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Official from the United States Calls for Free and Fair Elections and the End of Political Violence in Zimbabwe

Aug 7, 2023 | 2023 Elections | 0 comments

Washington—note: Editor’s VOA Zimbabwe Service’s Blessing Zulu interviewed U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee on Thursday.

As Zimbabwe prepares for national elections on Aug. 23, a senior U.S. diplomat warned Thursday that rules restricting civic space make a free and fair election unlikely. In an interview with VOA Zimbabwe Service’s Blessing Zulu, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee claimed opposition political groups and people are being harassed and barred from organizing and campaigning. Phee said the U.S. had raised concerns with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government and would send election monitors. The dialogue was modified for clarity and brevity.

U.S. African Affairs Assistant Secretary Molly Phee: I’d like to remind you that Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has repeatedly emphasized that he wants free and fair elections, which would be the best way to achieve peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe. Regrettably, recent events imply that a free and fair election is in question, and I can offer you several instances.

Blessing Zulu: Highlight your issues.

MP: As you know, last month’s Patriotic Act restricted Zimbabwe’s constitution, African Union, and U.N. protocols’ core political freedoms. Freedom of assembly lets individuals and political parties prepare for elections. It also restricts citizens, political parties, and the media’s speech. Their behaviours worry us. We’ve also seen opposition political parties and individuals deliberately hounded and stopped from enjoying their political liberties, which should be protected by such regimes under the Zimbabwean constitution and as declared by the African Union and the U.N. We’re worried the election won’t meet the president’s threshold.

VOA: Harare authorities claim the U.S. has comparable legislation punishing treason.

MP: No. We have a law with the same name, but it’s quite distinct. They’re talking about a separate statute: the U.S. values assembly and speech freedoms. As you’ve seen in recent years, we’ve had electoral issues. Nonetheless, our judiciary and congressional investigations monitor our electoral actions. As [U.S.] President [Joe] Biden has stated, democracy is the ideal form of governance to unleash the potential of every human being, treat everyone equal under the law, and provide stability for economic progress.

VOA: Do Harare and Washington discuss these concerns?

MP: We raised those issues with the government. We’ve discussed them openly. We appreciate the government’s election observer invitation. Our Harare embassy will have numerous observers. International observers like the US Carter Center, E.U., and African Union. We hope that observers can do their usual duty to guarantee that voters can easily attend the polls, are not harassed, and that the electoral process represents the real vote.

VOA: Why are Zimbabweans and the international world demanding free and fair elections in Harare?

MP: The Zimbabwean constitution and president demand free and fair elections. In our experience in the U.S. and globally, a democratic system that respects all communities in a nation, regardless of race, religion, or other categories, is the greatest way to peace and prosperity. That everyone is equal and free to shape their nation’s destiny. Political stability from a system like mine allows for economic progress. Zimbabwe has a strong history of prosperity, substantial human potential, and vast natural resources. Zimbabwe may lead southern Africa and join global conversations. So, we want for Zimbabwe’s people and nation.

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VOA: Political violence. Harare ZANU-PF members assassinated a Citizens Coalition for Change supporter. Political violence—what do you think?

MP: I abhor political violence in my country, Zimbabwe, and everywhere. Violence intimidates people and stifles democracy. This year, police have arrested and assaulted political parties and civilians practising their democratic rights. As you mentioned, the political party’s vigilante forces are alarming and should be unacceptable for a government and community dedicated to a free, fair election.

VOA: The governing party claims Mr. Mnangagwa has advocated peace and nonviolence. Need more?

MP: The instances you and I gave imply that his speech still needs to be turned into action, and we would encourage the administration to follow the president’s words.

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