Fungi Kwaramba in NEW YORK
ON the grandest diplomatic stage where more than 200 world leaders are meeting for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA77), Zimbabwe’s story of resilience under the bane of illegal sanctions has been top of the list on the agenda of African leaders who are all agreed that the coercive measures should go immediately.
There is unity among African leaders, who, reading from the same script, have told the United States, on its doorsteps here in New York, that sanctions are an “injustice”, regressive, and a blunt tool to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation by powerful nations.
The outrage from fellow African states has found expression in the corridors of the UN, with countries like South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the mother body, the African Union, all calling for the immediate removal of the unjust economic measures.
This is because, since imposition at the turn of the millennium, the sanctions have cost Zimbabwe dearly.
According to a forensic audit by Professor Alena Douhan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the effects of the unilateral sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West, the effects of the sanctions have been devastating.
Because of the sanctions, foreign companies and banks are unwilling to do business with the public sector in Zimbabwe, preventing the Government from getting revenue for the exercise of its public functions and provision of essential services, resulting in the violation of labour and social rights of people involved in the public sector, whose salaries are reported to be much lower than in the private sphere.
This has led to rising unemployment, especially among the most qualified professionals, including engineers, doctors, teachers, university professors, judges, and police officers.
Unilateral sanctions have also prevented the Government from using resources to develop and maintain essential infrastructure, disaster response plans, and social support programmes, which has a devastating effect on the whole population of Zimbabwe, especially those in extreme poverty, women, young people, children, medical workers and people with disabilities or life-threatening or chronic diseases, particularly in rural areas.
As a result, progressive African countries have taken a stand against the measures that have also had a ruinous effect on social services such as the health and education sectors.
Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chair and Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on Wednesday called on the UN to “do everything possible to achieve the immediate lifting of sanctions against the Republic of Zimbabwe and its people”.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Tshisekedi also questioned why the global body seemed “so silent” and “indifferent” to an injustice and a crime against innocent people.
“In the name of international solidarity and justice, we do have questions over the maintenance of sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“These sanctions which, what’s more, date back to the era of the late President Robert Mugabe. Why is our organisation so silent and so indifferent to this injustice, almost a crime against innocent people?
“As the current chair of Sadc, I firmly call upon the United Nations to do everything possible to achieve the immediate lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe”.
In his maiden address to UNGA, Kenyan President William Ruto said sanctions violate fundamental human rights.
“There might never be a more opportune time to revisit the practice of unilateral coercive actions, which often violate fundamental tenets of a rule-based international order, such as those imposed on Zimbabwe and Cuba.
“Apart from undermining the sovereign equality of nations, they also indiscriminately punish the general citizenry, reserving their bitterest sting for innocent hustlers and the vulnerable. This compounds injustice and worsens suffering”.
In financial terms, Zimbabwe has lost more than US$100 billion because of the sanctions, which have also triggered migrations to other countries, led to unnecessary deaths, and unemployment among other negative effects.
Echoing the same line, South African International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor, in her address to UNGA on Wednesday, said sanctions have battered ordinary Zimbabweans.
“South Africa calls for an end to the embargo against Cuba, which continues to impede the right to development of her people. In the same vein, we call for an end to Unilateral Coercive Measures (UCM) against Zimbabwe, which have compounded the problems experienced by the people of Zimbabwe,” she said.
Apart from groaning from the yoke of economic sanctions, Zimbabwe is also grappling with climate change, geopolitical shifts, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means that the sanctions are a crime against ordinary Zimbabweans as Zimbabwe is currently forced to deal with coercive measures that limit access to lines of credit that are accessible to its peers.
Yesterday, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi also railed against sanctions, saying although Zimbabweans have been resilient, the coercive measures imposed by the US and its allies impend progress for Zimbabwe to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, African Union Chairperson and Senegalese President Macky Sall said sanctions undermine Zimbabwe’s right to self-determination.
“The AU once again calls for the lifting of foreign sanctions against Zimbabwe. These harsh measures continue to feel a sense of injustice against an entire people and aggravate their suffering in these times of deep crisis,” he said.
The call for the removal of the illegal embargo comes just a few days after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his deliberations with US President Joe Biden in Washington DC last week, said the illegal embargo has not only affected but the entire SADC region which has set aside the 25th of October as the SADC Anti-Sanctions Day.