BY REX MPHISA
A GROUP of South Africa-based civic society groups is in Bulawayo campaigning for the removal of Western imposed economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, saying they had missed their targets and are now affecting the Sadc bloc.
The civic groups said the flight of Zimbabweans from their country has put pressure on countries to which they flee to in search of greener pastures, resulting in conflicts like xenophobia, spurred by fights for jobs.
The organisations said they also believe the measures by the West were now being used for political gain by both the ruling and opposition political parties, yet taking its toll on ordinary Zimbabweans living on less than US$0,30 a day.
“We are calling for the removal of sanctions because they have gone off mark and hurting ordinary Zimbabweans. The leadership have access to money and that is both the ruling and opposition alike. Ordinary people are paying the price,” the director of SheDad, Martha Shumba, said in an interview.
“Collectively, we have approached the United States and European Union ambassadors with our call that targeted sanctions have failed to get the West’s desired results in Zimbabwe and must be removed,” she said.
At a recent meeting, civic groups namely Zimbabwean Exiles Forum, Africa Business Group, African Resources, St Thomas Apostolic Church, Organisation of African – South Africa and Shumba’s SheDad Movement engaged the US and EU embassies on a topic called Ending of Sanctions Against Zimbabwe.
The advisory forum held at a top Johannesburg hotel, convened by the deputy presiding officer of the African Union Patson Malisa, issued a communique calling for the removal of sanctions, which apart from hurting ordinary Zimbabweans, had negatively impacted on the region.
The West imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe for what it says are human rights abuses by Harare, following the chaotic 2000 land reform programme.
In response, Harare under long-serving leader Robert Mugabe deposed in a November 2017 coup — not condemned by the West — looked East. It cut links with the West and fed the southern African country’s rich mineral resources, including diamonds, to China.
The US recently extended sanctions after the shooting of civilians by members of the armed forces.
“As civic groups, we have since concluded the reaction of the West hurts the ordinary people and both Zanu PF and the opposition MDC Alliance are using those sanctions to gain political mileage.
“There is need for a change of approach and we feel removing of sanctions is one of them,” said Shumba, who has also featured on SA television channels calling for the removal of the sanctions.
Shumba, whose organisation trains and equips young SA males on basic survival, education and etiquette, says the sanctions have also become a security threat in the region.
“These sanctions have made it difficult for government to access lines of credit, debt relief and directly affects the country’s ability to meet its fiduciary obligations. The sanctions have also made it difficult for both government and private entities to access investment and financial services and it becomes difficult to create employment.”
According to minutes of the engagement with EU and US ambassadors, Sibanengi Dube of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum noted that “individual sanctions, of the current and past regime had seeped through to affect the administrative process of the country through the targeting of the current regime”.
Asked if their associations were not Zanu PF projects calling for the removal of sanctions, Shumba said like most Zimbabweans outside the country she longed to come home to take her place in national development.
“No. I am not hired by Zanu PF or any political party. Like any other projects I am doing, I believe this is one of the solutions to Zimbabwe’s problems. With free trade all over the world, not sanctioned or restricted, Zimbabwe will be back on its feet in only 12 months.”
“I was driven out by the bad situation in Zimbabwe. How people are suffering, how cross-border traders are restricted in international business, how farmers can’t sell their produce even to SA and the rest of the world. Sanctions are the worst human rights violation,” Shumba said.
She said ordinary Zimbabweans fail to get medications, while leaders, even in the opposition, go abroad for treatment.
Mugabe, Mnangagwa’s deputies Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi and the late opposition MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai were treated outside the country, when ordinary people are dying from simple diseases like malaria due to lack of drugs.
Senior medical professionals have downed tools to press for the supply of drugs and other ancillary equipment while government spends lavishly on cars and foreign trips.
“Look, we cannot keep lying to each other that sanctions are only for Zanu PF leaders and removal benefits them. It’s a lie. Zimbabwe, as a country, is under sanctions, we have no access to credit, among other things. Removal of these sanctions to a larger extent benefits Zimbabweans as a whole,” Shumba said.