US Congress mulls new approach on Zimbabwe

WASHINGTON A draft Bill before the US Congress would sharply increase US support for democratic change, electoral progress and national reconciliation efforts in Zimbabwe, as well as boosting funds for youth employment programmes, education, clean water and agriculture.

The draft bill allows for debt relief and debt cancellation. At the same time it would maintain targeted measures against listed Zanu (PF) leaders, and support efforts to stop the trade in blood diamonds from Zimbabwe.

The draft Bill, the Zimbabwe Renewal Act of 2010, reflects strenuous debate in both the Democratic and Republican parties and determined efforts by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

The draft Bill reflects new thinking that the global political agreement and transitional government are positive moves, while noting the determined efforts of some members of Zanu (PF) to undermine and obstruct it.

The bill notes ongoing political violence against the democratic movement, at least three million refugees in South Africa, unemployment at 90 per cent, the high drop-out rate of youth from education, and that about 29,000 youths are engaged in violent Zanu (PF) militias.

The draft Bill pointedly notes the acquittal from a treason charge of MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett and the Attorney-Generals decision to appeal on May 12, and that the US national Democratic Institute awarded its Democracy Award to Morgan Tsvangirai that month.

Based on this new assessment, the draft Bill would shift government policy to support a transition to democratic and economic recovery in Zimbabwe that reflects the new political conditions and opportunities created by the global political agreement.

It calls for the full implementation of the GPA and the unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and commits to help end human rights abuses and violence against civilians by the security forces of Zimbabwe and hold those engaged in those abuses accountable.

It maintains the targeted measures against individuals who continue to undermine the democratic processes, and will review sanctions to reflect changing conditions on the ground.

The US would press for full compliance with the Kimberley Process diamond certification scheme.

The draft Bill would also support credible efforts to conduct a comprehensive, transparent, and non-partisan land audit as a critical step toward establishing accountability and security of tenure.

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