Ramaphosa puts head on the block over Zim sanctions

Chris Mahove

Zimbabweans remain bitterly divided over sanctions imposed on the country by the United States and its allies despite convergence in the SADC region on the need for the removal of the punitive measures.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, last week met with US President Joe Biden during a state visit to that country where he impressed upon Biden to lift the embargo saying sanctions were not only hurting Zimbabwe but were also affecting other countries in the region – as collateral damage.

Ramaphosa said the punitive measures were creating an immigration crisis in the region as Zimbabweans were forced to migrate to South Africa, Namibia and Botswana running away from the dire economic situation in the country.

His sentiments came after the United Nations General Council Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan last week called for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by America and its allies.

In the coming month, SADC will observe an “Anti-Zimbabwe sanctions Day” on October 25.

With an estimated two million Zimbabweans having trekked down south in search of jobs and better living conditions, Ramaphosa is increasingly feeling the heat and an immigration crisis that could torpedo his re-election bid in 2024.

He chose to call out the contentious sanctions.

“The sanctions weaken the Zimbabwean economy resulting in Zimbabweans leaving their country in droves to neighbouring countries; South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and we then suffer collateral damage as a result of that because when they come to our countries they obviously want services which we will provide and it imposes a burden on our own countries,” Ramaphosa said.

Earlier, Zambian President, Hakainde Hichilema had added his voice to the calls for the removal of sanctions, and recently thanked the US for removing 11 individuals and entities from the sanctions list following the intervention of SADC leaders.

“We welcome @POTUS and the US Government’s fresh look at sanctions on Zimbabwe. We greatly appreciate the @WhiteHouse having a listening ear to the SADC region,” he tweeted at the weekend.
“Thanks, but no thanks!”

Yet at home in Zimbabwe the issue of sanctions remains deeply divisive.
Zimbabweans responded to Ramaphosa’s call for the removal of sanctions with bitter haggling among themselves.

SA based veteran broadcaster, Peter Ndoro, said it was difficult to call for the removal of sanctions when authorities in Zimbabwe were abusing their own citizens.

“What does one do about the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights perpetrated by the authorities inside Zimbabwe on its own citizens? Zimbabwe Peace Project recorded 257 human rights violations, with 3 321 victims in August alone,” he said.

He said Zimbabwean nationals needed to work on themselves in order to come up with exactly what they wanted from South Africa, adding there has been agitation for the deportation of economic migrants flooding SA from Zimbabwe for some time now.

“President Biden has not commented on #Zimbabwe #Sanctions. The US says: The sanctions program targets human rights abusers and those who undermine democratic processes or facilitate corruption. U.S. sanctions do not target the Zimbabwean people, the country, or its banking sector,”.

Some Zimbabweans accused the South Africa government of being soft on the Zimbabwean government, saying the sanctions had nothing to do with them.

“President Ramaphosa is not informed, he has his own issues to deal with on the Phala Phala issue. We Zimbabweans speak for ourselves. South Africa is to blame for the Zimbabwean crisis,” said one Kunaka on Twitter.

Political commentator, Kudzayi Mutisi said Zimbabwe was only being punished for taking back its land from white settlers.

“Germany seized control of a Russian owned Refineries that is in Germany so as to protect German interests; what about property rights? What about rule of law?

What about investor confidence?

“The so-called democracies are watching in silence and even partaking in all this yet they ganged up to sanction a small African country (Zimbabwe) for doing what Germany is doing. Does it mean Zimbabwe has no interests?” he queried.

Another twitter user, only identified as Thinktank, accused President Ramaphosa of hypocrisy.

“He talks about sanctions and when it comes to human rights abuses in Zim, SA becomes deaf and blind. People are running away from ZANU PF led government not because of sanctions. Members of Parliament like Job Sikhala and Sithole have been sent to maximum prison for standing for people’s rights” he said.

Last week, the United Nations General Council Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan called for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by America and its allies.

In her report, set to be discussed at the 51st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which runs from 12 September to 7 October, 2022 as Agenda Item 3 on the Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, Douhan acknowledged that the sanctions had exacerbated the economic and humanitarian crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, the US reviewed its sanctions program last week, delisting 11 individuals from the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, based on what it termed a determination they no longer warranted inclusion on the SDN List.

The 11 individuals removed from the SDN list were either deceased or had been deemed to no longer undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions.

The US State Department insisted that the sanctions program was a policy-driven program that targeted human rights abusers and those who undermined democratic processes or facilitated corruption and that they did not target the Zimbabwean people, the country of Zimbabwe, or Zimbabwe’s banking sector.

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