By Pauline Hurungudo
America’s Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said on Friday that Washington was “very enthusiastic” about the new Harare government, but wanted to see more action on reform.
“We are very enthusiastic and pleased by the new government, the promises that it has made, we want to see more action to implement those promises for reform,” Sullivan told a briefing with journalists.
The briefing came in the wake of the launch of a report on Zimbabwe Human Rights Practices for 2018 citing several specific areas in which the government has dismally fallen short in upholding human rights and dealing with corruption in the country.
In the report, the human rights issues included arbitrary killings, government-targeted abductions, and arbitrary arrests; torture; harsh prison conditions; criminal libel; censorship; restrictions on freedoms; government corruption; ineffective government response towards violence against women, among others.
The report, which was published under the US department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour unit, forages into President Donald Trump’s extension of sanctions on Zimbabwe earlier this month.
According to the report, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration last year dismally failed to deal with corruption and lacked transparency in accounting for the country’s resources.
“Police frequently arrested citizens for low-level corruption while ignoring reports implicating high-level businesspersons and politicians”, read the Zimbabwe Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2018.
In May last year, Mnangagwa created an anti-corruption body within the Office of the President to carryout investigations, bypassing the constitutionally-mandated Zimbabwe Anticorruption Commission.
“The administration has since recorded one conviction related to corruption while most of those arrested were released on relaxed bail conditions,” said the report.
Coupled with this, the country’s former Transport minister from 2016 to 2018 was alleged to have faced accusations of embezzlement and passing out improper tenders procuring “$70 million of Boeing airplanes from Malaysia for State-owned airlines without consulting the board or management, and $2.7 billion in improper 2016 tenders for the Chirundu-Beitbridge highway, for which construction had not begun by year’s end.”
On the part of land, the US report said landowners connected to Zanu PF routinely sold land to citizens but refused to transfer ownership officially or to develop the land as agreed upon in contracts.
At the same time, “implementation of the government’s redistribution of expropriated white-owned commercial farms often favoured the Zanu PF elite and continued to lack transparency high-level Zanu PF officials selected numerous farms and registered them in the names of family members to evade the government’s policy of one farm per official.
“The government continued to allow individuals aligned with top officials to seize land not designated for acquisition”, added the report.
While Finance minister Mthuli Ncube last year announced government’s intention to reduce the civil service wage bill, the report stated that unqualified persons still remain on the State payroll list.
“According to the most recent audit, illicit salary payments were made to large numbers of persons who were retired, deceased, or otherwise absent from their place of employment.
“Duplicate personally identifiable information in files indicated some persons received multiple salaries,” the damning report said. DailyNews