Members of the military patrol the streets of the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, in August 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Members of the military patrol the streets of the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, in August 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Harare — The US  on Thursday imposed sanctions on retired Gen  Anselem Sanyatwe, the officer who commanded soldiers to open fire on protesting civilians in Harare’s central business district on August 1 2018 after the disputed elections. Six people were killed.

The sanctions signal US frustration over the lack of accountability over  the killings that shocked the international community. Sanyatwe was recently appointed Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania.

He joins a growing number of senior government and Zanu-PF leaders who are not allowed to visit the US and its Western allies.

The US state department said the targeted sanctions against Sanyatwe were “due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights”.

“The department has credible information that Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe was involved in the violent crackdown against unarmed Zimbabweans during post-election protests on August 1  2018 that resulted in six civilian deaths.”

Sanyatwe is the first individual to be sanctioned over the brutal crackdown and the first Zimbabwean official listed since the fall of Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

Soldiers were deployed to crush demonstrations against delays in announcing the results of Zimbabwe's controversial election. President Emmerson Mnangagwa narrowly beat MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.

Sanyatwe  later told a commission of inquiry into the deaths and post-election violence that the deployment was the right decision at the time.

Mnangagwa is campaigning for the lifting of all sanctions but the US and European Union have voiced concerns that his government has done little to reform since Mugabe’s fall.