USA big guns move to punish Mnangagwa's wife for Zimbabwe chaos

 USA big guns move to punish Mnangagwa's wife for Zimbabwe chaos
Published: 27 September 2019
AN INFLUENTIAL 15-member American group that includes three former ambassadors to Zimbabwe wants First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, pictured, stripped of an award that was given to her by a top United States university - because of the worsening human rights situation in the country that is blamed on the government, the Daily News reported.

This comes as Zimbabwe's respect for the rule of law was this week placed under the spotlight again, after police defied a High Court ruling allowing a medical doctor who had been allegedly abducted to seek specialist treatment in South Africa.

It also comes as both the first lady and President Emmerson Mnangagwa are in the United States where the Zanu-PF leader is attending the 74th session of the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

Auxillia was this week named Harvard Medical School's Global Health Catalyst ambassador in recognition of the work that her charity, Angel of Hope, has done in Zimbabwe to improve the health and lives of vulnerable groups, including those suffering from cancer and HIV/Aids.

However, the first lady faces the ignominy of being stripped of the honour if the group of powerful individuals has its way, after they wrote to Harvard asking the much-extolled university to rescind its decision to recognise her work.

In their unflattering letter, the group said Auxillia did not deserve the award as Mnangagwa's government was "abducting its opponents" and clamping down on critics.

"To be blunt, your well-intentioned work in these areas is tainted by the affiliation with Auxillia and her direct personal connection to an increasingly corrupt and abusive administration in which tolerance for dissent is non-existent, and democratic rights are violently denied.
"According to credible human rights organisations - both domestic and international - more than 50 government critics and activists have been abducted in Zimbabwe over the past nine months.

"The most pertinent example is that of Peter Magombeyi, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, who ‘disappeared' on September 14 and was discovered five days later, left on the side of a road, disoriented and suffering from the effects of torture," the group said in their stinging letter.

Among the group are three former ambassadors to Zimbabwe - Bruce Wharton, Harry Thomas and Charles Ray - who served in Harare during the tenure of the late former president Robert Mugabe.

"Already, the announcement of this honour has been used in Zimbabwean state media to provide a veneer of ill-gotten legitimacy for an exceedingly authoritarian regime - one in which prominent health professionals like Peter Magombeyi are being forcefully abducted from their homes and tortured with impunity.

"In light of the concerning situation in Zimbabwe, we implore your institution to exercise due diligence in this matter and to consider rescinding this honour to first lady Mnangagwa - an honour that should be reserved for those who are truly deserving of such recognition," the group said further.

Jeffrey Smith, the founding director of Washington DC-based Vanguard Africa - an organisation that advocates ethical leadership on the African continent - also told international media that it was "immoral" to honour the first lady.

"Oftentimes, abusive, wholly repressive regimes like the kind that exists in Zimbabwe will attempt to use these prestigious, international institutions such as Harvard to put a positive veneer on what is happening in the country, to deflect from human rights abuses, the massive shortfalls in medicine.

"That's exactly what is happening here. Currently Zimbabwe is working with the biggest PR firms here in Washington DC, paying them substantial sums of money, along with another lobby firm in London," Smith, who instigated the letter to Harvard University, said.

But Mnangagwa's government says the former ambassadors, as well as the other members of the powerful group, were displaying "racist tendencies" towards the first lady.

Mnangagwa and his government are increasingly being accused of breaching human rights, failing to respect the rule of law and abducting people who don't agree with their policies.

On Tuesday, the government scored yet another stunning own goal after jittery authorities defied a High Court order and stopped Magombeyi from flying to South Africa for urgent medical attention.

Magombeyi was recently reported to have been abducted by suspected State security agents, amid an ongoing strike by the country's public sector physicians for better working conditions.

The decision by authorities to defy High Court Judge Happias Zhou's order and stop Magombeyi from flying to South Africa could not have come at a worse time for the nation and for Mnangagwa personally - as the president desperately seeks to end Zimbabwe's two decades of international isolation due to political strife in the country.

Magombeyi has, since his re-appearance on Thursday last week, been admitted at a local private hospital in Harare, where his doctors have advised him and his family that he needs specialist treatment in South Africa, which is not available in Zimbabwe.

He tried to leave for Johannesburg on Monday, but was stopped by police from doing so, forcing his lawyers to approach the courts.

But in a shocking turn of events, although authorities had consented to the High Court order sought by Magombeyi's father - Kingstone - for the apparently still disoriented medical practitioner to leave for South Africa, police once again blocked him from leaving the private clinic.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said the move to push for the withdrawal of the first lady's honour was the right one, given that relations between Zimbabwe and the United States government were not good.

"It's is a slap in the face for Harvard to honour Auxillia when America has placed the country under sanctions for human rights violations.

"The ambassadors are simply trying to communicate a misalignment by the university, considering America's position on Zimbabwe.

"Political fundamentals should be established first, as well as respect for human rights, before deciding to give an honorary award to a first lady whose husband is presiding over a government that is violating human rights," Masunungure told the Daily News.

Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group also said it was "wrong" to view Auxillia as being independent from decisions taken by her husband's administration.

"The timing of Harvard's decision is surprising and suggests that they either do not know about the current human rights controversies in Zimbabwe or that they do not care.

"The intervention by the former ambassadors reflects the depth of concern and provides Harvard University with an opportunity to explain itself," he said.

However, motor-mouth Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi accused the former diplomats of being racist by allegedly failing to recognise the "sterling work that Auxillia has done".

"We wish to remind the former diplomats that Harvard University should not be confused as a racist social club meant to honour white supremacists.

"The academic institution needs to be given its freedom to honour those it believes have made a significant contribution to social change in the societies they live.

"First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa is one philanthropist whose passion for health care has benefited many women in Zimbabwe," Mutodi thundered.
- dailynews
Tags: Mnangagwa,


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