United States President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that imposes tough new conditions that have to be met before sanctions are lifted.
The Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa has said that his country is open for business, but this new law – the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act – could scupper those plans as far as the US is concerned.
The United States law says that in order for sanctions to end the election has to be “widely accepted as free and fair”. The other condition mentioned is that the army has to “respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and to be nonpartisan in character”.
In the days following the poll, six opposition supporters died in clashes with the army, which has led some to question about its neutrality.
Zimbabwe is also required to take steps towards “good governance, including respect for the opposition”.
The United States has criticised the treatment of opposition supporters and in particular key opposition figure Tendai Biti, who has been arrested in connection with the post-election violence.
“The United States government is gravely concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past week, particularly targeting opposition activists”, State Department spokespersonHeather Nauert said.
“We call on Zimbabwe’s leaders to guarantee Mr Biti’s physical safety and ensure his constitutional and human rights are respected.”
The United States began imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001. The sanctions imposed in Zimbabwe target individuals, as well as banning trade in defence items and direct government assistance for non-humanitarian programmes.
However, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s pledge for free and fair poll has been marred by post-electoral violence that claimed seven lives after soldiers opened fire in Harare’s crowded streets last week.
Source: Report Focus News
A South African High Court on Monday overturned a decision by the government to grant Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she was accused of whipping Gabriella Engels with an electric cord.
Delivering his judgement on Monday, Judge Bashier Vally stated that the decision by the former Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to grant Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity was inconsistent with the South African Constitution and should therefore be set aside.
“It is declared that the decision of the minister of August 19, 2017, in terms of the diplomatic immunities to recognise Dr Grace Mugabe immunities is inconsistent with the Constitution of South Africa. The decision is reviewed and set aside,” the judgment stated.
The former minster explained in court that Mrs Mugabe automatically qualified for immunity from prosecution by virtue of her status as the wife of a head of state.
She also argued that not awarding Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity might have serious implications for relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Engels filed a court application challenging the government’s decision last August.
Mrs Mugabe returned to Zimbabwe immediately after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity, allowing her to evade prosecution for assault and causing a row in South Africa where the opposition Democratic Alliance also challenged the ruling.
Mrs Mugabe denied assaulting Engels with an electric cable, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Engels had attacked her with a knife.
South African advocacy group Afriforum, which represented Engels, dismissed the allegations as lies.
According to Engels, an irate Mrs Mugabe burst into the room where she was waiting with two friends in a Johannesburg luxury hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe’s sons last August, and started attacking her with an electric cable.
Photographs taken by Engels’ mother soon after the incident showed gashes to the model’s head and bruising on her thighs.
Willie Spies, a lawyer for Afriforum, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should now take action to prosecute Mrs Mugabe and seek her extradition from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
Spies said if the NPA failed to take action, Afriforum would start proceedings against Mrs Mugabe.
“The ball is in their court now,” Spies said, adding that Afriforum had argued that Grace Mugabe committed the attack on Engles while she was on a private visit to South Africa and therefore did not qualify for diplomatic immunity.
NPA spokeswoman Phindi Mjnonondwana said the case was still in the hands of the police and had not yet been sent to the NPA for action.
However, NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said South Africa and Zimbabwe had previously cooperated on extraditing suspects from one country to the other.
Following the judgement, International Relations and Cooperation Department under Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said they were still studying the judgment.
The news from the South African court came as former president Mugabe (94), accompanied by his wife and daughter Mrs Bona Chikore, cast his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield township, the first election that does not include his name on the ballot paper since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.
Fake news is on the upsurge as Zimbabwe gears up for its watershed elections on 30 July. Mobile internet and social media have become vehicles for spreading a mix of fake news, rumour, hatred, disinformation and misinformation.
This has happened because there are no explicit official rules on the use of social media in an election.
Coming soon after the 2017 military coup that ended Robert Mugabe’s 37 years in power, these are the first elections since independence without his towering and domineering figure. They are also the first elections in many years without opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February.
The polls therefore potentially mark the beginning of a new order in Zimbabwe. The stakes are extremely high.
