What made the United States not advise the president of Zimbabwe Mnangagwa? | | Corruption Issues


In March, the United States surrendered new sanctions 11 Zimbabweans, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife, and other officials, following charges of corruption and human rights violations. It also imposed sanctions on three businesses – also for corruption, human rights violations and electoral fraud.

A statement from Mnangagwa’s office described the allegations as defamatory. It also said that it was “false” to insult the leaders and people of Zimbabwe.

This was done after a review of US sanctions that have been in place since 2003. From now on, the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe will apply to individuals and businesses listed under the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016. This law will empower the US government to allow foreign government officials. around the world for violating human rights, freeze their goods, and prevent them from entering the US with an unknown business.

By changing the Magnitsky Act to enforce sanctions on Zimbabwe, the US said that fewer people and businesses would receive sanctions than has been the case so far. “The changes we are making today are aimed at clarifying what has always been true: our sanctions are not against Zimbabweans,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.

Rutendo Matinyarare, a government activist who heads the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Movement, has welcomed changes to the sanctions regime. “The real punishments are over now, so there are no more excuses. Let’s build the world now,” he wrote on X, formerly of Twitter.

Why is the US imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe?

The US has said it wants to promote democracy and accountability and deal with human rights violations in Zimbabwe.

“We continue to encourage the government of Zimbabwe to establish a free and democratic government, including eliminating corruption and protecting human rights, so that all Zimbabweans can move forward,” said David Gainer, US Deputy Secretary of State.

The United States is Zimbabwe’s largest donor, providing more than $3.5bn in aid since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1980 to 2020.

Are sanctions damaging Zimbabwe’s economy?

Last year, Zimbabwe’s Deputy Prime Minister, Constantino Chiwenga, said the country had lost more than $150bn due to sanctions imposed by the European Union and America.

Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur on enforcement, who visited the country in 2021, said sanctions “… , the elderly, the disabled and oppressed and other vulnerable groups”.

A 2022 report by the Institute of Security Studies Africa (ISS) found that investors tend to leave Zimbabwe because of the “significant threat” posed to the country by the sanctions proposed by the US.

Some international banks have also cut ties with Zimbabwean banks because the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) penalizes US companies or individuals who do business with a sanctioned person, entity or country.

Government supporters march against Western sanctions, including ZIDERA, which prevent Zimbabwe from accessing loans and funding from international financial institutions, at a rally held in Harare, Zimbabwe on October 25, 2019. [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

Are sanctions holding the economy back?

Zimbabwean economist Gift Mugano has said that corruption, despite increased penalties, is holding Zimbabwe back. “Zimbabwe can weaken the results of so-called sanctions, but corruption is a serious problem,” he told Al Jazeera.

He added that America and other countries have never imposed trade sanctions on Zimbabwe. “We can do business with anyone, including Americans and Europeans; his methods were financial and did not affect business.”

Eddie Cross, an economist who advises the government and has written a biography of President Mnangagwa, pointed to figures from Transparency International which show that corruption has cost Zimbabwe $100bn since independence. “That’s more than $2.5bn a year, but the combination of the two [corruption and sanctions] it’s big.”

However, the US is still using the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), which was passed by Congress in 2001. Like the IMF and the World Bank, which experts say is hindering its ability to develop economically. Some institutions stopped lending to Zimbabwe before ZIDERA because of bad credit history.

Cross said experts estimate that banks lose about $1bn a year in high banking costs due to ZIDERA. “ZIDERA has been operating for 23 years, and one billion dollars a year could have easily eliminated our national debt.” He added that extra money comes when local banks go through banks other than correspondent banks, which sometimes refuse to work with Zimbabwean banks for fear of being penalized by the American government.

Among other things that Zimbabwe needs to face is the abolition of ZIDERA and the restoration of the rule of law, the implementation of free and fair elections, commitment to land reform in a fair, legal and transparent manner – including compensation for former farmers who lost their rights. land to the land distribution process – and the military and the police leave politics and the government.

