Zimbabwe has accused the United States of trying to use Covid-19 vaccines to meddle in its internal political affairs, claiming Washington gave the country’s main opposition party half a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has so far refused to consider the approval of western manufactured Covid-19 vaccines, preferring those from China, Russia and India.
For two decades, Zimbabwe’s relations with Western countries have been strained over the southern African country’s alleged human rights abuses and the ruling Zanu PF’s propensity to rig elections.
President Mnangagwa’s ruling party accuses countries such as the US of funding the opposition MDC Alliance to pursue a regime change agenda.
The 79-year-old ruler’s spokesperson, George Charamba, ignited a fresh diplomatic tiff this week after claiming the US embassy had imported vaccines so that the MDC Alliance could run its own vaccination programme, parallel to the one initiated by the government.
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Mr Charamba claimed Zimbabwe had refused to authorise use of Johnson & Johnson doses that are now stuck at the US embassy in Harare.
He claimed the MDC Alliance received “two tranches of American vaccines, in total amounting to half-a-million doses, for a political vaccination programme through, which they hope to checkmate the goodwill that has accrued to Zanu PF through a sprite public vaccination programme.”
“The United States embassy’s strategy has been to desperately stampede the Ministry of Health to allow the government to accept importation and administration of those unregistered vaccines, using the Covax facility,” Mr Charamba tweeted.
“This would then provide cover to this political donation. Unfortunately for them, Chinese, Russian and Indian vaccines, which are registered for use in the country are now registered with the World Health Organisation, making them part of the Covax menu.”
*Written by Kitsepile Nyathi