MDC’s US trip divides opinion, as wider society calls for sanctions to go

U.S. Senators Jeff Flake, Zimbabwe Politicians Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti, Author Peter Godwin

HARARE – While the MDC Alliance has the right to voice concern over the non-implementation of reforms in Zimbabwe, and that they have every democratic right to meet with the international community to raise issues on developments in the country, there are others who think their latest overseas trip was hurried before they had engaged, lobbied the new government first.

Last week, the MDC Alliance dispatched Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti who were joined by human rights activist Dewa Mavhunga and journalist/writer Peter Godwin to engage the US Congress and civil society to appraise them on developments in Zimbabwe.

Describing the current Zimbabwean administration as the outcome of a ‘‘coup’’, the aforementioned urged Washington to keep its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in place until there were notable changes in Zimbabwe.

After their presentations the minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Moyo responded in a statement saying Zimbabwe’s new government has been in office for shorter than two weeks (and) “it is staggering that these gentlemen should have expected the deeds of 37 years to be corrected and livelihoods improved in such a short time.

“As if that myopia was not enough, the trio and others requested their American hosts for more of the same policies which have inflicted suffering on our people. How could any serious putative future leader of our country ask that Zidera remains in place?”

Moyo said the US-imposed sanctions only hurt the poor and not the elite for whom they are targeted.

“All of us should be working to revive our economy, till our fertile soil and trade more competitively so that we all realise better health delivery, education and improved welfare in general.

“There is no need to invite outside referees whose own fate has no relationship to ours. Let us advance our political goals without inviting punitive measures by strangers on our fellow citizens,” he said.

Moyo reiterated the new government’s pledges to delivering peaceful elections next year which he said shall be held according to the Sadc principles and African Union recommendations.

“Any leadership changes can therefore be gotten at the ballot box,” he said.

“There is no need to go abroad and seek assistance to further harm one’s own country. All Zimbabweans are free to canvas for political fortunes of their choice. Let us do this without reversing the promise of our new dawn.

“All nations of goodwill are invited to assist us to regain our position in the family of nations, not as beggars but, as a prospering and vibrant democracy.”

The US government imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001 ostensibly to “support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful, democratic change, achieve broad-based and equitable economic growth, and restore the rule of law.”

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said politics is a matter of strategy, timing and delivery and sadly the MDC Alliance got into the trap by saying the wrong words and at the wrong time.

“Instead of raising profile with their international engagement they should have unpacked reforms that are required to get Zimbabwe on a path to democracy in simple language locally to the communities and their constituents before going global.

“They need to invest time in educating communities in Zimbabwe about these reforms, what they mean and how they see them getting Zimbabwe to a democracy path.

“Rushing abroad to talk about reforms a few weeks after inauguration of coup regime without even having translated a blueprint for those reforms to the ordinary man/woman at home and gathering a critical mass at home around those reforms is not only ill-advised but a poor political strategy,” said Saungweme.

He added that the MDC Alliance set itself up to susceptibility to Zanu PF propaganda as proponents of the West who do not want anything good for the ordinary Zimbabwe.

Some analysts, however, believe the MDC Alliance was right in lobbying the US, hence advocating for reforms before the 2018 elections are held.

Mavhunga one of the presenters at the meeting believes the sanctions propaganda by the ruling Zanu PF government is a shallow response to a genuine call for urgent reforms for the restoration of the rule of law and human rights respect.

“The US Policy on Zimbabwe is broad, and it is the same policy that existed during the GNU government when Zimbabwe scored economic progress.

“In accessing the human rights situation in Zimbabwe since the military takeover and identifying key benchmarks to measure progress, we should focus on Mnangagwa’s ability to implement a roadmap to democratic, free and fair elections in 2018 and to remove soldiers from the streets and back to the barracks. A military takeover is no benchmark to measure progress,” said Dewa.

Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the opposition made the right decision to attend the hearings and give their perspective on Zimbabwe.

“The behaviour and actions of the opposition are not guided by the feelings and interests of those in power and as far as I know they are no economic sanctions on Zimbabwe but restrictions on some individuals.

“The opposition also did well to acknowledge (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa as Zimbabwe’s leader despite misgivings in how he came into power and this by laying out reforms that he must take forward to take Zimbabwe back on the path of prosperity.

