Felex Share and Farirai Machivenyika
Opposition political parties and ordinary Zimbabweans yesterday castigated MDC-T for lobbying for the maintenance of illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections. The MDC-T this week dispatched its vice president Mr Nelson Chamisa and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mr Tendai Biti under the banner Movement for Democratic Change Alliance to engage the US civil society and members of the Donald Trump administration.
The pair was accompanied by Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga. The delegation, which sources said was seeking funding, ended up calling for the maintenance of sanctions on Zimbabwe. In their recommendations, the MDC-T and the Human Rights Watch delegation urged the US Government not to “prematurely drop sanctions” and “maintain existing US policy towards Zimbabwe.”
The sanctions are credited for causing untold suffering among ordinary Zimbabweans. The overtures by the MDC-T delegation drew brickbats from several opposition political parties and Zimbabweans, who said the MDC-T wanted to remain relevant by betraying the masses.
Surprisingly, opposition parties said, the MDC-T had failed to give dialogue a chance as the new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to engage any willing Zimbabwean.
At a time the MDC-T emissaries were in the US, Washington representative in Harare Ambassador Harry Thomas met Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Major-General Sibusiso Moyo yesterday where they were busy “exchanging views on a constructive way forward.”
MDC-T spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu castigated calls for the maintenance of sanctions, saying they hindered economic development.
“As a patriotic and home-grown political party, the MDC doesn’t call for the imposition of sanctions against the Republic of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“We would like to participate in the socio-economic regeneration of our beloved motherland and as such, sanctions remain an anathema in our political discourse. The Government of Zimbabwe should allow all its citizens to enjoy their fundamental rights and liberties as fully provided for by the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
MDC-T secretary general Mr Douglas Mwonzora yesterday had a torrid time defending the US trip.
He claimed the trip was meant to set terms for the re-engagement process.
“We wanted to tell the US that they can bring aid to Zimbabwe, but put conditions on that aid that favours the people of Zimbabwe,” he said in an interview on Capitalk FM last night.
“We want to see free and fair elections, an end to violence and intimidation as well as an end to the selective application of the law.”
Asked whether or not they had engaged President Mnangagwa before rushing to the US, he said: “We have not engaged President Mnangagwa, but we have engaged his administration.”
Pressed to precisely name officials the MDC-T had engaged, Mr Mwonzora became evasive.
“We have always engaged with Zanu-PF and African diplomats,” he said. “We have briefs with them.”
Mr Mwonzora said his party had not called for the maintenance of sanctions, shifting the blame on Mr Mavhinga.
“In the delegation was Dewa Mavhinga from the civil society and he does not speak for the MDC-T,” Mr Mwonzora said.
United Kingdom-based law lecturer and former MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s advisor Dr Alex Magaisa said if the MDC-T had issues, it should have approached the US Embassy in Harare before hurriedly dispatching emissaries to the Western country.
He said the US Embassy in Harare was “not there for decoration.”
“I think our circumstances suggest that we must be savvy in our strategies,” he wrote on his twitter handle, @Wamagaisa. “It can’’t be business as usual. Engage the new administration and if it’s intransigent then let’s engage region. If that fails too, we go abroad. We can’t start the other way round.”
United People’s Party (UPP) president Reverend Kuratidza Sandati said: “These brothers of us have lost the plot, why rush to the West without giving a chance of dialogue with the new Government on the reforms that they mention?
“For some of us the reason they rushed to the US is to look for funding because we know that most of us in the opposition are broke. The issues they discussed in the US are domestic issues and discussions on them should have started here without involving foreigners.”