A previously unknown Zimbabwean women’s organization has launched a campaign against what it says are economically destructive “illegal sanctions” imposed by the European Union, the United States and other countries - but opposition and civil society sources said they suspect the group is a ruling party creation.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper said Women Against Sanctions was “formed as a result of the pain that women were facing because of the illegal sanctions.”
The government of Zimbabwe maintains that the country's profound economic distress has been caused by Western sanctions, but U-S and other diplomats say they target only President Robert Mugabe and top government and ruling party officials. The sanctions were recently extended to ZANU-PF dependents in Australia.
VOA was unable to reach any member of the group, whose chairman, according to the Herald, is one Talent Morongani. Other members are said to include Mercy Chawora and Anna Chishowesha, who were unknown to members of other women's groups.
National Cordinator Jenni Williams of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, an opposition group that has staged many demonstrations in Bulawayo, Harare and other cities, said that if the group exists it is probably staffed by the spouses of officials barred from travel in most European countries, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The assets of individuals on sanctions lists, if identified, are subject to being frozen.
Williams said most Zimbabwean women know that the country has not been penalized by general economic sanctions, and that current widespread privations are caused by misgovernance by President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF government.
The Herald quoted the group as saying that it is time for women to “stand up and go to [Movement for Democratic Change founding president] Morgan Tsvangirai’s house to ask for food so he could denounce the sanctions he called for.”
Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the opposition has been at pains to make clear that the party founder is not in a position to call for economic sanctions of any kind.