Harare, (New Ziana) – Jolted by region-wide revulsion over its two decade long illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe, the US went into overdrive on Friday to explain and defend its increasingly untenable embargo.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is marking a day of solidarity with Zimbabwe over the sanctions on Friday, calling on the US and the European Union (EU) to lift them.
Various activities, including street marches, are being held throughout the region to register the bloc’s collective disgust over the embargo.
The US and the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in the early 2000 to force the government to abandon its land reforms, under which it compulsorily acquired prime agricultural land from the minority whites to resettle the landless black majority.
At its summit in August in Tanzania, SADC resolved to collectively assist Zimbabwe, one of its founding member countries, in campaigning for the sanctions to be removed.
It dedicated the 25th October as a day to collectively call for lifting of the embargo. The grouping also took the call to the United Nations General Assembly held last month.
To deflect attention on the day, declared an anti-sanctions public holiday by Harare, the US embassy on social media ran a campaign under the hashtag #ItsNotSanctions while the American Foreign Relations Committee also chipped in blaming successive Zimbabwean governments for the country’s woes.
Ironically, Washington accused Harare of trying to distort facts about the blockade.
“Responsibility for the current political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe falls solely on the ruling regime that has governed the country for decades,” chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Risch said.
“If Zimbabwe’s leaders put as much time, financial resources, and effort into delivering on their long-promised reforms as they have in distorting facts and organizing “anti-sanctions” campaigns, Zimbabweans would not continue to suffer under the dire economic and humanitarian conditions they face today. The US does not sanction people without just cause –sanctions are a response to malign activity.”
While President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, which took over from that of late former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017, has embarked on an engagement and re-engagement drive to try and restore relations, the American government, renewed sanctions on Zimbabwe last year.
To cover its chameleonic behaviour, the US Embassy in Harare continues to push the narrative that Washington remains the biggest bilateral donor to the country since 1980, having committed more than US$3.2 billion over the period.
But on social media, Zimbabweans were not fazed by the claims with some responding to claims made via the US Embassy Twitter handle by calling for the lifting of the sanctions.
“Remove sanctions, that’s the real assistance Zimbabwe needs,” commented one Jones Musara.
“Why won’t you remove sanctions and we do our own things,” added Samson Chamunacho.
Hitting back on the donations claims, another social media user Bongani Chipare said while the Americans celebrate their US$3.2 billion donations, the country had instead lost more as a result of the embargo.
“Keep your donations and just remove sanctions,” added on David Moyo.
Harare blames the embargo for costing the economy over US$100 billion over the two decades, in capital flows into the economy, which has been starved of financial support from multi-lateral institutions as investors also shunned the country due to negative perceptions as a result of the sanctions.
The Americans however continue to receive the support of the local opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change for their stance on Harare.
“Zimbabweans are suffering because of failed leadership, corruption, bad governance and rigged elections,” claimed MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, supporting his American backers.
“Only true reforms and a return to democracy will fix Zimbabwe’s woes. The rest is mere propaganda and a hopeless waste of time, effort and money.”
Starving Zimbabwe’s economy of financial support through the sanctions, it was envisaged, was supposed to push Zimbabweans to revolt against the government.
The MDC uses the economic challenges as their trump card in calls for regime change in Zimbabwe.