Washington, D.C. – Ahead of the July 30 elections in Zimbabwe – the country’s first since Robert Mugabe’s ouster – the House passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act (S. 2779) to call for free and fair elections and key reforms. The bill now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.

Chairman Royce submitted the following remarks for the record:

“I want to thank Senators Flake and Coons for their leadership and sustained engagement on this issue. I also want to thank Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Bass for their focus on Zimbabwe at the Africa subcommittee.

On July 30th, the people of Zimbabwe will have the opportunity to vote for their next president. As the first election since Robert Mugabe, this is a pivotal moment for Zimbabwe. For 37 years, Zimbabweans have suffered greatly under authoritarian rule and economic devastation. The government drove the economy into the ground and violently suppressed any opposition to their power.

With elections now just days away, the situation in Zimbabwe should be viewed with cautious optimism. I am encouraged by some of the statements and actions taken by the government. President Mnangagwa, along with key opposition candidates, signed a public pledge to ensure peaceful elections. The opposition is allowed to campaign across the country, the voter roll has been released for inspection and U.S. and international observers will be permitted to observe the elections.

However, reports of voter intimidation, efforts to politicize food aid and increased military presence in rural polling stations are deeply concerning. The people of Zimbabwe, as well as the international community, remember the horrific violence that occurred during the 2008 elections. That cannot happen again.

That’s why this legislation is so critical. This bill makes important changes to update the 2001 Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act. It lays out our expectations for a free and fair election, as well as actions needed to achieve key economic reforms. The expectations of the 2001 legislation hold true today – Zimbabwe must make credible progress towards holding free and fair elections, restore the rule of law and ensure military subordination to the civilian government, among other desperately needed reforms. These are realistic and universally recognized standards.

Both the government and the opposition must follow through on their statements to hold a free, fair and credible election on July 30th. This is an opportunity to chart a dramatic new course for Zimbabwe. We urge the next president to take bold and immediate action to address key governance and economic issues. We stand by the people of Zimbabwe in their efforts to see a more democratic, peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe.”