ABUJA, Nigeria – The Zimbabwean envoy to Nigeria, Ambassador Maxwell Ranga tells select journalists that it was time to remove the sanctions imposed on his country 20 years ago by the western world. Michael Olugbode brings the excerpts:
Your Excellency, for many years now, your country, Zimbabwe, has been under sanctions from the European Union and the United States of America. For those who may not know, why were the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe?
The rationale for the imposition of sanctions 20 years ago was primarily given as ‘concern for rule of law and human rights violations and concern at the overall state of governance in Zimbabwe’. The decision by western governments to isolate Zimbabwe both diplomatically and economically was triggered by the implementation of Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme in 2000.
In 2001, the United States imposed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA). In 2002, the European Union also imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. Both sets of sanctions have been renewed at the beginning of every year since that time. The most recent renewal occurred in February 2021 by the European Union and in March 2021 by the United States. In addition to ZIDERA, the United States issued a Presidential Executive Order in 2003, declaring “a national emergency” and characterising the “actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe” as constituting an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”
The world has long been told that these sanctions were mainly targeted at a few individuals accused of human rights violations. We were also told that the sanctions had no real impact on economic development or on the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans. In your experience, what has been the impact of these sanctions?
Contrary to claims that the sanctions are “targeted” at a few individuals, the coercive measures continue to have a markedly negative impact beyond the so-called “targeted” few. Sanctions have seriously undermined Zimbabwe’s credibility, its national image, its ability to engage and interact and the ability of Zimbabwean companies, small, medium and large, to trade and transact beyond its borders. The cumulative effect of 20 years of sanctions has been immense, impacting very negatively on all sectors of the Zimbabwean economy and its people, and severely undermining progress towards the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The sanctions have resulted in the suspension of balance of payments support; interception and/or seizure of mineral export revenues; reduced access to international markets; disruption of diaspora remittances to Zimbabwe; an estimated US$21 billion has been lost in potential revenue over the 20 years of isolation; the damaging negative publicity about Zimbabwe has resulted in low tourist arrivals to the country. The list of negative impacts of sanctions is long and these are just some of the few challenges we faced as a country.
You say that the sanctions have caused untold suffering to ordinary Zimbabweans and hampered the Government’s development agenda. However, they have been in place for about 20 years now. In that time, what has the Government of Zimbabwe done to ensure the removal of these sanctions?
Since the advent of the Second Republic, in November 2017, the Government of President E.D. Mnangagwa has made a sustained and serious effort to introduce deep-rooted and wide-ranging economic, political and legislative reforms. These reforms are aimed at correcting past errors and to set the country on a new trajectory towards more fully inclusive, sustained economic growth and development, to further entrench democracy, good governance and rule of law, and to improve the lives and livelihoods of all who have made Zimbabwe their home. This development and reform agenda by the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe would have been faster and broader had it not been for the constraints and impediments caused by the gruelling sanctions.
Despite all the sanctions and negative publicity, Zimbabwe is still a force to reckon with in global politics, particularly on the African continent. Apart from SADC countries, why are there no other African countries making noise about lifting sanctions on Zimbabwe?
It would be unfair and incorrect to say that there are no other African countries making noise about lifting sanctions against Zimbabwe. Africa as a collective, under the Umbrella of the African Union has made a loud and united call for the immediate and unconditional removal of the illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe. Several Heads of State and Government have used various platforms, including at the United Nations General Assembly to make the call for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe. We feel the full support of our African brothers in this regard. As regards to SADC, the region has been unequivocal, uncompromising, and unrelenting in its call for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe because the impact of the sanctions is felt more keenly within the region, particularly in the neighbouring countries. SADC has had to bear with us, the burden of the sanctions due to their proximity to Zimbabwe. Our cries are the loudest as we are the most affected. The call for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe has not only been limited to our African brothers and sisters. Several friendly nations across the world including China and others who appreciate the efforts the Government of Zimbabwe have made towards reconciliation and re-engagement and who believe, like us that the sanctions are unjustified and irrelevant to the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe, have also called for their removal.
Has the Nigerian Government supported Zimbabwe in the anti-sanctions campaign?
Again, it would be unfair to single out Nigeria. I have already stated that the African Union is fully behind the calls to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe. Nigeria, within the context of the African Union, is fully supportive of this campaign as it has always been when it comes to Zimbabwe. Nigeria gave us financial and moral support during our struggle for independence and has remained a very strong supporter of Zimbabwe. Their support is unquestionable.
Given that there was a transition of power, what is the new Government doing to re-engage with estranged nations, especially the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom?
The Government of Zimbabwe, under the leadership of His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, has made engagement and re-engagement a centrepiece of its foreign policy. The President always says that we should be a friend to all and enemy to none. In fact, the theme of our campaign this year is, “Friend to All, Enemy to None: Forging Ahead and Enhancing Innovation and Productivity in Adversity of Sanctions.” As I stated earlier, the Government of Zimbabwe has made several wide-ranging economic, political and legislative reforms for the betterment of society and as a way to address concerns raised by some of these countries who placed sanctions on Zimbabwe. In addition, the Zimbabwe Government has opened dialogue with these countries to see where we can reason together and re-establish the cordial relations we once enjoyed.
We do not feel that there is any reason to continue hostilities and that whatever issues that remain can always be negotiated and dealt with cordially. Sanctions in themselves are an abrasive tool meant to punish Zimbabwe for a crime it did not commit. We have made overtures at re-engagement, and we are happy that those countries which previously would not sit at the table with us to discuss these issues are now doing so. We remain dismayed, however, that despite our best efforts towards dialogue and the reforms we continuously make, the sanctions keep getting renewed year after year.
Diplomatically what do you think should be the way forward? Do you have any final words regarding the issue of removal of sanctions against your country?
We believe that dialogue is the way forward. We believe that one good turn deserves another and that based on the reforms and overtures the Government of Zimbabwe has made in recent years to address the concerns raised by the sanctioning countries, it is high time that they also reciprocated the hand of friendship by removing the sanctions. We are grateful for the support that we continue to receive from SADC and others in this campaign for justice and fairness. We can never tire until we are free from these unjustified and illegal sanctions that have caused and continue to cause so much suffering to our people. To the United States, The United Kingdom and the European Union, we say Zimbabwe desires to be a friend to all and enemy to none. Come let us reason together.
Source: This Day