The Sunday Mail
Last week, the world watched history unfold at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, US, when Africa closed ranks and determinedly fought in Zimbabwe’s corner.
Since the enactment of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) in December 2001, there was never a time at the UN when different voices from all over the continent, one after the other, called for America, Britain and the United States to lift their unilateral coercive measures.
It helped add oomph to earlier findings and recommendations contained in the final report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Professor Alena Douhan, who noted that sanctions were infringing on human rights.
But at the UN last week, the message was clear: It is long past time for sanctions to be removed.
Leading from the front was African Union chairperson and Senegalese President Macky Sall, who said the measures aggravate “suffering in these times of deep crisis”.
It should not be forgotten that the world – developing and developed countries alike – is grappling with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and climate change. The United States and Europe’s economies are highly likely to plunge into recession, highlighting the magnitude of the crises that currently afflict the world.
So, Zimbabwe has had to contend with all these challenges, and more.
In the circumstances, it is only reasonable for the man-made challenge in the form of sanctions to be removed in order to give ordinary and innocent Zimbabweans – most of whom bear the brunt the most – a good fighting chance. This makes SADC chairperson and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s exhortation to the UN “to do everything possible to achieve the immediate lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe” both relevant and timely.
South Africa, Kenya, Namibia and Botswana similarly lent their voices to this clarion call. The message could not have been clearer for the US, whose President Joe Biden hosted South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on September 16, where the issue of sanctions was again on the table. Of course, we are mindful of the diplomatic work behind the scenes, which gathered momentum at the SADC Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in August 2019.
In Zimbabwe, over the past two decades, we have keenly felt the deleterious impact of sanctions.
We have seen industries close and many of our people laid off.
We have seen many companies failing to access international lines of credit and now have to resort to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s foreign currency auction for succour.
We have also seen our currency collapse at the turn of the millennium.
The vicious cycle of an under-performing economy, low unemployment and de-industrialisation has had a far-reaching socio-economic impact.
And all this is outlined in granular detail in Prof Douhan’s report. But the Second Republic has been a breath of fresh air and a source of hope. For the first time since the beginning of wheat farming in the 1960s, Zimbabwe has grown more than enough of the cereal to meet local demand. Exports continue to grow exponentially, generating the much-needed forex at a time when the global economy is slowing down.
More and more investments continue to be made to upgrade the country’s infrastructure and social services.
The underprivileged are now receiving the attention and support they need and deserve.
All this is being supported from internally generated resources, including assistance from cooperating partners that have stood by Zimbabwe through thick and thin.
But the country can do more if only its hands were not tied.
This is precisely what Namibian President Hage Geingob emphasised in his presentation at the UN last week when he said: “Why are the sanctions in place for a country which is making progress at all levels? President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the people of Zimbabwe have made laudable progress and reforms, which should be given a chance to succeed without the weight of sanctions.”
The progress in instituting far-reaching and people-centred reforms has been there for all to see over the past four years. Many countries are beginning to see in Zimbabwe a country that is prepared to be a friend to all and an enemy to none.
What we witnessed last week was a continent that is united in lobbying for illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe to be removed.
Africa has spoken and the West must listen. As we draw towards October 25, which has been designated by SADC as Anti-Sanctions Day, the calls are likely to grow louder and strident.
There will come a time when maintaining the sanctions, especially in these challenging times for the world, would not only be untenable, but grossly unreasonable, callous, inhumane and evil.