MDC blasts govt over US$1 million spend on anti-sanctions lobby

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

THE MDC has slammed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government for reportedly spending US$1 million in scarce foreign currency to hire a US public relations firm to lobby for the removal of sanctions against the troubled Harare administration.

In a statement Thursday, MDC deputy national spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said the Zanu PF led government needs to put its priorities right in a country facing massive starvation among poor citizens.

This follows reports that the Mnangagwa government engaged Avenue Strategies Global CC in Washington to help lobby for the removal of the US targeted sanctions on individuals and entities accused of undermining human rights in Zimbabwe.

“The MDC is seriously concerned that the broke Mnangagwa regime has the temerity to hire an American firm for over $US1 million to spruce up its image even as the nation struggles to procure basics such as medicine and fuel,” Tamborinyoka said.

“The scarce foreign currency is being splurged even as nurses and other key government services have threatened industrial action for poor working conditions and the absence of working tools.

“It is our belief that there is no reason to waste scarce foreign currency on political cosmetology when all the regime in Harare should do is to stop repression, the clampdown on civil society and democracy activists and the wanton killings of its citizens, among other issues.”

Tamborinyoka said while the government has wasted scarce foreign currency hiring Avenue Strategies, the proper avenue to take to improve the country’s image was to stop bad behaviour, particularly the “callous clampdown” on innocent citizens.

“The improvement of the government’s human rights record will go a long way in improving the country’s image among the society of nations,” he said.

“And the immediate cessation of violence and repression does not cost a single cent to a nation already reeling heavily under huge external and internal debt.

“Zimbabwe cannot afford to lose scarce foreign currency on issues that can simply be addressed by behaviour change.

“The cheapest and most affordable consultancy firm is a deep soul searching by those in government whether they can really afford to procure multimillion dollar armoury aimed at their own citizens at a time millions of Zimbabweans are facing starvation.”

The US Congress passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in 2001 after then President Robert Mugabe’s administration embarked on a violent land grab from Zimbabwean white farmers of European descent for redistribution to locals.

The Zimbabwean government insists the sanctions were both unjustified and illegal in terms of international law.