Southern Africa Urges International Community to Remove Economic Sanctions on Zimbabwe

Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, known for his anti-corruption stance, but also his growing politically repressive, authoritarian regime, has called for a lift of “illegal” economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the end of the 39th Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit of Heads of State and Government, in the capital of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, he said: “As we are all aware, this brotherly and sisterly country has been on sanctions for a long time.

These sanctions have not only affected the people of Zimbabwe and their Government but our entire [Southern African] region,” he continued.

“It is like a human body: when you chop one of its parts, it affects the whole body. Therefore, I would like to seize this opportunity to urge the international community to lift up sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe. This brotherly country, after all, has now opened a new chapter and it is ready to engage with the rest of the world.

It is, therefore, I believe, in the interest of all parties concerned to see these sanctions removed. In this respect, I wish also to urge all SADC member states to continue to speak with one voice on the issue of Zimbabwe.”

The SADC hopes to lobby the African Union chairperson, Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to address the sanctions at the 74th United Nations General Assembly in September 2019.

The Zimbabwean government, earlier this year, claimed that drought and climate change had affected its economy. It sought out $331.5 million in food aid, to offset the effects of drought and Cyclone Idai. In total, the country appealed for $613 million of humanitarian aid from local and foreign donors, including the US.

The executive secretary of the SADC, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, claimed that the sanctions are suppressing economic growth in Zimbabwe and the Southern African region. In a communiqué, read out loud during the summit, Dr Tax called for the “immediate lifting of sanctions to facilitate socio-economic recovery in the country.”

“Paying for it”

In 2000, former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, seized farms from thousands of farmers in Zimbabwe, forcing many to leave the country.

If white settlers just took the land from us without paying for it, we can, in a similar way, just take it from them without paying for it,” he said. Mugabe’s controversial plans exacerbated long racial and colonial tension between Zimbabwe and Britain.

Two years after seizing white-owned land, the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002, by Common Position 2002/145/CFSP. The EU claimed that these sanctions were “in relation to the escalation of violence and intimidation of political opponents and the harassment of the independent press.” The sanctions included an arms embargo, an asset freeze and a travel ban on targeted people and entities. It was later amended to Council Regulation (EC) No 314/2004 and Council Decision 2011/101/CFSP.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 2011, President Mugabe addressed the EU-imposed sanctions.

When we in Zimbabwe sought to redress the ills of colonialism and racism by fully acquiring our natural resources, mainly our land and minerals, we were, and still are, subjected to unparalleled vilification and pernicious economic sanctions, the false reasons alleged being violations of the rule of law, human rights and democracy,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s people condemned those illegal sanctions, and thanked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union for demanding their immediate removal. Africans were also concerned about the International Criminal Court, which seemed to exist only for alleged offenders of the developing world, the majority of them Africans. Leaders of powerful Western States guilty of international crimes were routinely ignored, thereby eroding the Court’s credibility.

Amidst calls to remove the West’s “illegal” sanctions against Zimbabwe, the SADC leaders also signed three Development Cooperation Programmes with the EU. The programmes include: Support to Improving the Investment and Business Environment (SIBE), Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP), and Support to Industrialisation and Productive Sectors (SIPS). They are totalled at €47million over a five year period.