By Thabani Zwelibanzi
The Zimbabwean government has hired yet another American lobby group, Avenue Strategies for an annual fee of just over US$1 million per year to spruce up its image in the US, barely a few months after hiring another one for US$500,000.
Under regulatory provision, Avenue Strategies lodged a filing with the US Department of Justice, where it revealed that it had been signed on by the government of Zimbabwe.
In the disclosure filing, the American firm revealed it will receive US$90,000 a month.
According to US federal government documents, Zimbabwe engaged Avenue Strategies to “foster better relations with the US government”.
The agreement is expected to run until April 5, 2020, although it can be amended on 30 days’ notice.
As part of the terms of the deal, Zimbabwe was expected to pay a deposit of US$270,000.
In addition, Avenue Strategies “will be reimbursed from time to time for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by the contractor (Avenue Strategies) in connection with providing services under this agreement,” the documents read.
The Zimbabwean address on the contract is given as 1608 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA, which is where the African country’s embassy is located.
For Zimbabwe, the document was signed by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo, while Avenue Strategies chief executive officer, Barry Bennet signed on behalf of the American firm.
It is understood that Avenue Strategies has already sent one of its officials to Harare to engage the US Embassy in Zimbabwe on improving relations between the two countries.
It was not immediately clear if a meeting had taken place between the two parties.
Avenue Strategies lists among its clients Qatar and former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who are not exactly beacons of democracy.
In March, it was revealed that Zimbabwe had engaged Ballard Partners for US$500,000.
The firm is run by Brian Ballard, who has links to US President Donald Trump.
Ballard Partners is providing Zimbabwe on “communication with US government officials US business entities, and non-governmental audiences,” a disclosure filing said.
The Zimbabwean government is likely to face criticism over the latest deal, as the country faces critical foreign currency shortages and it is failing to provide antiretroviral treatment.
Critics have always insisted that the foreign currency Zimbabwe uses on public rela