UK says sanctions not an economic shackle to Zimbabwe

HARARE – The United Kingdom (UK) has dismissed continued claims its sanctions and those imposed collectively with western allies on Zimbabwe have impeded economic development in its troubled former colony.

This comes after Harare has gone into overdrive in its denunciation of western measures imposed soon after the turn of the century in response to gross rights abuses, unbridled corruption and poll fraud presided over by the Zanu PF led authority.

Zimbabwe has roped in its SADC allies to try and add impetus to protracted demands for the unconditional scrapping of the measures culminating in the so-christened Anti-Sanctions Day now observed every 25 October by the region.

The Western powers have steadfastly maintained the measures pending Harare’s behavioural change, though they have gradually relaxed them.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has followed footsteps of its predecessor regime led by late former President Robert Mugabe in blaming the country’s economic woes on sanctions.

Amid the cacophony of protests by Zimbabwe blindly aided by its neighbours, the UK has moved to dismiss the tired narrative that the travel and trade embargo targeted at few individuals and associated firms accused of abetting cited transgressions were calculated to put down Zimbabwe’s economy.

“To be absolutely clear, the UK has targeted sanctions on five Zimbabwean officials and one entity for human rights violations and serious corruption,” Britain said in an embassy statement Tuesday.

“The five individuals are Owen Ncube, Isaac Moyo, Godwin Matanga, Anselem Sanyatwe and Kudakwashe Tagwirei. The entity is the Zimbabwe Defence Industries. These measures do not affect trade or economic development.

“Trade between UK and Zimbabwe was 175 million USD last year. We are working hard to increase this.”

Zimbabwean government critics accuse Mnangagwa’s administration of blaming sanctions for the country’s economic woes while downplaying high level corruption that has haemorrhaged the once prosperous nation’s resources.

Ironically, Mnangagwa told Zimbabweans at the infancy of his presidency in 2018 to stop complaining about the impact of Western sanctions and instead focus on creatively leveraging available natural resources and capital to steer economic development and growth.

Some analysts see the Mnangagwa administration’s flip-flopping stance on sanctions as a recycled political gimmick used by the Zanu PF government to sanitise its failures to deliver on election promises.

This year alone, the UK government has provided US 114 million in development assistance in the health and education sectors, and insists it does not harbour any negative intent against Zimbabwe.

The statement by the UK embassy follows an almost similar position by US Department of Sanctions Coordinator Ambassador James O’brien last week who said sanctions by the superpower against Zimbabwe “focused on the people who are responsible for and profit from human rights abuses, corruption, and anti-democratic actions. And that’s the limit we are looking to do.”

“The country continues to have massive arrears to international financial institutions. The economy is deteriorating. That may be partly just poor policy choices, but it’s also a result of corruption and economic mismanagement,” he said.

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