New US Envoy Warns Zimbabwean Leaders

Harare,- United States ambassador to Zimbabwe-designate Bruce Wharton says although his country’s policy is not about regime change, the US will not stand by if the rights of Zimbabweans are trampled on by their leaders.

Giving testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Thurday, Wharton who will succeed Charles Ray if he is endorsed by the US senate, said only the people of Zimbabwe had the right to change their government. 

President Robert Mugabe accuses the US and other Western governments of sponsoring local parties to topple his regime.

Wharton said the notion was wrong.

“Our policies support principles, not parties or people,” he said. “However, when the right to self-determination is denied, as it has been in Zimbabwe through restrictions on citizen rights, through political violence, and fraudulent and mismanaged elections, the United States cannot stand idly by.” 

He said the US had taken principled steps to demonstrate its concern about “the actions of those responsible for, and those who profit from, miscarriages of the promise Zimbabwe offered at independence”.

“We will always stand up for the rights of Zimbabweans to speak, write, read, meet, organise, and fully participate in their nation’s political processes,” Wharton said.

The US slapped sanctions on Mugabe, senior Zanu (PF) officials and state companies accused of abetting human rights violations. Mugabe was accused of electoral fraud.

There are reports that the European Union plans to suspend its embargo on Zimbabwe when the block meets later this month.

But Wharton said he would only recommend such a move by his country if there was evidence of reforms in Zimbabwe.

“The United States stands ready to alter the current restrictions on our relationship with Zimbabwe and to forge stronger economic and political ties,” he told the committee.

“The full implementation of the Global Political Agreement, progress on the Southern African Development Community’s roadmap toward elections, and well managed and credible elections will be a trigger for the US to open a much more dynamic relationship with one of Africa’s most important countries.”

He said Zimbabwe, despite its complex challenges, still had a bright future and the US should be involved in efforts to help the country realise its potential.

“It is in the interest of the United States to be a partner in that process and, if confirmed, I will continue the work of building productive and respectful relationships with all Zimbabweans of goodwill,” Wharton said.

He said there was need to grow the relation between the two countries beyond one that was defined by aid.

If confirmed, it would be Wharton’s second posting to Zimbabwe after he previously worked at the US embassy.