Zimbabwe: AU Chair Escalates Sanctions Removal Call

President Paul Kagame (file photo).

African Union chairperson, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, has taken the fight against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan to G20 countries, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank among other international organisations calling for unconditional lifting to allow Harare to battle the Covid-10 pandemic effectively.

He told the G20 countries and multilateral institutions that it was not prudent to have sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan at a time when the world should join hands to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Ramaphosa said this last Friday during a video conference he held with seven other Heads of State and Government neighbouring South Africa, including President Mnangagwa, aimed at sharing information and experiences about the pandemic.

Other leaders in the virtual meeting were President Joao Lourenco of Angola, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, Prime Minister Thomas Thabani of Lesotho, Prime Minister Mandulo Ambrose Dlamini of Eswatini, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, and President Hage Geingob of Namibia.

G20 is made up of 19 countries and the European Union. The 19 countries are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the United States.

G20, is the premier forum for international economic cooperation and brings together leaders of both developed and developing countries from every continent.

President Ramaphosa said as AU chairperson, he attended several consultative virtual meetings to explore ways to fight the pandemic and one objective of such meetings was to mobilise resources towards a robust response mechanism.

"We also took time on those engagements to call for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe and Sudan," said President Ramaphosa.

"In the course of our discussions one of the things that we agreed on as Heads of State and Government as we confront this challenge was that the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan must be lifted unconditionally because they are illegal and are going to infringe on the two countries' ability to deal with Covid-19 and save lives. This is not the time for sanctions to continue being imposed. We want those sister countries to also have the ability to deal with this pandemic."

President Ramaphosa said they had also requested multilateral agencies to extend debt relief to African countries so that they could effectively deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said he had appointed five special envoys from Nigeria, Algeria, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and South Africa to campaign for funding and follow up on pledges.

That included the appointment of Zimbabwe businessman, Mr Strive Masiyiwa to help mobilise resources of personal protection equipment.

"They are now campaigning for funding and have since addressed a virtual summit for G20 and virtual joint meeting for World Bank and IMF where we called for, among other things, the allocation of more special drawing rights to Africa and the provision of the much-needed liquidity for central banks," said President Ramaphosa.

"We also called for the waiver of all interest payments as well as bilateral debt and this will

provide the necessary fiscal space for African governments. In general, the response from the international community has been possible with various partners making pledges, offering debt relief measures and providing concrete support in the form of medical supplies.

"While the World Bank and IMF have supported a debt standstill for nine months, we believe that given the anticipated damage, we will need a debt standstill of two years and in other meetings we have been saying there should be consideration of debt cancellation."

He said to date the AU had raised US$25 million and would continue with fundraising campaigns.

President Mnangagwa also commented on the particular problems Zimbabwe faced because of sanctions.

"Zimbabwe is extremely grateful to Sadc and AU for being unequivocal and steadfast in their call for the unconditional removal of the illegal sanctions on my country as well as Sudan. As you are aware, United Nations Secretary General Mr António Guterres and the United Nations Human Rights Commission have condemned these restrictive measures, which continue to severely undermine Zimbabwe's economic development and destabilise an economy already besieged by the aftermath of Cyclone Idai and widespread drought-induced food insecurity," said President Mnangagwa.

The EU has since eased sanctions on Zimbabwe, albeit slightly, after the bloc removed four individuals from a list of officials banned from visiting Europe but stressed its desire for total removal of the embargo.

The four are: Vice President Constantino Chiwenga; Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri; ZDF Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda; and former First Lady Mrs Grace Mugabe.

Zimbabwe was placed under sanctions after it embarked on its fast-track land reform programme in 2001.

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