Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Zimbabwe “can rise Phoenix-like” once the crippling sanctions imposed by the United States of America are removed, a US diplomat and former United States ambassador to the Southern African country has said.
Mr Charles Ray said this early this week while giving testimony before the Africa Subcommittee of the House of Foreign Affairs Committee in the US Congress.
Mr Ray, who was US envoy here between 2009 and 2012, presented a paper titled, “The Future of Zimbabwe After Mugabe” and urged the US to abandon its hostile policy towards Harare, and “put the past behind us” and embrace any leader to emerge after credible and non-violent elections.
Zimbabwe is set to go to the polls in a few months and Mr Ray tipped Zanu-PF and President Mnangagwa to win the election in the face of a weak and fractious opposition.
“A credible electoral process, free of violence, would make our current policies irrelevant,” said Mr Ray. “If this year’s elections are (held), they are determined to be credible, and there is no violence, the ball will be in our court.
“If we truly want to see Zimbabwe develop its potential, we must be prepared to work with the winner of a credible, non-violent election regardless of the political party.”
In reconsidering its stance on Zimbabwe, explained Mr Ray, the US needed to “put the past behind us and focus on the policy statement in the introduction of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001; ‘it is the policy of the United States to support the people in their broad-based and equitable economic growth and restore the rule of law’.”
Mr Ray gave a candid assessment of the state of Zimbabwean politics and pointed at the factionalism in the main MDC factions.
“As the parties that pose the greatest challenge to Zanu-PF in the urban areas, if they were united, they might do well, but it is unlikely they will merge,” he said. “The remainder of the opposition parties . . . will only take votes away from the MDC, which is to Zanu-PF’s advantage.
“In the rural areas, Zanu-PF has, in the past at least, had an advantage, and (President) Mnangagwa is sure to capitalise on this.”
President Mnangagwa has been calling for a non-violent and transparent election and has said he will invite election observers from the United Nations, European Union and other Western countries because “there will be nothing to hide”.
According to Mr Ray, the US, through its professionals at State Department and USAid, should now make moves to work with Zimbabwe under President Mnangagwa.
“First, we should instruct our embassy in Harare to establish contact with (President) Mnangagwa and his current Government to reiterate our policy regarding sanctions and inform him that, if the upcoming elections are credible and non-violent, we are prepared to recognise and work with the new Government,” he said.
“While we should continue to monitor human rights situation, our initial focus should be actions to reinvigorate the country’s economy.
“We should encourage the new Government to develop an investor-friendly climate, and take steps to curb corruption while at the same time encouraging American business to explore opportunities to increase two-way trade and investment.”
Mr Ray encouraged military cooperation through the Sadc Peacekeeping Academy.
He concluded: “I do believe that if everyone approaches the coming months with an earnest desire to see Zimbabwe pull out of the doldrums and take its rightful place in the region and the world, it can happen,” he said.
“If it does happen, if everyone then puts the past behind them and focuses on the future, a new and more vibrant Zimbabwe can arise Phoenix-like from the ashes.”
Zimbabwe is mending relations with the West and anchoring re-engagements on economic diplomacy since President Mnangagwa assumed office late last year.