By Scott Morgan
Has Zimbabwe entered a new era? The post Mugabe ZANU-PF (Zimbabwean African National Union- Patriotic Front) wishes to convince the population of that very fact. They have decided that relations with the United States are crucial.
A series of events that began with the controversial 2002 reelection of President Mugabe and the controversial and poorly executed land reform program which virtually brought the economy to a halt compelled the Administration of George W Bush and allies to levy sanctions against Zimbabwe and specific persons for their roles in the issues that plagued the country for more than a decade.
One of the moves that they have made is to retain the services of lobbying firm based on K St here in Washington. The firm that they have contracted to represent them has been a source of controversy over the last three years.
Mercury Public Affairs first came to light as a company to be concerned with due to its ties with Paul Manafort. Prior to his taking over the campaign of President Trump in 2016 he was in charge of the Mercury program dealing with Ukraine. His name came up in a ledger that was discovered by Ukranian Police in 2015 that listed individuals that were suspected of accepting payoffs. Concerns about whether or not Mr. Manafort was still working on Ukraine issues for Mercury while guiding Mr. Trump through the nomination at the Republican National Committee Meeting in 2016 have proven to be murky.
Another recent client is Cameroon. The Country is facing some of the challenges of other African Countries. A long entrenched leader who managed to win reelection despite a young population, An insurgency that has begun after a decision to force an ethnic minority that speaks English to learn and speak French are just some of the issues plaguing this Country. Reports indicate that this contract was ended after a poor performance by the Cameroonian Ambassador to the United Nations earlier this year.
One of the main motivations for this PR effort is to have the rest of the long standing sanctions against Zimbabwe finally lifted. Recent statements by South African President Ramaphosa and a proposal made at the recent G7 summit in France by current AU chair and Rwandan President Paul Kagame supported these calls. It is felt that these sanctions and not the policies of the Zimbabwean Government are the reason for why the Zimbabwean Government is still struggling.
At this time there are 141 entities and individuals currently under Sanctions including President Mnangagwa and several state-owned enterprises. Earlier this year Congress passed a bill that instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to request that the executive directors of major financial institutions to vote against any extensions of loans or grants to Zimbabwe except for to meet basic human needs or to promote democracy. This act also prevents any US funds to assist Zimbabwe unless they are to be used for health and education unless the Secretary of State approves a review the ensure that Zimbabwe is operating with transparent fiscal policies.
Clearly there are some benchmarks that Zimbabwe has to meet in order to comply with the desires of the United States. It could probably have reached out to a better lobbying firm here in Washington. However the population is demanding change and that in itself is an excellent motivator.
*The author is President of Red Eagle Enterprises and the views expressed are his.