BY SILAS NKALA/MOSES MATENGA
THE United Kingdom yesterday slapped a minister, two service chiefs and a diplomat with sanctions for their roles in the 2018 post-election shootings, and the January 2019 killing of civilians by soldiers suppressing protests against a 150% fuel price increase.
State Security minister Owen Ncube, Central Intelligence Organisation director-general Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, and the former commander of the Presidential Guard, Anselem Sanyatwe, were yesterday put on to the UK’s sanctions list.
Sanyatwe is now Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania.
First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab (MP), said the latest move was in reaction to human rights violations in the country.
“Four Zimbabwean security sector chiefs responsible for serious human rights violations — including the deaths of 23 Zimbabwean protestors — have been designated under the UK’s new autonomous sanctions regime,” Raab said.
“These targeted designations hold to account those responsible for the worst human rights violations against the people of Zimbabwe since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in November 2017. This includes a State-sponsored crackdown against protests in January 2019 that resulted in the deaths of 17 Zimbabweans and post-election violence in August 2018, in which six protestors lost their lives,” he said.
The new sanctions include a travel ban and asset freeze on the four officials.
The quartet cannot travel to the UK, or even channel money through UK banks, or make any profits from the UK economy.
Raab said the UK could now pursue an independent sanctions policy reflecting its foreign policy and national security interests, following her departure from the European Union and the end of the transition period.
He said the sanctions sent a clear message that the UK would hold to account those responsible for the most egregious human rights violations, including the deaths of innocent Zimbabweans.
“We will continue to press for the necessary political and economic reforms that will benefit all Zimbabweans,” Raab said.
He said the UK would continue supporting Zimbabwea through its programme focusing on tackling poverty, provision of humanitarian assistance, standing up for human rights and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK has on a number of occasions red-flagged Zimbabwe over a series of human rights violations.
Melanie Robinson, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe tweeted following the imposition of sanctions that: “It’s not sanctions holding Zimbabwe’s economy back. Corruption and illicit financial flows rob Zimbabweans of their own resources. The lack of political and economic reforms undermines the chance of debt relief and international investment needed to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy.
“The UK is on the side of the Zimbabwean people. We continue to press for genuine political and economic reform and the protection of Zimbabweans’ constitutional rights. We are working to reduce poverty, increase trade and investment and support Zimbabwe’s recovery from COVID-19.”
She added: “Today’s sanctions are targeted at four security sector individuals responsible for serious human rights violations against fellow Zimbabweans on the streets of Harare and other towns.”
British Minister for Africa James Duddridge, who is also MP for Rochford and Southend East, said on Twitter: “UK sanctions are targeted measures. They do not target ordinary citizens, nor are they intended to impact the wider economy of Zimbabwe. The UK is committed to tackling poverty and supporting genuine political and economic reform for the Zimbabwean people.”
Zimbabwe was plunged into chaos on August 1, 2018, two days after the July 30 elections when soldiers were deployed into the streets to quell protest over delays in releasing results.
Soldiers shot and killed six unarmed civilians.
Mnangagwa set up a commission of inquiry chaired by former South African President Kgalema Montlanthe, whose report said that the security services were responsible for the deaths and the injury of 35 people during the August 1, 2018 protests.
The report also concluded that the use of live ammunition on civilians was “clearly unjustified and disproportionate”.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission’s January 28, 2019 report on the response to the fuel protests also revealed that the country’s law enforcement agents seemed to “resort to use of brute, excessive and disproportionate force in most circumstances, thereby causing avoidable loss of life and also worsening the human rights situation”.
There were allegations of rape and indiscriminate door-to-door assaults by the Zimbabwean security services at the time.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo immediately condemned the move, saying the sanctions were illegal.
“This is not the time to impose sanctions when we are engaging through our re-engagement exercise. I am sure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will obviously be taking up the matter,” Moyo said.
“This is actually time to lift the sanctions because they are illegal, and Britain knows that. They never went through the United Nations. So it is time these illegal sanctions must be removed as has been called upon by the Southern African Development Co-operation (Sadc), the African Union (AU), and a number of organisations the world over. I don’t know why they keep on insisting on these illegal things. They are illegal,” he said.
On the issue of reforms, Moyo said: “Which reforms are they talking about? They have been giving signs of co-operation with us, as well as that things were moving in the right direction. I don’t know which reforms they are talking about.”
Opposition MDC Alliance secretary for international relations Gladys Hlatywayo said: “The MDC Alliance has consistently called for an end to human rights violations, corruption and implementation of comprehensive political and economic reforms.
“We contend that our domestic affairs must be urgently looked at to change the predatory governance culture based on impunity, political intolerance and patronage.”
Hlatywayo said without paying attention to its domestic policy, the re-engagement of Zimbabwe with the international community would be difficult.
“The ball is certainly in Zanu PF’s hands. They should do the needful in order to stop this isolation,” she said.