Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday implored the West to unshackle his country from illegal sanctions imposed two decades ago over land reform differences, saying the embargo was not only holding back economic development, but a violation of human rights.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Mnangagwa said the country, under his new administration which came into office in 2017, now wanted to open a new page in relations with all countries, and re-integrate itself back into the global family of nations after lengthy isolation.
The United States and the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in the early 2000s to force the government to abandon its land reforms, under which it acquired excess white-owned farmland compulsorily to resettle landless blacks, mainly peasants.
The reforms were meant to correct colonial land ownership imbalances which favoured minority whites, and economically empower the majority blacks.
The sanctions, which include trade restrictions and withdrawal of bilateral and multilateral financial support, are estimated to have cost the southern African country about US$100 billion over the two decades.
President Mnangagwa, making his second appearance at the UN General Assembly, said his government was now more focused on reviving the economy, and development in general, but its efforts were being constrained by the West’s longstanding sanctions.
“Zimbabwe is in transition and determined to overcome the reality that we were a collapsed economy with a collapsed currency, due to the illegal economic sanctions imposed on our economy. Since I took over the leadership of Zimbabwe, much has been accomplished with indicative recovery, stabilization and growth,” he said.
“These achievements are in spite of the albatross of the illegal economic sanctions. These sanctions constitute a denial of the human rights of the people of Zimbabwe to develop and improve their quality of life. Furthermore, the sanctions are slowing down our progress, inhibiting our economic recovery and punishing the poorest and most vulnerable,” he added.
Mnangagwa enumerated some of the achievements the country had recorded across the board in the short time since he took over, such as budget surplus and wide ranging economic and political reforms, but said much more could have been realized had the country not been burdened by sanctions.
He applauded the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union, among other well-wishing countries and organisations, for standing in solidarity with Zimbabwe over the sanctions, and joining its campaign for the lifting of the embargo.
At its summit last month in Tanzania, SADC resolved to collectively help Zimbabwe, one of its founding member countries, in campaigning for the sanctions removal.
It dedicated the 25th of next month a day to collectively call for the embargo’s lifting, and assigned its chair – Tanzania – to raise the issue at the ongoing UN General Assembly here.
“My country applauds the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and all who stand with us in demanding the immediate and unconditional removal of these illegal sanctions. Those that imposed illegal sanctions must heed this call and lift them now,” President Mnangagwa said.
“Co-operation is a win-win game. Sanctions are a lose-lose game. Zimbabwe deserves a re-start,” he implored.
He said despite the challenges that the sanctions and other factors such as drought posed, the government was pressing ahead with efforts to normalize the economy, and build and re-build new and old bridges with other nations.
“The task facing us is great, the road is long, winding and at times bumpy. But so is our potential and determination to succeed,” he said.- New Ziana