The decision by the United States to extend for another year targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe has once again exposed the futility of spending millions of taxpayers’ money paying lobby firms in an effort to launder the image of a government that is not committed to reforms.
Washington last week said it had decided to renew the sanctions because President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has “arguably accelerated its persecution of critics and economic mismanagement in the past year, during which security forces have conducted extrajudicial killings, rapes and alleged abductions of numerous dissidents”.
The government said it was baffled by the US’ assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe.
Nick Mangwana, the government spokesperson, said it was not true that security forces were involved in the killings of civilians and claimed that no one is above the law in Zimbabwe.
Mangwana, however, conveniently forgot about the findings of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry, which explicitly pointed out that soldiers and police officers were behind the cold-blooded murder of protesters on the streets of Harare on August 1, 2018.
In January last year, human rights groups reported that soldiers were behind the deaths of at least 17 people, most of them attacked in their homes, after violent protests over the price of fuel.
Several innocent women were also allegedly raped in their homes by the marauding soldiers deployed to quell the protests.
There have been no reports of any soldier, police or intelligence officer who has been charged in connection with those murders and rapes.
Instead of cleaning its act by ensuring that members of the security forces do not act with impunity or introduce political reforms that will help Zimbabwe reclaim its place among the community of nations, Mnangagwa’s administration has been shelling millions of dollars on public relations firms in Washington and London in a futile attempt to clean its image.
The lobbyists gladly take the money that is coming their way so easily, but they will not deliver any tangible results.
Mnangagwa’s government needs to be reminded that Zimbabwe does not have to spend millions to tell the world that it has shedded its pariah state status, but demonstrate the change through reforms and the respect for the rule of law.
The US position on Zimbabwe is not different from that of the European Union, which last month renewed an arms embargo against the country.
Sanctions were renewed on the back of a spirited campaign to win the support of the Southern African Development Community and the African Uni
on to help lobby the West to soften its stance.
The millions being given to these lobbyists can be well spent buying grain to feed the over eight million Zimbabweans facing starvation this year.