Al Jazeera and relations between Zimbabwe and Qatar


Last week CCC aligned opposition activist, Hopewell Chin’ono announced that the Qatar government-owned global television company, Al Jazeera would release a video on money laundering and resources looting in Zimbabwe.This naturally excited some people especially those in the opposition camp who thought that Al Jazeera is a Qatari government mouth piece and therefore Doha had established an alliance with CCC. These opposition activists also hoped that the video would yield political capital for the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), whose leadership is all at sea in terms of how to prepare for this year’s watershed polls.

All the media reports on the announcement of the video quoted Chin’ono as the primary source of the stories instead of Al Jazeera itself. He became the face and personification of the story as well as the newel around which the various versions and speculation on the story attached their tendrils. The absence of a formal statement from the Qatari government sponsored television network created the impression that Chin’ono was at the centre of the propaganda effort. It also raised questions about the relations between Harare and Doha.

Many Zimbabwean political commentators and diplomats are wondering why a Gulf state would sponsor a project to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and seek to influence the forthcoming elections in favour of CCC. A Marondera farmer, who holds a Masters Degree in International Relations and who closely follow events in the Middle East, postulated that the posture adopted by Doha could have something to do with the rivalry between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He expressed the view that Doha could have aligned itself to the CCC in response to Zimbabwe’s proximity to the UAE. A ZANU PF member with considerable diplomatic experience has, however, ruled out the possibility of an anti-Zimbabwean coalition between the CCC and Doha. He observed that, “The Qataris are not foolish to wager on a party which is set to lose the elections. Western capitals and political analysts in the whole world know that the CCC will lose”. The ZANU PF official also dismissed the assertion that the Qataris are being used as proxies by the US. He argued that the proximity of the Qataris leadership to Chin’ono was a result of Doha’s ignorance of the fact that Chin’ono is a CCC opposition activist and not a bona fide investigative journalist.

An activist who is close to Chin’ono has, however, boasted that Qatar was cementing its relations with CCC through Hopewell. The CCC member observed that in December last year, Chin’ono travelled to Qatar to receive an award from that country’s Emir. Even Chin’ono himself is on record saying: “I have just been awarded the International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award in Doha, Qatar.”

To lend credence to perception of proximity to Doha, Chin’ono stressed that he received the award from “the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the presence of the United Nations Special Advocate for the Prevention of Corruption.” He also threw in the name of the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame as one of the people, who were present, during the presentation of the award. The CCC’s claims beg the question as to the relationship between Chin’ono and the Qatari Emir.A retired member of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, who is an expert in geopolitics, has observed that an entry on the website, state.gov, indicates that “Qatar is one of the United States’ closest military partners in the region. Al-Udeid Air Base is home to the Combined Air Operation Center, which hosts 18 nations and is responsible for all Coalition Air Operations in the Middle East and Central Asia.” The retired Colonel pointed out that the US considers Qatar to be one of its strongest allies outside NATO. He declared that it was, therefore, very likely that the US commissioned Al Jazeera, to produce the video in and of the CCC. According to the expert, given Chin’ono’s close relations with the US Embassy in Zimbabwe, it was only natural that he would lead the project.

The military expert further observed that a precedent had already been set three years previously when Al Jazeera pulled a similar stunt against President Hage Geingob of Namibia and his ruling South Western African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) party in 2019 ahead of the general elections which that country held on 27 November that year. The operation and the resultant video was named Anatomy of a Bribe.

The Al Jazeera documentary sought to create the impression that bribe taking in that country’s fishing industry that led to the arrests of former Cabinet ministers, Bernhard Esau and Sacky Shangala had the blessing of the SWAPO government. Although the video was released ahead of the polls for maximum impact against President Geingob and SWAPO’s bid to retain power, they romped to victory nonetheless. The question to ask, according to the military expert is: “Why is a Qatari government created and sponsored news outfit fighting liberation movements?”

A Zimbabwean Government official said that Zimbabwe and Qatar enjoy good relations. She also observed that Zimbabwe sticks to the rule of law and does not tolerate vices and economic crimes such as corruption, money laundering and precious minerals externalisation. That is why ZACC, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Minerals Flora and Fauna Unit and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) are in place.

A ZANU PF youth league member noted that the news of the Al Jazeera video brought out the childishness in most of the opposition members. “They are childishly excited in the possible negative publicity against ZANU PF and President Mnangagwa ahead of this year’s polls and this reflects the CCC’s hopelessness and treacherous tendencies.” The youth member added that, “For as long as the CCC is confused, disjointed and out rightly tactless, there is nothing that the US or any other distant foreign country can do to cause regime change in Zimbabwe.”

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