ACTING United States deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Africa and Public Diplomacy/Public Affairs, Matthew Harrington yesterday said next month’s elections in Zimbabwe present a litmus test on whether the Zanu PF government has truly transformed from its troubled history of political and economic challenges.
Harrington is in the country to meet senior government officials, the business community, both opposition and civic society leaders as well as the diplomatic community to assess the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
He said while his mission was to listen and learn, the government had an opportunity to prove that it had reformed since the takeover of President Emmerson Mnangagwa last November.
Harrington said the US was interested in establishing better relations with Zimbabwe and would like to share its perspective on how that can be best achieved with the authorities here.
“It is argued that Zimbabwe now has an opportunity to start itself on a very different path politically and economically,” he said.
“For far too long, political and economic space in this country has been very constrained. Zimbabweans have been in the past not been able to express their views or cast their ballots without fear or intimidation and the economic environment has frightened away many potential investors.
“The election of July 30 will be an important benchmark on whether the political environment in the past has changed for the better. We welcome President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s public announcement that elections would be free and fair and his decision to invite the international observers.”
Harrington said the international community would also be on the watch for the implementation of other reforms on the political and economic side, as well as the respect of human rights and good governance because the credibility of an election is on the measure of change.
He also said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should be free from interference while political parties must be allowed to campaign freely and have a credible access to the media.
Harrington also said the military had no duty interfering in the administration of elections in Zimbabwe.
“The security force members play no role in administering the elections or intimidating and harassing voters and they will be voter transparency around the voters’ roll and the printing of the ballot papers,” he said.