The U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, has dismissed a report by the state-run Herald newspaper saying that American officials were "clandestinely recruiting undercover political officers” to gather information in connection with the elections coming up in March, in the aim of effecting regime change in the country.
The Herald said the alleged recruits "have been tasked to compile periodic reports on the political and economic situation as well as proffer advice on how best to advance the regime change agenda." Quoting unnamed sources, Herald said Embassy officials interviewed 11 candidates in Harare for the alleged new positions. It quoted a U.S. public affairs officer as saying no such recruitment effort had taken place.
In an interview with VOA, an Embassy official speaking on condition he not be named dismissed the Herald report as “stupid,” saying the Embassy would never act in such a way as to invite accusations it sought to improperly influence the elections.
Speaking with reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe, political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya theorized that the reports in the state-controlled publication might fit into an effort by Harare to establish grounds to crack down on activists promoting democratic reform, especially those trying to educate voters.