Calls for the removal of the embargoes have continued to grow against the backcloth of the gains of the one-year-old inclusive government.
President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have been joined by Sadc and the African Union in calling for the removal of the sanctions. Even Mugabe’s bitter archrival and now premier, Morgan Tsvangirai, wants the embargoes removed, albeit piecemeal.
The argument is that Zimbabwe’s political risk has been drastically reduced and that the removal of the sanctions would open avenues for multilateral loans, grants and lines of credit to revive the vegetative economy.
The inclusive government has since its inception last February failed to raise a staggering US$8,5 billion to shore up the economy.
The US, Britain and their allies in the European Union (EU) have set benchmarks the inclusive government should meet if sanctions are to be scrapped, among them the restoration of the rule of law, respect for human rights, media freedom and institutional reforms.
The EU member states will meet in Brussels next Saturday to decide on the sanctions amid reports that member states were divided on the issue –– some are calling for the lifting of embargoes on state firms while others want targeted restrictions eased.
The EU imposed sanctions on 203 key Zanu PF and government figures allegedly involved in violence and human rights abuses and 40 companies associated with the individuals and their sources of finance. Tsvangirai agrees that certain benchmarks have yet to be met and that it was up to Western capitals to decide the course of action to take on the sanctions, but says there was a case for easing targeted sanctions against Mugabe and members of his inner circle.
“It (reduced political risk) is a very positive signal to those who doubt that they have anything to benefit from this inclusive government,” Tsvangirai said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos a fortnight ago.
His deputy, Arthur Mutambara last week said: “Sanctions should have been removed yesterday to pave way for investment. We need investment, not sanctions.”
Political analysts this week said the removal of sanctions would only be beneficial to the country if it was done simultaneously by the EU and the US.
EU embargoes, they argued, may not take long to scrap, but the US would need to repeal the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) of 2001, which would be a Herculean task.
The Act was passed by Congress as part of the US’s “support to the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful, democratic change, achieve broad-based and equitable economic growth, and restore the rule of law”.
The US sanctions were last year extended by a year by President Barack Obama through an executive order. The US Embassy Office of Public Affairs told the Zimbabwe Independent that for Zidera to be repealed it had to go through either the House or Senate and must subsequently be introduced in the other chamber.
Hearings would be conducted in each of the bodies and if the proposed repeal is upheld by both houses it would then be abrogated.
“Note that even without repeal of Zidera, removal of bilateral debt relief restrictions and support for removal of multilateral debt relief restrictions and multilateral financing restrictions can be implimented upon a presidential certification that certain conditions have been met,” the office said.
The conditions to be met are the restoration of rule of law, election or pre-election conditions, land reform and the military and police being subservient to government.
“Without these conditions being met, the president can waive restrictions if he determines it is in the US interest to do so,” the office added.
The office said it was difficult to give a timeframe as to when sanctions can be lifted if the benchmarks were met.
“It could be as little as two or three months depending on what else congress is doing,” the office said.
The office said there were two types of restrictive measures: restrictions prohibiting US citizens and businesses from doing business with specially designated individuals, including parastatals; and travel restrictions.
“These restrictions are pursuant to a presidential executive order, last renewed by President Obama in March 2009. The president has the power to revoke the executive order, in which case there would be no restrictions on anybody, or to lift restrictions on specific individuals,” the office said.
Travel restrictions were imposed by presidential proclamation. The US Secretary of State determines whom they apply to. The president has the power to withdraw this proclamation.
Political commentator Alex Magaisa said both the US and the EU needed to appreciate the delicateness of the situation in Zimbabwe and note the progress that has been made since the inception of the inclusive government to decide the process and speed at which they should lift the sanctions.
Magaisa argued: “Like all coalitions, ours is a sensitive one, which as we have seen most recently, responds immediately to external influences. Sanctions are more than about punishing wrongdoers; they are also a mechanism to encourage good conduct. As such, when there is any positive response, it becomes necessary to review the relevance and utility of the sanctions.”
He argued that the removal of sanctions at any given time did not indicate a point of finality.
Magaisa added that with the untapped resources in Zimbabwe, there was no doubt that many countries were thinking of a constructive engagement with the inclusive government. The international media reported this week that the EU was divided on the embargoes issue and that it was most likely that some targeted sanctions would be struck off.
Some countries reportedly led by the Netherlands and the UK were of the view that the restrictions should remain in place, while others headed by Germany and Denmark were pushing for the easing of the measures in a bid to force Mugabe to play ball in the ongoing negotiations to put finality to the outstanding issues of the global political agreement.