By Tendai Kamhungira
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is wasting money and time by hiring a United States (US) firm to help improve relations with Washington instead of implementing the necessary reforms that would enable the removal of sanctions, political analysts and politicians said yesterday.
This comes after government engaged prominent public relations firm Ballard Partners in a $500 000 per year deal, as it seeks to spruce up its image and mend relations with the US, which this week renewed economic sanctions on Harare by a further one year.
Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, told the Daily News yesterday that the government’s efforts to hire a US firm to lobby Washington was conditional on political will to play ball by Mnangagwa.
“The impact of the Washington lobbyist hired by the government of Zimbabwe will largely depend on his (Mnangagwa) mandate and whether he has a tangible story to tell. “Ideally, this move should build relations and opportunities to navigate Zimbabwe’s reform commitments through sanctions and Zidera (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act) concerns.
The success of such will be contingent on the government of Zimbabwe’s capacity and related political will to drive its reform programme and defend its implementation targets,” Pigou said.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said it’s a scenario of the proverbial throwing money down the drain because the issues that the Zimbabwean government wants this lobby firm to accomplish, which is to convince the Americans to remove the sanctions, are clearly spelt out in the Zidera sanctions document.
“They include the respect for human rights, they include realignment of our laws with the Constitution, respecting the democratic norms, security sector reforms that remove the overbearing role of the military in our politics, which often results in our military clashing with civilians,” Mukundu said.
“So, for me these are actions that can easily be done without the need of hiring any company for so much money which we need in Zimbabwe for critical public services like hospitals, servicing our debt and in agriculture. So, essentially this is a waste of resources over something that the Zimbabwean government can easily do on its own.
This is essentially kicking the can down the road.”
Senior opposition MDC official and former Finance minister Tendai Biti said on Twitter: “The regime cannot supply drugs in hospitals, it cannot deal with cholera, it cannot supply water to its citizens yet it has the indecency of contracting a US lobby firm #BrianBallard for millions of dollars to do its dirty laundry in the USA. An absolute embarrassment!!”
Human rights activist and analyst Dewa Mavhinga said it was a futile PR job.“Zimbabwe authorities’ logic — your security forces commit horrific abuses in broad daylight with impunity & you think a US PR firm paid US$500 000 per year will clean your image! Why not simply implement rights reforms & ensure justice & accountability?” Mavhinga queried on Twitter. Daily News.