Give diplomacy a chance

On Sunday, Zimbabwe commemorates the Anti-Sanctions Day which is meant to force the United States and its Western allies to remove the restrictions which the government blame for stifling the rebooting of the economy.

It is nearly 20 years since the United States slapped Zimbabwe with sanctions and the country has been battling the restrictions since the turn of the millennium.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has upped the ante and last year secured key support from the Sadc bloc which set aside October 25 as the Anti-Sanctions Day during a meeting of leaders in Tanzania.

The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZIDERA) empowers the US Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the United States executive director on international financial institutions to oppose and vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.

The Act prescribes that the embargo would be removed after Zimbabwe has restored the rule of law including respect for ownership and title to property, freedom of speech and association, and an end to the lawlessness, violence, and intimidation sponsored, condoned, or tolerated by the Government of Zimbabwe, the ruling party, and their supporters or entities.

Other than ZIDERA, the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States. OFAC is known for its asset freeze.

Recent victims of OFAC are State Security Minister Owen Ncube, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Tanzania Anselem Sanyatwe and business mogul Kuda Tagwirei.

In August, OFAC said it would not punish CBZ for processing transactions for a sanctioned local bank, ZB. OFAC had slapped CBZ with a US$385m penalty.

The reprieve came after intensive lobbying. It is incumbent on Zimbabwe to re-engage the United States pointing to a number of reforms it has undertaken like the repeal of the obnoxious legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act that are inconsistent with the Constitution.

Zimbabwe has also agreed to pay former farmers US$3.5bn for farm improvements.

But it has been found wanting with regards to aligning the laws to the Constitution.

In his 2021 pre-Budget Strategy paper, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the government aims to complete the alignment of laws to the Constitution and also to strengthen governance institutions to entrench the rule of law, which is important for investment promotion. Zimbabwe has been accused of cracking down on dissent especially in the run up to the July 31 demonstrations.

This prompted the Heads of Mission of Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America to blame authorities for using Covid-19 as an excuse to stifle citizens’ rights.

As an opposition politician tweeted this week, sanctions are part of statute books that require a raft of reforms to be lifted.

There is no reason why Zimbabwe does not want to reform to expedite the removal of sanctions for the country to move forward.

This is not the time for megaphone diplomacy in which a senior member from the governing party refers to a United States diplomat as a ‘thug’.

Such utterances make Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Sibusiso Moyo’s diplomatic forays a harvest of thorns.

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