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U.S. Drops Kaukonde from Sanctions List, Tightens Screws on Security Minister Ncube, Sanyatwe

FILE: Armed soldiers stand by an armored vehicle on the road leading to President Robert Mugabe's office in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2017.
FILE: Armed soldiers stand by an armored vehicle on the road leading to President Robert Mugabe's office in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2017.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control has removed former Mashonaland East governor Ray Kaukonde and three other people from the targeted sanctions list and reinforced the State Department’s move to impose the restrictive measures on former special forces commander, Anselem Sanyatwe, and State Security Minister Owen Ncube.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of State said the Treasury Department removed sanctions on Ray Kaukonde, Shuvai Ben Mahofa, Sithokozile Mathuthu, and Naison Ndlovu, all of whom were previously designated pursuant to Treasury’s authorities “but are deceased and/or no longer meet the sanctions criteria.

“Removing previously designated persons from OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List demonstrates that sanctions do not need to be permanent, and that targeted sanctions reflect realities on the ground in Zimbabwe.”

On Sanyatwe and Ncube, the U.S. State Department said they were linked to human rights abuses related to political repression in Zimbabwe. The two were put on the sanctions list last year.

“These designations demonstrate continued U.S. commitment to promoting accountability for human rights abuses. The State Department urges the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately end state-sponsored violence including against peaceful protesters, civil society, labor leaders and members of the opposition in Zimbabwe, and to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuse.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Sanyatwe and Ncube pursuant to Executive Order 13469, which reinforces the Department of State’s previous designations in 2019 under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.

“As a result of today’s action, all assets, property, and interests of property of Sanyatwe and Ncube that are, or come within, U.S. jurisdiction, or the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.”

OFAC’s actions are independent from the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA), which requires the United States to vote against new lending or debt relief for Zimbabwe from international financial institutions, except for lending intended to support basic human needs or good governance.

Reacting to the latest move by the United States, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Relations Minister Retired Leitenant General Sibusiso Moyo said the OFAC’s decision was regrettable as Sanyatwe and Ncube were already placed on the State Department’s “Visa and Travel Negative List during the course of 2019.

“… This decision can only further erode trust and confidence in the relationship between Zimbabwe and the United States at a time when, more than ever, confidence-building measures are required so as to sustain the ongoing process of re-engagement between our two countries.

“In taking this action, the U.S government appears, unilaterally, to have charged, tried, convicted and sentenced two very senior Zimbabwean nationals – surely the very antithesis of justice as we understand it.”

Moyo said the holding of any individual or individuals for alleged human rights abuses or political repression should be evidence-based as scrutinized in and upheld by a court of law.

“Any other approach is surely, in itself, a violation of those individuals’ human rights.”

He said despite the “negative developments and the lack of even-handedness in the U.S approach to Zimbabwe, my government will continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with the United States of America. In parallel, we will continue to travel the path of reform for the benefit of all our people.”

The United States imposed targeted sanctions on some Zanu PF officials over claims of human rights abuses and election-rigging.