McGee Surprised by MDC Calls for Sanctions Lifting

HARARE, – Outgoing American ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, says he is surprised by calls being made by some politicians within the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to lift US sanctions targeted at President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle.

McGee said the sanctions were in fact advancing the MDC’s attempts to force Mugabe to agree to restore the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

“The MDC is quite aware of what we are trying to do, which is to keep the pressure on those forces that do not want to see positive change here in Zimbabwe,” McGee told journalists Thursday at a round table meeting at the US embassy in Harare.

“That pressure will remain and I think the MDC is well aware that the lifting of those targeted sanctions would be counter productive to what they are trying to do.”

Some 280 Zimbabweans, including business personalities and journalists who have displayed open support for Mugabe’s oppressive rule, are on the US sanctions blacklist.

While the Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC has refused to be pressured by Zanu PF to call for the lifting of sanctions, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who leads the smaller MDC, repeatedly calls for their removal.

“Our political masters in the United States have made a decision that targeted sanctions will not be lifted. Everyone knows what needs to be accomplished to lift those targeted sanctions,” McGee said.

The veteran diplomat said the US would be more than pleased to remove the sanctions once certain benchmarks have been met.

McGee said the US reserves the right to bar anyone from visiting its territory, in the same manner in which the Zimbabwean government exercised its right to bar a group of Elders led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, from visiting Zimbabwe last year to assess the human rights situation.

“Each country has the right to say ‘yes you can or you cannot get into my borders’,” he said.

“That is how we have made that determination. Zimbabwe, the UK, Ireland, Thailand nobody, can dictate who can and cannot enter our shores.”

McGee, who denies sanctions were the cause of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis, said he was surprised that President Mugabe, leader of a generation of anti-colonial activists that brought down the erstwhile Ian Smith regime, does not want to see a new generation of Zimbabweans fighting his autocratic rule.

The outspoken diplomat denies government accusations he was interfering with Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

He said he wishes to see the success of the new unity government in Zimbabwe.

“We want to see the transitional government work. There is no other game in town,” he said.

He said he has seen “some positive” developments in the new coalition government.

He said he has seen “some positive” developments in the new coalition government.

He however regretted the alleged lack of political goodwill by some powerful elements loyal to President Mugabe.

“There are forces in this country who still would like to see the status quo maintained and that status quo is just not good enough.

“ …We will continue to help those elements in government that are trying to move forward without giving assistance to those elements who wish to remain stuck in the past.”

He said the US needs to see “verifiable change” in Zimbabwe for it to qualify for development assistance.

“That change costs nothing and that is what is upsetting for me. We are not asking for money from Zimbabwe. We are not asking them to reverse, but to stop any new farm takeovers. We are asking them to respect the rule of law.” 

If government were sincere with its polices, McGee said, the cut off point for new farm offers should have been the day the coalition government was formed.

“Why would a US company bring money to Zimbabwe when the laws change daily?,” he said.

“I would be a fool, an absolute idiot to bring that money into the country. How can you expect any direct investment in this country when we you do not have solid, sustainable rule of law in this country.”

McGee, whose term officially ends on 5 July 2009, said he was proud of his mission in Zimbabwe because of the US humanitarian assistance he helped to convey to vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe.

On the completion of his mission, McGee, a Vietnamese war veteran and diplomat of 28 years, will lecture for year at a National Defence University in Washington DC, before retiring.