For the ruling Zanu-PF, the elections are crucial for legitimising President Emmerson Mnangagwa (75)‘s reign, and restoring constitutionalism. The opposition, particularly the MDC-Alliance led by Tsvangirai’s youthful successor, Nelson Chamisa (40), views the elections as a real chance to capture power after Mugabe’s departure.
The intensity of the fight has seen the two parties use desperate measures in a battle for the hearts and minds of voters. They have teams of spin-doctors and “online warriors” (a combination of bots, paid or volunteering youths) to manufacture and disseminate party propaganda on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Known as “Varakashi”, (Shona for “destroyers”) Zanu-PF’s “online warriors” are pitted against the MDC’s “Nerrorists” (after Chamisa’s nickname, “Nero”) in the unprecedented online propaganda war to discredit each other.
Besides the fundamental shifts in the Zimbabwean political field, the one thing that distinguishes this election from previous ones is the explosion in mobile internet and social media. Information is generated far more easily. It also spreads much more rapidly and widely than before.
What’s happening in the run-up to the polls should be a warning for those responsible for ensuring the elections are credible.
Seeing is believing
Images shared on social media platforms have become a dominant feature in the spread of fake news ahead of the elections. Both political parties have used doctored images of rallies from the past, or from totally different contexts, to project the false impression of overwhelming support.
Supporters of the MDC-Alliance, which shares the red colour with South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters EFF, have been sharing doctored images of EFF rallies – and claiming them as their own – to give the impression of large crowds, according to journalists I interviewed in Harare.
Doctored documents bearing logos of either government, political parties or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission are being circulated on social media to drive particular agendas. Examples include:
A purported official letter announcing the resignation of the president of the newly formed National Patriotic Front.
The circulation of a fake sample of a ballot paper aimed at discrediting the electoral commission, and
A sensational claim that Chamisa had offered to make controversial former first Lady Grace Mugabe his vice president if he wins.
A number of these fake images and documents have gained credibility, after they were picked up as news by the mainstream media. This speaks to the diminishing capacity of newsrooms to verify information from social media, in the race to be first with the news.
And, contrary to electoral guidelines for public media partisan reporting continues unabated. The state media houses are endorsing Mnangagwa while the private media largely roots for the MDC-Alliance.
Explosion of the internet
These are the first elections in a significantly developed social media environment in Zimbabwe. Mobile internet and social media have been rapidly growing over the years.
That means half the population now has internet access, compared to 11% in 2010.
Ideally, these technologies should be harnessed for the greater good – such as voter education. Instead, they are being used by different interest groups in a way that poses a great danger to the electoral process. This can potentially cloud the electoral field, and even jeopardise the entire process.
A good example are the attacks on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which has become a major target of fake news. These attacks threaten to erode its credibility as a neutral arbiter. For example, an app bearing its logo, prompting users to “click to vote”, went viral on WhatsApp. But, responding to the prompt led to a message congratulating the user on voting for Mnangagwa, suggesting that the supposedly independent electoral body had endorsed the Zanu-PF leader.
Numerous other unverified stories have also been doing the rounds on social media, labelling the voters’ roll “shambolic”. This, and claims of bias against it, have forced the commission to persistently issue statements refuting what it dismisses as “fake news”.
Events in Zimbabwe and elsewhere on the continent point to the need for measures to guard against the abuse of social media, and bots to subvert democratic processes. There’s also a need for social media literacy to ensure that citizens appreciate the power the internet gives them - and to use it responsibly.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday assured Zimbabwe's white farmers that their land will not be taken, calling on them to work together with the government ahead of landmark elections on July 30.
Under his predecessor Robert Mugabe, white farmers were evicted in favour of landless black people from 2000 by a controversial policy that wrecked agriculture and triggered an economic collapse.
But less than two weeks to go before Zimbabwe's first elections since Mugabe's ouster, Mnangagwa moved to quash any fears the practice would be repeated.
"This issue of new (land) invasions is a thing of the past. The rule of law must now apply," Mnangagwa told a group of about 200 white and Asian people gathered in the capital Harare, adding that the "animal farm mentality," was a thing of the past.
"I am saying we should cease to talk about who owns the farm in terms of colour. It is criminal talking about that. A farmer, black farmer, a white farmer is a Zimbabwean farmer."
