BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/ DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Several former United States ambassadors to Zimbabwe and other countries have called on Harvard University to withdraw an honorary ambassadorship it recently awarded to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.
The diplomats said Auxillia did not deserve the Harvard University Global Health Catalyst ambassadorship awarded to her last week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
They said Harvard University risked having its reputation tainted by association with Auxillia whose husband President Emmerson Mnangagwa leads an “exceedingly authoritarian regime” involved in human rights violations and State-sponsored abductions.
“We collectively write to you with profound concern over your decision to honor the First Lady of Zimbabwe Auxillia Mnangagwa with an honorary ambassadorship as part of your otherwise noble institutional efforts to increase access to women’s health and to reduce healthcare disparities in the developing world,” the diplomats wrote.
“To be blunt your well-intentioned work in these areas are tainted by the affiliation with Ms Mnangagwa and her direct personal connection to an increasingly corrupt and abusive administration in which tolerance for dissent is non-existent and democratic rights are violently denied. According to credible human rights organisations both domestic and international more than 50 government critics and activists have been abducted in Zimbabwe over the past nine months.”
The diplomats added that the abduction of acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association Peter Magombeyi on September 14, who was discovered five days later after being dumped, confirmed the regime’s violent streak.
“The most pertinent example is that of Dr Peter Magombeyi, who disappeared on September 14 and was discovered five days later, left on the roadside, disoriented and suffering from the effects of torture. According to local reports Magombeyi was in the custody of suspected State agents and there was the use of electroshock torture,” the group added.
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The diplomats added that repressive regimes will use international institutions like Harvard University to launder their oppressive practices and overall reputations.
However, Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi in an interview yesterday hit back saying the diplomats were jealous of Auxillia before accusing them of exhibiting condescending attitudes against black women.
“We are saying that for these ambassadors to react so jealously in a very unreasonable manner against a woman is embarrassing. They are living in the past; and they wouldn’t expect good coming from a black woman. That is very unfortunate from them.
“She has done a lot of work that has been commendable,” Mutodi said of Auxillia, who was honoured for her activities in the health sector.
The former US ambassadors to Zimbabwe Harry Thomas, Bruce Wharton, Charles Ray, Christopher Dell and former US envoy to Botswana Michelle Gavin in a joint letter to Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow argued that Auxillia was not a deserving candidate.
The statement was copied to Wilfred Ngwa (Harvard Global Health Catalyst director) and George Daley (Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Harvard).