The Herald (Harare)

6 April 2013

Zimbabwe: Govt Scoffs At U.S Election Conditions

THE US has officially written to Zimbabwe applauding the Government for holding a successful referendum in a major climbdown from its openly hostile partisan politics of the last decade.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, wrote to Vice President Joice Mujuru and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi on March 21 acknowledging the country's technical ability to hold elections.

"The United States Government will respect and work with any government in Zimbabwe that is chosen through credible and violence-free election.

"Domestic and international observers can play a positive role in helping Zimbabwe ensure a free and fair environment for elections and lending credibility to the results and legitimacy to the elected government.

"For that reason, I urge you to welcome a wide range of domestic and international observers . . . Among these are Electoral Institute for Democracy in Africa, National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, and the Carter Centre," reads Mr Carson's letter.

He added: "I am prepared to seek funding for Zimbabwe's harmonised national elections the moment Zimbabwe opens its doors to independent, non-governmental observers from these and other similar institutions.

"Moreover, if Zimbabwe is willing to welcome international observers during the upcoming election period, I am prepared to review our targeted sanctions and recommend action to roll back these restrictions. The modalities and timing for when we lift sanctions can be discussed. This is a pivotal moment for Zimbabwe and I believe it offers a unique opportunity for our nations to return to the kind of normal, mutually respectful relationship we enjoyed previously."

The development is a major diplomatic victory for Zimbabwe as the Americans have conceded that they recognise the country's capacity and competence to manage its political processes without interference.

It is also a shift from their original position of preferring one political player, the MDC, to that of seeming indifference to the political outcome.

It further shows that the Americans have moved from regime change to unconditional outcome acceptance.

Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity Mr George Charamba yesterday said the Americans were feeling the pressure to lift their illegal economic sanctions and were looking for a pretext by putting some electoral conditions.

Mr Charamba, however, said Mr Carson should not think that Zimbabweans "are simpletons" by suggesting that he has powers to remove sanctions.

"He has no power to remove sanctions which were put by a parliamentary system. It will take congressional processes to remove them. There is a perception of Zimbabweans as simpletons. He is a midget in relation to processes required for sanctions to be removed. He is also a man on the exit. He is outgoing. Sanctions are beyond Carson," Mr Charamba said.

On why Mr Carson did not write to the President directly, he said: "Mr Carson is not a penpal of President Mugabe. The two had a very rough encounter in Libya a few years back. I do not expect him to want to communicate with President Mugabe but that is immaterial. The point is, he has recognised the Government that the President leads and that is good enough."

Mr Charamba dismissed some attempts by the US to observe the forthcoming elections.

"The letter tries to set conditions which Zimbabweans find obnoxious. You cannot at one level hail Zimbabwe's capacity to handle a national process while at another level demanding that it be observed, itself an intimation of inadequacy. In any case, the Americans have taken a partisan position on Zimbabwean politics and we will not let them on the basis of pious declarations.

They have undermined their eligibility and in any case they come from another hemisphere which has nothing to do with us," he said.

Mr Charamba said Zimbabwe was fully aware that American foreign policy is pursued through a number of agencies and proxies including pseudo independent observation missions like the NDI, IRI and EISA.

"All these are mere mutations of the state department which Carson is a part. So he should not try to be clever," he said.

The US congress passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in 2001 to back the sanctions which it later changed to Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in 2010 after the formation of the inclusive Government.

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