Tempers flare after US researchers’ deportation from Zim

Zimbabwe’s government continues to deport foreign researchers and academics from the country. The latest group to be expatriated was a group of four American researchers carrying out assessments for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

May 19, 2024 - 09:58
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Tempers flare after US researchers’ deportation from Zim

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba

On 10 March 2024, Zimbabwe’s government accused the four researchers of “sneaking” into the country last month without notifying the authorities according to protocol and proceeding to hold “unsanctioned and covert meetings, which were to inform Washington’s adversarial foreign policy towards Zimbabwe”, the state-run newspaper The Sunday Mail reported.

USAID issued a statement on 8 March, raising concerns over the deportation of its contractors which the agency said were carrying out assessments in Zimbabwe.

The four deported persons are Professor Norma Kriger, Brenda Lee Pearson, Sarah Logan and Loretta Bass. Kriger, an expert on Zimbabwe and South Africa, did not respond to questions sent to her by University World News.

Sanctions sparked deportation

The researchers’ deportation follows the United States government’s decision on 4 March to include Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on a list of 11 Zimbabweans slapped with targeted sanctions for their alleged involvement in corruption or serious human rights abuses.

Others on the list include Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia, and his deputy, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, a former powerful general who engineered the coup against long-time president Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

In the run-up to Zimbabwe’s general elections held on 23 August 2023, the government deported British academic Professor Stephen Chan, accusing him of plotting to destabilise the country after the polls. Chan is a professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and an honorary professor at the universities of Zambia and Johannesburg, among others.

Days before Chan was deported, South Africa’s Good Governance Africa CEO Chris Maroleng, together with a team of three researchers were also sent packing, University World News reported.

Government insists researchers spied

In its report, The Sunday Mail said the researchers who were on a USAID mission visited Zimbabwe under the pretext of carrying out “democracy and governance assessment” to help USAID design its local programmes, but they were spying for America. The paper said the four were deported after it was established their real agenda was more focused on seeking “a more effective method to effect regime change in the country”.

The paper quoted Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba, as saying the four entered the country without notifying the ministry of foreign affairs as stipulated under the Geneva Convention.

“The State will invoke its rough hands to enforce the laws of the land but to also get that foreign country to respect the sovereignty of that country. Let me make it very categorically clear that, while this is a specific incident, the American government and its agencies are best advised that Zimbabwe is determined, capable and prepared to deport as many unlawful missions from any country, including mighty America, for as long as those countries are prepared to raise such unlawful missions which violate the integrity of Zimbabwe,” Charamba told the newspaper.

“That message must go out very, very clearly to all countries, including the Americans. The size of the country, the military might of that country, the economic might of that country, the diplomatic might of that country is inconsequential when it comes to the sovereignty of this country and the need to preserve it.”

US will fight for rights of Zimbabweans

In its statement, USAID said Zimbabwean authorities had subjected some of those deported to overnight detention, transportation in unsafe conditions, prolonged interrogation, as well as seizure of and intrusion into personal electronic equipment.

“This inappropriate and aggressive treatment occurred while the individuals were assessing the development and governance context in Zimbabwe to help inform USAID’s work to support civic participation, democratic institutions, and human rights,” the statement read.

“This is a grave development that follows other serious incidents over the past two years in which US government officials and US citizens experienced harassment and improper treatment from the Zimbabwean authorities. These unjustifiable actions render hollow the Government of Zimbabwe’s claims that it is committed to the reforms necessary for democratic governance and re-engagement with the international community.”

USAID said the US will continue robustly to support civil society, human rights defenders and independent media and – as seen through recent targeted sanctions – will not hesitate to take additional measures to hold accountable those who deny Zimbabweans fundamental freedoms and good governance.

Source: Tempers flare after US researchers’ deportation from Zim

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David Lee Munemo David Lee Munemo is a rising Zimbabwean journalist with a passion for making complex news discoveries accessible to the public. Driven by a belief in the importance of information communication, David's work tackles a variety of news fields, from groundbreaking entertainment research to the latest political news.