ED hires US firm to spruce up Zim . . . as govt moves to improve its relations with Trump

HARARE -President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s under pressure government has hired a top American reputation management firm — to spruce up Zimbabwe’s international image and to lobby President Donald Trump’s government in a bid to improve frosty relations between Harare and Washington.

This comes after a disappointed Trump renewed America’s targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year earlier this week — accusing Mnangagwa and his government of not doing much to improve Harare’s democratic credentials since former president Robert Mugabe fell from power in November 2017.

The public relations company which has been contracted by Zimbabwe, Ballard Partners, is headed by prominent Washington lobbyist Brian Ballard — who is also said to be a top fundraiser for Trump’s political campaigns.

According to the details of the contract between Harare and Ballard Partners, which was signed last month by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, the government will pay the American firm a whopping US$500 000 a year for its services.

Well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that Ballard Partners is — among other things — expected to help Harare shed off its pariah status in Washington, while also working to assist Zimbabwe to access critically-needed funding from international financial institutions.

Repeated efforts to get an official comment from the government about its deal with Ballard Partners had not yielded results at the time of going to press last night. However, the details of the contract were widely available yesterday.

“This agreement shall become effective on February 13th, 2019 and shall remain effective until February 13th, 2021. “This agreement shall automatically renew for successive one-year periods on the anniversary of the effective date of the agreement unless either party terminates the agreement.

“Upon renewal, this agreement may be terminated within thirty (30) days written notice by either party,” part of the contract reads.
“In as much as the government of Zimbabwe has been denied access to international financial institutions and been under intense diplomatic pressure from Western countries, it shall be the main objective of the firm to encourage a re-examination of Zimbabwe by the State Department with a view to establishing the best possible bilateral relationship with the United States and facilitating the restoration of Zimbabwe’s membership in good standing in the community of nations, including permitting Zimbabwe the opportunity for unhindered participation in international financial institutions and other relevant international organisations.

“It shall further be the firm’s duty to inform the client of developments in legislation and policy relevant to the client’s operations,” the contract reads further. “The fee (due to Ballard Partners) shall be paid in quarterly instalments of $150 000, with the first quarterly instalment due immediately upon execution of this agreement, second instalment due on June 13th, 2019; third instalment due October 13th, 2019; fourth instalment due February 13th, 2020; and continuing to be due on a quarterly basis until the termination of the agreement.

“The firm will bill costs quarterly,” the contract adds.
Ballard Partners’ website says the firm was founded in 1998 and focusses on media and public relations, digital social media campaigns, reputation management, coalition building and grassroots, as well as crisis management among other things.

“Our lobbying success is grounded in our collective years of policy experience, a keen understanding of politics and effective representation in a myriad of policy areas, impacting a wide spectrum of local, state and federal government.

“We believe maintaining the highest degree of quality representation is central to our successful and continued relationship with our clients. “Our experience, resources and dedication effectively prepare us to undertake the most complex issues. We ensure that the utmost attention and energy are devoted to each client.

Availability and accessibility of all our professionals is our commitment to you,” the firm of spin doctors says. Relations between Zimbabwe and the US have been frosty for nearly two decades, and since the country embarked on chaotic and widely-criticised land reforms which saw many commercial farmers losing their land at the height of Mugabe’s ruinous rule.

The move was to prove disastrous for the country as this resulted in Zimbabwe’s isolation from the rest of the international community, at huge cost to long-suffering citizens.

It saw Zimbabwe’s critical credit lines and trade facilities being blocked, following the imposition of sanctions on the country, amid widespread criticism of the country’s human rights record.
This subsequently resulted in Zimbabwe hitting rock bottom a decade ago, which left most citizens dirt poor and living on less than a dollar a day — and with companies closing down and many investors pulling out.

Such was the economic horror of the time that the country was forced to abandon its currency because of hyper-inflation — which required balefuls of useless Zimbabwe dollars to buy a few basics when they were available.

Over the past few months, the country has unsuccessfully lobbied for the removal of Western sanctions, with the US renewing its sanctions this week following the post-election violence of recent months and the ensuing heavy clampdown on dissenting voices.

This has seen Trump dealing a huge blow to Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts with Washington and other Western powers — after he extended America’s sanctions against Zimbabwe by another year.

This came after Mnangagwa and his senior government colleagues were recently given a stay of execution by the European Union (EU), which last month decided against hitting the country’s under-pressure “new dispensation” with fresh sanctions.
It also came after Trump had last year raised hopes that his government could finally end nearly two decades of frosty relations between the USA and Zimbabwe — after he sent a powerful delegation to Harare to engage with Mnangagwa, ahead of the country’s historic elections.

“On March 6, 2003, by Executive Order 13288, the president declared a national emergency and blocked the property of certain persons, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706), to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine … democratic processes or institutions.

“These actions and policies had contributed to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe, to politically motivated violence and intimidation in that country, and to political and economic instability in the southern African region. “The actions and policies of these persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.

“For this reason, the national emergency declared on March 6, 2003, and the measures adopted on that date, on November 22, 2005, and on July 25, 2008, to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond March 6, 2019.

“Therefore … I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288,” Trump said on Monday.
Political analysts have told the Daily News that Mnangagwa and his government had themselves “to blame” for the extension of the USA’s sanctions — “because Trump had given them ample time” to demonstrate that they were different from Mugabe.

    Comments (4)

    Tax payers money being wasted yet you know what is required of you. Vakomana. Khaya Moyo says Zimbabwe is a sovereign state which should be left alone, why this waste of resources then.

    yohwe - 8 March 2019

    wasting time and money

    mwana wamhaiyo - 8 March 2019

    Mina ngiyazwana lo mkhokheli wale Amerikha ...kancinyane. Ngadlala laye I golofu since '12 lengane yakhe. Kangisho ukuthi ngiyamazi kakhulu kumbe ngizancedisa umkhokheli U Mnangagwa endabeni yakhe , hashi . Ngiyabiza imali enkulu kakhulu ukuthi nguyenze x30. Umsebenzi wami yikucedisa abaswelayo , izikholo zasemaphandleni lezibhedlela zakhona, imali enjalo iyafunakala emnyakeni owodwa. INDABA enje iyahlupa , ngibona kungcono ukuqala ngokuncedisa kumbe ukubhadala imuli zabantu ababulawa ngamasotsha umnyaka lowu lodlulileyo. Yikuqala okuhle.

    Royal Matebele - 8 March 2019

    This guy is the most satanic man ever to live on earth. He's worse than Mugabe. He lied to us that he would be democratic once elected. Idiot

    Chikowore - 8 March 2019

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