West tightens screws on Zimbabwe

 West tightens screws on Zimbabwe
Published: 27 September 2019
IN AN ominous development for both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government, a reputable United States university has stripped First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, pictured, of an award it had given her in recognition of her charity work in Zimbabwe.

This comes as there are fears Western powers are increasingly losing patience with Mnangagwa's under-fire administration over growing human rights violations, which include the abduction and torture of opposition and pro-democracy activists.

At the same time, political analysts warned that the enormous pressure that was put on Harvard University to rescind its award by a group of influential Americans - including former ambassadors to Zimbabwe - was a bad sign for Mnangagwa and his government.

Auxillia was this week named Harvard Medical School's Global Health Catalyst Ambassador - in recognition of the work that her charity, Angels of Hope, has done in Zimbabwe to improve the health and lives of vulnerable groups, including those suffering from cancer and HIV/Aids.

However, the influential group of former ambassadors and American civic society leaders wrote to Harvard asking the much-extolled university to rescind its decision.

Consequently Harvard University buckled under pressure and issued a statement yesterday denying that it had honoured the first lady.

"Harvard-affiliated researchers working at one of our hospitals recently had an informal conversation with the first lady of Zimbabwe about cancer screening in Africa.

"The first lady has not been named ambassador at Harvard University," the highly-regarded institution said, hours after it had been challenged to review the honour.

Harvard University had honoured the first lady at the same time that acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors Association (ZHDA), Peter Magombeyi, had been denied access to medical treatment in South Africa - days after he was released  by his captors,  accused of abducting him early this month.

The award also came as there are growing concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country  following the abductions of more than 50 people since the beginning of the year.

In their unflattering letter to Harvard University, the former ambassadors had argued that   Auxillia was not deserving of the award as Mnangagwa's government was "abducting its opponents" and clamping down on critics.

"To be blunt, your well-intentioned work in these areas is tainted by the affiliation with Auxillia and her direct personal connection to an increasingly corrupt and abusive administration in which tolerance for dissent is non-existent, and democratic rights are violently denied.

"According to credible human rights organisations - both domestic and international - more than 50 government critics and activists have been abducted in Zimbabwe over the past nine months.

"The most pertinent example is that of Peter Magombeyi, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, who ‘disappeared' on September 14 and was discovered five days later, left on the side of a road, disoriented and suffering from the effects of torture," the group said in their stinging letter.

"Already, the announcement of this honour has been used in Zimbabwean state media to provide a veneer of ill-gotten legitimacy for an exceedingly authoritarian regime - one in which prominent health professionals like Peter Magombeyi are being forcefully abducted from their homes and tortured with impunity.

"In light of the concerning situation in Zimbabwe, we implore your institution to exercise due diligence in this matter and to consider rescinding this honour to first lady Mnangagwa - an honour that should be reserved for those who are truly deserving of such recognition," the group said further.

Among the group are three former ambassadors to Zimbabwe - Bruce Wharton, Harry Thomas and Charles Ray - who served in Harare during the tenure of former president Robert Mugabe.
Political analysts yesterday told the Daily News that the humiliation of the first lady could "be a harbinger of worse things to come" as both the American government and several Western countries were disappointed by growing allegations of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

"My take on the whole unfortunate saga is that Auxillia…has been caught between a sour and deteriorating relationship between the government and the US.

"We have been following the saga between the government and the United States in the state media.
"There is growing tension between the two, but one which may not be written down.

"We were told that the United States ambassador (Brian Nichols) met with the Zanu-PF secretary for information and publicity (Simon Khaya-Moyo) at the party's headquarters. It suggests the complexity of the issue, which cannot be easily deciphered with the naked eye," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

Masunungure said Auxillia was being punished for being Mnangagwa's wife at a time when his administration was being accused of failing to respect the rule of law and upholding human rights.

"It's a further dark spot on the relationship between Zimbabwe and the United States and the western community," he added.

On his part, another political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said while Auxillia had done nothing wrong to warrant humiliation, she had paid the price for the Mnangagwa government's continued violation of human rights.
"Generally, there is growing concern over human rights issues, which are affecting the image of Zimbabwe.
"Yet it may not be necessary to target the first lady as she is her own person to be judged by her own actions.

"Regardless, there is no doubt that the world sees the bigger picture of the Zimbabwe story and so far it is one of rights abuses," Mukundu said.

Auxillia would not be the first high profile Zimbabwean to suffer the ignominy of being stripped of honours.

In 2017, former president Robert Mugabe was appointed a goodwill ambassador by the World Health Organisation (WHO) but it was immediately withdrawn following global outrage.
- dailynews
Tags: Zimbabwe,


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