Trump signs Zim sanctions into law

HARARE - US President Donald Trump has signed into law new sanctions against Zimbabwe on Wednesday, ending hopes for better ties with the Trump administration.

The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018, which amends the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, was introduced into Congress on March 22. It was first considered by committee before it was sent on to the House.

Congress overwhelmingly approved the legislation, passing a measure that had outlined the steps the southern African country must fulfil for US-imposed sanctions to be lifted, namely the holding of “free and fair” elections.

Trump signed the bill behind closed doors, without the fanfare that has customarily accompanied his signing of executive orders.

Efforts to obtain comment from presidential spokesperson George Charamba were futile yesterday.

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The new Bill not only contained conditions which are specific to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new dispensation — but if these conditions are met, would have seen Trump’s administration completely removing the current sanctions and re-establishing wholesome relations with Harare.

US Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons, who are both members of Washington’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the Bill which laid out the framework for both currencies and future American relations with Zimbabwe.

According to the Bill, the US wanted to fully embrace Zimbabwe if Mnangagwa’s government implemented a raft of measures which include setting up an independent electoral body; allowing Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to vote; the elections being both free and fair, and taking place without the involvement of the country’s military.

Two US senators Christopher Coons and Jeff Flake who visited Zimbabwe’s capital and met with Mnangagwa, expressed exasperation that the president had made a commitment to take action, but some of the important actions required for progress towards the conditions for free and fair and credible elections did not happen.

This comes as police, soldiers, and unidentified armed men also beat up and harassed scores of people in Harare over the last few days as they searched for opposition party officials.

Zambian immigration authorities yesterday rejected a claim of asylum by Tendai Biti, a leading figure in the MDC Alliance opposition party who fled post-election violence and certain arrest in Zimbabwe.

Zambia also rejected claims by five others travelling with Biti — lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo, civil society activist Zachariah Godi, and opposition activists Tawanda Chitekwe, Kudakwashe Simbaneuta, and Clever Rambanepasi — who lodged their application for asylum at the Chirundu Border Post.

The six fled the violent security forces’ crackdown in Zimbabwe that has followed post-election protests on August 1.

“With soldiers unleashing violence against ruling party opponents, the veneer of respect for human rights and democratic rule that …Mnangagwa claimed is now clearly gone,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“His administration needs to act quickly to restore its integrity and commitment to the rule of law.”