EDITORIAL COMMENT: Sanctions only worsen people’s economic challenges

Economic challenges

It goes without saying that illegal Western economic sanctions have hit Zimbabwe hard over the past 15 years.

They are the primary cause of the obtaining socio-economic hardships. In 2001 and 2002 the US and the European Union respectively instituted restrictions in trade and investment into and out of Zimbabwe in general while specific companies and citizens are not only banned from travelling to Europe and America, but cannot transact business at the international level freely.

Just last week Thursday, the US fined Barclays Bank $2,5 million for processing 159 transactions totalling around $3.4 million from July 2008 to September 2013 to or through financial institutions in the US, including the company’s New York branch, for corporate customers of Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe, which were majority-owned by people that are on US sanctions lists.

A few weeks earlier, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chairman, Ben Corker had written to that country’s treasury chief imploring him to ensure that the International Monetary Fund does not offer loans to Zimbabwe even if Harare meets its commitment to clear its arrears with the global financier.

When President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF won the 2013 elections resoundingly in the most free and fair fashion — and free and fair elections is one of the factors why the US and Europe imposed their sanctions — many thought the global powers would lift the embargo in toto. They didn’t, only cherry picking a few individuals and companies for removal from the blacklist from time to time.

But for Zimbabwe, as long as sanctions remain on President Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe, the whole country remains under sanctions.

On Tuesday, the EU further extended its travel ban on President Mugabe to February 2017. Brussels also prolonged its arms embargo on Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.

“On 15 February 2016 the Council adopted a decision extending EU restrictive measures against Zimbabwe until 20 February 2017,” the EU said in a statement.

“The decision follows the annual review of EU restrictive measures against Zimbabwe,” reads a statement from the EU. The restrictive measures will continue to apply to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe his wife Grace Mugabe and Zimbabwe Defence Industries while measures against five high ranking members of the security apparatus will remain suspended.

“Furthermore, 78 persons and 8 entities against whom measures had been suspended will be removed from the list. An arms embargo will remain in place.”

We condemn the extension of the punitive measures and call on the EU to lift them now, unconditionally and in their entirety.

We reiterate that the measures don’t serve any constructive purpose apart from worsening the prevailing economic hardships that the people are facing. In addition many local companies need loans and new technology but cannot access them from the West where they are because of the illegal sanctions.  Yes, many companies are not on the sanctions list, but the mere fact that President Mugabe is on it creates a stigma on the whole country which undermines local companies’ applications for credit lines from Europe and the US.

But we are happy that Zimbabwe has valiantly fought the unfair embargo.

President Mugabe himself has taken every opportunity to denounce the illegal Western sanctions. He reiterated that on Tuesday in Harare as the EU was releasing the statement extending the measures to next February.

“Everything went sour during Bush’s time not because we had quarrelled with America, but because they supported (the British Prime Minister, Tony) Blair in efforts to reverse the land reform programme,” the President told a delegation of visiting US legislators.

“We had followed all the steps to settle our people but when the Labour party took over, they wanted to reverse it completely and we said no, Zimbabwe was a free country. We had Bush imposing sanctions and we were surprised. We know they wanted to please Blair and sanctions have remained on. Bush decided to impose sanctions on us and the Senate and Congress said yes, we deserve sanctions.”

It is clear that whereas the EU pretends that it is punishing Zimbabwe in response to “serious human rights violations by the country’s government,” their real anger is on the land reform programme under which the government acquired 14 million hectares of formerly white-held land and redistributed it to about 400,000 blacks.

We are adamant that the land belongs to the indigenous people of this country and that it was seized from them through a combination of military conquest and some of the world’s unjust laws. The first and second Chimurengas were fought to repossess it and thousands died for it. It is our birthright, it is our blood, it is our humanity therefore it cannot be alienated from the indigenous people of this country.
Europe and the US need to understand this. It is unspeakably unjust for them to want President Mugabe to compromise on a matter as fundamental as land yet Europeans and Americans will not countenance that themselves if it relates to their own national interest.

They must respect ours and acknowledge our land rights and proceed to remove their ruinous sanctions.

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  • Brigadier Siyasutha Belamba

    I know you don’t believe anything you put in this editorial as a person but you are just doing your work. For the record Ian Smith also had sanctions and was surrounded by very unfriendly neighbours except South Africa. Through hard work and commitment they sustained the Rhodesian economy so that they were able to hand us the strongest currency in the region and the second strongest economy in 1980. We have ,through sheer incompetence ,greed and corruption destroyed both. Take a simple program for an example. Why did we undertake the land reform the way we did it?Could we not have taken the farms and then embarked on a program to ensure maximum utilisation of those farms but no we wanted to play politics with the farms dishing them to politicians.Now we buy maize from Zambia of all places.
    I wish these sanctions could all go so the leaders have no excuse for their incompetence

    • Buffalojump

      A very informative article.

      Thank you.