Africa
March 11, 2020

U.S. Sanctions 2 Zimbabwean Officials, Delists 4 Others

By Samuel Rubenfeld

Photo: randomtruth

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday sanctioned two Zimbabwean officials for their roles in human rights abuses, while delisting four others.

Both Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe and Owen Ncube, the Zimbabwean envoy to Tanzania and the national security minister, respectively, were previously barred from entering the U.S. by the State Department over their involvement in human rights violations. 

“Political and military leaders in Zimbabwe have repeatedly used violence to silence political dissent and peaceful protests,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin G. Muzinich.

Zimbabwe has taken “very few steps” to identify or investigate officials committing human rights abuses, and “impunity remained a problem,” the U.S. State Department said Monday in the latest edition of its annual human rights report.

The U.S. last week renewed its authorities for a year to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, with President Donald Trump telling Congress that the country “has had ample opportunity” since the 2017 resignation of former leader Robert Mugabe “to implement reforms that could set the country on a constructive path” but has failed to do so. 

The Zimbabwean government has, instead, in the past year accelerated its economic mismanagement and persecution of critics, during which time security forces have conducted extrajudicial killings, rapes and alleged abductions of dissidents, Trump told lawmakers. 

Since the resignation, Zimbabwe held elections won by Emmerson Mnangagwa marred by fraud allegations from opposition parties, and Mugabe died in September 2019. Zimbabwe’s government called the U.S. move to renew sanctions “baffling” in a statement issued last week. 

Sanyatwe, who previously served as commander of the Zimbabwean army’s Presidential Guard Brigade, had deployed troops to parts of the country’s capital to attack and silence protesters demonstrating following flawed elections in 2018, according to the Treasury. He also ordered a member of the Zimbabwean military to shoot protesters, the Treasury said.  

Ncube, as minister of national security, ordered Zimbabwean security services to identify, abduct and mistreat people identified as supporters of an opposition group, the Treasury said. While in his position, the Zimbabwean government has used so-called “ferret teams” to abduct and beat individuals deemed as a threat to the ruling party, according to the Treasury. 

The “ferret teams” consisted of security agents from the president’s office and intelligence departments that “ferreted out” urban areas for dissidents, according to a leaked police report seen by the Financial Times.

Also Wednesday, the Treasury removed sanctions on former Zimbabwean officials Ray Joseph Kaukonde, Shuvai Ben Mahofa, Sithokozile Mathuthu and Naison K. Ndlovu. All four had been designated in 2005 for undermining democratic processes in the country.

“These de-listings are part of a continuing effort to ensure that U.S. sanctions remain targeted and relevant to the latest developments in Zimbabwe, and do not unduly harm ordinary Zimbabwean citizens,” a Treasury spokesman told Kharon via email.