BY MOSES MATENGA
UNITED Nations (UN) special rapporteur, Alena Douhan, who arrives in the country today to assess the impact of sanctions on Zimbabwe, flies into a storm with the ruling Zanu PF party and the opposition MDC Alliance embroiled in a war of words amid politically-motivated violence.
Analysts yesterday described Douhan’s 10-day visit to the country to assess the impact of sanctions as “routine”, adding that the visit may not change the status quo.
Douhan is expected to meet government, opposition political parties and civic society organisations to hear their views on the impact of sanctions that the ruling Zanu PF party claims were affecting ordinary citizens.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said normally, the UN operates on the basis of consent, co-operation and recommendations and, therefore, her visit was just a routine one.
“It is not a historic visit despite the hype. In diplomacy, it’s just routine work and the unfortunate part is that diplomacy thrives a lot in those routines because prior to that, there is some hype, some momentum and when the visit happens, it will be life as usual, and if you have an authoritarian regime, it continues with its authoritarian act,” he said.
Douhan, who is from Belarus, is expected to come up with a report on the findings that will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council at its 51st session to be held in September next year.
As she jets in, a war of words has erupted between the country’s biggest political parties, Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance over last week’s violence perpetrated on the opposition party leader Nelson Chamisa by ruling party activists and the police in Masvingo province.
Chamisa’s convoy was attacked, leaving several aides and supporters injured and vehicles damaged.
Zanu PF has described the attacks on Chamisa as “theatrics” ahead of Douhan’s visit
In turn, Chamisa has accused Zanu PF of hiding behind sanctions to justify corruption and looting of State resources at the expense of ordinary citizens who were languishing in poverty.
Zanu PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi yesterday told NewsDay that the visit by the UN envoy was an opportunity to expose the illegality of sanctions and expose the opposition’s hand in the imposition of the restrictive measures as a regime change tool.
“It is our hope that her visit will change the mindset and alter the position of those in the civic society and opposition who have been lobbying for the continued existence of these illegal sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe who have had to pay the economic price of these sanctions through dwindled global financial support and credit lines among other things,” Mugwadi said.
He claimed that the Masvingo violent attacks on Chamisa were stage-managed for Douhan.
This is despite the party’s acting commissar, Patrick Chinamasa, acknowledging the attacks which he blamed on opposition “provocation”.
“They did that in 2005 when (UN appointed envoy Anna) Tibaijuka came. They did the same when the so-called Elders wanted to visit the country. These are old and tired theatrics they always do when there is a special visit to Zimbabwe by any of the eminent personalities,” Mugwadi said.
MDC Alliance secretary for international relations Gladys Hlatywayo said: “Far from Zanu PF propaganda, that the economic crisis is because of exotic reasons, we all know that the deplorable socio-economic conditions of the citizenry is a direct product of massive corruption, bad economic policies that have aided patronage, arbitrage and rent-seeking behaviour.”
She said the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe’s political leadership were caused by the breakdown of the rule of law, human rights abuses, corruption, and subversion of the will of the people through rigging of elections, among other issues.
“Zanu PF must stop ‘this child play’ and do the right thing by ending corruption and human rights abuses. Vigilantism is on the rise and our party is being barred from operating. Just yesterday, our youth members were arrested for mobilising people to register in Chitungwiza. Let’s end these negative vices on the domestic scene and restrictive measures will go away,” Hlatywayo
Political Actors Dialogue deputy spokesperson and #1980Freedom Party leader Francis Danha said: “Our position is very clear regarding the issue of sanctions. We want them gone unconditionally and we welcome the envoy and we will put that before her. We remain optimistic, and the first aspect we are looking at is the illegality of the sanctions, then the economic impact on the ordinary citizens which is unwarranted.”
MDC-T spokesperson Witness Dube said: “Our position on sanctions has already been made public and on the engagement with the UN rapporteur and our expectations, we will not speak before a formal handshake and discussion. We do not discuss with envoys or anybody else through the media,” Dube said.
The MDC-T is on record saying sanctions must go.
Zimbabwe has been under United States sanctions since 2001. The European Union slapped sanctions a year later, but removed them in 2014 and only maintained them on the late former President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.
The United Kingdom slapped Zimbabwe with sanctions after its exit from the EU.