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Zim cuts ties with Western PR firms



ZIMBABWE has terminated the services of consultancy firms which were engaged more than three years ago to help thaw diplomatic relations with the United States as Harare changes tack to break over two decades of international isolation.


In 2019, the then Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo (pictured) hired four lobbyists — BTP Advisers, Mercury International Limited, Ballard Partners and Avenue Strategies — paying them millions of dollars, in a desperate bid to spruce up its battered global image and bolster the diplomatic re-engagement drive that had fallen off the rails.

But the move yielded little as Washington demanded more political governance reforms such as upholding the rule of law, respecting property rights and an overhaul on electoral laws. The Zanu PF government has for years been intransigent on the reform agenda, saying Washington is pushing for a change in administration.

Frederick Shava, Moyo’s successor, told The NewsHawks that bilateral engagements between Zimbabwe and the United States will now be held at government level. This follows public outcry over the dolling out of millions of United States dollars to the consultancy firms.

“Let me say from the onset that there have been a few consultancy companies who have come forward to offer their services to pose the two governments to talk to each other,” Shava said.

“They have come and gone and let me say also that the best interaction between the United States and Zimbabwe is still government official channels and this is what we are encouraging. As Zimbabwe we are talking to Congress, we are talking members of the House of Representatives and recently as you probably followed Zimbabwe was invited to the second US-Africa Summit in Washington DC albeit at the level of minister of Foreign Affairs and we are still hoping that this warming up will improve and Zimbabwe will be invited at the level of the Head of State. I just want to say that the emphasis is now on the interactions between governments without third parties as much as possible.”

Zimbabwe has since the turn of the millennium experienced an economic tailspin exacerbated by a toxic political situation and a chaotic land reform programme which saw white former commercial farmers losing large swathes of land to locals.

Harare was then slapped with sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) and the United States following a violent land reform programme, amid allegations of electoral fraud and over the deteriorating human rights.

The EU and Britain have since eased the restrictive measures although they still maintain an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and a few state security chiefs and Zanu PF acolytes.

Debate on the efficacy of sanctions continues to divide opinion both at home and abroad.

Some scholars and Zanu PF sympathisers say the sanctions, particularly the US-enacted Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera), has restricted Zimbabwe from being an active member of the international community.

A new school of thought blames rising levels of corruption, mismanagement of state resources, and policy inconsistency for Zimbabwe’s economic woes.