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Zimbabwe Central Bank Cites Western Sanctions In Economic Crisis

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe this week put out a document charging that Western sanctions, though purportedly designed to target senior officials of the government and ruling ZANU-PF party, hurt all Zimbabweans, in particular the poor.

Experts said ill-considered policies in Harare were far more to blame.

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono alluded to Western sanctions in his Quarterly Monetary Policy statement this week, and a supplementary statement asserted that declared or undeclared “embargoes” have seriously damaged the economy.

The statement said that because of sanctions, donor grants had declined to US$40 million currently from US$140 million in the 1990s. It said exporters denied foreign credit lines had turned to high-risk financing to import essential raw materials.

The statement said there was no long-term economic benefit to the humanitarian aid which continues to flow into Zimbabwe in relatively large amounts.

The statement in addition cited “far reaching effects” of economic decline resulting from dried-up project funding and loans from multilateral lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Researcher Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the economy was already in decline before 2001, when U.S. President George W. Bush signed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, or ZIDERA.

Under that act, Mr. Bush instructed U.S. representatives to multilateral institutions - the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank, and so forth - to vote against credit facilities for Zimbabwe until Harare mended its human rights record.

Sanctions targeting senior figures in the Zimbabwe government and ruling party were imposed in March 2003 "as a result of actions and policies by certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and its supporters to undermine democratic institutions and processes," a reference to the alleged rigging of the 2002 presidential election.

The U.S. State Department says American sanctions "target only those responsible for Zimbabwe's political crisis and not ordinary citizens." The sanctions "support regional and international efforts to convince Zimbabwe’s government to abandon political repression and engage in meaningful dialogue with the political opposition."

Economist Eric Bloch said the U.S. sanctions under ZIDERA had something to do with the economic crisis – but not nearly as much as Harare’s own policies.

Western sanctions also cropped up as an issue in the crisis resolution talks mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, threatening to derail negotiations between the ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

ZANU-PF representatives said the opposition must urge the United States, Europe and other countries to lift their sanctions before the talks can advance further. The MDC representatives said it was not within their power to lift the sanctions.

Nairobi-based political analyst Brian Kagoro, a human rights lawyer, told Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that ZANU-PF was being unreasonable.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...