US sanctions Zimbabwe leader and wife for alleged corruption and human rights abuse

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and first lady Auxillia have come under a slate of new US sanctions imposed that also targeted senior government officials accused of corruption and human rights abuses.

The Mnangagwa were part of 11 people, including Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri, senior security officials and businesspeople designated by Washington “for their involvement in corruption or serious human rights abuse.”

The US said the new sanctions aimed at blocking the assets of the Zimbabwean officials and barred American financial institutions from engaging in transactions with them will replace a previous Zimbabwe sanctions program that was introduced more than two decades ago.

In 2003, the US sanctioned more than 70 high-profile Zimbabwean government officials, including the southern African country’s president at the time, Robert Mugabe, accusing them of “undermining democracy” in the impoverished nation.

Incumbent President Mnangagwa, 81, who was the speaker of the Zimbabwean parliament in 2003, was among 76 high-ranking officials hit by the US sanctions at the time.

US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Wally Adeyemo, clarified Monday that the new sanctions “are not intended to target the people of Zimbabwe” but are focused on “specific targets” such as “President Mnangagwa’s criminal network of government officials and businesspeople who are most responsible for corruption or human rights abuse against the people of Zimbabwe.”

The US Treasury Department also said in a statement that the previous sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean officials had been lifted after US President Joe Biden approved an executive action Monday revoking them.

A spokesperson for the Zimbabwean government, Nick Mnangagwa, welcomed Biden’s revocation of the previous US sanctions but described the fresh punishments as “illegal.”

“This is massive. A great vindication of President Mnangagwa’s foreign policy,” the government spokesman wrote of the lifted sanctions in a post on X Monday.

“That said, as long (as) our President is under sanctions Zimbabwe remains under illegal sanctions, as long as members of the First Family are under sanctions, Zimbabwe remains under illegal sanctions, and as long as senior leadership is under sanctions, we are all under sanctions. And as long as members of Corporate Zimbabwe are under sanctions, we are under sanctions,” he added.

Spokesperson for the ruling Zanu-PF party, Farai Marapira, called for the new sanctions to be “removed unequivocally.”

“Indeed many juristic and natural persons have been removed but if the President, the First Lady and senior officials remain sanctioned then Zimbabwe remains sanctioned and burdened by this illegality,” Marapira said on X, adding: “We still call for all sanctions to be removed unequivocally. Only then are we free of this yoke unfairly put on our shoulders.”

Mnangagwa was reelected for a second term in office last August after securing an absolute majority in a tense presidential contest that was marred by delays and said by observers to have fallen short of regional and international standards.

Zimbabwe has suffered from a raft of economic problems in recent years, including high inflation, a plummeting local currency, and a worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Although rich in gold, diamonds, and lithium, nearly half of Zimbabwe’s population lives in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day. The country also owes billions of dollars in debt arrears.

The US accused Mnangagwa of involving in corrupt practices, especially in the alleged smuggling of the country’s mineral deposits.

“Mnangagwa provides a protective shield to smugglers to operate in Zimbabwe and has directed Zimbabwean officials to facilitate the sale of gold and diamonds in illicit markets, taking bribes in exchange for his services,” it said while spotlighting his human rights record and alleged repression of political dissidents.

“Mnangagwa also oversees Zimbabwe’s security services, which have violently repressed political opponents and civil society groups,” the US government said in a statement.

His wife, Auxillia Mnangagwa, was also sanctioned for her alleged complicity in corruption.

Mnangagwa, nicknamed “The Crocodile,” succeeded authoritarian leader Mugabe in 2017 after helping to orchestrate the coup that ousted him.

Source: CNN

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