ZIMBABWE commemorated the Sadc Anti-Sanctions Day yesterday with calls for the removal of the “unjustified sanctions” growing louder.
The sanctions, imposed at the turn of the millennium, seem not to have served their purpose. In fact, there has been collateral damage on the ordinary citizens as the intended targets of the sanctions have come out unscathed.
The sanctions have created local heroes in which being placed under an embargo becomes a badge of honour.
They have also created a thriving industry: sanctions busting that has turned politically-connected people into overnight millionaires.
While this class calls for the removal of sanctions during the day, it is rubbing its hands with glee in the night as the embargo has left them smiling all the way to the bank.
A diplomat said last week that his country was seeking a new thrust as “shouting at each other with Zimbabwe” has not brought the desired results for the past 23 years.
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In fact, it was an admission that there are no winners.
The Sadc Anti-Sanctions Day was declared in 2019 as the bloc pressed western capitals to remove the embargo whose effects are now felt in the region, adding pressure to the already burdened fiscus.
Sadc chairman and Angola President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço said yesterday that the bloc’s appeal for the immediate lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe “rests on the backdrop of growing concern over the impact these sanctions continue to have on the country and the Sadc region.
Over 1 million Zimbabweans are scattered in the region, with the bulk in South Africa, escaping the deteriorating economic environment in which sanctions is one of the significant contributory factors.
In her report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan, said extraterritorial secondary sanctions and reported threats to and penalties imposed on banks in third countries for breach of sanctions regimes have fuelled de-risking policies and growing overcompliance, preventing the public and private sectors in Zimbabwe from conducting business efficiently.
She heard testimonies which noted that foreign companies and banks were suspending business in Zimbabwe, divesting themselves of their interests and moving funds out of the country shortly after the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act was enacted by the US government in 2001.
“Penalties imposed on national and international banks further aggravated de-risking and overcompliance, facilitating the departure of 87 correspondent banks from Zimbabwe. Currently, only a handful of entities are given permission to act as correspondents: reportedly six out of 27 commercial banks,” Douhan said.
She said the US Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed large fines up to US$$3,8 billion on various banks in Zimbabwe and intercepted US$4,1 million from a public agency focusing on industrial investments.
The situation, Douhan said, was compounded by the perception of Zimbabwe as a designated country which creates “reputational risks for Zimbabwean companies and nationals and impeding them from opening or holding bank accounts, which has reportedly occurred in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States”.
The Sadc Anti-Sanction Day is a time for Zimbabwe to reflect and work on shedding the “bad boy tag”.
Adherence to rule of law, human rights and combating corruption is not a tall order. The resurgence of abductions, post-poll violence and misgovernance are also sanctions on Zimbabwe. They too, must go.