The United States Embassy in Zimbabwe has denied reports that 12 Zanu PF MPs had sold out classified party information to the Americans in exchange for financial assistance under the Ambassador’s Self-Help Fund.
In a statement, Karen Kelley US Embassy counsellor for public relations said: “We would like to correct the impression generated by recent articles in The Herald and Sunday Mail, which alleged that local legislators aligned to Zanu PF were recipients of the US Ambassador’s Self-Help Fund. This assertion is in error; no Zimbabwean MPs have received any funding through this programme.”
Kelley said no Zimbabwean MP has ever benefited from the fund, which has existed since 1980. She said MPs were only consulted as a matter of courtesy.
“The programme has provided small grants of up to $20 000 to assist small-scale community development projects improve the basic economic or social conditions at the village level. It is distinct from larger-scale assistance provided by the US government. Specifically, these funds are meant to support small, short-term, community-driven activities that are designed to bring about a tangible and immediate improvement in peoples’ lives,” she said.
“The grants are made on a competitive basis and US Embassy staff conducts the selection of recipients of these grants after assessment in line with priorities identified by the US mission in Zimbabwe. These include income generation, education and vocational training, access to water and improved natural resource management as well as health, nutrition and social services to assist vulnerable or at-risk populations.”
State media reported that the MPs were meeting senior US officials including Eric Little, believed to be a member of the Central Intelligence Agency, under the guise of the Ambassador’s Self Help-Fund to give him information on the goings-on in the party.
The US Embassy on Friday last week gave $90 000 in grants to six organisations from the country’s four provinces under the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Programme to enhance community projects.
US ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton officially handed over the grant at a signing ceremony held in Harare.
Meanwhile, two of the Zanu PF MPs said to have benefitted from the scheme, Kindness Paradza (Makonde) and Temba Mliswa (Hurungwe West), also dismissed the stories as cheap politicking by their rivals.
“Personally, I didn’t benefit from the programme, but there is nothing wrong with those who did as the money which is already in the country was approved by the government. I challenge the government to stop everything and send back the money . . . that is cheap politics by those who are using State media to tarnish my image, but that will not work,” said Mliswa.
Paradza threatened to name and shame some senior ruling party politicians whom he claimed to have planted the stories in the public media to score political points.