By Bridget Mananavire
Officials from a United States development agency were last week forced to pull down an American flag in Marozva Village in rural Murewa, in Mashonaland East, following protests from their hosts.
The officials from the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) had gone to Murewa last Thursday to present a $150 000 grant to an orphanage that caters for close to 800 children.
Washington, through USADF, provided the grant to Heather Chimoga Orphan Care.
As part of the official procedures preceding the presentation ceremony, USADF staff had raised the American banner side-by-side with the Zimbabwean flag, but this did not go down well with their hosts, who included Members of Parliament, government officials, a representative of the district administrator and staff from the President’s Office who felt they could not sit behind an American flag, which they regarded as a symbol of imperialism.
To enable the ceremony to proceed, they had to give in. By then, some of the invited guests had left the scene in protest, among them Zanu PF proportional representation lawmaker, Nkatazo Matirangana.
Contacted for comment, Matirangana said she had to leave to attend to some urgent business in the capital city.
“No, I didn’t have any issues with the flag. I don’t know if there were other people who later had issues with it. I had to leave early because I had to attend Parliament. And they had moved the event to a later time, so I could not wait,” she said.
USADF country programme coordinator Doreen Chimwara said they had no issues with removing the flag because it had no impact on their business.
“For us, we are focused on the community and them being able to make business. We are not interested in politics. Everybody matters to us and we want to work with everyone,” she said.
Heather Chimoga Orphan Care chief executive Albert Mukondwa said he was happy that the matter was resolved amicably to enable the ceremony to go ahead.
“Stakeholders managed to resolve the issue and everything went well and it was not blown out of proportion,” he said.
During the ceremony, USADF provided a grant of $150 000 to orphanage.
It’s the second time that Heather Chimoga Orphan Care has received support from the foundation.
USADF is an independent United States government agency established by congress to support African-owned enterprises which improve lives in poor and vulnerable communities in Africa.
It provides grants of up to $250 000 for operational assistance, enterprise expansion and market linkage to early stage agriculture, and energy and youth-led enterprises that benefit underserved communities in sub-Saharan Africa.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the US government are frosty.
Harare accuses Washington of meddling in its domestic affairs, particularly sponsoring opposition parties to “effect a regime change”.
The accusations have, however, not stopped Washington from assisting desperate communities in Zimbabwe, including engaging in efforts meant to arrest the spread of the HIV/Aids pandemic.
It is, however, not the first time that incidents of this nature have occurred as a result of the frosty relations.
In 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had to abandon a $5 million housing project in Mbare after a Zanu PF-linked militant group — Chipangano — blocked the project.
The then mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said they had to move the project to Dzivaresekwa.
In 2014, some legislators got into trouble after attending a signing ceremony for community projects that were meant to benefit their localities. The legislators were subsequently branded the “dirty dozen” for hobnobbing with their American benefactors. Daily News