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'Zimbabwe Facing Worse Political, Economic Crisis Today Than Under Robert Mugabe'

Republican U.S. Senator Jim Risch of Idaho spoke with VOA Wednesday.

The chairperson of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Zimbabwe is facing a worse political and economic crisis today than in 2017 when long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was forced from power by the country's military.

In a statement to mark the first anniversary of the killing of six people last August by security forces in Harare, Idaho Republican Senator Jim Risch said the economic and political situation is deteriorating fast in the country, hard-hit by foreign currency shortages, price increases and other issues.

"As Zimbabweans mark this somber anniversary, we are reminded of all that can go wrong when regime preservation comes ahead of real democratic change. Zimbabwe is facing a worse political and economic crisis today than in 2017 when long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was forced from power by the country's military. Today, citizens are suffering under staggering inflation, regular fuel and water shortages, rolling blackouts, a failing currency, and an increasingly repressive political environment.

"President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa’s efforts to cleanse his government’s image abroad and to convince the Zimbabwean people that their economic woes are the fault of very targeted U.S. sanctions are the wrong priorities. These sanctions are on individuals who violated the rule of law and caused this political and economic chaos. President Mnangagwa should instead focus on delivering the ZANU-PF government's long-promised reforms. He should also uphold his commitment to hold to account those in the military leadership responsible for ordering the shooting of unarmed civilians last August, and since then."

There was no immediate reaction from the government on this issue as presidential spokesperson George Charamba’s mobile phone was unreachable. The Zimbabwean government has over the years criticized America for imposing targeted sanctions on top Zanu PF officials and several companies said to be linked to them, saying the measures have devastated the economy.

Mnangagwa made sweeping promises upon taking office, which included holding members in the military accountable for shooting and killing unarmed civilians in August 2018 and January 2019. The U.S. State Department imposed targeted sanctions on former Presidential Guard Commander Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe and his spouse under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act “due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights, and in particular his role in the violent crackdown against unarmed Zimbabweans during the August 1, 2018, post-election protests.”

The Zimbabwe sanctions program implemented by the Office of Foreign Assets Control began on March 7, 2003, when the president issued an Executive Order imposing sanctions against specifically identified individuals and entities in Zimbabwe, as a result of the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons undermining democratic institutions or processes in Zimbabwe.

Subsequent orders were issued by various U.S president in response to the continued undermining of democratic institutions by several Zanu PF officials.

According to the state-controlled Herald newspaper, the Zimbabwean government on Friday summoned United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols to express its dismay over Washington’s decision to impose targeted sanctions on Ambassador-designate to Tanzania Anselem Sanyatwe and his wife, Chido Machona.

The newspaper reports that the secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador James Manzou, met with Ambassador Nichols at his Munhumutapa offices where he expressed Zimbabwe’s displeasure over the imposition of sanctions on the couple.

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