PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has been advised to stop wasting resources on international public relations firms to promote his administration’s battered image as Joe Biden, the newly elected US President, will not lift sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Former deputy assistant secretary African Affairs at the US Department of State Todd Moss said under Biden, sanctions against Zimbabwe would remain and it was a waste of money for Mnangagwa’s administration to hire public relations firms to lobby on its behalf.
He was speaking at a SAPES Trust policy dialogue forum on Zoom Thursday, 21 January, 2021. The discussion focussed on the topic, “What will the Biden Presidency mean for USA-Zimbabwe Relations?”
The US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe 20 years ago in response to gross human rights violations in the country and Harare’s failure to implement key economic and political reforms.
However, according to Todd, Zimbabwe stood a better chance to have the sanctions lifted during former US President Donald Trump’s term than incumbent leader, Biden.
“Under Donald Trump, there might have been opportunity to go around the professional diplomats and appeal directly to President to change course on Zimbabwe,” he said.
“That is what I think was an opportunity that the Zimbabwe government had. That approach will not possibly work under Biden and those PR firms that are being paid to help make that happen is a complete utter waste of money. I will not expect any of those approaches to bear any fruit under the Biden administration.”
The Zimbabwean government is reported to have hired four international lobby and PR firms BTP Advisers, Mercury International Limited, Ballard Partners and Avenue Strategies, paying them millions of dollars, in a desperate bid to spruce up its battered global image and bolster the diplomatic re-engagement drive that has fallen off the rails amid a growing backlash over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
However, Todd said this was unnecessary as the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe had worsened since Mnangagwa’s government took over following a military-assisted coup in November 2017.
“The conditions in Zimbabwe seem to have gotten worse now and Washington DC has definitely noticed. I don’t think there is anyone in Washington DC who is any longer buying promises from the (Zimbabwe) government. I actually think that the opposite is happening where those in Zimbabwe are either paid by the government or working for the government, are peddling obvious false propaganda including some cabinet members.”
Todd added, paying lobbyists to flag a false narrative on Zimbabwe had created an opposite effect than what the government expected to achieve.
“The Foreign Ministry to pay lobbyists and promote a false front was utterly unproductive,” he said.