Zimbabwe, United States of America enjoy good relations

Lovemore Lubinda

The government of Zimbabwe when at loss to explain its domestic, economic and political difficulties at times tend to assign blame on the United States and other external factors otherwise we have good bilateral relations– Ambassador Harry Thomas jr.

According to the speech prepared for the ambassador who made the guest presentation at the Zimbabwe Institute of Diplomacy on 10 October 2016, the two countries are enjoying good engagement on areas of disagreements between them, as opposed to some media reports.

“The United States and Zimbabwe have maintained full diplomatic relations since the time Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980. We have always maintained full diplomatic relations.

“Zimbabwe has always had a fully accredited ambassador in Washington and I represent an unbroken continuum of American ambassadors here dating from independence until the present day. And this is because the United States believes in Zimbabwe’s potential, its promise, and its people. We remain committed to Zimbabwe’s future and our partnership has always been premised on mutual respect and accountability,” said Ambassador Thomas.

He also said the $190 million New Embassy Compound currently being constructed in Harare is a symbol of US’s commitment towards the relations. The New Embassy Compound will be the place from which generations of American diplomats and their Zimbabwean colleagues will shape our bilateral relationship, increase the flow of business and investment between us, and open pathways of mutual respect and understanding.

Some of you may already know that this is my second tour in Zimbabwe as a diplomat, he said; previously, I served here in the early 90s and the challenges the country is facing today are different from that time.

“The issues are more complex than before. I am talking about more than a decade of political conflicts between and within the political parties charged with governing the country; the economic decline that resulted in the end of the country’s currency; and the increasing demands on the country’s health systems.

“We remain optimistic about this country’s future and believe that the United States has an important role to play in helping the people of Zimbabwe build a just, free, and prosperous nation.

“Our relations are guided by these pillars strengthening democratic institutions, supporting economic growth and development, promoting opportunity and development, and advancing peace and security,” he said.

As with many countries, the United States’ approach to development is informed significantly by own experience of best practices that have worked in the US.

Ambassador Thomas said they, as a country have learned that stability and good governance comes through a transparent and accountable political system, with checks and balances on power and robust independent oversight by civil society and the media.

“Let me state very clearly that no system is perfect and every nation, certainly including the United States, experiences growing pains. But fundamentally, without strong adherence to rule of law, clear separation of powers and transparency in governance, the risk that public interest takes a back seat to vested interests of those in power rises significantly,” he adds.

The US have learned this through trial and error in devising remedies to the abuses of the system that have been attempted over the years. These same protections, checks and balances, a watchdog role by the non-governmental sector, and the separation of powers, are all also provided for under Zimbabwe’s laws and constitution.

He said their major thrust in Zimbabwe is to support the development and maintenance of institutions and systems that strengthen democracy and rule of law, such as a transparent and effective parliament, independent courts, a responsible media, a professional electoral and human rights commission, an apolitical military, transparent civil society organisations, and a non-partisan police force.

These are institutions that the Zimbabwean government have established were established for a reason. Thomas said his country is not interested in imposing its way on any of these groups as it fully understands that Zimbabwe’s democracy will have its own character and will not be a duplicate of any other model from the U.S., or elsewhere.

“Nevertheless, these Zimbabwean institutions are only as good as their ability to fulfil their mandates. So the role of the U.S. partnership is to provide resources, expertise, recommendations, and public goodwill to embolden and to enable these institutions to play their role. The U.S. will continue to work with Zimbabwe, as a partner, to build stronger democratic institutions and to advance democracy,” he added.

Thomas said the future of two countries’ relations is a shared responsibility of the United States and Zimbabwean governments and people, and that he looks forward to the day when all Zimbabwe’s political parties have equal opportunity to present themselves to the public and to compete to represent the people in government.

“The U.S. wants to see a non-violent and credible electoral contest and for the will of the people to be honoured. A free and fair election is an essential pillar of democracy. It is not for the U.S. or any other outsider to dictate or influence who should make up the government – that is for the Zimbabwean people alone to decide. And so, I would say that, fundamentally, I believe that the future of U.S.-Zimbabwe relations is bright,” added Thomas.

The bilateral relations between the two countries have reportedly not been that healthy, except for donor aid. The US alongside Britain imposed restrictive economic measures against Zimbabwe, over alleged mis-governance, lack of rule of law, and human rights abuse by the government. The government of Zimbabwe maintains that it has always followed proper democratic principles, and attributes the souring relations to its land reform exercise which allegedly angered the west.