SOUTHERN African countries are rallying behind Zimbabwe’s push for the lifting of what they term an illegal economic embargo imposed by Western countries on Harare, arguing that the impact of the sanctions is being felt across the region.
Zimbabwe has been under sanctions from the US, European Union (EU), the United Kingdom and their allies for the last two decades over alleged human rights violations.
Other countries that still maintain a sanctions regime against Zimbabwe include Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Harare contends that the sanctions were imposed as punishment for its land reform programme under the late Robert Mugabe that displaced nearly 4,000 white Zimbabwean commercial farmers from the year 2000 onwards.
In 2019, Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries set aside October 25 each year to collectively call for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe and this week the region has been sending solidarity messages to buttress calls for the removal of the embargo.
The SADC Group of Ambassadors and High Commissioners in Nairobi, Kenya, in their solidarity message said the sanctions had negatively impacted Zimbabwe’s economy.
“We reiterate that SADC’s clarion call against the illegal and destructive sanctions against Zimbabwe will continue, calling for the country to be allowed to develop politically and socio-economically in an enabling environment,” the diplomats said.
“The international community must be made aware that the sanctions against Zimbabwe have severely hindered its economic growth through limited access to international financing trade, negatively affecting the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.
“It is our belief that it is only through unity of purpose and collective advocacy for the lifting of these sanctions, that they will be lifted sooner rather than later.”
The diplomats said Zimbabwe’s economic growth was closely linked with that of its SADC neighbours, which meant that the effects of the sanctions were felt throughout the region.
Read: African leaders at UNGA call for end to Zimbabwe sanctions
Zimbabwe’s unending economic problems have seen its citizens leaving the country in droves in search of better opportunities in neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia.
South Africa’s 2022 census report released early this month showed that there were 1. 012 million Zimbabweans living in that country, constituting 45 percent of the migrant population.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously pleaded with Western countries to lift the sanctions against Zimbabwe to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into his country, which has been experiencing bouts of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals.
Read: Ramaphosa: Zimbabwean migrants a burden to SA
SADC leaders are expected to hold a virtual summit on Wednesday to offer Zimbabwe solidarity.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe will commemorate the day by holding marches to lobby for the removal of the sanctions.
In its last annual review of its embargo in December 2022 where it removed 17 individuals from the sanctions list and added four people as well two entities, the US said: “the Zimbabwe sanctions programme targets human rights abusers and those who undermine democratic processes or facilitate corruption.”
“Sanctions are not intended to be permanent, but to incentivise changes in behaviour,” the US said.
“US sanctions do not target the Zimbabwean people, the country of Zimbabwe or Zimbabwe’s banking sector.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power six years ago after a military coup that toppled Mr Mugabe, had made reengagement with the West his main priority but he achieved very little in his first term in office.
Western countries expressed their frustration over the slow pace of reforms under the 81 year-old ruler’s watch and are increasingly alarmed by the intensifying clampdown against government critics through arrests, draconian laws and abductions.
Zimbabwe’s chaotic elections in August, which was condemned by EU and African observer missions as not meeting international standards, made the situation worse and observers expect the embargoes to be tightened when they come up for review in December and early next year. – The East African