Beaven Dhliwayo Features Writer
The 39th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week made a bold collective decision when all the countries in the regional bloc resolved to declare October 25 as solidarity day against illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
SADC countries agreed that they will do various activities in their respective countries on the day and advocate for the removal of the Western-imposed sanctions which deterred economic growth in the country for almost two decades.
The European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) have been continuously calling for the renewal of sanctions despite the Second Republic’s drive for a new Zimbabwe cemented by economic and political reforms.
The country has been clear as it opened dialogue with the international community to re-engage and move forward in harmony.
The First Republic is a closed chapter and kudos to the SADC leaders for the solidarity and joining Zimbabwe in its repeated call for the removal of sanctions.
SADC Secretariat has also since been tasked to escalate the lobby with the current African Union chairperson, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who will be expected to raise the issue at the upcoming 74th United Nations General Assembly in September this year.
This is a welcome development for the country and it was long overdue.
A communiqué read by the SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, at the summit is clear on what ought to be done as the embargo was affecting economic growth in the country.
Dr Tax said the embargo was weighing down economic growth in both Zimbabwe and the region.
“Summit noted the adverse impact on the economy of Zimbabwe and the region at large of prolonged economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and expressed solidarity with Zimbabwe, and called for the immediate lifting of sanctions to facilitate socio-economic recovery in the country.
“Summit declared the 25 October as the date on which SADC member states can collectively voice their disapproval of the sanctions through various activities and platforms until the sanctions are lifted,” said Dr Tax.
It is high time the country is freed from the ruthless and selfish sanctions meant to instil banditry among the populace in a bid to effect regime change.
The fact is the problems that the country is facing literally face all countries in the region as no country in the bloc survives in isolation.
The United Nations should play an integral part in influencing the removal of illegal sanctions in Zimbabwe.
Sanctions, which the EU and US claim are targeting a few individuals and Government-owned companies, are affecting ordinary Zimbabweans, and of late, fellow African countries are feeling the heat of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
The Government is on record saying the embargo was not meant for individuals, but has demoralising impact on the whole nation.
Previous reports estimated US$42 billion losses were incurred because of the sanctions and the figure could have doubled.
At the beginning of this year, the Donald Trump-led US extended sanctions on the country by another year, with indications that they will keep renewing them, which sabotages the country’s new administration to improve the economy and move the country towards an upper-middle income economy by 2030.
A “Sanction Policy Statement” released by HSBC in April this year was clear that the sanctions are not targeting individuals and Government companies only, but even businesses operating in Zimbabwe.
HSBC Holdings is a British multinational banking and financial services holding company. It was the seventh largest bank in the world by 2018, and the largest in Europe, with total assets of US$2,558 trillion.
In a statement it said: “HSBC is committed to complying with the sanctions laws and regulations of the European Union, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States, as well as other applicable sanctions laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which HSBC operates, subject to the primacy of local laws and regulations.
“HSBC’s Global Sanctions Policy defines the minimum standards which all HSBC Group entities must comply with, including: Restricting certain business activity involving, directly or indirectly, countries or persons subject to more selective or targeted sanctions programmes.
“These sanctions apply (to) restrictions on some types of products or services or target certain industry sectors. As of January 2018, the selective country programmes prohibit transactions and services relating to the provision of funding to the Government of Belarus or Government of Zimbabwe,” reads part of the statement.
Without exhausting the contents of the sanctions policy statement, it is crystal clear that sanctions are meant to cripple the country’s economy as indicated by the prohibition of such a huge institution to provide funds to Zimbabwe.
Apart from blocking funding, sanctions also tarnish the country’s image, making it impossible for foreign investors to come and invest in the country.
These illegal sanctions came into play when the country implemented the land reform programme, which corrected colonial land ownership disparities, which favoured the whites over the black majority.
For instance, the US sanctions against Zimbabwe and other countries has become a blunt instrument for American foreign policy. At the same time, judging by the long list of countries included in the sanctions list of the White House, Washington is pleased with the effect of such restrictions and intends to apply them in future.
However, the efficiency and need of sanctions is constantly discussed, and most experts agree that the US sanctions policy is aimed at protecting its own, primarily economic interests and they have nothing to do with the protection of democracy and human rights.
The land reform programme remain the cause of the heavy penalties imposed on the country.
After meeting President Mnangagwa, new US Ambassador Brian Nichols mentioned “land tenure” as one of the areas on which the Americans want change.
Land has been at the base of the law since 2001.A central demand of the updated ZIDERA is that Zimbabwe must enforce the rulings of the SADC Tribunal on land reform.
In 2007, a group of white farmers represented by Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth, approached the regional court to appeal against their eviction under the land reform programme.
The SADC Tribunal made several important rulings in favour of the white farmers, which the US senators behind the new amended ZIDERA now want enforced as a precondition for re-engagement with the US.
According to the 2018 amended ZIDERA: “It is the sense of Congress that the Government of Zimbabwe and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should enforce the SADC Tribunal rulings from 2007 to 2010, including 18 disputes involving employment, commercial, and human rights cases surrounding dispossessed Zimbabwean commercial farmers and agricultural companies. The tribunal ruled that white farmers be compensated for the land lost.
However, Section 295 of the Constitution talks about compensation for “indigenous Zimbabweans” and those under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs).
White farmers are only “entitled to compensation from the State only for improvements that were on the land when it was acquired”.
Applying the SADC Tribunal ruling, as demanded by ZIDERA, would mean Zimbabwe paying for the land itself.
That is why the bold decision by the SADC leaders is timely and is the only way Zimbabwe can return to profitability.
President Mnangagwa is also bold on the land issue, making it clear that the agrarian reform is irreversible.
The SADC countries together with the African Union are now joining other countries such as China in condemning the harsh illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Guo Shaochun recently said China, as an all-weather friend of Zimbabwe, will continue supporting the country so that it transforms into an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
“We hope that through our joint efforts, we will be able to provide more support for Zimbabwe to rebuild and restore its industry, achieve economic independence and alleviate the suffering of its people caused by illegal and unjust sanctions.
“In any case, it’s unfair to impose unilateral illegal sanctions against another country and its people. This is a typical practice of power politics,” he said.
Sanctions must end and the move by SADC is a step in the right direction.
The UN should follow suit and call for the immediate removal of the illegal sanctions which are responsible for the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans.