By Nkosana Dlamini
The US government led by Joe Biden will not shy from reprimanding democracy trouble spots such as Zimbabwe but will not stretch to interfere with their ties with sly China.
This was said by Ambassador Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during a virtual press brief Friday on her delegation’s tour to South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Niger.
Nuland had been asked by State Department correspondent Pearl Matibe to address “the democracy element with Zimbabwe, and Zambia” and the “deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, specifically”.
He also asked, “How should Southern African countries, number one, deal with Russia and, separately, China’s growing role in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and other countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region?
In his response, Nuland admitted there was “backsliding”.
“As you said, there are democracy challenges all over Africa. There’s backsliding. Some – I remember being in Zimbabwe in the ‘90s and it was one of the most beautiful and prosperous and relatively open countries, and it’s a far cry from that now.
“We are not going to be shy. President Biden is not shy, as you saw when he met with President Putin in Geneva, a meeting that I was honoured to join, about our concerns about democracy, human rights. And we will speak honestly and candidly to countries when we have concerns. And frankly, if countries are choosing a more autocratic path, it will constrain what we can do together.”
Zimbabwe broke ranks with its former US ally at the turn of the century when then President Robert Mugabe visited brutalities on opponents and also led a violent land grab policy that killed a handful former white landowners and opposition supporters.
Since the time, attempts to mend the relationship have drawn blanks as the US insists on a recalcitrant Harare administration’s return to democracy first.
In his press briefing, Nuland said it will not interfere with Zimbabwe, and other African countries’ relations with China.
“…Nowhere in the world will the United States ask its partners or its allies to choose between the U.S. and China. That’s not what we are about.
“We are about insisting that trade and investment be open, be transparent, support labour rights, support high environmental standards, that lending be transparent and non-predatory and advantageous for the country where it is happening.
“And we have concerns about the way China’s investments in Africa have gone. They have often benefited China and not necessarily benefited the beneficiary countries.
He encouraged “all of our partners to check their pockets, check their wallets” before they cut deals with China and Russia.