The cost to the economy caused by the unilateral and illegal economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States and her Western allies has ballooned to US$100 billion while the cost of borrowing is over 1 000 percent higher than the average in most countries.
This has worsened the burden on the Government to provide basic social services such as water, health and education, a mess that has ruined livelihoods of the country’s populace.
This is contained in a report compiled by Professor Alena Douhan — the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights in Zimbabwe released yesterday following her 10-day mission to the country.
During her visit, Prof Douhan met representatives from Government, opposition political parties, civil society, the private sector and visited Bulawayo and came up with a first-hand account of how the sanctions, that were imposed as punishment for the irreversible land reform programme by Western nations have affected the country’s economic fortunes for over two decades.
“It is reported that since 2001, Zimbabwe might have lost access to more than US$100 billion in bilateral donor support, international commercial loans, and grants and loans from the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
“Due to this, Zimbabwe had a reported US$34 billion funding gap in infrastructure financing in 2017. The inability to generate additional revenue and the country’s poor economic performance has limited the Government’s ability to provide basic social services.”
Prof Douhan added that Zimbabwe had by the end of 2018 accumulated more than US$8 billion in foreign debt and about $6,9 billion in domestic debt.
“In terms of access to credit, the price of loans for Zimbabwe is reportedly 7 percent due to risk perceptions and over-compliance; the average is 0,5 percent in other countries. Most commercial loans are for less than 10 years. The IMF classifies Zimbabwe ‘in debt distress’ with large and longstanding arrears to international financial institutions and commercial creditors,” reads part of Prof Douhan’s report.
She added that by 2001, official development assistance allocated to Zimbabwe dropped to a historic low of about US$160 million resulting in an exodus of private businesses.
“Zimbabwe was thus abandoned to its own mercy, unable to access international aid and financing for many years, and it was expelled from the global financial markets,” she said.
In her assessment of the legality of the sanctions, the Special Rapporteur stressed that under international law, unilateral measures without or beyond authorisation of the UN Security Council may only be taken when they comply with states’ international legal obligations (retortions) or in the course of countermeasures in accordance with the rules of law of international responsibility: to be applied against states for violations of international legal norms, to aim to restore the fulfilment of international obligations, to be proportional to the breach occurred, to be necessary, and to not violate fundamental human rights.
Professor Douhan outlined that the unilateral sanctions imposed against natural and legal persons in Zimbabwe as well as secondary sanctions and extensive over-compliance by banks and third-country companies raise serious concerns about their correspondence with international legal standards.
She said over-compliance on the sanctions has 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.
“The Special Rapporteur urges all interlocutors (including states, international organisations, banks, private companies and civil society) to avoid coercion, written or oral threats or any other act which may cause or result in over-compliance, and to interpret all limitations in the narrowest possible way in the interim period before the lifting of unilateral sanctions.”
She recommended that the US government cease the state of national emergency regarding Zimbabwe because it is not in accordance with the norms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to bring national legislation in accordance with international law, including human rights law, refugee law and the law of international responsibility.
“The Special Rapporteur calls on banks and private companies to behave in accordance with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to avoid over-compliance and the consequent violation of rights of nationals and residents of Zimbabwe.
“The Special Rapporteur also reminds on the obligation of all states and regional organisations to comply with the principle of due diligence and to take all necessary measures to guarantee that activity under their jurisdiction and control won’t affect the human rights of people in the country and beyond national borders,” the report says, putting to rest any debate on whether the sanctions have affected the economy or not.