HARARE – A forthright discussion between an MDC Alliance delegation and the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee has triggered nasty exchanges between Zanu PF and its rivals in the opposition.
Government’s anger was encapsulated by Foreign Affairs minister retired major general Sibusiso Moyo who savaged Tendai Biti and his delegation for washing the nation’s dirty linen in public when they could have engaged the authorities in Harare.
The US imposed sanctions on former president Robert Mugabe and his inner circle for alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud, and the new administration is desperate to reach out to Washington to normalise its relations with Zimbabwe.
To end the sanctions, the US is demanding reforms from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration and what has angered government is that Washington is taking its cue from Biti and crew.
It, however, does not help much for government to direct its anger at those who, out of desperation, are lobbying the international community to lean heavily on the Zanu PF government to level the electoral playing field when it should be opening itself up to dialogue with internal stakeholders on these and other issues.
The western powers will not recline their ear towards Harare without the reforms. The only gravitas with the western powers will only trickle in after the 2018 elections and, depending on how those elections are conducted.
Still, the western powers will not outrightly keep the new government totally at bay, there will be good insinuations meant to send messages of encouragement for it to build momentum for reforms and credible elections to be able to harvest the political engagement dividend after 2018 polls.
Between now and elections, we may therefore see a somehow mellowed down engagement without overt promises and agreements, but merely meant to prepare for an eventual future of full engagement while also priming the new government to hold credible elections.
The western powers will dangle the carrot by painting a picture of how things can be should Mnangagwa hold credible elections and win, as a way of enticing Zanu PF to move along that pathway.
However, Zanu PF will find it difficult to stick to this conditionality.
Whereas many in the party, including Mnangagwa, may want to walk the talk on reforms and credible elections, there are just too many centres of power in the party to pull a collective effort for credible polls and reforms from the ruling party’s perspective.