Zimbabwe sends envoys to African nations to clear image

President Uhuru Kenyatta and special envoy Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Perence Shiri of Zimbabwe at State House. /COURTESY

HARARE – Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is accused by the opposition, several nations and NGOs of allegedly unleashing state security agents on protesters, has embarked on a diplomatic mission designed to update African leaders about the country’s military crackdown on local people following nationwide riots over the high cost of living.

Mnangagwa has sent envoys, including war veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa and acting Foreign Affairs Minister Perrence Shiri, to Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and other nations ahead of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union set for February 10 and 11 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Executive Council of the African Union, comprising foreign affairs ministers drawn from A.U member states, is already holding its 34thOrdinary Session in Addis Ababa where it is expected to craft an agenda for heads of state and government who will attend the A.U meeting on Sunday and Monday.

At least 12 people were killed and thousands arrested by state security agents during and after the street protests organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and other organizations.

Mnangagwa’s government has denied any wrong-doing, claiming that some people stole weapons from army barracks and police stations which they used to rob and kill protesters. America, Britain and other nations have condemned the killings.

Zanu PF activists like Joseph Tshuma, a member of the party’s powerful Central Committee, are praising Mnangagwa for engaging African leaders to update them on the military crackdown.

Tshuma says African leaders need to be informed about what he calls the “correct” political situation in Zimbabwe.

“The president’s move is simply a matter of him telling the other story as there have been a few reports on what is happening in Zimbabwe. Most reports have not told the world about the looting of goods in shops, the killing of a policeman and other issues. So, these envoys will convey the ‘other side of the story’ to the African leaders before their meeting at the weekend.”

But human rights activist, Clement Moyo, says Mnangagwa should focus on creating dialogue in Zimbabwe instead of engaging African leaders ahead of the A.U Ordinary Meeting.

“The envoys are obviously going to distort information about (public) demonstrations in Zimbabwe to make it appear as if they did the wrong things. What is puzzling is that these people are said to have murdered themselves after stealing weapons from the armoury … I don’t think so. It’s the army and police who did it (killed people).

“…They (African leaders) should try to create good conditions for dialogue in Zimbabwe and the Mnangagwa government should do the same and not this so-called diplomatic offensive in Africa. It won’t work.”