The political situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated since the disputed July 30 presidential election in which incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner over challenger Nelson Chamisa by a narrow margin.
The United States is gravely concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, and other abuses of Zimbabweans, in particular, targeting of opposition activists, said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. She went on to say, “There should be no role for violence, intimidation, or harassment in the new Zimbabwe.”
In another development, Ms. Nauert expressed deep concern over the fact “that Zambia chose to hand over former Zimbabwean Minister of Finance Tendai Biti to the Zimbabwean authorities, and in the face of a reported Zambian court order blocking his expulsion from Zambia.” In addition to being former finance minister, Mr. Biti is a senior figure in the Movement for Democratic Change.
“This decision is particularly disheartening,” said Ms. Nauert, “given the courage that Zambia showed in sheltering thousands of Zimbabwean freedom fighters from Rhodesian aggression in the days of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle.” U.S. officials will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders.
“The government of Zimbabwe is now responsible for Tendai Biti’s safety and welfare,” cautioned Ms. Nauert. “We call on Zimbabwe’s leaders to guarantee Mr. Biti’s physical safety and ensure his constitutional and human rights are respected, consistent with the rule of law and Zimbabwe’s international obligations and commitments.” In an effort to register its gravest concerns, the United States convoked the ambassadors of both Zimbabwe and Zambia. A judge has since released Biti on conditional bail. He remains under house arrest.
Zimbabwe had a historic opportunity to move the country toward a brighter future for all its citizens, but an electoral process marred by violence that does not respect constitutional rights and procedures is not a step toward that future.