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United States slaps sanctions on ZRP deputy police chief Stephen Mutamba

The United States government has delisted 11 individuals from the Zimbabwe sanctions program and added Stephen Mutamba, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Deputy Commissioner for Administration accusing him of orchestrating human rights abuses during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The US accuses Mutamba of using his position to threaten and undermine legitimate political parties who opposed Zanu-PF.

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the new development in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated one Zimbabwe individual and removed eleven others from the Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN List) under the Zimbabwe sanctions program,” read part of the statement.

“The Zimbabwe sanctions program targets human rights abusers and those who undermine democratic processes or facilitate corruption. U.S. sanctions do not target the Zimbabwean people, the country of Zimbabwe, or Zimbabwe’s banking sector.”

The department said the 11 individuals that it removed from the SDN list were either deceased or had been deemed to no longer undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions.

“Each year, the U.S. Government removes hundreds of individuals and entities from the SDN List. Each removal is based on a thorough review.

“OFAC also designated Stephen Mutamba, the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Deputy Commissioner for Administration, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13469 for his role in undermining Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions,” the US said.

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Mutamba is accused of siding with the ruling party, using Covid-19 laws selectively to suppress opposition politicians.

“Over the past two years, Mutamba has taken actions that threaten and undermine legitimate political parties who oppose the policies of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party.

“In 2020, Mutamba supported Zimbabwe security services’ use of pressure and intimidation on prominent opposition figures. Also in 2020, Mutamba supported the uneven enforcement of a COVID-related curfew, encouraging security forces to limit opposition activities and did not allow for foreign national officials located in Zimbabwe to meet with Zimbabwean opposition parties or civil society groups.

“In 2021, Mutamba advocated that vote tallies not be displayed outside polling locations and that international observers should not be allowed to monitor the 2023 elections.”

The US Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson also said: “It is imperative that ZANU-PF allow full participation across the political spectrum in next year’s elections.

“The United States continues to stand with the Zimbabwean people against unjust actions against political opponents or assaults on Zimbabwe’s democracy by the Zanu-PF.”

During Covid-19 lockdown, government critics like MP Job Sikhala, investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested several times and detained for an average of four week for tweeting their views.

They are still facing charges which include but are not limited to inciting public violence and obstructing the course of justice.

Sikhala is currently in prison after his arrest on June 14 this year together with MP Godfrey Sithole and 14 Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists. They are charged with incitement to commit public violence.