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U.S Delegation in Zimbabwe to Assess Political Situation

Gregory Simpkins (left) staff director for the US House Subcommittee on Africa, Health, Human Rights and International Relations and Counsel in the committee Piero Tozzi.

A United States Congressional staff delegation is Zimbabwe on two-day visit to assess the political situation in the country with a view of amending the Zimbabwe Democracy Recovery Act of 2001 (ZIDERA) so that its reflects developments that have taken place in the last 15 years.

Staff director, Gregory Simpkins, of the U.S House Subcommittee on Africa, Health, Human Rights and International Relations, who is leading the delegation which includes counsel, Piero Tozzi, said there have been some changes since 2001 and certain issues have been overtaken by events.

Simpkins, whose committee was involved in the crafting of ZIDERA, said the piece of legislation, was not created to favour the opposition but was enacted to facilitate an environment of fair competition.

He, however, said most of the issues raised in ZIDERA have not been met as there continues to be lack of respect for human rights, property rights, press freedom and freedom of association, among other ills.

Simpkins noted that the American government wants Zimbabwe to remain stable hence the re-engagement efforts.

He added that after the visit, the U.S Congress would discuss and come up with a position on Zimbabwe.

The visit by Simpkins and Tozzi is a follow up to the hearings by his committee in the U.S early this month and another visit by senior State Department officials Dr. Shanon Smith and Steven Feldstein last month.

The two officials said it was important for the opposition to make itself relevant by participating in elections. They said it would be difficult for the opposition to criticize the elections process without testing it.

But Obert Gutu, spokesman of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai said his party’s decision to boycott elections was principled and they will stick to it.

Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, could not be reached for comment as he was not picking his mobile phone.

Independent political analyst, Charles Mangongera, said the visits by U.S officials are normal diplomatic exchanges between the two countries.

Mangongera said he does not expect a policy shift by the America government soon given the Zanu PF government’s continued violation of human, property and other rights.

The European Union lifted some targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe but the U.S maintains them saying they would only be removed if President Robert Mugabe’s government improves its human rights record.

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