By Staff Reporter
ROBERT Mugabe’s fall from power last November was a watershed moment for Zimbabweans and can be equated to the United States’s declaration of independence almost three centuries ago, an American envoy said Thursday.
In her speech to mark the 242nd independence celebrations, US Charge d’Affaires Jennifer Savage the new sense of hope and openness was “monumental” in the history of human rights in Zimbabwe.
“Here in Zimbabwe, independence was won 38 years ago, but freedom from oppression did not immediately follow. Until last November. The people of Zimbabwe found their voices, and dared to hope,” said Savage.
“More than at any other time in recent history, the people of Zimbabwe have more freedom to speak their minds; more freedom to dissent, more freedom to voice their own vision for the future of Zimbabwe.
“This new sense of freedom of expression is monumental, and a fundamental change for human rights in Zimbabwe as long the leaders and institutions protect it.”
November 2017 Optimism
Savage said while sometimes there is a sense of uncertainty about the future “let’s try to hold on to the optimism we all felt in those days (November).
After 38 years in power Mugabe was forced out of power following a military intervention that scattered his faction in the ruling Zanu PF party led by then First Lady Grace along with some cabinet ministers.
Under successor Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, Savage said prospects for change look real and there is renewed hope that she said stems from fresh belief.
“It comes from dreams of something better, from believing that change is possible. We have witnessed some promising signs of change. President Mnangagwa has called for free, fair, and credible elections.
“We have seen the political opposition hold rallies in ruling party strongholds. We have seen the government invite elections observers and media in irrefutable numbers,” Savage said.
“We have seen state media shift from antagonistic to curious about the diplomatic community. And we have heard that Zimbabwe is open for business.”
The American diplomat urged patience.
“Sometimes change is dramatic and swift. At other times it is gradual, plodding, it wearily fights an uphill battle. The hangover of past sins rests heavy on the people of Zimbabwe,” the US envoy said.
“Zimbabwe, let us not throw away this shot. What an incredible opportunity you all have, particularly those of you in public positions, to restore public trust in the leaders and institutions of this great country that by all rights should be leading Africa in the 21st century. Seize that opportunity.”
Savage said, with this month’s elections, Zimbabwe has a chance to show its commitment to democratic principles.
“Whatever government takes leadership after July 30 must make progress on the ideals that the people of Zimbabwe demand, and free, fair, and credible elections is just one of those demands.
“Of utmost importance are human rights reforms – to include reconciliation and accounting for past sins, a meaningful restoration of property rights, and the repeal of oppressive laws.
“This goes hand in hand with good governance and harmonizing the laws of the nation with the 2013 constitution.
“Finally, Zimbabweans look forward to the economic reforms that will usher into reality the ‘open for business’ sign, including a more efficient bureaucracy and a plan to address the liquidity crisis,” she said.
Regarding relations between the US and Zimbabwe which have been strained by sanctions over nearly two decades, Savage said the two governments must now look beyond the frosty past.
“We must look beyond targeted sanctions to envision a relationship in which trade and investment flow freely between the two countries,” said Savage.