US Treasury blacklists four Robert Mugabe cronies

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES – The US government blacklisted four allies of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday, increasing pressure on the country's leadership which is condemned by Washington as undemocratic.

The three business people and a physician were accused of helping a corrupt Mugabe government, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said in a statement.

It named them as:

  • John Bredenkamp, who it said was involved in arms trading and diamond extraction
  • Muller Conrad "Billy" Rautenbach, who it linked with mining projects that enriched the government
  • Mahmood Awang Kechik, a Malaysian urologist and one of Mugabe’s doctors and business advisers who it accused of trafficking in medical equipment.
  • Nalinee Joy Taveesin, a Thai businesswoman it said was involved in business deals for Mugabe and his wife Grace.

US assets controlled by the four are liable to be seized and US citizens are banned from doing business with them.

Haven for Tsvangirai

Botswana’s foreign minister suggested in an interview Wednesday that his country would be prepared to allow Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to operate there as leader in exile.

Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani also told BBC World News that regional powers must admit they had failed to resolve the deadlock between Tsvangirai and Mugabe and should now bring economic pressure to bear.

Asked whether Botswana would offer Tsvangirai a safe haven if power-sharing talks collapse, Skelemani said: "Anybody who comes to Botswana saying that they fear for their life, from their own country, we will not chase them away."

Pressed about what Botswana would allow Tsvangirai to do from its soil, the minister said he would not be permitted to launch a military attack on Zimbabwe from there, but could possibly lead a democratic resistance movement.

"That would be the lesser of the two evils, which is probably, taking up arms and getting innocent people killed," Skelemani said.

Botswana’s President Ian Khama is one of the few African leaders to openly criticise Mugabe, saying his re-election in June was not legitimate.

The foreign minister also said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc must admit that its mediation efforts have failed.

"The international community, SADC first of all, must now own up that they have failed — which we have said, that we as SADC have failed. The rest of us should now own up and say yes, we have failed," Skelemani told the BBC.

After that, it should "call upon the international community and tell Mugabe to his face, look, now you are on your own, we are switching off, we are closing your borders, and I don’t think he would last", he said.

"If no petrol went in for a week, he can’t last."

Negotiators for Mugabe and Tsvangirai met in a new round of talks in South Africa on Tuesday over a stalled power-sharing deal, that calls for Mugabe to remain as president and Tsvangirai to take the new post of prime minister. – Reuters, AFP