SENIOR government officials have been tripping each other since last week after the United States struck with a new set of sanctions as Washington targets those it sees as dragging Harare downhill.

In its new sanctions regime under the Global Magnitsky Programme, the US designated 11 individuals and companies, including  President Emmerson Mnangagwa and First Lady, Auxillia.

It accused the President of allegedly providing a “protective shield” to smugglers to operate in Zimbabwe and has “directed Zimbabwean officials to facilitate the sale of gold and diamonds in illicit markets, taking bribes in exchange for his services”.

Washington accused the First Lady of allegedly facilitating her husband’s corrupt activities. It said she was designated for being a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in corruption, including the misappropriation of State assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources or bribery.

The new sanctions have drawn revulsion with Harare condemning Washington’s statements as malicious, uncalled for, defamatory, provocative and a continuation of wanton hostilities against Zimbabwe by the US government.

The US, the nation is told, should not behave like the world’s prosecutor-general or Judiciary.

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 The sanctions on President Mnangagwa are a setback on the re-engagement drive. Mnangagwa has been preaching the mantra “friend to all and enemy to none” as part of a drive to get Zimbabwe a seat in the community of nations.

This has also seen Zimbabwe making inroads in its bid to be readmitted to the Commonwealth it dumped over two decades ago.

We urge government to engage the US and dispute the claims and refrain from this megaphone diplomacy in which Zimbabwe is the loser, just like we saw during last August’s disputed elections which led to ruling party and government officials failing to handle the fallout from Sadc’s report.

The new sanctions regime makes re-engagement a tall order and the ripple effects will be felt in the economy which also has to contend with the effects of the El Nino-induced drought.

Zimbabwe could not have been in this mess if she had conducted a peaceful and credible election. The fact that all observer missions, including Sadc, said the polls failed to meet regional and international benchmarks on the holding of free, fair and credible polls is a blight on the country.

Government’s response to the Al Jazeera documentary, Gold Mafia, may have confirmed the widely held view that the fight against corruption is half-hearted.

There is no doubt that CIO deputy director Walter Tapfumaneyi was sanctioned due to his links to Forever Associates Zimbabwe (Faz) which was outed to have tilted the scale in favour of Zanu PF in the August 23 and 24 elections.

A report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission accused Faz and traditional leaders of intimidating voters by recording their names and identifying people suspected of having voted for the opposition.

As bureaucrats stampede to lecture the US, there is a danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Zimbabwe needs the support of the US in arrears clearance and debt resolution. We should not drop the ball at this stage of the process. The world’s largest economy is a bellwether whose actions are followed by like-minded allies.