By Janet Zhou
THE United Nations Special Rapporteur on the impact of coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan, is undertaking an official visit to Zimbabwe from October 18 to 28, 2021, following the invitation from the government of Zimbabwe.
The UN Special Rapporteur’s office is established in terms of the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 34/13 on human rights and unilateral coercive measures.
The invitation of the Special Rapporteur comes because Zimbabwe was put under sanctions by the United States of America under the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (Zidera) and the European Union Restrictive Measures, first introduced in 2002. Zidera and the European Union (EU) restrictive measures have received mixed views related to their impact on the economy and the general populace in Zimbabwe.
According to the UN Resolution 34/13: “Unilateral coercive measures and legislation are contrary to international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States, and highlights that on long-term, these measures may result in social problems and raise humanitarian concerns in the States targeted.”
Sadc called for the removal of sanctions at the Heads of State and Government Summit in 2019 in Dar es Salaam.
The Sadc leaders noted that “the adverse impact on the economy of Zimbabwe and the region at large, of prolonged economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe” and set aside a day to denounce the sanctions at the regional level.
The African Union weighed in and called for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe, citing, “the negative impact of the persistent economic sanctions on the economy and people of Zimbabwe”.
In 2020, the then AU chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa took the matter to the 75th UN General Assembly on behalf of the AU citing the need: “To ensure that no country is left behind, we reiterate our position as the African Union that economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan should be lifted to allow their governments to respond adequately to the pandemic”.
The Zimbabwe government has endlessly raised concerns about the legality of the sanctions since the late former president Robert Mugabe era.
The US embassy and the EU have continuously argued that Zidera had no effect on Zimbabwe, as the country disqualified itself from any debt relief package due to accumulation of arrears to the international financial institutions, staring back in 1999.
Representatives of the international community argue that trade relations have continued despite the sanctions. The American embassy indicated that it has supported Zimbabwe through aid to the tune of close to US$4 billion since 1980, the UK government in 2020-2021 gave over US$176 million to support the Covid-19 response, rule of law among other pressing issues.
The EU boasts of being one of the biggest donors in Zimbabwe having poured in €287 million (US$334 million) for the period 2014-2020, targeting various projects to uplift the livelihoods of many Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwe Auditor General’s reports have exposed misuse of public funds and maladministration that has cost the fiscus a fortune. The findings point to irregularities in corporate governance of government institutions, criminal abuse of power by public officials and procurement irregularities among other acts that border on theft of public funds.
Only 16% of the audited public institutions in 2019 have unqualified audit opinions while the rest had significant findings calling for fundamental reforms in the way the government operates.
The Auditor General has made 356 recommendations related to these matters and only 92 have been fully implemented.
From evidence on the ground, the twin epidemics of maladministration and impunity have caused more untold suffering for the majority of Zimbabweans who depend on public services due to lack of employment, with over 64% etching a living in the informal employment.
Instead of harnessing domestic resources to improve the lives of many Zimbabweans and mitigate the impacts of the both the exogenous and endogenous shocks, the government allows only a few to enjoy the national wealth.
The government is failing to implement an economic model built on respect for human rights.
Reports of grand corruption and mismanagement of public resources have continued to pour in from the public sector institutions.
While scandals are reported and some arrests made, the masses reel in poverty, dilapidated roads and pensioners earn paltry earnings.
This is exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused negative social and economic effects in Zimbabwe and globally.
Without diving into the debate of whether the ZIDERA or the EU restrictive measures must stay or be removed (which is a conversation we, Zimbabweans must have and give each other guarantees of a social contract as we move forward), the UN Special Rapporteur will have to grapple with the reality of the other set of sanctions imposed by a few Zimbabweans on other Zimbabweans through maladministration and impunity.
If the sanctions she is coming to Zimbabwe to assess are found to have had adverse impacts on the ordinary, the twin epidemics already highlighted must be equally treated as they have exacerbated the protracted crisis and contributed to weaken social protection and public service delivery causing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Zimbabwe.
- To be continued in Part 2
Zhou is the executive director for the Zimbabwe Coalition On Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), a socio-economic justice movement. She writes in her own capacityThis weekly column New Horizon is published in the Zimbabwe Independent and coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past-president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators in Zimbabwe. — firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile: +263 772 382 852.