Zimbabwe sanctions are crippling us, Cyril tells Biden

PRESIDENTS: Cyril Ramaphosa and Joe Biden


Johannesburg – SA President Cyril Ramaphosa has told his US counterpart President Joe Biden that sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe were hurting neighbours Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, who are burdened with providing services to huge numbers of exiles.

However, the US and other Western nations insist the Zimbabwe sanctions program targets human rights abusers and those who undermine democratic processes or facilitate corruption.

Washington says the sanctions do not target the Zimbabwean people, the country of Zimbabwe, or Zimbabwe’s banking sector.

Ramaphosa, who has just concluded his state visit to the US, said he discussed the sanctions against Zimbabwe with President Biden.

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“We also raised the issue of sanctions against Zimbabwe and argued that sanctions that are imposed on Zimbabwe have a collateral damage on us as South Africa in that as they implement those sanctions against Zimbabwe it weakens the Zimbabwean economy resulting in Zimbabweans leaving in droves… leaving Zimbabwe in droves going to neighbouring countries South Africa, Botswana and Namibia… and we then suffer collateral damage as a result of that because as they come to our countries they obviously want services which we have to provide and imposes a burden on our own countries,” said Ramaphosa of his meeting with Biden.

There has been a push-back on Zimbabweans seeking healthcare, jobs, and refuge in South Africa, resulting in the rise of vigilante groups such as Dudula, whose publicly stated agenda is to rid the country of foreign nationals.

However, apart from sanctions the exodus from Zimbabwe can just as easily be attributed to bad governance, joblessness, corruption, economic meltdown, and brutal repression of dissenting voices by the government.

In Zimbabwe it is common cause that the ruling elite, their families, and favoured business owners still enjoy lavish lifestyles.

The largesse has seen the well-heeled flaunt their wealth – Ferraris, Jeeps, and other top-of-the-range vehicles are a regular feature of Harare’s leafy suburbs.

Many politicians, army and police head honchos, ministers, and other connected individuals have built impressive mansions with more bedrooms than some hotels.

Not to mention their regular splurging on luxury goods overseas – something the so-called sanctions have failed to curb.

Earlier this year, one Prophet Passion Java, who has posted on social media photographs of himself with Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, visited South Africa where in one night he spent more than one million rand on food and drinks at the 012 Lifestyle Nightclub in Brooklyn Pretoria. 

Few South Africans earn one million rand a year.

For more than 40 years the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has stubbornly remained in power.

The irony is that the more unpopular ZANU PF has become over the years, the greater its winning margins have become at the polls.

A couple of days before SA President Ramaphosa landed in America, the US Treasury released a revised list of people that were being targeted by sanctions for their role in oppressing ordinary Zimbabweans.

On Thursday (15 September 2022), Washington announced that the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated one Zimbabwe individual and removed 11 others from the Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN List) under the Zimbabwe sanctions program. 

“The Zimbabwe sanctions program targets human rights abusers and those who undermine democratic processes or facilitate corruption,” OFAC said.  

“US sanctions do not target the Zimbabwean people, the country of Zimbabwe, or Zimbabwe’s banking sector.

“The 11 individuals being removed from the SDN list are either deceased or have been deemed to no longer undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions.”

OFAC also designated Stephen Mutamba, the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Deputy Commissioner for Administration, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13469 for his role in undermining Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions.

Over the past two years, Mutamba has taken actions that threaten and undermine legitimate political parties who oppose the policies of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

In 2020, Mutamba supported Zimbabwe security services’ use of pressure and intimidation on prominent opposition figures. 

Also in 2020, Mutamba supported the uneven enforcement of a Covid-related curfew, encouraging security forces to limit opposition activities and did not allow for foreign national officials located in Zimbabwe to meet with Zimbabwean opposition parties or civil society groups. 

In 2021, Mutamba advocated that vote tallies not be displayed outside polling locations and that international observers should not be allowed to monitor the 2023 elections.

“It is imperative that ZANU-PF allow full participation across the political spectrum in next year’s elections,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

“The United States continues to stand with the Zimbabwean people against unjust actions against political opponents or assaults on Zimbabwe’s democracy by the ZANU-PF.”

As a result of the designation, all property and interests in property of these persons located in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. 

In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more in the aggregate by one or more of such persons are also blocked.

“The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior,” OFAC said.

However, ZANU-PF appears entrenched in its ways.

Zimbabwe opposition leader Job Sikala, the vice chairperson of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) remains in custody.

He was arrested on 14 June together with CCC MP Godfrey Sithole and 16 residents of Nyatsime, Chitungwiza. 

They were accused of inciting public violence to avenge the murder of party activist Moreblessing Ali.

Several attempts by Sikala to get bail have failed.

At the same time ZANU-PF politician, MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena, accused of stealing more than US$5 million of public funds was granted bail a few hours after he was “arrested”.

Pleas from Amnesty International for the release of Sikala, who is also a practising lawyer, have gone unnoticed by Zimbabwe government.

Commenting on the matter, Amnesty International said: “The continued detention of Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole and the denial of their lawyers’ access to meet with them is an absolute travesty of justice. 

“There is an emerging trend where critics of government and members of the opposition are consistently harassed and denied bail by the courts, brought to court in iron legs, and at times denied access to their lawyers. 

“Yet high profile political elites facing criminal offences are in most cases treated entirely differently with bail being granted regardless of the seriousness of the offence.”

When it comes to sanctions against Zimbabwe observers are entitled to ask, “who is fooling who?” 

Could it be that four decades on, Zimbabwe’s leaders have become adept at deception? Do they plead poverty to the world while amassing obscene amounts of cash in US dollars?

Is there any chance that South Africa is “playing the fool to catch the wise”? Time alone will tell.

OFAC explains sanctions Implications

All transactions by US persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons are prohibited, unless authorised by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or otherwise exempt. 

These prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person and the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from the ability to designate and add persons to the SDN List, but also the willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law.

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