By Lulu Brenda Harris
THE United States (US) has reportedly imposed another round of sanctions against Zimbabwe’s new administration led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a resolution that may indicate the global powerhouse condemns the military takeover that happened late last year in the country and calls it a coup.
Reports said the US indicated that President Mnangagwa’s government was a “product of a military coup.”
Mnangagwa who was previously sacked as vice president, become Zimbabwe’s new leader after the military led by then army general, Constantino Chiwenga moved in to topple former president Robert Mugabe in what they codenamed Operation Restore Legacy in November 14, 2017.
Previously, Mnangagwa had fled to South Africa after he was fired came back to Zimbabwe three days after Mugabe resigned (November, 21, 2017). He was sworn in as president a few days later in November 24, 2017. Chiwenga who commanded the coup was also later to become the country’s vice presidents the following month.
Analysts claim that as one of the leading so called ‘democratic’ powerhouse on the planet, the US should not be seen as endorsing an undemocratic change of government or leadership wherever that happens.
This stance, is however at different ends with regional bodies such as the African Union and the intentional community – Britain included, who have endorsed Mnangagwa’s coming in.
Regional bodies were quick to say the transition that took place in Zimbabwe was not a military coup therefore there was no need for the body to place sanctions.
The African Union said the military intervention that took place was not a coup according to the regional body’s rules.
“…We are the one to declare if someone has made a coup and then apply sanctions… We are neither in a crisis in Zimbabwe nor in extraordinary situation,” the AU commissioner for peace and security Smail Chergui declared at that time.
Nevertheless, reports say Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo, who last year in November as army spokesperson announced the military operation live on the country’s national broadcaster, received a diplomatic note that the US, while recognising the authorities in Harare, would extend sanctions with the possibility of a review after the general elections expected in July 2018.
This resolution by the global powerhouse may also mean it is trying to push the Zimbabwean government to hold free and fair elections.
Chairman of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena believes the input by some opposition members who visited America soon after Mnangagwa was sworn in might have managed to persuade the Americans to insist on free and fair elections.
“The only tool the Americans have is the sanctions,” he said.
Last year in December some members of the opposition and the civil society travelled to the US to in a trip that was widely believed was a call to further strengthen sanctions on the regime.
This Zimbabwean entourage met the US Senate committee on Foreign Relations (the committee that will decide whether to lift targeted sanctions imposed on Zanu PF leaders), however MDC-T vice president, Nelson Chamisa, insisted the trip to US was about free elections and not sanctions. Chamisa was forced to declare their trip was, “a global advocacy and diplomatic engagement programme to give Zimbabweans a fighting chance in the crucial and landmark 2018 general elections. This trip is about you and me and the future of our children and generations to come.”
Mabhena said the US’s decision to slap the new regime with sanctions was also probably a call for the international community to engage Zimbabwe, to assist it to return to constitutionalism without first making any investments in the country until after the election.
“I am not sure what would be the reaction of the British government, as it is looking for new markets or a hands on approach from its former colonies following its Brexit,” he said reservedly.
Mabhena also noted there were a number of factors to consider as well with regards to the sanctions issue.
“The failure by the military regime to form a unity government with the opposition might have led to this change of heart. Secondly there might be some strong lobby group out there who are influencing the American State Department. Remember there are allegations that America was involved in some Cape Town workshop.”
The Cape Town referent refers to a coalition workshop that was held last week in South Africa’s Mother City for oppositional parties. A meeting which, President Mnangagwa when he was addressing a rally in Guruve accused these opposition parties of trying to work out a coalition against Zanu PF under the sponsorship of America. Simultaneously, other oppositional figures accused those who attended the workshop of working with the defeated Zanu PF Generation 40 (G40) faction. Conversely, the organisers of the workshop dismissed such allegations saying the workshop was held to create a safe space for emerging Zimbabwean coalitions to learn from different African coalition building processes.
Meanwhile, not much should be made of the US resolution because the US embassy in Harare said President Donald Trump may sign a notice of continuation of the national emergency, which it has also pursued that is with respect to Zimbabwe.
The continuation of this national emergency has been done yearly since 2003 and maintains sanctions implemented under Executive Orders 13288, 13391 and 13469 pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
The US embassy insisted that these were not full-blown economic sanctions, but targeted sanctions under Executive Order 13288 “against individuals and entities undermining the democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe or who participated in human rights abuses as well as facilitation of corruption”.
“The sanctions do not prohibit trade with non-sanctioned individuals or entities. Unless a transaction involves a blocked individual or entity, US persons may conduct business in and trade with businesses in Zimbabwe and its people,” the embassy was quoted.
Social analyst, Thomas Sithole noted the US has maintained its sanctions regime on the Harare administration. He said this was consistent with their stance on targeted sanctions on individuals and institutions that are subverting the rule of law and taking the democratisation agenda backward.
“With regards to Zimbabwe, the US government has been very clear regarding the smart sanctions it slapped certain individuals and situations with. Those will be removed after it is convinced that there has been a return to rule of law and good governance. In the absence of that the sanctions will remain in force.
“As far as rule of law and good governance are concerned, nothing has changed in the eyes of the ordinary Zimbabweans and in the eyes of the US government. We still have oppressive and archaic pieces of legislation that infringe on citizen rights like POSA, AIPPA and many others,” Sithole explained.
The analyst added that America was also sending a clear message that it will not entertain any undemocratic change of government or leadership.
“It will insist on genuine political reform on the ground before it reconsiders its stance on smart sanctions against those that are subverting the will of the people and flouting the rule of law in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Self -exiled and former Zanu PF government minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo, who was said to be the architect of G40 faction that was always in opposition to Mnangagwa, remains defiant about the illegitimacy of the latter’s government.
Prof Moyo contended Mnangagwa seized power through unlawful military intervention and has called upon Zimbabweans and the world not to embrace such an administration because it is led by the “most feared people in the history of Zimbabwe.”
He also alleged that the backing of President Mnangangwa by the world was an international conspiracy, whose support of a “dictatorship that rose to power via the bullets” would bring bad experiences for Zimbabweans.