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U.S Envoys: America Unhappy With Continued Zimbabwe Human Rights Violations

Deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs, Dr. Shannon Smith, and Steven Feldstein, assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in Harare. (Photo: Irwin Chifera)

Two top American officials currently visiting Zimbabwe say the United States is worried about continued human rights violations in the country, especially the recent disappearance of Occupy Africa Unity Square activist, Itayi Dzamara, whose organization was demanding the resignation of President Robert Mugabe.

Deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs, Dr. Shannon Smith, and Steven Feldstein, assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told journalists in the capital today that the U.S is concerned about what is happening in the southern African nation.

Feldstein said they have expressed their concern to the government about Dzamara’s disappearance.

He said the U.S expects the government of Zimbabwe to fully investigate and provide regular updates on its findings as directed by the High Court.

Dr. Smith also noted that their meeting with Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, explored ways through which Zimbabwe can improve ways of conducting business with other nations.

Zimbabwe is lowly-rated under the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. This index and the country’s policies are used by investors to determine the safety of their investments.

The World Bank rates Zimbabwe as one of the least favorable investment destinations, ranking it 171 out 189 in its 2014 Ease of Doing Business Index.

Feldstein said this index does not only measure the economic freedom in a country but also indicates the country’s desire to implement the rule of law.

Asked about U.S policy on Zimbabwe in the wake of the European Union lifting sanctions on Zimbabwe, Dr. Smith said they were not in Zimbabwe to change policies and would leave their colleagues to discuss their own polices.

She said America is committed to working with Zimbabweans to achieve a democratic and prosperous nation.

The U.S maintains targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle for gross human rights violations and allegedly rigging elections among related issues.

Despite this, the U.S spends millions of dollars in supporting economic development, health, agriculture and democratic institutions in Zimbabwe.

On the alleged abuse of U.S funds by some civil society organizations, Dr. Smith said they were looking into the matter.

Several civil society organizations are being investigated for allegedly abusing aid money from the U.S and other donor countries and organizations.

Political analyst, Charles Mangongera, said the visit by two U.S officials shows America’s willingness to re-engage Zimbabwe.

He, however, said America is unlikely to shift its policy on Zimbabwe as the government seemed unwilling to implement some provisions of the constitution as well as to improve its human rights record.

He cited Dzamara’s disappearance and the intimidation and harassment of opposition supporters in the run-up to the by-elections as examples.

Media Centre director, Ernest Mudzengi, said the visit will show the U.S officials that nothing much has changed in Zimbabwe.

Foreign Affairs Affairs permanent secretary, Joey Bimha, yesterday told VOA Africa Service, Zimbabwe wanted to re-engage Washington.

The American diplomats are on a four-day visit meeting government officials, civil society and political parties to get first-hand information on various issues including human rights, democracy and governance since the adoption of a new constitution in 2013.

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