The United States Of America government says it is interested in forging a working relationship with Zimbabwe but will use the July 30 elections as a gauge see the full commitment of the President Emmerson Mnangagwa administration to political and economic reforms that will ensure a better relationship with other countries.
Visiting U.S Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs, Ambassador Matthew Harrington told journalists in Harare on Thursday that the upcoming elections are a watershed moment in the shaping of the Zim-US relations, which have been getting better since November 2017 when the Mnangagwa administration took over.
“The United States is very interested in a better relationship with Zimbabwe…It is our view that Zimbabwe now has an opportunity to set itself on a very different path, politically and economically. For far too long, the political and economic space in this country has been so constrained.
“Zimbabweans have not in the past been able to express their views or cast their votes freely due to intimidation and the economic environment has frightened away many potential investors with a predictable impact on the economy.
“So the election on 30 July will be one important benchmark on whether the economic and political environment of the past has changed for the better,” said Ambassador Harrington.
He said Mnangagwa’s commitment to ensuring the elections are free and fair is a welcome development.
“His decision to invite international observers to give them quite a wide access is very welcome. These are very important steps. However, we are going to be watching out on other reforms which range from economic, good governance and human rights because the credibility of elections is only one measure of change,” he noted.
Ambassador Harrington added that the Mnangagwa administration can change a powerful message that it is committed to building a different Zimbabwe and to building trust shows legitimacy.
“The government should ensure that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is free from political interference and partisanship. It should ensure that all political parties are allowed to campaign freely and have equitable access to state media. Security force members should play no role in administering the election or intimidation or harassing voters and that there should be full transparency around the voters roll and the production of the ballot papers,” he said.
These and other reforms, Ambassador Harrington said, will ensure that Zimbabwe can begin to ensure to building a better economy and to strengthen democratic institutions and process that will help meet the needs of the citizens.
Questioned on whether there are plans to remove the sanctions, Ambassador Harrington said it all hinges on the electoral process and the outcome of the elections as well as the economic and political space.
Ambassador Harrington said despite making steady progress, President Mnangagwa needs to address the issue of the use of traditional leaders as political tools.
Recently, Senator Chris Coons, who together with Senator Jeff Flake visited Zimbabwe earlier this year, suggested President Mnangagwa had not lived up to his word to carry out major political and economic reforms.
“..after what was a very encouraging initial meeting several weeks ago, we have seen no concrete steps in response, the amount of time left before the elections is shrinking, so the importance of taking prompt concrete steps, as to demonstrate the President’s commitment to democracy, is becoming more and more important.”
Meanwhile, Ambassador Harrington is expected to meet with leaders of different civil society groups and political parties.