“These are not onerous demands but what is laid in our laws which the Mugabe regime simply ignored. The USA trip is similar to trips that any political grouping can make to any country,” said Mukundu.

He added that sanctions are not the business of the MDC.

“Sanctions were brought by Zanu PF’s past behaviour, so sanctions will be removed by Zanu PF’s current and future behaviour.

“The opposition is not created to massage the egos of those in power, it is up to those in power to create consensus that disarms the opposition and critics hence perpetuate their rule.”

Political analyst Vivid Gwede said the panic by the new dispensation could be because of Mnangagwa’s suspected strategy of economic liberalisation minus democracy which has been outed and pre-empted.

“The misinterpretation and sensationalisation of the MDC Alliance’s US familiarisation trip comes across as very deliberate and disturbing. It is especially unfortunate as it re-introduces poisonous labelling of other political players as sellouts by the State propagandists.

“The other sad flavour of the government’s reaction is the criminalisation of legitimate and constitutionally justified calls for free, fair and credible elections and reforms.

“It is an attempt by the government to shut out other narratives of the status quo after Operation Restore Legacy and push a single narrative, but without appreciation of the reality that global diplomacy does not work on a single source basis.

“If anything at all, that single-source interpretation of the Zimbabwean political developments is not possible given the controversial and enigmatic nature of the transition.” Gwede said the hue and cry from the establishment is also coloured with hypocrisy given the way the ruling party has been conducting power retention strategies sessions with the Communist Party of China, which is equally foreign.

He added that government has always been the one which holds the keys to the removal of any measures and their painful continuation can only be attributed to its unnecessary hardline stances and refusal to reform.

“The truth is that the new dispensation should fast realise that the China model of politics has been rejected, hence discard it for a truly national democratic revolution.

“The democratic vanguard in Zimbabwe has made it clear that the Zimbabwe question is in two parts. It is has an economic question and a political question, and choosing to answer only the economic question will guarantee the new regime of less than 50 percent which is failure mark!” said Gwede.

Political analyst Farai Maguwu said the MDC Alliance was justified to accept the US Congress invitation on many fronts.

“The MDC Alliance as a political formation that is competing for power looked at the bigger picture of the implications of the militarisation of the State on human rights, democracy and elections.

“By going it alone (in the new government) Zanu PF clearly demonstrated the military intervened to assist a faction in Zanu PF to unconstitutionally grab power and use that power to hold a flawed election so as to gain legitimacy.

“The fast tracking of military generals into Cabinet means there are no reasonable prospects for reforms under this government. If government is committed to reforms then it must prove the MDC Alliance wrong by instituting genuine electoral reforms leading to the 2018 election,” said Maguwu.

Political commentator Elliot Pfebve said there is nothing wrong in having international engagements as MDC Alliance as they are a government in-waiting.

“While we are not part of the problem we are certainly part of the solution. MDC did not call for sanctions in US. Simply put advocating for international community to support Zimbabwe to return to rule of law, free and fair election and respect of human rights is not the same as calling for sanctions.

“These are fundamental principles enshrined in the laws of our land. We want a Zimbabwe that works for everyone not for the few, with that we remain resolutely so.”

Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said MDC Alliance is not a political party in power, so it is allowed to make statements that are anti-government as it is their mandate to oppose government.

“The government in power is a reformed Zanu PF, but still Zanu PF, who removed Mugabe from his seat not for the benefit of Zimbabwe, but for self-preservation, self-interest and settling internal party scores.

“Mnangagwa is not a product of national political democracy, but internal Zanu PF democracy, so he is still subject to the post-2008 political public court judgment.”

Ngwenya said it is 100 percent correct to tell anyone out there that while we are happy that a modicum of liberal reforms are on Mnangagwa’s agenda, before the unconditional transformation of the political and constitutional environment, he must be treated with caution until after 2018 elections.

“In Mnangagwa’s budgetary speech, he complained of the ‘cost of democracy’ by reducing fiscal commitment to independent commissions. He did not talk about free, fair and credible elections; he did not talk about electoral or media reform.

“He did not talk about a commission of enquiry about Gukurahundi or producing a list of thousands of Zanu PF criminals that have plundered our economy,” said Ngwenya. – Daily News



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