BY TATENDA CHITAGU
Zimbabwe will continue forking out US$500 000 a year up until 2021 to a United States public relations and political consultancy firm lobbying for the removal of sanctions imposed on Harare by Washington, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has confirmed.
Last week, the US renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe, saying the country had failed to implement political and economic reforms pledged by Mnangagwa during his inauguration. Instead, Mnangagwa had embarked on a mission to shrink the little available democratic space, the US noted.
Last year, government signed a three-year contract with Ballard Partners to spruce up the country’s battered image and lobby for sanctions removal. Lobbyist Brian Ballard was the fundraiser for US President Donald Trump’s election campaign.
According to the contract signed by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, the agreement is automatically renewed for successive one-year periods on the anniversary of the effective date of the agreement unless either party terminates the agreement.
Asked by NewsDay on Friday if Harare will continue paying the US lobbyists, Mnangagwa said: “These sanctions have been on for nearly two decades, there is nothing new. What is new is your question. So we will continue to lobby for their removal,” he said before he was whisked away by his aides.
Speaking later at a rally in Serima, Gutu, Mnangagwa told thousands of bussed supporters that his government will also continue with its re-engagement efforts.
“We have a policy of engagement and re-engagement. Sadc (Southern African Development Community) stands by us. We will continue lobbying for the removal of sanctions. We did not commit any crime to the US and Britain. Instead, it is them who have committed a crime to us. We fought and won our war of liberation and said everyone should go back to their country and they were angered. Do they have brains?
“The land reform programme is irreversible. Anyone who wants to befriend us should know that we will not budge on that one. Befriend us even though we took back our farms,” Mnangagwa said.