Every year since 2019, African leaders have commemorated October 25 as Anti-Sanctions Day to protest against the longstanding restrictions on trade and commerce with Zimbabwe, imposed by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and their allies.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) grouping of 16 regional nations started the trend but the occasion has since been adopted by the wider African Union.
Every year – like clockwork – an obligatory chorus from Africa condemning the sanctions against Zimbabwe grows louder as October nears. In September, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and African Union (AU) chairperson and Senegalese President Macky Sall demanded that the sanctions be lifted.
And on Tuesday, October 25, SADC chairman and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi accused the West of trying to use sanctions to force a regime change in Zimbabwe.
Yet, after the public protestations and failed lobbying subside, Zimbabweans must grapple with the existential impediment that SADC and the AU choose to disregard: their own illiberal and incompetent government, which is to blame for those sanctions.
The country’s ZANU-PF government claims that the punishment was simply the consequence of the West’s opposition to its fast-track land reform programme, which was designed to correct a colonial legacy and redistribute land from 4,500 white commercial farmers to 300,000 Black farmers.
In reality, however, the sanctions were imposed in response to the government’s refusal to allow independent scrutiny of its elections, the crushing of political dissent and human rights violations.
And contrary to the government’s narrative, Zimbabwe’s economy was already tanking before the sanctions came into place. In 1997, for instance, the government spent billions of dollars on unbudgeted payouts for disgruntled veterans from the 1970s war for independence. As a result, the Zimbabwe dollar fell by 71.5 percent against the US dollar, while the stock market crashed by 46 percent on a day that the country knows as Black Friday.
Later, the government stood idle as war veterans invaded commercial farms and industrial factories, inflicting significant damage on the economy.