by DANAI MWARUMBA & MERCY MUJURU
HARARE, (CAJ News) – ZIMBABWE and the United States of America (USA) are at loggerheads again after legislators from the latter expressed doubts the Southern African country had leveled the playing field ahead of watershed elections set for July.
This follows claims by US senators, Chris Coons and Jeff Flake, that
Zimbabwe had no capacity to hold credible, free and fair elections amid concern opposition parties were not given airtime on state media.
Coons and Flake are said to be the masterminds of the US tightening
economic sanctions against Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe was the president.
Washington recently amended its two-decade economic sanctions against Harare known as the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA).
Since the deposition of Mugabe following nationwide protests supported by the military last November, his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has engaged the international community while embarking on political and economic reforms, which have been widely-endorsed by regional leaders and former colonial master Britain.
More than 100 political parties have registered for the poll which
Mnangagwa promised would be credible, free and fair. Campaigning has largely been peaceful.
However, the US senators have some reservations.
“It has been wonderful to hear he (Mnangagwa) is encouraging private and public comments, welcoming international observers, publishing and identifying the list of where polling will take place, providing access to state media for candidates, which are basic indicators for free and fair elections but no concrete steps have been taken, at least that I am aware of,” Coons said.
Zimbabwe has slammed the sentiments.
George Charamba, Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, dismissed the claim as “baseless”, “unfounded” and “unsubstantiated.”
“The Government has taken a decision to invite international observers of all colour and manner to ensure the whole plebiscite unfolds in the full glare of the world,” Charamba said.
Meanwhile, US has come under criticism over allegations of interference. The influential country has in the past been accused of sympathizing with the opposition.
Sentiments by US senators coincided with a protest march by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) forcing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to accede to their demands, among them enabling the opposition to be involved in the printing of ballot papers for the July 30 harmonised elections.
Freedom Sibanda said: “Let MDC die in their puppet jackets, Zimbabwe is not American garden where we are always controlled by foreigners for our future.”
Jacob Mashayamombe of Harare, said America should let Zimbabweans choose their own leaders without any threats or influence of further sanctions.
“Maybe the US is angry that most deals Zimbabwe is clinching today are with China and neighbouring South Africa hence the sour grapes,” Mashayamombe said.
Ahead of polls, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) warned against
demonstrations that infringed on people’s rights.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza urged aggrieved parties to follow proper channels.
“Anyone found wanting in terms of violations of the law should be
accounted for and should be able to face the full wrath of the law,”
– CAJ News