FORMER United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray, has urged Washington to seek ways of accommodating President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s politicised military establishment and help in the re-industrialization of the country in the aftermath of a credible election later this year.
In a statement before the Africa Subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week, regarding the potential for US-Zimbabwe relations in the aftermath of former President Robert Mugabe’s ouster, Ray said the opposition is Zimbabwe was too disjointed to pose a threat to Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF government.
Mnangagwa’s administration swept to power on the back of a military coup in November last year, after Mugabe succumbed to pressure from the public and Parliament and stepped down.
“The elephant in the room, which can’t be entirely ignored, is the Zimbabwean military. Existing laws and regulations will limit what we can do with the military, but for the long term, peaceful development of Zimbabwe, at some point we will have to figure out a way to work with this institution,” he said.
“Initially, I believe the primary focus should be on inculcating in the military establishment an ethos of service to the nation as a whole rather than identification with a specific political party. In my limited contact with senior military officials when I was an ambassador, I was convinced that there exists within the military establishment a cadre of people who would like to professionalize and depoliticise the institution. The challenge will be to identify those individuals, and develop effective ways of working with them.”
According to Ray, the US could try to tip-toe the Zimbabwean securocrats and approach them through Sadc.
“One possibility might be to establish a working relationship with the Sadc Peacekeeping Academy, which is located in Harare, and allowing Zimbabwean military participation in courses of instruction on military professionalism.
“I leave it to State and Defence, working with the Congress, to determine just how such a programme would be implemented,” said the retired ambassador.
With Mnangagwa consistently declaring he intends to run a free and fair election, Ray said the US needed to find ways of working with him.