By Thandiwe Garusa
THE United States (US) embassy in Zimbabwe has dismissed as false opposition leader Linda Masarira’s claims that she was offered US$1 million to tarnish the country’s image.
Masarira claims the Americans, through their Harare embassy, offered her a Women of Courage Award and more than US$1 mln which she refused.
She claims the embassy contacted her after she was arrested and asked how she wanted to be assisted.
“I ended up having a lot of meetings with them, they wanted to give me the woman of courage award,” said Masarira.
“I attended the cocktails that they invited me to. I wanted to understand what it was about and it had a huge sum of money about US$1 million and other packages like relocating my family to the US.
“What I did not agree with was going around the country with their scheduled meetings speaking about the negatives of Zimbabwe because I understood that I am a Zimbabwean first.
“My conscience would not allow me, I refused the one million,” Masarira said in an interview.
In response the US embassy dismissed the claims saying the awards come with small amounts of money not millions and are given to women who advocate for peace.
“We have seen false statements on social media about the International Women of Courage Award (IWOC),” said the embassy on Twitter.
“IWOC recognizes women and girls from around the world who advocate for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality and the empowerment of women and girls, often at great sacrifice,” the statement reads.
The embassy added: “Since 2007, more than 170 women from over 80 countries have received the IWOC.
“A source of great pride, four fearless Zimbabwean women have received this prestigious award – more than any other country in Africa.
“Awardees receive awards from the U.S. Secretary of State and First Lady in Washington, D.C. and participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program.
“The American Women for International Understanding provide awardees with small grants – not millions – to support their work.
“IWOC Awardees then return to their home countries to continue their courageous, meaningful work to improve their communities.
“The IWOC award, IVLP, and grants are transparent with no strings attached.
“Tell us about the courageous women in your community!”