US tells Zimbabwe to focus on reforms

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and US President Donald Trump

THE American Foreign Relations Committee has issued a statement telling the government of Zimbabwe to focus on reforms instead of the anti-sanctions campaign.

Zimbabwe has declared a new public holiday to protest US sanctions it says are hurting its economy, and the day comes with a state-sponsored festival.

Anti-Sanctions Day will be commemorated on October 25, acting information minister Amon Murwira said Monday, calling it a chance to “further amplify the importance of this day to the economic emancipation and well-being of Zimbabwe.”

Tens of thousands of people are expected to be bused to the capital, Harare, where they will march, watch a soccer match between the country’s two biggest teams and attend an all-night concert.

Dozens of Zimbabwean officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, have faced years of US sanctions over alleged human rights violations amid troubled elections and the seizures of white-owned land.

The United States Foreign Relations Committee said the government must implement the reforms outlined in the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.

Read the full statement below:

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement regarding efforts of the government of Zimbabwe to spread misinformation and deflect blame for the dire economic conditions faced by the country:

“Responsibility for the current political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe falls solely on the ruling regime that has governed the country for decades. If Zimbabwe’s leaders put as much time, financial resources, and effort into delivering on their long-promised reforms as they have in distorting facts and organizing “anti-sanctions” campaigns, Zimbabweans would not continue to suffer under the dire economic and humanitarian conditions they face today. The US does not sanction people without just cause – sanctions are a response to malign activity.

“The U.S is an enduring partner and friend to the Zimbabwean people, which is reflected in our decades-long support to the country’s humanitarian and development needs. Zimbabwe’s leaders, starting with President Mnangagwa, continue to have a clear path towards strengthening the U.S.-Zimbabwe bilateral relationship through reforms outlined in the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. The ruling party should focus on the needs of the Zimbabwean people instead of their bad governance, corruption, and state capture. Regional institutions should also focus their energies on supporting democracy, not kleptocratic regimes.”

Background: In 2003, the United States began to impose sanctions on select individuals in the ZANU-PF regime and entities known to facilitate human rights abuses, undermine the rule of law, and engage in the looting of state resources for personal or political gain. While the targeted sanctions have been in place, the U.S. has continued to invest in humanitarian and development aid for Zimbabwe, spending more than $2 billion over the last 10 years. The government of Zimbabwe has used misinformation to blame U.S. sanctions for the country’s political, economic and humanitarian situation and has coordinated anti-sanctions protests across the country for Oct. 25.

Mnangagwa, who took office after longtime leader Robert Mugabe was forced out in late 2017, at first urged the country to “stop mourning” about the sanctions. But he has since turned them into a rallying cry like his predecessor and blamed them for the collapsing economy as hopes fade that he will revive the country’s fortunes.

The US says the sanctions are not against Zimbabwe’s government at large and do not affect business between the countries.

Zimbabwe has tried to rally regional countries to speak out against the sanctions and earlier this week even held a tearful anti-sanctions prayer meeting organized by the president’s wife and attended by the president, his cabinet and dozens of others.

Some in the capital struggled to comprehend the rationale behind such events by a government that is failing to pay doctors and buy medicines, but they said they wouldn’t mind the holiday.

“We march, watch soccer, eat, drink and dance the night away … then what next?” asked Chengetedzo Mbundure, an office worker in Harare. “It is unnecessary but it is welcome. Who doesn’t love a holiday?”