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US pressures Zim on reforms

THE United States government has expressed concern over Harare’s failure to compensate victims of the August 1, 2018 killings by state security forces in the aftermath of disputed polls.

By Nyasha Chingono

Washington also expressed grave concern over Harare’s failure to bring the perpetrators of the killings to book.

Shortly after Zimbabweans cast their votes in a disputed poll that was narrowly won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the military shot and killed six people on the streets of Harare, leaving dozens injured.

The military was deployed to quell protests which erupted as people demanded the quick release of election results, amid allegations that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was rigging the polls on behalf of Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, who had risen to power through a military coup which toppled former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, instituted a commission of inquiry led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe to probe circumstances surrounding the shootings.

The Motlanthe commission came up with recommendations including compensating victims of the shootings.

However, Mnangagwa’s government, which has been on an international re-engagement drive, has not yet compensated any of the aggrieved victims, triggering the concern of the international community.

Speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent this week, US embassy spokesperson Stacey Lomba said compensating the August 1 victims, as well as instituting recommendations from the Motlanthe commission would signal Harare’s willingness to embrace bold political reforms, seen as key towards Harare’s re-integration in the community of nations.

“While we recognise the government has created a cabinet taskforce to implement the report’s recommendations, we have seen very little of its work,” Lomba said. “The most significant recommendations outlined in the Motlanthe commission report have not been implemented. The government has not identified or held anyone accountable for the killing of six civilians. The government has moved very slowly on compensation for the victims and their families.”

Justice permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza last month told the Independent the government was assessing 35 cases for compensation.

Washington believes that full implementation of the August 1 killings report would also complement Zimbabwe’s reform agenda.

The US has been monitoring the human rights situation in the country and expressed concern over the fresh crackdown on civil society.

“We have also seen the government target civil society and labour leaders for practicing their fundamental freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed to all Zimbabweans by the constitution. This is concerning as it does not demonstrate a true commitment to reform,” Lomba said.

Mnangagwa is desperately seeking to re-engage with Washington after years of a tense stand-off over, among other issues, human rights abuses by Harare.

The US also expressed concern over the slow pace of implementing legislative reforms that include the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).

“Since assuming office in November 2017, President Mnangagwa has repeatedly committed to broad economic and political reforms. We have seen some procedural progress towards the replacement of repressive legislation including Posa and Aippa.

“However, we cannot fully assess these Bills until they have been passed by parliament and implemented as law,” Lomba said. Speaking to a local television station yesterday, US ambassador Brian Nichols said: “The crackdown against protesters in August last year and in January this year for people asserting their constitutional rights presents a deep concern for the international community as as the private sector. Hopefully, the government will take steps to hold those responsible for the violence accountable.”

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