BY BLESSED MHLANGA
THE United States (US) has taken a diplomatic offensive against Zimbabwe’s narrative on sanctions by engaging Sadc leaders to clarify its move to slap the southern African country with the embargoes.
The world superpower said the sanctions would be lifted only after political reforms.
Zimbabwe has accused the US of imposing sanctions as part of a broad-based regime change agenda.
But US ambassador to Botswana, Craig Cloud, yesterday met Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax — who is widely viewed as pro-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, and explained the root cause of the sanctions as being the human rights abuses and anti-democratic actions by the late former President Robert Mugabe.
“Today, Ambassador Cloud and Dr Tax discussed the root causes of the US sanctions in Zimbabwe, namely human rights abuses and anti-democratic efforts,” the US embassy in Botswana said.
Zimbabwe was slapped with sanctions under the Zimbabwe Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) in 2001 following the chaotic and violent land reform programme of 2000 and a series of violent elections.
Mugabe staged a one-million-man march in May 2016 led by war veterans and party youths against the sanctions, but the US insisted they would only be lifted after reforms and an end to human rights abuses.
Mnangagwa, who took over from Mugabe following a November 2017 military coup, also led a Sadc solidarity march against the sanctions last October, with the US still insisting on reforms.
The Sadc bloc last year declared October 25 an anti-sanctions day in solidarity with Zimbabwe.
In the meeting, Cloud set out five major facts about the sanctions on Zimbabwe, which the Americans believe have been fudged by the Zimbabwean government to win support from Sadc and the African Union (AU).
The US said its sanctions on Zimbabwe were targeted and do not hinder trade between the two countries.
“US sanctions largely target those who engage in corruption, violate human rights and undermine democratic institutions or processes … Targeted sanctions do not prohibit trade between Zimbabwe and the United States. US companies are free to invest and sell goods in Zimbabwe and the embassy is actively promoting trade and investment between our two countries,” Cloud said.
Government has blamed the US “illegal” sanctions for the economic collapse and have rallied churches, Sadc and the AU in denouncing the sanctions in an effort to pressure the international community to withdraw the measures.
“Zidera and targeted sanctions are different. Zidera aims at restricting debt relief and voting at international financial institutions and provides a roadmap for engagement,” Cloud said.
“It is important to note, however, that the US has never invoked Zidera because Zimbabwe does not qualify for new lending consideration because it failed to do necessary economic and political reforms that would allow financial institutions to consider it for debt relief and new lending.”
He also told Tax that Zimbabwe was suffering from corruption, mismanagement and looting of government resources, more than the effects of the sanctions.
“Ambassador Cloud and Dr Tax discussed how failed economic policies and corruption have created the current economic crisis in Zimbabwe, it’s not sanctions,” the US said.
Tax confirmed the meeting, but said the details sent out by the US embassy were false.
“This was not part of what was discussed. Might be the position of the embassy, but definitely not Sadc’s position,” she said.
Last year, US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, clashed with the Mnangagwa administration when he said corruption, and not sanctions, were hurting the Zimbabwean economy, a position supported by European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen.
In its own communication, Sadc said it called for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“Dr Tax reiterated Sadc’s call for the immediate removal of sanctions on #Zimbabwe and the need to further engage on reforms that will see a recovery of country’s economy,” Sadc said.