US tightens screws on ED Mnangagwa’s government

US President Joe Biden

UNITED States Senate Foreign Relations member Jim Risch and analysts have said the sanctioning of President Emmerson Mnangagwa for corruption and human rights violations is a damning indictment of his leadership since he assumed power via a 2017 coup.

Mnangagwa and 13 other individuals who include the First Lady, Auxillia, were slapped with fresh sanctions under the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme which revokes the Zimbabwe-specific sanctions programme in place since 2003.

“In particular, the sanctioning of President Mnangagwa for both corruption and human rights violations is a damning indictment — he is notably the first head of State-designated under the programme,” Risch said.

Also sanctioned under the new programme is Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.

Central Intelligence Organisation deputy director Walter Tapfumaneyi, businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei, his wife Sandra Mpunga, businessman Obey Chimuka, police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, deputy Police Commissioner Stephen Mutamba and Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Owen Ncube are also on the list.

Tagwirei’s Sakunda Holdings, which the US Treasury said had facilitated State corruption, as well as Fossil Agro and Fossil Contracting are also targeted.

In a statement on the US sanctions on Zimbabwean individuals and entities, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the new sanctions regime sought to make it clear that “the egregious behaviour of some of the most powerful people and companies in Zimbabwe matches the actions of the worst human rights abusers and corrupt actors globally”.

The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, which is an American policy on Zimbabwe remains in place.

Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies Stephen Chan said the sanctions were a clear message to Mnangagwa following the disputed August 2023 elections.

“Basically the US is drawing a clear distinction between ‘minor’ and ‘major’ actors and is sanctioning ‘major’ leading figures only,” Chan said.

“Generally speaking, the US has accepted there will be no change in the election results, despite controversy over how ‘democratic’ they were, but wants to send a sharp message that those responsible have been identified and that, in particular, if President Mnangagwa does go for a third term he will be an international lame duck.”

Mnangagwa (81) is currently serving his second term, and constitutionally his last in office, having been first elected in 2018. Over the past week, his allies have been pushing for him to serve beyond this constitutional time frame.

Southern Africa programme head for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) think tank, Piers Pigou, said the new sanctions regime certainly tightened things up against Mnangagwa.

“However, the political risk associated with sanctioning another head of State will obviously vary from country to country so more than anything I think this reflects that Zimbabwe is not really that much of an issue in terms of pragmatic foreign policy interest, however, there is an element of symbolism that we saw in the previous sanctions regime that is carried out with this more refined listing,” Pigou said.

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the new sanctions programme show that the US is adamant that Mnangagwa’s government is corrupt and abuses human rights.

“What the American government could do is to be a positive influence on the Zanu PF government by engaging with it and agreeing on benchmarks in terms of reform that must be pushed in place by continuing to support the developmental needs of Zimbabwe,” Mukundu added.

“Sanctions are now a scapegoat by the Zanu PF government to maintain an opaque administration not to institute or implement transparent accountable governance and sanctions hardly affect those targeted because these are privileged people.” Posting on X, formerly Twitter, yesterday, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said the sanctions programme sought to undermine the 2023 election outcome.

“Zimbabwe blazes a new trail in US use of this coercive instrument on sitting head of State and deputy, meaning the coercive measures have a direct bearing on the State and its overall functionality,” he posted.

“It also seeks to challenge and delegitimise outcomes of Zimbabwe’s democratic choice through August 2023 elections.”

Meanwhile, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said yesterday that the termination of some of the sanctions will help unlock fresh resources for economic development.

Speaking during the last day of the seven-day 56th session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development held in Victoria Falls Ncube said: “The lifting of the order, Executive Order, by the White House, by President Biden in terms of the unilateral sanctions on Zimbabwe, that was really positive and it is welcome.

“It opens a window for Zimbabwe to engage further with the international community in a way that Zimbabwe can be able to access more resources for its economic development agenda. So, indeed it’s a positive move and step in the right direction.” NewsDay.

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