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Zimbabwe will not thrive if government only focuses on economy

A post-Mugabe Zimbabwe will not thrive if the government only focuses on the economy while ignoring the need for political reforms, a United States-based Zimbabwean academic told the United States congress this week.

Chipo Dendere said it was unlikely that the new ZANU-PF government will usher in a democratic system that alleviates poverty and respects civil liberties.

It was also unlikely following the death of key opposition figure Morgan Tsvangirai that the opposition will spur democratic growth.

“At the heart of Zimbabwe’s democratic challenges in the post-Mugabe era is debilitating poverty. In the absence of rigorous efforts to address high unemployment rates, poor health care and violence, Zimbabwe’s democratic future remains grim,” she said. 

She called on the United States to revise some of the conditions of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) arguing that it would be beneficial to the United States to provide clarity for American businesses working with Zimbabweans and to also support efforts by Zimbabweans seeking debt relief for their country.

Dendere said the Zimbabwean government should engage in extensive investigations on human rights abuses before individuals on the targeted list of sanctions have been removed. 

“The quality of the 2018 elections will determine the ‘new’ ZANU PF’s commitment to democracy. It is also clear that the average Zimbabwean is more hopeful than they have ever been and support for civil society organizations will bolster this support for democracy among regular citizens.”

The United States yesterday extended sanctions on Zimbabwe by another year with effect from 6 March.

Here is her full testimony:

Testimony of Dr. Chipo Dendere  Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow & Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, Amherst College  House Foreign Affairs Committee  Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights  February 28, 2018

Thank you, Chairman Christopher H. Smith, Ranking Member Karen Bass and other members of the Subcommittee, for the invitation to testify today on the future of Zimbabwe in a post-Robert Mugabe era. As a scholar of African politics, I can say that this is an outcome many of us would not have predicted. I believe I speak for most young Zimbabweans, my generation born after independence, when I say the idea of a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe is quite surreal. 

 Robert Mugabe was ousted from office in November 2017 in a series of military-led events that began as a guardian coup resulting in his resignation. 

The United States and Zimbabwe have a long history of a mutually beneficial and productive relationship. In 1980, the United States was the first country to open an embassy in the newly independent Zimbabwe and extended a state visit invitation to then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.

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