Sanctions hurting Zimbabwe — UN report

SANF 21 no 49 – by Clarkson Mambo
Zimbabwe’s ability to develop its economy and improve the socio-economic lives of its citizens continues to be hindered by the imposition of illegal sanctions against the country.

As such, there is need for the immediate and unconditional lifting of western sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe two decades ago.

These are some of the findings and recommendations by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur, Aleana Douha, who was in Zimbabwe from 18 to 28 October on a fact-finding mission to look into the negative impact of the sanctions.

Zimbabwe has grappled with economic sanctions since 2002 when the United States through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) imposed an embargo on the country in response to the land reform programme and the leading role played by Zimbabwe in the SADC intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 in support of the government there.

Other western countries including the United Kingdom and the European Union also imposed targeted sanctions on specific government officials and companies. These have however been gradually reviewed overtime following reengagement efforts.

However, in her report, the UN Special Rapporteur, Douhan said sanctions violated international law and Zimbabwe did not have to comply with them.

“Over the last 20 years, sanctions and various forms of over compliance with sanctions have had an insidious ripple effect on the economy of Zimbabwe, and on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including access to health, food, safe drinking water and sanitation, education and employment,” she said.

“This situation also limits Zimbabwe’s ability to guarantee the functioning of public institutions, delivery of services, and maintenance of essential infrastructure, and undermines the right to development of the Zimbabwean people and impedes the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.”

According to the findings, the sanctions had a long list of negative repercussions on Zimbabwe’s economy, which she said, had over time been hanged to dry.

For example, in 2001, the country recorded a historic low in official development assistance of US$160 million, while there was also an exodus of private businesses from the country.

Zimbabwe continues to struggle to access international funding due to high reputational risks, and in the few cases it does get, the loans are at a premium interest rate of more than seven percent per year, while other countries are getting them at 0.5 percent per annum.

“Zimbabwe was thus abandoned to its own mercy, unable to access international aid and financing for many years, and it was expelled from the global financial markets,” Douhan said, adding that sanctions hindered Zimbabweans from fully enjoying their human rights.

Violation of fundamental human rights as “collateral damage”, was unacceptable, Douhan said.

The findings by the UN Special Rapporteur dovetail assertions by the SADC chairperson, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi who said “the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, whether targeted or restrictive, are a fundamental constraint and hindrance to the country’s prospects of economic recovery, human security and sustainable growth. “

“There is no doubt that this lifting will facilitate socio-economic recovery, and enable Zimbabwe meet her national and regional economic development plans as well as effectively manage her international obligations,” President Chakwera said in his message to commemorate the SADC Anti-Sanctions Day on 25 October.

The Anti-Sanctions Day was declared by the 39th SADC Summit as the date on which all SADC Member States can collectively voice their disapproval of the sanctions through various activities and platforms until the sanctions are lifted.

President Chakwera said the sanctions coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and recent cyclones in December 2020 and in February 2021, socio-economic pressures continue to mount on livelihoods of the people of Zimbabwe.

“The sanctions increase the perception of Zimbabwe as being in a high-risk profile category, thereby diminishing the credibility of investment and investor confidence, while exacerbating investment risks,” he said, adding that “this further diminishes the country’s prospects of obtaining impactful foreign direct investment and serves as a deterrent for economic emancipation, growth and stability.”

The African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat also added his voice, saying the AU “remains concerned by the negative impact of the continued sanctions against Zimbabwe to the country’s socio-economic development efforts.”

The UN Special Rapporteur, Douhan is expected to present a public report on the Zimbabwe visit to the UN Human Rights Council during its 51st Session scheduled for September 2022.

Her fact-finding mission to the country follows a Human Rights Council resolution 34/13 which stresses that unilateral coercive measures and legislation are contrary to international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among states.

The resolution highlights that these sanctions in the long-term result in social problems and raise humanitarian concerns in the targeted countries.

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