Re-engagement bid comes apart
... as Boris sanctions four top Zim officials
By Emmerson Njanjamangezi
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
ZIMBABWE’S attempts to restore normal relations with Western powers could be in jeopardy after British prime minister Boris Johnson’s administration slapped sanctions on four top government officials.
This comes amid concerns by analysts that the sanctions, which are likely to be followed by the renewal of America’s own decades-long proscriptions soon, will worsen Zimbabwe’s toxic politics, which were lately showing signs of letting up, a bit.
At the same time, the analysts also told the Daily News yesterday that the government needed to respond properly to the allegations of local human rights violations — if Zimbabwe’s re-engagement push was to be given a new lease on life.
In its announcement yesterday, the United Kingdom (UK) placed minister of State for National Security Owen Ncube, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director-general Isaac Moyo, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and former Presidential Guard commander Anselem Sanyatwe on sanctions — for alleged gross human rights violations.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the sanctions were in line with London’s efforts to hold the Zimbabwe government to account for alleged human rights violations during the August 2018 and January 2019 killings which were blamed on security forces. “Today’s announcement ensures these individuals cannot freely travel to the UK, channel money through UK banks or profit from our economy.
“These sanctions send a clear message that we will hold to account those responsible for the most egregious human rights violations, including the deaths of innocent Zimbabweans. “This includes a State-sponsored crackdown against protests in January 2019 that resulted in the deaths of 17 Zimbabweans, and post-election violence in August 2018 in which six protesters lost their lives,” Raab said.
“These sanctions are in addition to our work to hold the government of Zimbabwe to account in implementing genuine political and economic reforms that benefit all Zimbabweans,” he added.
Raab was referring to the deaths of six civilians who were shot by the army following an orgy of violence which rocked Harare ahead of the announcement of the July 31 2018 polls. Security forces were further accused of killing protesters during the January 2019 fuel protests, which saw thousands of people flooding the streets of Harare and Bulawayo to express their anger over steep fuel prices that had been announced by the government.
Since then, London has also been accusing the government of not being willing to implement the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry. This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration have been accused of blowing the international goodwill which followed the fall of former president Robert Mugabe from power in November 2017, via a stunning and widely-supported military coup.
In this regard too, the government also stands accused of failing to fulfil most of the promises that it made when Mnangagwa assumed power. The British government has also repeatedly said that it remained ready to restore normal relations with Zimbabwe if the government fulfilled the promises of reform that were made in 2017.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News’s sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday last year, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson said London had taken note of the positive reforms that had been undertaken by Harare, but added that these fell short of what had been promised by authorities.
“For the situation to improve, Zimbabwe needs to implement the political and economic reforms set out by President Mnangagwa when he came to office. “Central to this will be ending the use of repressive and coercive techniques which limit Zimbabweans’ fulfilment of their rights under the Zimbabwean constitution.
“The UK continues to be concerned by the continued poor human rights environment in Zimbabwe,” Robinson told the Daily News On Sunday in December last year. “However … as we look back on the last three years, our overriding sense is that important opportunities for deeper and longer lasting political and economic reform have been, and continue to be missed.
“And that it is these reforms which will be most important to Zimbabwe’s future,” she further told the Daily News On Sunday. But Robinson emphasised that her government remained committed to seeing Zimbabwe succeed, and that, in that regard, she was in constant touch with authorities to remind them about their promises to the
She also said her government had noted that Mnangagwa’s administration had made some positive reforms to the law. However, she warned that in the absence of meaningful and tangible reforms, the British government would support the current sanctions regime on Zimbabwe.
“UK sanctions will be retained as long as the human rights situation in Zimbabwe justifies them. “As we prepare for the end of the transition period, ministers are now considering our approach to our future sanctions regime in Zimbabwe. “They will do so in the context of the new Magnitsky-style regime that focuses on serious human rights violations or abuses,” Robinson warned further.
In November 2017, days after Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president, Johnson also said the UK was ready to work with Harare as long as authorities lived up to their promises of reform.
“Recent events in Zimbabwe offer a moment of hope for the country and its people. “This is a time to look to the future and to make clear that Britain shares the common vision of a prosperous, peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe. “I am encouraged by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s words so far.
“During his inauguration speech, he promised to reform the economy and give investors the security of title they need if Zimbabwe is to fulfil its potential and create the jobs that are sorely needed. “For as long as the president acts on his words, then Britain is willing to work alongside him and offer all the support we can,” Johnson said ahead of the European Union and Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire. Johnson was still Foreign Secretary at the time.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa’s government has also been credited with expunging some repressive laws from the statute books that were routinely used by Mugabe’s regime to punish political opponents and independent media like the Daily News.
Among the laws that have been scrapped are the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and Posa. In addition, Mnangagawa has been praised for trying to end years of chaos in the agricultural sector by restoring farming rights that were taken away during Mugabe’s ruinous reign.
In this regard, the government recently signed a US$3,5 billion Global Compensation Agreement with white former commercial farmers, while also announcing that all farmers who lost their land protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) would either be compensated or have their land titles restored.
Political analysts told the Daily News yesterday that while the latest move by the UK government looked like London had given up on any meaningful engagement with Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa and his administration could still put this back on track by fulfilling promises they made in 2017.
“This (sanctions on security chiefs) suggests that the UK is deeply disappointed with the government’s human rights violations and the lack of democracy promotion in the country.
“This means that they have just given up on a deeper engagement or that they have just shelved the re-engagement plans for now. “The government has to build a tangible human rights record with measurable, meaningful and irreversible democracy promotion milestones in the country,” respected University of Zimbabwe politics expert, Eldred Masunungure, said.