THE United States has said Zimbabwe should hold free and fair elections in 24 months and described the current inclusive government as a â€œvery imperfect unionâ€ where President Robert Mugabeâ€™s Zanu PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC are fighting for power.
James McGee, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, in an interview with the USâ€™s National Public Radio in Washington on Monday, said there was little change on the political front brought about by the inclusive government formed on February 13 between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and leader of the MDC, Arthur Mutambara.
He said the US wanted a new constitution in Zimbabwe within the next 18 months and a new election within 24 months.
â€œThat is key â€” free and fair elections in Zimbabwe within 24 months would be an absolute key to anything that does happen positively in this country,â€ McGee said.
In terms of the Global Political Agreement signed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara in September last year, Zimbabwe must have a people-driven constitution by the end of August next year.
McGee said: â€œWe have two political parties occupying or attempting to occupy one government and there are fits and there are starts (periods of activity). I think maybe there are more fits than there are starts in this particular arrangement.
â€œEach political party has a number of ministries that they control, a prime minister who is trying to exert his power, and then you have the president, Robert Mugabe, still trying to exert all of his power. So it is a very imperfect union right now.â€
He said the government was yet to make significant moves since its formation with the facilitation of Sadc and the mediation of former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
â€œAs we sit here today, there are still farm invasions that are taking place in Zimbabwe, there are still political activists in prison. We have at least 13 people we have no idea where they are â€” they have been missing for months. And we have been hoping that these folks are safe somewhere, but there has been no indication of where these people are. So it is still business as usual that is exactly what is happening, and we need to see some change,â€ McGee said.
He said there was â€œno reason and no wayâ€ the US is going to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe without some â€œvery, very clear indication that the inclusive government was moving in the right directionâ€.
The US renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe for a year last month â€“ a move that has been condemned by the inclusive government which needs immediate financial aid to kick start its economic stabilisation programme.Â Â
The US ambassador said the inclusive government must move to embrace established internationally recognised human rights principles.
Until that takes place, McGee said, the US is â€œjust not going to lift these sanctions. We have individual sanctions and we have sanctions against parastatals.â€
Both types of sanctions, McGee said, â€œare there for a reasonâ€ because certain people and entities have been using Zimbabwe for their own enrichment.
â€œThe people of Zimbabwe — their needs are not being met … We have looked at it very carefully. The situation … remains the same. So until we do see some change, the sanctions are going to stay in place,â€ he said.
McGee said now was a time of opportunity with regard to Zimbabwe.
â€œWe in the Western donor community need to step up and look at ways to assist the people of Zimbabwe in their time of need. But I think the key players will be Sadc and the African Union. As the guarantor of this government of national unity, Sadc needs to step up to the plate and ensure that both sides (of the unity government) are living up to the intent and letter of this unity government,â€ he said.
On the health front, McGee said the cholera epidemic that has been plaguing Zimbabwe for the past several months is â€œsomewhat under controlâ€. He added, however, that 80 000 people have been affected and more than 4 000 people have died.
This he attributed to a â€œtotal collapse and failure of the health care system in Zimbabweâ€ under Mugabeâ€™s leadership.
The US government has provided more than US$6,8 million to help the people of Zimbabwe battle the cholera epidemic and more than US$264 million in humanitarian assistance since October 2007 to help Zimbabweans in their ongoing health and food crisis. â€”Staff Writer.