Biden, EU spoil Mnangagwa’s party

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

United States President Joe Biden says actions and policies of some Zimbabwe government officials continue to undermine the country’s democratic processes in a vote-of-no-confidence in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s re-engagement policy.

Biden made the remarks in a notice to the US congress last week as he renewed targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe, a few days after the European Union (EU) extended an arms embargo against the country.

Mnangagwa, who is serving the last few months of his five-year term, had made re-engagement with countries such as the US and EU member states a centrepiece of his foreign policy.

The EU said it was extending the arms embargo against the Zimbabwe Defence Industries because it was worried about increased repression and introduction of draconian laws.

Biden said he was extending sanctions against Zimbabwe because of Harare’s lack of apetite for reform.

“The actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” Biden said in a notice issued on  March 1.

“For this reason, the national emergency declared on March 6, 2003, and the 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, 2023.

“Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 USC 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13288.”

The EU cited the closure of the democratic and civic space for the extension of the sanction.

“Other developments are of concern from a democratic and civic space perspective,” the Council of the EU said in a statement.

“These include the Data Protection Act and, if enacted, Bills such as the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill and the envisaged “patriotic provisions” in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill.

“The EU also maintains its concerns that the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry have not been followed substantially and the perpetrators of violations which occurred in August 2018 and January 2019 are to date still enjoying impunity from prosecution.

“It is important that international human rights obligations are adhered to and the constitutional rights of the people of Zimbabwe respected.”

Critics and the opposition say Mnangagwa has been shutting down the democratic space by railroading repressive laws such as the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Bill, which seeks to regulate the operations of civic groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Civic groups and NGOs have been in the forefront of exposing human rights violations and corruption in Mnangagwa’s administration.

Mnangagwa denies charges of being hostile towards civic groups and CSOs, and instead accuses the latter of pushing a regime change agenda.

Last week, US State Department deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs, Robert Scott, also expressed concern over Zimbabwe’s human rights situation.

Scott was in the country on a two-day visit.

“The sanctions process is an ongoing process that is looked at in Washington and you could anticipate ongoing review of this process,” Scott said on  Friday at a press briefing.

Scott also expressed concern over the PVO Bill.

“We have joined a number of actors…in heading concerns about the PVO Amendment Bill.

“It is our sense shared by many that has an effect on the political space and our people who are engaging themselves in groups of discussion and so that is what l expressed to the government."

The US first announced sanctions against Zimbabwe in February 2002 in response to violence and intimidation ahead of that year’s presidential election.

The sanctions came in the form of travel restrictions against senior Zimbabwean officials.

Additional individual sanctions followed in 2003, 2005, and 2008 and have been renewed every year. After Brexit, the United Kingdom also introduced its own set of sanctions targeted at security chiefs it accused of human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

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