UNITED States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, has hit back at growing criticism of Western sanctions against the country and claimed that their removal would only help a “few people do more shopping in the US” instead of benefiting the poor majority.
Zimbabwe wants the sanctions -- imposed over allegations of electoral fraud and human rights abuses -- removed with officials blaming them for the country’s economic problems.
The coalition administration appears to be overcoming initial disagreements over the issue with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai telling parliament recently: “There is a committee tasked with engaging the EU and America and speaking from one voice.
“There is no division ... of course politically we may want to score points but (we all) want this issue of restrictive measures attended to and that is from a government policy.”
However, speaking in Kwekwe on Wednesday, Ambassador Ray said the mere removal of the sanctions – which the US claims only target individuals and organisations linked to the alleged abuses – would not benefit the poor in the country.
“If we were to lift all targeted sanctions tomorrow … a few people here in Zimbabwe would have more money in their bank accounts and could do more shopping in the U.S. but without rationalising the business regulatory environment and consistently implementing informed policies, there is not going to be a huge breakthrough in growth,” he said.
Ambassador Ray was speaking at a roundtable discussion with youth representatives in Kwekwe which, embassy officials claim, was later disrupted by the police and suspected Zanu PF youths.
The envoy said Zimbabwe’s problems were the result of local policy failures adding that attempts by officials to use the “targeted sanctions” as a convenient scapegoat were unhelpful.
“My message to them (Zimbabwean officials) is, don’t use the policies of my government as an excuse not to do what you took an oath to do for your country,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that could be done to improve life that have nothing to do with the policies we have.”
Ambassador Ray, who is accused of leading illegal regime change efforts in the country by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party, said the hostility of “some elements of the government” would not undermine relations between the two countries.
“We will continue to engage and … encourage all Zimbabweans to take advantage of their constitutional rights, to openly share their thoughts, ideas, dreams, and aspirations to make this country even greater,” he said.
“And, as for the appearance of hostility by some elements of the government, I recognise that a huge percentage of that is rhetoric.”