DESPITE Sadc heads of state calling on the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) to lift economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, Washington says the measures will only be removed if President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, which has been widely condemned for repression and gross human rights violations, institutes tangible political reforms.
This comes as US also dismissed state media reports as false and embarrassing that Washington helped MDC Alliance to organise demonstrations in Harare last Friday, citing a visit by embassy officials to the party’s national vice-chairperson Job Sikhala’s home as evidence.
US embassy spokesperson Stacy Lomba told the Zimbabwe Independent it was normal for diplomats to meet government and opposition officials. “In Zimbabwe, as in every country in the world, US diplomats regularly meet with officials from the government, political parties and civil society organisations. This is part of their job,” Lomba said.
“We do not support or give advice to any political party. We support the freedom of peaceful assembly, including through peaceful demonstrations, and all rights protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Zimbabwe’s constitution.”
US ambassador to Harare Brian Nichols and other officials were not even at the venue as reported by the state-controlled Sunday Mail.
The EU, on the other hand, says it does not have economic sanctions against Harare, insisting there is a travel and asset freeze on former president Robert Mugabe, his wife Grace, as well as an arms embargo and restrictive measure against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
Regional leaders, at the 39th Sadc heads of state summit in Tanzania on Sunday, called for the immediate lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe to facilitate socio-economic recovery.
The leaders also expressed solidarity with the Zimbabwe government and set October 25 as the date they would “collectively voice their disapproval of the sanctions through various activities and platforms until the sanctions are lifted”.
Lomba said the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act (Zidera) will remain as long as the circumstances which led to its promulgation in 2001 still persist.
“We reiterate our call for the Government of Zimbabwe to enact promised political and economic reforms. As we have stated before, our engagement will be based on demonstration and real implementation of those reforms. The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018 outlines the steps Zimbabwe needs to take to gain the support of the United States Government for new lending through international financial institutions,” Lomba said.
“The key conditions the United States requires Zimbabwe to satisfy remain the same. These include; the restoration of the rule of law; free and fair elections; equitable, legal, and transparent land reform; and military and national police subordinate to civil government.”
Lomba also insisted that US measures target individuals and entities undermining the democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe.
“More specifically, these sanctions, as well as the sanctions imposed in previous Executive Orders, target certain persons who, among other things, are senior officials of the Government of Zimbabwe, have participated in human rights abuses related to political repression, or have engaged in activities facilitating public corruption by senior officials,” Lomba said.
The US government says it is concerned by gross human rights abuses occurring in Zimbabwe and has emphasised that any engagement between Harare and Washington would be based on the real implementation of political and economic reforms.
“As we said in our statement on August 15, we are deeply concerned over the abduction, assault, and torture of civil society and opposition leaders in advance of the planned march on August 16,” Lomba said.
The US called on the government to ensure the safety of citizens as well as to bring to book those responsible for human rights violations including soldiers who shot and killed six protestors on August 1 last year.
“The Government of Zimbabwe bears the responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens under its constitution. We welcome the Zimbabwean government’s commitment to investigate these crimes and to bring those responsible to justice,” she said.
EU ambassador Timo Olkkonen said the bloc took decisions on Zimbabwe on the basis of the situation in this country.
He said the restrictive measures — which have almost been totally removed — are intended to support the EU policy objective of encouraging a demonstrable commitment to upholding the rule of law. Despite the Sadc position, Olkkonen empasised that the EU had not imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. “There are no EU economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. Anything suggesting the opposite is wrong. These strictly limited restrictive measures do not target the wider Zimbabwean economy, including foreign direct investment by EU businesses,” Olkkonen said.
“The measures renewed most recently by the (EU) Council on 18 February 2019 are not economic sanctions. They in fact consist of; an arms embargo and restrictive measure against Zimbabwe Defence Industry and individual restrictive measures (such as a travel ban and an asset freeze) against Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe.”
The EU has suspended individual measures against Vice-President Constantine Chiwenga, Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Philip Valerio Sibanda and Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri.
“Therefore, all products other than arms can be traded unhindered, including food and medicine. Moreover, none of the restrictive measures affects the tariff and quota free access to the EU market granted by the Economic and Partnership Agreement (EPA) ratified in 2012,” Olkkonen said.