CAPE TOWN — In a crafty move just days after Donald Trump renewed sanctionsagainst high profile Zimbabwean politicians and politically connected companies, Zimbabwe hired Trump’s election campaign lobbyists to lift the self-same sanctions. Ballard Partners, based in Miami, lobbied for Trump in Florida during his 2016 campaign, creating for themselves a federal lobbying springboard that raked in $5.2m the following year before going on to make millions more from the repressive Turkish Erdogan regime. One wonders whether they studied the implosion of UK-based Bell Pottinger Inc after their nefarious South African black propaganda campaign for the Guptas and other similar shady BP crusades on this continent. Choosing your clients carefully is a basic business tenet, all the more so for reputation managers. I was once asked by a Cape Town PR company, run by a former newspaper colleague, to check out the ambitious stem cell healing claims of a local orthopaedic surgeon. He claimed to have made a quadriplegic man walk again, a world stem-cell first. The orthopod was exposed as a charlatan just days later, and my friend’s PR company breathed a sigh of relief at having stoutly declined a potentially lucrative brief. Perhaps Zimbabwe will have better luck. – Chris Bateman
The southern African nation, where the economy has all but collapsed after a series of disputed elections, took on Ballard Partners Inc. – run by Brian Ballard, a fundraiser for Trump’s campaign – according to Nick Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s secretary for information. Trump renewed sanctions against a number of Zimbabwean individuals and politically connected companies this week.
The sanctions, along with those applied by the European Union, are an obstacle to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to revive the economy, which has been hit by shortages of fuel and bread that have spawned the highest inflation rate since 2008. Mnangagwa took over from Robert Mugabe, who led the nation for almost four decades, in November 2017.
“Zimbabwe is deploying all efforts and strategies to influence the public policy of other nations to promote and safeguard its interests,” Mangwana said by text message. “The current sanctions regime loses Zimbabwe a lot of business, retards development and also comes with other social costs.”
The Zimbabwean government earlier slammed the renewal of the measures by Trump, saying it had implemented sufficient political reforms to merit a repeal. The sanctions were imposed in 2001.
In addition to Trump, Ballard has done work for Atiku Abubakar, a Nigerian presidential candidate previously blocked from entering the US because of corruption allegations. The Zimbabwean contract, the first with a US lobbying firm in more than a decade, is worth $500,000 a year, Politico reported.
Efforts to rehabilitate the Zimbabwean economy “include lobbying by our own businesses, citizens and professional consultants,” Mangwana said. “The biggest lobbyists should be the Zimbabwean people wherever they are, whose families are adversely affected by the debilitating sanctions imposed upon their motherland.”