- Led by Zimbabwe's First Lady, Auxilia Mnangagwa, demonstrators marched through Harare's central business district, calling for the lifting of US and European sanctions.
- Plunged into an economic crisis that pushed most of its population into poverty, the country desperately needs foreign investment.
- In response, the United States has refuted responsibility for the economic crisis that the country is going through.
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans demonstrated on Friday against western sanctions slammed against the southern African country. The Zimbabwean government said the measures are badly hurting the economy of the state, private companies, and individuals.
Led by Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Auxilia Mnangagwa, demonstrators marched through Harare’s central business district, calling for the lifting of US and European sanctions. Protesters walked the city streets, with some of them carrying banners with messages such as, “sanctions are a new version of slavery,” and “sanctions are a crime against humanity.”
Plunged into an economic crisis that pushed most of its population into poverty, the country desperately needs foreign investment and calls for the sanctions to be lifted. With most of the sanctions having been imposed in 2001, as a result of the controversial land reform program launched by the then Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, the sanctions targeted individuals and entities related to the government and the ruling party. They also ended up affecting the private sector badly.
According to Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance, the individuals sanctioned cannot access certain lines of credit. They have lost the corresponding relationship with their colleagues around the world, and in that way, banks can not access these lines of credit because they need to support the private sector, the productive sector, which has an impact on the creation of jobs in the nation.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has called for unprecedented progress in implementing economic and legislative reforms to ensure the removal of the restrictions. It has also begun to tackle corruption, whose impact is, according to some, just as serious, if not worse, than sanctions.
“We have set up an anti-corruption commission in Zimbabwe that is in full swing and doing what it is supposed to do. It deals with those who are corrupt, and we are happy that the majority of Zimbabweans support what it does. We will succeed in fighting corruption,” added Mthuli Ncube.
Friday’s demonstrations are a clear indication that quite a number of Zimbabweans support the anti-sanctions campaign, but with the United States and the European Union keeping a hard line, these protesters are unlikely to succeed. Nevertheless, the government remains optimistic. “Our idea now is to target our domestic resources to support the micro-economy, support productivity, and create new jobs for Zimbabwe to get back on the path to growth,” Ncube said.
“These sanctions must be lifted because they are not justifiable,” Zimbabwe’s Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, insisted on Friday. Addressing news reporters, the minister called the sanctions a “weapon of mass destruction” that is “strangling the economy.”
In response, the United States has refuted responsibility for the economic crisis that the country is going through. The US’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols, categorically stated that corruption, poor governance and lack of reforms were the root causes of the Zimbabwean’s suffering. “What is holding Zimbabwe back? It’s not sanctions. There are only 141 Zimbabwean people and companies on the United States sanctions’ list. That’s right, just 141, in a country of 16 million. They are on the list for good reason,” he tweeted.
“These are people who have engaged in corruption, committed human rights abuses, and undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic process. Blaming sanctions is a convenient scapegoat to distract the public from the real reasons behind Zimbabwe’s economic challenges – corruption, economic mismanagement, and failure to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law,” he added. Washington and Brussels in January denounced the Zimbabwe government’s violent crackdown on protesters protesting the rise in fuel prices.