The net was tightening last night around the leading figures in the Mugabe regime as the United Nations identified the key individuals it blames for the current crisis in Zimbabwe.
A draft UN resolution named Robert Mugabe and 13 of his henchmen as the main culprits behind the campaign of violence in which scores of opposition supporters have been raped and murdered, and hopes of democratic salvation for the southern African nation have been wrecked.
The men named by the UN include generals, such as the army chief, Constantine Chiwenga, who is credited with persuading Mr Mugabe to launch a military campaign against the opposition rather than negotiate an exit package in the wake of his defeat in the first round of elections in March.
Hopes for a tough response from the UN were in the balance last night despite the apparent agreement from G8 leaders to push for targeted sanctions. A pitched battle has been under way since Tuesday at the UN Security Council as the United States and Britain sought to force a showdown over Zimbabwe. South Africa has been holding the line at the 15-nation council against measures including an international arms embargo, as well as travel bans and asset freezes targeting each of the 14 named individuals.
It was unclear whether London and Washington had the votes to win the battle as one British diplomat close to the effort said it was "touch and go whether we get them". The uncertainty was added to by the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, who went half way to meeting the West's demands in Japan by signing up to the G8 statement promising to punish the culprits in Zimbabwe, but then stopped short of supporting UN sanctions.
In an unlikely twist, the West African nation of Burkina Faso has found itself in the diplomatic spotlight. The second poorest country in the world, it has a UN vote as a temporary member of the council and has so far resisted pressure to back sanctions. Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, was in Burkina yesterday lobbying against a UN vote.
Mr Mugabe's inner circle, named in the draft resolution, has each amassed personal fortunes while overseeing the steepest collapse of a peacetime economy ever recorded. The draft resolution accuses them of "undermining the democratic process" and having "ordered, planned, or participated in" the campaign of political terror that has killed more than 100 people, displaced 200,000 and made the country an international pariah.
South Africa argued that punitive action would undermine mediation but this approach was rejected by Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change. "These are not sanctions against Zimbabwe," said Ian Makoni, a senior MDC official. "They're against individuals guilty of crimes against humanity."
South Africa was also attempting to block efforts to appoint a UN special envoy to Zimbabwe, fearing this would undermine its President, Thabo Mbeki, and his role as regional mediator. He has been fiercly criticised for the apparent failure of "quiet diplomacy" and there have been open calls for his replacement as mediator from the MDC who accuse him of sheltering the Mugabe regime.
Zimbabwe's government responded to the mounting pressure with an outburst of anti-colonial rhetoric against the West for preparing sanctions.
Mr Mumbengegwi said: "Zimbabwe has had free and fair elections... We can't receive instructions from our former colonial masters. We are an independent country and we will never, never go back to being a colony."
Named and shamed: the 13 henchmen identified by the UN
Head of the spy agency, the CIO. Although widely regarded as a restraining influence on the excesses of his colleagues, his job has put him in the front line of activities against Mugabe's opponents. His men have been responsible for the abduction and murder of opposition supporters.
Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. Vowed to mount an official coup should Mugabe ever hand over to Morgan Tsvangirai. His wife, Jocelyn, has led farm invasions and once declared: "I am itching to spill white blood." She runs a company that sells military gear to the army.
Cabinet minister and Mugabe's most trusted lieutenant. Masterminded murder of tens of thousands in the 1980s Matabeleland massacres. Named in UN report for looting Congo cash from United Merchant Bank.
Air force chief. A relative of Mugabe, Shiri was in charge of a North Korean trained unit which did the actual killings in Matabeleland. He trains Mugabe's notorious militias and is known to personally conduct torture sessions.
Police chief. Credited with converting Zimbabwe's police force into armed wing of the ruling party. Led the 2006 urban slum clearance campaign that left one million homeless. Ordered police not to arrest Zanu members but instead arrest MDC officials who file violence reports.
Director of prisons. Told members of security agencies not supporting Mugabe they would be regarded as traitors and be rewarded with death. Also ensured prison officers cast ballots for Mugabe.
Reserve Bank head. Close friend of Mugabe, with whom he frequently holidays in Malaysia, Gono is also Mugabe's personal banker and the man who knows where the stolen millions are stashed. He has funded the current political terror campaign.
Justice Minister. Described by peers in the legal profession as Zimbabwe's most incompetent lawyer, Chinamasa has hounded out independent judges and stuffed the bench with Mugabe cronies. In charge of death squads currently on a killing spree in his rural home of Manicaland.
State Security minister. Infamously declared he would rather see the death of six million people who support the opposition and remain with only those who support Mugabe. He is in joint charge of the spy agency, the CIO.
Mugabe's spokesman. Has overseen purging of all state media of journalists critical of the regime and enforced draconian laws against the independent media.
Minister of Defence. Has been travelling the world, mainly to Asia, to source weapons used in the siege of terror against the opposition. Has organised training of Mugabe's violent ruling party militias by the army and police.
Minister of farm mechanisation. Credited with destroying Zimbabwe's commercial agricultural sector. He says he would rather see the last remaining farm in Zimbabwe in black hands, even if they cannot farm. Mugabe's own personal farm manager.
Minister of Health in country with lowest life expectancy in the world. Cited by WHO for failing to provide adequate drinking water.Reuse content