American Senator Jeff Flake, who is due to retire from the Senate this year, under pressure from President Donald Tump.

Senator's Jeff Flake and Christopher Coons have already declared to the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate that the elections yet to be held in Zimbabwe are not and will not be free and fair, documents at hand show.

Sent by staffers and assistants in the two Senators' offices, whose identities we will protect for now, the opinion was submitted as sealed to the main FRC by the Africa Relations sub-committee with the intention of specifically directing Senators' attention to areas unfolding in the Zimbabwe election which the two Senators believe make it a foregone conclusion that the elections will not be free and fair.

These areas are:

  • The "failure" by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to give carte blanche to the opposition to inspect and monitor the ballot paper printing. (The Senators wanted the opposition to be given samples of the paper and ink to be used,  so that these could be tested in light of previous allegations of use of "disappearing ink" - we find it breathtaking that the senators would actually believe something like this, but there it is.
  • The fielding of "corrupt candidates" by ZANU PF, which the Senators declare is a strong signal that President Mnangagwa and Vice President Chiwenga (who their document refer to as General Chiwenga with the "Retired" qualifier or monicker) intend to line up a "cabal" in cabinet whose purpose will be to steal "as much of the anticipated aid and investment dividend that would follow an election declared to be free, fair and credible". The examination of corruption, naming of ministers and prospective ZANU PF MPs who the Senators say are guaranteed a cabinet position post July 30 because of their corruption pedigree takes up three full A4 pages of the document compiled by the senators. The document's most breathtaking assertion is that President Mnangagwa and ZANU PF are preparing to form an "organised crime syndicate" whose sole purpose would be the last-ditch enrichment of politicians who supported Chiwenga and Mnangagwa's "power grab" in November last year. According to the two senators, the last-ditch self-enrichment gambit is because ZANU PF expects that, after this election, they will only be in power for a single term before opposition takes over the country at the next scheduled elections.  (We must point out the one contradiction we have found in this opinion document from the Senators, which is their claim that "unprecedented freedoms around an election have been implemented for the 2018 General Elections in Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa is shrewd enough to realise that once this genie has been let out of the bottle, it is impossible to put back in and will inevitably lead to the annihilation of ZANU PF at the next elections scheduled for around 2023. But this assertion is also the basis for their assertion that an "organised, methodical looting machine" is being readied between now and 2023 in a last ditch gambit to set the high-level supporters of President Mnangagwa up for life).
  • Continued breakdown of rule of law. The Senators also raise this as an indicator that the current ZANU PF government has no intention of running a free and fair poll. "Selective application of the law" is mentioned. As is failure to demonstrate "actionable political will to confront corruption amongst Mnangagwa backers".
  • There is also another stunning claim in the assessment: that the government of President Mnangagwa is "less transparent than even the regime of former leader Robert Mugabe". Under this point, the senators detail at length the Zimbabwe government's handling of the "externalisers" issue. They point out that, after legitimate businesses "frustrated by red tape" failed to fill in the correct forms "most likely because they needed to pay bribes to complete this process", their names were published in a "breach of privacy" which has never been corrected by the government. The point is further made that although "fantastical figures" are mentioned by President Mnangagwa as money returned to Zimbabwe by these externalisers, "no names of those who are claimed to have returned the money have been published and evidence on the ground suggests that this is yet another ploy. Banks continue to have no cash for depositors and companies operating in Zimbabwe confirm that they continue to find it impossible to pay for critical raw material and products in foreign currency outside the borders of Zimbabwe." This particular point ends with the Senator speculating that, if the funds have really been returned, they have been "promptly looted to line the pockets of ZANU PF leaders as well as fund the election bid for President Mnangagwa, with hundreds of millions of dollars said to have been spent on procuring campaign material from China." The document concludes this point by stating: "This level of opaqueness in a period when the ZANU PF regime is desperate to present an acceptable face to the world says a lot about the lengths they will go to if they win the elections and are not held back by the threat of continued isolation anymore."
  • Lack of judicial independence: The senators devote a large section of their document to chronicling the events of November 2017. They are of the opinion that the deployment of the army was against the laws of Zimbabwe since it was not ordered by the then Commander-in-chief, Robert Mugabe. They detail behind the scenes information which not even Zimbabweans are not aware of, such as the fact that the Generals were careful not to demand the resignation of President Mugabe. Critically, the lack of judicial independence claim is made on the basis that, after Mugabe had been ousted, the new leaders got the courts to declare everything they had done to be legal "in a series of cursory, hurriedly written judgements that did not pass the basic tests of interrogation of the facts, simply stating that the whole operations and its attendant outcomes had been legal." Simply put, the Senators are of the opinion that the judiciary in Zimbabwe was told what to write and say by the new political Executive, "which tells us all we need to know about the state of judicial independence  after a 2018 General Election that is won by ZANU PF and Mnangagwa.
  • Military involvement in the elections on the side of ZANU PF. The senators attached a document said to be minutes of a meeting held between former President Mugabe and the Generals under now VP Chiwenga during Operation Restore Legacy. Underlined in the "minutes" is a statement that effectively says there are security people imbedded in communities around the country who had been feeding information that ZANU PF would likely lose elections in 2018 because of the infighting. Under this point, the senators also point out that the opposition MDC has informed them of the existence of military people in ZEC. They also refer to Rugeje, the Political Commissar for ZANU PF, who they claim has not really retired. One of their main arguments is that Mnangagwa put the VP Chiwenga in charge of the Defence Portfolio because he wants to maintain a direct link between ZANU PF and the military. They claim that Chiwenga is still effectively the Commander Defence Forces and serving military people will be take orders from him around the election period.
One of the more unexpected dynamics of this whole saga, though, is the disagreement between President Trump and these senators around how to treat Zimbabwe in the run up to and after the current elections.

President Trump has other disagreements with Senator Flake specifically. Flake will be retiring/resigning from the Senate at the mid-term election in America, due this November. His retirement has been effectively forced by President Trump who has vowed to support any Flake opponent in the Republican Primaries in order to get Flake out of the Senate.

Flake is widely tipped to launch a challenge to President Trump in the Republican Primaries for the Presidential elections of 2020. He recently publicly stated that this is an option he has not ruled out.

Senators Flake and Coons fear that President Trump will go the route of Executive orders in dealing with Zimbabwe if the Senate's will is different to his and does not chime with agenda.


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