THE visit next week by a United Nations special rapporteur to investigate the impact of Western sanctions on Zimbabwe will help lay bare the full extent of how the embargo is a violation of human rights, a Cabinet Minister has said.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, Ms Alena Douhan, will be in the country from October 18 to 28 at the invitation of the Government.
In an interview, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said Ms Douhan’s visit will help highlight how Zimbabwean citizens’ rights have been violated for over two decades through the illegal sanctions regime.
He said while the UN consistently calls for the observance of human rights in Zimbabwe, it was turning a blind eye to Zimbabweans’ rights which were being violated through the punitive measures.
“Our position from the start has always been, sanctions are a violation of human rights,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“So, Government invited the rapporteur to appreciate the effects of sanctions on ordinary people.
“To show them that even though they are alleged to be targeted, they have an effect on the grassroots and ordinary people.
“We want the United Nations to appreciate that while they are saying the sanctions are targeted, they actually target State-owned companies and entities, thereby contributing to our economic problems.”
He said the sanctions are targeted at companies such as the country’s sole producer of phosphate fertilisers and aluminium sulphate for potable water treatment, Zimphos, which has resulted in water and fertiliser shortages.
“The lives of people in the rural areas are affected, the agriculture sector is affected.
“Targeting ZISCO for instance, you want to ensure that the country has no foreign currency and our balance of payments will be severely affected and we end up with shortages of goods.
“That has a ripple effect. So you can see that because of sanctions, our agricultural sector was affected. Most industries were closed and the ordinary people started suffering.”
Minister Ziyambi said the Government wants the UN to acknowledge that it was ignoring the violation of local people’s rights.
“While they campaign for the observance of other rights, they are turning a blind eye to the need for ordinary citizens’ rights to be upheld.
“The right to food, education and health.
“Our health sector is not as it was when we did not have sanctions.”
Government, he added, wants the UN to pressure the West into removing the sanctions.
“So we want the rapporteur to come and appreciate that sanctions are a violation of the rights of ordinary people.
“They are illegal so they should put pressure on those who imposed sanctions as a regime change tool, to remove them.”
Zimbabwe has been under US sanctions since 2001 while the European Union (EU) also introduced its own battery of punitive measures in February 2002.
A study commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade estimates that the country could have lost up to US$42 billion in revenue over the past 20 years as a result of the sanctions.
A separate study commissioned by the then Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development in 2017, isolated up to 13 different socio-economic spheres which have been adversely stymied by the embargo.
A 600-page report produced after two years of research by a team of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) academics concluded that sanctions have impacted on all facets of the economy ranging from trade and finance, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture to human capital development and migration among others.
The special rapporteur and her team will collect information and hold a series of meetings with Government officials, civil society organisations and the private sector.
A report will then be presented at the UN Human Rights Council during its 51st session in September 2022.
The United Nations Human Rights office of the High Commissioner has since called for submissions from the various stakeholders to inform the thematic and geographical focus.
“The purpose of the mission is to examine, in the spirit of co-operation and dialogue, whether and to what extent the adoption, maintenance or implementation of unilateral sanctions impedes the full realisation of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular the right of individuals and peoples to development.”
In 2019, Sadc leaders declared October 25 as a day of solidarity with Harare against the sanctions during the 38th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government held in Tanzania.
Regional countries are expected to hold a series of events to mark the day in their respective countries.
During the UN General Assembly held last month, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe saying they “paralyse Zimbabwe and its economy”.
His Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi echoed the call.