On April 13, 2017, the VOA Zimbabwe language service hosted a panel discussion titled, 2018: Zimbabwe’s Watershed Moment – Beyond Elections at the VOA headquarters in Washington, D.C. VOA Director Amanda Bennett offered the opening remarks and commended the VOA Zimbabwe team for organizing the event, which focused on Zimbabwe’s future and the upcoming 2018 election.
“That’s one of the things VOA really prides itself on, and feels that’s one of our really important functions which is to help bring truthful, objective, neutral U.S. news and information and news of the rest of the world to help support the progress of democracy around the world,” said Bennett.
Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Zimbabwe Service moderated the panel, which consisted of four panelists - Honorable Harry Thomas, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Dr. Chipo Dendere, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, Dr. Tawayu Katso, an international development and social consultant in sub-Saharan Africa, and Dr. Rhoderick Machekano, current Public Secretary for the Zimbabwe Diaspora Network North America. All the panelists gave opening statements.
The discussion, which was held before an audience and also streamed live on the Zimbabwe service’s social media accounts and the web, included a question and answer session with all participants. Audience members included Her Excellency Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union Ambassador to Washington, D.C. and local area university students, The topics ranged from the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe, allegations of corruption within the Zimbabwean government, future of U.S. aid to Zimbabwe and how the diaspora within the U.S. can support Zimbabwe and its citizens.
VOA Africa Division Director Negussie Mengesha offered closing remarks where he urged more such discussion on Zimbabwe, and said he looked forward to the day when a comparable VOA discussion could be held in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Service Chief, Ndimyake Mwakalyelye, said she was encouraged by the continued interest in Zimbabwe and the progressive perspectives that came out of the discussion.
“The panel discussion provided an opportunity for open dialogue among Zimbabweans and those interested in Zimbabwe, from anywhere in the world, including from Zimbabwe, thanks to the power of digital media. “