Tendai Mugabe Harare Bureau
THE United States government has joined several Western countries warming up to Zimbabwe and has dispatched two senior officials to re-engage the government of Zimbabwe next week.
The two are Dr Shannon Smith, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Steven Feldstein.
This comes as some Western countries including Britain that also imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe, mellowed their hard line stance on the country, fearing to lose business to Asian giants such as China and Russia that have already sealed mega deals with the Southern African state.
Only last year two members of the European Union (EU) bloc that imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe, Germany and Australia, expressed willingness to work with Zimbabwe. The two countries financed the construction of an independent water scheme in the dormitory town of Norton.
According to a statement released by the US embassy in Harare on Wednesday, Dr Smith and Feldstein would be in the country from Tuesday up to Saturday next week.
Foreign Affairs secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha, also confirmed the visit yesterday. He said the delegation would meet the Government of Zimbabwe officials at various levels during its five day visit.
“Yes, I can confirm that they are coming,” he said. “They (US government) say they want to engage and they will engage government at various levels.”
Although Ambassador Bimha said he was not yet privy with the issues to be discussed, it is understood that Washington was keen to explore ways of thawing its frosty diplomatic relations with Harare.
During their stay, the two US officials would also meet representatives of the business community and the civic society.
On its website, the US embassy in Harare said: “The visit will enable the officials to hear first-hand from representatives of government, representatives of opposing political parties and civil society organisations about issues including human rights, democracy and governance since the adoption of Zimbabwe’s constitution in May 2013.”
Dr Shannon is not new in African politics as she once served as a senior policy advisor for Africa and global health for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2007 to 2013 under Chairman John Biden, John Kerry, and Robert Menendez prior to her appointment to the State department. The re-engagement efforts are expected to open a new chapter with regards to the US-Zimbabwe relations.
Relations between Harare and Washington got sour a decade ago after the US government imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in retaliation to a bilateral tiff between Zimbabwe and Britain over the land issue.
The US government came up with a law, the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act to back the illegal sanctions that were not endorsed by the UN Security Council.
Since then, Zimbabwe had been looking to the East for financial, technical and diplomatic support.
The Look East Policy had so far yielded positive dividends and last year Zimbabwe and China signed several mega deals that are now at various stages of implementation in Zimbabwe.
In this regard, some argued that the US and the EU felt that their economic interests were now under threat hence the stampede to engage Harare.
Other emerging global giants such as Russia and Indonesia are also warming up to Zimbabwe — a move that had rattled the West in their quest to determine Zimbabwe’s political direction.