The Herald (Harare)

14 September 2013

Zimbabwe: U.S., Africa Cross Swords Over Sanctions

THE United States has vowed to intensify its illegal sanctions regime in the wake of Zanu-PF's resounding victory going to the extent of belittling the African Union and Sadc whose observer missions endorsed the elections as free, peaceful, and generally credible and a reflection of the will of Zimbabweans.

The AU and Sadc have called for the immediate lifting of the illegal sanctions regimes. The US Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organisations met Thursday, a day after Zanu-PF routed the MDC-T in three runoff elections held in Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Mashonaland West provinces to consolidate its supremacy in local government countrywide.

The hearing that was dubbed "Troubling Path Ahead for US-Zimbabwe Relations", also took pot shots at the Cabinet sworn in by President Mugabe on Tuesday claiming it consisted of 62 members when it has only 26 ministers and 24 portfolios.

The US invited the coterie of NGOs it sponsors under the banner of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGOs Forum that was represented by UK-based MDC-T activist Mr Arthur Gwagwa, who presented a 21-page report parroting his party's mantra that the harmonised elections were "stolen".

A solidarity message attributed to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, that has since expressed an intention to take to the streets after over four years of hibernation during the tenure of the inclusive Government, was read by one Imani Countess, African Region programme director Solidarity Centre.

Mr Gwagwa called for the maintenance of the sanctions regime to abet the regime change agenda, a move that could, however, cause more suffering among ordinary people.

Presenting his report in the House, US deputy secretary for African affairs, Ms Shannon Smith, claimed the harmonised elections were "seriously flawed".

"We, therefore, continue to maintain targeted sanctions aimed at those who are actively undermining democracy in Zimbabwe and thus depriving all its citizens of a more democratic, prosperous future. Currently, the list of specially designed nationals includes 113 individuals and 70 entities. In the future we may add new names to the list or remove others, as conditions warrant," Ms Smith said.

She said the US was not happy with the reports by Sadc and AU Observer Missions that upheld the credibility of the harmonised elections.

"We were disappointed that the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union (AU) chose not to adhere to their own standards - or address the irregularities highlighted by their observers - in determining that the elections were free and fair," said Ms Smith.

US representative Mr Edward Royce (R - Southern California) who chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs claimed the Cabinet was full of repressive people.

"Mugabe swore in his 62-member Cabinet: a recycling of old Zanu hardliners, the old guard, some of the most militant of the old guard, and the new Information (Media and Broadcasting Services) Minister (Professor Jonathan Moyo) who was the architect of the sweeping law on the clampdown on the media and the clampdown on Press freedom. And, Finance Minister (Cde Patrick Chinamasa), who was formerly Justice Minister, responsible for judicial crackdowns, and frankly, he is on our sanctions list," said Mr Royce.

Mr Royce said the inclusive Government collapsed and the opposition party had been sidelined indefinitely and Zanu hardliners were in control.

"Mugabe now has unfettered access to all Government posts, to all State resources . . . Unfortunately, the regional bodies aren't (of) any help. The performance of Sadc has really been a disappointment here. Heralded by the administration at the start of summer as a force for change, Sadc in my opinion is still adding to the problem as they failed in the past to speak out, and this time, the parliamentary group report for the July elections terribly missed the mark," he said.

However, political analyst Dr Nhamo Mhiripri, yesterday said it was no coincidence that the same statements made by the US government officials had been written by the Daily News and NewsDay, that Washington sponsors, that President Mugabe recycled the same old faces in his Government.

"Those same statements were first raised here and by reproducing them it means the US government is relying on information that is emanating from these Zimbabwean papers. These people thrive on denigrating their country. They need negative dosage of information to sustain their relations with America," he said.

Dr Mhiripiri said some people in the private media thought Zanu-PF was going to lose the election and that their source of livelihood of selling out negative information about the country was going to be affected.

"If the MDC-T had won, they were worried of losing their jobs. So it's not unusual to see the US reproducing the same reports done in Zimbabwe, infact, they are admitting that everything is coming from their embassy in Harare," he said.

Dr Mhiripiri said the ministers that were being attacked by the US government officials operated under a hostile environment in which there was a lot of activism and disregarding of the rule of law by some individuals and organisations.

"During that time the Daily News disregarded the law and was shut down. Some laws have been amended and these people who are being attacked will prove to be good ministers. The people are refusing to look at the amendments that were made at AIPPA and BSA," he said.

National University of Science and Technology lecturer Dr Lawton Hikwa, said the sanctions were called for by some disgruntled Zimbabweans seeking power and as long they were still out of power, their handlers would not lift the embargo.

He said the West would not go by Sadc's position on Zimbabwe because they were disappointed by the magnitude of Zanu-PF's win, prompting them to maintain the sanctions. He, however, said eventually, these countries would remove these illegal sanctions.

"These sanctions are indeed illegal and are affecting the people and soon we are likely to see an attitude change by some of these countries. If they want to restore some legitimacy in opposition politics, soon they will realise the need to remove them (sanctions).

"By maintaining the sanctions after Sadc had endorsed the Zimbabwe elections it means, they are not only undermining the sovereignty of the country, but the independence and reasonability of the jurisdiction of Sadc and AU as regional bodies.

"Even if the Americans were not invited to observe the polls, at least their embassies should have given them a guideline on how the elections were held. So we can conclude that there was a predetermined position that they would not accept the poll results as long as it was not an MDC-T victory," he said.

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