UK slaps sanctions on four top Zimbabwe security officials

Minister for State Security Owen Ncube is among those hit with travel bans and asset freezes.

A fuel price hike in January 2019 sparked street protests that turned deadly after a harsh security crackdown [File: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP Photo]

The United Kingdom has slapped sanctions on four Zimbabwean security officials over alleged human rights abuses, in a move that will restrict their travel to Britain and freeze their assets.

Applying a new sanctions regime following its exit from the European Union, the UK on Monday cited a crackdown on protests in January 2019 which killed 17, and post-election violence in 2018, as it introduced the sanctions on Minister for State Security Owen Ncube, as well as heads of police and intelligence organisations.

“These sanctions send a clear message that we will hold to account those responsible for the most egregious human rights violations, including the deaths of innocent Zimbabweans,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“These sanctions target senior individuals in the government, and not ordinary Zimbabweans. We will continue to press for the necessary political and economic reforms that will benefit all Zimbabweans.”

The other three named include Central Intelligence Organisation chief Isaac Moyo; Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga; and Anselem Sanyatwe, a former commander of the presidential guard.

The UK’s statement published on Monday said the announcement “ensures these individuals cannot freely travel to the UK, channel money through UK banks or profit from our economy”.

Ncube and Sanyatwe were already targeted for United Sanctions sanctions in March last year.

Reacting to the news, government spokesman Nick Mangwana wrote on Twitter that none of the four sanctioned Zimbabwe officials have assets in the UK, nor have they showed any interest in travelling there in the last three years.

The officials are accused of responsibility for the deaths of 17 Zimbabweans in January 2019, when the army attacked protesters marching against a hefty fuel price hike.

They were also allegedly complicit in soldiers opening fire on unarmed demonstrators who were protesting against a delay in election results in August 2018, killing six.

That attack prompted international outrage against President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced longtime ruler Robert Mugabe following a military coup in November 2017.

Mnangagwa, a stalwart of the governing ZANU-PF party, has been accusing of employing the heavy-handed tactics of his predecessor’s government, which harassed, threatened and arbitrarily arrested critics and activists.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of a deepening economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation that has pushed food prices beyond the reach of many, in addition to stagnant salaries, foreign currency shortages, a rapidly weakening currency, low production, water shortages, power blackouts and rising poverty.

Government officials blame sanctions imposed by Western countries in the early 2000s for the country’s economic woes and say they are intended to remove ZANU-PF from power.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies