President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to contract New York-based Mercury Public Affairs LLC in May 2019 to lobby for Thokozani Khupe as a legitimate leader of the MDC Alliance to the US government has raised speculation that the ConCourt decision to declare Khupe as the country’s main opposition leader was a premeditated decision orchestrated by the state.
According to a report on the ZimLive website; “The Khupe lobby was led by the former United States Senator for Louisiana, David Vitter, who is Mercury’s co-chairman.” The effort involved projecting Khupe as the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe’s main opposition way before a court ruling was made.
The Supreme Court on May 31, 2020 ruled that MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa was not the legitimate MDC leader despite arguments the two parties (MDC-T and MDC Alliance) had since morphed into two being separate entities, one led by Khupe and the other by Chamisa.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the development was evidence that Zanu PF had captured courts to advance Khupe.
“To understand how MDC led by Khupe, Mwonzora, Komichi and Mudzuri sold out to ZANU PF and why they are ‘winning’ all the court battles, one must read this great betrayal. Next time don’t ever talk about constitutionalism under ZANU PF.
“Given the evidence we now understand how MDC-T has been captured by ZANU PF. Would it be wrong to say it’s now part and parcel of the Lacoste faction (Zanu PF faction that led and instituted a military intervention that led to the overthrow of late former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017) of ZANU PF, a huge, monumental, unashamed regime project masquerading as opposition party. I knew there is no free lunch in ZANU PF,” Ruhanya said.
According to the papers seen by ZimLive, Mercury was planning a trip by Khupe and the delegation of Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) to the United States from March 25 to March 27 this year, but the trip was cancelled following the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The firm was reportedly hired by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to repair its image in Washington.
Mnangagwa had to set up POLAD to facilitate negotiations of a disputed election that he claimed to have won in July 2018, but the Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa refused to join the league claiming the Zanu PF leader was illegitimate.
Vitter sent e-mails to over a dozen administration officials, Senators and Congressmen asking them to give attention to them as well as to consider Mnangagwa’s reform agenda.
“It is a truly diverse and representative delegation comprised of 17 of the political parties of Zimbabwe. As such, it represents the vast majority of Zimbabwe’s citizens as well as the vast majority of opposition parties, including leaders who put their lives on the line fighting for the ouster of the former tyrannical president Robert Mugabe,” read one of the emails.
ZimLive said Mercury’s contract was initially supposed to run until April 2020 and was extended for a year beginning May 1.
The firm has so far disclosed a US$270,000 payment by Zimbabwe, made in late August 2019. The contract extension says their services are “anticipated to include the coordination of government affairs work and strategic consulting for the benefit of the MFA.”
Vitter also sent letters to Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Industrial Policy Jennifer Santos and Under Secretary Brent McIntosh from the US Department of Treasury Office of International Affairs, saying that POLAD was committed to a national dialogue within Zimbabwe, “and active, positive re-engagement with the United States.”
“That’s why the delegation is so eager to meet with you to share information on recent and important anti-corruption efforts in Zimbabwe, concerns about China’s recent dominance of the African continent and the impact of United States sanctions,” read the letter.
The documents have also shown that late last year, Mercury lobbyists met several times with congressional aides to discuss sanctions.
The Zimbabwe government has hired at least three other PR companies – Ballard Partners and Avenue Strategies in the United States and BTP Advisers in the United Kingdom.
In her letters to the United States, Khupe said that Zanu PF officials were angry that they were unable to open bank accounts in the United States and other countries. She added that Zimbabwe was struggling daily with no access to capital, due to corruption related issues.
“We ourselves have not been sanctioned, yet many of the members of our own group have been unable to open bank accounts because of red flags that exist in the global financial system on Zimbabwe as a direct repercussion of sanctions. Other members of our group have had bank accounts shut down due to this same reason.
“We hear directly from international corporations that are afraid to do business with Zimbabwe because of issues regarding sanctions.
“We are eager to move closer in partnership with the United States. We are requesting a meeting with you so that we as Zimbabweans can share our stories and the progress that has been achieved.
“We must not forget it is a new day in Zimbabwe. While we are not yet where we want to be as a country, we are taking the appropriate steps in the right direction.
“We are no longer living in the era of the late Robert Mugabe’s administration and have turned our heads to look at the future. We are committed to this future but we need your help.
A March ruling of the Supreme Court which found that Chamisa unlawfully upended Khupe to claim the leadership of the MDC-T following Morgan Tsvangirai’s death appeared uncannily timed to coincide with Khupe’s trip to Washington.