Felex Share Senior Reporter
President Mugabe yesterday met a delegation of United States Congressmen and categorically stated to them that Zimbabwe upholds the rule of law, contrary to propaganda peddled by Western media and anti-Government organisations.
He also took the Congressmen to task on the US’ reasons for maintaining unjustified sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The delegation of four senators and one member of the House of Representative was led by Mr Jeffrey Flake.
In his opening remarks before a closed-door meeting with the delegation, President Mugabe described the visit as rare, chronicling how relations between Zimbabwe and the US turned sour during Mr George W. Bush’s tenure as president.
“A surprise visit isn’t? We normally don’t have visits from the US Congress or Senate, but we have individuals who have come,” he said.
“This is quite rare. It used to happen those good days when our relations were good up to the time of President Bush. Everything went sour during Bush’s time not because we had quarrelled with America, but because they supported (Tony) Blair in efforts to reverse the land reform programme.
“We had followed all the steps to settle our people but when the Labour party took over, they wanted to reverse it completely and we said no, Zimbabwe was a free country. We had Bush imposing sanctions and we were surprised. We know they wanted to please Blair and sanctions have remained on. Mr Bush decided to impose sanctions on us and the Senate and Congress said yes, we deserve sanctions.”
Relations between Harare and Washington turned sour a decade ago after the US government imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in retaliation to a bilateral tiff between Zimbabwe and Britain over the land issue.
The US came up with a law, the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act to back the illegal sanctions that were not endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.
A source that attended the meeting said the Congressmen had tried to raise issues that were “always raised by the opposition political parties and non-governmental organisations”.
“They raised issues to do with democracy, human rights—raising the Itai Dzamara issue, police clearance of political parties (to hold rallies) and how they can assist on drought and wildlife matters,” said the source.
“President Mugabe told them that the State is doing everything in its power to establish Dzamara’s whereabouts and he stated that Zimbabwe respected the rule of law. He said those who commit offences are arrested and tried before courts of law. On sanctions, the President said he did not understand what offence Zimbabwe had committed to deserve the embargo.”
The visit came at a time when the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chairman, Mr Bob Corker three weeks ago wrote a letter to the US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew pushing for the blockage of any new lending to Zimbabwe by multilateral financial institutions until the country met Washington’s preferred conditions.
The conditions included “restoration of the rule of law, electoral reforms, the reversal of land reform and security sector reform”.
Government has stated that Mr Corker was out of sync with reality and needed to be lectured on issues affecting Zimbabwe.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Flake said they were in Zimbabwe only for issues to do with wildlife preservation.
“The focus mostly is on wildlife preservation and to combat trafficking and poaching,” he said.
“We have visited Mozambique and we have been here in Zimbabwe for the last two days and met with Environment Minister and outside organisations. We were able to meet with the President at his invitation and we were pleased with the meeting.
“Obviously there are issues we disagree on and we will continue to, there are also areas we work together.”
Asked about Mr Corker’s letter and sanctions, Mr Flake responded: “That really wasn’t topic of discussion. I will leave private discussions private. We would rather stick to the issues we came here for.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi who attended the meeting together with Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko said the meeting was a “wide ranging discussion and an exchange of views.”
“The Senators were naturally inquisitive and President Mugabe answered their questions very much to their satisfaction and I am sure when they go back they will be engaging their colleagues based on their experience here, in particular the exchanges they have had with President,” he said.