Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Professor Alena Douhan has said the United States and other Western countries should lift illegal economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe as the unilateral punitive measures are making ordinary people suffer.
This comes a few days after Africa also called for the unconditional removal of the economic sanctions that have bled the country for two decades now.
“The US and other states should lift their sanctions on targeted individuals and entities and end over-compliance. The time is ripe for sanctioning States and key national stakeholders to engage in a meaningful structured dialogue on political reform, human rights and the rule of law, and abandon rhetoric on sanctions as an advocacy tool,” she said.
Prof Douhan — a vastly experienced professional in the fields of international law and human rights — ended her 10-day working visit in the country following an invitation by the Government to assess first-hand the situation on the ground.
The expert said the restrictions and “over-compliance with sanctions in their complexity had exacerbated pre-existing social and economic challenges with devastating consequences for the people of Zimbabwe, especially those living in poverty, women, children, elderly, people with disabilities as well as marginalised and other vulnerable groups”.
She visited Harare and Bulawayo, and held meetings with Government officials, members of civil society, trade unions, faith-based organisations, political parties, private companies and business associations, the diplomatic corps and other stakeholders.
“Over the last 20 years, sanctions and various forms of over-compliance with sanctions have had an insidious ripple effect on the economy of Zimbabwe and on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including access to health, food, safe drinking water and sanitation, education and employment,” said Prof Douhan.
“This situation also limits Zimbabwe’s ability to guarantee the functioning of public institutions, delivery of services, and maintenance of essential infrastructure, and undermines the right to development of the Zimbabwean people and impedes the achievement of the sustainable development goals.”
Prof Douhan said many companies, as well as foreign banks, applied zero-risk policies and feared penalties for breaching sanctions when dealing with Zimbabwe, resulting in high-cost bank transactions, challenges in accessing credit lines.
She said sanctions have disrupted supply-chains, affecting the ability to secure infrastructure financing and business continuity, as well as fuelling corruption and money laundering, and over-reliance in the informal sector.
Prof Douhan will present her concluding observations in a report to the Human Rights Council next year in September.
It is estimated that Zimbabwe has lost US$42 billion in revenue because of the sanctions.
The country also lost multilateral donor support, which is estimated at about US$4,5 billion annually since 2001 and US$12 billion in the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank loans which could have developed infrastructure.
The country also lost commercial loans estimated at US$18 billion which could have gone to the private sector and into other areas and as a result of that, a reduction of GDP of over US$21 billion.
The heavy cost to the economy has necessitated Zimbabwe’s policy thrust of re-engagement to ensure the country returns to the comity of nations.
On Tuesday, chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat demanded the immediate and unconditional removal of sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe.
The African Union was supporting the statement issued by President Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi and current Chairperson of SADC, in commemoration of SADC Anti-Sanctions Day.
Several diplomatic missions in Zimbabwe have blamed the measures imposed on the country, on Monday churches also condemned the illegal sanctions imposed on the country.
Eminent clergymen that included Zion Christian Church founder, Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi and Reverend Andrew Wutawunashe, who is also chairperson of the Faith for the Nation Campaign, converged to mark the SADC Anti-Sanctions Day.
“These sanctions are a huge test for patriotism. There are those that want the child to be killed, why do you take a knife for the baby to be cut, that Zimbabwe should collapse by calling for sanctions. The (biblical) bush continues to burn but without being consumed. We have seen what is being done on our roads by the Government, shops are now full. These sanctions must be removed unconditionally. The West must leave us to do our things,” said Bishop Mutendi.
His words were echoed by Rev Wutawunashe who said: “My Lords Bishops, the churches’ prayers are an appeal to such nations as the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and other relevant parties to urgently and unconditionally grant Zimbabwe relief from all forms of sanctions and restrictive measures.”
President Mnangagwa this week said illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the West must go as they are targeted at collapsing key pillars of the national economy but Zimbabwe will use its resources to fend them off and foster growth towards prosperity.
“We are saying remove them unconditionally and let us all be heard saying that sanctions must be removed and we have even invited the UN Special Rapporteur Ms Douhan to assess the impact of these sanctions.
“They say the sanctions are only targeted at some individuals and that is a lie. They are targeted at the key pillars of our economy making it difficult for us to retool our industries or even buy new machinery such as tractors but of course we get some of these things from those who are friendly to us but don’t be fooled that the sanctions are only targeted at some few individuals,” said President Mnangagwa.