By Bridget Mananavire
United States President Donald Trump this week extended sanctions on Zimbabwe for another year after renewing a national emergency declared in a 2003 executive order.
Trump’s justification for renewing the executive order was that the actions and policies of the Zimbabwe government continued to “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the US”.
Zimbabwe Independent senior reporter Bridget Mananavire had an interview with the US embassy spokesperson Stacy Lomba to unpack what Trump’s move means for Zimbabwe and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government. Below are excerpts:
BM: President Trump this week renewed Executive Order 13288 on Zimbabwe for another year, what does this mean for Zimbabwe?
SL: The renewal of Executive Order 13288 on Zimbabwe continues targeted sanctions on senior officials of the Government of Zimbabwe and other individuals and entities involved in undermining democratic practices, human rights abuses, or public corruption.
There are no US sanctions against ordinary Zimbabwean citizens or companies. The actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons continue to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions and pose a threat to US foreign policy. For these reasons, President Trump determined that it was necessary to continue the national emergency and to maintain in force the sanctions authorities.
BM: In relation to the Zimbabwe reform agenda, where has the government fallen short? And are there any successes? What can be done to bring Zimbabwe on track with the reform agenda? What is your view on the crackdown on opposition legislators, the mass arrests? Has there been any improvements since the November 2017 coup?
SL: President Mnangagwa’s administration has yet to implement the political and economic overhaul required to rebuild its reputation within the international community and improve its relationship with the US.
The US remains seriously concerned about ongoing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Most recently, we condemned the excessive use of force by Government of Zimbabwe security forces since mid-January, which resulted in at least 13 deaths, 600 victims of violence, torture or rape, and more than 1 100 arrests. The Government of Zimbabwe’s use of violence against its citizens betrays promises to create a new Zimbabwe. 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 implementation of those reforms.
BM: What will it take for the US to support Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with international financial institutions? Any chance of supporting an economic rescue package for Zimbabwe?
SL: The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018 outlines the steps Zimbabwe needs to take to gain the support of the US government for new lending through the international financial institutions. The key conditions the US requires Zimbabwe to satisfy remain the same. These include: i) the restoration of the rule of law; ii) free and fair elections; iii) equitable, legal and transparent land reform; and iv) military and national police subordinate to civil government.
BM: In view of the renewed sanctions, will the US continue to provide humanitarian aid?
SL: The US has a long-standing commitment to the people of Zimbabwe that has not changed.
Since 1980, the US Agency for International Development (USAid) has provided over US$3 billion to improve food security, health, and economic resilience for Zimbabweans.
Just last week, Ambassador Brian Nichols announced an additional US$15 million in funding to respond to the critical food security situation in Zimbabwe. The contribution, provided through the USAid, brings the total US funding for the current lean season to US$38 million, ensuring nearly 600 000 rural Zimbabweans have adequate food supplies before the next harvest.
BM: There has been an argument that sanctions only harden regimes and ruin the lives of citizens instead of those targeted. What is your view on this in relation to the Zimbabwe sanctions?
SL: This renewal of the national emergency does not add any new names. There are currently 85 individuals and 56 entities on the targeted sanctions list for Zimbabwe.
The targeted sanctions list is public information, provided by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) of the US Department of Treasury.
We do not have a sanctions programme against the country of Zimbabwe and suggestions that the US intends to harm the Zimbabwean people are wrong and misleading.