US piecemeal measures not enough

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THERE are widespread reports that the Biden administration has stopped funding local NGOs and civil society. If this is, indeed true, then it portrays a major shift in US foreign policy towards Zimbabwe.

Over the years, the US has been pouring millions of US dollars into these dubious organisations in a vain attempt to bring about regime change.

This, plus illegal unilateral sanctions, were deemed to be weapons potent enough to bring down the ZANU PF Government.

With the UK and the rest of the West in tow, it was just a question of time before the Zimbabwean Government succumbed, or so they thought.

To the contrary, our GDP has witnessed phenomenal growth since the imposition of illegal sanctions in 2001.

With Zimbabwe enjoying excellent relations with countries like China, India, Russia and Belarus, among others, the country has experienced an unprecedented boom in its  agricultural and mining sectors.

With the discovery of strategic minerals like lithium, oil, gas and more gold, the country has become such a critical partner for those who want to do business with it.

Surely, it does not make sense for the US and its EU allies to continue cutting their noses in order to spite their faces.

After all, the country’s open door policy of engagement and re-engagement does not discriminate. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has made it clear to all and sundry that Zimbabwe is a friend to all and an enemy to none.

Above all, it is open for business to all.

But despite the olive branch extended by our President, the US has been pouring millions of greenbacks in funding to CSOs and NGOs in a bid to help them topple the ZANU PF Government.

When these NGOs joined hands, especially with the MDC, the US was initially convinced that a pliant government would soon dislodge ZANU PF from power by hook or crook.

But anecdotal evidence tells us that these organisations are nothing but havens of looting, embezzlement and brazen falsehoods.

How it finally dawned on the US that it was pouring its money into a bottomless pit only God knows.

NGO and CSO leaders who claim to be human rights and democracy champions have been reported to be redirecting funds for that purpose towards personal aggrandisement characterised by luxurious lifestyles buttressed by imposing mansions and state-of-the-art SUVs.

Opposition political parties, like the now defunct MDC, have benefitted from these funds which the US thought would be used to help unseat the ZANU PF Government.

Instead, the party leaders ended up at each others’ throats as each sought ways to divert the lion’s share of the loot into their personal pockets.

Although the pilfering of this US ‘manna’ was public knowledge, Uncle Sam turned a blind eye.

At some stage, USAID was forced to withdraw funding for several NGOs after an audit unearthed massive embezzlement at ERC, ZESN, CSU and ZimRights.

In 2014, the US government had to cut funds for 14 NGOs after they failed to account for millions of US dollars. 

It was, therefore, inevitable that the US would eventually realise the folly of its actions.

However, apart from the funding squeeze, the thawing of relations between the US and Zimbabwe is further demonstrated by the belated investment thrust by American companies.

The recent acquisition of the iconic Meikles Hotel, coupled with its rebranding to Hyatt Regency — a US-linked franchise — is therefore quite encouraging as a harbinger of more such investments involving those who wanted to see us isolated.

The  lifting of the Executive Order pertaining to sanctions is yet another tentative move by the Americans in accepting the President’s engagement and re-engagement drive.

But we must never be fooled to lower our guard.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step, says a Chinese proverb. Although the latest piecemeal measures are welcome, Washington must do more to normalise relations between the two countries. 

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