HARARE – THE United States of America on Monday extended sanctions against Zimbabwe by a year, saying the southern African country’s policies still posed a threat to the foreign policy of President Trump’s administration.
The US slapped Zimbabwe with sanctions in 2002 through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.
Strongman, former president Robert Mugabe was in power at the time.
Mugabe would be ousted in a November 2017 military intervention that saw his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa taking over amid hopes that the departure would spur Zimbabwe into a path towards economic recovery and democracy.
Trump’s decision comes at a critical time for Zimbabwe, whose teetering economy has been careering down the abyss since fuel shortages rattled the country during the second half of 2018, denting production and sparking widespread suffering.
According to US officials, there are 141 entities and individuals in Zimbabwe currently under US sanctions, including Mnangagwa and Mugabe.
“The actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” Trump said in an order released on Monday.
“For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13 288 with respect to respond to Zimbabwe and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat,” he noted.
The United State President fired a broadside at the bloody post-election violence that followed the disputed July 30, 2018 polls and slammed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for bias.
At least five people died during a crackdown on civilians by the military, with many more injured.
Trump said these developments represented a lost opportunity for Zimbabwe to improve its democratic processes and re-engagement with both the United States and the international community.
“Zimbabwe’s national elections in July 2018 offered an opportunity for Zimbabwe to set itself on a new path and implement reforms that could allow the United States to re-engage in ways not previously possible,” said Trump.
“While the election itself was an improvement over past elections, post-election violence, credible reports of intimidation and clear bias of the electoral commission kept it from being fully free and fair. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has yet to implement the political and economic overhaul required to build its reputation within the international community and dramatically improve its relationship with the United States,” he added.
Mnangagwa has called for the sanctions to be lifted against his ZANU-PF ruling party, top military figures and some government-owned firms, which were imposed during Mugabe’s rule over what the US said were human rights violations and undermining of the democratic process.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst economic crisis in a decade, highlighted by low on cash reserves and a fresh wave of high inflation.
The southern African nation is battling severe fuel shortages, which has triggered a wave of price hikes across sectors. Zimbabwe announced in January a 150 percent increase in fuel prices which led to widespread discontent and violent demonstrations.