SW Radio Africa (London)

21 July 2014

Zimbabwe: U.S. Dismisses State Reports of Plans to Block Aid

The United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe has dismissed state media reports suggesting that US authorities had further tightened targeted restrictive measures this month, to include blocking humanitarian aid such as food and medical supplies.

A report in the state run Sunday Mail newspaper headlined "US blocks Zim funds, medicines", said "final rule" stringent measures had been endorsed by the US, requiring the Office of Foreign Assets Control to intercept "funds and goods such as medicines destined for Harare".

The report also said "International donations in the form of humanitarian aid, food, clothing, goods or money will not be spared under measures introduced on July 10."

But an official statement from the US Embassy dismissed the Sunday Mail report, clearly stating that the "final rules" confirm earlier interim regulations that were already in place regarding transactions with Zimbabwe. It said this means that nothing has changed and humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe will not be affected.

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, also posted a clarification on his Facebook page on Sunday, which said: "To set the record straight, there has been no change in policy, nor reduction in assistance programmes."

"The 106 Zimbabweans with whom Americans may not do business nor give donations are still on the US targeted sanctions list. We still seek to support and do business with the other 12,999,894 Zimbabweans."

Former diplomat and commentator Clifford Mashiri said it gets awkward for foreign diplomats in Zimbabwe at times, having to counter reports on state media which reflect ZANU PF propaganda and exist to appease the regime.

"It's not surprising that what the Sunday Mail writes about diplomats has that ZANU PF slant. They are trying to make diplomats speak out or address issues that may not be priorities to them," Mashiri explained, referring to Ambassador Wharton's Facebook posts on Sunday.

Mashiri told SW Radio Africa that the Americans have remained resolute and stood their ground regarding the restrictive measures that were adopted by America and the European Union, after accusing the government of human rights abuses and fraudulent election practices.

But the EU recently relaxed those measures and has been re-engaging with the ZANU PF government, despite the absence of any meaningful reforms that the grouping had demanded in order to remove targeted restrictions.

The Americans have maintained humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, where economic conditions continue to deteriorate as companies close and political and military big wigs ignore the situation.

According to the US Embassy, their mission in Zimbabwe "provided more than $28 million in food assistance and $26 million for essential drugs including ARVs, antibiotics, and anti-malarial medicines to the people of Zimbabwe" in the year 2013 alone.

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