BY BLESSED MHLANGA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been pushing for re-engagement and better relations with the United States, seems to be faltering in his bid after the western country extended sanctions against Zimbabwe, accusing his regime of failing to ring the much-needed political and economic reforms.
The extension of sanctions against the Mnangagwa regime came shortly after former US ambassador to Zimbabwe Bruce Wharton and ex-assistant secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, released a stinging paper alleging that Harare was now effectively under the grip of an unreformed military, which fronted the November 2017 coup.
In a notice issued by US President Donald Trump on Monday, the White House said it was extending its restrictions against Mnangagwa’s administration by another year.
“On July 25, 2008, the President issued Executive Order 13469, which expanded the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288 and authorised the blocking of the property of additional persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe,” the statement read.
Trump said regardless of Zimbabwe declaring a new dispensation, there was no tangible change and the new government continued to pose threats to democracy and the foreign policy of the US.
“The actions and policies of these persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on March 6, 2003 and measures adopted on that date, on November 22, 2005 and on July 25, 2008, to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond March 6, 2019,” the statement read.
Wharton and Greenfield, in their paper titled Zimbabwe’s Coup: Net Gain or No Gain, accused Mnangagwa of doing nothing apart from mere talk to change the political and socio-economic landscape of Zimbabwe.
“But other than a different President, Zimbabwe has not changed much as events of January 2019 have shown — grossly disproportionate use of police and military to stop protests and looting — Zimbabwe government/ ruling party remains willing to do whatever it takes to remain in power,” part of the paper read.
The diplomats dismissed economic reforms introduced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, saying while his talking points sounded good, there was nothing on the ground in terms of implementation.
“While government talking points on fundamental issues such as rule of law, debt and international cooperation are more rational, measurable reform is elusive … the government economic managers continue to look for short term responses to systemic problems, print fake money and extract hard currency from any place they can find it.”
Wharton and Greenfeild claimed that Mnangagwa remained hostage to the powerful military elites who were behind the November 2017 coup.
“The military remains the strongest, most capable institution in the country and the High Court blessings of the November 2017 coup keeps the threat of another coup alive. The Executive branch of government has subordinated the Judiciary and completely overshadows the Parliament,” they said.
Mnangagwa needed a clean election to break free from military control and set the government on a new trajectory, but according to the US diplomats, the polls were far from being credible and again called on government not to rely on the military.
“Hopes that Zimbabwe, through Mnangagwa and his government, would be one of those rare examples of a military coup that restores democracy are slowly and methodically being dashed by a military not willing to allow change,” the envoys added.
But Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi yesterday insisted that government was reforming and was disappointed that Trump had ignored these reforms and chosen to continue on a path of confrontation.
“Government is disappointed by the renewal of sanctions against Zimbabwe by the United States at a time numerous strides have been made to improve the democratic space and promote unity and tolerance. It’s very unfortunate that the US wants to continue on the hostile path even though clear signs of reform are evident,” Mutodi said.
Government has said the sanctions are illegal and has enjoyed support from Sadc and other African countries, which have called on the unconditional lifting of the sanctions.
“The sanctions are illegal and are a violation of human rights and the dignity of the Zimbabwean people. They are hurting the poor the most and for the US to insist on them is a sign of irresponsibility and cruelty on their part,” Mutodi said.
“We will continue to engage with the US and the whole international community on the need for the unconditional removal of the sanctions. Already, our regional partners in the Sadc region have expressed their displeasure on the continued existence of these sanctions and have made the call to have them lifted.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo last night said the “perpetuation of hostilities by the United States and other like-minded countries was unjustifiable, despicable and contemptible” and was against efforts by the government towards implementation of its national reform agenda, including the engagement and re-engagement policy.
“Zimbabwe, under the new dispensation, has instituted remarkable electoral reforms which create a conducive environment for free and fair and credible elections as manifested in July 2018,” he said.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said: “The continued unilateral imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe by the United States is a travesty of justice against the Zimbabwean people.”