#AntiSanctionsMarch: Zimbabwean Churches Join Sanctions Removal Call

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Churches in Zimbabwe vowed to join the government’s anti-sanctions march slated for this Friday which has since drawn support from the regional bloc, Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Zimbabwe and its regional neighbours are urging the US and its allies in the Western hemisphere to lift measures imposed on Harare.

Speaking at the National Day of Prayer hosted by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa at the State House on Monday, clergyman Dr Mutangisi said all the churches were geared up to march and support the state effort.

“On Friday, we as the churches we will be joining hands with the rest of the nation in the anti-sanctions march. Let us all be prepared to march on the day. Our First Lady invited us, and we as the church have seen it fit to join in,” he told the communion that was attended by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Vice President Kembo Mohadi, cabinet ministers among others.

National director of African Evangelistic Enterprise Zimbabwe, Bishop Guide Makore, also appealed to Zimbabweans to also join in.

“We are appealing to those in the church and outside to join hands on the 25th of October, to also register our concern and plea for the sanctions which are affecting the people of Zimbabwe. We have suffered a lot whether you are in the church or outside the church.

So we are appealing for the removal of these sanctions because they are not selective; they are affecting those in the ruling party, opposition, the churches, the rich, and the poor.

We are pleading with the international community, with the European Union to come and rescue Zimbabwe,” Makore said.

SADC heads at their 39th Ordinary Summit in Tanzania in August declared October 25 a day on which all member states will join the international campaign that is calling for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe imposed on Zimbabwe over alleged rights abuses, failure to uphold property rights related to the land reform programme as well as claims of electoral fraud.

This is in line with the African Union resolution to support Zimbabwe as the country struggles to rebuild its economy.

SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax also admitted the economic sanctions against Zimbabwe were militating against economic growth in the country and the region.

“Summit noted the adverse impact on the economy of Zimbabwe and the region at large of prolonged economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and expressed solidarity with Zimbabwe, and called for the immediate lifting of sanctions to facilitate socio-economic recovery in the country,” Dr Tax said.

Zimbabwe was in 2002 was placed under an economic and travel embargo by the European Union, at the egging of Britain, following the country’s stance to redistribute land on a more fair basis and to correct colonial imbalances in the resource’s ownership. This was after the Harare government had realised that after over two decades of political independence, most black people did not own the means of production in their own country and remained poor and marginalised.

The land reform programme saw over 300 000 black families having access to land, resulting in their economic empowerment as they could use the resource to venture into various economic projects.

But the land reform programme in Zimbabwe did not go down well with the West, and the US had to enact a law, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) which bars American companies to invest in the country.

ZIDERA bars Americans on the boards of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other multilateral financial institutions which the US control, from voting for financial support to the Southern African country.

Although critics have tried to advance the argument that the sanctions are only targeted at senior ruling ZANU-PF and government officials, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control can freeze funds destined for the Zimbabwe government or public or private entities in the country. This, therefore, means several countries are dissuaded from doing business with Zimbabwean companies.

A number of companies in Zimbabwe have suffered as a result, with Standard Chartered Bank being one of those private firms heavily affected. Recently, the financial service provider was charged a US$18 million penalty for facilitating transactions involving Zimbabwe, a fact that critics of the sanctions said laid bare that ZIDERA is not targeted at a few individuals but seeks to make ordinary people suffer.

Public entities that have withstood the US sanctions include the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), a company which owns car assembler, Willowvale Motor Industries and Deven Engineering, among others.

Groups lobbying against sanctions have contended that they have not only affected Zimbabwe but the whole of Southern Africa. They say they have crippled Zimbabwe with a poor economy that has driven many of the country’s population to neighbouring countries, especially Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa in search of greener pastures. They have also affected a number of companies in Zimbabwe which can’t do business with other companies within the region.

Top pan-Africanist Nefta Freeman noted that Zimbabweans did not wrong anyone by taking back the land that had always been rightfully theirs. In fact, what Zimbabwe did was the first of its kind since nowhere on the African continent did a nation take such a great stride to confront the former colonisers.

Analysts point that the sanctions on Zimbabwe were made in such a way that no other African country would dare challenge the west and redistribute land to their impoverished people.

However, the EU and US’s approach to Zimbabwe has been described as “a case study in policy failure and the limits of global influence”.

International relations scholar Joe Devanny argues that sanctions have “provided a tough lesson in the limits of the EU’s influence and global reach.”

“Put simply, the EU is nursing a failed Zimbabwe policy in the absence of better alternatives.”

Devanny argues that there is a need for the EU to think beyond restrictive measures and “re-explore more imaginative options to pursue in parallel”, as they have achieved very little.

“…the measures have long since become a red herring, useless for changing the regime’s behaviour and even counter-productive. For years, Mugabe confronted the measures (and their US counterparts) as something like a free gift, which he re-packaged to deft rhetorical effect, hammering home the narrative of ‘Western sanctions’ — a narrative to which many are receptive, including, it seemed recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa.”

Many African countries and business people have constantly thrown weight behind the Zimbabwean government’s call on the West to remove the sanctions. Among countries that have already shown for support for the lifting of economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia.

Meanwhile, the Civic Society and Joint Churches Forum (CSJCF) has since last week embarked on a nationwide campaign to mobilise Zimbabweans to rise against the sanctions with the group challenging other civic organisations and churches to join hands in calling for the unconditional lifting of the trade embargos on the 25th of October.

“The church and civic organisations have great influence in the society locally and abroad and as such, they should use their influence to lobby for the removal of the illegal sanctions imposed on the country. Anti-sanctions campaigns should be part of church sermons and we should not wait for other countries to fight for us when we remain silent,” CSJCF Manicaland Province Chairperson, Walter Nyakunu said.

In Zimbabwe, the march will kick off from Robert Mugabe Square with the main event to be held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

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ImChris Charamba

ImChris Charamba

Head Storyteller at Enthuse Afrika. Balances literary writing with pop culture experience. Captivates raw, authentic sights, moments, feelings and conversations. Follow me on Twitter @ImChrisCharamba

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