Anti-sanctions activists have taken the United States of America president Joe Bidden and the country’s lawmakers to court seeking nullification of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001.
Zidera, among other stipulations, restricts the US government from voting in support of new assistance to Zimbabwe from international financial institutions.
The Zimbabwe Anti-sanctions Movement and the Zimbabweans Against Sanctions filed a notice of motion at the Gauteng High Court in South Africa citing President Bidden, US lawmakers, the Bank of America, South Africa’s Reserve Bank and a number of financial institutions as respondents.
The anti-sanctions activists, through their lawyers Mr Simba Chitando and Ms Rutendo Matinyarare, want the US law to be declared invalid.
They want an order “Declaring that the “Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001” (Zidera) passed by the United States Congress and Senate, renewed periodically by the United States Government, and applied within the Republic of South Africa, unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid.”
They also want the “Zimbabwe Sanctions Programme” instituted by Executive Orders 13288; 13391; 13469, applicable laws and implementing regulations pertaining to Zimbabwe (31 C.F.R) implemented by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), and applied within the Republic of South Africa, to be declared unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid.
Any parties who oppose the application, the activists said, should be ordered to pay costs of the suit.
One of the lawyers,Mr Simba Chitando said the application was necessary considering the extent to which the sanctions have ravaged Zimbabwe’s economy.
“This case is historic for Zimbabweans, in the light of the report by the United Nations, condemning sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“The report, from an independent internationally recognised third party, states that the sanctions on Zimbabwean have damaged the economy. It has caused incalculable harm on the country and its people. The court application seeks to declare the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, and applied globally, illegal and unenforceable. If successful, it would mean the sanctions imposed by the United States will have no effect, by court order, within the South Africa,” he said.
Mr Chitando added: “If my clients are successful in their application, in this case, in a South African court, it will only be enforceable in South Africa. My brief is to pursue similar orders in several other jurisdictions, where Zimbabweans conclude a vast number of commercial transactions.
The orders sought, although not enforceable in the United States, will: (a) protect Zimbabwe & affected Zimbabweans from the illegal sanctions; and (b) send a clear message to the international community that the Zimbabwean sanctions programme is inconsistent with the rule of law.”
Although other anti-sanctions court challenges have been done before by the likes of the late Cde Aguy Geogias, Mr Chitando said the war is being fought from all angles until sanctions are removed.
“I must add, our legal strategy is not isolated to a single case. The sanctions programme is vast, far too big to be limited to a single case. The matter shall be dealt with through several courts and dissect the beast that the sanctions are. It is a mammoth undertaking, involving unprecedented litigation, in several jurisdictions for the benefit of all Zimbabweans,” said Mr Chitando.
The Zidera Amendment Act (2018) sanctions, which targeted 141 individuals and 56 companies, further places financial restrictions that block debt cancellation to Zimbabwe and bars financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Africa Development Bank to extend any loan to the country without the approval of the US President.
The restrictive measures placed by the EU include the suspension of budgetary support to Zimbabwe, suspension of financial programmes as well as an embargo on the sale, supply, transfer of arms, assistance or training related to military service as well as a travel ban and freezing of assets to individuals that have been placed on targeted sanctions.
The sanctions have crippled the country’s economy with the ripple effects cascading to the lives of the ordinary Zimbabwean and sectors of the economy including trade, health, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, tourism and the financial sector.