BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday read the riot act against foreign diplomats, accusing them of meddling in the country’s internal affairs and fuelling political tension ahead of next year’s general elections.
Addressing over 50 diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe during a virtual New Year reception for heads of diplomatic missions and international organisations, Mnangagwa said diplomats must stay in their lane and focus on issues that foster unity.
“As we begin yet another year in our relations, I challenge you, the diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, to look through the lenses of possibilities and focus on those matters which unite us, as opposed to our areas of differences. It is most unfortunate, however, that as Zimbabwe prepares for the 2023 harmonised elections, some forces are already seeking to influence the national discourse and destabilise the peace and stability we are enjoying as a country,” Mnangagwa said without naming the alleged meddling diplomats.
He added: “Sadly, this is not new to us and is part of the decades-old regime change agenda. Those of you who may be inclined to perpetuating this blatant interference in the internal affairs of our country are urged to introspect and stop this unbecoming practice. Let the people of Zimbabwe enjoy their unfettered right to choose their leadership. It is our democratic rights, a right which we fought for, and a right which we will protect, respect and uphold to the letter.”
The Zanu PF government has on several occasions accused Western powers, particularly the United States and Britain of funding opposition parties to pursue a regime change agenda.
Government has also threatened to deregister several non-governmental organisations and civic society organisations which it claims were being funded by the West to work with the opposition to destabilise the country.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the US have been frosty since Washington imposed sanctions on Harare in 2001 under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act over gross human rights abuses and electoral theft.
Last month, the US and the European Union extended sanctions on Harare, saying the southern African country’s human rights situation had not changed.
The US also accused Mnangagwa of cracking down on human rights defenders and introducing more oppressive laws to stifle dissent.
On Wednesday, the UK Parliament urged Mnangagwa to end political violence ahead of the March 26 by-elections after an opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporter was killed by suspected Zanu PF activists at a rally in Kwekwe on February 27.
In his address to diplomats, Mnangagwa said his government was now pinning hope for the lifting of the sanctions on a report to be submitted by United Nations special rapporteur Alena Douhan, which claims that the restrictive measures are hurting ordinary people.
“It is my government’s expectation that the independent, evidence- based report being compiled for submission to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2022 by the special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights will trigger a rethink among those that are maintaining these punitive illegal sanctions against us,” he said.
“Recently, Zimbabwe presented its reports to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group for the third time. The feedback we receive from these periodic review sessions is invaluable and will undoubtedly enrich our quest to entrench a more democratic culture and realise an equitable society for the good of our people,” Mnangagwa said.
Local opposition parties have dismissed Douhan’s findings, saying they were pre-determined and biased.