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- ▼ March (18)
US embassy accident story not convincing!!!
THE US embassy in Harare yesterday issued a statement entitled, "Clarification of Accident Vehicle Ownership". We published it in full.
A close look at the statement leaves more questions than answers.
Many people were looking for a statement that said who exactly owned the accident truck that killed Mrs Susan Tsvangirai, the Prime Minister's wife.
It is certainly not enough, or convincing to say: "It (the truck) was purchased with USAID funds by a contractor and belonged to the contractor" without actually saying who that contractor was. I am sure US embassy officials would know who that contractor is (was) since it was purchased using USAID funds.
Interestingly, the truck's number plate, 81 TCE-128, belongs to the US embassy.
Independent legislator Jonathan Moyo was quoted as saying: “How can an American-registered car, purchased with American money, driven by a driver hired from Britain and paid with American money; be owned by a British agency funded by British money and formed from the ashes of a British colonial institution?”
The connection between USAID and United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DfID) in this case is troubling; given that the shooting of Air Marshall Perence Shiri a few months ago involved a USAID employee. This is a strange coincidence.
The US embassy says: "The contractor was delivering essential HIV and AIDS drugs and medical supplies to health clinics under an effort co-financed by USAID and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID)." Surely if it was co-financed by these two organisations, they should be able to give us more details.
Does the U.S. embassy or DfID care to tell us who the contractor was? Was it DfID? If not, who was it? And why did the UK government quickly issue a statement saying the driver was not "sleeping at the wheel" at the time of the accident? How could they know that a few hours after an accident that occured thousands of miles away, in a remote location in Zimbabwe? How come they were privy to this information when the investigating authorities in Zimbabwe were still investigating the cause of the crash?
The US embassy also says: "The driver of the truck, a Zimbabwean national, was an employee of the contractor, not a USAID employee." The embassy seems to have some insider information that we do not know. Again, who is the contractor?
I was also troubled to hear the UK's DfID declare the accident genuine, just hours after the accident. This is the first time that the UK has commented on a tragic Zimbabwean situation and not connected "President Mugabe's regime" to it. How do they know this, or should I say "How did they know this was a 'genuine' accident?" The UK Government's subsequent lack of interest in that incident is also puzzling, to say the least.
The US embassy in Harare's statement is very cleverly presented and packaged. It starts with condolencies to Prime Minister Tsvangirai's family for the death of his wife Susan. It then ends with the U.S. government's food aid pledge.
The statement read: "The U.S. government remains committed to helping the people of Zimbabwe as it has done for decades. The United States provided over $260 million for emergency programs since October 2007, providing food, health care, safe water, and HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment."
This is very clever packaging. The "clarification of the accident vehicle story" is sandwiched between a condolence statement and a story about the U.S.'s aid program to Zimbabwe -- two importanst stories deserving their own titling.
This clever 'public diplomacy' diverts attention from the main story, as suggested by the title of the statement. Clever indeed, but many of us think this 'explanation' is very skeletal and the US embassy can, and should, give a more detailed explanation. They could start by naming the 'contractor'.
This statement leaves more questions than answers.