Kudzai Kuwaza/Tatira Zwinoira
THE United States will maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe for as long as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government continues with its human rights abuses which pose a threat to regional stability, a senior American official has said.
The US has maintained the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera), which was passed by the US Congress in 2001, which imposed economic restrictions on Zimbabwe because of the Southern African country’s chequered human rights record.
Government has pointed to the sanctions as the cause of the country’s economic decline, but the US has said the economic crisis in the country is as a result of the country’s mismanagement and corruption.
In a wide-ranging interview, the US Agency for International Development (USAid)’s new country director for Zimbabwe Art Brown said the sanctions will remain if there is no reform to the human rights deficit in the country.
“The absence of progress on the most fundamental reforms needed to ensure rule of law, democratic governance, and respect of constitutional rights leaves Zimbabweans vulnerable to ongoing repression and presents a continuing threat to peace and security in the region,” Brown said.
“Unfortunately, at this juncture, Zimbabwean authorities have not yet made sufficient progress to merit the lifting of sanctions, but our commitment to the people of Zimbabwe is ever solid.”
He said the US continues to call on the Zimbabwean government to fulfill its promises of upholding the rule of law, fighting corruption, respecting human rights, and fully implementing Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution.
“Progress on these goals is the path forward to prosperity and deeper engagement with the United States and the international community. We believe Zimbabwe’s civil society organisations, and political parties have critical roles to play in facilitating improved governance,” Brown said.
“As a general matter, and let me be clear, the United States does not maintain broad sanctions against the people or the country of Zimbabwe. US sanctions target 83 individuals and 37 entities who engage in corruption, violate human rights, and undermine democratic institutions or processes. We have maintained our Zimbabwe sanctions programme because of the absence of significant political and economic reforms.
“It is unfortunate that the Government of Zimbabwe tries to blame United States sanctions for the country’s current woes. Zimbabwe’s sovereign economic and political policy choices, not US sanctions, caused the economic challenges we see today.”
He said USAid will continue to work with the United Nations and various trusted non-governmental organisations NGOs that provide assistance directly to Zimbabweans, adding that none of the assistance goes directly to the Government of Zimbabwe.
“Initially within the key sectors that USAid engages in (for example, Health, Environment/Agriculture, Food Security), I am seeking minister level, vice-minister, department director level courtesy calls to introduce myself and some teammates from USAid to again articulate what I and the team are doing to advance human progress on behalf of the American people in Zimbabwe,” Brown said.
“Additionally, I am looking forward to meeting with a variety of stakeholders, including CSOs (civil society organisations) and local NGOs to reinforce our commitment to the people of Zimbabwe. I am also eager to engage with community members who benefit from our assistance. I can’t wait to get out into the field to hear directly from beneficiaries of US government support.”
Brown said the assistance programme managed by his team at USAid provides an ongoing testament to US commitment to the people of Zimbabwe.
“As the country’s largest bilateral donor of development and humanitarian assistance, I hope it is clear that we want to see Zimbabwe succeed,” he said.