Home » Governance » ‘Lazarus Moment’ – Regime Change Lobby Exploits Dzamara – West, MDC-T in Search of Missing Spark [opinion]

Western countries are using the alleged disappearance of journalist-cum-activist Itai Dzamara to prop up the fortunes of opposition political parties ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections, it has emerged.

Britain is leading a clique of European Union countries to maintain a hostile stance against Zimbabwe despite the lapsing of illegal sanctions against the country as provided for in Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement governing relations between Western and African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.

Information at hand also indicates that the West has planned to pour resources into the civil society sector and arms of Government such as the Judiciary in a bid to weaken the control of the ruling Zanu-PF.

The revolutionary party won an overwhelming majority in the 2013 harmonised elections and has strengthened its position by sweeping home more seats during parliamentary by-elections.

Documents in possession of The Herald show that the country’s detractors are regrouping and are strategising to influence the processes leading to the next harmonised elections.

In pursuit of their goal, Head of the EU delegation to Zimbabwe Mr Phillipe van Damme, British Ambassador Ms Catriona Laing and Dutch Ambassador Ms Gera Sneller on July 2 participated in a high-level conference on Europe-Zimbabwe relations in Brussels, Belgium.

The conference was convened by the Zimbabwe Europe Network ostensibly to “create democratic space for NGOs and agricultural recovery in Zimbabwe” and included well-known opposition outfits such as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Institute, Amnesty International as well as academics such as University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure and Dr Philani Zamchiya.

Strangely, Zimbabwe Embassy officials in Brussels were excluded from the conference that was attended by several local civil society organisations.

Documents reveal that Mr Masunungure made a presentation on “Europe and Zimbabwe Relations” and “Political/Economic Context Zimbabwe” while Dr Zamchiya and Mutuso Dhliwayo of the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association took part in the agriculture based economic development discussion.

Ms Laing, Simeon Mawanza (Amnesty International), Isaac Maposa (Zimbabwe Institute) and Jitseke Cnossen (Netherlands Development Finance Company) discussed governance and institution building.

A former radio personality Isabella Matambanadzo — together with Prof Masunungure — took part in the “Support to Civil Society” discussion where Danish representative to Zimbabwe Erik Rasmussen was billed to be a panellist, but did not attend.

Also present was Mr Arthur Gwagwa, Wellington Chibebe of the International Trade Union Council, Macdonald Lewanika (Crisis in Zimbabwe) and two journalists from a pirate radio station, Netherlands International.

Sources close to the development said this was an attempt by the West to breathe life into the political NGOs to hold space while opposition political parties were recuperating.

“That is why you saw that combination of opposition political parties at the Dzamara prayer meeting held over the weekend,” said one source.

“In spite of the insistence of our ambassador in Brussels (Tadeous Chifamba) to be included, we are seeing some EU countries which have always been opposed to the lifting of sanctions going against the spirit of engagement and consultation.

“It is as if Article 96 is still in operation. They think they have now found an opportunity to roll back the gains made between Zimbabwe and EU and they are hoping to use Dzamara’s case to re-launch a bid for renewal of sanctions.”

The source said the end of sanctions was a defeat to the foreign policies of countries such as Britain.

During the July 2 meeting, documents revealed, Mr Van Damme pledged to “push” Government to create more space for NGOs through the funding of many Government arms.

This was after Ms Judith Sargentini, a Dutch politician, had asked the civil society what they were planning to do to “regain lost ground.”

“Ambassador Van Damme echoed the same view and said indeed the CSOs were aligned to one party (MDC-T) and suggested that forthwith they needed to build their own independent base to be able to hold politicians to account,” read the documents.

“He elaborated that the EU was providing funds towards the judiciary in Zimbabwe and expressed the view that he was already seeing signs of judicial independence. He pledged continued EU funding towards the realignment of Zimbabwean laws with the new Constitution.

“Mr Lewanika concurred with the view on some improvement and specifically mentioned the institutions of the Ombudsman and the Auditor General. Mr Chibebe stressed the need to be serious and he cautioned that CSOs should not treat Zanu-PF with kid gloves.”

Another source said this was an attempt by the West to clip the wings of Zanu-PF.

“But these are wings given to the party by electoral processes,” said the source. “There is a sense that a combination of divisions within Zanu-PF and a strengthening of three institutions of State that is Parliament through its committee systems, the Judiciary and the Auditor General’s Office should be able to keep in check a stronger Zanu-PF.

“There is a sense that Zimbabwe because of economic challenges is about to review its land policy and that white farmers must wait in the wings for a return to the pre-land reform situation.”

The source said Zimbabwean authorities needed to be alive to such clandestine and nefarious activities.

“The signs are there and because of the challenges we are facing economically, Western interests are smelling blood. It is simply a return to the pre-2008 situation. The key question is whether or not Zanu-PF is ready.”

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