Addis Ababa (New Ziana) – The African Union (AU) on Wednesday called on the West to lift debilitating sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe two decades ago to force the southern African country to reverse its land reforms.
The United States and the European Union (EU) slapped the sanctions on Zimbabwe after the government compulsorily acquired excess farmland from white farmers, who owned the bulk of agricultural land as a colonial privilege, to resettle landless blacks.
Over half a million people were resettled in what is considered one of the biggest economic empowerment programmes on the African continental.
The sanctions have limited Zimbabwe’s investment and trade with the outside, which the government estimates to have cost the economy nearly US$100 billion over the two decades.
Among other things, Western companies are barred from investing and trading with Zimbabwe under the sanctions, while multilateral lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank also stopped advancing loans to the country.
As a result, the country’s economy shrunk considerably, forcing an estimated three million highly skilled Zimbabweans to emigrate to neighbouring countries and beyond.
In a statement in support of a regional campaign by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for the lifting of the sanctions on Zimbabwe, AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat called for the ‘immediate and unconditional’ removal of the penalties on Harare.
“The chairperson remains concerned by the negative impact of continued sanctions against the Republic of Zimbabwe to the country’s socio-economic development and recovery efforts,” the statement said.
“The chairperson reaffirms the commitment of the African Union to continue working closely with the Southern African Development Community to support all regional efforts, and in this regard, the African Union associates itself fully with the statement issued by President Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi and current chairperson of SADC,” it added.
SADC designated October 25 each year as Anti-Sanctions Day against Zimbabwe, and annually collectively call for the lifting of the penalties.
In a statement on Monday, President Chakwera appealed to the West to drop the long running sanctions, saying these were hurting ordinary people in Zimbabwe and beyond.