Do away with double standards

Ask any Zimbabwean, even a staunch ZANU-PF supporter, he or she will tell you that Robert Mugabe has overstayed. People might differ on what the way forward should be, that is, on whether Mugabe should go or not, and if he goes who should succeed him?

The West seems to have already decided. They are using the March vote as the basis. The West is entitled to its own opinion. That is what democracy is all about. But at the same time, it should also allow others to have their own opinions.

What is disturbing for some of us in the developing world are the double standards that the West, and the US in particular, employs.

On November 25, the US government imposed sanctions on what it termed "four Mugabe cronies" and businesses owned or controlled by two of them. The four were John Bredenkamp, a Zimbabwean who currently lives in the United Kingdom; Muller Conrad Rautenbach , another Zimbabwean; Nalinee Joy Taveesin, a Thai businesswoman; and Mahmood Awang Kechik, a Malaysian urologist.

The Treasury Department which imposed the sanctions described Bredenkamp as a well-known Mugabe insider who had "financially propped up the regime and provided other support to a number of its high-ranking officials". It also designated 20 companies that he owns.

Rautenbach was described as a businessman who has maintained close relations with the Mugabe regime and has provided support to senior regime officials during Zimbabwe's intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also provided logistical support for large-scale mining projects in Zimbabwe that benefit a small number of "corrupt senior officials".

Taveesin was sucked in for facilitating a number of financial, real-estate, and gem-related transactions on behalf of Grace Mugabe, central bank governor Gideon Gono, and a number of other Zimbabweans on the US sanctions list.

Kechik, one of Robert Mugabe's physicians and business advisors, was accused of using his medical practice to conceal the ultimate destination of medical equipment shipped to Zimbabwe and doing business with people like Gono and Defence Forces Chief Constantine Chiwenga, "to generate wealth for these regime officials and the Government of Zimbabwe".

The US treasury said under the sanctions "any assets of the individuals and entities designated today that are within US jurisdiction must be frozen. Additionally, US persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these individuals or entities".

Treasury regulations define US persons as: "Any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organised under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States."

This includes bodies like the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which is the commercial arm of the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Interestingly while the US is barring individuals from doing business with "Mugabe's cronies", a company over which it has control has been doing business with companies owned Mugabe's lieutenants for years.

United Nations owned private company, African Management Services Company (AMSCO), is doing business with Innscor Africa where Ray Kaukonde, former governor of Mashonaland East and ZANU-PF chairman for the same province is a director, as well as River Ranch Diamond Mine in which former army commander Solomon Mujuru, husband of Mugabe's deputy Joyce Mujuru, has a stake.

AMSCO is a joint venture of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the IFC and the AfDB.

AMSCO has business partnerships with Innscor Zimbabwe which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, Innscor International in South Africa, Innscor Distribution in Zambia, Innscor Kenya and Innscor Senegal.

Up to July last year, AMSCO was also assisting River Ranch Diamond Mine despite allegations that the company was smuggling diamonds out of the country because it could not sell them legally because of an ownership dispute with another Zimbabwe company Bubye Minerals.

Bubye Minerals even raised the issue with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. AMSCO pulled out at the height of the allegations.

Though the UNDP and AMSCO have denied the allegations, the case was reopened in July after the UNDP headquarters in New York hired a special investigator, Frank Dutton, to look into the operations of the UNDP office in Zimbabwe as well as the smuggling allegations.

Dutton, a former South African police officer who founded the crack Scorpions Unit and was a special UN investigator in Kosovo, is on a six-month contract that ends this December.

The question therefore is: If the US has imposed sanctions on individuals because they are propping up the Mugabe regime, why is it not taking similar action on a company over which it has direct control?

Or is there more to it?

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