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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) will on Friday jointly call for the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe, which it says has had an adverse impact on the country’s economy.

All 16-member SADC will individually call for the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe Friday, as they committed during the regional body’s 39th Summit in Tanzania, in August.

Addressing reporters in Gaborone recently, SADC executive secretary Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, explained the decision.

“The 25th was chosen or decided by SADC Heads of States when they met in August, just to emphasize that indeed it has taken so long for these sanctions to continue being in place and to be lifted. Every member state is at liberty to choose any kind of activity which they feel that is going to have an impact and to add voice.”

The countries are echoing Zimbabwe’s claim that targeted sanctions, imposed by the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia and others, over allegations of human rights abuses, rigged elections and forceful takeover of land from white farmers, are hurting the economy.

Imposed during the leadership of then President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe has argued that contrary to the West’s claim that the sanctions are targeted to specific individuals and entities tied to the ruling Zanu-PF party, the sanctions are broad and are hurting the citizens.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa made this point at the 74th Session of United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“These sanctions constitute a denial of the human rights of the people of Zimbabwe to develop and improvement of their quality of life. Furthermore, the sanctions are slowing down our progress, inhibiting our economic recovery and punishing the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo has released findings on the impact of the sanctions, which Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa shared to reporters during a recent post-cabinet briefing, in Harare.

“The minister stated that Zimbabwe had lost at least $42 billion on account of the sanctions. Despite the sanctions being labelled as targeted, the sanctions have and continue to inflict pain on the rank and file of Zimbabwean citizens, especially women and children.”

Applauding SADC’s support in calling for the lifting of sanctions, Mnangagwa demanded the immediate lifting of what he termed illegal sanctions.

“Those that imposed illegal sanctions must heed this call and lift them now.”

Lawrence Tax said SADC’s move to pile pressure on western countries is overdue.

“This process has been there. Zimbabwe has tried for quite a number of years, SADC has also been trying to work together with Zimbabwe for a number of years, but we are not seeing results. So what is happening now is to emphasize that indeed, allow Zimbabwe to enjoy their political independence. They can only enjoy their political independence if the political independence is accompanied by social economic development.”

The U.S. has two sets of sanctions on Zimbabwe - Executive Order 13288 which includes travel bans and arms embargo, and also the recently amended Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018 or ZIDERA which calls for certain reforms to enable Zimbabwe to, among other things, access loans from financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Matthew Harrington, explains.

“We don’t have sanctions in place on the people of Zimbabwe. There two categories of sanctions, one is the ZIDERA which is not taking effect yet because ZIDERA refers to debt relief and new lending and that to happen there is need for some conditions to be met, those conditions have not been met. So, ZIDERA provides a roadmap to the future but hasn’t been called to effect yet. There is a second category of sanctions, targeted sanctions focusing on individuals that have been determined over the years to have played a negative role in the undermining of democratic institutions and processes.”

Reacting to the accusations that sanctions hurt the ordinary citizen, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said Zimbabwe’s biggest sanctions are placed on the country itself by corrupt government and ruling party officials, who he said have contributed to the poorly functioning economy.

Nichols challenged the government to address corruption in the Soviet-style Command Agriculture program aimed to boost production, tampering of the Old Mutual Implied Rate, and also abuse of the parastatal company, Zimbabwe National Roads Administration.

“The biggest sanctions on Zimbabwe are the sanctions Zimbabwe puts on itself. $3 billion in accounted for spending in Command Agriculture, that money going into private companies that jack up the exchange rate up to 27 on the OMIR, so those types of problems, ZINARA losing $25 million unaccounted for and all its executives building luxurious homes…”

But many Zanu-PF and government, deny these allegations. Former Zanu-PF Member of Parliament, Malachi Nkomo, the U.S. is trying to bring Zimbawe to its knees.

“What we are trying to do as Zanu-PF government is to show the whole world that we are suffering just because of these sanctions that have been targeted to our leaders and country as a whole. Its not our leaders only who are suffering, but everybody in Zimbabwe is suffering because of these sanctions that have been bestowed on us.”

Harrington said Zimbabwe can only expect better relations with the U.S., including the lifting of sanctions, if the country addresses issues of human rights, corruption and economic mismanagement.

“We would welcome a better relationship with Zimbabwe, but our view, and we welcome some of the change in tone and commitments but we would very much like to see those commitments translated into action on the ground. If they are that would lead to a better relationship with us, that’s the bottom line.”

Former Zanu PF Insiza South Member of Parliament Malachi Nkomo says public protests organized by the ruling party and SADC are designed to show the world that the sanctions are real.

