HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – The massive march that Zimbabwe’s government tried to rouse for a new anti-sanctions public holiday appeared to fizzle on Friday, with hundreds of people turning out in the capital, Harare.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government blames years of U.S. sanctions for devastating economic conditions including galloping inflation and severe shortages of basic goods and services.
The U.S denies that sanctions against selected entities and officials, including Mnangagwa, are responsible for the southern African nation’s crisis. Washington blames corruption, mismanagement and human rights violations instead, and it says the U.S. is the biggest provider of humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, whose 300% inflation is the second highest in the world after Venezuela’s.
The sanctions were imposed over alleged human rights violations amid troubled elections and the seizures of white-owned land.
Mnangagwa, who took office after longtime leader Robert Mugabe was forced out in late 2017, at first urged Zimbabweans to “stop mourning” about sanctions. He has since turned the sanctions into a rallying cry like his predecessor and frequently blames them for the collapsing economy as hopes fade he will revive the country’s fortunes.
Marchers on Friday carried signs saying “Sanctions must go now” and “Sanctions are a crime against humanity.” Hundreds of other people, including children in school uniform, were bussed to the national stadium for festivities such as a soccer match and an all-night concert.
Zimbabwe also has rallied regional neighbors to support its fight to have the sanctions lifted. Neighboring South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said its secretary general Ace Magashule would join an anti-sanctions “picket” at a popular border crossing.
The European Union, which also came under criticism from some at the rally, said it has not imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. “Our restrictive measures comprise of a travel ban and asset freeze against former presidential couple, a ban for European companies to do business with Zimbabwe Defense Industries, and an arms embargo. That’s all,” the EU mission tweeted.