via No policy shift as US insists on reforms – The Zimbabwe Independent June 5, 2015
THE United States remains gravely concerned about the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe, including human rights issues, and consequently there would be no policy shift towards the economic crisis-ridden country from Washington DC.
This means that the sanctions regime and other measures imposed on Zimbabwe due to diplomatic and policy clashes remain for now.
The developments emerged after a report released this week by the US Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs, Shannon Smith, who was in the country last month for re-engagement after more than a decade of bitter conflict over human rights violations and policy clashes between the two countries.
Smith’s report comes at a time The World Justice Project (WJP) released the WJP Open Government Index 2015 report this week ranking Zimbabwe among the bottom three — together with Myanmar (at 100) and Uzbekistan (101) out of 102 countries ranked.
The index measures governments’ openness, based on the general public’s experiences and perceptions worldwide, and presents aggregated scores and rankings, as well as individual scores for each of the following dimensions of government openness: publicised laws and government data; right to information; civic participation and complaint mechanisms.
During her visit, Smith met top government officials, members of opposition parties and civil society raising hopes for speedier re-engagement between the US and Zimbabwe which have been at loggerheads since the onset of the disorderly land reform exercise in 2000 and disputed election results since then.
However, in her damning report to the US House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organisations on Wednesday, Smith said Zimbabwe remained trapped in a moment in time that has been unfolding for decades.
She said: “President Robert Mugabe maintains his hold on power, as a result of the 2013 elections that were neither free nor fair. The country’s economy is failing, driven down not by international sanctions, but by national policies and rampant unemployment.
“Once a breadbasket for the region, it faces major food security challenges in the months to come. Political rights remain curtailed.
“Outright violence has declined compared to previous years, but prominent examples, such as the disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara, remind Zimbabweans that their safety is elusive.”
Journalist-cum-civic activist Dzamara, who was abducted about three months ago in Glenview, Harare, by five unknown men suspected to be state security agents has not been seen or heard from since.
Authorities have ignored a High Court order to report progress to the court every two weeks until Dzamara’s whereabouts are determined.
Smith said while the country had made headway in curbing hyperinflation during the period of the Government of National Unity (2009-2013), the economy is again in dire straits.
“The civil service wage bill alone eats up an unsustainable 80% of total expenditures, leaving very little in the budget to run government operations or support investment in the country’s degraded infrastructure,” she said.
“The formal economy has shrunk to a small fraction of Zimbabwe’s citizens: unemployment estimates range as high as 80% or even higher. To add to the country’s woes, poor rains, building on disastrous agricultural policies in past years, are projected to leave millions of Zimbabweans facing food insecurity.”
Though the government of Zimbabwe continues to blame US sanctions for its economic hardships, Smith said in reality these bleak conditions were created by government itself.
Both Zanu PF and the opposition were criticised for appearing to be fragmented, exacerbating an environment of uncertainty and therefore a gloomy future.
“Current circumstances do not merit a change in our policy, but we remain hopeful that in the future they will. We strive to balance our targeted sanctions on those who have impinged upon human rights and the rule of law with our encouragement of economic reforms and investment,” Smith said.