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Published On: Sun, Aug 28th, 2016

Was the Global Alliance for Zimbabwe a Day After Mugabe project?

Although on its website the Global Alliance for Zimbabwe, which was registered as a charitable organisation in Washington DC in July 2011 by Movement for Democratic Change treasurer Roy Bennett, said it was “a worldwide effort to ensure non-violent, fair, and free elections in Zimbabwe”, its certificates of registration and incorporation did not mention the MDC or politics at all making one wonder what Bennett was really up to.

Instead, GAZ’s papers filed with the Corporations Division of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs of the Government of the District of Columbia say its main business was “promoting the common business interests of US entities conducting or contemplating conducting business in Zimbabwe, US business entities acquiring or contemplating acquiring products and services produced in Zimbabwe, and business located in Zimbabwe that desire to do business with US companies”.

This was quite a bizarre purpose considering that Zimbabwe was, and still is, under United States sanctions which have seen some innocent Zimbabweans having their funds confiscated even though they are not on the designated list.

Its articles of incorporation said the Global Alliance of Zimbabwe was formed to “to unite in a common organization and promote the common business interests of:

  • U.S. business entities conducting or contemplating conducting business in the Republic of Zimbabwe,
  • U.S. business entities that acquire or contemplate acquiring products or services produced in the Republic of Zimbabwe, and
  • businesses located in the Republic of Zimbabwe that desire to do business with U.S. companies or have U.S. companies conduct business in the Republic of Zimbabwe

It was also going to:

  • to promote policies and practices that create opportunities for US business to conduct business in the Republic of Zimbabwe and to sell products to and purchase products from businesses conducted in the Republic of Zimbabwe;
  • to promote business relationships between United States business entities and businesses operated in the Republic of Zimbabwe;
  •  to obtain and provide information about the conduct of business in the Republic of Zimbabwe to US businesses that are contemplating undertaking business in the Republic of Zimbabwe or developing business relationships with companies that are otherwise conducting business in the Republic of Zimbabwe; and
  • to represent US businesses conducting or seeking to conduct business in the Republic of Zimbabwe before regulators, legislators and public policymakers, in public forums and before the press on matters of important public policy, legislation and regulation.

The articles, however, also clearly stated that “the Corporation shall never be operated for the primary purpose of carrying on a trade or business for profit”.

It was therefore not clear how the organisation was going to benefit the MDC-T or how it was going to promote business when Zimbabwe was under United States sanctions.

The only plausible explanation is that the organisation was formed in anticipation of an MDC-T victory as the United States has always felt it would play a more active role after Mugabe.

This was clearly shown by the high profile of the company the organisation partnered with, Goddard Gunster.

The company says on its website:  “Goddard Gunster does advocacy better than anyone else. As boundaries and borders begin to fade, strategies we honed on the local level are translating into international success stories. And with a 95% win rate, we can confidently say— GET USED TO WINNING.”

Its directors are also high profile lobbyists.

In a cable dispatched on 4 June 2003, entitled After Mugabe, United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan clearly stipulated what the United States envisaged to do after Mugabe left the scene.

He wrote:  “While it is still uncertain whether President Robert Mugabe will depart in the next days or months, Post (the embassy) considers it prudent to offer policymakers “day after” recommendations at this stage.

“Assuming a transition government is committed to political and economic reform, the US should immediately assist with elections, humanitarian needs and infrastructure loan guarantees. A transition government will not completely overcome the country’s political divisions or recession, but it could lay the foundation for a viable democracy and market economy.

“To accomplish this, we suggest the US establish the legal groundwork for waiving the Brooke-Alexander Amendment and 620(q) at the appropriate time.”

The Brooke-Alexander amendment, which was passed in 1976, allows the United States to cut all non-humanitarian assistance to a country that falls into arrears for longer than a year.

Sullivan said: “Of course, it matters not just that Mugabe goes, but who comes. We do not recommend policy modification if Mugabe remains in power behind the scenes or if a transition government is headed by a “hard-liner” – at least until we discern which way the wind is blowing. It is possible that such a government would entrench itself and further restrict liberties.

“Even under a reformist government, we emphasize that there is no quick fix for Zimbabwe. It may take a decade of health growth before the economy returns to 1997 levels. Health and education systems might not reach mid-1990s levels for a generation, if ever.”

Like the GAZ, Sullivan saw great business opportunities for the United States in a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.

“In a reform environment, we also recommend OPIC and ExIm Bank consider loan guarantees for projects that promote US exports and shore up Zimbabwe’s dilapidated infrastructure (in spite of existing arrears).

“This could involve badly-needed rejuvenation of General Electric locomotives at the National Railway of Zimbabwe, Caterpillar machines at coal-miner Wankie Colliery and Boeing jets at Air Zimbabwe.

“Furthermore, the country’s participation in African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) sessions as an observer (with full admission following free and fair elections) would allow Zimbabwean firms to plan a reentry into the U.S. market. (Most U.S.-bound textile production here has migrated to AGOA countries.)

“We should also explore possibilities for including Zimbabwe in free trade negotiations with the Southern Africa Customs Union,” he said.

When the Global Alliance for Zimbabwe was registered, it was widely expected that Zimbabwe would hold its elections in 2012.

The elections were long overdue as the Global Agreement under which the transitional government was established at the beginning of 2009 stated that elections should be held in 18 months.

But 2012 came and went. The GAZ, indeed, remained active, filing its annual returns in March 2012. But that was it. It never filed any further returns until its registration was revoked.

This was clearly not due to lack of funds as the organisation paid only $80 to file its returns in 2012. This was probably because it was difficult to implement its goals since the MDC-T  lost the 2013 elections dismally, winning only 70 of the 270 seats, 49 of them constituency seats and 21 reserved for women.

The situation was worsened by the split in the party in early 2014. Bennett was one of those who parted ways with party president Morgan Tsvangirai.

Goddard Gunster which was running the GAZ has refused to respond to any questions regarding the alliance both in writing and verbally.  The Insider has sent several emails and phoned the office four times, each time being told Gerrard Gunster was too busy or out of office.

Bennett has also refused to respond to any questions.

Tsvangirai said he was never aware of the formation of the organisation and referred all questions to Bennett.

The certificates of incorporation of both the Global Alliance for Zimbabwe and the Global Alliance for Zimbabwe Foundation were revoked on 4 September 2014 because the organisations had failed or refused to file reports and to pay fees due and owing as at 1 April 2014. – This was originally published by The Insider