US extends sanctions against Zimbabwe

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“The actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.” That was the message conveyed by President Donald Trump in a letter to the United States Congress extending targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe despite changes in government there.

The letter, dispatched to Congress on Friday, says that the Executive Order establishing the targeted sanctions regime against Zimbabwe as far back as March 2003 will continue.

President Trump’s letter notes the November 2017 change in government after former President Robert Mugabe’s resignation saying it offered an extraordinary opportunity for Zimbabwe to set itself on a new path that could allow for re-engagement with Washington.

However, like several US Senators who held a hearing on Zimbabwe late in 2017, the Trump administration remains sceptical.

“Zimbabwe has a new President but the critical questions about whether the new government reflects material change from Mugabe’s decades of rule and what path Zimbabwe is likely to take under President Mnangagwa, these are things still left unsettled. He’d been closely allied with President Mugabe since Mugabe’s rise to power; he stands accused of orchestrating the massacres in the early 1980s to consolidate Mugabe’s power leaving as many as 20 000 people dead in Matabeleland,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake speaking at the December hearing.

It is view shared by colleagues across the aisle, Democratic Senator Cory Booker.

“I am concerned that despite the promises made by President Mnangagwa, to rooting out corruption, to having free and fair elections and to overseeing an inclusive government, there’s simply not yet enough proof that this regime will be any different than the one before.”

President Trump has called for concrete actions on the political and economic front by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who will mark 100 days in office on Tuesday.

Former Finance Minister and opposition leader Tendai Biti also weighed in.

“Well of course, you don’t build Rome within 100 days, but within 100 days, you should be able to set a foundation for a clear strategy of turning around the economy, resuscitating the economy, rebuilding the economy and regrettably with Emmerson Mnangagwa, he has failed and failed absolutely to set and put a fingerprint, a footprint in the economy and part of his problem was that he actually did not have a plan. He actually did not have a strategy.”

The US President says that in response to persisting threats on both the political and economic fronts, he has determined that it’s necessary to continue to maintain the punitive measures.

Mnangagwa, some army generals and other top officials are all targeted by the measures for alleged human rights abuses and previous election rigging.

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