate that there have been behind-the-scenes engagements between US embassy officials and the MDC top leadership as part of a grand scheme and broader co-ordinated project that also includes civil society organisations, some of which had been planning protests against President Emmerson Mnangagwa during the just ended Sadc Summit in Tanzania.
It now appears the US, which has been intransigent despite Government extending an olive branch through its re-engagement efforts since the dawn of the Second Republic, is the “third hand” behind the disturbances that have been plaguing Zimbabwe since the July 30, 2018 elections. This is both abhorrent and unacceptable.
US diplomats have in the past sought to interfere in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe without success. Former American envoy to Zimbabwe Mr Christopher Dell comes to mind. His penchant for provoking the Government and openly supporting the opposition are well documented. Despite his best efforts at regime change, Mr Dell left his posting in Harare a disappointed man. Zimbabwe is sovereign nation and an equal member of the community of nations.
It is a constitutional democracy which held elections in July last year and a Government was borne out of the plebiscite. President Mnangagwa’s term of office expires in 2023 when the next elections are due and we wonder why a powerful nation like the US — touted as the biggest democracy in the world — would aid and abet an unconstitutional takeover of power. We find it strange that a whole Ambassador would go out of his way to visit the home of an opposition official in the unsafe environs of the dormitory town of Chitungwiza and be feted while actively encouraging violent demonstrations.
It is interesting that during the meeting, Mr Sikhala reportedly apprised the Americans about the rift within the opposition and claimed his leader Mr Nelson Chamisa “was unsuitable to lead the party”. The vocal Mr Sikhala allegedly accused Mr Chamisa of cowardice and claimed that himself and deputy president Mr Tendai Biti were better placed to lead the MDC because they were “brave and had been previously arrested”.
The decision by the American diplomats to visit Mr Sikhala is therefore not surprising given that he has previously publicly called for the violent ouster of the Government – utterances which have landed him in trouble with the law. In him and the acerbic and reckless motor mouth Mr Biti, the Americans probably see willing tools in their grand scheme to effect regime change.
In this vein, we appeal to the leadership of the MDC to steer clear of meddlesome US diplomats who might lead them up the garden path and leave them high and dry. We have said it before, Zimbabwe is not a banana republic, neither is it a pliant state where Governments are installed and removed willy nilly at the behest of powerful nations. It is a proud African nation born out of the blood of thousands of lives lost in armed struggle. We therefore call on the American Government to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Zimbabwe by desisting from interfering in its internal affairs.
Ambassador Nichols should be reminded that he serves at the pleasure of his host – the Zimbabwean Government. By poking his nose into the affairs of this country, Mr Nichols is falling foul of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which outlines the rules of diplomatic law. The convention clearly states that diplomats must respect the laws of the host state.
By actively encouraging the opposition to break the law by embarking on violent protests, the US diplomats are clearly putting themselves on a collision course with the Government and the laws of this country. We politely urge them to desist from their nefarious activities and embrace the path of re-engagement which President Mnangagwa’s administration is pursuing. As for the MDC, we call on the leadership of the party to engage in constructive dialogue with the Government under the aegis of the Political Actors’ Dialogue initiative which is ongoing. Street protests disrupt economic revival efforts, put the lives of innocent people at risk and chase away investors.