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United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols.

United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, says massive levels of corruption, economic uncertainty and weak rule of law are devastating the country’s economy and not targeted sanctions imposed by the West on some Zanu PF officials accused of alleged human rights violations and election rigging.

Nichols, who revealed this in a Newsday opinion piece published Thursday, said the “greatest sanctions on Zimbabwe are limitations the country imposes on itself.”

Zimbabwe is currently ranked 160 out of 175 by Transparency International in its corruption list, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

“Zimbabwe loses more than US$1 billion per year to corruption. That’s huge compared to the size of Zimbabwe’s entire economy - around US$26 billion. The government says fighting corruption is a priority but have government and government-connected perpetrators been held accountable? No. If the country’s laws were evenly applied and enforced, government coffers would be full and the economy would be humming; tax revenue and foreign exchange would not leak from the Treasury, and government would recover some of the money that has made a privileged few extremely wealthy. It’s not sanctions, it’s corruption.”

Nichols said only 141 people and companies are on the United States sanctions’ list.

“That’s right, just 141, in a country of 16 million. They are on the list for good reason. These are people who have engaged in corruption, committed human rights abuses, and undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic process. Blaming sanctions is a convenient scapegoat to distract the public from the real reasons behind Zimbabwe’s economic challenges, corruption, economic mismanagement, and failure to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.”

He further said there is no trade embargo on Zimbabwe.

“American companies are interested in investing in Zimbabwe but are deterred by the massive levels of corruption, economic uncertainty, and weak rule of law. So, investors turn to other promising opportunities in the region and wait for the country to embrace the political and economic reforms that would make it a more attractive destination.”

He cited several examples of alleged corruption, which include the disappearance of US$2,8 billion from government coffers, which was supposed to benefit Zimbabweans.

“ … Who has benefited? Where is the accountability? Up to 50% of the population faces food insecurity and hospitals lack basic supplies, life-saving medicine, and medical equipment. The money missing from the agricultural subsidies could help many Zimbabweans in need. The government should be working to get this money back into its coffers. It’s not sanctions, it’s graft.

An American firm won the tender for the construction of the Dema Power plant in 2016, but the government cancelled the contract and awarded it to Sakunda Holdings, which had not even placed a bid. This type of corruption damages Zimbabwe’s reputation and drives away investors who want to be sure the rules apply to everyone. It’s not sanctions, it’s dishonest dealings.”

According to Nichols, the Zimbabwe National Road Administration has also failed to account for US$25 million. “How many roads could Zinara have repaired with this money? How much clean water could have been provided? It’s not sanctions, it’s stunning mismanagement.”

In the opinion piece, Nichols claimed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government allocates taxpayer funds for goods and services that are never delivered “because the very same funds are disbursed into someone’s private account.

“There are people getting rich, many of them Zimbabwe’s political elites, as the economy continues to deteriorate around them and the Zimbabwean people suffer from crippling shortages of food, electricity, clean water and medicine. It’s not sanctions, it’s unmitigated greed.”

He cited state-sponsored violence as crippling the nation.

“… Seventeen people died during mass protests in January. There were 17 reports of rape or sexual assault and police arrested more than 1,000 people in dragnet arrests in January and February. All of these reports allege police or military officers were the offenders. It’s not sanctions, it’s state-sanctioned violence.”

But Zanu PF secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, told VOA Studio 7 the “sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by America and its allies are devastating the nation.

“Personally, I have millions of dollars that were seized by the American government. We have a lot of economic challenges due to these sanctions. They are not targeted sanctions but sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe because they are affecting everybody.”

Zanu PF in conjunction with the Southern African Development Community are on Friday expected to stage protests over the targeted sanctions, saying they are devastating Zimbabwe.

The United States implemented the targeted sanctions program in 2003 as a result of the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe, according to the U.S. Embassy Harare’s website.

Since 1980, the United States has contributed US$3,2 billion in assistance to the Zimbabwean people, and is the country’s largest bilateral donor in health and humanitarian assistance to the population.

FILE - With electricity unavailable or unaffordable for many, Learnmore Mavhura, right, helps his 9-year old nephew, Lionel, do his homework by candlelight, in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 23, 2019.

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s state-owned electricity distributor, grappling with drought and ageing equipment, said on Thursday it will disconnect mines, farms and other users as it looks to recover $77 million in unpaid bills.

The southern African nation is experiencing daily power cuts lasting up to 18 hours after a severe drought reduced water levels at the country’s biggest hydro plant.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) is also being hampered by ageing coal-fired electricity generators which constantly break down.

ZETDC said in a public notice it was owed 1.2 billion Zimbabwe dollars ($77 million) and it was targeting to recover the money from mining, agriculture, commercial and domestic users.

Defaulters should “settle their electricity bills without any further delay to avoid the inconvenience associated with power being disconnected,” ZETDC said as it steps up its revenue collection efforts.

The Chamber of Mines, which represents big platinum and gold producers and other miners said its members were paying for power supplies in dollars to guarantee supply. They will not be affected by the disconnections, chamber CEO Isaac Kwesu said.

On Thursday, Zimbabwe was generating 688 MW of electricity, less than half its peak demand, official figures showed.

The country imports up to 400 MW from South Africa and Mozambique when they have spare capacity.

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe hiked its average electricity tariff by 320% to increase power supplies, angering consumers already grappling with soaring inflation and the country’s worst economic crisis in a decade. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Jason Neely)

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