Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Facts Behind Sham Hearing on Zimbabwe

Facts behind sham hearing on Zim

THIS is the first part of OBI EGBUNA’S analysis of the May 7, 2009, US sub-committee hearing on Africa and Global Health titled "Zimbabwe: Opportunities for a New Way Forward". Congressional Black Caucus member and New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne chairs the sub-committee.

The witnesses who gave testimonies were the executive director of TransAfrica Forum, Nicole Lee; the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman; the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe’s Mr Joy Mabenge; and Lorne Craner, who is the president of the International Republican Institute.

Congressman Payne stated that the reason why there was no US government representative was because the Senate was yet to confirm Ambassador Johnnie Carson as Assistant Secretary of State, and the State Department felt that the United States Agency for International Development did not need to make a testimony.

It is also important to note that Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the US Dr Machivenyika Mapuranga was not invited even though it was his country under discussion.

Congressman Payne could also have invited South Africa’s US Ambassador because that country presently chairs the Southern African Development Community, or the African Union representative to America.

Both Sadc and the AU are the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement and it would only make sense for them to participate.

Because of the timing of the hearing, one gets a feeling the idea perhaps emanates from Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s meetings with Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Michelle Gavin, the senior director of the National Security Council; Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican Leader on the Foreign Relations Committee; and Congressman Howard Berman, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Relations.

The hearing occurred when Minister Biti was in Washington for the recent International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings.

While African people do not question Congressman Payne’s current frame of mind, it is necessary to put his relationship to the witnesses who gave testimonies, and his connection to the issue of Zimbabwe in proper political perspective.

We can begin by determining the level of ideological balance of the witnesses who testified.

This would determine if Payne really believes in an objective debate on Zimbabwe.

If this is the approach of choice, anyone will come to the conclusion that Payne miserably failed in this regard and has no genuine commitment to having his opinions on Zimbabwe seriously questioned or challenged.

There is a serious conflict of interest here.

Payne served on the board of directors of both the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and TransAfrica Forum.

Payne openly highlighted his role in pushing the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 through the US Congress.

He claimed that ZDERA would restore the rule of law, respect for human rights, guarantee free and fair elections and sound economic reform.

Payne then went on to claim that the legislation did not punish the people of Zimbabwe.

Payne either forgot or refused to mention that the Congressional Black Caucus refused an invitation from President Mugabe to observe the 2002 presidential elections and after a meeting with the State Department, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People observers who went in their place refused to publish their favourable report on the polls.

The hearing’s key witness was Gershman because he openly revealed NED finances to 13 civil society groups in Zimbabwe.

These include: the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (US$30 710 in 2008); Youth Agenda (US$24 840 in 2008); Women’s Trust (US$40 400 in 2008); Women in Politics Support Unit (US$30 000 in 2008); Youth Forum (US$24 840 in 2008); and the Mass Public Opinion Institute (US$33 194 in 2008).

These activities not only expose that NED’s focus has been to go beyond the call of duty to penetrate the rural areas of the country, which for so long have been the core of President Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s mass support base, but to give the world the impression these groups on their payroll represent a groundswell of genuine homegrown resistance.

As early as 2007, Zimbabwe was viciously attacked for allegedly disrupting prayer groups from conducting anti-Government political meetings.

It now appears that while groups like SCMZ did target Christians, the main theme of their discussions was the regime change agenda as opposed to the teachings of the Holy Bible.

It looks as if the Women’s Trust and Women in Politics Support Unit were recruited to gnaw at Zanu-PF’s female support base.

The youth groups’ activities now reveal the strategic motives behind the claims that Zanu-PF youth militias were engaging in a campaign of violence and intimidation.

NED hoped to neutralise Zanu-PF youth organisations and mobilisation efforts while their paid grantees gained new ground and support.

The NED’s efforts confirm that in a post-Cold War era, pro-democracy and human rights groups represent the new form of mercenaries.

They approach spreading their ideas in the same manner the missionaries taught African "savages" Christianity and "civilised" them. The reactionary manner and overt nature of NED’s efforts to finance President Mugabe’s overthrow comes as no surprise.

The Zimbabwe Solidarity Fund, which is managed by a steering committee that includes TransAfrica Forum, Africa Action and the Priority Africa Network, may initially appear impressive because of the credentials of several prominent individuals associated with it.

Africa Action’s website says the ZSF is a direct response to civil society calls for support in the struggle for democracy, human rights and social justice.

The three main groups who are listed as recipients of this funding are the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union.

This raises concern about a possible connection between ZSF and the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, — which was the outlet that was used by NED last year to give US$500 000 to the ZCTU and another group called the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations to conduct "training programmes" for their affiliates.

The current chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, serves on Africa Action’s board of directors, while another CBC member Congressman Gregory Meeks serves on the NED’s board of directors.

This explains why the CBC defended George W. Bush’s Zimbabwe policy and why President Barack Obama is encouraged to maintain it.

While the incarceration of Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko has dominated the airwaves, her involvement in the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, whose umbrella of 38 civil society groups are fully-fledged members of the US-based National Democratic Institute chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, seemed to be completely overlooked by Western media outlets.

While Payne and his comrades-in-arms, who disguised themselves as open witnesses, testified that President Mugabe and Zanu-PF are guilty of ruining Zimbabwe, none of them can identify any mass opposition in Zimbabwe which wasn’t either created or financed by the West.

Both TransAfrica Forum and NED also expressed concern with President Mugabe and Zanu-PF having control of national security.

This makes perfect sense because Zimbabwe’s police, military and CIO are an area of strength in the context of national security and make it difficult for civil society groups who are being paid to disrupt the inclusive Government to prevail.

To be continued

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