Tuesday, 7 May 2019


President Donald Trump's administration has demanded that President Emmerson Mnangagwa punishes security forces who stand accused of killing civilians during last year's post-election demonstrations, as well as this year's riots.

The Zimbabwe government must stop using the army to harass citizens and try soldiers involved in deadly shootings since elections last July before it can convince the United States government to lift sanctions, a senior US State Department diplomat said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government should also move to repeal repressive media and security legislation, said Matthew Harrington, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa.

"Any goodwill from the international community that might have been generated by an improved election process dissipated as a result of several problematic developments," Harrington told the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

He cited the use of deadly force by the army on August 1 last year in response to post-election protests in Harare which left six people dead and 35 others nursing gunshot wounds.

"In addition, in January and February (2019) the army launched a sustained crackdown on citizens in response to their protests over fuel price increases. We welcome a better relationship with Zimbabwe, but the ball is very much in the Zimbabwean government's court. If there's real, concrete progress in the areas laid out in the ZIDERA legislation Zimbabwe will find a committed partner in the United States," Harrington added.

The United States passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in 2001, imposing travel restrictions and asset freezes on over 200 individuals and entities accused of abetting human rights violations. The Zimbabwe government and its supporters claim the unilateral sanctions are "illegal", and that they have spooked potential investors.

 Mnangagwa's economic adviser Ashok Chakravarti, who spoke after Harrington at the CSIS event to discuss "Zimbabwe's burgeoning food crisis" on May 1, said the US sanctions had created a perception problem for Zimbabwe.

"ZIDERA does make a difference to trade and commercial flows, not legally. International markets don't necessarily work purely on the laws in place. Perception is terribly important," Chakravarti argued.

"Some years ago, we had 40 correspondent banks which dealt with Zimbabwe. It's a fact that there are only about half a dozen banks that are willing to do business with Zimbabwe now because of the perceived risks. It has nothing to do with whether there's a specific law in place."

He claimed he once had a US$3,000 transfer to his daughter studying in the United States blocked temporarily simply because the money had originated from Zimbabwe.

But Harrington maintained that the steps that Zimbabwe needs to take to have the sanctions lifted do not require foreign assistance, just commitment by Zimbabwe's leaders to change their human rights record.

The second highest ranking US diplomat in Africa added: "The government are saying some of the right things but it is falling short when it comes to concrete actions. There are some steps the government could take to demonstrate it is serious about improving rule of law and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe.

"It could repeal POSA (Public Order and Security Act) and AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act), two laws long emblematic of a repressive regime. It could stop using the army to harass and intimidate citizens who exercise their fundamental right to free speech, and it could hold accountable those members of the security services who have abused their fellow citizens.

"Those simple actions would send a strong signal to Zimbabweans and the international community that Zimbabwe is on a very different path and genuinely committed to embracing democratic institutions and values, and to becoming a more responsible member of the international community. And not one of those steps, I would point out, requires outside assistance. The government could take any one of them today. The fact that it has chosen not to do so raises questions about the genuineness of its commitment to put the country on a much different trajectory." zimlive


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