Saturday, March 12, 2011

(HERALD) UK in £4,5 million sinister election project

COMMENT - British Government caught in Zimbabwe election rigging scheme.

UK in £4,5 million sinister election project
Saturday, 05 March 2011 23:54 Top Stories
Sunday Mail Reporter

THE British government, through its Department for International Development (DFID), has hatched a sinister plan to influence the outcome of the impending elections by pouring about £4,5 million into the coffers of MDC-T-affiliated civil society organisations and the private media, it has been established.

The civil society organisations, led by Transparency International Zimbabwe, have been assigned to undermine some of the country’s key national institutions ahead of the elections, with Attorney-General Mr Johannes Tomana having been identified as the first target.

Also being targeted is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which last week received a letter from the MDC-T secretary-general, Mr Tendai Biti, who was “suspiciously” proposing a host of changes to the voters’ roll.

Investigations last week revealed that Britain’s DFID has set aside £4,5 million for the project.

The department is surreptitiously scouting for a partner in the initiative titled “strengthening accountable governance in Zimbabwe”.

Last week Britain’s International Development Minister, Mr Andrew Mitchell, announced a 15 percent increase in his government’s purported aid to Zimbabwe in a bid to refute evidence of the existence of economic sanctions on the country and also to camouflage London’s election agenda.

British Ambassador to Harare Mr Mark Canning weighed in, hyping the package as “great news for ordinary Zimbabweans”.

However, it has emerged that focus is on influencing the outcome of this year’s polls via civil society organisations and the private media.

DFID tender contact person Susan Docherty could not be reached for comment yesterday as her UK telephone went unanswered.

Information to hand indicates that the project will be rolled out under the guise of providing civil society and media support.

The DFID is already floating a tender for this purpose. In its programme outline, the department claims the initiative seeks to help increase the engagement of citizens with the Government.

It also says media support will ensure Zimbabweans engage in key decision-making processes from a more enlightened position.

Successful bidders will manage the funds and superintend strategic activities. A total of £3 million will be released in the first year of the contract and the remainder in the next.

Part of the outline reads: “The goal of DFID support to civil society organisations is to increase the engagement of citizens with the Zimbabwean State and to help their interests be more effectively represented.

“The goal of support to independent media is to help Zimbabwe’s citizens engage in civil life and in key decision-making processes in a more informed way.

“It is expected that a contract will be awarded for management of DFID funds in Zimbabwe for approximately 30 months.”

Political analysts said the funding seeks to leverage British interests in the impending plebiscite. They said Western attempts to smuggle a hostile agenda into the country’s internal processes were futile.

“There is no doubt that they want to influence the outcome of the elections,” said an analyst who declined to be identified. “How best can you explain the fact that such funding is coinciding with an election year?”

Transparency International Zimbabwe is already at work as on February 25 this year, its acting executive director, Mr Titus Gwemende, wrote a letter to the Acting Principal Director in the Department of Anti-Corruption under the Ministry of Home Affairs requesting for criminal investigations on the AG.

Mr Gwemende has also written similar letters to key MDC-T personalities in Government such as Mr Obert Gutu.

His letters included a 276-page document entitled “Johannes Tomana’s Reign as Attorney-General of Zimbabwe — A Trail of Questionable Decisions”, that TIZ claims to have prepared after receiving a complaint from the MDC-T on the conduct of the AG.

The document is based on four cases which TIZ claims “warrant a criminal investigation of the conduct of the AG in the public interest”.

However, a retired judge, who refused to be named for professional reasons, said the action by TIZ is tantamount to interfering with the work of the AG.

“What is shocking and even illegal is that Gonese received the letter on 25 February and a few days later, he went to the AG’s Office asking for Mr Tomana’s comments on the report, thereby implying that he was in agreement with it.

“Such reports take time to read and the way Gonese acted raises suspicion. What is even more worrying is that it would be bad practice that we have a Government agency that acts on the basis of an organisation whose political agenda is known and without itself doing its own research.

“More importantly, this looks like a naked and unconstitutional attempt by the MDC-T through TIZ using Gonese’s office to violate Section 76 of the Constitution which requires that the AG discharges his responsibilities without any influence. These people can’t direct the AG. It’s unconstitutional and one gets the feeling that they are interfering with the powers of the AG for political purposes,” said the judge.

The judge went on to tear apart contents of the TIZ document, saying questioning the conduct of the AG in the Charles Nherera case is just a waste of time as the public record shows that Nherera was acquitted by the courts.

“If TIZ and Gonese have problems with Mr Tomana why are they not raising the same issue with the courts that have absolved Nherera? If they centre on Mr Tomana and leave the courts, it clearly shows that this is now a political matter.

“In the other case that TIZ raises in its report about Bright Matonga, they are complaining against the withdrawal of charges yet the key witness in the case, Jayesh Shah, collapsed the case by refusing to testify against Matonga.

“He refused to testify yet Matonga had plea

ded and therefore the trial had started. Surely, the case could not stay open indefinitely without the key witness coming to testify.

“What is even more disturbing is that at the time of some of these cases, Mr Tomana was not yet the AG. You get the feeling that these are attempts to politically manipulate the AG’s decision in current and future cases involving MDC-T members,” said the judge.

Mr Tomana refused to comment, saying: “I am very busy with much more serious issues than to comment about such rubbish.” Regarding the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the MDC-T has “sugar-coated” its machinations, saying it is calling for some electoral reforms before elections are held.

In its letter, the MDC-T included about 18 issues that it says should be addressed before elections are held.

Over the years, Western governments — led by Britain and the United States — have been working with some local non-governmental organisations and resident functionaries to oust Zanu-PF following the implementation of the land reform programme.

In 2008, Government suspended the operations of all NGOs after it emerged that a good number of them were vehicles for Western interference in the country’s electoral processes.

Reports then revealed that several of them had received US$6 million from the United States government to destabilise Zimbabwe while simultaneously using food to buy votes for the MDC-T.

Last month, US Secretary of State Mrs Hillary Clinton confirmed her government’s collaboration with civil society. In a speech on internet freedom at the George Washington University in Washington DC, she claimed that information leaked by the WikiLeaks website so far predominantly showed her government’s humanitarian work.

She admitted that US diplomats were in close liaison with activists and journalists in countries whose governments opposed America’s skewed policies.

“Our diplomats closely collaborate with activists, journalists and citizens to challenge the misdeeds of oppressive governments,” she said.

“It is dangerous work. By publishing diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks exposed people to even greater risk.

“For operations like these, confidentiality is essential, especially in the internet age when dangerous information can be sent around the world with the click of a keystroke.”-The Sunday Mail

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