A war of words is brewing between Zimbabwe and the United States following the addition of State Security minister Owen Ncube and former Presidential Guard commander, Lt-General (Rtd) Anselem Sanyatwe to the latter’s economic sanctions list.
Almost at the same time as Ncube and Sanyatwe were slapped with economic sanctions by the US Department of Treasury, the State Department released the Zimbabwe 2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, where it decried unlawful or arbitrary killings of civilians by security forces, torture and arbitrary detention by security forces, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.
The US noted that there were serious problems with the independence of the judiciary, that there existed “the worst forms of government restrictions on free expression, press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship”.
“Impunity remained a problem,” the US lamented.
“The government took very few steps to identify or investigate officials who committed human rights abuses, and there were no reported arrests or prosecutions of such persons.”
The army has been accused of orchestrating violence that led to the deaths of several Zimbabweans in August 2018 and January 2019, but to date, no one had been held accountable for the killings.
The US noted that civilian authorities, at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.
Mnangagwa’s government has already reacted angrily to the sanctions imposed on Sanyatwe and Ncube, saying the move will further erode trust between Zimbabwe and the US.
Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo said America’s apporach to implementing sanctions was not even handed, but maintained that Zimbabwe will continue to engage in dialogue with that country.
The US is the biggest bilateral donor to Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe insists that US sanctions are hampering the country’s economic turnaround prospects, but the western nation says failure to implement key reforms and corruption by the elite are at the centre of the southern African nation’s woes.