WASHINGTON D.C., United States – A United States congressional hearing on Zimbabwe on Thursday pooh-poohed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s claims of a new dispensation, accusing his government of saying the right things but not implementing any of his promises.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Matthew Harrington, told the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that they were ready for a better relationship with Zimbabwe but required concrete reforms before a package of sanctions under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) could be lifted.
The ongoing prosecution of opposition leader Tendai Biti was raised as a specific example of government attempts to undermine the democracy movement in the country.
The United States government also demanded that military leaders and all others responsible for the August 1 killing of unarmed civilians on the streets of Harare should be held accountable.
“We want Zimbabwe to succeed and we would welcome a better relationship, but the ball is squarely in the government’s court to demonstrate it is irrevocably on a different trajectory,” said Harrington.
“First, it should repeal laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which have long been used to suppress the human rights of people in Zimbabwe … Second, the government should immediately end the harassment of members of the political opposition, it should drop charges against former finance minister and prominent opposition figure Tendai Biti and all those who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“Third, the government should hold perpetrators of the August 1st violence fully accountable, and fourth, government should move quickly to ensure that legislation is consistent with the 2013 constitution.”
Senator Jeff Flake, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, had opened proceedings by accusing the military of responsibility for the August 1 killings.
“The next day (after the July 30 elections) the excitement turned to horror and disappointment when six people were killed by the army in the streets of Harare after demonstrations,” Flake said.
Todd Moss of the Washington-based Center for Global Development told the hearing the United States government should be “extremely cautious” and continue to apply pressure on the government of Zimbabwe.
“I had the great fortune of visiting Zimbabwe with a delegation of other former US diplomats prior to the election. I came away from that trip deeply pessimistic that the election and the promised reforms were anything more than a poorly disguised charade,” Moss said.
“While we can point to a few token gestures, very little of any meaningful change has occurred. First on the election, the electoral commission was very far from independent. As in the past, Zanu PF and the security forces used intimidation and violence to sway votes; the military was openly and deeply involved in the election. The ruling party even weaponised food aid for votes.
“Mugabe might be gone but the government is largely still the same old actors … There has been no genuine attempt to deal with past atrocities. These include the Matabeleland massacres, the violence and murders after the 2008 elections and even the recent disappearance and presumed assassination of human rights activists like Itai Dzamara.
“Even the August 1 murder of six civilians in full view of the world has been whitewashed. The government even tried to blame the opposition for the violence when the TV cameras showed soldiers shooting civilians in cold blood.
“The new budget has some reforms, at least on paper. But fixing Zimbabwe’s economy is not about tweaking the budget deficit by a percentage point or two. It’s not about employing more accounting gimmicks. Until the government deals with the dominance of the military in the economy, the ongoing rackets by predatory elites and the flouting of basic rule of law, Zimbabwe’s economy cannot be fixed. The roots of the economic crisis are political, the solutions must start with genuine political reform.
“And we can see the government’s state of denial in their passive language. The government says people died on August 1. No! Civilians were murdered by the military in plain sight of the world.
“The government blames sanctions for their economic troubles rather than grappling with their own mismanagement and corruption. Zimbabwe’s leaders cannot borrow, not because of United States sanctions but because they have not paid their bills and are now more than $5 billion in arrears, and blaming the United States is just another example of this government failing to take responsibility.”
Source: Zim Live