By Rejoice Ndlovu
“Illegal western sanctions” is now one of the most popular clichés in Zimbabwe’s national conversation. There are several key myths that are important to dispel about the position of foreign nations on the sanctions debate.
Sanctions are blocking economic recovery
Neither the United States or Britain maintain sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe or the country of Zimbabwe. Sanctions target individuals and entities that have undermined democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe.
More specifically, sanctions target individuals who, among other things, are senior officials of the Government of Zimbabwe, have participated in human rights abuses related to political repression and/or have engaged in activities facilitating public corruption by senior officials of the Government of Zimbabwe.
Sanctions also target entities owned or controlled by the Zimbabwean government or officials of the Zimbabwean government. Unless a transaction involves a blocked individual or entity, U.S. persons may, and are encouraged to, conduct business in, and trade with, Zimbabwe and its people.
British ambassador, Mark Canning has said on many occasions that the targeted measures did not affect the economy, trade or business. Canning clarified that the EU measures imposed restrictions on 203 key figures of President Mugabe’s regime involved in the violence and human rights abuses.
The measures also affected 40 companies associated with these individuals and their sources of finance, he said.
There is a trade embargo against Zimbabwe
There is no US bilateral trade embargo against Zimbabwe. Trade levels fluctuate, but in 10 of the past twelve years (with the exception of 2007 and 2009, when the global economic crisis affected nearly all markets), the trade balance between Zimbabwe and the United States has favoured Zimbabwe, often by a large margin.
According to Keith Scott, first secretary Political/Communications Affairs in the British embassy in Harare, UK exports to Zimbabwe between January and October 2009 were £15 million. Zimbabwe exported to UK between January and October 2009 £49 million worth of goods. In 2008 UK exports to Zimbabwe were £21 million and Zim exports to UK in 2008 were £37 million.
“Zimbabwe actually runs a trade surplus with the UK,” Scott said. Another diplomatic source said the current diplomatic row between Harare and the EU had culminated in the imposition of legitimate “smart sanctions” based on the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement. A Western diplomat confirmed that the same was true in Europe: “The EU as a bloc remains one of Zimbabwe’s major trading partners,” he said. “It’s pie in the sky that sanctions are hurting the Zimbabwean economy.”
Exports to the EU currently account for about 36 per cent of the country’s total exports and cover both traditional and non-traditional product lines. Major agricultural export products from Zimbabwe to the EU are tobacco, cotton, meat products, tree plants, and cut flowers. Zimbabwe has also benefited from the STABEX fund for supporting export earnings owing to a decline in prices of commodity exports.
Aid has been cut off
In fact, the United States provided over US$300 million in 2009 and over US$200 million in 2010 for humanitarian, food, health, and democracy and governance assistance to Zimbabwe. In 2011, the United States will continue to provide this level of assistance while also raising its commitment to fight HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe by US$10 million to a total of US$57.5 million.
According to Ambassador Canning, British aid to Zimbabwe continues. “Sanctions do not hurt ordinary Zimbabweans,” Canning said. “Indeed, levels of British aid – US$100 million last year – to ordinary Zimbabweans have never been higher.” Zimbabwe has always enjoyed a balance of trade surplus in its trade with the EU, despite claims that the sanctions were hurting trade. The EU is also a major donor for humanitarian assistance.
In a desperate attempt to add more fuel to the ‘sanctions’ fire, Zanu (PF) on Wednesday forced people in Harare to abandon their work stations to sign an ‘anti-sanction’ petition. “It’s either we attended the signing ceremony or we lose the market stalls that we were given by Zanu (PF) officials,” said a vendor.
At least 20 000 people attended the ceremony that was dominated by Zanu (PF) supporters clad in party regalia and punctuated by music exalting Mugabe in power since 1980. Thousands of the people were either forced to attend the event or as is the tradition of Zanu (PF) bussed. The use of force to ensure that there were signatures on the pages only goes to show the desperate lengths that the party will go to deceive the people. The Zimbabwean