Does discipline work?

Cross said that punishment does not deal with corruption. He asked why the US doesn’t impose sanctions on countries like China, which he says are undemocratic. “They allow China access to global financial markets, Western technology and global markets, and they allow China to borrow more money at very low interest rates that they have been expanding their economy.”

In addition, the 2022 report of the Institute of Security Studies Africa (ISS) stated that sanctions have largely failed to change democratic practices among the ruling elite in Zimbabwe.. Human rights violations continue and political freedoms are shrinking.

Amnesty International regularly highlights threats to freedom of expression, arrests of journalists and police harassment of the opposition and the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Also, an Al Jazeera investigation Last year, the Zimbabwean government discovered that the Zimbabwean government was using criminal gangs to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold, helping to ease the problem of impunity. Gold is the country’s largest export.

Who else imposes sanctions in Zimbabwe?

The United Kingdom and the European Union imposed similar sanctions on Zimbabwe, giving the same reasons as the US. They have reduced the dimensions over the years.

However, as of February, the ban on the sale of arms and weapons that the government may use for internal repression remains in place. The EU and the UK are also freezing assets owned by the state-owned Zimbabwe Defense Industries.

Zimbabwe penalty
Government supporters sing songs against white sanctions during a rally in Harare, Zimbabwe October 25, 2019. [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

What do Zimbabweans think about this punishment?

Members of the Broad Alliance Against Sanctions have been camping outside the US embassy in Harare since 2019, demanding that all sanctions be lifted, including ZIDERA.

Sally Ngoni, the leader of the group, said: “All these methods are a tool to help change governance in Zimbabwe; they want our government to fail; it is a punishment for usurping our land that was stolen from the whites.” He was referring to the sometimes brutal land reform that saw white farmers lose their land due to the resettlement of displaced blacks in the year 2000.

However, some Zimbabweans agree with the sanctions, saying that they should remain in place until the government stops harassing and imprisoning the opposition. “These measures affect those mentioned and not the general population of Zimbabweans,” Munyaradzi Zivanayi, an unemployed graduate, told Al Jazeera.

Some believe that removing sanctions would help show the government’s weaknesses. “The removal of all sanctions will show the government’s inefficiency because they will no longer use the sanctions as an excuse,” said Harare-based accountant Joseph Moyo.

What will the leaders of Zimbabwe do about the sanctions?

The late President Robert Mugabe called the sanctions “disrupting the affairs of Zimbabwe,” an independent country. In response, he announced a “look East” policy, meaning that Zimbabwe would strengthen economic ties with countries such as China and Russia, which he saw as very useful. He also established strong relations with other banned countries, including Belarus and Iran.

After the military ousted Mugabe in 2017, Mnangagwa, the new president, adopted a “friend to all and enemy to all” approach. This led the new government to start making alliances with countries that are not far away.

In 2019, it paid tens of thousands of dollars to Ballard Partners – a lobbying firm run by a Trump campaign fundraiser – after the US government renewed sanctions against 141 individuals and organizations, citing human rights violations and corruption.

Despite this abomination, it is the policy of the US that Zimbabwe has not responded to the issues on which the sanctions were imposed. In addition to corruption, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in his speech announcing the new sanctions, said: “Many cases of theft, assault, and unlawful killings have caused its citizens to live in fear.”

Sanctions Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe signs a statement against Western economic sanctions, in Harare, Wednesday, March 2, 2011. [Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP]

How have the sanctions affected Zimbabwe’s relationship with the US?

Occasional communication, lies, and personal attacks indicate a strained relationship between the two countries.

They faced another challenge in February when the US staged protests against the firing of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) officials and contractors.

The Zimbabwean story is that the four entered the country without informing the authorities and held “secret meetings” without permission. The Sunday Mail newspaper, which is controlled by the government weekly, said that the meetings were held “to inform Washington’s policy against Zimbabwe”.

The US has confirmed that USAID workers are in the country legally and that the Zimbabwean government is aware of their presence and work.



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