Trump shows SADC the middle finger

07 March 2019 | International

US president Donald Trump has renewed sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by another year, snubbing SADC leaders, including current regional bloc chairperson President Hage Geingob, who has called for an end to the sanctions.

Geingob said in February the regional bloc had received a briefing from Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa on the current political and socio-economic developments in the neighbouring country. “The SADC Heads of State and Government further noted that the (Zimbabwean) government's efforts to transform the economy and bring about prosperity to the people of Zimbabwe are negatively affected by the illegal sanctions that were imposed on the country since the early 2000,” Geingob said in a statement.

“SADC expresses its solidarity with the government and the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and calls upon the international community to unconditionally lift all sanctions imposed on the country.”

The US first imposed the measures in 2003 and renewed them in 2005 and 2008 under America's International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

It has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwean officials including President Mnangagwa and says certain human rights reforms are needed to lift them.

Zimbabwe finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently told a reporter: “We don't need to be told by anyone that we need to do better on human rights or open up democratic space... we need to do it for ourselves.”

Trump said on Monday that Zimbabwe had not implemented promised reforms.

The extension of the sanctions effectively rules out the possibility of a US bailout for Zimbabwe.

In a letter to the US Senate, Trump accused Mnangagwa of running a flawed election.

This was in reference to the contested July 2018 poll that MDC leader Nelson Chamisa claims he won.

The continuation of the sanctions also follow Mnangagwa's recent military crackdown on protests over a crippling fuel hike. At least 17 people were reportedly killed.

In his strongly worded letter Trump claimed the actions of the government of Zimbabwe continued “to undermine Zimbabwe's democratic processes or institutions” and “pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the US”.

Botswana's government recently denied reports that it will provide a US$600m credit facility to debt-ridden Zimbabwe, dealing a new blow to Mnangagwa's efforts to jumpstart the country's ailing economy.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by high inflation, which peaked above 50% in January, and acute shortages of foreign currency. The country owes the World Bank US$1.4 billion, as well as the African Development Bank and other international creditors.

It is seeking financial bailouts from its SADC neighbours as it is blacklisted by multilateral lenders, including the World Bank and IMF. Its international debt stands at U$10bn.

Zimbabwe reportedly requested US$1.2 billion in emergency credit from South Africa, but was turned down.

In February, Geingob said the SADC Heads of State and Government had also noted that the government has commenced dialogue with all stakeholders in the country, with a view to strengthening economic transformation. He called on all stakeholders to support the process.

The Namibian head of state had also lambasted what he called “some internal groups, in particular NGOs, supported by external forces”, who he said have continued with efforts to destabilise the country”.

“The SADC Heads of State and Government also noted that in an effort to address the economic challenges in the country, the (Zimbabwean) government recently increased fuel prices. Unfortunately, violent demonstrators rode on the back of increases in fuel prices, to implement their intention to destabilise the country. The demonstrations resulted in the destruction of property and loss of life. SADC condemns, in the strongest terms, the violence that ensued, and expresses sympathy with the affected families for the loss of their loved ones and their properties.”

Also earlier this year, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said his country also favours the lifting or easing of international sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Ramaphosa spoke on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying Zimbabwe faces “serious, serious, economic challenges and they can be assisted by the world if those sanctions are lifted”.

-Additional reporting by Business Day


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