Mnangagwa said his government was "racially blind" and needed the expertise of everyone across the economy.
Zimbabwe's white population has fallen to less than one percent of the country's 16 million after Mugabe imposed the policy to expropriate farms in 2000.
Agricultural output crashed in the aftermath, with investors leaving and mass unemployment forcing millions of Zimbabweans out of the country to seek work.
- 'A lot of encouragement' -
Mnangagwa acknowledged the failure of the land reforms, saying the expertise of white people in the farming sector was still needed and encouraging them to take part in rebuilding Zimbabwe.
"We must build the Zimbabwe we want. We want to restore the status of Zimbabwe as a food basket of the region," he said.
"He gave us a lot of encouragement. We came here to ask for options for farming," Louisa Horsely, 51, told AFP.
"I wanted to know if my husband's expertise is still needed if he wants to farm and wants to help other people to farm and that is what we are interested in. It sounds (like) he wants us to be part of it."
Tara Chatterton, 39, who runs an auctioning business, said she attended the rally to hear what Mnangagwa's plans were since the military intervention last year that resulted in the removal of Robert Mugabe after nearly four decades.
"We are here just to see... what he is aiming at in trying to bring the country back up and trying to get people to work together as one nation," Chatterton said.
Paul Sexton, 71, who works for a printing company, said he was impressed that the leader "didn't make any outlandish promises".
"It's going to take time and that's the truth."
Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe John Mangudya said that there were no plans to re-introduce local currency as purported in messages being posted on social media.
A letter supposedly written by deputy minister of finance Terrence Mukupe to "all citizens and line ministries" and circulating on social media said that the government had resolved to revert to the use of local currency with effect from July 9.
However, Mukupe has since dismissed the letter as false and an attempt to smear his character.
Mangudya weighed in Wednesday dismissing the social media messages and accusing illegal foreign currency dealers of trying to cause confusion in the economy.
"Members of the public should ignore the social media article which has apparently been created and circulated by people who seem bent on manipulating parallel market rates for personal gain at the expense of the unsuspecting members of the public.
"The article is also calculated to cause unnecessary anxiety, panic, alarm and despondency within the national economy," he said.
He gave assurances that the country would continue to use the multi-currency system in line with government policy.
Zimbabwe has a multi-currency basket comprising the Euro, U.S. dollar, British Pound, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Chinese yuan, Indian rupee, South African rand and Botswana pula, although the more tradable currencies are the U.S. dollar and the rand.
South Africa’s Alexander Forbes says it has received regulatory approvals to complete its acquisition of African Actuarial Consultants (AAC), Zimbabwe’s largest independent actuarial firm.
The deal, which was initially announced in June last year, gives the South African firm a foothold into the local market which it had exited in 2015 as the economy tanked but believes has significant upside growth potential.
“While it is early days, we (are) optimistic about the future of the country based on the various initiatives that the government is seeking to undertake to attract both domestic and foreign investment. A sustainable growth path is crucial to the success of any country and the financial well-being and security of its people. There are grounds for optimism in Zimbabwe,” said Alexander Forbes chief executive, Andrew Darfoor in a statement.
AAC falls under Alexander Forbes’ Emerging Markets Division, which already has market leading businesses in Botswana, Namibia, Uganda and Nigeria. It also has business interests in Europe and the Middle East.
Alexander Forbes has previously operated in Zimbabwe, but was rebranded to Willis Faber Dumas and Roland (WFDR) Risk Services in 2015 when ZB Holdings sold off its 40 percent shareholdings in the firm.
AAC is led by chief executive Tinashe Mashoko who said the firm has ambition to become one of the leading actuarial and consulting companies in broader sub-Saharan Africa.
“There are significant benefits from being part of Alexander Forbes with whom we share their ambition to grow a distinctly pan-African financial services group. We have aspirations to grow in the region and their acquisition of a significant stake in AAC aligns our regional ambition with that of Alexander Forbes,” said Mashoko.
AAC, which started operating in 1993 as unit of First Mutual Holdings, was in 2016 sold off to Mashoko’s Frankmash Enterprises. Darfoor said the terms of the acquisition were confidential.