New Zimbabwe.com

US tightens screws on ED, demands a range of reforms

Pressure to reform continues to pile on President Emmerson Mnangagwa after two US Senators listed a litany of demands including a reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as an incentive for the lifting of sanctions.

The demands also include the de-militarization of the country’s electoral processes as well as allowing Zimbabweans in the diaspora to vote.

US senate foreign relations committee members, senators Chris Coons and Jeff Flake Thursday introduced a bill that they said would lead to the lifting of sanctions imposed on former President Robert Mugabe’s administration before they were renewed under Mnangagwa this year on conditions a free, fair and credible poll is held.

And now days following the publication of an opposition MDC Alliance electoral reform wish list, the US has tabled what seem to be similar demands.

“After 37 years of suffering under the repressive rule of Robert Mugabe, the people of Zimbabwe should be excited about the possibility of a brighter future.

“To ensure conditions throughout the country improve, the international community should insist on concrete actions from the new government of Zimbabwe before lifting sanctions and renewing investment in the country,” Coons said.

“This bill is intended to outline the US Senate’s expectations of the steps President Mnangagwa and other leaders should take.”

According to the Senators’ proposal, if Mnangagwa agrees to the demands, this would lead to adjustments of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act enacted in 2001 as punishment for Mugabe’s human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

The US wants an electoral commission “nominated by all political parties rep-resented in the parliament of Zimbabwe, and permitted to entirely carry out the functions as-signed to it in section 239 of Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution in an entirely independent manner.”

Amid reports that government has deployed soldiers across the country ahead of elections expected later this year, the US Senators further demand that: “The defence forces of Zimbabwe are neither permitted to actively participate in campaigning for any candidate nor to intimidate voters, and must verifiably and credibly uphold their constitutionally mandated duty to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all per-sons and be non-partisan in character”.

The Senators also want election observers from across the world to be allowed to observe the entire electoral process, “both prior to, on, and following voting day, including by monitoring polling stations and counting centres, and are able to independently operate in a manner enabling them to access and analyse vote tallying, tabulation, and the transmission and content of voting results.”

Mnangagwa has agreed to allow poll observers from “anyone who wants to observe our elections” and in the past week advance teams from Sadc and the European Union have been in the country assessing the environment.

The US demands come as the former colonial master Britain seems to have warmed up to the new Zimbabwean administration promising to work with Harare to resuscitate the economy.