President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been dealt yet another blow with US President Donald Trump on Friday adding his close ally, State Security minister Owen Ncube, to the sanctions list.
Ncube who hails from Mnangagwa’s home province of Midlands and is one of his ardent long-time supporters is being punished for alleged human rights crimes. The US accuses Ncube of being involved in the state-sponsored violence on civilians that saw several people being shot dead by soldiers, while many others sustained injuries from beatings and other forms of brutalisation by the military and other suspected state agents. There were also incidents of abductions and torture reported since Ncube was appointed State Security minister.
US secretary of state Michael Pompeo said on Friday the US had credible information that Ncube was involved in gross violations of human rights under his ministry. The announcement coincided with the anti-sanctions march held in Zimbabwe on Friday with the support of Sadc.
The event was, however, a huge flop owing to poor subscription despite the government providing free transport and offering free goodies such as chicken and chips meals and T-shirts. Mnangagwa addressed a largely empty 60 000-seater National Sports Stadium and called for the unconditional removal of sanctions.
“We are deeply troubled by the Zimbabwean government’s use of state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protestors, and civil society, as well as against labour leaders and members of the opposition leaders in Zimbabwe,” Pompeo said.
“We urge the government to stop the violence, investigate, and hold officials responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Zimbabwe.”
Ncube, popularly known as “Mudha”, will no longer be allowed to enter the US, according to a statement by Pompeo, as the world’s super power intensifies its restrictive measures on Mnangagwa’s government despite a push by Sadc countries for the lifting of the controversial measures.
“Today (Friday), the Department designates Owen Ncube under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act (Div. F, P.L. 116-6), as carried forward by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. A, P.L. 116-59) due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights,” Pompeo said.
“Section 7031(c) provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or a gross violation of human rights, those individuals is ineligible for entry into the United States and may be publicly or privately designated as such by the Secretary of State.”
The US slapped Zimbabwean officials and companies with sanctions in 2001 under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera).
The regional bloc, Sadc, at their last summit in Tanzania declared the 25th of October as the day to unite and campaign for an end to sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US and the Western countries.
Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF party blames the sanctions imposed by the US in 2001 and renewed by US President Donald Trump early this year for the economic woes that have brought Zimbabwe to its knees.
But Pompeo said US sanctions targeted only those who engaged in corruption, violated human rights, and undermined democratic institutions or processes. He said state-sanctioned violence created a culture of impunity for human rights abusers.
Last week, Brian Nichols, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe denied that sanctions were hurting the Zimbabwe economy, saying corruption was Zimbabwe’s biggest undoing. On Friday when Mnangagwa was leading the anti-sanctions march, the embassy was busy on social media denying his claims while listing various examples of alleged corrupt activities, including the command agriculture where $3 billion reportedly went missing, among others to prove that sanctions were not the cause of the deteriorating situation in the country.
Ncube is alleged to have deployed the military to clampdown on protesters in January this year when Zimbabweans took to the street over Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices. The clampdown resulted in the death of 17 people. Most of them died from gunshot wounds but the military claimed that soldiers were firing their guns into the air and not at fleeing people.
During that same clampdown which continued for several days, several women reported that they were raped by soldiers while hundreds of people were arrested and tortured.
Also during that clampdown, Ncube issued a directive to shutdown internet services throughout the country resulting in the blockage of social media communication.
Ncube’s name has also been associated with the notorious gangs of artisanal miners known as maShurugwi, who have killed and injured many people in machete attacks and fights for gold across the country, but mostly in the Midlands province.
United Nations special rapporteur Clément Nyaletsossi Voule also raised concern over State sanctioned human rights violations in his summary report in September.
Information ministry permanent secretary Ndavaningi ‘Nick’ Mangwana yesterday told The Standard that the US sanctions on Ncube were unjustified.
“These so-called ‘lists’ have just become a farcical and a form of hegemonic arbitrary justice,” Mangwana said.
“Somebody is placed on these lists based on what exactly? Social media chatter? Where is the justice in that? The US brands itself a fair country but everything we have seen regarding the sanctions issue has been stubborn arrogance. And to ominously announce it on the day Sadc spoke, betrays a paramount attitude towards African states.”
He said US’s move had become clear that the sanctions being imposed on Zimbabwe were beyond travelling bans.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the sanctions were targeting individuals in government and his party.
“It’s not about Owen Ncube but it’s about all these illegal sanctions. They must remove all the sanctions which are illegal. That’s why we had the anti-sanctions day. We are saying they must go. They are not targeting individuals,” he said.
However, Southern Africa Political Economy Series (SAPES) trust director, Ibbo Mandaza said the flopped anti-sanctions march had no impact on the US’s stance on Zimbabwe. This was demonstrated by the inclusion of Ncube on the list the day the country was marching against the embargoes.“Wasn’t the march a flop nationwide? If so, why should it have any impact, both nationally and vis a vis the US?”
“The implications are very serious for ED (Mnangagwa), in particular, his government and those touted as advisers and sympathisers of the regime: egg on their faces, in the first instance; and growing pressure from an international community which has lost all confidence in this government. In this regard, even the region and African Union alike have abandoned a sinking sheep,” he said.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said the Mnangagwa-led government should focus on implementing Zidera conditions for sanctions to be removed and not focus on anti-sanctions marches.
“The US is very consistent in its approach and requirements. The sanctions under Zidera and even its amendment by Trump this year, they are sending a clear message to Zimbabwe. The message [is the same], notwithstanding who is in power, either Democrats or Republicans. The conditions clearly stipulated in Zidera must be fulfilled first. The anti-sanctions march to me was irrelevant,” he said.
He said by adding Ncube to the sanction list, the US was sending a clear message to Zimbabwe that it was not moved by the anti-sanctions march but the conditions in Zidera should be fulfilled before sanctions could be considered for lifting.
Opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said the poor attendance at the anti-sanctions march should serve as a huge sign to Mnangagwa.
“There was a big sign in the stadium. If Mnangagwa is choosing to ignore these signs, he will be victim, like the biblical Pharaoh. We are seeing the signs. He can come with Sadc or roll on a false war, but the message was huge and only an ignorant and arrogance leader can ignore that. But, I know him; wisdom is not his regular visitor due to arrogance. Ignorance and arrogance are twins,” Chamisa said.