WASHINGTON DC —
The U.S. Congress has raised concern and skepticism over future relations with Zimbabwe.
This was revealed through a line of questioning from members of the U.S. congress at a hearing in Washington, on Thursday.
In their quest to find out what is really happening in Zimbabwe, so as to shape policy between the two countries going forward, members of congress had a barrage of questions for witnesses, Shannon Smith of the State Department, former Zimbabwean white commercial farmer, Ben Freeth of the Mike Campbell foundation, and Imani Countess of the Solidarity Center, whose organization champions workers’ rights.
Congressman Christopher Smith, the chair of the subcommittee on Africa, that sponsored the hearing titled, The Future of U.S.-Zimbabwe Relations, raised concern over continued reports of human rights violations by the government, and President Robert Mugabe’s ability to lead the country.
Responding to the question on sanctions, which congress smith raised, shannon smith of the State Department reiterated the position that sanctions were targeted.
The members of Congress pressed witnesses on the state of the opposition which the U.S. had once supported and counted on as the alternative government to that of President Mugabe. However on that note, Shannon Smith noted the fractured state of the country’s opposition.
Congresswoman Karen Bass, a ranking member of the subcommittee, too pressed on the question of the opposition, querying reports that they had become ineffective. Countess of the Solidarity Center responded in the affirmative.
With the opposition weakened and alternatives to the current government lacking, congressman Smith questioned the role of China, Russia in helping Zimbabwe circumvent its isolation from the West.
Congressman Curt Clawson, questioned the reason for supporting Zimbabwe in areas outside humanitarian issues, saying that other efforts were in his words, hopeless.
Countess, whose organization champions the right of workers, stressed the importance of staying engaged in Zimbabwe, for the security of neighboring countries.
Responding to this, however, Clawson rebuked regional leaders who he says have continued to prop up President Mugabe, despite the wave of refugees fleeing to their countries.
Freeth, a former farmer in Zimbabwe’s whose father in law died as a result of the land raids, called on the members of congress to maintain pressure on President Mugabe, to adhere to the rule of law, particularly for the country’s remaining white population which he says has been segregated and victimized.
Journalism professor Stanford Mukasa, who was among those in attendance at the event, lauded the congressional members for holding the hearing on Zimbabwe, and says he hopes the discussion leads to continued engagement with Zimbabwean citizens, pursuing democratic processes.
Mukasa, who is a member of the Zimbabwe diaspora network for North America, also praised the U.S.’s heightened attention to the disappearance of Occupy Africa Unity Square leader Itai Dzamara.
Despite the concerns raised by the panel of members of Congress, Shannon Smith of the State Department stressed the importance of staying connected to Zimbabwe.
Congressman Daniel Donovan raised the question about Zimbabwe’s understanding of the U.S.’s commitment to them, despite reports of the damaging impact of targeted sanctions, which some have agreed with the government that they have caused the country’s economic decline.
Indications are that there won’t be any dramatic change in relations between the two nations in the near future with the U.S expected to maintain targeted sanctions on President Mugabe and his inner circle.