By Lance Guma [twitter-follow username=”lanceguma” scheme=”dark”]
A group of Zanu PF activists on Tuesday disrupted US ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton’s tour of Sangano Dairy Farm in Makoni District while protesting against targeted sanctions slapped on the Mugabe regime.
According to a report by the Zanu PF controlled Herald newspaper, Ambassador Wharton and his team “allegedly left the farm in a huff after addressing the dairy project managers just for about two minutes.”
Some of the placards had the messages ‘Remove sanctions’, ‘Food shortage is a result of sanctions’, and ‘Financial aid to Zimbabwe not material aid’. The messages had all the hallmarks of a demo planned elsewhere in advance and not by villagers in the area.
Ironically and even more instructive is the fact that Sangano Dairy Farm is owned by locals who are sponsored by a local non-governmental organisation, Land ‘O’ Lake that receives funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Wharton confirmed the demonstration on twitter saying “Peaceful demo against targeted sanctions near Rusape. Good that right of peaceful protest honoured for this group. Hope others enjoy same.”
More protests followed on Wednesday after about 130 Zanu PF activists were bussed into Mutare to prevent the ambassador engaging in a dialogue with the people of Manicaland Province at the Turner Memorial Library in Mutare. The embassy released a statement saying:
“While the U.S. values the right to peaceful protest, and notes it as a critical element of democracy, we regret that the roughly 130 ZANU-PF protestors were not interested in a conversation.
“Ambassador Wharton spent about 15-20 minutes listening to their messages – written on placards, and verbal – but was met with no opportunity for constructive conversation,” a statement sent to Nehanda Radio read.
Ambassador Wharton is on his first visit to Manicaland with a schedule that includes visits to USAID projects and meetings with businesspeople, academics, local authorities, and citizens.
Despite attempts by Zanu PF to blame the economic collapse of the country on targeted sanctions imposed by western countries, Dr Simba Makoni, a former Finance Minister in Mugabe’s government has previously rubbished this argument as a lame excuse.
Commenting on the ‘sanctions’ Makoni last year said:
“What sanctions? The travel ban on President Mugabe? And the freezing of assets, whatever they are? Do you know that today, all the platinum we are producing is being sold to the West?
“About 70 percent of the tobacco that we produce is being sold to Philip Morris and other Western countries? The little horticulture products that we still can produce are going to Amsterdam?”
“The few goods that we manufacture, such as shirts, we sell to Germany, America and other countries. If you look at the statistics of our trade with the EU today, our trade with the US today, it is growing. How could it grow if there were sanctions?”
Asked to explain the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) which was passed by the United States congress in 2001 which Zanu PF argues is a form of sanctions on the country, Makoni said:
“This is the reality. I became Minister of Finance in July 2000. We had defaulted on our payments to the IMF and the World Bank and the African Development Bank, exactly a year earlier in August of 1999.”
“And these institutions, of which we are members and President Mugabe says we are full members of these bodies, took resolutions that this creditor has defaulted on his repayment, we are not in a position to continue lending where we are not seeing prospects of being repaid.”