“What we are trying to do as Zanu PF government is to show the whole world that we are suffering just because of these sanctions targeted on our leaders and the country as a whole. It’s not only our leaders who are suffering but everybody in Zimbabwe is suffering because of these sanctions.”

United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols says only 141 people and companies are on the country’s sanctions list. Zimbabwe has hired some companies in the United States to campaign for the removal of the sanctions.

SADC to Call for Lifting of Targeted Sanctions in Zimbabwe
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United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols.

United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, says massive levels of corruption, economic uncertainty and weak rule of law are devastating the country’s economy and not targeted sanctions imposed by the West on some Zanu PF officials accused of alleged human rights violations and election rigging.

Nichols, who revealed this in a Newsday opinion piece published Thursday, said the “greatest sanctions on Zimbabwe are limitations the country imposes on itself.”

Zimbabwe is currently ranked 160 out of 175 by Transparency International in its corruption list, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

“Zimbabwe loses more than US$1 billion per year to corruption. That’s huge compared to the size of Zimbabwe’s entire economy - around US$26 billion. The government says fighting corruption is a priority but have government and government-connected perpetrators been held accountable? No. If the country’s laws were evenly applied and enforced, government coffers would be full and the economy would be humming; tax revenue and foreign exchange would not leak from the Treasury, and government would recover some of the money that has made a privileged few extremely wealthy. It’s not sanctions, it’s corruption.”

Nichols said only 141 people and companies are on the United States sanctions’ list.

“That’s right, just 141, in a country of 16 million. They are on the list for good reason. These are people who have engaged in corruption, committed human rights abuses, and undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic process. Blaming sanctions is a convenient scapegoat to distract the public from the real reasons behind Zimbabwe’s economic challenges, corruption, economic mismanagement, and failure to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.”

He further said there is no trade embargo on Zimbabwe.

“American companies are interested in investing in Zimbabwe but are deterred by the massive levels of corruption, economic uncertainty, and weak rule of law. So, investors turn to other promising opportunities in the region and wait for the country to embrace the political and economic reforms that would make it a more attractive destination.”

He cited several examples of alleged corruption, which include the disappearance of US$2,8 billion from government coffers, which was supposed to benefit Zimbabweans.

“ … Who has benefited? Where is the accountability? Up to 50% of the population faces food insecurity and hospitals lack basic supplies, life-saving medicine, and medical equipment. The money missing from the agricultural subsidies could help many Zimbabweans in need. The government should be working to get this money back into its coffers. It’s not sanctions, it’s graft.

An American firm won the tender for the construction of the Dema Power plant in 2016, but the government cancelled the contract and awarded it to Sakunda Holdings, which had not even placed a bid. This type of corruption damages Zimbabwe’s reputation and drives away investors who want to be sure the rules apply to everyone. It’s not sanctions, it’s dishonest dealings.”

According to Nichols, the Zimbabwe National Road Administration has also failed to account for US$25 million. “How many roads could Zinara have repaired with this money? How much clean water could have been provided? It’s not sanctions, it’s stunning mismanagement.”

In the opinion piece, Nichols claimed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government allocates taxpayer funds for goods and services that are never delivered “because the very same funds are disbursed into someone’s private account.

“There are people getting rich, many of them Zimbabwe’s political elites, as the economy continues to deteriorate around them and the Zimbabwean people suffer from crippling shortages of food, electricity, clean water and medicine. It’s not sanctions, it’s unmitigated greed.”

He cited state-sponsored violence as crippling the nation.

“… Seventeen people died during mass protests in January. There were 17 reports of rape or sexual assault and police arrested more than 1,000 people in dragnet arrests in January and February. All of these reports allege police or military officers were the offenders. It’s not sanctions, it’s state-sanctioned violence.”

But Zanu PF secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, told VOA Studio 7 the “sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by America and its allies are devastating the nation.

“Personally, I have millions of dollars that were seized by the American government. We have a lot of economic challenges due to these sanctions. They are not targeted sanctions but sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe because they are affecting everybody.”

Zanu PF in conjunction with the Southern African Development Community are on Friday expected to stage protests over the targeted sanctions, saying they are devastating Zimbabwe.

The United States implemented the targeted sanctions program in 2003 as a result of the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons undermining democratic institutions and processes in Zimbabwe, according to the U.S. Embassy Harare’s website.

Since 1980, the United States has contributed US$3,2 billion in assistance to the Zimbabwean people, and is the country’s largest bilateral donor in health and humanitarian assistance to the population.

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