Zimbabwe’s government has reacted following the addition of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son
on a U.S. sanctions list for corruption and human rights abuses.
Officials in the southern African nation say the sanctions are hurting the country’s economy. The U.S. disagrees, saying corruption and wrong priorities are the problem.
In a statement, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said it added four Zimbabwean nationals and two Zimbabwean companies to the sanctions list. One of the individuals is Emmerson Mnangagwa Jr., the son of the Zimbabwean president.
Another 17 individuals were removed from the list.
The additions include two companies, Fossil Agro and Fossil Contracting, which the U.S. says were involved in opaque, multimillion dollar deals with Zimbabwe’s government.
George Charamba, spokesman for Zimbabwe’s presidency, said he was not surprised by the latest U.S. designations.
“The intention was never to attack individuals, who do not matter anyway in terms of interstate relations,” he said. “The intention has always been to cripple the Zimbabwean economy and it’s not fortuitous that they have picked on suppliers of key inputs to a critical sector of our economy, namely agriculture. They did it before and I can assure you they will do it in future.”
Charamba said the U.S. is pushing for a “compliant” Zimbabwe, while Zimbabwe insists on “an independent national policy which is not influenced by foreigners.”
Gift Mugano, an economics professor at Durban University of Technology, said the sanctions are making it difficult for Zimbabwe to attract investors and get capital for essential projects such as power plants.
At the same time, he said, Zimbabwe has a problem with large-scale corruption.
“When you are under sanctions, you must be more careful and prudent when using your resources. The case in point is the 35 million US dollars which is being given to members of parliament and ministers, the package which they have been given. But we do not have basics in the hospitals. Thirty-five million dollars for Zimbabwe can be a game changer,” Mugano said.
Not everyone agrees Zimbabwe is hurting its own economy. Gibson Nyikadzino, an independent analyst, said the sanctions are having a real impact on the economy.
“Because there is failure to access foreign capital, capital markets, there is failure even to import critical equipment. So, the whole idea of sanctions, it is to ensure that the economy of Zimbabwe is to scream and that is the first essence on why the West imposed sanctions and even to today, the economy is being hurt,” Nyikadzino said.
U.S., British and European Union officials have long rejected those accusations, saying that the sanctions target individuals and certain companies rather than state institutions.
Recently, James O’Brien, the U.S. State Department’s sanctions coordinator, said U.S. sanctions are not hurting Zimbabwe’s economy, as they do not affect banks.
A much bigger problem, he said, is the tax revenue lost from billions of dollars in black market, cross-border transactions that take place each year.
Piers Pigou, senior consultant for southern Africa human rights watchdog, International Crisis Group, said: “There is no doubt that the sanctions have an impact on aspects of the economy. In some instances directly as it relates to individual entities and individuals that are on the list. What is difficult is to calculate the extent of that impact. Particularly in a context where there are multiple other factors relating to delinquencies and governance.”
Zimbabwe held an Anti-Sanctions Day on October 25, asking regional bloc SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the African Union to support it in calling for removal of the sanctions, which were imposed in the early 2000s following alleged election rigging and human rights abuses.
Zimbabwe’s government is still being punished for its land reform program under the late President Robert Mugabe, in which white commercial farmers were pushed off their properties.