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Zimbabwe Says It Lost in Excess of $150 Billion to Sanctions

Zimbabwean protestors on Oct. 25, 2023, in Harare ask for removing of international economic sanctions. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
Zimbabwean protestors on Oct. 25, 2023, in Harare ask for removing of international economic sanctions. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Zimbabwe's vice president on Wednesday said the country has lost more than $150 billion due to sanctions imposed by the European Union and countries such as the United States following reports of election rigging and human rights abuses in the early 2000s.

Speaking to protesters rallying against the sanctions, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said the measures were also hurting the entire southern Africa region.

He called the sanctions an “albatross” around Zimbabwe's neck, as they include financial restrictions that isolate Zimbabwe from global access to capital.

"Since 2001, we estimate that Zimbabwe has lost or missed over $150 billion through frozen assets, trade embargos, export and investment restrictions from potential bilateral support, development loans, IMF and World Bank balance of payments support and commercial loans,” Chiwenga said, calling the sanctions “heinous and illegal.”

Stevenson Dhlamini, an economics professor at National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe, said the figure of $150 billion is consistent with what the Zimbabwean government has been saying over the years.

“The cumulative effect of the sanctions by the U.S., EU and the U.K. do have a cumulative impact that could be to that level,” Dhlamini said.

Not everyone agrees.

Prosper Chitambara, senior economist with the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, said multiple factors have affected the country’s economy, not just the sanctions.

“How do you then separate the effects of sanctions, say, from the effects of corruption, or from the effects of external shocks or climate-induced shocks?” he said, “Coming up with a number is a very difficult and tedious exercise to do.”

After the protest, which attracted mainly civil servants and ruling Zanu PF supporters, Chiwenga vowed that Zimbabwe’s economy will prevail over the sanctions.

“Sanctions are really hurting Zimbabweans,” he said. “By now, we could have gone far in terms of our economic growth. Our sin is that we took land [from white commercial farmers] and gave it to our people. Nothing else. The rest they are talking about is nonsense.

“But we think outside the box,” he said. “So, sanctions or no sanctions, Zimbabwe will prosper.”

Hopes of lifting the sanctions were dashed after many observer missions to Zimbabwe’s August 23 general election, including the Southern African Development Community, said the polls were not credible.