ZIMBABWE’S international diplomatic re-engagement drive is completely off the rails as shown by the United States government’s announcement of a new travel embargo targeted at the regime actors responsible for undermining democracy, notably through election rigging or manipulation and corruption.
The fresh visa restrictions target officials at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), Zanu PF, police and the judiciary.
Those targeted by the new punitive measures will be barred from travelling to the US due to their lack of fairness in dealing with electoral matters.
Their families will also be denied US visas, secretary of state Antony Blinken announced.
“Such acts may include manipulating or rigging the electoral process; disenfranchising voters or preventing individuals from exercising their right to vote; excluding members of the political opposition from electoral processes; restricting the ability of civil society organisations (CSOs) to operate and engage in democratic, governance, or human rights related activities; or intimidation of voters, election observers, or CSOs through threats or acts of physical violence,” Blinken said.
The US secretary of state said undermining democracy may also include engaging in corrupt acts, as well as bribery that undermines the electoral process.
“Interfering with the independent operation of the judiciary during its adjudication of electoral cases; or abusing or violating human rights in Zimbabwe. Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Anyone who undermines the democratic process in Zimbabwe — including in the lead-up to, during, and following Zimbabwe’s August 2023 elections — may be found ineligible for US visas under this policy,” Blinken said.
Political analysts told The NewsHawks this week that the latest position by the US emanates from the discredited 23 and 24 August general elections, which had been benchmarked as one of the important litmus tests for the country’s resolve to implement far-reaching political and economic reforms.
Professor of world politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, said the sanctions on Zimbabwe are likely to increase despite Mnangagwa’s eagerness to re-engage with the international community.
“President Mnangagwa cannot re-engage with the democratic world while being undemocratic. What has happened in Zimbabwe over and after the election period will, instead of seeing the continuation of lifting of sanctions around the world, probably see sanctions increasing again,” Chan said.
Chan added that Mnangagwa is now in a tight spot.
“He will not annul the election, which he claims he won. The least he can do would be to distance himself from any accusations of either himself or people in the seniority of Zanu PF seeking to influence the judiciary,” he said.
“And he must outright condemn any undemocratic practice such as imposters trying to destroy even a rival party. He must therefore be seen to stand for a fair party system of open government and open opposition. He can’t just say he ‘didn’t do it’. He has to be seen as a champion of parliamentary principle.”
Political analyst Vivid Gwede concurred, saying Mnangagwa’s re-engagement drive is in tatters after the latest position by the US.
“This is evidence of the fact that the re-engagement drive is faltering mainly because of state acts of commission and omission with respect to the conduct of elections and respect for human rights. We have also seen the quest to re-join the Commonwealth crumbling. Which is why the administration must heed calls for internal dialogue.”
Asked what Mnangagwa must do, Gwede said: “The government must acknowledge the problem of a failing re-engagement process and institute broad-based dialogue that will put the political reform process back on track. Equally, there is a need to halt the rising trend of human rights violations post-elections.”
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Obert Masaraure said Mnangagwa must reform.
“Mnangagwa must reform as a matter of urgency. He should facilitate a democratic breakthrough for Zimbabwe through dialogue. He still has a chance to step down as an honourable man if he makes the right decisions,” Masaraure said.
He highlighted that the US has a solid foreign policy which will not be influenced by empty promises of reform from the Harare regime.
“Mnangagwa has proven to be worse than Mugabe. He squandered all opportunities of reforming. The world gave Mnangagwa a chance, but the octogenarian blew it. All diplomatic pressure on Harare is welcome, we are back to the pre-colonial era when citizens were forced to call upon the world to exert diplomatic pressure on Salisbury,” Masaraure said.
“Ordinary citizens are suffering under the yoke of dictatorship. The world should find ways of punishing those who are manufacturing the suffering of the masses.”
Opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi told The NewsHawks that stealing the 23 August elections will haunt the Mnangagwa regime for a long time.
“There is no engagement one can do based on an illegitimate electoral outcome. The regime has shredded the constitution and all laws of the country, including the manipulation of the judiciary,” Mkwananzi said.
“We note the measures taken by the US and encourage Sadc and other key stakeholders to take measures to discourage the regime in Harare from acting outside the law.”
In April, Mnangagwa suffered a setback in re-engaging the United Kingdom after his invitation to the coronation of King Charles was withdrawn.
In a letter signed by Nav Mishra, chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Zimbabwe (APPG), and his deputy, Lord Jonathan Oates, and several other House of Commons lawmakers, cabinet secretary James Cleverly was asked to withdraw the invitation of Mnangagwa to the coronation of King Charles “in light of the grave political and human rights situation in Zimbabwe.”
APPG Zimbabwe said there is widespread violence and human rights abuses, with opposition members being “harassed, beaten, imprisoned and murdered, while corruption is rife extending to the highest levels of government.
The APPG said the ruling Zanu PF has overrun the country’s economy, completely decimated the local currency, dismembered the judiciary, taken over the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and impoverished Zimbabweans.