The US on Thursday said it would only lift sanctions on Zimbabwe if the country made meaningful democratic progress, putting a damper on efforts by the Sadc presidential committee set up to engage the West and its allies on the restrictive measures.
The US sanctions regime comprises the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, under which the country’s officials veto multilateral financial support to Zimbabwe and an executive order of 2003 which imposes targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle as well as companies in which government has an interest.
Assistant Public Affairs Officer for the US Embassy in Zimbabwe Andrew Posner said the US welcomed Sadc’s initiative to help Zimbabwe return to normalcy, but stated that Zimbabwe had to prove it now respects the rule of law and human rights.
This comes barely two months after the regional grouping established the three-member team comprising Presidents Jacob Zuma (South Africa), Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia) and Rupiah Banda (Zambia).
“We welcome Sadc’s engagement in helping to return Zimbabwe to a democratic path and stability.
As senior United States officials told members of Zimbabwe’s re-engagement team on September 23, however, Zimbabwe must make further progress for the removal of targeted sanctions.”
A Zimbabwe re-engagement team led by Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma has already been to the US to campaign for the removal of sanctions, but came back empty- handed after the US indicated there was need for more reforms.
Posner said the position remained essentially the same one that the US stated on September 26 following the visit by the Mangoma-led team.
During the visit, the US cited the harassment of members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise and the disruption of constitutional reform meetings in Harare as evidence that Zimbabwe needed to do more on reforms.
There have been reports that the US was not keen on meeting the Sadc team as they were already engaging Zimbabwe, but Posner said he would not want to speculate.
He however said he was not aware of any meetings that had been scheduled yet.
The statements come at a time when parties in the shaky inclusive government are at loggerheads over President Mugabe’s reportedly unilateral re-appointment of governors, judges and envoys.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has written to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, president of the European Union Commission José Manuel Barroso and Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, advising them not to recognise envoys stationed in their countries after they were unilaterally appointed.
He also wrote to South Africa President, Jacob Zuma and Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, over the stand-off. Zanu PF has said that it was not moved by Tsvangirai’s actions.