Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Polls: US issues travel alert

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THE United States government has called on its citizens travelling to Zimbabwe to exercise extreme caution, saying they anticipated a spike in the crime rate and civil unrest ahead of the July 30 elections.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
This is the second time the US has issued a travel advisory in less than a year after issuing a similar one on the verge of the November military intervention that toppled long-time leader Robert Mugabe last year.
In the travel advisory titled “2018 Zimbabwe — Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” issued on Monday, the US said violent crime such as assault, carjacking; home invasion as well as smashing of car windows with the intent to steal were common in Zimbabwe. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”
The Donald Trump (pictured) administration added: “Zimbabwe will hold general elections across the country on July 30, 2018. Due to heightened political tensions around the elections, acts of violence may occur at political rallies.”
In Monday’s travel warning, the US ordered its citizens travelling to Zimbabwe to among other things “avoid openly displaying cash, moving around with copies of passport and visa and leaving originals in the hotel, staying away from political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds.”
The US citizens were advised to monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust their plans as well as enrolling on the Smart Traveller Enrolment Program (Step) to receive alerts and make sure they can easily be
located during emergencies.
US citizens, the advisory added, were also advised to follow a review of the crime and safety report for Zimbabwe and always have contingency plans for emergencies.
The alert came less than two weeks after President Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly escaped an assassination attempt after a suspected grenade went off shortly after he had addressed a Zanu PF campaign rally at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.
The government has described the attack as an act of terrorism and joint investigations by security agencies are currently underway.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo refused to comment over the US government’s alert, referring questions to the Foreign Affairs ministry.
“That is a Foreign Affairs matter. Get in touch with the Foreign Affairs ministry,” Khaya Moyo said.
Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo was not reachable for comment while permanent secretary in his ministry Joey Bimha said he was out of the country.
“I am out of the country at the moment. I haven’t seen the travel advisory,” Bimha said.
But MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube said the United States made the assessment “using their own intelligence”.
“What we know is that the state of the situation is much more a result of the coup, the tension resulting on the leaders, anyone with a modicum of reasoning is aware of that,” Ncube said.
“The situation we have now is a result of the lack of trust among the security agencies after the coup and it creates an environment where people are not secure. These are some of the unknown consequences of the coup. We are living through them now.”
Political analyst Alexander Rusero, however, said: “The travel advisory is misguided and misplaced; it works against the spirit of Commonwealth of Nations where Zimbabwe is trying to reintegrate itself in a global community.”
He added: “We cannot say Zimbabwe is not a safe haven given the current climate where we have international observers in the country and no one had been displaced.
“It shows America has not shifted an inch since Mnangagwa took over. It is still guided by the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, the foreign policy pronouncement of 2001.”