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Sanctions a divisive matter in Zim

BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA/KUDZAI KUWAZA

AS Sadc mounted a fresh campaign to force the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) to lift two decades-long sanctions against Zimbabwe this week, a war of words erupted between opposition parties and the ruling Zanu PF.

Sadc, which last year set October 25 as a special day to campaign against the tough international measures, warned that the devastation inflicted on Harare’s economy was deep, and the southern African economy was falling apart.

Sanctions against Zimbabwe were imposed at the turn of the century following a diplomatic fall-out over controversial and often violent agrarian reforms, high-level corruption and alleged human right abuses, such as abduction of activists, journalists and pro-democracy forces.

The fast-track land reform programme of 2000 displaced thousands of commercial white farmers, in what has been described as expropriation and lack of respect for property rights. Compensation is now being made although it is yet to be significant.

Zimbabwe has also been punished for alleged electoral fraud, mostly under the late Robert Mugabe, who was accused of deploying state machinery to maintain his stranglehold on power.

Opposition officials told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the alleged transgressions were continuing under the present administration, and unless President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government makes positive radical reforms, the campaign would be a futile effort.

But Sadc said Zimbabwe must be given an opportunity to chart a new trajectory.

“Sadc wishes to re-affirm its solidarity with the government and people of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and to collectively voice its concerns on, and disapproval of the prolonged sanctions imposed on the Republic of Zimbabwe,” the bloc said on Monday.

“As Sadc, we are concerned by the continuation of sanctions on some individuals or entities of Zimbabwe and hereby call for the unconditional and immediate lifting of these sanctions. There is no doubt that this lifting will facilitate socio-economic recovery and enable Zimbabwe to meet her national and regional economic development plans.”

The measures, slapped on Zimbabwe by the US through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) and the European Union (EU), are, according to the government, estimated to have cost the country over US$42 billion, apart from sending thousands of firms into bankruptcy.

Several more have fled the ensuing economic and political turbulence.

Harare has denied the long list of allegations levelled against its leaders.

This year’s campaign against sanctions on Harare coincided with the arrival in Harare of United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights on last week Monday to assess the impact of sanctions on Harare, which was battling to save its free-falling currency as she landed.

Many, including Sadc leaders, have argued that ordinary people have been the hardest hit by the sanctions that are said to be targeted at corrupt ruling elites

Access to medical attention has been curtailed, and a string of financial institutions, including Standard Chartered Bank have been slapped with hefty fines for allegedly facilitating the transmission of funding into Zimbabwe in violation of international measures.

Harare’s predicament has been compounded by the fact that with the international financial system branding her an outpost for autocracy, bailout packages to firms have either dried up or been released at huge premiums.

With a high debt profile, Zimbabwe has been classified among high-risk jurisdictions.

Another debate is also around whether or not the sanctions are legal and justified.

MDC Alliance national spokesperson Fadzai Mahere said political and economic reforms were imperative if Zimbabwe was determined to have the measures lifted.

At the heart of Zimbabwe’s crisis, Mahere argued, was a broken social contract between the state and the governed arising out of continuous disputed elections.

“This dispute is cyclical and as old as the independent state itself,” Mahere said.

“Its fresh wound remains the 2018 Presidential election. In order to end our international isolation, there must be sincere political and economic reforms.

“The reforms must be anchored on a return to legitimacy, the end of authoritarian consolidation and the establishment of a true multi-party democracy in which every Zimbabwean has freedom, fairness and opportunity,” she added.

Tapiwa Mashakada, a member of the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T, who was economic planning and investment promotion minister during the inclusive government between 2009 and 2013, concurred with Mahere.

However, he said sanctions against Zimbabwe were illegal because they were not imposed by the UN. He, however, said Zimbabwe had no choice, but to roll out serious bilateral engagement with the US, while talking to the EU as a bloc.

“We need to engage the US bilaterally as a country, directly and the EU collectively as a group through Brussels so that we address any issues,” Mashakada told the Independent.

But Mike Bimha, a senior ruling Zanu PF official who was industry and commerce minister until 2018, said growing disquiet against the international measures could force Western power to lift them.

“The call for sanctions to be removed is no longer an issue for Zimbabwe. It is now a regional issue. It is now a continental issue because no one is spared. It is not only affecting Zanu PF, it has also affected businesses that can no longer be competitive. They cannot access capital,” Bimha said.

He said the country should unite in the call for removal of sanctions.

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