"Many people talk about the plundering and the looting, human rights abuses that took place under Mugabe's rule. He was not alone in that. While the regime talks about Zimbabwe being open for business, this is the same group of people that systematically destroyed Zimbabwe's economy over nearly 40 years," said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the nonprofit group Vanguard Africa.
We talk with Jeffrey Smith of Vanguard Africa about sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, and why exactly Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga is delivering a special message to Russia.
According to Jeffrey Smith, head of Vanguard Africa, an advocacy group: “Since August 2016 especially, the acts of violence [by the armed groups] have become more routine and more brazen…at this point, it almost seems as if armed groups and government forces are actively bidding to outdo one another in terms of shock value.”
Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, says he has been putting pressure on U.S. authorities to address the issue. "What we are trying to do is raise the necessary international alarm bells, to keep attention focused on his case, as it's not isolated. It is part of a wider crackdown on dissenting voices, on political opposition, and certainly on civil society with reports we have seen coming in of people going into hiding."
Executive Director, Jeffrey Smith of Vanguard Africa concurs. “If you go through the litany of concerns both in the lead up to the elections, during the elections and after the election, namely the brutality, the violence that we witnessed yesterday, indicates that the vote was deeply flawed and does not reflect the true will of Zimbabweans.”
PR is invaluable for changing the African narrative, according to Christopher Harvin, partner at PR firm Sanitas International and co-founder of Vanguard Africa, a pro-democracy nonprofit. “It’s critical,” he says, “to navigate the next steps of economic and social development as the continent strives to elevate its global standing, shape its brand and offset its critics.”
ZANU-PF agents in Zimbabwe have systematically spread rumors that fingerprints from voter registration will allow the government to trace individual votes.
Hilary Matfess, who has written on the radical Islamist movement Boko Haram, and Jeffrey Smith, head of the pro-democracy group Vanguard Africa, say African nations such as Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Zimbabwe are following in familiar footsteps in their bids to curb critical debate on the internet.
“Tanzania and Uganda are the latest nations to fall victim to a wave of internet censorship that has been inspired and exported by autocratic powers such as China and Russia, as well as totalitarian regimes like North Korea …,” they wrote recently on ForeignPolicy.com. “Across sub-Saharan Africa, free expression is being unjustly curtailed, and the internet is increasingly being used by authorities to censor and surveil citizens.”
“Togo is such an outlier, and it really casts a negative light on a region that has quite a bit to highlight and to tout internationally,” says Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, a Washington-based nonprofit group that supports free and fair elections and pro-reform leaders. “It’s a tragic situation for Togo and for the region, which should be recognized for its tremendous democratic advancements.”
“It’s a military regime with a civilian figurehead at the top effectively doing their business for them,” said Jeffrey Smith, the founder of Vanguard Africa, a Washington nonprofit that works with Togolese pro-democracy activists. Gnassingbe “is putting a patina of legitimacy on an otherwise illegitimate military regime,” he said.