Harare (New Ziana) – Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema drew sharp rebuke on twitter on Friday from ordinary Zimbabweans after thanking the US government for lifting sanctions on eleven locals, most of them deceased.
The US and its Western allies slapped sanctions on Zimbabwe over two decades ago in an attempt to force it to relent on its land reforms, under which it compulsorily acquired excess white-owned farmland to resettle landless blacks to economically empower them.
The sanctions, including trade and travel restrictions, were imposed on individuals and businesses seen as influential in government decision-making, and key to the economy.
As a result, the country’s economy has wobbled ever since, with government estimating economic losses of around USD100 billion arising from the penalties over the two decades.
But on Thursday, the US delisted 11 Zimbabweans, the majority deceased, from the sanctions list because, among other things, it ‘deemed they no longer undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions’ – Washington’s disguise for the penalties.
This prompted President Hichilema to take to twitter on Friday to thank his US counterpart Joe Biden for the gesture, which he described as a response to appeals from the sub-region.
“We welcome @POTUS (President of the United States) and the US government’s fresh look at sanctions on Zimbabwe. We greatly appreciate the @WhiteHouse having a listening ear to the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region,” he tweeted.
Reacting to the tweet, Zimbabweans mocked the Zambian leader of not having a full grasp of the US sanctions regime on the country,and accused him of merely trying to ingratiate himself to Washington.
Particularly incensing to Zimbabweans appeared to be President Hichilema’s apparent ignorance that most of the pardoned eleven were deceased, and that the US had simultaneously added another local – a senior police officer – to its sanctions list.
Also, that the most damaging elements of the sanctions – those targeted at the Zimbabwean economy – had been left intact by Washington.
“They removed dead people, that’s nothing Mr President. They must remove companies, banks and ZIDERA (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act). Removing dead people is just a natural thing to do,” Kudzayi Mutisi tweeted in response.
Added Don Makubaza: “No one is fooled by this manoeuvre, token removals of those who are now late will not hoodwink anyone, the hypocrisy is heightened by the addition of a law officer. Sanctions are targeted at the ordinary folk, they are coercive measures meant to make the economy scream.”
“Removing dead people on (the) sanction list is not a listening ear but an insult to SADC. Still banks and strategic companies are on the list. So to hell with their insulting statement,” another Zimbabwean, Cde Campion, tweeted in response to President Hichilema.
Others were even more scathing in their criticism of the Zambian leader, who is generally seen in the sub-region as overly pro-West.
Charlene Shumba tweeted: “This is the lamest tweet that betrays your insincerity on sanctions against our beloved country. Removal of dead people and inclusion of more people is a FRESH LOOK to u?”
The US about turn on the eleven appears to be an attempt to steal the thunder from the SADC campaign against the Western sanctions on Zimbabwe, which annualy heightens in October.
The sub-regional group dedicated October 25 every year as a day to collectively call for the lifting of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The US pardon is, therefore, widely seen as a pre-emptive gesture, albeit hollow, to SADC ahead of the day which is weeks away.