Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Re-engagement With Zimbabwe by the US in Overdrive

Re-engagement in overdrive

Tuesday, 30 April 2013 00:00
Hebert Zharare and Farirai Machivenyika
Zimbabwe Herald

PROMINENT American civil rights campaigner Reverend Jesse Jackson is expected in Harare as the US intensifies its re-engagement efforts ahead of harmonised elections to be held before the second half of the year.

This comes as a three-member delegation from the European Parliament’s Development Committee arrived in Harare yesterday for a five-day visit as part of the European bloc’s re-engagement overtures.

Rev Jackson’s visit will come hard on the heels of a visit by American civil rights campaigner Ambassador Andrew Young who was despatched by the US State Department to deliver a message of conciliation to President Mugabe nearly three weeks ago.

Mr Young, Washington’s former ambassador to the United Nations, was accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mr Reuben Brigety who said the US was keen on building bridges it had burnt after buying into the bilateral dispute between Zimbabwe and Britain.

Government sources yesterday confirmed Rev Jackson’s visit.

“The Reverend Jesse Jackson will be visiting Zimbabwe soon as part of the US efforts to re-engage with Zimbabwe,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The US government, which recently admitted that it erred in its approach to Zimbabwe, is reportedly carefully sending people with a history of fighting oppression in the US to connect with President Mugabe and Zanu-PF after realising that the MDC-T, which it bankrolled over the years, had no prospects of forming the next government.

Analysts say Westerners sought to normalise relations before elections so that it would not appear as if their moves would have been motivated by MDC-T’s defeat at the polls.

Rev Jackson and a delegation of American businessmen met President Mugabe in New York last year on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly where they discussed business opportunities here.

Rev Jackson was in South Africa where he received an Award of the Order of Companions of Oliver Tambo on Saturday after which he heads for Harare.

The US and its Western allies have been making overtures to normalise relations and US ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Bruce David Wharton said more high-ranking officials from the US government and private sector would be coming as part of that drive to mend relations.

Mr Wharton said the decision to send Mr Young, a senior citizen with a history of fighting for the advancement of African Americans, showed the seriousness of the overtures from White House.

A few days after Ambassador Young’s visit, the US government removed two banks, the Agricultural Development Bank of Zimbabwe and the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, from the sanctions list.

Reports say the EU team, the first delegation from the European Parliament in over 10 years to visit Zimbabwe, was also likely to meet President Mugabe among other Government officials before leaving for Brussels on May 3.

In a statement yesterday, the EU said the team would be led by Mr Norbert Neuser (German Member of Parliament) MEP of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group), while other members are Mr Filip Kaczmarek (Polish MEP of the European People’s Party group) and Ms Judith Sargentini (Dutch MEP of the Greens/European Free Alliance group).

“During the visit, the delegation will be updated on existing EU development assistance programmes, the development needs of the country and the priorities of the Government of Zimbabwe.

“The members of the delegation have a particular interest in food security, health, agriculture and sustainable energy.

“The visit is important in view of the programming and preparation for future EU co-operation with Zimbabwe in the framework of the 11th European Development Fund (2014-2020).

“The members of Parliament will play a role in determining the aid envelope to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries,” reads the statement.

The delegation is expected to meet representatives of ministries funded by the EU, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, the Ministry of Energy and Power Development and the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Co-opera-tive Development.

“The delegation will also meet with the Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament and the President of the Senate and visit ongoing development assistance programmes,” reads the statement.

The concerted re-engagement efforts by the MDC-T’s western allies coupled with several surveys that pointed to a resounding Zanu-PF victory in the harmonised elections have triggered panic at Harvest House prompting party leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai to run into the region in search of new alliances.

The MDC-T leader, who has been receiving a bashing from major western media, announced that he would be lobbying Sadc leaders and the AU to pressure President Mugabe to postpone harmonised elections due on or before June 29 to implement ‘reforms’.

During his meeting with South African president Jacob Zuma on Sunday, PM Tsvangirai called for the convening of an extra-ordinary Sadc Summit to deal with the so called outstanding issues.

Political analysts, however, dismissed the calls yesterday saying the new constitution to be debated in parliament next week and adopted by Zimbabweans at the referendum adequately dealt with those issues of reforms.

Political analyst and Zanu PF legislator for Tsholotsho North Professor Jonathan Moyo said the calls by PM Tsvangirai were disrespectful of Sadc leaders and meant to cause disharmony in the country.

“It is preposterous, a lack of respect for Sadc leaders and is a provocation of crisis and conflict when Zimbabwe has never been peaceful as it is now in recent times,” he said.

“In the first place all the outstanding issues of the GPA have been dealt with in the new constitution except one, the illegal sanctions which have not been lifted. Some have allegedly been suspended but not lifted, contrary to the GPA.

“So it would be very useful and most welcome for Sadc to convene an extraordinary summit to ensure that this one outstanding GPA issue of continuing sanctions is dealt with and have them removed unconditionally,” Prof Moyo said.

“Everything that is in the hands of Zimbabwe which is legitimate in the GPA has been dealt with in the new constitution that is going to be debated in Parliament next week. Tsvangirai will do himself and his hosts good by rushing home to ensure expeditious passage of the new constitution which contains all of those reforms that were outstanding.

“If Tsvangirai as the leader of Government business in Parliament can get it to pass that constitution Bill and it becomes law, important reforms in that constitution will become law by Friday next week and that does not need an extraordinary Summit of Sadc,” Prof Moyo said.

Another analyst Mr Goodwine Mureriwa said there was no need to convene a Sadc Summit as the parties had, through the draft constitution agreed on major issues that the MDC-T is citing as outstanding now.

“When the constitution was passed the MDC-T and its media outlets went to town that President Mugabe and the service chiefs powers had been clipped so we wonder what reforms they are talking about now.

“It is just a ploy to delay the elections that they now realise they will dismally lose,” Mr Mureriwa said.

Provisions of the new constitution to deal with media freedom, citizenship rights, and conduct of service personal operations of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission among others will become operational once the new constitution is adopted by parliament and President Mugabe accent to it.

Mr Tsvangirai’s tour is expected to take him to Namibia, Botswana and Angola.

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