China has joined African countries in pushing the United States and other Western governments to end their two decades-long economic blockade against Zimbabwe, arguing that it has brought the economy of the country to its knees.
Beijing, along with the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other African countries this week issued a strong-worded solidarity messages as Zimbabwe marked its ‘Anti-Sanctions Day’ on October 25.
SADC in 2018 set aside October 25 to lobby against the embargo that was imposed during the Robert Mugabe era for alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud.
Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson, described the sanctions against Zimbabwe as “illegitimate and unilateral.”
“We once again solemnly call on certain organisations, including the US, to lift illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe as soon as possible and focus more on helping Zimbabweans fight the Covid-19 pandemic and resume economic development and play a constructive role in promoting Africa’s peace and development,” Mr Wang said.
AU chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the continental body was demanding the “immediate and unconditional removal of sanctions imposed against the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
Mr Mahamat said he remained “concerned by the negative impacts of continued sanctions on the country’s socio-economic development and recovery efforts.”
He said the AU will continue working “closely with SADC to support all regional efforts” in fighting against the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
SADC chairperson and Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera while urging Western countries to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe, urged the country to engage in “constructive dialogue with a view to consolidating the rule of law, democracy, governance and human rights.”
“It is only through such exchanges that better appreciation of concerns of all parties could be secured and progress towards their resolution be achieved,” President Chakwera said.
Hurting ordinary people
He urged Western countries to “support Zimbabwe’s efforts towards implementing her reform agenda.”
Alena Douhan, a United Nations special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, this week also called for an end to the embargo against Zimbabwe after a 10-day fact finding mission in the country.
“The US and other states should lift their sanctions on targeted individuals and entities and end over-compliance,” Pro Douhan from Belarus said in her preliminary report.
“The time is ripe for sanctioning states and key national stakeholders to engage in meaningful structured dialogue on political reform, human rights and the rule of law, and abandon rhetoric on sanctions as an advocacy tool.”
The US first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in March 2003 and later widened them to include about 250 individuals linked to then president Robert Mugabe for allegedly undermining democracy.
US sanctions against Zimbabwe also prohibit Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with people or government-linked institutions on a sanctions list that is reviewed annually.
On the other hand, the European Union in 2002 imposed a travel ban on Mugabe and dozen other government officials following a disputed presidential election. Only the long-time ruler’s widow, Grace Mugabe, and the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries remain on the EU sanctions list.
US, EU and other Western missions in Zimbabwe issued statements denying accusations that the sanctions were hurting ordinary people.
The Western countries insist that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government must implement political and economic reforms for the sanctions to be removed.
Jim Risch, a member of the US Senate foreign relations committee, said Washington was not moved by the ‘’rhetoric’’ on the Zimbabwe sanctions.
“Another year, another hollow anti-sanctions campaign from the government of Zimbabwe, full of rhetoric instead of change,” tweeted Senator Risch in response to a speech by President Mnangagwa to mark the country’s Anti-Sanctions Day on October 25.
“The US is consistent and clear about the path to better relations.
“Stop the corruption. Stop the human rights abuses. Pursue real political and economic reform,” he added.
President Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe following a military coup in 2017, is accused of going back on his promises to “restore democracy” Zimbabwe.
Several Zimbabwean security chiefs and a business tycoon linked to the president have in recent months been slapped with sanctions by the US and the United Kingdowm for alleged corruption and human rights violations.