AMID the impacts of an unprecedented global pandemic, Zimbabwean business owners still have to navigate their way through a myriad of challenges posed by Western sanctions.
Stressing the direness of the situation resulting from the sanctions, Zimbabwean business and political leaders have urged the United States and other Western countries to promptly ease the burden on the Zimbabwean people.
Real pain of entrepreneurs
Celia Rukato, founder of Chjaa Enterprises, a textile print and garment manufacturing company based in Harare, is one of the entrepreneurs who have to face daunting challenges of exporting products to clients on a daily basis.
Like many modern retailers, her brand featuring the Zimbabwean identity has utilized online platforms to reach out to a larger customer base in and outside Zimbabwe. However, payment options have been a problem for these Zimbabwe-registered businesses due to Western sanctions.
‘There are certain companies that are not allowed to interact or work with Zimbabwean-based companies,’ she told Xinhua news agency. Take PayPal for example, ‘We don’t have access to PayPal because it’s an America-based company,’ she said.
‘We have to make alternative plans’ that cause the customers to pay more for transaction costs or a middleman’s commission in a third country, Rukato told Xinhua.
Rukato said sanctions-related barriers have also resulted in Zimbabwe-based startups missing out opportunities and funding because they were not allowed to apply or get access to certain grants.
Western countries, led by Britain and the United States, imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001 and 2003 respectively over differences with Zimbabwe on its land reform program. While the EU has eased its sanctions over the years, the United States and Britain continue with theirs.
They argue that the sanctions are targeted at a few individuals. But the Zimbabwean government and analysts say their impact is being felt throughout the whole economy, with ordinary citizens bearing the brunt.
Outcries against unilateral sanctions
Given the overly distressing effect on the viability of businesses and the Zimbabwean economy, there have been outcries against the sanctions in and outside Zimbabwe.
‘You cannot do so much when you are under a yoke,’ said Denford Mutashu, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association, adding that this is probably the reason why some have even equated the sanctions with ‘new forms of neo-colonialism.’
‘We should be seeing countries being able to determine and chart their own destiny according to their own traditional cultural, political, socio-political and socio-economic backgrounds,’ Mutashu said, urging an immediate removal of these sanctions.
Abigale Mupambi, a human rights defender and National Coordinator of Civic Societies and Churches Joint Forum, said the sanctions have no legal basis and called for their immediate unconditional removal.
The sanctions ‘were imposed on Zimbabwe outside the parameters of the UN Security Council guidelines. So for that reason they must be removed by any state that respects the rule of law. Going forward, it is a human rights violation. I call upon the US…. in the interest of respect of the human rights in general, to remove the sanctions,’ she said.
Linda Masarira, leader of the political party Labour, Economists and African Democrats of Zimbabwe, said the sanctions are a weapon of war which aim to advance the United States’ own foreign policy goals under the guise of upholding human rights and democracy.
‘Our view has always been clear that sanctions are a form of economic warfare, sanctions are economic terrorism which is being used by the United States of America to agitate the people of Zimbabwe to do an uprising for a regime change agenda,’ Masarira said.
In a bid to push for the lifting of the sanctions, the Zimbabwean government has stepped up efforts to lobby for their removal by engaging with other regional powers.
The UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures Alena Douhan also highlighted the negative effects of the sanctions in a preliminary report released at the end of a 12-day visit to Zimbabwe.
After her October 17-28 visit, she said that unilateral sanctions have greatly affected the ease of doing business in the country.
Unilateral sanctions against natural and legal persons of Zimbabwe, in conjunction with secondary sanctions, zero-risk policies and over-compliance are exacerbating the economic and humanitarian crisis, forcing the Zimbabwean government, banks, public institutions, private companies and individuals to look for alternative ways to participate in international trade by involving third parties, using alternative informal non-transparent mechanisms of trade and payments, thus adding to corruption rather than suppressing it, she said.
Douhan urged all stakeholders at the international and national levels to stop using the rhetoric of sanctions as an advocacy tool and to engage in structural dialogue to settle any disputes in accordance with the rule of law.