The Sunday Mail
Dr Norbert Hosho
THIS week I continue to unpack the book “Sanctions Against Zimbabwe: Debilitating effects, resilience in adversity and envisioned way forward”, launched by the Zimbabwe Anti-Sanctions Trust (ZAST) on October 25, 2022 at a local hotel. The book comes in the form of a white paper. This week’s instalment is drawn from Part 1 of the book and covers the history of sanctions and contextualisation of sanctions in Zimbabwe.
History of sanctions
Economic sanctions are not a new phenomenon in the world. They have existed since the ancient Greek. They were first employed when Athens embargoed Megara in 432 BC and triggered a war between the two countries, which lasted for decades.
Economic sanctions were also used by Napoleon in the Continental System commencing in 1806, by Thomas Jefferson in the Embargo Act of 1807, and by the League of Nations against Italy in 1935.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1990, there has been an acceleration of sanctioning activity, which reflects their growing use by international organisations, as well as by the remaining world hegemony, the United States (US).
The application of sanctions on certain countries to achieve desired political and economic outcomes has continued.
These largely consist of imposition of embargoes, trade and financial restrictions and diplomatic isolation.
In the recent past, the scope of sanctions has widened to include elements not directly linked to trade and commerce. Examples are culture and sport.
Contextualisation of sanctions in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s economy is failing to realise its full potential due to sanctions imposed by the US, the United Kingdom (UK), Australia and the European Union (EU). The Land Reform Programme implemented in Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium triggered the imposition of so-called targeted sanctions.
In 2001, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) gave birth to the US sanctions programme against Zimbabwe. ZIDERA is opposed to giving bilateral debt relief and assistance to Zimbabwe. The EU, in 2002, joined the US, and slapped Zimbabwe with the so-called “targeted” measures on pro-ruling party entities, business figures, journalists and military personnel.
According to Joseph Kurebwa (2019), when targeted sanctions are directed against political leaders and Government officials of a particular country, vulnerable groups of society are the ones that suffer and not the targeted group.
It is imperative to highlight that sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are basically aimed at influencing political decisions, although those behind the measures claim to be seeking to restore democracy and economic recovery. The sanctions in Zimbabwe are simply a game of politics.
The US and EU sanctions on Zimbabwe are illegal and unjustified because they violate Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, which states that sanctions can only be decided by the UN Security Council (UNSC). Any unilateral measures taken by an individual state without the approval of a UNSC resolution are illegal in nature because they infringe upon states’ right to economic and social development.
Cognisant of this, the UN General Assembly has passed a resolution that calls upon all states not to recognise unilateral extra-territorial coercive economic measures or legislative acts imposed by any country.
Unilateral sanctions imposed against natural and legal persons in Zimbabwe, as well as secondary sanctions and extensive over-compliance by banks and third-country companies, raise serious concerns about their correspondence with international legal standards.
While recognising that states may freely vote in international organisations in line with their foreign policies, it is perturbing that the instruction from ZIDERA to US executive directors of international financial institutions is to oppose extending any loan, credit or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe.
The UN Special Rapporteur on sanctions, in 2021, considered that the state of national emergency announced by the US government on March 7 2003, in Executive Order 13288, as grounds for introducing sanctions against Zimbabwe, does not correspond to the requirements of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These rights include the existence of a threat to the life of the nation, limiting of measures to the exigencies of the situation, a limited duration and absence of discrimination.
It is noteworthy that the listing of high-ranking State officials, and the possibility to designate property or companies they own or control, affect nearly all economic sectors.
Imposing high fines on companies and banks for dealing with designated individuals or property they control, based on payments in US dollars, results in increasing reputational risks.
Conclusively, the notion of “targeted sanctions” in Zimbabwe is null and void, as the measures cannot, in practice, be isolated from the negative consequences of secondary sanctions, civil and criminal penalties for circumvention of sanctions regimes, zero-risk policies and over-compliance.
The cumulative effect of these is an important factor undermining the capacity of the Government of Zimbabwe to exercise its duty to maintain the functioning of critical infrastructure, to achieve sustainable development goals, and to ensure the enjoyment of fundamental human rights.
The writer, Dr Norbert Hosho, is the president and founder of ZAST, an educationist and trainer in financial literacy, economic empowerment and entrepreneurial leadership. He can be contacted on +263773115890 or email [email protected] or [email protected]