31 December 2018

Zimbabwe: 'Sanctions Won't Stop Re-Engagement'

Zimbabwe will continue pursuing dialogue to normalise relations globally in line with President Mnangagwa's approach of "engagement and re-engagement", Government spokesperson Mr Nick Mangwana said yesterday.

Mr Mangwana said diplomatic engagements were dynamic and spanned different levels, which were registering success.

He said this in light of the United States of America's release of an updated set of sanctions regulations against Zimbabwe prohibiting transactions involving Zimbabweans individuals, businesses and Government interests. The transactions include electronic transfers, payments, exports and withdrawal of funds.

The new regulations, which became effective on December 20, also include penalties for persons or entities found guilty of violating the sanctions -- including American citizens and other nationals.

The US first passed its sanctions law, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act, in 2001 for alleged human rights abuses and the law was amended this year while successive US presidents have been issuing Executive Orders perpetuating the sanctions regime against Zimbabwe.

Section 541.201 of the new regulations states in part: "(a) All property and interests in property that are in the US, that come within the US, or that are or come within the possession or control of any US person including any foreign branch of the persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn or otherwise dealt in."

The US sanctions have prevented Zimbabwe from accessing international lines of credit including support from multilateral institutions.

Ordinary citizens and corporate have not been spared the effects of the sanctions with some having their funds frozen by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Critics have, however, argue that the sanctions on Zimbabwe were a reaction to the implementation of the fast track land reform programme in 2000 seeking to correct colonial land ownership imbalances that were skewed in favour of the white minority.

The regulations also prohibit transactions of any immediate family members or officials on the sanctions list or properties "owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, the Government of Zimbabwe or an official or officials of the Government of Zimbabwe".

Section 541.405 of the regulations also prohibits provision of services to Zimbabwe and the sanctioned officials.

Reads S541.405: "The prohibitions on transactions contained in S541.201 apply to services performed in the US or by US persons, wherever located, including by a foreign branch of an entity located in the US (1) On behalf of or for the benefit of a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to S541.201 9 (a) or (2) with respect to property interests of any person whose property are blocked pursuant to S541.201 (a)."

The regulations also bar US financial institutions from performing any "credit agreements, including but not to limited to, charge cards, debit cards or other credit facilities issued by a US financial institution to a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to S541.201(A)."

The regulations under S541.701 also state that: "Any person who wilfully commits, wilfully attempts to commit, or wilfully conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of a violation of any licence, order, regulation or prohibition may, upon conviction, be fined not more than $1 million, or if a natural person, be imprisoned for not more than 20 years or both."

Harare is studying the new development.

"Government will work closely with the RBZ to assess the impact of these regulations," Mr Mangwana said.

"Government is also studying the regulations but will continue to engage with the US government as part of its engagement and re-engagement policy.

"Engagement represents a wide range of diplomatic interactions spanning many levels and activities. That is an ongoing process in the world of diplomacy and is never an event. In these circumstances, there is bound to be setbacks and bounces," he explained.

Sanctions against Zimbabwe have been widely condemned for their hurtful impact on ordinary people and business, with a growing chorus of dissent against the unilateral measures.

Eminent businessman, billionaire and Econet Zimbabwe founder Mr Strive Masiyiwa last month added his voice arguing that sanctions on Zimbabwe should be removed because there was "no justification for them anymore" and that for the past 20 years Zimbabwe has been "operating with its hands tied behind its back" by the embargo.

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