Britain announces first post-Brexit sanctions on Zimbabwe

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa

HARARE – Britain on Monday announced its first set of designations of individuals under its Zimbabwe sanctions regime since leaving the European Union.

State security minister Owen Ncube, police chief Godwin Matanga, Central Intelligence Organisation boss Isaac Moyo and former Presidential Guard commander Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe “are responsible for the worst human rights violations against the people of Zimbabwe since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took power in November 2017,” UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said.

“These sanctions send a clear message that we will hold to account those responsible for the most egregious human rights violations, including the deaths of innocent Zimbabweans,” Raab said.

“These sanctions target senior individuals in the government, and not ordinary Zimbabweans. We will continue to press for the necessary political and economic reforms that will benefit all Zimbabweans.”

Following its departure from the European Union, the United Kingdom can now pursue an independent sanctions policy reflecting its foreign policy and national security interests.

Monday’s designations are the first the United Kingdom has made of individuals under the its Zimbabwe autonomous sanctions regime, which came into force at 11PM on December 31, 2020.

The 65-year-old Sanyatwe, who is now Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania, “is responsible for the commission of serious human rights violations by military personnel in the National Reaction Force involved in the crackdown on an opposition protest carried out on August 1, 2018, leading to the deaths of six people by virtue of his role as Tactical Commander of that force at the relevant time,” the UK foreign office said in an explainer accompanying his designation.

“As such, he has undermined the rule of law in Zimbabwe,” it added.

Ncube, 53, “bears responsibility for serious human rights violations, including systematic torture, committed by the security forces in the context of the heavy crackdown on protests in January 2019 by virtue of his position as minister of state for national security at the relevant time.”

“There are also reasonable grounds to suspect that in directing Econet to suspend all internet services in January 2019, which order the High Court subsequently ruled as illegal, Owen Ncube has also been involved in other actions that undermined the rule of law in Zimbabwe,” said the foreign office.

The UK says Matanga, 59, “bears responsibility for serious human rights violations committed by the police and military during the crackdown on post-election protests in August 2018, which resulted in six civilian deaths.”

Moyo “has been responsible for acts that constitute serious human rights violations” and “has also been involved in other actions that undermined the rule of law in Zimbabwe.”

One entity, the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, was also designated, effectively prohibiting UK companies from selling arms to Zimbabwe.

The Motlanthe Commission report found that Zimbabwe’s security services were responsible for six deaths and 35 gunshot injuries during the August 1, 2018, protests. The report also concluded that the use of live ammunition on civilians was “clearly unjustified and disproportionate”.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission’s January 28, 2019, report on the response to the January 2019 fuel protests found that law enforcement agents seemed to “resort to use of brute, excessive and disproportionate force in most circumstances thereby causing avoidable loss of life and also worsening the situation”, resulting in the deaths of 17 people.

A Human Rights Watch report details allegations of rape and indiscriminate door-to-door raids by the Zimbabwean security services.

Monday’s announcement ensures the four officials cannot freely travel to the UK, channel money through UK banks or do business with UK businesses.

The Zimbabwe government often cites the targeted sanctions to claim a plot by western countries led by the UK, the former colonial power, to undermine its economy.

Foreign secretary Raab said: “Contrary to claims by those who seek to stop institutional reform and respect for human rights in Zimbabwe, these sanctions will not deter investment into the country.

“Instead, UK investors repeatedly highlight three concerns that prevent them from investing in Zimbabwe: poorly-managed currency; arbitrary property rights and the legal system.

“The UK’s autonomous Zimbabwe sanctions regime seeks to encourage the government of Zimbabwe to respect democratic principles and institutions; refrain from the repression of civil society; and to comply with international human rights law and to respect human rights.

“These sanctions are in addition to our work to hold the government of Zimbabwe to account in implementing genuine political and economic reforms that benefit all Zimbabweans.

“We will continue to support the Zimbabwean people through our aid programme, focusing on tackling poverty, humanitarian assistance, standing up for human rights and supporting Zimbabwe’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. None of this aid goes directly through government of Zimbabwe systems.”

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