Trump tightens screws on govt… as USA mulls placing more Zanu PF bigwigs on sanctions list
THE United States of America (USA) is mulling adding more top Zanu PF and government officials to its targeted sanctions list — in a bid to force Harare to embark on much-needed political and economic reforms, the Daily News reports.
This comes as the government’s spirited efforts of the past two years to mend its broken relations with Washington and the European Union (EU) are stuttering — amid growing scepticism among Western powers about Harare’s sincerity.
In a letter to President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week, the chairperson of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch, and a member of the sub-committee on Africa, Chris Coons, called for the tightening of Washington’s sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The influential senators said America’s measures against Zimbabwe, which recently saw two bigwigs — former Presidential Guard commander Anselem Sanyatwe and the minister of State Security Owen Ncube — being added to the sanctions list should be extended to more heavyweights.
“It is important that the United States communicate to the people of Zimbabwe that our sanctions programmes are aimed at deterring human rights abuses, public corruption, the undermining of democratic processes or institutions, and political repression in Zimbabwe.
“They (the targeted sanctions) are not aimed at the Zimbabwean people.
“Given the developments in Zimbabwe over the last two years, we urge you to consider enhancing the tools at your disposal, including the use of targeted sanctions, to incentivise changes in behaviour by the government of Zimbabwe,” the senators said.
“An update to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list should incorporate a balance of new designations with appropriate removals,” they added.
The senators also accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of embarking on a disinformation campaign — a move that appears to be backfiring spectacularly on Harare.
“While the United States has been the top provider of humanitarian and development aid to meet the needs of Zimbabwe’s people, the government of Zimbabwe has implemented a misinformation campaign, blaming the country’s woes on targeted sanctions programmes implemented by the United States,” Risch and Coons said further.
The United States initiated its targeted sanctions on some Zanu PF officials and select entities that stood accused of facilitating human rights abuses and looting State resources in the country in 2003.
However, and despite these measures, the US has continued to provide Zimbabwe with humanitarian and development aid — spending more than US$2 billion over the last 10 years alone.
Responding to the possibility of more sanctions being imposed on Zimbabwe, presidential spokesperson George Charamba told the Daily News yesterday that America’s sanctions were illegal and contravened United Nations (UN) statutes.
“Those sanctions are illegal, they are not UN-mandated. Whether there is one person or a million persons on the list, the point is America is acting unlawfully in terms of international law,” he said.
The move to ramp up the sanctions on Zimbabwe comes as Harare has received backing from Sadc and a host of other African nations to lobby the US to remove the targeted measures that were imposed at the turn of the millennium on the grounds that Zimbabwe was not respecting human and property rights.
Since coming to power, Mnangagwa’s government has invested heavily in trying to have the sanctions removed — including engaging US lobby firms to convince America that Zimbabwe has turned a corner.
Zanu PF has also claimed routinely that the targeted sanctions have allegedly cost the country billions of dollars in lost revenue and lines of credit.
Meanwhile, the US reiterated earlier this week that Zimbabwe’s problems were man-made and that they required the government to correct them by implementing all needed reforms and ending executive corruption.
In addition, Washington also pooh-poohed recurring claims by Harare and some Sadc leaders that Western sanctions are behind Zimbabwe’s deepening economic rot.
US ambassador to Botswana, Craig Lewis Cloud, told Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax on Tuesday that Zimbabwe had to implement all the needed political and economic reforms to reduce the suffering of its people.
This came as pressure is growing within the region and the African Union (AU) for Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to end their long-running political feud and work together in Zimbabwe’s interest.
“Today (Tuesday) Ambassador Cloud and Tax discussed the root causes of US sanctions in Zimbabwe, namely human rights abuses and anti-democratic efforts.
“Ambassador Cloud also discussed how failed economic policies and corruption have combined to create the current economic crisis in Zimbabwe,” the US’s Botswana embassy said after a meeting of the two personalities.
In addition, the embassy emphasised that the sanctions that had been slapped on Zimbabwe were because the Zanu PF government had continuously violated its people’s rights and overseen several disputed elections.
“US sanctions largely target those who engage in corruption, violate human rights and undermine democratic institutions or processes … Failed economic policies and corruption, not sanctions, hinder Zimbabwe’s economic growth.
“Millions of dollars have been lost due to decades of corruption and harmful economic policies which have culminated in the current economic crisis.
“Zimbabwe has had both prosperous and difficult years during the life of the targeted sanctions programme,” the embassy said.
“Implementation of economic and political reforms are key to improving Zimbabwe’s trajectory,” it added.
Relations between Zimbabwe and Washington have been frosty for nearly two decades since the country embarked on chaotic and widely-criticised land reforms which saw many commercial farmers losing their land at the height of the late former president Robert Mugabe’s ruinous rule.
The move proved disastrous for the country and its long-suffering citizens as this resulted in Zimbabwe’s isolation from the rest of the international community, while also destroying the agricultural sector.
It also saw Zimbabwe’s critical credit lines and trade facilities being blocked, following the imposition of sanctions on the country — amid widespread criticism of the country’s human rights record.
This subsequently resulted in Zimbabwe hitting rock bottom economically a decade ago, which left most citizens dirt poor and living on less than a dollar a day — with many companies closing down and investors pulling out.
Mnangagwa and his administration have been trying to mend all these years of Zimbabwe’s broken relations with the USA and other Western powers, through a spirited re-engagement campaign.
However, since the August 2018 killings of civilians by soldiers who fired live ammunition to break up an ugly demonstration in Harare, the 77-year-old Zanu PF leader has suffered several reverses in his re-engagement drive — after a number of own goals by the government, including more killings in January 2019 by security forces.
As a result, both the USA and the EU have said Mnangagwa’s government is failing to capitalise on the goodwill that was offered to the country following the ouster from power of Mugabe by the military.
Political analysts and several groupings, including the church, have said the failure by Mnangagwa and Chamisa to heal their rift — emanating from the disputed July 2018 elections — has exacerbated the economic hardships being felt by long-suffering Zimbabweans.
This comes as the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, which has increased the calls for dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki — who helped to broker the stability-inducing 2008 government of national unity between opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe — who are both late — is also trying very hard to nudge Mnangagwa and Chamisa to hold talks.
His visit to Harare in December last year was part of plans by Sadc and the AU to end Zimbabwe’s long-running political dispute, which is threatening to destabilise the entire sub-region.