Zimbabwe satellite launch on US soil undermines sanctions rhetoric: embassy

HARARE – The launch of Zimbabwe’s first satellite from a NASA facility in Virginia belies rhetoric that the country is under economic sanctions, the United States embassy in Harare said on Tuesday.

Zimsat-1 was launched into orbit from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Monday as part of the Japanese-sponsored Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Project-5 (BIRDS-5) network.

The United States says facilitating the launch is the clearest proof that targeted sanctions imposed on individual politicians and security chiefs accused of rights abuses are no barrier to the country’s economic growth.

“The United States government supports bilateral trade and investment opportunities that benefit U.S. and Zimbabwean companies alike and promote shared economic growth,” the embassy said in an e-mailed response to questions from ZimLive

“The satellite launch is a great example of international cooperation and innovation. U.S. sanctions target 73 individuals and 37 entities who cannot use the U.S. financial system. They are not designed to limit Zimbabwe’s economic growth.”

Zimsat-1, a small CubeSat nanosatellite using a commercial off-the-shelf camera is expected to provide high-resolution image data for research and observation, including weather forecasting, land, water, and mineral mapping, among other functions.

Speaking at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt on Tuesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa returned to the sanctions theme, blaming them for his government’s failure to meet its developmental targets.

He said: “My government is implementing various programmes, including extensive dam construction projects towards climate change adaptation and mitigation for sustainable food and nutrition security. Further, Zimbabwe is expanding the production and use of renewable energy.

“Greater progress would be made on our climate goals were it not for the albatross of illegal economic sanctions imposed on our country. We demand the immediate lifting of these unwarranted and punitive sanctions.”

Zimbabwe has mobilised its neighbours to demand the lifting of the sanctions, but the United States maintains that the restrictions can only be removed when the country acts on official corruption and implements key reforms to guarantee free and fair elections and personal freedoms.

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