BULAWAYO – United States President Donald Trump has signed into law the revised Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act (ZIDERA), dealing a hammer blow to Zimbabwe’s hopes of economic recovery.
The White House said in a brief statement: “On Wednesday, August 8, 2018, the President signed into law: S. 2779, the ‘Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018,’ which amends the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001.”
The Bill, sponsored by key members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was being used as a carrot and stick to get President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who won power through a military coup last November, to implement democratic reforms and deliver a credible election on July 30. The reward was a deepening of bilateral relations and trade. Failure to meet those conditions would result in an extension of the sanctions, which have turned Zimbabwe into an investment pariah since 2001.
The conditions outlined in the Bill were that:
I The Government of Zimbabwe takes concrete, tangible steps towards good governance, including respect for the opposition, rule of law, and human rights.
I The Government of Zimbabwe holds an election that is widely accepted as free and fair, based on the following pre- and post-election criteria, which was set out:
I Laws enacted prior to the passage of Zimbabwe’s March 2013 Constitution that are inconsistent with the new Constitution are amended, repealed, or subjected to a formal process for review and correction so that such laws are consistent with the new Constitution.
I The Government of Zimbabwe makes significant progress on the implementation of all elements of the new Constitution; and demonstrates its commitment to sustain such efforts in achieving full implementation of the new Constitution.
I Traditional leaders of Zimbabwe observe section 281 of the 2013 Constitution and are not using humanitarian assistance provided by outside donor organisations or countries in a politicised manner to intimidate or pressure voters during the campaign period.
Zimbabwe, it would seem, flunked the test.
International observers passed Zimbabwe’s July 30 elections as mainly peaceful, but the European Union said the elections were held on an “un-level playing field” as the opposition MDC protested against alleged widespread fraud by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF.
The EU mission found an “improved political climate, but [an]un-level playing field and lack of trust in the process,” it said in a statement. “Observers reported . . . efforts to undermine the free expression of the will of the electors through inducements, soft intimidation, pressure and coercion against prospective voters to try to ensure a vote in favour of the ruling party,” said EU chief observer Elmar Brok.
“While political rights were largely respected, there was concern regarding the environment for the polls [and]the misuse of state resources.”
Traditional leaders and the state media came under attack for their bias in favour of Mnangagwa.
Zanu PF won a two thirds majority in parliament with 144 seats to the MDC Alliance’s 64, while two other seats went to an independent and the National Patriotic Front.
MDC Alliance supporters protested in Harare on August 1 over delays in announcing results of the Presidential Election which Nelson Chamisa, the 40-year-old challenger was sure he had won.
In response, Mnangagwa unleashed the military which killed seven people and wounded dozens others.
The military also targeted opposition supporters with nightly visits in their strongholds. Many opposition leaders were placed on the wanted list, including the party’s national chairman and chief elections officer Morgan Komichi as well as Tendai Biti, a combative former finance minister.
It did not help that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced a highly contentious marginal win for Mnangagwa, who avoided a run-off by 38,000 votes. Chamisa will file his election petition with the Constitutional Court on Friday, and his lawyers say they will “embarrass” ZEC and hope Chamisa will be declared outright winner.
The crackdown alarmed many US Senators including Jeff Flake, Chris Coons and Cory Booker. By signing the amended ZIDERA, Trump all but put paid to Mnangagwa’s hopes of improved relations with Western countries, the United States in particular.
The US Senate and Congress introduced the Bill on April 26, 2018, and it passed both houses on July 25, 2018, awaiting Trump’s signature – its timing deliberately set to coincide with Zimbabwe’s election roadmap.
Political analyst, Thomas Sithole, said the signing of ZIDERA into law by President Trump was a way of saying that they were unconvinced Mnangagwa’s government would reform.
“This is vote of no confidence to the Zimbabwean government and their much-trumpeted ‘new dispensation’ by Americans. They are saying they’re not convinced that the country has turned for the good. Therefore, they’ve seen fit to maintain the conditions they imposed through ZIDERA,” he said.
Before the revised ZIDERA was signed, Senators Booker, Coons, and Johnny Isakson, all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African Affairs, had noted that they were appalled by the August 1 massacre in Harare.
“Violence of this kind is unacceptable. In addition, we are concerned that in the run-up to the election the state-run media heavily favoured the Zanu PF party, and that traditional leaders in rural areas were reportedly intimidating voters and using state resources to gain an electoral advantage,” the Senators said.-ZimLive