BEIJING – China has hit out at the United States for maintaining its 20-year-old sanctions against Zimbabwe, saying the embargo has damaged the southern African country’s economy.
Beijing issued the rebuke on Monday as Zimbabwe observed ‘Anti-Sanctions Day’, set aside by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to be marked every year on October 25.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing that the US and other Western countries must lift their sanctions ‘immediately’ to help Zimbabwe fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The illegitimate sanctions on Zimbabwe by the US and some other Western countries have been in place for 20 years,” Mr Wang said.
“They have gravely hobbled Zimbabwe’s capability to develop economically and improve people’s livelihoods and hampered southern Africa’s efforts to deepen cooperation and enhance economic development.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government held marches in cities and towns across Zimbabwe to mark Anti-Sanctions Day as it called for the removal of what it says is an illegal embargo.
This year’s events coincided with the presence in the country of the United Nations special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights, Alena Douhan, who is on a fact-finding mission.
The US, United Kingdom and European Union (EU) missions used the day to push back against claims by Harare that their restrictive measures had impoverished the once prosperous country.
The US embassy in Harare said blaming sanctions was a convenient scapegoat to distract Zimbabweans from the real reasons behind the economic collapse, which they said include corruption, economic mismanagement and failure to uphold the rule of law.
“Billions of dollars have been lost due to corruption and harmful economic policies, which have culminated in the current economic crisis,” the embassy said in a series of tweets.
“Zimbabwe has had both prosperity and difficulty during the life of the targeted sanctions programme.
“Implementation of economic and political reforms are key to improving Zimbabwe’s trajectory.”
The EU said its measures only affected late former president Robert Mugabe and his wife, who were on a travel embargo, and the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
“The EU has not imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe,” the EU mission in Zimbabwe said.
“The only operation restrictive measures relate to defence and arms: a ban for EU companies to do business with Zimbabwe Defence Industries and an arms embargo. There are no other trade or economic restrictive measures.”
The US imposed sanctions against dozens of Zimbabwean politicians, politically connected businessmen and security chiefs linked to rights abuses.
After pulling out of the EU, the UK also started imposing sanctions on Zimbabwean security chiefs accused of human rights violations and a businessman that London said was corruptly benefiting from government tenders.